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Amplifier Onix OA22L review

When reviewed the Onix OA21, forebear to the ?300 OA22L looked at here, proved curiously CD-phobic, but had the saving grace of a fabulous MM disc input. It might seem something of a pity, therefore, to remove this disc stage in order to create a modern line-only amplifier.

Of course the OA22L is not identical to the older OA21 — it’s rated at 35W instead of 50Wfor a start—but both share the same casework and established circuit design. This means that nothing apart from a volume control and unmarked rotary input selector grace the slim fascia, while a series of phono and recessed 4mm sockets decorate the rear.

Both inside and out, Onix has done a very neat job, abandoning integrated circuits for an elegant design composed entirely of discrete components. Even the protection circuit is free of ICs, monitoring the current flowing through the bipolar power amp and using a two-transistor switch to disable the differential input when things begin to get too tough. Should this occur in practice, simply switch off the amplifier, allow its reservoir banks of capacitors to discharge and the OA22L is ready for business once again.

Sound quality

The precise matching of output level between one amplifier and another is just one of the many unique features of this amplifier survey. Furthermore, different inputs are accurately adjusted to achieve a constant and predictable output level between, for example, CD and LP sources.

Even after all these pains had been carefully taken, the OA22L sounded undeniably and obviously ‘loud’, and this characteristic dominated all others during the listening test.

Interestingly enough this is not an excessively sibilant or spiky-sounding amplifier. Instead, in the words of the panel, ‘it’s what we might have expected from a fairly ordinary transistorised amplifier ten years or so ago’.

Christy Moore lacked the accustomed guttural chestiness, while the pace of his music was unusually hurried. Jazz and pop tracks alike were not offensive, yet for all its loudness, the amplifier seemed incapable of capturing a sense of drama or excitement. This loudness’ the panel continued, ‘manifests most obviously in its eagerness to reach a conclusion’.

Conclusion

‘Just like a prostitute’, commented one anonymous panel member — before he was taken outside and shot — ‘this amp does the job but is rather dispassionate in the process.’

It is clearly a well intentioned and very professionally built piece of kit, which unfortunately makes the rather uninspiring performance of the OA22L all the more exasperating.

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