Anthem’s 225-watt integrated amp is a powerful beast that will have no trouble driving any speaker with control and precision, yet is capable of lashings of great subtlety and musical detail
Amplifier design has undergone a real shake up in recent years: conventional transistor-based amplifiers once again have real competition from valve designs, while the rise of Class D technology has major implications for energy efficiency and the ability to pack lots of power into a smaller case.
In terms of power ratings there are two distinct roads to travel – low powered amplifiers and high efficiency speakers (Klipsch, Tractrix horns and 12wpc class D ‘T’ amplifiers, for example), and the high power route favoured by the likes of Krell, Plinius, Perreaux and Musical Fidelity, all of which are able to drive ridiculously inefficient speakers with ease.
Both approaches work extremely well given the suitability of the partnering equipment used, but as they say in motor racing, there ain’t no substitute for horsepower’.
The extra power and current that larger amplifiers generate mean faster transient response of music, especially in the lower registers. The amp is able to provide better control of the pistonic excursion of each bass driver and reproduce tighter, punchier and deeper bass than lesser-powered designs. There are other benefits of course: big amps go louder, and the better ones are able to do a better job of ‘acoustically loading’ the system to a room.
This lengthy preamble is the vehicle for me to introduce the new Anthem Integrated 225. It’s a gleaming slab of aluminium and steel black casework with a rather impressive 225wpc output. The hefty 225 has a very good (for an integrated amp) moving magnet phono stage built in, a set of balanced inputs, defeatable tone controls, and a minijack input for portable devices such as the ever-popular iPod.
Having made acquaintances with this renowned Canadian brand with the luxurious MCA50/AVM50 HT pre/power combo, I had high expectations of the Integrated 225, and it didn’t disappoint in regards to its good looks or – more importantly – its sonic prowess. Paired with the superb Paradigm Reference Signature S6 loudspeakers and my source components (Jungson Moon Harbour tube/Squeezebox Duet/Pro-Ject Studie turntable), I settled in for a few weeks of 2-channel entertainment. The amplifier possesses a neutral-warm tonal balance, and it’s one that I felt at home with right away.
Certainly the hallmarks of a powerful amplifier were all there – excellent bass control on tracks such as Stanley Clarke’s ‘Find Out’, a funk pseudo-masterpiece from the 1980s, and I had a good sense of the placement of each performer on the (engineer’s) imaginary stage. I decided to move down tempo with the Burt Bacharach/Elvis collaboration Painted From Memory, and this excellent HDCD-encoded disc provided a great examination of the Anthem’s excellent resolving power – digging subtle nuances from the CD that would be lost on lesser equipment. Likewise with the rendition of Elvis’ vocals, these had a ‘in room’ quality that really brought the performance into my listening room.
Vinyl replay was also a high point, and although the inbuilt phono-stage didn’t quite reach the level of my outboard 2-box preamplifier, it still was an extremely impressive showing – especially with cuts from my precious Tour De France double LP by Kraftwerk.
Really, there’s nothing to dislike about Anthem’s Integrated 225. It has masses of power, but this is combined with the sort of musicality and resolving power usually experienced with top-flight pre/power combinations.
Considering the performance, I reckon it’s a bit of a steal at the price. GARY PEARCE