The heart of any high-quality stereo system is its integrated amplifier. Unlike an AV receiver, the best integrated amplifier under 500 rarely boasts maximum equipment and many features. It has only one task: to make your music from any source sound as good as possible.
The variety of amplifiers is quite extensive. In our case, we will consider integrated amplifiers under $500 that are budget devices and are suitable for those who want to feel like an audiophile and then buy a device more expensive or if the budget is limited or there are no big requirements.
ToP-ART technology was applied to create the equipment. Thanks to this, the sound output power is 60W (8 ohms), while Onkyo A-9150 has only 30W (8 ohms).
The balance, tone and loudness controls are equipped with handles in the form of truncated cones. In its turn, round knobs of large and small diameters, respectively, are responsible for changing the volume and selecting inputs. There is also a rotary switch for working with one / two sets of speakers or only with headphones, the 6.3-mm output to which is located nearby. Agree, you can’t call this design a classic of the genre.
But the equipment of the rear panel is much more than a simple tribute to tradition. In addition to five line inputs (two with a through the channel) and the Phono-corrector input for an MM cartridge, a subwoofer output, as well as coaxial and optical digital audio inputs are provided. There is also a USB Type-A socket, which acts as a 5V power supply for Yamaha branded accessories, such as the YBA-11 Bluetooth adapter.
It is noteworthy that there are two pairs of acoustic terminals, which allows you to organize the operation of the speakers according to the bi-wiring scheme, and a switch that ensures that the output impedance of the amplifier path matches the impedance of the connected speakers. In short, it is felt that the developers paid special attention to the quality of the construction of this tract.
It was created using ToP-ART technology (Total Purity Audio Reproduction Technology, literally, "technology for transmitting completely clear sound"). It implies the development of a printed circuit board with the optimal topology (the signal path should be as short as possible and straight as possible), the creation of the symmetrical scheme for the right and left channels, as well as the introduction of a massive frame (at the base) into the housing structure, on which the amplifier path is attached, which increases stiffness and damping.
Among other effective solutions, we note the use of high-quality components (custom relays, capacitors, and a network transformer), single-point grounding, and the manufacture of output transistor radiators by injection molding (such radiators, unlike "tape" ones, are not an additional source of vibration, but on the contrary, provide protection from them).
The developers claim that when designing the A-S301, all the company's experience in creating not only amplifiers but also musical instruments was used.
The built-in DAC allows you to receive digital audio from a DVD / BD player, satellite receiver or TV, and if you connect the optional YBA-11 Bluetooth adapter to the amplifier (via the coaxial bus, the adapter has an appropriate output), you will be able to play files stored on a smartphone. AptX codec is supported, so the loss of wireless signal transmission will be minimal. The amplifier is equipped with an Auto Power Standby function: for more than 8 hours, the device will not be idle, it will go into standby mode.
The power output of this unit is 30W at 8 ohms. The Onkyo A-9110 Integrated Amplifier is a great example of an entry-level Hi-Fi amplifier with which neophytes can begin their journey into the world of truly high-quality sound. One of the best budget integrated amplifier was created on the basis of a very successful model 9010, the circuitry of which was modified to reduce the level of distortion further, as well as increase the output power.
The amplifier is made on an anti-resonant chassis and is equipped with a thick, brushed aluminum front panel. In its center is a large knob for volume control. In addition, there are tone controls in the field of low and medium frequencies and stereo balance. The input selector is supplemented by a convenient indication of the selected signal source. Onkyo A-9110 provides direct signal bypassing additional circuits, as well as bass boost Phase Matching Bass Boost. The latter mode is intended for use at low volume listening to music, and it is similar to traditional loudness, but it works more accurately and with less distortion. The volume control circuitry is designed to reduce noise below the hearing threshold.
The internal filling of the amplifier is not in doubt as to the quality of execution. Sh-shaped power transformer, capable of providing high currents, high-capacity capacitors, output stages of amplification made on discrete elements, cast cooling radiators - the budget model does not appear here. In general, if we talk about compromises in the performance of the component, which could give its low price, we can only note the use of plastic instead of metal for the front panel and handles, as well as the minimum necessary additional functionality. In all other respects, the budget Onkyo A-9110 does not appear.
The amplifier has four line inputs, an input for an MM-cartridge of a vinyl disc player. Also, in this model, there is a linear output (which can be used, for example, to connect a recording device) and an output to a subwoofer. Also, on the front panel of the amplifier, there is a 6.3 mm jack for connecting headphones. In general, this set of connectivity options can be considered exhaustive for a Hi-Fi amplifier, and it is perfect for building a universal audio system.
The device has a powerful and assertive sound and confidently copes with acoustics even with complex impedance characteristics. This was achieved by installing a high-power transformer in the power supply unit, as well as custom filter capacitors of large capacity. Onkyo A-9110 output stages are built on discrete elements using the patented WRAT technology. To connect the speakers, gold-plated screw terminals are used. The device is equipped with remote control.
Performing music of various genres, the Onkyo A-9110 integrated amplifier demonstrated a dynamic, accurate, and clear presentation. The bass is elastic and contoured, and the energy in the lower part of the sound range is enough to expressively present in the medium-sized room, even musical forms that are so demanding on bass as organ, BSO, and hard rock. The reproduction of classical and jazz compositions emphasizes the accuracy of the transmission of tones and tonal fidelity of presentation. In general, the sound of the component can be described as comfortable and airy.
To date, the NAD C316BEE amplifier is probably one of the most affordable high-level integrated devices used to create an entry-level Hi-Fi system. The device has the power of 40W at 8 Ohms. It successfully replaced his predecessor - the 315th model. This unit is characterized by more efficient nutrition and musicality, allowing for fairly modest power characteristics to perfectly transmit the dynamics of the music track. Thanks to the use of unique circuitry solutions, standby power consumption is less than one watt. This class C316BEE sets the quality standard. It is characterized by a minimum level of distortion, as well as an excellent indicator of channel separation.
The switching capabilities of the model allow you to connect a variety of sound sources to it: a vinyl player, a CD player, and a digital compact player. On the front panel of the device, there is a headphone output and an input for an MP3 player. The device controls the sound of low and high frequencies, which is convenient if some records need to achieve more detailed sound or get a more powerful bass. Concerning other features that stereo integrated amplifier under 500 must have is the patented PowerDrive Circuit technology offers a wonderful combination of the high-precision drive required for complex speaker loads, combined with high levels of undistorted dynamic power.
Externally, the device remained the same but is distinguished by a more efficient power supply and a serious musical character, allowing for modest power characteristics to transmit the entire dynamics of a musical recording. In its class C316BEE sets a new standard for sound quality, it is characterized by a low level of distortion and noise, as well as a high channel separation rate. The result was a rich sound with excellent dynamics and soft detail.
The technical director of the company, Bjorn Erik Edvardsen, also took part in the development of the circuitry of this device, who developed the younger version of the effective Power Drive-S power circuit. The contribution to the development of the design of this device is indicated by the BEE index after the name of the amplifier. Thanks to the use of innovative circuit solutions, the standby power consumption was reduced to less than 1W. In the manufacture of the new amplifier, hazardous materials and lead solders were not used.
Marantz PM5005 has 20W (8 ohms) of output power. The metal case of the Marantz PM5005 with a thick, curly aluminum front panel is equipped with anti-resonant supports. The device has a recognizable symmetrical design of the front panel, along the edges of which are the same handles of the input selector and volume control. Also, here are knobs for adjusting the timbre of sound at low and high frequencies, as well as stereo balance. Among other features of the amplifier, one can note the direct audio signal is bypassing auxiliary circuits, the loudness circuit, the switch of two speaker pairs, and the output for connecting headphones. The amplifier is equipped with a fully functional remote control, the design of which has been completely updated compared to the previous model. The exterior of the Marantz PM5005 can be black or silver/gold.
On the rear panel of the device, there are inputs for three linear signal sources, an input for connecting an MM-pickup of a turntable, as well as two sets of inputs/outputs for recording devices. There is also input/output for the remote control system, as well as screw terminals for two pairs of speakers.
The Marantz PM5005 amplifier part is built according to the current feedback circuitry. This feature ensures compatibility with various loads and uniform frequency response. A shielded excess power transformer is installed in the power supply unit of the device, and the input stages are built on proprietary HDAM modules (SA2, SA3). Selected components of the audiophile class are installed in the most important parts of the amplifier circuit in terms of sound quality. Marantz PM5005 develops up to 55 watts when working on a 4-ohm load and can be used to sound medium-sized rooms. The device goes well with most speakers of popular brands (both shelf and compact floor) and will become the basis for a high-quality stereo system.
For ease of use, this unit can be controlled using the remote control. It will allow you to easily configure not only the operation of the device but also perform additional manipulations with the network player.
On the back of the amplifier are inputs that are designed for three linear signal sources. If you wish, you can also make an additional connection to the turntable. Also included are two recorder inputs/outputs that are used in conjunction with gold-plated screw terminals.