What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Sat, 13 Dec 2008, 5:00pm

Icon Audio Stereo 25

Tested at £500
80100
4

The Stereo 25 is superbly made for the money

Write your own review

For

  • A detailed, fluid and subtle presentation
  • fine build and finish

Against

  • Has limitations when stretched by more complex music
  • needs careful system matching
  • limited inputs
  • no remote

Five hundred pounds is truly bargain basement money for an integrated valve amp. It wasn't so long ago an amplifier such as this would have set you back triple that amount, and still be not as well built as this Icon.

Make no mistake the Icon is impressively made. Fit and finish are beyond serious criticism, and there's nothing physically that suggest this is anything less than immaculately constructed.

Noise levels are low and each of the controls has a nice, firm action.

The output valves – the four large ones – are the well-known EL34s, which are cheap to buy, easy to replace and produce a useful 30 watts per channel.

Inputs are limited to three at line level, which is fine for simple systems only and a pain for more complex set-ups. There's no remote control, either.

The Icon pleases in use
Listen to something sparse, such as Adele's First Love, and the Stereo 25's clarity is deeply impressive.

It sounds fluid and natural in exactly the way good valve amps are meant to. There's plenty of detail, too, and smoothness without softness.

Move onto something more dramatic, such as Like a Dog Chasing Cars from The Dark Knight OST, and things aren't so rosy.

Faced with complexity, seismic basslines and demanding dynamics this amplifier loses a little composure and fails to keep a firm hold on the music.

The results remain enjoyable and informative, but lack the sparkle that separates great amps from the merely good.

With just 30 watts per channel you'll have to partner this amplifier relatively carefully. Stick to the likes of Epos's M12is or the cheaper and smaller Dali Lektor 1s, and you won't go wrong.

This Icon amplifier delivers an awful lot for the money. It's not the best all-rounder for the money, but for those who crave the magic of valves it's a fine starting point

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