Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Lee Dunkley, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe svelte D 3020 contrasted with the iconic 3020 amp of '78, but this V2 trades-in USB for phono and Bluetooth in a bid to regain its crown as the ultimate 'starter amp'

The original NAD 3020 integrated amplifier of the late '70s was a genre-defining product – a compact integrated full of useful features that cost relatively little and became recognised for bringing high-quality home audio to a much wider audience. I wouldn't mind betting that many readers will have owned one at some point or at the very least be familiar with its reputation as an 'all go, no show' audiophile amp for its remarkably likeable sound but rather retiring 'grey slab' looks.

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: José Victor Henriques, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngInspired by the ‘Momentum’ circuit and industrial design that put D’Agostino Master Audio Systems on the map, its Progression series could make the biggest impact yet

The Progression Stereo amplifier is built around a dual-wound 1400VA toroidal transformer coupled to 400,000µF of power supply storage capacitance that feeds no fewer than 48 power transistors – 24 per channel. On paper this is said to generate 300W/8ohm, doubling into 4ohm [see PM’s Lab Report]. And it’s yours for roughly half the price of a pair of the company’s Progression Monoblocks [HFN Jun ’17].

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngIt was an amp that gave fresh meaning to the term 'cooking on gas', but how does one of Sony's last classic super-integrateds shape up today? Time to find out...

The '70s was a time of great social change. At the beginning of the decade, black and white TVs, bicycles and outside toilets were the reality of life for many British people. But by the end of the '70s, most folks had colour TVs, family cars and swanky modern bathrooms – along with fitted kitchens, wall-to-wall carpeting and stereo systems in their homes. Although the music centre was the height of fashion, separates hi-fi was growing fast and many were willing to pay for serious equipment.

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  |  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: 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: 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.

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: 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.

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 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 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.

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