Musical Fidelity A1 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

While PM's Lab Report shows the A1 doesn't possess the capacity to drive every choice of loudspeaker, during my auditioning it didn't sweat when connected to a pair of Monitor Audio Platinum 100 3G standmounts, on which the majority of listening occurred, or my trusty DALI Rubicon 2 models. Both speakers feel like a logical choice for an amplifier in this price/size class, and KEF's LS50 Meta [HFN Jun '21] is no doubt worthy of consideration, too. Musical Fidelity also now produces its own LS3/5A miniatures, but they might be a bit of stretch in this case.

As the front man of rock group The Hold Steady, Craig Finn has shown himself to be one of the most inventive lyricists of the past decade. His prowess at creating songs that feel like little novels is highlighted even more on his 2019 solo album I Need A New War [Partisan Records PTKF2165-3]. Playing the LP via Pro-Ject's X2 B [HFN Sep '22] with an Ortofon Quintet Red MC cartridge, the Musical Fidelity amp served up the nearly spoken vocals of 'A Bathtub In The Kitchen' faultlessly.

Real Blast
Detailing the relationship of an old friend who made some unwise lifestyle choices, the song is full of humanity and sadness, and it's very effectively rendered by the all-encompassing presentation of the A1. As little amps go, it convincingly put the focus on the music as a whole, not particular instruments or just the vocals.


MM/MC phono and four line inputs are joined by one tape loop and preamp outs all on RCAs. The single sets of 4mm speaker cable terminals are tightly packed

Sons of Kemet's 2013 Burn [Naim Jazz NAIMLP201], again via the X2 B turntable, greeted me with the London jazz outfit's trademark fat staccato brass notes. It was literally a blast, although the dynamics were a bit suppressed when the quartet gave it their all on 'The Itis'. Elsewhere, the A1 handled the whirlwind tuba solos beautifully, and the final track, a tender sounding eight-minute instrumental version of 'Rivers Of Babylon', showcased the amp's warmth and smoothness.

You might disagree that The Fog or Big Trouble In Little China are cinematic masterpieces, but there's no denying the original themes that director John Carpenter created for his many cult classics are exemplary examples of 1980s synth and guitar (they also saved his producers having to pay a composer and musicians – a double win). And Carpenter's work feels like it was made for the A1, as the lithe amplifier appears totally in its element while adding a warm glow to the already thick synthesiser line of Assault On Precinct 13 or the spine-tingling piano on Halloween. Listening to these tracks on Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 [Sacred Bones Records], streamed via a Primare PRE35 [HFN Dec '19] and Roon (through rooExtend), I was struck by how easily the A1 breathed life into these rather sparse compositions.


The new A1 includes a simple remote handset with control over mute and volume

Musical Fidelity's slim integrated amp also proved very capable of projecting the punchy, impactful percussion that underlays 'Asja' on the extraordinary Drif album from Danish experimental band Heilung [Season Of Mist; 48kHz/24-bit download]. There's nothing regular about this blend of Viking poems, deep guttural vocals and traditional instruments, which perhaps can be expected from a band that was allegedly formed when producer Christopher Juul traded recording sessions for some free tattoos from vocalist Kai Uwe Faust. Whatever the story behind it, Heilung's music captures a very particular mood – nearly all of which was communicated by the A1.

Feel The Force
During this album the pure scale of the amplifier's portrayal really made an impression and it became easy to forget the A1's affordable nature. The growls, chanting and horns that blast in the background as 'Tenet' builds to a crescendo displayed huge width and depth. As with the John Carpenter themes, the A1 hit its stride as this lengthy song increased in both intensity and force.

At the end of what seems like an entire album – but is just one track – a cry echoes convincingly into the distance, before gracefully segueing into mesmerising Nordic singing, which has just the right mix of clarity and smoothness. Coloured and not entirely accurate the A1's presentation might be, but all is forgiven when it makes music so expansive and expressive.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
It's easy to be sceptical about 'classic' designs returning to the market, but in this case Musical Fidelity has done an excellent job. The new A1 remains faithful to the original intent of its much-loved forebear, while improving what needed improving. Regardless of the nostalgia aspect, this is a fine performer that should give more contemporary rivals in its price class a real run for their money.

Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166