Amplifiers, the heart of your system.
At the start of our great cold season, as we return to our inner routines, I'll be revisiting with you the various components for your everyday entertainment.
First, let's take a look at the heart of your audio system: music first, and in a second article, its cinema version. I refer to the audio amplifier.
Essentially, music follows a three-stage path. First, it appears via a source that takes a variety of forms. Whether digital via a network player, analog via radio waves or a turntable, sound materializes as a weak electrical signal. To make this signal audible, the loudspeakers have the task of vibrating the ambient air so that our ears perceive it. As the signal is very weak, an amplifier must be inserted into the distribution chain.
There are many different types of amplifiers available in a wide range of prices. It's important to establish our needs and expectations in order to guide our choices. As a preamble to a forthcoming article, we'll make a link with the other pillar of sound reproduction: the loudspeaker. Both elements must be chosen with each other in mind. Next, I'll introduce you to the Paradigm range of loudspeakers.
The 4 types of stereo amplifier
This type of device is sought after by the serious audiophile looking for power and precision. This type of amplifier only powers the speakers, and requires a preamplifier to select sources and adjust volume.
An integrated amplifier is a device that lets you select the input source, adjust volume and tone. As opposed to a power amplifier, which does not allow selection or control, and requires the addition of a preamplifier. It's perfectly suited to people who want to take things step by step, and also to those who modify the various components of their audio chain over time.
Here, we're talking about an "all-in-one", because, as well as amplifying sound to the desired listening levels, it will enable you to listen to sources such as good old FM for radio receivers, or now, web radio in its Network version. What's more, network receivers will incorporate a DAC or "digital analog decoder" for listening to the famous FLAC and DSD files available for download on the market. This kind of product is becoming the norm for most audiophiles looking for a valid, easy-to-configure solution.
The compact network amplifier/player is a relative newcomer. This kind of device involves a built-in amplifier to enable the attachment of various peripherals (sometimes even turntables), but also incorporates a full suite of functionalities adapted to the digital world offered by webcasting. Calling on new design possibilities, it will be very compact and user-friendly, incorporating a large display and an application similar to that found with network players. It's the ultimate in fidelity and performance. Both high-end and entry-level versions are available.
What you need to know before investing...
Without going into too much detail, we should aim for a low distortion rate of less than 0.05% to ensure good listening realism. The second point is power, which for ambient listening should be at least 50 watts per left and right channel, i.e. 100 watts in total. For more dynamic listening, 200 watts or more are required.
Note that the more power you have at your disposal, the more you'll be able to avoid distortion in your listening, as the amplifier won't "force". It's a well-known fact that sound quality deteriorates rapidly when capacity is exceeded. What's more, an amplifier that isn't powerful enough for your needs could damage your speakers...
Many people believe that speakers need to be more powerful to stand up to abuse, but this is a mistake, because it's quite the opposite. An amp that's too powerful will provide a cleaner current that will cause the speakers to rattle when pushed a little too hard, so you'll hear it and turn down the volume. Conversely, an amplifier that isn't powerful enough by exceeding its capacity will supply a continuous current that will melt the speaker coils. You won't hear the extent of the damage, because direct current generates no sound... except when it's too late...
For those who want to experience the richer listening experience of specialized sound equipment. An experience far beyond car or portable radios of any kind.
Not so long ago, there wasn't much of value in this category, but manufacturers have made the right decision to offer accomplished products at more than reasonable prices. The rational being to bring more fans into the audiophile family.
This minimalist device features a phono input for record players and AM/FM tuning.
Good value for money with solid terminal blocks for banana plug connectivity. Low distortion and ample power (2 x 55 watts).
Models for the serious hobbyist.
For those who want great sound at an affordable price.
With 100 W per channel, the Denon® DRA-900H 2.2-channel 8K receiver is the ideal solution for music and movies. It integrates seamlessly with your TV and other source devices thanks to the latest HDMI technology. Powered by integrated HEOS® technology, you can stream music continuously. Equipped with A/B speaker terminals, two subwoofer presorties, digital and analog inputs and a phono (MM) input, the DRA-900H offers a definitive 2023 blend where the traditional meets the futuristic!
YAMAHA RN800A | Network receiver *Silver or black
Here's a new-generation 2023 model, available in limited quantities for the moment, featuring impeccable construction, with a chassis resistant to both physical and electromechanical interference.
The ESS SABRE ES9080Q Ultra DAC digital decoding chip offers playback of ultra-high-resolution files such as 24-bit 192kz flac and 11.2 MHz - 384 Kz DSD.
Successful model among compact all-in-ones. Phono input and network playback combined in a single device. This little module will be perfectly at home with top-quality loudspeakers, as it's so accurate and powerful. A good match would be a PARADIGM Premiers 100 or 200. Come and have a listen.
New for 2023, this receiver is the first in the PMA range to offer HEOS network connectivity. Whether for vinyl playback or streaming, the sound is rich and enveloping.
Features: 2 x 85 W (4 Ohms) per channel, direct analog mode, 2 optical and one coaxial digital input, several analog inputs including phono input with MM/MC. Integrated HEOS for high-resolution network music or even whole-house audio distribution. Bluetooth, new OLED display, subwoofer output and Denon's exclusive "Advanced High Current" internal control circuit.
Yamaha RN2000A S black or silver
With its authentic Hi-Fi quality, the Yamaha R-N2000A is a new-generation network high-fidelity receiver, compatible with lossless and high-resolution music sources, including network services. It provides ideal, effortless room acoustic tuning (YPAO™).
It features a toroidal transformer with a massive 2 times 190 Watts of power at 4 ohms. Absolute frequency response (5 Hz to 100,000 Hz) powered by an ESS SABRE ES9026PRO Ultra DAC chip for ultimate high-performance conversion.
The signal-to-noise ratio is phenomenal at -110 Db, and a high-performance USB input supports native 11.2 MHz DSD playback and 384 kHz playback!
This amplifier is perfectly in tune with the Anthem philosophy of extreme performance!
Power is rated at 400 watts per channel into 4 ohms, with an intermodulation distortion rating of 0.000 7% and 0.005% harmonic! The damping factor is measured at 330, which means that the attached loudspeakers are perfectly controlled. A turntable with moving-coil cartridge can be connected for maximum fidelity. On the digital side, the integrated converter automatically upscales low-quality streams to a high 32-bit - 192 kHz. A USB port is provided for computer file playback at up to 32-bit/192 kHz in PCM and 5.6 MHz Direct Stream Digital!
To perfect the listening experience, simply plug in the included stainless steel microphone and make a fine analysis of the room. This ARC system for Anthem Room Correction is also available for Paradigm's Defiance and Signature woofers, as well as the formidable Paradigm Founder 120H and Persona 9H...
Dual subwoofer output for stereo bass!
Made entirely in Canada.
The final word
Here, we've presented you with a sample of products offering excellent value for money. In this jungle, where everyone claims to hold the truth, we suggest that you come and listen to them, and discuss them with a serious advisor who will be able to pinpoint your needs according to your prerogatives. Most of the models on this list are also available in slightly more or less equipped alternative versions, so there's something for everyone!