Musical Fidelity A1 Returns

Henley Audio has announced the imminent availability of the Musical Fidelity A1 integrated amplifier. Unveiled to the press and public at Munich High End 2023, this is one of the most anticipated model reintroductions of recent years, says the company.

True to its original intention as an amplifier designed simply to make music, the A1’s Class A topology and instantly recognisable industrial design have been updated only to meet modern technical expectations. The A1 (SRP £1,499.00) has been created to deliver a sweet, fluid, characterful sound with a beautiful soundstage surrounding natural instruments.

A1 features include:

25W (8Ω) pure Class A integrated amplifier

Ability to dynamically ‘slide’ into Class B when the allowable current draw is exceeded

Built-in low-noise MM/MC compatible phono stage for connecting a turntable

Direct switch on the front panel bypasses the gain stage before the volume control stage

Discrete symmetrical electrical layout featuring 25A Planar Audio transistors in the power stage

Low-noise pre-amplifier circuitry taken from the ‘original’ design

New remote control for adjusting volume only

Same industrial design as the original A1, with modifications for better heat management

Updated power supply inspired by the original A1 design, featuring dedicated power supplies for the left and right channel

A1 in detail

The Musical Fidelity A1 is a piece of hi-fi history, says its distributor.  First produced in the 1985, its pure Class A electrical design was famous for its ability to work with a wide variety of equipment of the day while delivering a sound performance like nothing else. The new generation of A1, released in 2023, stays faithful to the original design in almost every way, only making changes to improve specific technical characteristics and satisfy modern requirements.

The electrical layout of the A1 features completely discrete, fully symmetrical pure Class A technology. Delivering 25W of power (to an 8Ω load), it can also handle 25A of maximum current output. Though these numbers may look low compared to some modern amplifiers, the A1 can still drive more complex speakers thanks to its ability to slide (not ‘switch’) into Class B operation when further current draw is temporarily needed.

The 1980s blueprint directly inspires the new A1’s transformer design; however, Musical Fidelity updates the system with more efficient dual-mono split-rail windings and superior components, improving stability and heat management. Fully independent supplies for the left and right channels now power the amplifier, bringing better power handling and stereo imaging. Each power amplifier now has double the supply capacity, reducing ripple and noise artefacts.

The low-noise pre-amplifier circuitry is the same as the original A1, though this area also benefits from new modern touches. First, the DIRECT control on the front panel allows users to bypass the Gain stage before the musical signal reaches the volume dial – switch this on, and the pre-amplifier stage applies roughly 10dB less gain, suiting it to more modern, high-gain source devices that may benefit from a wider volume dial range. Second, using a new ALPS RK series motorised potentiometer for the volume dial allows greater accuracy and reliability and means the 2023 A1 amplifier works with a remote control for volume adjustments.

Alongside five RCA stereo inputs, fixed-level and variable outputs, the A1 also features a high-quality built-in phono stage. The phono input allows for direct connection to a turntable, whether it has a moving magnet (MM) or a moving coil (MC) cartridge. The low-noise design and automatic impedance-matching for MC cartridges make this a viable – and convenient – solution for vinyl record lovers.

The industrial design of the A1 repeats that of the 1980s original, with its angular front panel, full-length top-mounted heatsink and side-mounted ventilation panels. The few minor modifications enhance the user experience and manage the heat output from the pure Class A technology. When combined with the intricate workings, the result is an amplifier that takes users right back to the original design brief for the A1: to enjoy music.

The A1’s creator says it sounds sweet and fluid, facilitating a beautiful environment for favourite music to come alive within. When paired with well-matched speakers in a suitably sized room, the product has been created to deliver a warm, full, exciting sound without harshness. The Musical Fidelity A1 is available across the UK from August 2023 in a Black finish.

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