The big news in the What Hi-Fi? 2023 Awards' stereo amplifier category this year is the re-emergence of Arcam as a force to be reckoned with. While amplifiers have always been at the very core of Arcam’s product range, it is fair to say that in recent years the company's multi-channel AV products have hogged the limelight, leaving its stereo amplifiers, competent as they were, in the shade. But that all changes with the introduction of Arcam's new Radia range of products, which comprises three stereo integrateds, a CD player and a music streamer.
We’ve tested two of the stereo amplifiers, the entry-level A5 (£749/$699) and step-up A15 (£1099/$999, pictured top), and each sets new standards at their respective price points. They managed to oust our long-running favourites, the Cambridge Audio CXA61 and CXA81, from the winning line-up, which is quite some feat considering how the Cambridge duo has seen off all-comers in recent years. Rega’s excellent Elex Mk 4 is another strong contender in this part of the market, but on balance, we prefer the price-comparable A15’s combination of attributes more.
Arcam went back to the drawing board with both these products and has come up with well-equipped goods that tick all the important boxes. Their connectivity includes moving-magnet phono stages, digital inputs (though not USB) and two-way Bluetooth alongside a headphone output and a trio of line-level inputs. That should be enough for these amplifiers to slot into pretty much any price-appropriate stereo system without issue. Add a refreshingly sleek appearance and, most importantly, class-leading sound, and you have a pair of amplifiers to savour.
Things are unchanged at the premium end of the market, with repeat Best Buy wins for both the talented Naim Nait XS3 (£2499/$3999) and mighty Rega Aethos (£3300/$5395). The former came under intense pressure this year from fresh rivals such as Rega’s Elicit Mk5 and Audiolab’s 9000A, which are actually both usefully cheaper and better equipped than the Naim. Indeed, if you really want a built-in DAC module (the XS3 doesn’t have one), the Rega is a particularly appealing option. However, the Naim still reigns supreme when it comes to performance, and the advantage is significant enough over these rivals for this well-built amplifier to hold onto its crown for another year.
At the other end of the market, the Marantz PM6007 remains our favourite budget option thanks to its well-balanced presentation, fine build and sensible features set. This is a multi-What Hi-Fi? Award winner at its price point now and continues to offer excellent value.
But our 2023 Awards season isn't done and dusted just yet; on Wednesday 15th November, one of these five Best Buy winners will also take home the category's most prestigious Product of the Year Award. Check whathifi.com that evening (GMT) to find out which amplifier has triumphed.
See all of the What Hi-Fi? Award 2023 winners in every hi-fi and AV category
Check out our longer list of the best stereo amplifiers you can buy