Qinpu A3 Integrated Amplifier
- Compact integrated amplifier
- Aluminum chassis
- Cherry wood panel
- Tube: 6N3 x 2
- Output Power: 2 x 8.5 W (8 ohms RMS)
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Sometimes big things really do come in small packages. The tiny Qinpu A3 vacuum tube integrated amplifier packs a mighty high-end wallop. It delivers a beautiful room-filling 8.5 watts per channel. A pair of 6N3 output tubes contribute to the velvety and detailed sound. Audio Advisor sales rep Joe Darmogray spent a lot of time listening to the A3 and says, "I just can't see how they do it! Such high quality at this low price. It drove my Sennheiser HD800s flawlessly with power to spare. Tubes just seem to mate with headphones. They give you silky smooth highs that make you just want to keep listening. It's an integrated amp to boot! It drives my Energy C-300 just fine."
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So, this is my first legitimate tube amp and color me impressed. I have been using it with a pair of Sennheiser HD595 headphones, a pair of Stax Lambda Pro earspeakers, and a pair of Polk Audio R300 speakers. So far, it has driven them all well. I would suggest replacing the stock tubes with something a bit better though. So far, I have been using NOS GE tubes and they work great (they are a bit smaller in height than the stock tubes, but don't be alarmed, they fit and function perfectly.) The sound signature is a little dark. It has a slightly higher than neutral amount of bass but this is about the only thing that really makes it a LITTLE dark. The mids are liquid and loveable, but not syrupy. Highs are sparkly. On the Stax, I can tell the amp has plenty of speed and handles transients with aplomb. The only negative is that on insensitive headphones/speakers, it clips slightly earlier than I'd like. The Stax play really loud though before clipping.
The build is pretty impressive for "Made in China." The chassis is pretty much just solid milled aluminum. This being the case, it has some serious heft. The wood is also a nice touch. The cord looks slightly sketchy. I am sure it is fine, it just looks like it was made in China if you get my meaning. There are also a couple of plastic bits, but they really don't degrade the look, but I feel that they could be replaced with glass or metal, but at $200 I am sure not complaining.
The tubes pretty much do not get hot. They get warm, but I would never really call them hot, so there is never the feeling that you are going to accidentally catch something on fire. That being said, the power transistors inside the chassis make more heat. The amp also has a relay that won't activate until the amp is warmed up, which is a nice feature. LEDs flash until it is warmed up, then stay lit up. A little detail as well, I am using the Stax with the passive SRD-7/SB transformer through the speaker output, not with a dedicated amp and the Qinpu as a preamp.
-Chassis build quality
-Slightly early clipping
I did add some Audioquest Golden Gate Interconnects this time around and that made just enough improvement to the muddy base (tightened up the bass just enough ) on some recordings to add another half star to the review rating. If it had more power and more outputs I'd give it a 5 star rating. I'm sure a more expensive interconnect would tighten up the bass even more on the bad recordings but at least now the muddiness is gone and won't overwhelm the rest of the recording.***
ORIGINAL REVIEW BELOW
Hooked this up to a pair of Mirage OM 10 speakers with AudioQuest Type 4 cable. CD Player is a Cambridge Audio D300 SE.
Replaced the stock tubes out of the box with JAN GE NOS 5670 model. Later after a burn in period of about 20 hours of operation, I replaced these with the stock tubes. I observed the following. Stock tubes have a nice sound but with less enhanced bass and a slightly brighter mid range and highs. Definitely a bit of improvement over the sound I had previously when using my Cambridge Audio A 300 integrated amp. Overall a slightly smoother sound with the A3.
I noticed a clear improvement though when I used the GE 5670 tubes. Initially the bass was pretty boomy on some songs but that cleared up after about ten hours of playing music. The audio had a very mellow sound and the bass was much improved over the stock tubes. Mid range and highs were smoother and individual instruments were easier to pick out in most songs. The clarity of the music also improved and previously hidden details with certain instruments started to emerge with these tubes in place.
I used a variety of music during the the 20 hour break in period. Classical was the least improved music over the Cambridge Audio amp. It became slightly smoother but not overwhelmingly so. Noticeable improvement was heard to older rock, R&B and Soul recordings especially those from the 60's and early 70's. It was a night and day difference. Bass became much tighter, instruments were more detailed and exhibited certain sounds that previously were muddled or not heard at all. It was as if the recordings had been remastered or re recorded at a later time in the studio. I also noticed a great improvement to most Jazz recordings as well. Used Smooth and Contemporary Jazz recordings from the 70's through the late 90's. Almost as much improvement as with the older rock recordings but not quite as dramatic.
I think I would have seen even more improvement over the older amp if I had a different set of speakers. I purposely bought the Mirage OM 10's in 1999 because they were well known for having a mellow sound. They have a 90 db sensitivity which is ample to drive this amp. My previous speakers were Klipsch Heresy's and I am certain if I still had those, the sonic improvement would have been dramatic to say the least. They had a harsh sound that resulted in listening fatigue after a couple of hours of use. But since tube type amps are known for creating a more silky, smooth sound and I did not pair this amp with more harsh sounding speakers I did not see quite as much improvement as might be expected with more traditional box speakers. I also have a pair of Castle Conway 3 speakers in storage and those being a more traditional box speaker might very well show more improvement to the audio once I can pair them with the A3. Still, the improvement is noticeable with the OM10's and worth the $199.00 price tag.
The negative. One channel started to cut out on some songs that had heavier bass when I moved the audio playback level to around a quarter length turn on the A3. I tried swapping cables and also switched the cables to the other channel but to no avail. Even trying the 1/8" mini plug did not help. Audio at a low playing level was fine but at a moderate level the problem started. Never tried a high volume level. This was a defective unit that will be returned but I plan to replace it with another A3 and will hope it is free from defects.
Overall I am very pleased with the sound and it seems evident you could spend ten times as much money for a solid state amp that still won't offer the same kind of sound that you get from a tube type amp. Even one that is integrated with a solid state amp like the A3. If you want a mellow, silky sound to your music then this amp will not disappoint you. This component offered the biggest improvement the sound of my system since I replaced the Heresy speakers with the OM 10's. Arguably the improvement created by the A3 even exceeds that level of quality realized with the change in speakers.
After I receive the new amp and have a chance to break it in even longer I will follow up this review with another.
First the sound: After I put in some American made GE 5670 tubes and ran it for at least 25 hours, the sound from this unit and through my Grado SR80i's was incredible(and keeps getting better}. Music that had very bright highs was mellowed(not muddled), the mids came through VERY clear, to the point I heard sounds and voices I haven't noticed before. The lows came through smooth and full, this was just through my 5th gen iPod, but from my old Diskman the music had a greater depth in sound stage. Note I ran a full range of music through this amp from ACOUSTIC, ROCK/METAL to DANCE/TRANCE, and finally with some OLDSCHOOL RAP/HIP HOP.
Though I strongly suggest you use an actual piece of audio equipment(CD player or turn table) that you would find a la cheap at you local pawn shop to get the full richness in sound and power through this amp, if not, your iPod is still fine.
The fit and finish: The amp looks exactly like the image, except that the wood is more of a red mahogany that a Colonial Maple we see in the pic. The weight of the amp is heavy and feels rock solid, like it was made for a life time of use. The fit on mine wasn't exactly perfect, the front face plate on mine was 2mm off level from the rest of the all aluminum unit, but it isn't noticeable all unless you are looking for imperfection.
The finish of the side cuts of the aluminum body and the edges of the clear plastic rings around the tubes was a tiny bit(invisible to the naked eye) rough if you ran your fingers across them, but this is nothing that a small sheet of 1000 grit sand paper and 1 hour of your spare time cant fix. But these three tiny issues isn't anything substantial that will call the deal off.
So far as for function, not a single problem at all, nor do I see any in the near future. 5 STARS!
Most recent customer reviews
Got GE JG 5670 tubes....burned in for 30 hours or so.....hate them. Completely muddle everything making it seem hollow and withdrawn from the space.Read more