Published On: December 28, 2009

Arcam FMJ A18 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: December 28, 2009

Arcam FMJ A18 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

British hifi manufacturer Arcam knows a thing or two about integrated amps, and at only $1,099 the FMJ A18 packs a lot into an inexpensive and small package. We check out if its 50 watts can hold its own.

Arcam-A18-intamp-reviewed.gifMany music lovers find the idea of setting up an HDMI-based receiver system nothing short of a logistical nightmare. What should have been a one-cable connection, please-all solution has resulted in a complicated world of PC-like headaches that can make the simple pleasure of listening to music not worth the effort. British audio maker, Arcam, has a simple antidote for the music lover in all of us with their FMJ A18 $1,099 integrated amp.

Additional Resources
• Read more reviews for integrated amplifiers on HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find some true audiophile source components for this system.

Dressed in snow white, this virgin pure audiophile integrated amp has sex written all over it. While dainty in size at 50 watts of output, power isn't what you look for from an affordable integrated amp from the U.K. This little number has the musical power to light up some nimble bookshelf speakers and make sweet sounds that will lure you away from the tube and get you back to listening to your music again.

Perfect for an office system or for a bedroom or small room application - it's hard not to see the Apple themes in Arcam's industrial design. While an iPod dock isn't included, there is a matching audiophile CD-17 Compact Disc player and T-32 radio tuner in this line from Arcam. The Brits still make an audiophile tuner these days as they have listenable FM radio content over their airwaves. The geniuses at CBS, Clear Channel and Cumulus have wrecked radio for good in the States but I digress. The A18 accepts up to seven stereo inputs including a 1/8 inch mini-jack for iPods or handheld devices. Arcam uses a beefy power supply to create a quiet, audiophile-like sound not found in the more feature rich, Asian home theater receivers.

Musically, the Arcam FMJ A18 has the reserved yet well spoken musical lexicon that you expect from a British integrated amp. Don't expect this component to make its musical argument by yelling at you. It speaks in soft, compelling tones which for small jazz ensembles are nothing short of intriguing. Alto saxes sound rich but not too heavy. Snare pops are lively with cymbal crashes extending way outside and above the speakers. An audition of some Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff produced Philly-sound strings with soul was round, rich and rewarding. The disco beats were moving and the bassline was well represented even if the speakers, in this case a small pair of B&W's, couldn't go all the way to 20 Hz.

High Points
• In a complicated world, simplicity is at a premium and this integrated amp delivers in spades.

• The fit and finish of the Arcam FMJ A18 is dead nuts gorgeous. At this price, you shouldn't expect such a nice level of polish but Arcam delivers.
• For smaller rooms, you can make a meaningful and emotional musical playback experience that is both true to the source while never trying to be something musically the component isn't.

Low Points
• The Arcam FMJ A18 is best installed on efficient, audiophile bookshelf loudspeakers. Moderate floor standing speakers would work suitably well but don't get too aggressive here before you start considering separate components or higher powered amplifiers.
• The Arcam sound is typically British, meaning it's a bit reserved. If you want that Krell sound - save up for a Krell integrated because the Arcam is a different audio path completely.

Competition and Comparison

In order to compare the Arcam FMJ A18 amplifier against its competition, please read our reviews for the Bel Canto e. One S300iu amplifier and the Cambridge Audio Azur 840W amplifier.  You can also find information available on a wide variety of products by visiting our Amplifier section. 

Conclusion
In an economy where audiophile equipment is increasingly priced in the stratosphere - Arcam has come to town with a sexy looking, highly relevant integrated amp that fits into a well designed music system perfectly for today's more modest listening rooms. Capable of making a truly engaging musical experience, expect this to be a gateway product to other audiophile investments as you are just getting started with the good stuff. For those looking to make an office feel more like home - the Arcam A18 is a solid choice. For those with an iPod-based music collection who might want to try something a little more refined for their audio, the A18 is also highly relevant. Unless you are going big with your audio plans, the Arcam FMJ A18 is an absolutely wonderful starting place for an audiophile love affair. You get it all - price, sound, aesthetics and value.

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