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