Amp Reviews – Top 5 Integrated Amps

AMP provides speed advantages, but can limit certain functionalities. Furthermore, its increased maintenance requirements could prove burdensome to sites with extensive content catalogs.

A great amplifier should provide realistic and natural audio, with an expansive and clear soundstage, plus be easy to operate through an intuitive GUI.

1. A-S 3200

Yamaha’s A-S 3200 offers premium integrated amplifier performance without breaking the bank. Boasting 100W per channel and featuring gloss side-panels with big twin signal meters that ooze style, as well as VU indicators or can even be turned off completely for that classic hi-fi look, its design stands up well against tube models.

This class-AB design takes advantage of short signal paths and low noise figures to produce that all-important sense of silence between movements – gaps that allow you to absorb your surroundings or simply relax into the music’s soundscape. The A-S 3200 delivers both a vast and vibrant recorded acoustic as well as exceptional channel separation to ensure every part of the mix remains isolated and secure. Marillion’s Kayleigh features crisp lead vocals that shine, while its tight 1980’s drum sound stands out clearly and vividly. On Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions, Margo Timmins stands out with her haunting eerie voice and Postcard Blues features prominent harmonica on an album renowned for its “out-of-the-studio” quality recording.

2. Wiim Pro+

The Wiim (pronounced ‘weam’) Pro Plus streaming player offers impressive versatility with multiple outputs and upgrades for existing hi-fi systems, plus multi-room functionality.

This model is an upgrade on the original Pro, taking advantage of an AKM 4493SEQ DAC to provide bit-perfect digital audio playback. This enables it to fully capitalize on 24-bit and 192kHz files to deliver performance that more than surpasses streamers costing twice as much.

Both the Pro and the Pro Plus offer two RCA inputs, making them suitable as preamps with power amplifiers, while their optical port allows connection to speakers or soundbars. Both units support AirPlay, Bluetooth and Chromecast services and act as digital sources for turntable or CD players; their built-in IR receiver can control smart home devices using voice commands while an optional IR remote provides additional mute, track skip and playback start/stop functionality.

The Wiim app is straightforward to use, with regular firmware updates adding new features and fixes. Though initial setup may sometimes cause minor difficulties, these issues tend to be temporary and can usually be overcome with patience.

3. Chord Mojo 2

The original Mojo revolutionized personal audio by offering extraordinary performance from such a compact device. But its successor has not just retained that award-winning title; rather, they have taken it and seized it with both hands!

The Chord Mojo 2 employs in-house FPGA-driven DAC technology for accurate and detailed digital-to-analog conversion, offering far greater precision and details than standard chip DACs. Furthermore, two 3.5mm outputs enable driving two IEMs or headphones simultaneously and an excellent dual data RCA coax input supports up to 768kHz if connected with a Chord M Scaler.

Mojo 2 features a four-button Orb control system for easy and precise sound configuration and customization, with crossfeed functionality providing extra options to adjust music directionality or simulate speaker-like soundstage effects. Additionally, an extra button adds crossfeed capabilities.

It’s sure to appeal to many listeners and it does add depth and dimension to the Mojo’s tonality. Overall, its tone is flawlessly balanced from bottom to top with no area dominating or slurring the midrange; THD figures remain low while distortion profile remains second order unless pushing hard.

4. Chord Mojo XE

The Mojo 2 is Chord’s successor to their original portable DAC that first hit the scene in 2015. With outstanding audio performance and legendary Chord Electronics transparency in a more portable form factor and extended battery life.

Use it with any smartphone, tablet or computer to enhance audio output quality and use headphones such as the oBravo Cupid to deliver portable HiFi that easily rivals most home systems. Supports high resolution digital files – up to DSD512. USB input supporting up to 192kHz samples data input.

This Mojo 2 DAC is extremely user friendly with four RGB illuminated buttons and an uncluttered aesthetic, free from bewildering options found on some rival DACs. Although quite small and light in weight, its build quality remains impressively solid; you won’t feel it while using or holding this beautiful piece of audio gear! Volume controls are responsive yet precise while its jitter performance was nearly immune to noise; in fact when deliberately adding 25nS of 1khz sine jitter to its optical SPDIF input the Mojo 2 still had very low levels of jitter compared with most rival DACs!

5. Lab12 U-280

This British integrated amp is an exemplar of simple design that puts music first without adding unnecessary features like remote control. I had great fun using its large, buttery smooth volume control which makes the Lab12 an absolute pleasure to use and looks and feels luxurious. Although I tried out its results with KT88s (currently available as quad sets for around $120), EL34 tubes truly shine when used.

Integre4’s powerful, dynamic and highly engaging sound was evident when combined with either KT88s or KT150s; its superb imaging made listening to acoustic music enjoyable; while its ability to drive moderately sensitive speakers with comfortably high volumes without distorting should make this product an irresistible offering for anyone in this price bracket.

I reviewed Stratos Vichos’ U-280 amplifier – which combines a 300 Wpc class D integrated amplifier and DAC – in an extensive system featuring the Aavik S-280 streamer ($12,000), Ansuz Mainz8 C3 power distribution, Ansuz Digitalz C2 ethernet switch, PowerSwitch cables ($9,900/pair), Speakz C2 power cables (9200 per pair) and Borresen Z1 cryo two-way loudspeakers ($14500/pair). Stratos Vichos has created an impressive amplifier with sound that may lack some of its rival solid state counterparts but is nevertheless highly engaging and expressive.

6. Chord Phonitor XE

The Phonitor XE is an exceptional headphone amplifier, capable of driving even the most demanding headphones with ease. It produces an enjoyable sound characterized by fullness, warmth and detail – more dynamic than Schiit Heresy while possessing crisper and more open qualities than beyerdynamic T1mk2. Audeze LCD-3 sounds especially well when driven through this amplifier; its flow, breath and timbre come through beautifully compared with V200, providing more organic sounds that feel natural and relaxed in its presentation.

The Chord Phonitor XE is an exceptional headphone amplifier with plenty of features that set it apart. One such feature is its unique laterality control which enables users to hear music as intended by its original mix for speakers; thus eliminating fatigue-inducing super stereo effects while giving you access to your music like no other amplifier can.

The Phonitor XE can connect with up to six stereo sources via XLR or RCA cables and accepts digital audio input via its USB, Coax, OPTICAL and professional AES connectors (optional DAC768). It features an excellent volume control knob with an ergonomic “knob feel”, red indicator LED that makes for easy reading of volumes settings as well as remote control with any infrared remote that it recognizes.

7. Audiolab XA70

The XA70 is a premium class AB integrated amplifier offering 70W per channel of output into 8 ohms. Featuring Audiolab’s HyperStream architecture for its DAC, as well as Time Domain Jitter Eliminator–a discrete power amplifier circuit employing Complementary Feedback design–for exceptional thermal stability with minimal idle current usage–this high-end integrated is truly impressive!

This amp is a truly lively and engaging listening experience with great contrast between instruments and vocals, superb dynamic range and toe-tapping rhythm. Additionally, it supports hi-res formats and streaming, plus boasts features you would expect from premium hi-fi amplifiers – including its impressive 2.8″ IPS full-colour display!

Jester points out that to use the XA70 with external processors such as miniDSPs (for PEQ or Dirac purposes), one must connect it between Denon’s Pre-Out and Audiolab’s Pre-In terminals, switch it into Pre-Power mode, then manually select and control input from within the XA70 itself. This disconnects its internal link between pre and power stages allowing all regular inputs – not only those designated HT bypass – to work.

As part of Audiolab 7000 series products, the XA70 provides high-quality engineering, useful features and pleasant ergonomics – making it a fantastic value for money amplifier. In comparison to more expensive rivals such as Rega Elicit, Creek Evolution 50a or Marantz pm6005, its performance outshines them all!

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