Our Verdict 
The £1000 amplifier sector is fearsomely contested, and the Carat gets eaten alive
Interesting looks
good specification
energetic sound
Sounds borderline-incoherent at worst, and only so-so at best
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Two years after exhibiting at the What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision show, French manufacturer Carat has finally secured UK distribution.

This A57 integrated stereo amplifier is the first Carat product we've tested – and it's a shame to report that it hasn't really been worth the wait.    There's nothing unfavourable about the Carat's first impressions. It's quite a handsome device, although that chunk of Perspex that serves as a fascia attracts dust like you wouldn't believe, and specification is well up to prevailing standards: five line-level inputs (one a 3.5mm job in the fascia), a tape loop, MM/MC phono stage and switching for two pairs of speakers makes good reading.

The buttons on the remote are small, true, but the A57 seems reasonable value for money. Until you switch it on.

Limitations soon come to the foreA testing tune like The Hold Steady's Sequestered In Memphis reveals the Carat's limitations. Initial impressions are of a perky, animated signature, with the midrange to the fore – but the A57's lack of organisation and separation soon becomes apparent.

Sounds are piled on top of each other rather than existing in their own area of the soundstage, and the Carat is a confusing listen as a result.

More after the break

Kanye West's Love Lockdown makes this trait even more apparent, and also emphasises the A57's inability to maintain low-frequency presence when the midrange becomes busy.

So aside from its looks, and the vigorous way it attacks a tune, there's little to recommend the A57 – certainly when judged against either of the Also Consider products on this page, it fetches up a long way short. A lot more stick than Carat, in fact.