Rega Elex-r £900
Never mind the features, this Award-winner proves that performance is still key
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.
After the success of the Audiolab MDAC (and MDAC+), expectations are sky-high for the brand’s MONE. 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