The budget stereo amplifier crown has been dominated by the likes of Marantz, Rotel and Cambridge for more than a decade. It’s a tough market to crack, with only Yamaha’s excellent A-S500 managing to make an impact against these formidable rivals in recent years. Now it’s the turn of newly revitalised Sansui to have a go.
The Sansui SAP201V gets off to a good start. Any sub-£300 integrated amplifier with remote control, moving magnet phono stage and a built-in DAC has got to be worth a look.
First impressions are positive. This Sansui feels well screwed together, its finish is smart and there’s a reassuring solidity about the controls. Only the credit-card sized remote control disappoints – it feels cheap and vague to use.
Sansui SAP201V: Sound quality
The SAP201V is a clear and insightful amplifier. It digs up a good amount of detail, organises it well and isn’t fazed by musical complexity. Tonally the presentation is fairly neutral, with little undue emphasis at the frequency extremes.
There’s a pleasing level of agility, and a nicely crisp way with the leading edge of notes. Put it all together and you have an amplifier that’s as at home with the likes of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep as it is thundering out Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
However, standards are sky-high at this price level, and the 40W-per-channel Sansui falls behind the class leaders when it comes to delivering large dynamic shifts or rendering the hard-charging rhythm track of Tinie Tempah’s Pass Out.
Sansui SAP201V: Built-in DAC
The built-in digital-to-analogue converter is a great idea. It has both optical and co-axial inputs and generally performs well enough. It’s broadly of the standard of a decent sub-£100 unit, but lacks the refinement and dynamic expression to impress any more than that.
Much the same could be said of the phono stage – it’s decent for the money, but a little hissy and sonically bettered by Rega’s £85 Fono Mini A2D.
Make no mistake, this is a capable unit and its generous feature count is appealing, but it’s not quite a Marantz PM6004-beater.