Super Test Stereo Amplifiers – Sonic Boon (Part 2) : Audiolab 8200A, Cyrus 6a

Super Test Stereo Amplifiers – Sonic Boon (Part 1) : Arcam FMJ A19

Audiolab 8200A

The Audiolab 8200A has some rather big shoes to fill. Its predecessor, the 8000A, was a landmark product, establishing Audiolab as a brand and, thanks to its excellent build quality and features, became an amp many aspired to having in their rack in the 1980s.

The 8200A cuts a similar shape, albeit with a simpler fascia. There are now just four dials – two for choosing the source for listening and recording, one for choosing the mode you want to use the amp in and a volume control.

The back panel highlights some key differences, though – particularly in the absence of the phonon stage that was a big selling point of the 8000A in its day. Turntable owners will have to fork out for a standalone unit.

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Audiolab 8200A

Elsewhere are three line inputs offering 60W per channel (plus three recording input/output pairs that can be used as ordinary line inputs too), dual speaker terminals, power amp in and preamp out, plus a headphone jack.

The 8200A produces a solid sound, with a rich, hefty bass response and detail-packed treble. It’s clean, crisp and spacious, too – but it might be a little too matter-of-fact for some listeners

The ability to split the internal pre and power sections allows you to use them in almost any configuration you can think of, giving the 8200A plenty of flexibility when it comes to how you’d like to use it.

Clean and crisp, but too precise?

Connecting it up to its sister product, the Award-winning Audiolab 8200CD CD player, you’d expect it to be the perfect pairing. And it is… well, almost. It produces a solid sound, with a rich, hefty bass response that reaches well into the lower register notes, a slightly forward midrange and a well-extended treble that’s packed with detail. It’s what we’d describe as a clean and crisp presentation, with a wide soundstage and an analytical reproduction of the track at hand.

However, its precise handling of music can make it sound a little matter-of-fact – as if it’s taking itself too seriously and clinging on to a little too much control.

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If you’re looking for analysis and precision above all else, give the 8200A a serious listen

While the various layers of Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work are relayed with admirable precision, Bush’s delicate vocal can feel somewhat detached from the instruments beneath it, rather than feeling part of a bigger whole. This can give a rather clinical feeling to proceedings, leading to timing issues as the 8200A fights to find a balance between information retrieval and rhythmic integrity.

If you favor clarity and precision, you’ll get a much more organic sound from the Cyrus 6a, which manages to do the great things that the 8200A does, with more fluidity and natural warmth.

Audiolab’s previous success in the stereo amp market is certainly clear in the performance of the 8200A. It’s an impressive, informative sound – but one that’s ultimately just a little uptight for our tastes, causing us to dock it a star from the full five.

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Audiolab amp gives you the option to split its internal pre- and power-amp sections at the twist of a dial

Integrate or separate…

Rather unusually, this Audiolab amp gives you the option to split its internal pre- and power-amp sections at the twist of a dial. Use it to upgrade performance with a better outboard preamp or power amp.

Rating: 4/5

For: Great detail; crisp and clean sound; wide soundstage

Against: A touch clinical sounding; can experience timing issues

Verdict: An impressive, informative sound that is scupper by its own search of perfection

Audiolab 8200A specs

  • Type: Integrated
  • Power: 60W
  • Tuner: No
  • Inputs: Line level x 6
  • Outputs: Preamp, speakers, headphones
  • Phonon stage: No
  • Tape Loops: 3
  • Tone Controls: No
  • Remote Control: Yes
  • Finishes: 2
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 7.5 x 45 x 34cm

Cyrus 6a

When the Cyrus 6a hit the market last year as a replacement for the company’s excellent 6XP amp, it already felt like a great buy thanks to a price drop from its predecessor’s price tag to $1,920

But despite the saving, the 6a still packs a lot into its sturdy trademark half-width aluminum shell. For a start, it offers the same upgrade path on which Cyrus prides itself, offering dealer-fit options for pushing your kit’s performance up a notch.

It keeps almost the same audio circuits as the 6XP too, but has an upgraded power supply which Cyrus says should help it keep up with rivals of double the 6a’s listed 40W per channel.

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Cyrus 6a

Speaking of channels, there are six analogue inputs, twin speaker outputs, a headphone socket (characteristically on the rear panel), precuts for adding a separate power amp and a Zone 2 output for feeding a source in another room.

Moving to the front panel, the 6a is identical to its predecessor, with the trademark large green LCD screen showing source and volume levels, a volume dial and the standard buttons for selecting inputs, swapping zones and muting. Get into the setup menus and you can name inputs and adjust individual sensitivities.

The 6a manages to use its strict organizational nature nicely to produce a very precise, well-timed and ultimately ‘together’ sounding performance, with a reasonable soundstage too

Spacious, detailed and clear Hook the amp up and the trademark characteristics of a Cyrus amp are immediately apparent. Songs across a variety of genres are packed with detail, with remarkable clarity throughout the vocals and midrange, a satisfying bass response, and a spacious, organized presentation that allows all layers of the song to shine and be heard.

Take a listen to Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work, and the 6a shows off an excellent handling of dynamics, drawing out each of the pulsing tones that open the track before letting every last detail of Bush’s haunting vocal lead the track forward.

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The 6a also has an MC-Bus connection for hooking the 6a into an existing Cyrus setup and controlling it with a single remote

Where other amps with such precision can be in danger of sounding a bit disjointed, the 6a manages to use its strict organizational nature to produce a very precise, well-timed and ultimately ‘together’ sounding performance, with a reasonably sized soundstage to boot.

That said it won’t compete with the larger-sounding Pioneer or Arcam amps on test, for example, sounding a little lightweight in comparison. But its accurate, agile presentation will be a preference for some, and the upgrade potential is also a draw for those keen to improve their system over time.

The Cyrus 6a was a 2012 Award winner for this price category and it’s easy to see why. Offering all the good points of the 6XP and then some, it’s a highly accomplished amp that offers room to maneuver in the future. It isn’t the most powerful amp here, but its detail and sonic purity speak volumes.

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The 6a can be sent back to the factory and upgraded to 8-series spec for the cost of the difference, plus labor

They can rebuild it

Cyrus has long been known for future proofing its kit with the option to upgrade components. The 6a can be sent back to the factory and upgraded to 8-series spec for the cost of the difference, plus labor.

Rating: 5/5

For: Precise; remarkable clarity; detailed, spacious performance; upgradeable

Against: Lacks the authority of other amps

Verdict: An outstandingly precise and detailed-sounding amplifier, with upgrade potential in the future if you want it

Cyrus 6a specs

  • Type: Integrated
  • Power: 40W
  • Tuner: No
  • Inputs: Line level x 6
  • Outputs: Preamp, speakers, headphones
  • Phonon stage: No
  • Tape Loops: No
  • Tone Controls: No
  • Remote Control: Yes
  • Finishes: 2
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 7 x 22 x 36cm

Super Test Stereo Amplifiers – Sonic Boon (Part 1) : Arcam FMJ A19