Why virtualise your NAS environment?
- Excellent audio quality with minimal degradation
- Expensive, limited functionality, limited feature set
Pioneer's A6 analogue audio amplifier delivers exceptional audio quality, but its high price and limited range of functions may restrict its appeal to many users.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
The Pioneer A6 analogue audio amplifier is the little brother of the A9. Slightly smaller and lighter, and with less power output, the two amps are very similar to one another, the major difference being that the A6 doesn't provide a lot of support for lossy audio formats.
The A9 has a feature called "Sound Retriever" which restores compressed sound formats for lossless playback. The lack of this feature and the fact that there is no USB connection for MP3 players are the biggest differences between the two models. Removing these features has certainly brought the price of the unit down but it has made the A6 more focused on lossless sources as a result.
Audio fidelity seems to be the key to Pioneer's latest range of two-channel audio products and considering the A6 is advertised as bearing the mark of approval from the famous AIR Studios in London, we weren't surprised that it performed with excellence in our tests. Playing a Super Audio CD with Pioneer's PD-D6 SACD player, we found the audio quality to be one of the most accurate reproductions of an audio source that we've heard with only minimal levels of degradation.
Playback of regular CDs was of a very high quality as well, although the A6 was understandably not as able as the A9 to overcome the limitations of the lower bandwidth formats and the compression methods that these formats employ. Nevertheless, the audio quality was comparatively excellent, thanks to the superb design, which focuses on low impedance circuitry designed to produce the lowest possible levels of degradation and deterioration.
The unit's design is solid and functional. The back panel sports a row of four two channel RCA audio inputs, as well as one output for tape recording. The front panel has a small screen display and volume and input selector knobs. The flat, palm sized remote is easy to use, with a minimum of options.
The A6's feature set is somewhat bare, incorporating adjustable bass and treble levels, as well as tone balance. Pioneer has also included "Direct Listening" mode which switches off the front panel and all unnecessary circuitry and processing. This allows the absolute minimum of audio degradation possible which is a useful feature, especially for audiophiles. We found that it slightly increased clarity. However, as with most differences between high end and mid-high end gear, it was very small.
Ignoring the price, the A6 is a fantastic analogue audio amplifier. It delivers very high-level sound quality and a very specific focus towards lossless sources. Unfortunately, the A6 shares the same problem as the A9. It's expensive, and it's geared towards a really narrow target audience. The bottom line is that it's an excellent audio player, especially for high-bandwidth formats such as those on SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. However, its price puts it firmly in the realm of enthusiasts and people for whom money is not an issue. If this is you, then the Pioneer A6 comes highly recommended as a way to get the most out of your audio source.
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