Onkyo A-5VL Stereo Integrated Amplifier Review

Audiophile Amp from Onkyo

Onkyo A-5VL Integrated Amplifier. Onkyo

Although home theater components dominate store shelves, stereo components are gaining popularity once again. Onkyo, no stranger to stereo receivers and amps, is taking advantage of this trend with the A-5VL Integrated Amplifier. The A-5VL is a well-built stereo integrated amplifier with audio features and sonic performance focused on high quality two-channel reproduction.

Features

The Onkyo A-5VL has five analog inputs including phono (switchable for moving magnet or moving coil cartridges), tuner, CD, a tape loop and a stereo Dock input for an optional Onkyo iPod dock.

The Dock input is compatible with the Onkyo RI (Remote Interactive) Dock, which means the iPod can be operated via the amplifier's remote control. Unlike many analog-only integrated amps, the A-5VL includes two digital inputs, coaxial and optical for a CD player or other digital audio components such as the Onkyo C-S5VL SACD/CD player. A Direct Mode switch bypasses the bass, treble and balance controls.

Its black front panel is uncluttered and logically organized with a large motorized volume control, although it lacks an illuminated indicator or even a mark on the knob, which makes it difficult to see the volume level from a distance. The input selector is not motorized so the input must be changed manually. Neither of these is a performance issue, but made it necessary for me to frequently get up from my comfortable listening position to select a source and see where the volume control was set – in reality, I could use the exercise anyway.

Under the Hood

The Onkyo A-5VL may be modestly powered, but lifting this solidly built, 22.5-pound amplifier suggests that it has a very potent 40-watts x 2. According to the owner's manual the amp can drive a speaker as low as 2 ohms impedance, so it is likely compatible with a wide variety of speakers.

Low impedance capability is a reliable sign of a stable amplifier because lower speaker impedance requires the amplifier to deliver greater current to the speakers. It also has Speaker A and B outputs with gold-plated terminals for two pair of speakers or for bi-wiring a single stereo pair of speakers.

A look under the hood reveals dual-mono construction with independent left and right channel power supplies (see photo). Separate power supplies provide better separation because each channel operates independently and it prevents either channel from overtaxing the power supply during musical peaks compared to a single power supply that delivers power to both channels.

The A-5VL employs Burr-Brown 192 kHz/24-bit digital to analog converters for CD and SACD reproduction and features Onkyo's VLSC (Vector Linear Shaping Circuitry) digital circuitry, which reduces digital pulse noise by correcting the output of the digital to analog converters in the amplifier. According to Onkyo, the analog output of the digital to analog converters is virtually free of digital pulse noise.

Real World Listening

I tested the Onkyo A-5VL with the Onkyo C-S5VL SACD/CD player and a pair of Focal 807V bookshelf speakers with a sensitivity spec of 92 dB.

The A-5VL had enough power for the Focal speakers even at moderate to higher listening levels.

While listening to Marta Gomez in "Cielito Lindo" (SACD, Chesky Records) it was clear that the Onkyo sounded very clean with excellent mid and high frequency detail, an open midrange and truly musical sound qualities. The details in her voice, including the rolling 'Rs' and the subtle sounds of fingers on the guitar strings was very revealing. Even more compelling was the wide and deep soundstage in this recording. The Onkyo amp was a nice complement to the revealing and transparent midrange qualities of the Focal speakers.

The Onkyo amp easily captured the warm analog character in Sara Ks. "Miles Away" (CD, Chesky Records){C} as well as a very broad soundstage. The Onkyo amp and SACD player and the Focal speakers is a well-matched system and I found myself drawn into the music.

I compared the Burr-Brown 192 kHz/24-bit DACs in the amplifier (optical digital connection) and the Wolfson 192 kHz/24-bit DACs in the Onkyo SACD/CD player (analog audio connection) and preferred the slightly greater detail and better soundstage in the Burr-Brown DACs. I am splitting hairs because the DACs in both components sounded very good but I preferred the Burr-Brown DACs in the amp.

The Onkyo A-5VL is designed for critical listening and will reward you with a rich, detailed musical experience even with its demure 40-watts per channel.

Conclusions

 

Pros

  • Great sounding amplifier; very musical and natural with excellent soundstage and transparency
  • Dual mono power supplies
  • DACs sound great

Cons

  • No input selection via remote control
  • Lacks illuminated volume control indicator

Traditional stereo enthusiasts, such as myself, will be pleased with an affordable two-channel component that brings out the very best in stereo recordings, even though home theater components appear to rule the day.

The Onkyo A-5VL integrated amp would be a good choice for a medium-sized two channel system with relatively efficient loudspeakers, 92 dB or higher. It lacks a motorized input selector and an illuminated volume control, but for the performance minded listener these are minor distractions. It's a very clean sounding amplifier with excellent detail and a natural, musical sound quality and its dual mono power supplies provide excellent performance. Its audio features are designed for audiophile at an affordable price of $699.

It could be matched with a pair of moderately priced bookshelf speakers for a stereo system less than $1,500. For an additional $499, pair the amp with Onkyo's companion C-S5VL SACD/CD player for a top-notch stereo system. Add the Onkyo T-4555 AM/FM HD Radio and XM ready tuner for a package that will outperform many stereo receivers.

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Specifications

  • Power Output: 40-watts x 2 (8 ohms, 1kHz, 2 channels driven, 0.08% THD)
  • Damping Factor: 60 (1 kHz, 8 ohms)
  • Frequency response: 5 Hz – 60 kHz (+1, -3 dB, CD input)
  • Signal to Noise ratio: 100 dB (CD, IHF-A)
  • Speaker Impedance: 2 – 16 ohms
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 17 1/8" x 3 1/8" x 13 3/8"
  • Weight: 22.5 lbs.
  • Price: $699.00
  • Contact: www.onkyousa.com

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