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Amplifier Arcam Alpha 6 review

If the third model in Arcam’s long-running Alpha Series proved something of a low point, then its successors look set to re-establish the authority of the range. These are the Alpha 5 and Alpha 6 amplifiers (the Alpha 4 never existed), that both include a derivative of the quasi-complementary MOSFET power amplifier first seen in Arcam’s Delta 290.

The model 6 provides a lustier output than the 5 but still features the same complement of four line, tape and MM disc inputs. Incidentally, this disc stage, which has been upgraded over the Alpha 3 using a new PMI op-amp, can also be bypassed in favour of a fifth auxiliary input for line-only systems.

Meanwhile, for an extra ?20, you can buy armchair remote control over the motorised volume knob, a facility that is already available to owners of the Alpha 5 and D270 CD players with their multi-purpose infra-red handsets.

Sound quality

No sooner had the Mahler CD been loaded into the CD player than lamenting horns soared out into the room, creating a marvellous sense of anticipation that was just sustained by the final flourish of the orchestra as a whole. This made the Alpha 6 a whole lot more interesting than many of its rivals but there was always that nagging sensation of not quite letting go, a hint of restraint that prevented its music from exploding into a larger and even bolder acoustic.

Yet the Alpha 6 maintained a steady grip through the tricky rock and pop CDs that had flummoxed others In this test. Sting’s boyish vocals retained their natural whine, despite being battered from all sides by multi-tracked harmonies, strings and percussion. Any restraint in this instance was interpreted by our panel as a little extra smoothness, keeping any hardness or aggression in check without squashing the dynamics en route.

There is some slight muting of dynamics via the MM disc input. However, its sweet balance seems perfectly suited to the lush sound of classical woodwind and strings. With these instruments in particular, the Alpha 6 revealed a wealth of gentle detail without sounding sat-upon.

Conclusion

This, Arcam’s latest addition to the Alpha Series, continues its tradition for great music at an equally attractive price. In this instance, the sound of the Alpha 6 is very melodic, a performance that envelops and relaxes with appealing waves of warm and considered detail.

So, rather than being stunned by forthright dynamics, the Alpha 6 is an amplifier to savour and enjoy at your leisure. It comes highly recommended.

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