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Mighty Amplification from BAT, Esoteric, Mark Levinson, Arcam, and Quad
By Bes Nievera

'Tis the season for great products gracing the pages of Music Direct's new 2021 catalog. To wit, the amplifier recommendations showcased here offer plenty of power, exciting features, and, of course, superb sound.

Balanced Audio Technology comes out swinging with VK-80i, an all-new tube amp from company founder Victor Khomenko. The relatively compact unit is sure to delight tube-amp aficionados as well as music lovers seeking an alternative from the usual fare. Starting with its all-new circuit that sports all-triode architecture and conservatively powered 55Wpc output (read: real measurements, folks), VK-80i navigates everything from solo notes to complex passages, offering level of engagement that other amps in its class often lack. Other innovations include fuse-less protection, a 90-step resistive-ladder volume control, and an intelligent automatic bias adjustment to help those mighty 6C33C-B output tubes respond with undeniable grace.

TEAC's Esoteric warrants a mention for its F-03A integrated amplifier – and for so many reasons. Trust me: The Class A, Japanese-built F-03A is one piece you'll want to experience for yourself. Nodding to Esoteric's Master Sound Works platform, the company's engineers incorporated designs from Esoteric's flagship Grandioso components. The results are epic. Featuring dual-monaural construction that extends through all stages (from preamplifier inputs through to the final stage of the power amplifier output), F-03A subscribes to four "f"-themed tenets: full analog circuitry; full integration; fundamental focus; and functionality rooted in refinement, simplicity, and passion. Indeed, with F-03A, everything comes down to its premium construction, parts, and architecture. Look for F-03A to sweep you off its feet with master-grade sound, pinpoint imaging, and rich dynamics.

Mark Levinson's latest 5000 Series components continue the company's pursuit of separates in the form of its No 5206 preamplifier and No 5302 dual-mono power amplifier. The American-made and -built components convey all the Levinson touches in looks, but it's what under the hood that truly counts! № 5206's double-patented, all-exclusive design bristles with a ton of tech, including Class A, Pure Path, fully discrete, direct-coupled, dual-mono line-level circuitry. Add Levinson's remarkable Pure Phono MM/MC preamplifier, a 32-bit/384kHz ESS SABRE Pro Precision LinkII DAC, MainDrive headphone output, home-theater pass-through, and forward-looking connectivity, and № 5206 turns into a champion of sound, control, and flexibility. As for № 5302? Its direct-coupled amplifier channels get their moxie from an oversized 1100 VA toroidal transformer with individual secondary windings for the left and right channels. Think of the amp as the little brother to their mighty No. 534. It loves powering almost any speaker you can obtain.

Arcam recently rolled out three receivers in the form of AVR10, AVM20, and AVM30. The Class AB AVM10 (80Wpc of continuous power with two channels driven, 65Wpc with seven) arrives loaded with the right amount of onboard capabilities to suit intimate home-theater environments. Designed in the U.K. and engineered with a focus on sonics, AVR10 supports the latest CODECs from Dolby, DTS, and IMAX Enhanced – including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 7.1.4 decoding. You also get seven HDMI inputs, two HDMI outputs, and eARC compatibility, along with built-in Wi-Fi/Ethernet, RS232, and IR control. The real draw lies in the multichannel amp's arresting dynamics, see-through clarity, and edge-of-your-seat realism. Along with an audiophile-grade ESS 9026PRO DAC, it helps account for degrees of transparency and efficiency often foreign to the receiver category. AVR20 steps it up with a 16-channel output and added power (backed by Class AB 110Wpc) with an even more extensive multichannel platform encompassing Dolby Atmos , IMAX Enhanced, Auro-3D, and DTS:X 9.1.6 – not to mention an ESS 9026PRO DAC and Google Cast/UPnP capability for streaming audio. AVR30 is a must for anyone seeking cutting-edge dynamics in a receiver. Arcam's Class G amps use Class A technology exclusively for low-level signals and an additional power supply for larger sections of the audio waveform, a solution that eliminates crossover distortion (caused by Class A/B) and any potential power shortages during extreme swings (suffered by Class A). The result: Truly, the best of both worlds.

Quad's Artera Solus integrated amplifier/CD player rolls into the lineup as an all-in-one wonder that, true to the Quad nameplate, espouses superb sound quality in a compact footprint. Quad makes Artera Solus outperform its rivals with with user-friendly connectivity and filter settings. A built-in CD player, superb 32-bit/384kHz DAC, aptX Bluetooth for high-quality wireless performance, and a power amplifier ready to drive speakers to pleasing levels – all here. And two balanced XLR outputs, a USB-B input for computers, headphone output, and two RCA inputs speak to its ability to jibe with most any set-up imaginable. Whether you stream or spin, Artera Solus has your back.

Details on all products mentioned here are linked throughout the article. As always, a Music Direct Audio consultant is a phone call away to take your order or answer any questions. Be sure to keep the conversation going on this page, or on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel for new product announcements and more!

Follow @besnieverajr on Twitter and Instagram

December 21, 2020

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