It’s not often we come across a new stereo amplifier that is able to challenge the Award-winning Rega Brio. But the Audiolab 6000A takes the fight straight to the formidable Rega – our reigning champion when it comes to mid-priced stereo amplifiers.
This is the most affordable amp Audiolab has produced in recent years, and also one of its most capable, confident and competitive efforts.
The Audiolab 6000A uses Class A/B amplification, with a claimed power of 50W per channel into 8 ohms. The pre-amplifier section is kept as simple as possible to maintain signal integrity, while the layout aims to keep noise interference and distortion down to a minimum. There are also independent power supplies for critical stages of the circuit, and a dedicated headphone amplifier that uses current-feedback circuitry.
Audiolab has paid special attention to the digital circuitry of the amplifier, with the 6000A using technology derived from the top-range 8300A series. It even uses the same DAC chip (ES9018) as previous Award-winner, the Audiolab M-DAC.
The 6000A has four digital inputs – two apiece for optical and coaxial – and all are capable of playing up to 24-bit/192kHz hi-res audio files. There are also three line level analogue connections and a pair of moving magnet phono inputs. It has Bluetooth, too. A 6.3mm headphone port is mounted on the front panel, alongside a large easy-to-read display and rotary dials for analogue volume, input and mode selectors.
The amp mirrors the same design as its 8300A sibling, with the metal casing available in silver or black finishes. Build quality is of a high standard. The 6000A feels solid and neatly finished with its rounded corners and sturdy aluminium front panel.
The control dials turn smoothly and responsively, and selecting the sub-menu options (balance, digital filters, operating modes) is simple enough using either the physical dial or sleek remote control.
As a nod to the original 8000A amplifier, Audiolab has included the ability to switch between three modes. Select which mode you want in the menu and you can switch the 6000A between integrated, pre-amplifier and power amp configurations.
We listen to the Audiolab 6000A in its primary role – as an integrated stereo amplifier – and are taken with how clean and articulate it sounds. It has a gorgeous sense of clarity and ample detail, leaving you listening to your music library comfortably for hours on end.
The 6000A follows the lilting vocals and delicate tone of The Unthanks’ My Laddie Sits Ower Late Up effortlessly, gliding along the tracks with a nimble footed assuredness. Voices cut through with emotion and nuance.
The edges of each note are crisp and punctual. Piano notes land with satisfying weight, bass is pulled taut, and strings are bowed with conviction – it’s a wonderfully confident performance.
Claimed power 50W (into 8 ohms)
Inputs 3x line level, MM phono, 2x optical, 2x coaxial
Bluetooth Yes, aptX
Remote included Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 6.5 x 44.5 x 30cm
But the 6000A isn’t all about refinement. Give it something with a charging rhythm, such as Amanda Palmer’s Runs In The Family with its underlying staccato beat, and the amp doesn’t pause for breath. It keeps the momentum going at a snappy pace – something amps twice the price don’t always manage.
The presentation is large and airy (more so than on its rival Rega Brio), giving instruments plenty of space to flaunt their wares. You can listen to this amp pretty loud, too – very little hardness creeps in when you turn the volume up high.
The expressive Rega Brio offers more texture and punch on grittier tracks compared with Audiolab’s refined and spacious character. Both presentations are appealing, and which one you prefer will be down to personal taste.
The Audiolab’s clean, crisp presentation comes through across the analogue and digital inputs alike. The DAC inside the 6000A is of a good standard, and it’s impressive to hear such a capable and composed sound at this price.
If you’re using the digital input, you get the option of three digital filters (slow roll-off, fast roll-off and minimum phase). We like ‘slow roll-off’ the best, but it’s worth experimenting with all three to find which works best with your partnering equipment.
Of course we can’t forget the convenience of Bluetooth. The 6000A pairs swiftly with our iPhone, and being able to stream songs in a flash is a bonus for a product of this kind. There’s the expected drop in quality when using Bluetooth, but the sonic character remains much the same.
It will take a lot to knock the all-analogue Regia Brio off its perch, but we can see plenty of appeal in the Audiolab’s refined presentation and range of digital features.
With both amplifiers costing £599, anyone in the market for a new stereo amplifier is now spoilt for choice. The Audiolab 6000A is an excellent amplifier that takes the fight to a formidable class leader.
- Sound 5
- Features 5
- Build 5