Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 26, 2020
hfnoutstandingIn one swipe, the long-awaited 860A v2 replaces Simaudio's 860A, 870A and 880A power amplifiers and promises 870A performance. We pair it with the 740P preamp

There's something very 'old school' about Simaudio's latest MOON pre/power combination: both units certainly look the part in their combination of black fascias and exposed metalwork, though you can also have them in all-silver or all-black, where they have an air about them of being stripped for action. The £7800 740P preamp, for example, eschews the current trend for digital inputs and network streaming capability, and is a simple, direct, all-analogue line-only affair.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingDon't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. Used with low-power source components, pre and headphone amps, it can still be transformative

Back in the late 1970s Bob Stuart of Meridian observed that an amplifier has more inputs than those labelled as such, others being 'output' and 'mains'. It was an idea to which lip-service was widely paid but, on the mains side, nobody really picked up the idea and ran with it until PS Audio introduced its first mains regenerator in 1998. Yes, we'd had mains filters and conditioners of various types before but this was the first device that said that if you want the cleanest mains supply you're going to have to synthesise it from scratch.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 13, 2020
hfncommendedWith wireless streaming, class-leading connectivity and 200W of Class D power, this sophisticated Scandinavian pre/power combination covers all the digital bases

Primare – the company that describes itself as 'the sound and vision of Scandinavia' – is also becoming rather more visible in the UK and rest of Europe thanks, in part, to the boost provided by a couple of EISA awards. Based in Sweden and founded by Danish designer and audiophile Bo Christensen, Primare has found its métier over the past few years. Its Prisma platform brought integrated wireless streaming functionality to the hi-fi world before most – and delivered it with typical Scandinavian panache. Ergonomic excellence is central to the brand's values, and this is surely a concept whose time has come.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingEquipping its Centaur amplifier with a power supply from the Reference series Hercules model has done more than boost the output of this mkII – a true high-end heavyweight

At first glance, one might be forgiven for wondering what's going on here – after all, California-based Constellation Audio already has a Centaur II stereo power amplifier on its books, selling for a not inconsiderable £48,000. So the $64,000 question must surely be 'what is this second version, dubbed the Centaur II 500 Stereo, bringing to the party?'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 02, 2020
hfncommendedLuxman has re-introduced what just may be the dream desktop rig, comprising the new NeoClassico CD player and tube integrated amplifier – or is it much more?

Can we agree that it's possible to love more than one system, as you would savour more than one type of whisky or wine? Masseto and Tignanello are simply not mutually exclusive. Luxman's re-imagined NeoClassico series is appropriately costly but not saddled with a 'high-end' price, so at £2500 for the D-N150 CD/DAC and £3000 for the SQ-N150 integrated amp, it is not an alternative to, nor a substitute for a high-end, high-power system. It is not out to usurp the role of your D'Agostino.

Martin Colloms  |  Dec 30, 2019  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1983
Martin Colloms takes a listen to four new designs costing £250 plus

Following last month's batch of integrated amplifiers costing under the £200 mark, more advanced models have been chosen for this project. The new Mission 778 (Mission Cambridge) represents the UK contribution (£240). The Harman Kardon PM650 combines Japanese and American design (£250), while the European contender is the Revox B251 (£900 plus £45 for the remote controller). All three models are integrated amps with MC and MM input facilities. I also look at another new UK model, the powerhouse P128 from Sugden, which is a dual 'monoblock' power amp (£395).

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 19, 2019
hfnoutstandingAlways fancied a pair of mighty monoblocks? From Constellation's 'entry-level' Inspiration series, these self-effacing cubes offer power a-plenty and awesome sound

Surprises, at my age, could prove fatal, so I neither invite nor encourage them. Even pleasant ones. Neither do I relish my preconceptions being challenged: 'Old dogs, new tricks...' That said, and despite spending countless hours listening to assorted Constellation systems over the years, I must admit to being unexpectedly bowled over by these Inspiration Mono 1.0 power amplifiers.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 11, 2019
hfncommendedThe iconic visuals belie Musical Fidelity's recent change in ownership – so will this familiar M2 series CD/amp combination still tempt the budget-conscious enthusiast?

In these evolving days of digital music, cloud storage and online streaming, it might seem counter-intuitive for Musical Fidelity to release a line-only amplifier and 'plain vanilla' CD player. The £799 M2si integrated has no inbuilt DAC, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi and not even a phono stage, or indeed the option of one. And, peer round the rear of the matching £799 M2scd compact disc player, and the only connections you will find are outputs. Once again, it has no digital inputs, no antennae sticking out and no wireless wizardry up its sleeve. What's going on?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 20, 2019
hfncommendedGorgeous looks, superlative build quality, and hailing from Serbia, the Nirvana is a headphone amplifier that oozes luxury. We find out if the sonics match the styling

Having followed Auris Audio from show to show since its 2013 founding, I leapt at the chance to review its stylish Nirvana two-chassis headphone amplifier. I'm no longer shocked by the cost of high-end headphone amps, especially not at a time when £3000 headphones are common, so its £4900 price tag earned a mere 'Meh' from me. After all, I'd be putting it through its paces with, among others, the Audeze LCD-4Z, which sells for £3600.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 02, 2019
hfnvintageStep back to the 1980s and this specialist British 'cottage industry' integrated amplifier was a force to be reckoned with. But how will it shape up today? Time to find out...

Everyone old enough to remember, talks about the 1970s as the golden age of British hi-fi. That's certainly true in one respect, because what was a niche – often do-it-yourself hobby – went completely mainstream, to the point where the third most expensive consumer item, after a house and a car, was a stereo.

Martin Colloms  |  Jul 30, 2019  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1990
Martin Colloms hears the ultimate amplifier system from one of audio's elite names: the No26/No20.5 pre/power duo and No25 phono stage

Since acquiring the Mark Levinson Audio Systems company five years ago, Madrigal Labs has pursued an evolving research programme, generating improved circuits and product designs. The result is that current MLAS products now have an importance comparable with the original brand's landmark designs.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 23, 2019
hfnoutstandingVery much hi-fi on the grand scale, this Italian-made pre/power amplifier combination is a sweet-sounding heavyweight with more than sufficient output to match its size

For a while, the amplifier combo you see here was almost literally the elephant in the editor's listening room. Delivered for review just at the end of 2018, its sheer mass – 28kg for the £12,500 Strumento No1 mk2 preamp alone, plus a further 95kg for the No4 mk2 power amp, which sells for £16,250 – defied almost all efforts to move it into PM's lab for test work before I could listen. It finally inspired our esteemed editor to relent and buy himself a trolley – and so, at last, the review literally began to roll...

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 31, 2019
hfnoutstandingThis latest variation on Audiolab's integrated amplifier theme lacks the sheer grunt of its 8300 big brother but seems none the worse for it, and looks better value too

Audiolab's 8000A first appeared on dealers' shelves in October 1983, and was arguably the least fashionable new integrated amplifier for a long time. It was everything that the cool audiophile cognoscenti of the time didn't like. How could anyone possibly produce a supposedly modern product fitted with tone controls, a headphone socket, independent source and tape switching and – perish the thought – a balance control? It was the very antithesis of what the sparse, minimalist, less-is-more 1980s was about. Despite this however, it sold like hot cakes at Christmas…

Ken Kessler  |  Apr 26, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1989
Few specialist Japanese valve amps ever leave Honshu, so as the Air Tight ATC-1 and ATM-1 finally hit British shores, Ken Kessler is on standby...

For the past four years, I've been waiting impatiently for a stab at the electronics from Air Tight. I admit that the charm of the name, the absolute perfection of that moniker for a brand of valve amplifiers, caught my attention as much as did the obviously exquisite manufacture. The price, too, appealed, considering that these amplifiers promised peerless construction and attention to detail you just don't find this side west of a Jadis. At last there's a UK importer, so my wait is over.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 12, 2019
hfnvintageSometimes you rediscover a classic once so far ahead of the curve that it cuts a dash to this day – and we're not just talking style but sound. Is this '80s amp one of them?

The 1980s was a decade of great change. Consumer products that had been the stuff of science fiction just 15 years earlier – digital watches, home computers, LaserDisc players – were now increasingly commonplace. The era had a dynamic, hedonistic feel, and it was now acceptable not just to have wealth but to show it.

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