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Amplifier Sony TA-F440E review

Reeling from the success of recent ‘UK-oriented’ amplifiers, Sony has decided that it, too, can produce an amp without tone or balance controls. So the TA-F440E is just as big and bold in appearance as its predecessors but its hefty alloy fascia is simply less cluttered. Independent rec-out and input selection for two tape, three line and MM disc sources will just have to suffice.

But let’s not get carried away by hype. It’s important to realise that the basic topology of the TA-F440E is little different from previous Sony amplifiers. So the disc, power amp and protection stages are similar to those found in the older TA-F530, ‘630 and ‘730 amps for example. There is no implication of inadequacy here, but neither will you find the ‘tweaky’ components popularised by the likes of Rotel.

Instead Sony has added to the basic design by placing both input and volume circuits hard up against the rear of the amp, shortening the signal path. Extras like gold-plated speaker-selection relays also help to optimise its performance.

Sound quality

As if on cue the fresh, up-beat sound of this amp seemed best suited to our vinyl rather than digital sources, capturing our listeners’ attention from the word go. It was both detailed, open and, above all, very quiet. ‘Bags of detail’ they ventured, tempering this reaction with the thought that it was marginally better suited to pop than the weight of our classical selection.

Ok, so it was a little cool but its bass remained very clean and articulate, drawing out Marty Paich’s double bass as clearly and cleanly as the kettle drum from Rachmaninov’s Symphony. Both were reassuringly solid and weighty, without ever overwhelming any of the accompanying instruments.

Unfortunately this sense of balance did not extend to CD where the presentation was both lighter in weight and oddly superficial. In fact it was quite obviously coloured, lacking harmonic richness yet possessed of an invasive warmth that smeared sharp detail.

Conclusion

Pitched at just ?180, Sony TA-F440E is offering an extremely powerful, no-nonsense amp that would seem hard to beat – on paper at least. However the clear disparity between inputs worried our listeners who were markedly more involved in its sound via MM disc than Compact Disc.

Here there is a detached coolness that contrasts with the more detailed and embracing quality of the disc stage. Recommended, then, for its prodigious reserves of power and fine showing with vinyl, but remember, there is a lot more to a good ‘audiophile’ amp than simply abandoning tone controls.

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