AUDIOLAB 6000A INTEGRATED AMP: SPIRIT OF 8000A FOR A NEW GENERATION
The Audiolab 6000A harnesses the British company's latest tech to deliver an affordable, fully equipped amplifier that meets the demands of modern music lovers.
Audiolab's 8000A, launched in 1983, swiftly became Britain's favourite ‘step-up' from the budget amps of the time. The 8000A won myriad fans thanks to its high-quality engineering and excellent all-around sound.
The question is now, can Audiolab pull off the same feat 35 years on with the new 6000A?
The modern audiophile looking to purchase an integrated amplifier will have a list of requirements. Firstly, the amp must accommodate digital and analogue sources and wireless connectivity for portable devices. Additionally, a phono stage to cater for vinyl playback, amplification for headphones as well as speakers; all while keeping performance high and the price tag affordable. Audiolab tells us that their 6000A ticks all those boxes.
The 6000A shows its heritage with nods to the 8300A through its rotary controls and large, central OLED display. However, the 8300A costs £899, whereas the 6000A's recommended price tag is just £599. Furthermore, unlike its costlier, analogue-only sibling, the 6000A incorporates a high-quality digital to analogue converter (DAC).
On the input front, you get three line-level analogue inputs, an input for a turntable, wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and a dedicated headphone amp, as well as loudspeaker outputs, of course.
Audiolab has trusted the internals to Jan Ertner – the same man responsible for the 8300A, as well as many other award-winning audio components over the years.
The 6000A's discrete Class AB power amp stage delivers 50W per channel into eight ohms, with a maximum current delivery of 9 Amps into difficult loads. The output stage of the discrete power amp circuits uses a CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology. Here you are ensured superior linearity and excellent thermal stability as the idle current is kept independent of the temperature of the output transistors. A substantial 200VA toroidal transformer, followed by 4x15000uF reservoir capacity (60000uF in total), helps the amp to maintain firm control of the music while enabling excellent dynamic range.
The preamp section is as simple as possible to maintain signal purity. The line input signals pass to a precision analogue volume stage. The latter covers the range from -80dB to +8dB in steps of 2dB and 1dB (step resolution increases with volume position). Naturally, plenty of effort has gone into the physical layout of the 6000A's circuitry to protect the preamp section from noise interference.
The Audiolab 6000A relies upon the trusty ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip family for the DAC, utilising ESS Technology's 32-bit HyperStream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator to deliver ultra-low noise and high dynamic range.
Ertner and his team have paid great attention to the post-DAC active filter. The team has developed a Class A topology using specially chosen op-amps for their synergy with the ES9018.
The amp's four S/PDIF digital inputs – two coaxial and two optical – handle hi-res PCM data up to 24-bit/192kHz and benefit from three user-selectable digital filters: ‘Fast Roll-Off', ‘Slow Roll-Off' and ‘Minimum Phase'. These settings enable you to optimise the response to suit the source file and the bandwidth of the partnering equipment.
Additionally, Bluetooth support for the sonically superior aptX codec allows easy wireless streaming from smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Bluetooth-paired devices also benefit from the quality of the amp's DAC section and three digital filter options.
The moving magnet phono stage is a high-quality, low-noise, JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalisation.
Finally, the 6000A's dedicated headphone amp with current-feedback circuitry features a gain bandwidth and high slew rate that will ensure a dynamic, detailed and engaging performance with all manner of headphone types.
The 6000A offers three distinct operational modes. The primary mode is ‘Integrated' which combines the pre and power amp stages. Here you can connect digital and analogue sources to the amp's inputs and a pair of speakers to its binding posts.
‘Pre-Power Mode' disconnects the pre and power amp stages allowing the 6000A to be used solely as a power amp. It also enables additional signal processing by connecting the 6000A's ‘preamp out' socket to an external processor; you can then return the processor's output to the amp's ‘power amp in' socket.
Finally, ‘Pre Mode' disables the power amp stage and so turns the 6000A into a standalone preamp. Here you can add an external power amplifier and thus providing a possible upgrade path.
Jan Ertner, the project's lead electronics designer, told StereoNET:
"The majority of audio components that I design retail for upwards of £1,000, so the 6000A was a tremendous challenge – an integrated amp with a full roster of digital and analogue facilities at a target retail price of just £600. What's more, it had to deliver the excellent sound quality for which Audiolab is famed, without compromising one aspect of performance to accommodate another."
"I'm proud of the results we have attained. On DAC performance alone, the 6000A will match standalone DACs in the £500-£600 range. As for the analogue pre and power amp stages, we've worked long and hard to ensure that the 6000A delivers class-leading sound quality. As a package – a high-quality, affordable integrated amp for the modern age – the 6000A represents excellent value-for-money."
Audiolab firmly believes the 6000A is the best-value amplifier the company has ever produced. It is available from October in a choice of silver or black, at an RRP of £599.
- Integrated amplifier with DAC
- Class AB power amplification: 2x50W into 8 ohms; 2x75W into 4 ohms
- aptX Bluetooth streaming
- ESS Technology Sabre32 Reference DAC
- Three user-selectable digital filters
- Class A post-DAC active filter
- Low noise JFET MM phono stage
- Dedicated current-feedback headphone amp
- Three operational modes: Integrated Mode; Pre-Power Mode; Pre Mode
- 4x S/PDIF digital audio (2x optical; 2x coaxial)
- 4x analogue audio (3x line level; 1x MM phono)
- Power amp input
- USB for firmware updates
- 12V trigger
- Speaker binding posts
- Headphone output
- Preamp output
- 12V trigger
For more information go to Audiolab.
StereoNET UK's Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He's captained the GadgetyNews good ship for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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