Test Report Of Four Integrated AMPs Under 7000 Kr.Including Consonance a100
In LYD & BILDE 2/2000

TEST in Lyd & Bilde (Norway's largest Hi Fi magazine)

AMC CVT 3030a
ONIX A-120

How good an amplifyer do you get for 6-7000 kroner? This is the question we pose when four integrated amplifyers are put to test. It should be possible for audiophile music lovers to acquire high sound quality for less than 10,000 kroner. Or is it not?

In the less costly end of the price scale you will find the smallest amplifyers with simplest technology. The problem is only that they have to drive the cheapest and simplest loudspeakers, which often require more effect and power than you can get in amplifyers for less than 3-4000 kroner. So therefore we aimed a little higher. We were looking for highest possible sound quality. The amplifyer had to adopt to a good floor based loudspeaker for less than 10,000 kroner per pair. The ability to manage an ineffective loudspeaker is important-stability and control is required. So is fexibility, and the loudspeaker terminals need to have thick cables, shoes and banana plugs. Number of lines out should be enough for TV, radio, CD, a recorder, and preferably a DVD player-five in all.

Of course we should like to have remote control, at least for volume adjustment. But finally it is the sound quality which will decide the winner.

In this price class the products are well thought through. Switches and potentiometers are of good quality, and the power supply is big and normally of ring kernel type. The charging capacity is relatively speaking higher, and better condensers and components are more the rule than the exception when you pay 6-7000 kroner. The contacts are gold plated, and the loudspeaker terminals are solid and of good quality. But it is a pity that amplifyers for audiophiles do not have remote control; in this test only one amplifyer has remote control. If you miss line out for phono, two of the amplifyers have this; the option is to pay extra for a RIAA stage. There are many things to consider before making up one's mind, but if you prioritize the sound quality, it is easier to choose. For even though all amplifyers in the test are of good quality, some excel with better sound quality than expected. Only make sure that what you choose fit the loudspeaker who plan to use, for they are so different that one should not choose an amplfyer which disappoints you when you come home, just because it is not able to drive your speakers to the full.

The first amplifyer uses vacuum tubes and transformers on output. We have tested AMC earlier in this magazine, but not Consonance. This amplifyer is made in China, and, as we shall see, this is no disadvantage. Another new make is Onix. Also made in Asia. Ours was the most powerful out of two otherwise similar amplifyers.

Rotel's powerful amplifyer is the only one with remote control. Output varied from 30 to 120 Watts, and in reality the output does not say much about the sound quality, unless the speakers are very hard to run. We chose to do most ot the listening with N.H.T Super Two, which sound very good and are very well matched for these amplifyers.


This almost army look amplifyer uses vacuum tubes. Two EV34 tubes sit on either channel with output transformer hooked up to the loudspeaker terminals.

These have two sets with+contacts, one for 4 Ohm speakers and one for 8 Ohm speakers. It is the nominal impedance we are talking about. Check to make sure your loudspeakers do not go down in resistance, because the AMC does not like low impendance load. No remote control here, but six connections in addition to phone for MM pickup should be enough. The contacts and the loudspeaker terminals are of good quality, and the rubber coated dials on the side of the amplifyer give a little rough impression of the AMC CVT 3030a. The lifetime of the tubes should enough for a few thousand hours of normal use.

The four tubes can easily be changed by the owner, but beware - there is some current left in the amplifyer, so it might pay to use rubber gloves during the operation. Two fans sit under the amplifyer, and these engage quickly when the amplifyer has reached working temperature, but fortunately they make little or no noise. AMC informs that the CVT 3030a gives 30 W per channel, and it runs in class A. Since we are talking about a tube amplifyer, it means that in reality it should be compared with a 40-50W solid state amplifyer.

1. The sound

After about half an hour's warming up, the listening can start. The AMC plays with a warm and open character. It blooms of enthusiasm on classical music, and delivers a convincing performance on pop and rock. The friendly and unrestrained character makes continued listening a comfortable experience. A somewhat forward leaning presentation puts you in contact with the music, and it manages micro details in a unrestrained manner. Resolution is adequate, and the sound is large and present.

But it does not qually stress overtone structures, particularly from acoustic instruments, which manifests itself in flutes lacking airness and piano too little sound. The higher tones sound a little dry, and are softly focused. A little more depth and breadth would have enchaced the stereo perspective, but the amplifyer's light and airy stream of tones is like honey for the bear: Habit forming.

In the extremes of the frequence registers the amplifyer loses its voice, and do not count on a deep bass. But transients in all parts of the frequency register are well controlled and get enough weight to avoid shrieky and slim sounding voices and instruments. This is a good sounding amplifyer with many sympathetic features which will win many friends. Particularly among the tube enthusiasts.

Onix A-120: GRAND SCALE With 120 W

this is the most powerful amplifyer participating in the test. It is also the heaviest, with its 14 kg.

A giant transformer takes most of the space in the solid cabinet with a black front, which makes the amplifyer look like that of Electrocompaniet. Six lines out is good, and the back has gold plated connections of good quality: The CD player lin out even has WBT contacts of particularly good quality; likewise the loudspeaker terminals are of solid WBT quality. Impressing! The workmanship is in a class by itself. The only thing the amplifyer lacks is a remote control. With the gold plated dials the amplifyer presents itself as luxurious, but minimalistic in form and function. Inside it is built as two mono blocks. The power supply is aggressive enough to be able to deliver power to the well dimensioned output stage, something we were to experience during the listening test.

The amplifyer's origin is from Sussex, England, but most of the production takes place Asia. There is a smaller model with 60 W which is otherwise identical to the A-120.

2. The Sound

As expected the A-120 sounds forceful and controlled. It is very homogenous down to the sub-terrainian frequencies that it delivers with confidence. It is not common to find an amplifyer in this price class with such an iron grip on the low frequencies. The bass is rendered formidably. Bass instruments are very credible, and it is easy to get carried away by rhytmic music. Even one who hates to dance will feel it in the legs. A sort of Grand Scale brings you a realistically dimensioned sound, with much space and endless depth. The stereo perspective is rock solid and so wide that big symphony orchestras get some leeway. The Onis is not as refined and resolved as the Consonance, even if the difference is small. On the other hand, it is more dynamic and has greater control over the music. Particulalry when it is requested to move up the scale and volume.

Even a Krell amplifyer would blush by such firm, controlled and yet overwhelming and quick transient rendering in the whole frequency area, particularly in the bass register.

In the top we are presented with an open and airy sound with refined definition of the overtones. It is is almost almost difficult to believe what the price label says.

The richness in detail is nevertheless remarkably good. You can hear depth, and it only has its peer in the Consonance amplifyer. Lack of remote control and not perfect resolution on the edges make for a few negative remarks.But this amplifer is so close, so close.


Consonance a100 does not reveal its origin neither by looks nor by sound quality. It looks most of all like a Danish amplifyer for sound purists- like Holfi, due to its light wooden front-but it is actually Chinese, hand built in Beijing.

The specifications tell us that it is a grown up amplifyer yielding 2x80W in 8 Ohm. There are three lines out, as well as a line out for sound recorder or other things. The loudspeaker outlets are solid and well functioning. The design is marked by simplicity and good components. The amplifyer is built with a passive attenuator with an Alps potentiometer. The output transformers from Toshiba are particularly well matched. Otherwise, we noted that the transformer is of a special type with oval and enclosed ring kernel, and probably hand wound. It is perfectly silent ¨C here are hardly any mechanical vibrations which can be transformed to the amplifyer's more sensitive parts.

It is easy to be carried away by the Consonance. Its open and airy presentation belongs among much more expensive amplifyers. Some may experience it as too laid back and restrained, but it reveals itself as extremely potent and rapid in response. On some loudspeakers it may present itself as slim around the hips, and some will miss more meat on the bone in the bass register. This is really the only complaint we have. When it counts, it shows itself as powerful and dynamic, full of life, regardless of what you play. Transients fly rapidly out of the loudspeakers, and it keeps rhytm firmly all the way.

You are a little further back in the hall compared to the AMC amplifyer, but miss nothing for that reason. The stereo perspective is wide and very deep. The resolution is so fine that one gets goose skin from the lively sopranos of classical opera.

Much of the nerve in the music is conveyed with gusto, and it is rich in details and is perferctly capable to separe performer from each other, even with complex music. This is one of the most refined amplifyers we have heard in a long time; the spatial definition is credible, and it plays all types of music with lively participation.


An old acquaintance this, which was quietly upgraded a while ago. It is beyond doubt the best equipped amplifyer in its class.

Apart from a well equipped remote control you get two sets of loudspeaker outlets; tone control, six lines out, pre/main out and it a surround processor or extra power amplifyer can be hooked up to this 2x100 W amplifyer. Not bad! The amplifyer can be hooked up to more components in a zone system for multi room use. The well known and conservative Rotel design keeps well, despite its age.The cabinet is solid, and the choice of components shows consistent high quality. Plastic dials lower the overall impression, but tell that the Rotel is built for the job it is meant to perform. Luxury and ornaments can be bought elsewhere.

A separate dial swithes between the inlet one plans to make a recording from. In this way one can freely choose another inlet for listening to music. A small noise is heard from the relays switching between inlets, and light diodes mark which one is in use when you select from the remote control or the dial. A little red diode also marks the position of the volume control.

3. The sound

Full and rich could be said about the amplifyer's sound. But this is only half the truth. It has a big sound and is juicy and engaging to listen to. At the same time it is a little leant forward in its presentation, similarly to the AMC. And a powerful bass can shake the walls, provided it is equipped with the right loudspeakers.

In sound character it rests between the the AMC and Consonance, and has more richness in detail than the AMC, but lacks the same, almost total resolution of the Consonance. Neither does it have the depth, even if the register is sufficient.

The music gets good drive, and pop/rock music pours out with a big sound with force and power, but also with grace. The Rotel is open enough to let through details and sounds so that vocals and instruments sound plausible. It differentiates between various instruments with ease, but is not able to depart from its somewhat course resolution. There is plenty of power here.

Dynamically nothing is lacking, and drums as well other percussive instruments have weight and power in abundance. The precision is not on line with the Onix A-120, but the Rotel strikes hard enough. And it can also whisper when required. A little soft focus gives us comfortable impression of classical music.

This may fit many loudspeakers, but a warm of soft playing loudspeaker is hardly the best partner for the Rotel. But the right speaker the Rotel can challenge the best in the test.


A competition can only have one winner. But it is difficult to call the others in this test losers. All the amplifyers in the test can, with the right loudspeaker and a good CD player give you many enjoyable moments with music.

It is only a question of finding out which one suits your musical taste best. There is not much difference in price either. The Consonance costs NOK 5,500, bt the other ask NOK 7,000. Regardless of what you choose in the end, you will get much better quality outside and inside than with 3-4,000 kroner. Not to mention better sound quality. Maybe it is worth saving a few extra months.

The tube amplifyer in the test is a charming aquaintance. It is not able to run all types of speakers, but with good adaption the result can be very good. AMC CVT 3030a plays music with participation and engagement, a warm and open sound character makes it easy to listen to- with no restraints. Only better resolution and a deeper sound are lacking, and a little more at the edges of the frequency register.

The Rotel amplifyer can be used for everything. It plays well regardless of the music, has plenty of power and manages most speakers with a firm hand. Power and control makes this amplifyer one of the most engaging on dynamic, rhytmic music, but is not so good for classical pieces. With better resolution and a richer detail we would have placed it on the top.

From China comes the surprise of the test. This modest amplifyer with wooden front, where the logo has been burnt in, is one of the amplifyers with most airy and best resolution which we have seen in a long time. And for this price it is shockingly good. It is so open and three-dimensional that it is a joy-and rich in details. It is preferably enjoyed with a loudspeaker which has a full character, since the Consonance sounds a little slimmer than the test winner.

4. The Winner

Onix A-120 wins the cup this time. It only lacks a remote control. Plenty of power; managed with precision and force that none of the others can match. Not even the Rotel. At the same time it has so good resolution and is so open that one is always surprised how much one has missed from ones cds earlier. The Onix plays almost like the Consonance, but with more power and control. And it sounds fuller and has more dynamic contrast. It just had to win.

GRADING (1-10)



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