Introduction to Amplifier Reviews

Amplifiers can be considered in three subcategories: Preamplifiers, Integrated Amplifiers and Power Amplifiers.

Preamplifiers handle small signal switching and gain or attenuation (volume control). In many cases, these products have balance controls, equalization or even automated room correction. Preamplifiers may also contain phono preamps, DACs, video switching, headphone amps and streaming/playback of digital files to name just a few additional features you may encounter. There are several different circuit topologies on the market, some are quite simple and others very complex. Preamplifiers do not have amplification to drive speakers and for this purpose you will need to add a separate power amplifier.

Integrated Amplifiers : take a preamplifier, add a stereo amplifer in the same chassis and you have an integrated amplifier. Though more convenient, this is widely regarded as less desirable than having a separate preamplifier and power amplifier as this isolates the small and large signal sections far better than with integrated amplifiers. Integrated amplifiers can have all the features of preamplifiers. They are also available in solid state, vacuum tube or hybrid designs.

Power Amplifiers provide the power to drive your passive loudspeakers. Like all the other amplification components, they can come in a variety of styles. It is of the utmost importance to select an amplifier that is compatible with your speakers and with sufficient power to fill your room with music.

All our reviews feature breakdowns of the product design, product setup and notes on the performance with subjective listening impressions. Most of our reviews also include our own objective bench tests which tell you how much distortion an amp has, its frequency response and, in many cases, its maximum power output, irrespective of manufacturers' claims.

Review Categories

Amplifier Reviews

Emotiva XPA Gen3 Power Amplifier

Emotiva XPA Gen3 Power Amplifier Review

The high end’s high value champ, Emotiva, just released the newest version of their highly regarded power amplifiers. It is the XPA Gen3 and it is a modular design that is available in two to seven channels depending on the number of amp modules installed. The power supply is a high tech Class H design which promises high power, cool operation and low energy consumption.

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Cary Audio SI-300.2D Integrated Amplifier Review

Cary Audio attempts to provide tube-like sound from their newest 300 watts-per-channel solid-state integrated amplifier. In some aspects, I think they’ve succeeded. It sports a Class A preamplifier section with a well-built power amplifier. A premium-quality, and very versatile DAC is also included.

Lyngdorf SDA-2400 Amplifier Review

The SDA-2400 is one of the quietest amps I have ever reviewed. All Lyngdorf amplifiers are Class D type, either true digital like the TDAI-2170 or semi digital like the SDA-2400. The SDA-2400 is considered semi because it has an analog input as well as a digital input. Because of the nature of a switching amp, when the output stage is not being driven, it is absolutely silent, without any hiss from the speaker’s tweeters due to the very low noise floor.

Mark Levinson No585 Integrated Amplifier Review

Mark Levinson is beginning to roll out new products that are being developed at their new state of the art R & D facility located in Shelton, Conn. The No585 integrated amplifier is among the first of those products. It is a large and quite powerful integrated amplifier with a built-in DAC capable of decoding LPCM signals up to 32-bit/192 kHz or DSD signals up to 5.6 MHz. It is also compatible with asynchronous USB data from your Mac or PC.

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Raven Audio Nighthawk MK2 Integrated Amplifier Review

Raven Audio is a relatively new company that makes high-end tube preamps, integrated amps, and power amps. They sell them direct, through their website. In this review, we take a look at the Nighthawk MK2, which is an integrated amplifier. It comes in a silver colored baked enamel. With solid aluminum handles, a folded carbon steel chassis and solid aluminum remote, the overall solid feel of quality construction was undeniable. The sound was a tubeophile’s dream.