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MULTIMEDIA

Arcam FMJ A19 Integrated Amplifier - Jumping Jack (Part 2)

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Arcam has put together an expertly packaged device offering the right amount of power and features

Rhythmically, Kraftwerk’s Tour de France Soundtracks Etape 3 is a pretty stern test of any amplifier’s grip of a loudspeaker, and the Arcam impresses in many ways. While it proves so generous low down that at high levels one was often on the verge of thinking this is going to end in tears – with the amp descending into a glop of low-frequency chaos – actually it never does. At the same time, it shows Great Spirit in the mid-band; it lacks the forensic insight of the Creek Evolution 50A here, making everything sound just a little more diffuse and out of focus, but still musically it is never less than totally coherent. While the Creek is definitely tighter, crisper and more detailed, I’m not sure it is quite as nice to cuddle up with the music to.

Arcam has put together an expertly packaged device offering the right amount of power and features

Arcam has put together an expertly packaged device offering the right amount of power and features

Cueing up some classic eighties rock in the shape of REM’s Near Wild Heaven, the FMJ A19 again shows its mettle, providing a widescreen sound with a gutsy bottom end and plenty going on further up. Again, I find this to be a detailed amplifier well able to resolve the subtleties of this clean analogue recording, although it doesn’t bristle with low-level information like the Creek Evolution 50A can. Nor is there the latter’s dynamic prowess, the Arcam sitting on the very loudest crescendos just a tad more than it should. But funnily enough I still find myself beguiled by this product in a way that the Creek doesn’t quite manage – it has the fluidity and lyricism of a good valve amp, which is something I don’t always write in an Arcam amplifier review! I’d go as far as saying it’s a dramatic improvement over the company’s earlier offerings at this price point, in this respect.

It is only with classical music that the Arcam sounds anything but fabulous. An Esoteric SACD of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20 (Curzon, English Chamber Orchestra) that I’ve tried with the Creek recently is beautifully rendered for sure, but noticeably less accurately all the same. Here, you can tell how the Arcam is a less transparent device, as it flattens the recording’s depth perspective somewhat, giving a wide but slightly flat profile to the orchestra. Likewise, piano lacks a purity of tone you’d expect to hear from a more expensive amplifier, sounding opaque and processed. Nor is there that ‘inky black’ backdrop to the notes you get in some more expensive designs; there is a slight diffuseness to things and a lack of air up top. Still, that’s not to say the FMJ sounds bad, for it does not. Quite the reverse in fact; it lends velveteen smoothness to strings which screech through the Pioneer A-70, gives the cellos even greater body than even they’d concede they need, and makes the general musical event highly enjoyable. You can nit-pick all day, but still this amp’s innate musicality will charm you.

Conclusion

This amp faces tough competition from several recently refreshed models, but still has little to worry about. In the FMJ A19, Arcam has put together an expertly packaged little device offering the right amount of power and features, and a wonderfully musically engaging sound with a rich tonality that will suit budget ancillaries. Of course, it’s not without its faults but those are of omission – it’s not quite as detailed or dimensional as the best of the rest – and its strengths are compelling. It’s guaranteed to get the joint jumping!

Connections

1.    AC mains voltage selector

2.    Accessory power socket

3.    RCA phono MM input

4.    Preamp output for bi-amping

5.    Loudspeaker binding posts

6.    FCC compliance notice

Connections

Connections

In sight

1.    Power drivers

2.    RF output filter

3.    Smoothing capacitor

4.    Headphone amplifier

5.    Low power standby PSU

6.    Toroidal transformer

In sight

In sight

Our verdict

·         Sound quality: 5/5

·         Value for money: 5/5

·         Build quality: 5/5

·         Features: 4.5/5

·         Like: Genuinely musical sound; sumptuous tonality; useful features; fine build and finish

·         Dislike: Big bass won’t suit boom speakers

·         We say: Surprisingly capable, affordable integrated amp that’s up with the best at the price

·         Overall: 5/5

Arcam FMJ A19 specs

·         Origin: UK

·         Type: Integrated amplifier

·         Dimensions: (W x H x D) 432 x 275 x 85mm

·         Weight: 8.5kg

·         Features: Alphanumeric display; MM cartridge input; Preamplifier output; Headphone output

·         7 x RCA phono line inputs

·         Quoted power output: 2 x 50RMS into 8ohms

 

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