Integrated amplifiers are a favourite category of kit for me. For many audiophiles, it is simply not practical to find a home for a huge power amplifier along-side an expensive pre-amp and then outlay a bundle on the requisite cables to string the system together. The process is either a space or a budget buster and let’s not bring up the ‘WAF’. Despite this, integrated amps get a bad rap in some audio circles. No ‘true’ audiophile could claim that title and compromise with ‘just’ an integrated. On the other hand, the discerning audiophile can one up his snobby brethren, buy an integrated, and free up more cash to spend on other gear or, gasp, more music.
That doesn’t apply with Boulder Amplifiers’ 865 integrated amplifier. Not only is this stunning example of audio bliss an integrated, it is a venerable one too. First reaching the market all the way back in 2008, and it has remained unchanged since its release. Our justification for visiting the amp is the brand has only recently returned to UK shores. It also shows how much things have changed in the audio world: when it was first available, the 865 was at the very top of the category price-wise, but is now eclipsed by many larger price tags. The 865’s longevity comes as a refreshing change in these changing times, where products seem to have ever-shorter shelf lives. Finding gear that stands the test of time proudly and without compromise is a rarity and one that is greatly appreciated.
The 865 benefits from both the tech and culture from of America’s most respected manufacturers of ‘bespoke-class’ gear. Boulder Amplifiers was founded in 1984 with a design team steeped in pro audio. All their gear is in-house designed and hand made by their own staff in Boulder, Colorado. Aspects of the 865 are found on other Boulder components costing 15 times the price of the 865!
The 865 is housed in a 25.5kg case of brushed aluminium sculpted in a striking and timeless industrial design. The 865 brings 150 Watts at eight Ohms and 300 Watts into four Ohms, making it suitable for most any speaker you might consider using. The optically connected volume control knob is almost flush with the case and spins with no resistance. Care must be taken not to spin it too vigourously as the volume will ramp up almost instantaneously throughout its two hundred step attenuation range. Eight buttons grace the front; Power, Mute, Balance, Display, and inputs one through four. The two layer LCD panel is clear and easily readable across the room and its brightness is adjustable. The rear panel features 6.35mm speaker binding posts (Spade connectors are highly recommended), four pairs of 3-pin XLR balanced inputs; a pair of balanced outputs for bi-amping, adding a subwoofer, or pre-amp only functionality; and a Master/Slave switch to use with Boulderlink to connect to an additional power amplifier. A handsome aluminium IR remote works flawlessly.