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

Vacuum Tube Audio M-125 Mono-Tube Power Amplifier Review

The Vacuum Tube Audio (VTA) M-125 Mono-Tube Power Amplifiers offer performance rivaling products up to five times their price. But to get that performance, one has to give away some features. So how hair-shirt an audiophile are you? For those willing to read the owner’s manual, the Vacuum Tube Audio M-125 mono-tube power amplifiers offer amazing sound for the money – but are you up to the challenges?

McIntosh

McIntosh MA8900 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

The McIntosh MA8900 stereo integrated amplifier follows a long line of classic solid-state integrated amplifiers from McIntosh. It features high power, autoformer speaker-coupling, and the usual generous array of McIntosh controls; all implemented with state-of-the-art technology. The McIntosh MA8900 offers the classic Mac sound, looks, and quality for the twenty-first century.

NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier

NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital Integrated Amplifier Review

NAD’s Director of Advanced Development, Bjorn E. Edvardsen, has been so pleased with the Hypex UcD Class D tech from the D 3020 integrated amplifier, that he uses this “hybrid digital” module in the new NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital integrated amplifier. Along with this sleek technology comes some other interesting advancements, such as built-in Chromecast and Wi-Fi streaming capabilities. It may not win any design awards for aesthetics, but the NAD C 338 Hybrid Digital integrated amplifier can still deliver the sonic goods and can drive almost any speaker on the market.

Audio by Van Alstine DVA 850 Mono-Block Amplifiers Review

Audio by Van Alstine DVA 850 Mono-Block Amplifiers Review

The Audio by Van Alstine DVA 850 Mono-Block amplifiers offer the highest performance and technology currently available from their extensive lineup. With a mas -0sive power output of 850 watts, this hybrid tube/transistor design provides an extremely accurate reproduction, with virtually none coloration found in some all-tube or all solid-state designs.

McIntosh D1100 2-Channel Digital Preamplifier Review

I know many audiophiles who have ditched their analog-based music setups and gone strictly digital. Whether that means entirely computer-based (be that MAC or PC), network-attached storage (NAS)-based, large racks of round plastic discs (CDs), or a combination of the above, these folks no longer use a single analog-based device. Their music lies entirely within the realm of zeros and ones. It is for this customer that McIntosh has designed their new D1100 2-Channel Digital Preamplifier.

MartinLogan Forte Amp

MartinLogan Forte Amp Review

High resolution wireless playback using DTS Play-Fi and Apple AirPlay is combined with high-power in the MartinLogan Forte amp. Wireless streaming is easy to set up and use with the Forte amp. Compatibility with other manufacturer’s components and speakers allows the Forte amp to be used in any situation and home wi-fi. Superb sonics round out the Forte amp’s strengths.

NAD M32 DirectDigital Amplifier

NAD M32 Direct Digital Amplifier Review

Enthusiasts covet sound quality above all, while others prioritize convenience. The NAD M32 DirectDigital Amplifier bridges the gap between audiophile and lifestyle products. This smart-amp incorporates advanced amplifier technology from the Masters Series along with an optional BluOS module that pulls music in from the Internet and your personal library. It’s just as comfortable playing your most treasured vinyl as it is pulling in alt-rock from iHeartRadio.

Emotiva XPA Gen3 Power Amplifier

Emotiva XPA Gen3 Power Amplifier Review (Benchtests Added)

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.

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.