Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngWith an upgraded specification including an asynchronous USB input with DSD capability, ATC’s CD player/DAC/preamp aims to be a complete system front-end

Is this a new twist on the CD player? Or yet another new variation on the DAC? Well, neither actually, for as that ‘Mk2’ suffix suggests, this is a revised version of ATC’s innovative CDA CD player/DAC/preamp combination, selling for £2950 and designed as the perfect partner for the company’s £3375 P2 power amplifier [HFN Mar ’17], or its range of active speakers.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngThe British contender for the late '70s budget amp crown won the hearts and wallets of many a budding audiophile thanks to some canny tech. How does it sound today?

In the early days of hi-fi, the budget amplifier was usually considered an object of disdain, to be quickly upgraded as soon as funds allowed. More capable designs such as the NAD 3020 changed this view and by the late '70s improvements in component technology had made it possible to produce really good amplifiers that still could be sold for reasonable prices.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngSitting at the top of the German company’s range, this flexible pre and hefty stereo power amp are designed to take on the high-end’s big names, and take no prisoners

The PA 8.2 preamplifier and SA 8.2 stereo power amp sit at the top of the German company’s Ovation range, although there’s also the option of buying its MA 8.2 monoblock amps in place of the SA 8.2. These are essentially the SA 8.2 bridged internally to give even greater power – rated at 600W/8ohm in place of the stereo amp’s 250W a side. However, despite the commonality, there’s no bridging option on the stereo model reviewed here.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngIt wasn't a budget buy, but this late '70s integrated from the masters of the MOSFET spearheaded fresh thinking on amplifier design. But how does it sound today?

The advantages of using separate pre and power amplifiers over an integrated is a discussion that can still occupy audiophiles for hours. What was almost a necessity in the valve era became less technically significant once transistors were established, a quality solid-state preamp circuit being undemanding in terms of space and power.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnvintage.pngDesigned by James Sugden in collaboration with Richard Allan, is the second iteration of this milestone Class A transistorised amp the one to buy? It's time to check it out...

The late '60s provide an interesting choice of equipment for the vintage hi-fi enthusiast. The rapid development of high-quality transistor amplifiers during the period resulted in some intriguing models and the Sugden A21 is a fine example. Why? Because it was the first successful domestic hi-fi amp on the UK market to offer a fully transistorised implementation of Class A.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnoutstanding.pngBased on the popular Inspiration series, the new Revelation range offers upscaled performance for gimmick-averse audiophiles. Its new pre/power is a formidable package

High-end hi-fi offers many flavours of weird and wonderful design, technology and functionality. In a sense, that’s what it’s there for, in order to differentiate itself from more prosaic, modestly priced products. Yet it’s all too easy to get lost in ‘surprise and delight’ features, wild styling or wilfully alternative engineering – and lose the plot.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfncommended.pngSomething for the high-end user with a sense of fun – Metaxas' Marquis 'Memento Mori' headphone amp marries form with function and the result is rather jolly. Er, Roger.

Headphones now rule – period – and as a vivid illustration of the current profusion of cans, I was staggered to see, at a store in Tokyo, a selection of something like 1500 headphones, and with plenty of high-end brands notable by their absence.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 30, 2015
The Quad 22 control unit and II power amplifier have both enjoyed a presence on the hi-fi scene almost from its very beginnings. The 22 appeared in 1959 but the matching Quad II power amplifier had been around since 1953. Like most amplifiers then, the22/II was split into separate units, for mounting inside a larger cabinet. The compact 22 came with a basic metal shell so that none of its working parts was exposed should it be left free-standing.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 30, 2015
Naim Audio’s first product, the NAP 160 power amplifier, was introduced in 1971; the NAP 250 appeared in 1975. It was technically unusual in that it used a strictly regulated power supply, whereas the vast majority of power amplifiers, unlikely today, typically made do with an unregulated one. Arguably, the NAC 12 preamp was even more unusual than the NAP 250. In ultimate form it required a standalone external power supply – the SNAPS – at a time when such an arrangement was virtually unheard of.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Here’s a stylish new Meridian product right in the mainstream: a headphone amp/USB DAC with optional outboard PSU. It wouldn’t be a Meridian, though, without having some novel features. The cases are interlocking aluminium extrusions, double-skinned to enhance screening, and having no visible fasteners holding it together – clever. The PPS power supply is not dedicated to the PHA headphone amp but provides five 12V/500mA DC outputs on mini-DIN sockets, each incorporating dual-stage linear voltage regulation, for powering other Meridian products as well.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
It was perhaps Benchmark that set a trend by equipping its compact, high-value DACs with a capable headphone amplifier. They became, in effect, an amalgam of DAC, headphone amplifier and simple preamp, and the HA-1 is from the same mould. Much of its electronics derives from Oppo’s BDP-95EU and BDP-105 universal disc players [HFN May ’12 and Jan ’13]. The HA-1 uses the same ESS 9018 Sabre DAC and the same output circuitry but the headphone amp and preamplifier stages are new.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Schiit products benefit from a Scandinavian nomenclature – Asgard, Bifrost, et al – so, should this stunning little Magni headphone amplifier prove tempting, you needn’t approach the salesman with the embarrassing request, ‘Do you stock Schiit?’ As its company founders are seasoned designers of [quote], ‘fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps, etc,’ they could have launched Schiit with whatever product genre they liked. Being savvy, they chose headphone amps. Schiit works with ‘simple, discrete circuit topologies’ for the analogue sections, while its DAC products feature ‘innovative bit-perfect management systems’. It also uses Class A amplifier designs ‘where practical – and single gain stages when possible’.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Teac’s HA-501 is a Japanese product of the old school, with no-nonsense looks and a quality of fit and finish that belies its £700 asking price. Teac highlights a number of aspects of the 501’s circuit design. First that it operates in Class A, as evinced by the case running warm to the touch. Second, dual mono construction is clear when you remove the top plate to reveal two identical circuits side by side on the main PCB.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
Ifyou’re old enough to remember Audio Research gear circa-1972, the new SP20 will tug at your heartstrings. This preamp’s fascia designer has revived the distinctive sectioned faceplates of the SP3 – the whiff of retro is much appreciated. Suffice it to say, gone are the days of a half-dozen toggle switches, mechanical push-buttons or old-school rotaries. The SP20’s buttons are limited to power on, mute and a choice of output to ‘speakers’ (power amp) or headphones, but not at once.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
At last, Levinson’s flagship No53 monoblock amplifiers [see HFN Jan ’11] now have a Reference-status preamplifier with which they may be rightly partnered. The No52 is a two-chassis component designed with meticulous attention to detail both in its topology and in features that offer comprehensive system configurability. The rationale of this approach is to isolate the pure analogue audio circuitry from any possible source of pollution: it physically separates the power supply and microprocessor-driven controls from the audio electronics contained in the larger chassis. Volume control is via a precision ladder resistor network with fine gain adjustment in 0.