Expertly reviewed best integrated amplifier under 3000 dollars in 2020. Also best stereo power amplifier under 3000 in USA, UK and Canada.
Best Integrated Amplifier Under 3000
Rotel RA-1592 Integrated Amplifier Review
A powerful integrated with an extensive spec, but will its big sound stage appeal? Narrowly edging out the Musical Fidelity offering, the RA-1592 is both the largest amp here and the biggest in Rotel’s range.
It is only slightly less powerful than the M6si too and quotes 2x 200W into 8ohm power output.
This is achieved thanks to the manufacturer using its own toroidal transformers and laying the output stage out as a dual mono design.
It is also the only model here to have switchable A and B speaker output terminals. In fact, this is just one part of a very comprehensive special cation.
The RA-1592 has three RCA line inputs, a moving-magnet phono stage and separate pre and subwoofer under 200 outputs.
These are joined by seven digital inputs three optical. Three coaxial and a USB-B port that supports up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM files and DSD128.
You also get aptX Bluetooth wireless support, a 3.5mm headphone socket. There’s an Ethernet port although this is for custom installation rather than networked audio.
Even so, this is a very flexible proposition. It is a very well made one too. It might be a bit of a stretch to describe the Rotel as attractive.
But it is very solid and the multiple controls all move with a confidence-inspiring feel, although the menu system is a little clunky.
The design also manages to hide the bulk of the chassis quite effectively too. The supplied remote handset is comprehensive in terms of the functionality that it offers.
But the styling is somewhat unattractive and operation isn’t always logical in use.
More than any other model here, the RA-1592 has a definite character to the way it sounds. From the opening bars of Hugh Masekela’s Stimela, there is a width to the sound stage that no other amplifier in the group gets close to.
The recording’s music venue feels spacious and well defined with the performers remaining focused at the centre.
The tonal balance is rich and refined too, while Walking On A Thin Line has a weight. And body that eludes some of the other designs here.
At the test level, and indeed well beyond, it is almost impossible to provoke the RA-1592 into sounding hard or aggressive.
What is a little harder to achieve is a level of slam and immediacy, as displayed by some others. It certainly feels competent, but lacks a little get up and go.
While its presentation of It Don’t Mean A Thing has space and cohesion and the supporting brass section sounds weighty. And vivid behind the two vocalists, it rather lacks ‘that swing’ to finish the performance off perfectly.
The more straightforward and bombastic nature of The River sees the Rotel back on safer ground. A sensational bass that combines depth with texture and speed to create a sound that’s big and involving.
With the numerous digital inputs on offer here, the presentation is very much on a par with the analogue ones.
The moving-magnet phono stage input is good rather than great, but it has commendably low noise. And combined with an impressive power output, has enough gain for almost any situation.
Best Power Amplifier Under 3000
Primare I25 Integrated Amplifier Review
With a modular approach, this mid-range model offers considerable upgrade ability. At first glance, the Primare I25 appears to be rather under equipped.
The stripped back spec might appeal to audio purists, but the Class D design may divide opinion. In both cases, the devil is in the detail.
Rated at 2x 100W power output into 8ohm, it uses Primare’s UFPD 2 circuit. Continuously monitor performance output to ensure stability and efficiency with very fast response times.
At the back the I25’s inputs are all analogue with five line-level stereo RCAs, but look more closely. There are two removable panels for digital and streaming add-on modules.
DAC based on an AKM chip that adds four optical, two coaxial and a USB-B port and coaxial output.
There is also the Prisma module that turns the I25 into a full network streamer. The cost with both modules fitted increases the price to £3,250, or these can be added at a later date.
There’s no built-in headphone amp or phono stage. Primare has generally been very adept at aesthetics and the I25 is no exception.
It is elegantly designed and beautifully made (although measuring 420mm it is surprisingly deep). With the company’s trademark attention to detail showing through.
Black and titanium finishes are available and the clear and easy-to-read display is another bonus.
The remote control is also very nice with a logical layout and excellent functionality.
The I25 has considerably more than half its available volume remaining at the test level, which helps create an utterly unflappable presentation that has plenty of dynamics at its disposal.
Hugh Masekela’s Stimela is delivered in a manner that is engaging and extremely believable, helped in no small part by the excellent three dimensional and scale that’s on display.
There is a richness to the mid range that is particularly satisfying during the trumpet solo, while voices are no less well handled.
With the harder edged Walking On A Thin Line, some cracks start to appear.
The top end isn’t quite as smooth as some in the group and the performance doesn’t feel as rhythmically accomplished.
Move on to the more traditional presentation of It Don’t Mean A Thingand the I25 is once again on happier ground.
The opening fanfare of the brass section is wonderfully immediate and vivid and the integrated does a fine job of the interplay between Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, ensuring that they remain distinct and easy to follow, but very much performing as a duo.
Interestingly, even though the tempo isn’t significantly different to the previous Huey Lewis track, the I25 manages to sound much more fluid and engaging here.
Moving onto Aurora’s bass-heavy The River sees the Primare back on safer ground as it highlights an impressive low-end response that is indisputably deep and well integrated with the rest of the frequency range.
It might feel fractionally sluggish, robbing the piece of a little fluency, but it does a superb job with the upper registers sounding sweet, detailed and extremely realistic