Onkyo A-9010 (UK) Integrated Amplifier Review

Posted on 6th March, 2020

Onkyo A-9010 (UK) Integrated Amplifier Review

 Jay Garrett auditions quite possibly the best beer-budget amplifier around…

Onkyo

A-9010 (UK)

Integrated Amplifier

£199

If you want an easy life, don't be a manufacturer of entry-level integrated amps. Any decent designer can do a fine-sounding product given enough budget, but trying to make something sound good for pennies, is another thing altogether. Hat doffed to Onkyo then, for landing this little piece of loveliness in the UK for just £199.

It has been stripped of many extraneous bells and whistles and wins no prizes for style. That said, it does exude a certain functional beauty – the like of which William Morris and members of the Bauhaus movement would recognise. One key feature absent is an internal DAC – a brave move considering most mainstream manufacturers now regard this to be as important to an amplifier as its power transistors. I think it's the right way to go because even a cheap digital converter chip adds to manufacturing costs yet doesn't automatically provide any benefit. What you get instead is a pair of defeatable tone controls, some line-level inputs and a basic moving magnet phono stage. Oh, and an independent headphone stage with a grown-up 6.3mm socket.

Onkyo A-9010 UK review

Interestingly, although Onkyo has been the king of Class D for the last decade – doing its best to push the technology towards the mainstream hi-fi market – here we have a Class AB design sporting what the company calls Wide Range Amplifier Technology (WRAT). Discrete low-impedance output transistors deliver the juice, helped by a chunky power transformer and four audio-grade capacitors. There's an extruded aluminium heatsink to keep things cool, and the chassis is designed to minimise vibration. Round the back you'll find gold-plated, banana-plug-compatible speaker posts fitted with neat transparent screw-type knobs. These terminals are connected to the power transistors via thick speaker plates rather than speaker relays to – so we're told – preserve signal integrity for better sound. The result is a claimed 44W RMS per side into 8 ohms, which is more than most at this price.

SOUND QUALITY

Onkyo's A-9010 (UK) sounds more expensive than it looks. Fed by a YBA Passion CD player and driving Focal Aria 906 loudspeakers, I was pleasantly surprised by this little amplifier's musically involving character and its general get-up-and-go. Indeed the enthusiasm and energy coming from The Who's Pinball Wizard was infectious right from the opening bars of acoustic guitar strumming. As that distorted Townsend riff kicked off the track proper, I had to pinch myself that I was listening to an amplifier costing less than two hundred quid.

Onkyo A-9010 UK review

Moving to some even heavier programme material, and Nine Inch NailsPerfect Drug had eagerness aplenty, yet kept its composure. The Onkyo had no problem presenting the various threads of samples and drum loops to the listener coherently. It was impressive how it was able to keep all the instrumental lines in check, even during the more demanding musical moments. Rock-steady handling from this inexpensive Japanese all-rounder then – something you just don't expect for the money.

This Onkyo may be good, but it isn't magic. The one glaring weak point is its phono stage. Via this, music lacks some power and grip, sounding slightly low energy compared to the line level inputs. It's still not bad for the price though, and serious vinylistas will soon enough buy their own preferred offboard phono stage anyway. Even via phono, the music still showcased the A-9010 (UK) 's natural instinct for rhythms, but moving to a Chord Hugo 2 DAC via a line input had this amp really picking up the pace. I was soon grooving along with Bobby Womack on Across 110th Street, loving how sweetly those sumptuous string stabs cut through, and the way that the tambourine shimmered behind. Even that fat bass line was as thick and warm as it has a right to be, considering its position in life.

THE VERDICT

With a big-hearted, rhythm-loving presentation, Onkyo's A-9010 (UK) offers an awful lot of sound per Pound. Yet it's still surprisingly smooth and civilised too, as well as showing few outward signs of being a bargain-basement product aside from its slightly lightweight build. It's a testament to the skills at the Japanese giant's UK division that they've been able to squeeze so much out of this dinky design. To quote the wisdom of one Joey Tribbiani, “you're so far past the line that you can't even see the line! The line is a dot to you!”

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Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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Posted in: Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers
Tags: onkyo 

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