As ever, the 9000A is the center of the audiolab focus in being the beating heart of any high-performance audio system. It’s more powerful, capable and feature-packed than any of the preceding models – the most advanced audiolab integrated amplifer yet. Versatility is key to audiolab’s integrated amplifer appeal, and the 9000A offers to cater for audiophiles of all creeds. Loaded with digital and analogue source connection, wireless connectivity for portable devices, an all-new phono stage to cater for vinyl playback and the usual, class-leading amplification for loudspeakers and headphones.
- Full DAC (ESS 9038Pro) and preamp facilities
- High-performance phono preamp
- Analogue and digital source connectivity
- Bluetooth aptX, aptX HD, LDAC receiver
- Powerful stereo amplification
- Dedicated headphone amplifier
- 800 x 480mm WVGA full view IPS LCD screen
Matching the modern hi-fi enthusiast’s requirements, the 9000A features a full-color IPS LCD screen, offering clear and informative playback, source and file information. Not to mention a host of menu options for optimum performance and user-deifned settings. Various display options are provided, which also include two VU meter options, allowing the 9000A to be visually informative or, in the case of ‘display off’ settings, a discreet centerpiece of any audio system.
Flexible and Capable
Differentiating itself from rivals within its category, the audiolab 9000A blends digital capability with an analogue pedigree. Premium level D/A conversion, as one would always expect from audiolab, allows a range of digital sources (over four digital inputs) to be connected directly to this high-power integrated unit. Yet, based on over 40 years of amplifier design pedigree, not to mention a recent history of multi-award-winning audio solutions, the 9000A also caters for analogue device integrations (via three AUX, balanced XLR and a dedicated phono input). The world of modern audio enjoyment is not limited to wired playback devices though, hence the 9000A also supports wireless connectivity via Bluetooth and digital audio via a PC USB connection.
The 9000A is the brainchild of lead designer, Jan Ertner. Famed for a plethora of class-leading and award-winning audio electronic models, Jan has pushed the 9000A to the highest levels of performance by evolving and redeveloping the principles that created the 8300A and uber-successful 6000A, to deliver the most exceptional performance ever seen in an audiolab integrated amplifier.
The 9000A features the latest ESS 9038PRO flagship 32-bit DAC chip. Using the critically acclaimed patented HyperStream® II architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, the ES9038PRO delivers an unprecedented performance level that will satisfy the needs of the most demanding audio applications – fitting an amplifier of the 9000A’s caliber. Years of experience and countless ESS-equipped models mean that audiolab is more than familiar with making the most of this technically excellent but challenging DAC technology. Great attention has been paid in developing a system that allows audiolab electronics and ESS DAC technology to offer the best in audiophile performance.
The amp’s four S/PDIF digital inputs – two coaxial and two optical – handle hi-res PCM data up to 24-bit/192kHz and benefit from a host of user-selectable digital filters that allow the user to optimize the response to suit the source file and bandwidth of the partnering equipment.
PCM audio is supported to 32-bit/768kHz, alongside DSD to 22.5MHz (DSD512). Every significant hi-res and lossless audio format is catered for, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV, as well as compressed legacy formats.
MQA All The Way
The 9000A also delivers full decoding of MQA, the hi-res streaming technology from a custom engineered MQA certified DAC solution. This means that the complete ‘three unfold’ decoding process is performed internally, as opposed to just the final unfold in the manner of an MQA ‘renderer’, which makes the 9000A an excellent system choice for subscribers to Tidal’s ‘HiFi Plus’ tier where Tidal Masters (MQA) content can be found.
As expected for modern audio playback convenience, Bluetooth connectivity is featured as standard with the 9000A stepping up to the aptX HD protocol for sonically superior and easy wireless streaming from smartphones, tablets, laptops and more. Bluetooth-paired devices also benefit from the quality of the amp’s DAC section and filter options.
The 9000A’s discrete Class AB power amp stage delivers 100W per channel into 8 ohms (160w per channel into 4 ohms!). Unlike over-specified competitor models, the genuine 100W per channel will put the 9000A up against the best in its class. Referring to the standards set with the audiolab 6000A (rated at 50W per channel), the 9000A’s 100W per channel will undoubtedly satisfy the most demanding of loudspeakers and their power-hungry masters.
A key to the audiolab performance is the world-famous CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology, which ensures superior linearity and excellent thermal stability, as the idle current is kept independent of the temperature of the output transistors. An all-new and custom specified 320VA toroidal transformer, followed by 4 x 15,000uF reservoir capacity (60,000uF in total), helps the amp to maintain firm control of the music whilst enabling excellent dynamic range. In an effort to maintain consistent signal purity, with line input signals passing to a precision analogue volume stage, the preamp section is kept as simple as possible. As with all of Jan Ertner’s designs, the circuity is a work of art in more than layout and architecture. The very design protects the sensitive preamp section from noise interference and coloration – a key cornerstone of the audiolab philosophy.
High-Performance Phono Stage
With every iteration of integrated amplifier design, audiolab works to improve on the bench-mark, built-in phono stage section. The 9000A is no different; pushing the boundaries of performance of an onboard phono pre-amp section. The all-new phono pre-amp for 9000A offers compatibility for moving magnet – a JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalization offers the best of both worlds for the turntable using audiolab fans. Similarly, for the headphone output stage employing current-feedback circuitry with wide bandwidth and high slew rate; the 9000A ensures a dynamic, detailed and engaging performance with all manner of headphone types, with that extra added audiolab sparkle from the consistent signal integrity from all inputs.
Power To The People
The primary mode is ‘Integrated’ – this combines the pre and power amp stages, for the connection of digital and analogue sources to the amp’s inputs and a pair of speakers to its binding posts. ‘Pre-Power Mode’ disconnects the pre and power amp stages. The allows the 9000A to be used solely as a power amp – for example, connected to an AV processor in a home cinema system. It also enables additional signal processing to be added, by connecting the 9000A’s ‘preamp out’ socket to an external processor, then returning the processor’s output to the amp’s ‘power amp in’ socket, making the most of its gargantuan 100W per channel performance and critical performance characteristic of the 9000A’s pre-section, regardless of what magic the users wants to implement in between!