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Amplifier JVC AX-A441 review

One year ago we looked at JVC’s no frills AX-A3, an amp that earned itself a recommendation at just ?140. Add another ?70 and you end up with the AX-A441, top of JVC’s newest range and equipped with rather more frills by way of justification. In reality, however, this amp bears closer comparison with the cheaper AX-A341 – same controls and basic circuitry but topped-off with both MM and MC cartridge options.

These and the other five line inputs are sourced via a couple of rotary controls which also offer independent rec-out selection. Unfortunately only the CD input may truly bypass the extra tone and balance circuits. Still, beneath the titanium coloured bonnet JVC has made a gesture towards short signal paths by employing remote input selectors.

The basic design is from JVC stock: a discrete MC headamp, active RIAA based around a JVC op-amp and a complementary high-gain power amp to complete the package. Tweaky components? Not really but the ‘Great Supply’ reservoir caps from Nichicon look interesting!

Full electronic protection is provided for the two sets of speaker outputs though JVC’s efforts to ‘reduce output impedance’ and ‘render harmless the effects of counterelectromotive forces’ are at least partially thwarted by the clumsy speaker selection procedure.

Sound quality

Some liked it, others most certainly did not while the rest ‘blew hot and cold’! Our initial impressions were of a big sound, plenty of ambient space and body yet frustratingly devoid of emotion. The tension of Rachmaninov’s Symphony, for instance, was simply too intangible. Furthermore, disc surface noise seemed to be more obvious than usual, partly because the music itself was both superficial and uninteresting. Not a good start.

With CD in tow it sounded distinctly ‘quieter’ than other amplifiers we had heard earlier in the day. Our listeners would not condemn it for this of course but were less bashful in their criticism of its ‘veiled and recessed presentation’, a close sound that robbed Christy Moore’s voice of its natural fullness and vibrancy.

Conclusion

The hesitancy demonstrated by the panel is simply a reflection of the inconsistency of the amplifier itself. It is not an awful product by any means yet, however impressive it might have seemed via Compact Disc on occasions, the end result failed to draw us in.

This leaves us with a technically competent amplifier, designed to pass muster on the lab bench but retire unrewarded in the listening room.

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