It has been a busy summer so far with more than a dozen reviews underway; including part one of our integrated amplifier round-up which will include the NAD D 3045, and Cambridge Audio AXA35. Part two will feature the Naim Nait XS 3 and Audiolab 6000A. We plan on comparing all four of these very different sounding integrated amplifiers for October 1st and it’s already clear that the music lover is the big winner. With a range of $350-$2,995, there is something here for the entry-level user building their first system, and the audiophile looking for an amplifier for a bedroom/office system, or even their primary one.
Our thoughts on the NAD and Cambridge Audio integrated amplifiers should drop by the second week of September — and you will be very surprised. The AXA35 doesn’t feature an internal DAC but very few do at $350. At that entry-level price for a very good sounding integrated amplifier, you should have some funds leftover for an external DAC from AudioQuest, or Schiit Audio like the Modi 3.
That all four feature very competent sounding MM phono stages in 2019 is really pretty amazing. None of them have embarrassed themselves so far when we tried them with high-output moving magnet cartridges from Dynavector, Nagaoka, and Grado Labs. It’s a sign of the times when integrated amplifiers include a phono stage; vinyl sales are still hanging in there.
We’re running these integrated amplifiers pretty hard with the Klipsch RP-600M, PSB Alpha P5, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s, Quad S-2s, and the Acoustic Energy AE100 loudspeakers to give them all a wide variety of systems to shine or show off their warts.
If your entire budget for a system falls below $1,000, you will find yourself with some interesting options with either the NAD or Cambridge integrated amplifiers. Should your budget fall between $2,500-$5,000, the Naim and Audiolab are very good places to start if you want to limit the number of components to an amplifier, DAC (if you select the Naim), loudspeakers, and turntable. Separates should feel very nervous. Very nervous indeed.