Sound Advice: Integrated amplifier a bargain for it performs

Don Lindich, Tribune News Service on

Published in Entertainment News

Q. I was always a component stereo fan but when my preamplifier developed issues I got lazy and replaced the tuner, amplifier and preamplifier with a surround sound receiver. I really miss my NAD C 427 tuner but I don’t want a separate amplifier and preamplifier again.

I am trying to find a quality integrated amplifier to drive my Definitive Technology BP2002 speakers, but I can’t find one that has a switched AC socket to power the tuner and turn it on and off. I’ve considered a few Denon and Cambridge Audio units, but none have the switched AC outlet. Can you help me please? I’d like to spend $1,000 or less.

—J.B., Blaine, Minnesota

A. Switched power outlets on the back of audio components is something I have not seen in new products or been asked about for a long time. I am very familiar with the feature because it was once quite common. I have a 1980s-vintage Harman Kardon integrated amplifier in my collection and it has several power outlets on the back, allowing you to use the amplifier to provide power to several components. The unswitched outlets are used for components such as turntables where you do not want the turntable switched off inadvertently since there may be a record spinning on the platter. The switched outlet is typically used with a tuner so it turns on and off with the amplifier.

While you may not be able to buy an amplifier with a power outlet, there is a way to get the job done with your NAD C 427 tuner. If you look on the back of your tuner you will see a small connection that says, “12 V Trigger In.” This trigger will turn the component off and on when it is connected to a 12 V trigger output. It’s a feature that is typically limited to premium components as well as preamplifiers and amplifiers, where turning on the preamplifier triggers the amplifier to turn on as well.


Fortunately, my very top recommendation is within your budget and has a 12 V trigger output. The Cambridge Audio CXA81 Integrated Stereo Amplifier is a perennial award winner, racking up critical acclaim from reviewers and customers across the globe. It has 80 watts of clean, musical power, the ability to drive 4-ohm speakers and some of the very finest digital audio circuitry available so your CDs, Bluetooth and digital sources sound their very best. You can also connect a television to the CXA81 with the optical output so everything you play on the television comes through your speakers. I did just this years ago when I helped a retired reader hook up her system. She asked me what to buy within her budget and I recommended the CXA81 and a pair of Polk Legend L100 bookshelf speakers placed on stands. I connected her CD player and saw the Blu-ray player and cable box connected to the television. Asking her if she wanted better sound from her television as well, I connected the TV’s optical output to the amplifier. She was overjoyed when she heard her new system play music, but when we switched to the television it was also a revelation to her as the sound from a movie was transformed into something beautiful and captivating. The Cambridge Audio CXA81 is $999 and a bargain for its capabilities, performance, tactile feel and jewel-like quality and construction. See it at cambridgeaudio.com.

A 3.5 mm miniplug (auxiliary) cable is used with the 12 V trigger. They are readily available for $10 or less, and if you have one laying around you can use it as well.


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