Review: Audiolab 8300A integrated amplifier- New concepts in sound reproduction have fascinated people since the second half of the last century. In the early years still in the form of large mono table radios still fitted with tubes. But gradually the sixties and seventies gave way to separate devices with two loudspeakers. Towards the end of the last century, the arrival of computers and our changed and above all ‘hurried’ lifestyle changed the way we listened to music. But the current corona pandemic and the obligation to work from home have caused an unexpected turnaround, namely a renewed interest in better sound quality. It is therefore high time to introduce the Audiolab 8300a integrated amplifier to you. Legendary genes incorporated in a cutting-edge concept and a beautiful.
The name Audiolab will certainly not be unknown to music lovers who have been around for a while. Because weren’t those slender, somewhat gray-colored devices equipped with rather typical elongated buttons and a bizarrely good sound? Yes they were and the 8300a discussed here has illustrious ancestors. The 1983 8000A integrated amplifier in particular was a real pioneer. Belonging to pretty much the first batch of affordable ‘audiophile’ amplifiers that also included the NAD 3020, Cambridge A60 and Mission Cyrus One, this slender figure from England, too, was a true style icon from the very first moment.
who and what
But who are we actually talking about here and why was this amplifier so incredibly successful at the time? The Audiolab brand was founded in the early 1980s by Philip Swift and Derek Scotland and gained worldwide fame with the 8000A already mentioned above. An integrated stereo amplifier that revolutionized the budget models of the time. While this 8000A became one of the most successful British amplifiers ever produced in the following years, the model was complemented by a range of proprietary electronics products including CD players, pre and power amplifiers and an FM tuner. In 1997, like so many other famous brands, the brand changed hands due to the audio malaise at the time and changed the name to TAG McLaren Audio. This continued until 2004 after which the company became part of the International Audio Group and the Audiolab brand name was reinstated. One of the first tasks for the risen brand was to redefine its core values. Because what were the intrinsic components why consumers had previously been so happy to choose this brand? In the end it came down to pillars such as reliability, ease of use, a sound technical concept and a neutral, balanced presentation. To put things into practice, after years of prototyping and fine-tuning, Audiolab started in 2010 with the introduction of the brand new 8200. This was not just a beautiful new integrated amplifier, but immediately encompassed a series of components across the entire spectrum. width! The beauty of this subsequently also wildly successful series was that the lessons from the past were translated into the new era in a respectful way. So simplicity, well-structured ergonomics and balanced display, but now coupled with greater operating comfort, an even more insightful transparent display and innovative, performance-oriented design concepts.
In 2015 it was time to add a new chapter to the now increasingly extensive Audiolab success story. Because this is the year that the current 8300 series was launched. Again a series in which all the genes of the brand were recognizable, but also one with a completely new impetus. Led by world-renowned audio designer Jan Ertner who already has a long working relationship with the brand, the brand set out clear directions for the future. Jan: ‘I have been designing audio products for more than 25 years now and can still get excited when I discover something new that takes the intended properties to an even higher level. But you can still make such beautiful designs, in the end it is mainly the pleasure of listening to music that really drives me. The knowledge that our customers will be able to enjoy it intensely is especially satisfying. In terms of the development process, I believe in every product I design and don’t stop working until I feel like I’d like one. When that happens, the moment has come when I know that we have all made the right decisions.”
As with a Porsche 911, Fiat 500, Mini Cooper and other legendary names and models, Audiolab also appears to have this handsome and particularly attractive gift with its 8300A integrated amplifier. The talent where you immediately recognize the proportions and lines of the original model, but where you also immediately realize that it is really a contemporary design. To start with the visual appearance, I think this Audiolab with its dimensions of 44.4 cm wide, 8 cm high and 33 cm deep, is a truly beautiful device. This aspect is not yet clearly reflected in the photos, but anyone who really sees the device in front of them immediately realizes what I mean. The slim and typical proportions of the earlier design have been retained, but are now completed by an extremely delicate appearance. The aluminum front panel features subtle laser engraving and the remarkably thin yet solid-feeling top and side panels have a delicate touch. Partly due to this sleek play of lines, the attractive surface division, minimalist design and beautiful finish, the 8300A can even be regarded as a real Bauhaus style icon! The front is further flanked by three large, smooth-running and wonderfully gripping rotary controls. The source can be selected with the leftmost one, the controller next to it serves to switch between three functionalities. In the first position this is the fully integrated amplifier, in the second the device turns into a preamplifier while the built-in power amplifier part also remains active. While in the third option, the 8300A only functions as a power amplifier. Very special and never seen before in this price range. The third and final rotary control is a logarithmically operating ladder volume control that adjusts the volume in pleasantly small steps. A brightness adjustable 2.7” OLED display is new to Audiolab and opens the way for a wide but meaningful number of menu settings. It also indicates the functionality used, source and volume level.
under the hood
In line with its illustrious predecessors yet completely redesigned, the circuitry of the 8300A offers a newly acquired sound quality. It starts with the fact that the heart of this 7.8 kilo amplifier is equipped with a completely separate double-mono construction that delivers a power of 75 Watts per channel at 8 Ohms and 115 Watts at 4 Ohms. Completely normal values that initially do not indicate anything special. What that does then is that for the first time this brand uses ACD or Active Current Drive. In consumer language, this means that the power supply to the loudspeakers is monitored and controlled by a microprocessor. It is programmed to enable the amplifier to deliver high currents of up to 15 amps to complex loads. In other words, this relatively compact amplifier is able to successfully drive just about any loudspeaker! To ensure that all this runs smoothly, Audiolab has therefore had a precisely specified 300 VA toroidal transformer developed, which is supported by a nice space of 60,000 uF of electrolytic capacitors. When I move my attention to the equally uncluttered rear, seven pairs of gold-plated line-level inputs are visible, including a real balanced XLR option. As well as a double pair of preamp outputs, a neatly adjustable moving magnet/moving coil phono preamp of serious quality is also on board. Finally, loudspeakers can be connected to double sets that are rather small, but otherwise effective loudspeaker connections and that is of course nice for bi-wiring applications. A nicely robust remote control that can also operate the functions of the Audiolab sources nicely rounds off this well-considered overall picture.
Judging a new product on its merits is always a fun and exciting activity, and that feeling is even stronger when it comes to a brand you haven’t heard of before. What I particularly like from the first moment is the smooth and solid feeling that the buttons on the device and also the push buttons on the remote control give me. Together with the high and refined finish, it immediately gives the impression of a significantly higher priced device. Because this amplifier could be used as loan equipment together with the Audiolab 6000N Play streamer for a long time, I was able to gain much more experience than average with these test equipment. In addition, they are for a period of one year except on my reference Master Contemporary C loudspeakers, also used in testing of Dynaudio Heritage Special, Graham LS5/5, PMC Twenty5.3 and Magico A1 speakers, among others. Fortunately, just like the beautiful appearance, the auditory qualities also appear to be perfectly fine. That started new out of the box a year ago, although each device performs even better when it’s been played with for a while. Certainly a few weeks later, even more peace and flexibility has arisen in the reproduction and especially the excellent low reproduction and the remarkably large and excellent layered spatial image appear to score above average. although each device performs even better when played with for a while. Certainly a few weeks later, even more peace and flexibility has arisen in the reproduction and especially the excellent low reproduction and the remarkably large and excellent layered spatial image appear to score above average. although each device performs even better when played with for a while. Certainly a few weeks later, even more peace and flexibility has arisen in the reproduction and especially the excellent low reproduction and the remarkably large and excellent layered spatial image appear to score above average.
This spatial image is really special for this price range and not only extends in width well beyond the speakers, but there is also a nice layered depth and even a very noticeable height image! Also in the area of the all-important tonal balance, the beautifully natural/neutrally tuned 8300A scores the necessary points. So here no amplifier that adds its own emphatic signature to everything, but a design that opens the way for what you connect to it. As a result, self-selected sources remain easily recognizable at all times and that is a desirable feature. There are, however, two relatively small but important comments to make within this otherwise strong concept. The first is that the clarity and transparency with this amplifier is stronger than usual. As a result, it is possible that loudspeakers that also sound clear and concise, especially in the highs, can place too much emphasis on this area. The second aspect is a direct consequence of this and can best be described as a somewhat less present musical involvement in some cases. So there is certainly a connection with the music being played, but in certain cases and especially when the speakers do not combine optimally, it can appear more general or more anonymous. Because then again speaking for the otherwise excellent and well-thought-out design, is that the balance within the overall properties is well in order. This Audiolab 8300A can still be counted among the better designs in its price range, partly due to this skilfully combining all features.
Although a really good amplifier like this Englishman is of course an omnivore, there are types of music in which this little powerhouse excels. Good examples of this for me are all music that has a kind of theatrical character. Think of beautiful classical works such as the symphonic dances by Sergei Rachmaninov, the Requiem by John Rutter or Symfonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz. But certainly also penetrating film music by composer and producer Hans Zimmer, the wonderfully catchy wide-spread compositions of the Dutch Haevn or, for example, the sparkling, expressive music of singer Wende Snijder. In fact, this amplifier excels in everything that needs to stand on a solid dynamic basis and where power, finesse and layered greatness are required. Of course, all other genres such as small-scale works or singer-songwriter are also just fine. It’s just that you don’t appeal to the most striking features (the low, stable dynamic contrasts and spatial image) of this special amplifier.
Audiolab 8300A – Conclusion
The Audiolab 8300A integrated amplifier holds great promise and joins the rest of the extended 8300 family in the form of the 8300CD player, 8300CDQ CD player/DAC/preamplifier, 8300MB mono and 8300XP stereo power amplifier, in legendary footsteps. What is immediately noticeable in the integrated amplifier discussed here is the ‘old-fashioned’ completely analog-constructed concept by today’s standards. So no built-in DAC or other optional (digital) modules here and that can take some getting used to for many. But if we look at it from a different angle, it appears that the designers have invested the entire available budget in the best possible parts and circuit for this price. In particular, the analog options have been remarkably expanded. Because what about a nice built-in phono MM and MC amplifier and in addition to a large amount of RCA inputs, also the possibility to connect a balanced source. However, the most remarkable thing remains that this integrated amplifier can also be separated into a separate high-quality preamp or separate power amplifier with a turn of one of the three controls! Furthermore, this 8300A also scores well when it comes to the purpose for which it was designed, namely playing music. That starts with a very nice authority and high definition in the low end and extends into the beautiful remarkably large and airy spatial image. The midrange and high range also connect seamlessly with this, leaving a tidy, clean and remarkably transparent impression. Just make sure that the speakers chosen do not also emphasize the latter aspects and you have a real top product in your hands. Certainly in this price range again distinctive and, just like its legendary predecessors, once again able to captivate the buyers, enchant them and give them many years of musical pleasure.
Prices of Audiolab 8300A
- Audiolab 8300A € 1,249 (in silver and black)