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Amplifier Pioneer A-300 review

Pioneer UK has been badgering its masters to design and build a no-frills integrated amplifier to compete with the likes of Arcam, Mission, etc. Typically, this proves an uphill struggle and the UK ends up with pretty fascias dotted with party lights and unwanted facilities. That is until now. For the launch of Pioneer’s two new integrated amps, the A-300 and the A-400, has created a hubbub no enthusiast could have failed to pick up on.

You see the A-300 and A-400 have genuinely been designed for UK-consumption so there are no tone controls, loudness, mono or speaker-switching facilities. Even the volume control is a dual-concentric affair to do away with the need for a separate balance control. The two remaining knobs simply cater for input and rec-out selection of the phono (MM only on the A-300), three line and two tape inputs. These selectors are wholly independent of one another and use remote switches mounted up near the input terminals – reducing unnecessary track runs and improving stereo separation to boot.

The effects of vibration are reduced by Pioneer’s honeycomb chassis and heatsink construction, while the main PCB is actually suspended midway in the box. The layout of the line and power amp circuit is totally symmetrical between L and R channels, while conventional feedback has been reduced in favour of Pioneer’s own compensation scheme.

Sound Quality

First impressions were not of spontaneous delight because the panel was initially exposed to the A-300’s MM disc input, a refined and polite-sounding design but one that’s neither as crisp, immediate or dynamic as either the Dual CV5600 or the Mission Cyrus Two. There was no denying the tidiness and subtlety of the overall sound but the resolution of brass instruments, for instance, was compromised by a lack of tonal richness or freshness. Good, certainly, but the MM input nonetheless failed to shine in the view of our panel.

However, switching to CD brought about an instant change of opinion as the amplifier began to breathe musical detail in a most natural and revealing way. There was certainly some ‘editorialising’ going on as one panellist referred to it, but this did little to dampen the panel’s new-found enthusiasm! It was certainly very successful with busy pop tracks that might otherwise have sounded confused or aggressive, trading the nth degree of crisp, transient detail for a very agreeable overall balance.

Conclusion

Not the wholesale success we might have been led to expect then, if only because of the contrast in subjective performance between the MM and CD inputs. If your listening is CD-oriented, however, you’ll not fail to be delighted by the ingratiating, if slightly mellow sound of the A-300.

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