Audiolab 9000A Integrated Amplifier
As ever, the 9000A is the centre of the audiolab focus in being the beating heart of any high-performance audio system. It’s more powerful, capable and feature-packed than any of the preceding models – the most advanced audiolab integrated ampliﬁer yet. Versatility is key to audiolab’s integrated ampliﬁer appeal, and the 9000A oﬀers to cater for audiophiles of all creeds. Loaded with digital and analogue source connection, wireless connectivity for portable devices, an all-new phono stage to cater for vinyl playback and the usual, class-leading ampliﬁcation for loudspeakers and headphones.
Matching the modern hi-ﬁ enthusiast’s requirements, the 9000A features a full-colour IPS LCD screen, oﬀering clear and informative playback, source and ﬁle information. Not to mention a host of menu options for optimum performance and user-deﬁned settings. Various display options are provided, which also include two VU meter options, allowing the 9000A to be visually informative or, in the case of ‘display oﬀ’ settings, a discreet centrepiece of any audio system.
Flexible and capable
Diﬀerentiating itself from rivals within its category, the audiolab 9000A blends digital capability with an analogue pedigree. Premium level D/A conversion, as one would always expect from audiolab, allows a range of digital sources (over four digital inputs) to be connected directly to this high-power integrated unit. Yet, based on over 40 years of ampliﬁer design pedigree, not to mention a recent history of multi-award-winning audio solutions, the 9000A also caters for analogue device integrations (via three AUX, balanced XLR and a dedicated phono input).
The 9000A also supports wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and digital audio via a PC USB connection.
The 9000A features the latest ESS 9038PRO flagship 32-bit DAC chip. Using the critically acclaimed patented HyperStream® II architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the ES9038PRO delivers an unprecedented performance level that will satisfy the needs of the most demanding audio applications – fitting an amplifier of the 9000A’s calibre.
The amp’s four S/PDIF digital inputs – two coaxial and two optical – handle hi-res PCM data up to 24-bit/192kHz and benefit from a host of user-selectable digital filters that allow the user to optimise the response to suit the source file and bandwidth of the partnering equipment.
PCM audio is supported to 32-bit/768kHz, alongside DSD to 22.5MHz (DSD512). Every significant hi-res and lossless audio format is catered for, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV, as well as compressed legacy formats.
MQA all the way
The 9000A also delivers full decoding of MQA, the hi-res streaming technology from a custom engineered MQA certified DAC solution. This means that the complete ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to just the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’, which makes the 9000A an excellent system choice for subscribers to Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier where Tidal Masters (MQA) content can be found.
As expected for modern audio playback convenience, Bluetooth connectivity is featured as standard with the 9000A stepping up to the aptX HD protocol for sonically superior and easy wireless streaming from smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Bluetooth-paired devices also benefit from the quality of the amp’s DAC section and filter options.
The 9000A’s discrete Class AB power amp stage delivers 100W per channel into 8 ohms (160w per channel into 4 ohms!). Unlike over-specified competitor models, the genuine 100W per channel will put the 9000A up against the best in its class. Referring to the standards set with the audiolab 6000A (rated at 50W per channel), the 9000A’s 100W per channel will undoubtedly satisfy the most demanding of loudspeakers and their power-hungry masters.
A key to the audiolab performance is the world-famous CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology, which ensures superior linearity and excellent thermal stability, as the idle current is kept independent of the temperature of the output transistors. An all-new and custom specified 320VA toroidal transformer, followed by 4 x 15,000uF reservoir capacity (60,000uF in total), helps the amp to maintain firm control of the music whilst enabling excellent dynamic range.
In an effort to maintain consistent signal purity, with line input signals passing to a precision analogue volume stage, the preamp section is kept as simple as possible. As with all of Jan Ertner’s designs, the circuity is a work of art in more than layout and architecture. The very design protects the sensitive preamp section from noise interference and colouration – a key cornerstone of the audiolab philosophy.
High-performance Phono stage
With every iteration of integrated amplifier design, audiolab works to improve on the bench-mark, built-in phono stage section. The 9000A is no different; pushing the boundaries of performance of an onboard phono pre-amp section. The all-new phono pre-amp for 9000A offers compatibility for moving magnet – a JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalisation offers the best of both worlds for the turntable using audiolab fans.
Similarly, for the headphone output stage employing current-feedback circuitry with wide bandwidth and high slew rate; the 9000A ensures a dynamic, detailed and engaging performance with all manner of headphone types, with that extra added audiolab sparkle from the consistent signal integrity from all inputs.
The audiolab 9000A continues with the theme of flexibility in audio system integration. As is a staple to the audiolab integrated amplifier design, the 9000A offers three variations of operating mode, making it a versatile and essential component in any system.
Power to the people
The primary mode is ‘Integrated’ – this combines the pre and power amp stages, for the connection of digital and analogue sources to the amp’s inputs and a pair of speakers to its binding posts.
‘Pre-Power Mode’ disconnects the pre and power amp stages. The allows the 9000A to be used solely as a power amp – for example, connected to an AV processor in a home cinema system. It also enables additional signal processing to be added, by connecting the 9000A’s ‘preamp out’ socket to an external processor, then returning the processor’s output to the amp’s ‘power amp in’ socket, making the most of its gargantuan 100W per channel performance and critical performance characteristic of the 9000A’s pre-section, regardless of what magic the users wants to implement in between!
Finally, ‘Pre Mode’ disables the power amp stage, turning the 9000A into a still glorious standalone preamp. This enables external power amplification to be added, thus providing a possible upgrade path.
Never before has audiolab visited this price and performance category; new standards are set.
Audiolab 9000A Integrated Amplifier
Model 9000A General Description Integrated Amplifier Design Philosophy and Core Technology 2 x 100W (8 ohms) / 2 x 160W (4 ohms) Class AB ES9038Pro 32-bit DAC 4.3" (800 x 480mm) Large Size Full View IPS LCD Built-in Certified MQA Full Decoder (PC USB, Coax/Optical) Bluetooth 5.1 (aptX/aptX HD/AAC/LDAC) Support Dedicated High-performance, Low-noise MM Phono Stage Dedicated Current-Feedback Headphone AMP Integrated / PRE-POWER / PRE Only Modes USB Upgrade Support Inputs 3 x Analogue, 1 x XLR, 1 x Phono (MM), 1 x Power Amplifier, 2 x SPDIF (Coax), 2 x SPDIF (Optical), 1 x PC USB (USB B), 1 x Bluetooth (aptX/aptX HD/LDAC), 1 x 12V Trigger Outputs 1 x PRE Amplifier,1 x Stereo Speaker, 1 x Headphone, 1 x 12V Trigger Sampling Frequency Optical / Coaxial: 44.1kHz-192kHz; PC USB: 44.1kHz-768kHz (PCM) / DSD64, DSD128, DSD256, DSD512 Preamplifier Section Gain (max.) +6dB (Line), +53dB (Phono MM) Input Sensitivity 1Vrms (Line, Volume = 0dB); 2Vrms (XLR, Volume = 0dB), 4.4mV (Phono MM, Volume=0dB) Input Impedance 10K (Line); 47K // 100pF (Phono MM) Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) < 0.0004% (1kHz @ 2V, Volume = 0dB) Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz (+/-0.1dB) Output Voltage 2.3V max. (Volume = 0dB) Output Impedance 120 ohms Signal-to-Noise Ratio