The Carat A57 Integrated Amplifier

Integrated amplifiers
Carat A57
The Carat A57 Integrated Amplifier

It’s an old chestnut I know, but at what level does true hi-fi begin and how much does it cost? What constitutes a “real” music system, as opposed to something that merely produces a sound through a pair of speakers? I have my own opinion but these are very difficult things to define, let alone pin down with hard and fast rules. I say the answers lie in the music, but ask ten people and you will get as many different views. There are very few real bargains I could recommend in the world of low-cost audio equipment but the Carat A57 integrated amplifier is certainly one because, despite its relatively modest price, this is a component has changed my conception of what such an amplifier can achieve, given the right operational circumstances.

Carat is the electronics wing of Inovadis, the French company who already manufacture Highland speakers, the Norstone range of AV furniture and cables as well as Lumene projector screens. The A 57 integrated amplifier is built in the Far East and named after a famous style of diamond cut, presumably with 57 facets. The amplifier I have been listening to is part of a three-piece system comprising of matching tuner and CD player (more of which in a coming issue). These are beautifully made and finished components, physically distinguished by their black acrylic fascias and brushed alloy controls. There is more than a hint of the “lifestyle” product about them, but for once they are as impressive in use as they are svelte in appearance. The amplifier is extremely versatile, having phono inputs for four line-level components, a tape loop and even a set of inputs for a turntable with switchable moving coil or moving magnet cartridge selection. There is also a set of line out sockets for driving a separate power amplifier and enough goldplated 4mm sockets to connect two pairs of speakers that you can drive together or individually. On the front panel you will also find a jack socket for a set of headphones and the now de rigueur mini-jack to connect some sort of MP3 player.

All switching is achieved by combining the function button and the continuously rotating volume control. At first it does seem a bit quirky, but bear in mind that this is a French-designed amplifier and there is always something slightly off-the- wall with their designs; you will soon get used to it. You can scroll through the menu with the function button and then make choices and adjustments with the volume knob, all of which are viewed in the display window. Bass, treble and balance controls are a little superfluous in my opinion as the A57 is so well sorted tonally anyway, but this is designed to be an amplifier for all seasons. Power output is a healthy 80 watts into 8 ohms, which almost doubles into 4 ohms and the A57 is more than happy to drive speakers that one might initially consider well out of its league. All this is remote controlled from a single system unit that can operate the entire 57 range.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Featured Articles