I managed to “borrow” our review sample of Perreaux’s Audiant 80i integrated amplifier before it went out to Gary Pearce’s place and without getting ahead of his upcoming full review, I thought I’d post some thoughts about this new NZ made amp.
We’ve seen and heard a pre-production version of the Audiant (here) but it was interesting to take a look at the retail ready model. The production version’s build quality is very good indeed and the now fully operational touch controls are a pleasure to use once you accept that they’re not as reactive as an iPhone touchscreen – give them a wee bit of pressure and they’re plenty responsive (they look good too). The volume control also feels great, offering a fine degree of adjustment of volume levels.
I really liked the overall looks of this amp when I first saw it and after staring at it for a few days, I’m even more sold on the minimalist design. Despite the often quoted “upside down Logitech Transporter” shape, the Audiant is refreshingly restrained and discrete in appearance. It looks very neat on a rack with the glowing touch panel and silver and black finish.
Operationally, there’s not much to it – unlike the Eloquence series amps with their displays and multiple setup options, this is pretty much plug and play and that’s probably a good thing at the price point.
I didn’t get as much time with the amp as I’d hoped and didn’t have time to try the USB input before sending it off with Mr. Pearce this morning but based on the time I did have, consider me impressed.
The review unit was brand new and the feedback from Perreaux is that 48 hours of use should get it “nice and warm and sounding good but another week or so of action will see it fully realized”. Even in its out of the box state, exactly as per the pre-production unit, the Perreaux signature sound is evident. I’ve had three other Perreaux integrated amps (Radiance 200i, Eloquence 250i and Silhouette SX25i) on the same Theophany M5 Series 2 speakers and Marantz SA8260 SACD player and I heard much the same type of sound all round. Audio memory is more than a little fallible but the things I liked about those amps were exactly what I appreciated here. Absolute screeds of detail, accurate imaging on a deep soundstage and a sense of control and precision that add up to a clean and non-fatiguing sound. Not what I’d call warm but not at all harsh. Still, that’s fine considering the amp was so new. Frankly, if the sound changed not one iota through the run in period, I’d still be a fan.
I was wondering if this would turn out to be a highly featured $3,000 component that sounded like $1,500-$2,000 amp. After all, the phono stage and multi input DAC don’t come cheap. Well let’s wait for Pearce’s review to get the full picture but based on my short weekend session, I’d say this amp sounds like it can more than live up to its price tag and heritage. It certainly shouldn’t be looked down on because it’s available in a chain store. I’ll definitely need to get it back for a while after the tall one is done with it…