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Amplifier Pioneer A-300X review

Who could have anticipated the hubbub that Pioneer’s A-300 and A-400 amplifiers caused when they were launched? Here were two no-frills models, designed with UK ears in mind and looking set to take on specialist British amplifier manufacturers at their own game. Yet only the A-400 has really stood the market on its head, leaving its sibling as a relative also ran. So will this ?200 A-300X upgrade will redress the balance?

Pioneer has brought the component selection up to A-400 quality while leaving the basic design untouched, and the A-300X looks and smells just like the original article. It features the same complement of input and rec-out selectors, dual-concentric volume control, localised input switching, honeycomb heatsink and isolated power supply.

The main PCB also looks pretty familiar though a few of the active components appear to have been changed. The op-amp for the MM vinyl disc stage and the output power transistors, for example, have certainly not been culled from the A-400.

Sound quality

With heavy heart I sat and recorded our listeners’ uncompromising verdict. ‘Uninspiring’, they began, ‘for although it sounds subjectively quiet (via vinyl disc) this also robs its music of authority and conviction’.

Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances undoubtedly sounded rather distant and murky, but the Paganini selection found the amplifier immediately sounding shrill and very intrusive. Backing instruments crept furtively forward, vocals became edgy and bass was rather insubstantial, leading to Peter Gabriel’s LP being unfairly described as ‘trivial’.

Once the Pioneer’s CD input was fired-up, however, there was a marginal improvement, and greater confidence and life. Nevertheless, percussive detail sounded brittle or abrasive, jazz brass appeared tiring and piano was oddly glassy in timbre. Our listeners complained of having to ‘fish for any bass’. Above all the bustling, busy nature of its music was unwelcome, unnecessary and fatiguing.

Conclusion

Two years ago the fledgling A-300 gave a rather mixed account of itself, gaining a Recommendation by the skin of its transistors. Unfortunately today’s A-300X is some ?20 costlier and seems to offer neither technical nor sonic advantage. Obviously there’s more to the A-400 than a sprinkling of posh components.

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