For more than a few of us, Arcam products were either our first introduction into quality audio or featured very early on in our journey. The company’s preference for completely overhauling the styling of its devices every few years means that you can mark yourself chronologically too. My first experiences came during the Alpha Series but you might be a Delta, DiVA or HDA person depending on when you got started. Now, Arcam is hoping to create the Radia generation and the A25 integrated amp is here for our consideration.
The A25 is the largest of three integrated amps in the current Radia range (Arcam has rather strongly intimated that there will be more) and is by far the most interesting. The A25 uses Arcam’s Class G technology which is a means by which the circuit makes use of an additional power supply to boost the circuit output only when the power demands of the music and speakers require it, allowing the amp to run more efficiently. Efficient or not, the A25 will give you 100 watts into 8 ohms, rising to 165 into 4.
This power is made available to a comprehensive selection of inputs in keeping with what people are coming to expect from an amp at this sort of price. Three RCA inputs and a moving magnet phono stage (something that, to their eternal credit, Arcam never stopped fitting to its integrated amps) are supported by two coaxial and one optical input. Arcam then goes on to fit hi res, Apt-X capable Bluetooth and a headphone socket to round off a usefully comprehensive spec. The sample rate handling of the A25 is in keeping with key rivals too. PCM is supported to 384kHz via the USB input (the other inputs top out at 192kHz) as is DSD to 256.
The A25 puts its power down via a single set of sturdy speaker terminals and also features a preout that should make connecting a subwoofer straightforwardly should you wish. A small but well laid out remote control is supplied and there is a large and easy to read display to show your selected input volume level and sample rate where applicable. We’ll cover the looks in a bit but the build of the Radia is very good, with the level of finish and materials being to a high overall standard.
For as long I’ve shown an interest in hi-fi, Arcam equipment has demonstrated a well judged house sound that the A25 does not seek to unsettle to any great extent. This is a refined and civilised amplifier that is almost impossible to provoke into sounding hard or forward, even when you lean on it. There have been times in the past where this balance has gone a little too far to the soft side and left Arcam amps sounding a little lacking in excitement and impact but the A25 avoids this rather well.
This means that when you do want a bit of attack and excitement from your music, the A25 responds effectively. There is an agility to the presentation that is rather neatly judged because the effect is a little different to the Arcam sounding ‘fast.’ Play something that isn’t intended to sound like it is going a mile a minute and the Arcam revels in the delicacy and articulation without it sounding strained or relentless. With really ballistic material it can sound fractionally relaxed but this is nothing that sensible speaker choice wouldn’t sort well.
Something else that warrants mention is that the balance of the A25 is usefully consistent across its many different input types. The digital board is a little more energetic than the analogue connections (as well has having a fair bit more gain) but it’s not so jarring as to preclude using the Arcam across all of its connections at the same time.
Furthermore, via the USB input in particular, the digital board is far more than a convenience feature. As well as maintaining the overall balance of the presentation with the amp itself, it combines detail and tonal realism with enough warmth to ensure that harder and less well mastered recordings are left sounding listenable. I also rate the phono stage. I don’t think that Arcam has significantly altered the design of their internal phono stage in all the years I’ve been listening to their products and this is a reflection that there is very little wrong with it rather than apathy on Arcam’s part. The A25 has low noise levels (helping fine detail to be easily heard), reasonable gain and a very pleasing overall presentation that suits a wide selection of material and that should extract respectable performance from commensurately priced turntables.
A fair bit has already been written about the styling of the Radia components and their use of yellow lighting and detailing and I suspect that most people will have made up their mind before I add anything to it. Nevertheless, I’m going to go on record and say that I like the colour scheme and detailing of the A25 and its Radia brethren. Ever since the Delta components over 30 years ago, Arcam models have looked subtly different to their key rivals and I think that the A25 does a good job of this, balancing contemporary styling with some original design concepts. Something that helps my perception of the Radia models is that they sit happily in systems made of various different products without looking out of place; something that they are actually better than their HDA predecessors at doing.
One aspect of the design is less satisfactory though. The Radia models have a lip at the back of the top panel. On the A25 it integrates the Bluetooth aerial and, in isolation, it looks pretty smart. The catch is that, like every other example of its kind, it makes connecting things to the A25 harder than it needs to be to little real cosmetic benefit once the amp has been pushed back on a rack or shelf. When you combine it with the fussy and not wholly logical arrangement of the inputs on the back, you have a recipe for a slightly frustrating install. Once done however, the A25 is intuitive to use and very pleasant to live with long term.
The A25 doesn’t completely rewrite the established wisdom towards Arcam amplifiers but I don’t think it was meant to. This is a usefully updated and nicely cosmetically refreshed take on a formula that Arcam has been offering very successfully for decades.
The A25 does a great many things, does them all well and looks good while it efficiently goes about its business of entertaining.
Paul Simon Hearts & Bones
The tonal balance of the Arcam does a fine job of bringing this underrated collection of songs to life; ensuring that Simon is the focus but the eclectic and engaging presentation shines through as well.
Paris Jackson Wilted
She doesn’t sound anything like her Dad but in the hands of the A25 these stripped back and wonderfully emotive songs sound rich, warm and engaging
Corduroy Create High Havoc
The vinyl version of this lovely slab of acid jazz is an ideal foil to show off the A25’s excellent phono stage and revel in this camp but funky experience on a surprisingly excellent pressing.
If you are looking for an amp that will support multiple inputs across different connection types, do justice to all of them and look very tidy while it does it, the A25 is where you should start looking. Arcam’s all things to all people approach is as successful as ever.