Musical Fidelity A3.2 Integrated Two-Channel Amplifier
Click on the photo above to see a larger version.
- Power Output:
115 Watts RMS per Channel into 8
experimenting and research, I still find myself somewhat torn on the
question of integrated amplifiers (these have the preamplifier and power
amplifiers in the same chassis) vs. separates, for myself. I am now mostly in the
integrated camp for a variety of reasons, including lower
cost, shorter signal path, fewer connections in said path, and fewer
boxes needed to enjoy my music.
Musical Fidelity is based in the UK, and was founded in 1982 by Anthony Michaelson, who still is the owner and chief designer, and is heavily involved in the circuit design aspect of his products. Anthony has a degree in engineering and plays the clarinet professionally. Some of the most accomplished audio equipment designers I have known share two traits, a background in sciences and the ability to play an instrument.
the company with about $200, after getting laid off from an earlier position. I guess there can be a
positive aspect to layoffs after all. The world would probably have been
without the benefit of Musical Fidelity products, had it not been for that
Over their 20 year history, Musical Fidelity has released several products
that can be considered benchmarks in the evolution of audio gear.
Manufacturers often misunderstand all the attributes the consumer is looking
for when making a purchasing decision. It is rarely as simple as acquiring
the physical product itself. In the case of audio gear, it is often also
various increments of status appeal, sense of comfort in the ‘quality’,
knowledge of the technology, etc. The last attribute is particularly true
for components that claim a ‘performance/sound quality’ improvement over
other products that would otherwise meet the same basic needs. Consumers of
these ‘high end’ products want to know (or ‘consume’ in marketing terms)
information on why this product can deliver better quality than otherwise
However, here is what I did
The A3.2 includes what Musical Fidelity calls their ‘NuVista circuit’,
and is claimed to result in an ultra-wideband frequency response. This
circuit is also found in their $5000 NuVista Integrated. The A3.2 has two
bipolar output devices per channel, and this follows well with the ‘less is
more’ school of thought. The only caveat to that philosophy is a limitation
to the power available, but I had not found the amp to be lacking for any
setup I could put it in. Output into 8 and 4 ohms is 115 and 185 wpc
no data available into lower impedances. Again, I had no problems driving
the Dynaudio 1.3 MkII that dips down to 3.8 ohms. There is a 3 year warranty
offered with this product.
I had a few quibbles with the remote, which has the capability to select inputs and change volume, but no facility for power on/off/standby. David Solomon mentioned that the amp is recommended to be left on at all times. Volume control was not variable in as small increments as I would like, instead each push of the volume buttons on the remote resulted in a fairly large change. I resorted to walking to the unit for most volume changes, which is fine by me, but it does defeat one of the purposes of having a remote. It also would not register commands from about 20 feet away. On the plus side, it did have the capability to control a Musical Fidelity CD player and Tuner as well.
I really was not impressed by the light show on the front panel when I turned on the power switch. The blue LED input indicators lit up sequentially, and served no purpose that I could tell. David Solomon corrected me, and said this happened because it was searching for a source signal, and stopped when one was found. I still don’t care for it. I also was not impressed by the blinding intensity of the blue LEDs on the front panel. This was especially annoying when I would listen at night in a nearly or completely dark room. Sorry, no headphone jack either. Of course, the LED thing is just my opinion. If you like lights, the A3.2 has them for sure.
The unit has a brushed aluminum faceplate and is very handsome looking. The rear panel has five sets of RCA inputs, plus a phono input with a mm/mc switch for you vinyl buffs. There also is one set of variable RCA outputs for bi-amping or a subwoofer, I rate this feature as a deal breaker and an absolute necessity for my sub. There also is a fixed level RCA output for taping. A set of five-way binding posts allows for speaker connections, and an IEC AC input will let you power cord buffs spend more on that connection than you will on the amp, if that floats your boat.
All critical listening was done after several weeks of burn-in. The manufacturer recommends 250 hours, David Solomon feels this is to allow time to cook the large transformers.
Initially, I plugged the A3.2 into my PS Audio P300 Power Plant. That is one of the reasons I prefer integrateds over monster amps, I can plug all components into the P300 and have the luxury of laboratory spec power for all my components. The PS Audio Power Plants have set the benchmark for all power conditioners, and have convinced me of the merits to try and build a system around them.
But wait, what is that hum I hear? I was in disbelief,
but the transformers were buzzing away, and in a completely quite room I
could hear it from my listening position. This was completely not
acceptable, and I was certain the hum was the fault of the amp, and not
induced by the incoming AC.
review settled for me the debate of the pros and cons between an integrated
amp and separates. I compared the Musical Fidelity 3.2 to a PS Audio IV
preamp and Bryston 4B power amp, but keep in mind that
pre/power combo would cost more than twice the integrated in today’s
dollars. All tests were done at two levels that registered at 60 dB and 80 dB at my listening spot, using a –20 dB pink noise test tone.
with the Creek I heard more detail in the upper keys of the piano and
prominence on the double bass. I cannot tell you which is more neutral or
‘correct’, in the end it probably comes down to system matching and
preferences for certain sound 'character'.
In case I
was not clear above on how I feel about this unit overall, let me be more
by saying that I will purchase one for my own use.
Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MkII
- Arvind Kohli -