REVIEW: PERREAUX AUDIENT 80I 40TH ANNIVERSARY INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
We're certainly not about to sling the 40th Anniverary Special Edition from the top of a building, but we have lived with this integrated amplifier for over a month and enjoyed its company. Read on for the full review.
Audiant 80i Special Edition
Perreaux made its name initially through Peter Perreaux’s PA amps.
There's a story that he demonstrated his MOSFET-based amp’s bomb-proof construction by slinging an amp off the top of a building. I am assuming that it still worked afterwards.
Nonetheless, I guess that’s one of the reasons why Perreaux still features MOSFET as the centrepiece of their designs today.
The Audiant 80i was well received when it was released. The neat, integrated amp had everything that you needed. As well as a decent MM phono stage and HT bypass, the Audiant 80i was kitted out with no fewer than four digital inputs.
Marking Perreaux’s 40th year in business, they took the Audiant 80i and gave it a few anniversary tweaks.
The special edition amplifier is limited to just 100 units and features a commemorative badge on its front panel and comes with an individually signed and numbered certificate of authenticity.
It is perhaps needless to say, but there is more than cosmetic dressing going on here. Perreaux has also ramped up the power by fitting an upgraded, custom designed mains toroidal transformer. This is said to equip the Anniversary Edition with considerably more power than the 80 watts of the standard version. The company says that this increased reserve of power gives the unit higher levels of authority over connected loudspeakers and a more convincing and realistic overall performance. In fact, the tech specs states a conservative 80W into 8 ohms (measured at 98W) and 130W into 4 ohms (measured at 156W). Additionally, they have also upgraded the internal cabling connecting the binding posts to the rest of the amplifier's circuitry.
The design of the Audiant 80i is pretty slick and sleek. When inactive all you can see is a slab of milled aluminium that features the Audiant wavelength logo and a black strip across the face of the amp. This is only broken up by a single large dial, the anniversary badge, and printed Perreaux name and logo. This is pretty much as unfussy as amplifiers get. As someone who loves either minimalist or hugely over-engineered designs, this sits nicely in the stripped-down category.
However, give the amp some juice, and the front panel illuminates to reveal a line of clearly marked touch-sensitive capacitive buttons. Naturally, the amplifier comes bundled with a remote control too.
Flipping the Audiant 80i 40th Anniversary Edition around you find an RCA pre-out, an RCA line out, 3 line-level RCA inputs and a set of RCA Phono inputs. Digital I/O comprises an asynchronous (24/96) USB port, an RCA Coax and a pair of Toslink optical ins. Digital to analogue conversion is performed by the ESS Sabre Reference ES9006 DAC.
The unit’s Class A/B amplifier (A-weighted) boasts a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with total harmonic distortion measured typically at 0.002% @1kHz, 20Hz to 20kHz <0.05%.
The Audiant 80i takes advantage of the hefty aluminium lid as part of the heatsink design and along with the hefty transformer, the 80i 40th Anniversary tips the scales at 11.5kg. It measures a slender 17x12.2x2.6-inches (WxDxH).
Everything feels well put together with the main volume control feeling reassuringly stiff to turn. The capacitive buttons need a light, yet firm touch to engage; just enough to avoid accidental selections.
The connections were made via my Oppo UDP-203 disc player hooked up via RCA, Optical and Coax, an Elac Discovery music server via Optical, my Pro-Ject 1 Xpression with Cartridge Man Music Maker cartridge running through the phono and, finally, my laptop via USB. Cables in the chain are mostly Chord Company C-Line and a pair of Shawline RCA interconnects. Speakers used included models from Tannoy, Eclipse and Kralk hooked up thanks to Chord Company Epic speaker cables.
The Audiant 80i is an extremely easy and inviting experience. It’s neither clinical nor harsh.
Starting things off with a Beck classic, ‘Novacane’ on CD, the laid-back intro has plenty of space. When the track comes in proper, the distorted guitars are sharp, but it’s the outro (around 3:43) that best showcases the Audiant’s audio handling. The samples and odd mono synth underpinned by a low bass line all sits wonderfully in the soundscape.
My white vinyl edition of A Perfect Circle’s latest opus, ‘Eat the Elephant’ arrived in time to feature. This was another change of vibe and features piano heavily which gave the anniversary Audiant a chance to show its stuff.
The opening and title track comes in straight away with piano and sparse drums, mostly open hi-hat and cymbals, until things tighten with low register piano. Just before the minute mark, Maynard’s smoothly plaintive vocals commence. The sense of space projected from the amp is one of those close-your-eyes moments. In particular, the realism of the instrumentation, especially the weight of the kick drum and lower keys. There is warmth in the bass but also clarity throughout the register.
Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’ (with the Philadelphia Orchestra) is a veritable 22+ minute work-out. I did ponder that the Audiant 80i’s warmer presentation can occasionally be at the cost of speed and timing. This theory was backed up when connected to the Eclipse speakers which are all about timing. By comparison, the Musical Fidelity M6si is much more up to the task.
At no point did I not enjoy the Audiant 80i 40th Anniversary. It was never aggressive, harsh or unpleasant. For almost a month it has performed as the heart of my system, only getting swapped out when I return to the Musical Fidelity M6si as my reference for other reviews.
It has seen almost every format (including compact cassette and streamed Bluetooth) and a wide gamut of genres. It presents a relaxed and warm sound which will please when paired with the right speakers.
In my living room the power output from this slender amp was ample with all the speakers I tested it with. As mentioned previously, the phono stage is more than adequate with plenty of headroom. The connectivity options ticks the right boxes while the build quality cannot be faulted.
The Perreaux Audiant 80i 40th Anniversary edition integrated amplifier looks great and would make a great addition to a sleek, minimalist system.
At £2,990, the Audiant 80i finds itself amongst quite a lot of competition at this price range so an Audiant audition would be well recommended before pulling the trigger.
As there have only been 100 units made, it may well even become a collector’s item.
For more information visit Perreaux.
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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