About a year ago (in Issue 7) Playback conducted a survey of 10 sub-$1,500 stereo integrated amplifiers with an eye toward discerning which models were the best musical performers under real-world conditions. This month, we continue in the spirit of that original survey to investigate the Anthem Integrated 225 solid-state integrated amp, which is priced at $1,499. As it happens, the “225” in this amplifier’s name is a reference to its power output per channel—output that would have made it by far the most powerful amplifier in our original survey. What is more, the amplifier also claims impressively low distortion and wide bandwidth specifications—both of which are generally useful indicators of sonic potential. The real proof of excellence, however, always comes in the listening (not from reading a specifications sheet), and as you’ll learn in a moment, listening to Anthem’s Integrated 225 is a real joy.
Before we jump into the review proper, some background may be in order. Anthem is a Canadian A/V electronics manufacturer that is the sister brand of Paradigm loudspeakers; the firm is probably best known for its award-winning, home theater-oriented, multichannel audio components (such as the superb Statement D2 controller and Statement P5 multichannel amplifier Playback uses as its references). But in the beginning, Anthem originated as the offshoot of a well-respected Canadian high-end audio company called Sonic Frontiers. Back in the day, Sonic Frontiers catered to a discerning, purist, two-channel audio clientele and made its name by offering components that offered top-tier technologies and sonic refinements but at less-than-stratospheric prices. In a very real sense, then, the Integrated 225 is a product that reaches back to Anthem’s earliest, truest, and deepest roots.
Consider this amplifier if: you want an amp characterized by a robust, full-bodied sound that is, at the same time, beautifully controlled, refined, open, and full of finesse. And man, is this thing ever powerful; you can wade into challenging sonic territory (yep, Gustav Mahler, we’re talking about you) that would make lesser amps fold up and collapse, secure in the knowledge that the Anthem Integrated 225 will back you up every step of the way.
Look further if: you’ve got your heart set on buying an integrated amp that incorporates a top-shelf phono section. While the 225 provides a moving magnet phonostage, and one that has its strengths (a good signal/noise ratio and great bass), the fact is that the phono section is not in the same performance league as the rest of the amp.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced integrated amps)