An Amp with a Pedigree
Adding the RDA-7.1 amplifier was quite the interesting revelation. Usually, exchanging one good amplifier for another does not make a huge difference in a system, but the RDA-7.1 definitely had its own unique sound that is quite different from that of my reference Parasound/Halo A51 amplifier. The Integra has a very delicate sound with gentle microdynamics, and a slightly laid-back midrange, which turned out to match very nicely with the somewhat more forceful midrange sound of the Kevlar midrange drivers used in the B&W 800 speaker system. Overall, the presentation was very spacious, clear, and open on the top end, with bass drive that was quick, but not as strong as with my A51. Although the RDA-7.1 had a strong grip on the drivers, and showed excellent rhythm and drive, it ultimately did not have quite the level of oomph of the A51. This may be a case where the power-hungry B&W 802D speakers want the extra power of the A51, but the difference was not significant enough to decrease my enjoyment. The Integra really is an interesting, excellent amp, and its BAT pedigree shines through. This is an audiophile’s multichannel amp, and although it does a beautiful job with movies, it is really at its best when playing multichannel music.
Putting It Together
Using the whole integrated system was a very rewarding experience. Playing Diana Krall’s SACD When I Look In Your Eyes [Verve] was a true delight. There was the dark background that is so necessary for jazz music, the beautiful smooth midrange that allows her voice to just ooze off the speakers, and that wonderful top end to make the cymbals and snare drum sound just as if they are in the same room with you. The sheer delicacy of this system’s sound makes it one that discriminating listener must audition. As with most good music systems, this one was also good at home theater. Watching the action film Sahara was a delight; the system easily kept up with the film’s large-scale action sequences. Clear and well-delineated dialogue and other center-channel information are critical to our enjoyment of movies, and the Integra system aced that test. The amplifier didn’t break a sweat driving all my speakers in the action sequences. Picture quality was uniformly excellent. Integra Research’s flagship hometheater components bring modular construction, excellent performance, good aesthetics, and audiophile quality sound to the table for a reasonable price. Together, these components, have earned my strong and enthusiastic recommendation