The Avid Integra integrated amplifier comprises a huge, powerful punch!
AVID HIFI, based in Kimbolton, though not a new company in the high-definition audio field may not be as well known here in the states as they are in England.
However, they have been designing and making products since 1995 while quite recently, the company has been designing turntables and speakers for several years. Even so, these products have gathered considerable acclaim in the UK Audio press.
Their entry-level integrated amplifier Integra, is by no means inexpensive, yet it has some excellent and quite profound features as well as a refined yet audacious overall sound quality.
CEO Conrad Mas has quite a passion for his products and is one of those designers that is not satisfied until he can design and make the ultimate components he is capable of; regardless of price.
Since forming AVID HIFI, not long ago he introduced his first integrated amplifier named SIGSUM, as part of a reference series of amplifiers that includes 3 tiers of separate pre and power amps. More recently the company introduced the latest and least expensive integrated amplifier, Integra, which is the subject of this in depth evaluation.
The relatively new INTEGRA (short for Integrated), is significantly less money than the top-of-the-line Sigsum but is an amplifier offering a quite huge amount of power (average, 90 watts per channel) in its Class AB design specification.
One look exhibits a build quality that is virtually flawless as you would expect at its price point. The Integra includes a 750VA mains transformer, 88,000uF storage capacity, and a phono-stage called “Pellar” which includes bespoke Samwha capacitors as well as a terrific ALPS RK27 volume control.
This volume control is splendid in use and feel and you can tell by just touching it that is endowed with an admirable smoothness and delicate incremental turning ability. Originally, the Integra did not come with a remote control, although I suspect there was good reason for Conrad to not include it. On the other hand, besides the number of program sources now available at the consumers’ fingertips, including many of us who rip CD’rs and CDs, (at somewhat different volume levels) a unit like this, in my opinion, can feel quite naked without one.
The great news is that Conrad and Avid have, as of today, added a superb remote to the Integra and this brings this amplifier into a whole new level of enjoyment!!
SOME TECHNICAL INFO
The Integra, while quite unassuming, is beautifully stylish but quite heavy. Nonetheless, the sturdy handles gave me the strength to lift it onto its shelf, although some people may need help in this respect. Unusually, the on/off toggle mains switch is hidden underneath the bottom of the unit, rather than it being placed at the back panel next to the mains socket thereby making it a touch more difficult to access, You’ll have to use a bit of muscle to lift this beast to get there!
The Avid has no digital inputs (who needs them anyway?) and inputs provided are via unbalanced RCA phono sockets only. Although some may desire XLR input connections, Integra’s lack of these is not a big issue in my opinion. (I use RCA interconnects from DAC to the preamp and XLR’s between pre and power amplifier)
The Phono input for turntable use carries a single pair of RCA sockets, plus small slide switches to set the gain for MM, or MC high/low. The RCA load sockets easily and generously take the provided MC loading resistors for different Moving Coil Cartridge’s output sensitivities; (default being 47k ohms). However, those intuitively supplied 500 Ohm loading resistors will help you bring down the MC level sensitivity very nicely for most low output cartridges. (The 100 ohms standard may indeed work quite well with certain cartridges).
There may have been a simpler way to implement the above but I must admit, however, in its defense, the phono stage has an immense amount of gain. This amplifier will not dispel the use of some of the finest “low output” MC cartridges whatsoever- bravo!
A single pair of solid, gold plated loudspeaker terminals will accept bare wires, spades, or 4mm banana plugs.
I started my listening with the Avid Integra using a few of my most impressive digital compact discs, some Qobuz streaming, and many – digital files replicated to CD-r formats; the latter almost being all WAV files and a few HD FLAC files. I must point out that many of these files were inadvertently truncated down to PCM format, with no digital filtering using the Audio Note CD3/x II player or transport, or the Border Control SE-1 (the latter using an R2R DAC chip with no oversampling and no digital filtering). Alternately, some high-definition files were streamed or played through the Prism Sound Callia or the Wyred4Sound 10th Anniversary DAC. (96 or 192 kHz sample rates.)
The Integra has a surprisingly rich, bold, and highly impressive sound structure, which will engage the listener with some mighty impressive high decibel listening levels, no matter how insensitive your particular loudspeakers may be. Although its average power rating is a strapping 90 watts per channel, Integra’s power reserves on full musical transients are far beyond these specifications. That said, the quality of its reproduction is clear and particularly transparent within the full range of its frequency spectrum even at levels as high as 90dba!
When engaging the virtually neutral Living Voice R25A loudspeakers, (review forthcoming) the amplifier delivered quite an even and smoothly natural tonality; maybe a bit audacious in its midrange response which was quite evident on popular music and some well-recorded rock program material. This appears to be one of Integra’s true strengths and I noticed that the amp had a very tight hold over the loudspeaker’s bass response from about 100hz and downward. Take note: Integra’s deep bass impact is thoroughly impressive!
The Integra’s mid/treble balance on some of the other reference loudspeakers used never sounded sharp, biting, or acidic. Overall, I would say, its balance was a touch forward from the loudspeaker’s plane, although never obtrusive, giving the music a bigger-than-life sense of excitement. (Maybe a bit ironic for a British product/).
The sound stage width was quite impressive on most classical recordings while displaying good depth; though not as exceptional as say the Naim or dartZeel, (the latter, of course at an extremely higher price point) but it did deliver a nice amount of detail and hall ambiance on studio and particularly live recordings; both digital and analog.
As mentioned above, this amplifier certainly was surprising with its huge power reserves and if your loudspeakers can handle what it offers — you should be able to get some clean and intoxicatingly loud listening levels from your speakers in almost any size room you may be using it in. At the same time, its Instrumental clarity and definition were top-notch; never varying as the volume was turned way up.
The Integra also produced a first-rate stereo image quality. (Here, one must always assume that the preferred loudspeakers and your listening room and seating position are scrupulously up to snuff). That fine dynamic quality on the Avid was quite obvious on many program sources it was engaged with and there is no limit here as to how it expresses such dynamism from all different types of music.
Contrastingly, The Avid Integra is not an amplifier that will exhibit an exorbitant amount of lushness or a delicately nuanced felling within its sound reproduction capabilities. This amp is a bold, outgoing creature that will bring forward unbridled, toe-tapping excitement to the listener; while at the same time always keeping the sound refined and civilized! In that sense, it is quite the opposite of most tube (valve) amplifiers as it delivers all of that massive power and dynamics to the table. The unit’s superb bandwidth can truly rock while fully delivering an intensely immersive sound quality and an all-encompassing, live performance decibel level.
WRAPPING THINGS UP
The Avid Integra is an amplifier that delivers a strong, tight, and fully muscular performance while in theory, it has most if not all of the quality and pedigree of its top-of-the-line Sigsmum integrated amp.
Its usable power output is quite beguiling and from the listening tests, one may think that this 90-watt amp (at an 8-ohm load) produces double the power output, particularly while using some extremely wide dynamic range program sources. The bass reproduction is full, brawny, punchy, and very profound.
Although its midrange performance is a touch forward, the fact remains that the Integra is still blessed with a self-effacing level of respectful intimacy; particularly at higher volume levels.
The Avid Integra now comes with remote control which, at this price point is well deserving! Some may see a lack of a digital input as perplexing…. however, most audiophiles who may enlist the Integra will have their own separate DACs anyway.
Another winning aspect of the Integra is its Phono stage; having all that gain, and thereby making it a viable source for almost any moving coil cartridge; particularly those with very low outputs. To be blunt: vinyl enthusiasts will have a heyday with the Avid Integra.
Nonetheless, although this is Avid’s entry-level integrated amplifier, by today’s standards it is, arguably, a touch less competitive price-wise than some American-made high-definition amplifiers available to the consumer.
That being said, it is an amplifier that has stamped an enviable impression on my mind with its fine sound quality and is therefore highly recommended!
Review system: Loudspeakers: Living Voice R25A, Spendor BC1, Quad ESL 63, ~ Digital: Border Patrol DAC SE-I ~ Prism Sound “Callia” DAC ~ Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server/streamer ~ Wyred4Sound 10th Anniversary DAC ~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1x/2 Analog: SOTA comet 5 and Dynavector high output moving coil cartridge. Amplification: PS Audio M1200 monoblocks ~ Pass Lab XP- 12 line stage preamp ~ Pass Labs XA30.8 power amp Cables/ Conditioners: Inakustik AC-3500p power station & LS-4004 speaker cables, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord ~ Silversmith Audio ‘Fidelium’ loudspeaker cables ~ Wireworld Electra 7 digital SPDIF/ Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord.
Pricing: 7,000 BP ~ $9,995.00 USA
AVID HIFI Ltd https://www.avidhifi.com/ +44 (0)1480 869 900 www.avidhifi.com
American Importer: Fidelis Home Audio
460 Amherst St, Nashua, NH 03063
Contact: Walter Swanborn email@example.com
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
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