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Copland CSA 29 Integrated Amp Reviewed

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Amidst the myriad brands that fill the pages of hi-fi magazines are countless that have (seemingly) dropped below the radar. You just don't hear about them as much as you do, say, Linn or Krell. The reality, though, is that they've carved out niches for themselves - 'oddball OTL' or 'low-power solid-state' or other topologies - and they tootle along merrily, knowing that they have what's as close to a captive audience as is possible with audio components. The downside is that some, like Copland, deserve wider exposure.

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Copland's niche? It's a double, rather than lone trait that identifies this brand. The most obvious is that the company excels at making sleek and modern solid-state/valve hybrids. Copland certainly wasn't the first to marry the two technologies in equal measure, but it certainly made the marriage viable, credible and desirable; you can see its 'children' in the wonderful amplifiers from Unico, Croft and others. But it's the other forte that marks Copland's turf for some, a group to which it's even more appealing than the tube/tranny nuptials: quite simply, the Danes at Copland have mastered the art of combining styling and construction at sane prices with such finesse that the products are most often likened (favourably) to the now-departed Cello.

What does that mean to those who don't recall that extreme high-end brand? Cello products were known for their wholly functional yet still elegant appearance and build-quality that reflected five-figure price tags. By my reckoning, the only other brand to achieve this is Nagra. With Copland, you get more than a taste of the high life, and from a catalogue with a price span of only £1299 to £2249. To put it into perspective, that's like Arcam money.

Copland has been regrouping over the past few years, consolidating its line-up and - with the CSA29 integrated amp - staking a claim in the hotly-contested 'second upgrade' sector: £1500-£2000. What's tough about it is that it's also part of the separate pre/power sector, so integrated here have to be special. And in some ways, remote control operation and svelte styling are merely icing on the cake. The Copland has to sound not just good, but wonderful.

It certainly looks and feels the part, and no audiophile who's moved from, say, a NAD or Rotel will feel like the wardrobe has been filled with hair shirts. The front panel is very much in the Northern European Minimalist vein, bearing only two knobs (source select and volume), two buttons (tape monitor and power on from stand-by) and a display showing power on or standby and the name of the chosen source.

As you can see from the photos, this is one sexy little amplifier, but its 430x110x390mm (WHD) dimensions disguise a shipping weight of a hefty 15 Kg. Part of that is due in no small part to the chunky 600W toroidal transformer and overkill power supply; then again, Copland always uses top-grade parts and the interiors of their amplifiers will not cause agoraphobia amongst the capacitors and resistors. Two 6922 valves operate in the input differential stage, while MOSFETs deliver 85W/ch from the output section; Copland expects users to get 4000 hours from the tubes.

Read more about the CSA 29 on Page 2.
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