Audiolab 8300A Amplifier

Audiolab has enjoyed a renaissance since becoming part of China's giant IAG group just over a decade ago. Innovative goods including the MDAC and Q-DAC digital-to-analogue converters have turned into a benchmark for quality at their price points, while the 8200CDQ was a groundbreaking CD player - just recently replaced by the upgraded 8300CD.

But the brand built its reputation with amplifiers, particularly the 8000A. It was a slender incorporated that joined solid, punchy sound ergonomics and with great build, yet still sold at a realistic cost. For many it was the natural next step up from budget models - becoming among the very most successful British amps.

Now Audiolab has unveiled the latest spiritual successor to the 8000A in the form of the 8300An incorporated, priced at GBP899.95. The company says the new Audiolab remains true to the ethos of simplicity of operation allied to crisp of the first, transparent sound - but utilises present thinking in design and electronic technology to produce a merchandise that is completely revolutionary.

Inside the 8300A is a dual-mono arrangement, powered by a 300 VA toroidal transformer with 60,000 uF of reservoir capacitance, giving a claimed 75 Watts per channel output into 8 Ohms (view Measured Operation for our all-inclusive evaluation figures).

On the backside there is five line-level inputs in addition to balanced XLR plus a MM/MC phono with adjustable gain settings. The power and pre sections can be split to permit upgrades including adding an improved preamp or maybe more muscular power amplifier. There is also two sets of 'speaker posts to generate bi-wiring simpler.

There's no DAC option, however, presumably because Audiolab would prefer you to utilize its fitting 8300CD (32bit/384kHz and DSD capable) player for this particular purpose.


Feeding it Keith Jarrett's 'The Koln Concert' the primary thing I had been struck by is just how evenly balanced this amplifier seems, appearing to add small colour. Jarrett's insistent ostinatos were superbly pitched as well as the amplifier handled sudden switches between gentler and more up-tempo passages with confidence.

That is an indicator that it's not quite heavy on its feet - which it is - but underlying that there is muscularity to the sound. It's a quality which was encapsulated on Bjork's 'Black Lake', which combines the Icelandic singer's distinctive, breathy vocals with some low frequencies that are serious. Both were very much in evidence using the bass sounding tight managed and powerful, so providing a firm - through the 8300A although not over-intrusive foundation for the midband and treble. I catch the emotion as the song and really could hear the layers in the music.

It was a presentation that is very nuanced.

On Daft Punk's 'Random Access Memories' (24bit/88.lkHz) through a set of Quad S2 standmounts it had a broad and involving soundstage, plus enough grip to get these little 'speakers singing. It's a pairing costing without source around GBP1600 - but playing 'Get Lucky' through this blend revealed it is a strong partnership with a top, clarity and also detail to bottom sense of realism.

Substituting the Quads for a group of Quadral Chromium Style 8 floorstanders (see review next issue) showed the 8300A has the ability to bring the best out of more pricey transducers. The Quadrals are fairly unbiased and that sits well with the Audiolab's fundamentally natural sound - meaning you're able to listen to just what your source is doing.

A large, wide soundstage never became diffuse, setting instruments in a fixed, position that was believable.

In absolute terms there is possibly not the outright drive of something an Exposure 30I0S2D, both of which are rhythmically propulsive. But by comparison, the Audiolab seems slightly less dirty and open. There is nc wrong or right here - just a matter of which presentation you prefer in your system.

The phono section can be no simple afterthought, working well with both MM and MC cartridges. Again, it is nicely even and balanced having a good awareness of detail retrieval plus a tonality that is fairly smooth. No, it will not compete with a good GBP600 standalone phono it was quite striking.

Which is a good description of the entire operation of the Audiolab 8300A. It's an open, revealing amplifier with a sophisticated sound and enough power to drive demanding loudspeakers.

Add in its ease of use, build quality and extra features such as the MM/MC phono stage plus it makes a really remarkable case for itself. It's one of the finest you can discover at this price level.


Anyone searching for a fully-featured integrated amplifier for less than £1000 only needs to place the Audiolab 8300A at the very top of their list. It has power, poise and precision in equivalent measure and is a joy to listen to. Highly recommended.

Audiolab 8300A Amplifier photo