This Onkyo continues to wow, picking up the latest What Hi-Fi? Award for best stereo amplifier under £300.
Onkyo are a well known brand when it comes to AV receivers and have been at the forefront of the latest sound innovation using Dolby Atmos, so you would expect them to have other areas of audio covered too. Onkyo wanted to show that not only can they capably control a powerful surround sound system, but deliver a grade of quality an audiophile would not turn his nose up at for any budget, including this stereo amplifier.
Following on from the reasonably successful A9030 amp; the A9010 brings out the best in a manufacturer that has listened to customer feedback. You may notice that it has dropped a set of speaker inputs and works off a single set of speakers at an impressive 44w per channel, at 8 Ohms; so is more than capable of driving bookshelf or floorstanding speakers of most power ratings. The design is simple, functional and sits at around the expected height of a traditional Hi-Fi separate, with a remote that will keep even the biggest technophobe happy.
As with all amplifier equipment though, it’s not how it looks but how it sounds! I immediately plugged it in with a set of DALI Zensor 1 bookshelf speakers and the Cambridge CXC (CD transport) and played Yngwie Malmsteen’s “War to End all Wars” album that contains some of the best guitar tracks of all time. The sweeping guitar riffs came through both clean and accurate with a hugely dynamic range available from the budget level amp. Then after switching on the source direct option it came out even cleaner, proving its capabilities. The bass notes were phenomenally tight and punchy, allowing the listener to feel encapsulated by the technical prowess of this guitar hero.
The tone controls allow you to customise the sound you seek to perfection, but the source direct button is the real winner. Many other amps in this price range would not give you this function, but the ones that do are more expensive and don’t have the same crispy top end clarity.
One of the other strengths of this amp is the inclusion of a moving magnet phono stage for turntable compatibility, something again that many budget amps will not facilitate. A Project Essential 2 was hooked up via this input and we got our funk on to some Earth, Wind & Fire. Sounding smooth once again, deep in bass and high in clarity with the vocals complimented by a warm mid-range.
All in all, this is a fantastic amp that outperforms most of its rivals in its price range, so well worth considering for anyone who is looking to start out a good budget setup. A highly recommended award-winner, and should be on anyones shortlist in my opinion.
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