Rega Elex-r £900

Never mind the fea­tures, this Award-win­ner proves that per­for­mance is still key

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Stereo Amplifiers -

To­day’s stereo amps have tapped into the vinyl resur­gence, pledged them­selves to dig­i­tal and hi-res au­dio and sup­port Blue­tooth stream­ing. But when it comes to the driv­ing force be­hind your sys­tem, ul­ti­mately per­for­mance must be king.

That’s why our cur­rent Award-win­ner, the Rega Elex-r, which is solely ana­logue, wins this test. Its supremacy lies largely in its rhyth­mic ex­pres­sive­ness, its con­vic­tion in ty­ing to­gether mu­si­cal strands and un­veil­ing an ex­tra level of trans­parency. Still, the chal­lengers aren’t left with tails be­tween legs, and pro­vide choice for those whose pri­or­i­ties lie as much with dig­i­tal in­puts and Blue­tooth as out-and-out sound qual­ity.

Cyrus has set it­self a bench­mark for stereo amps, so any­thing less than five stars is dis­ap­point­ing. The ONE, while an at­trac­tive bun­dle of per­for­mance, fea­tures and de­sign, doesn’t quite have the rhyth­mic subtlety or dy­nam­ics to com­plete what is an other­wise solid and en­gag­ing per­for­mance.

Sonic wish­list

Af­ter the suc­cess of the Audiolab MŠDAC (and MŠDAC+), ex­pec­ta­tions are sky-high for the brand’s MŠONE. Sadly its lean tonal bal­ance, thin up­per fre­quen­cies and rhyth­mic sub­or­di­na­tion are an ob­sta­cle to a fifth star. Still, the brand’s in­sight­ful and ar­tic­u­late sound and com­mit­ment to dig­i­tal, with hi-res and DSD sup­port, are rea­son enough to au­di­tion this amp. Like­wise, the NAD C 368 is bound to find a fan base for its well-fea­tured, dig­i­tal-friendly at­ti­tude, es­pe­cially with those who have sonic re­fine­ment and so­lid­ity high up on their wish­list. With a bit more en­ergy and rhyth­mic prow­ess, it would be hard to deny the NAD of a full star-set too.

Those look­ing for a more tra­di­tional amp can’t go wrong with the four-star Heed Au­dio Elixir. With a fo­cus on per­for­mance, the Elixir’s pure, weighty, and ton­ally bal­anced de­liv­ery is one of the more en­gag­ing in this test.

The least en­ter­tain­ing is the Rotel A14, which plays it safe and in turn lacks the trans­parency and rhyth­mic to­geth­er­ness of its more af­ford­able ri­vals – some­thing its gen­er­ous func­tion­al­ity and good­look­ing build can’t quite make up for.

STEREO SPEAK­ERS As metic­u­lous as they are adapt­able Dy­nau­dio Emit M20 ## # # # £600

CD PLAYER Naim CD 5 si ## # # # £1080 As mu­si­cal as they come at this price

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