December 13, 2023
Three amplifiers to suit all needs.
Amplifiers continue to play a crucial role as the central processing unit in audio systems, serving as the brains behind effective sound reproduction.
The stereotypical image of large, outdated receivers has lingered in discussions about home audio systems. However, the landscape has rapidly evolved, with modern stereo amplifiers, also known as integrated amplifiers, making significant strides. Technological advancements have enabled these units to pack an impressive array of features into compact designs.
In 2023, the spotlight is on streaming and Bluetooth capabilities, which have become central features in many new amplifiers. These amplifiers seamlessly integrate with a diverse range of digital devices, from turntables to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled gadgets. Despite the prevalence of digital connectivity, a substantial number of integrated amplifiers still cater to analogue setups with passive speakers and turntables.
When selecting the ideal integrated amplifier, consider key factors such as the number of devices you plan to connect, the need for a phono pre-amplifier for your turntable, and the wattage requirements of your passive speakers.
As always, it’s essential to ensure that the online description aligns accurately with your amplifier preferences, or opt for an in-person evaluation, if possible, to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Now, let’s explore three standout amplifiers from this year that showcase the latest advancements in audio technology.
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 2023 Edition
Pros: Exceptional performance, innovative features, great build (handmade in Europe with a focus on quality materials and design)
Verdict: The Pre Box S2 Digital Edition 2023 stands as a testament to continuous improvement and adaptability. Its exceptional performance, coupled with strategic upgrades, showcases a commitment to delivering high-quality audio experiences.
The Pre Box S2 Digital Edition 2023, a DAC powerhouse, has earned acclaim for its outstanding performance in the digital audio realm. Edition 23 introduces strategic enhancements, addressing the power supply, master audio clocks, output stage, and headphone amplification. Despite challenges from the chip crisis, the product not only persevered but utilised the downtime for improvements. Handcrafted in Europe with a focus on durability, it offers audiophiles a technically flawless device. While the chip crisis impacted availability, the product’s enduring demand and commitment to continuous improvement make it a standout choice for those seeking premium audio experiences.
Schiit Vidar 2
Pros: Old-school design
Cons: Optional extra cost for silver finish, no streaming or Bluetooth
Verdict: Schiit Vidar 2 exudes timeless charm through a simple, affordable design. Ideal for traditionalists, it offers practical features like a standby button for reliable performance. The optional silver finish incurs an extra cost but with enhanced components. Vidar 2 presents a compelling choice for cost-effective, classic amplification in the audio enthusiast realm.
Schiit Vidar 2 embraces an old-school ethos, forgoing modern features for a classic design. With no Class D modules or switching power supplies, it caters to those valuing simplicity. Improvements, including a standby button and enhanced components, promise heightened performance. While the silver finish adds £50, making it potentially the least expensive Class A/B amplifier for driving speakers like the Magnepan LRS, specific performance metrics remain undisclosed. Overall, Vidar 2 offers an affordable and traditional amplifier option with practical enhancements, making it a compelling choice for audio enthusiasts.
Pros: Versatility, quality build
Verdict: Technics SU-GX70 stands out for its capabilities and competitive pricing. With innovative design, quality build, and comprehensive connectivity, it’s ideal for versatile streaming. While not bass-focused, it offers refined musicality, perfect for convenience and diverse music sources.
The Technics SU-GX70 emerges as a standout choice in the world of one-box streaming amplifiers, boasting unparalleled versatility and competitive pricing. Its innovative HDMI ARC input adds a video element, expanding connectivity options for various audio-visual experiences. The unit’s classy design and quality construction make it visually appealing and well-made. Despite a two-app setup, the Technics Audio Centre app provides comprehensive control. While the system may lack some bass power, its refined musicality and extensive connectivity options, covering virtually every source imaginable, make the SU-GX70 an enticing option for those prioritising convenience and varied music sources.
Read more: The best headphones of 2023