In broad terms this is a very nice piece of equipment. The soundstage is big and powerful and presents a formidable sound
This is review of the Arcam FMJ A29 integrated amplifier. It is an excellent piece of equipment, very generously priced, built on Arcam’s preferred Class G amplification technology. The Arcam FMJ A29 Amplifier is a simple no fuss analogue integrated amplifier with many inputs, including a built in MM input.
An interlude on my understanding of Amplifier Classes
The simplest audio amplifiers are single-ended and Class A; that is they make use of just one output transistor which is always conducting, irrespective of the output signal waveform. Class A has good to excellent linearity, therefore low distortion, but low efficiency. In my view they are input, amplify, output, no fuss. Class A are characterised by higher fidelity but hotter running.
Class G is an amplifier class where, in the interests of higher efficiency, the output stage’s supply voltages are varied according to the signal level. This is because music’s peak to average amplitude ratio is generally quite high – typically 3 to 1 – so the full power supply voltage is only rarely needed. Thus Class G amplifiers are more efficient, run cooler but are still conducive to hi fidelity music amplification, therefore presumably, more effective consistent running.
Arcam FMJ A29
So, Arcam have gone Class G with the range of amplifier FMJ products, of which the Arcam FMJ A29 is one. This amplifier is clearly aimed as a TV accompaniment because there are many inputs, variously labelled AV, PVR, SAT, BD and then Tuner, CD and Phono for the classic types. There is a Pre Out and a Record Out for tape players. There is also a useful power socket for an irDAC II (i.e, digital stuff) or other component from the r Series.
The quality of this product is excellent. It is actually quite heavy for its standard size and I was quite surprised. Out of the box the A29 comes out fighting, I’ve run mine in a bit and it is sounding better, as you might expect.
Dimensions W x D x H (including feet) 433 x 275 x 85mm
Weight (net) 9.2kg
I am running a beautiful Rega P3 (not the new Planar 3, sadly) into the Arcam FMJ A29’s MM input, for this you need to fiddle about a fraction to switch the phono input to MM from a line input but it is no problem and makes perfect sense. I am also running a T+A CD player into the CD and the DAC 8 is running in FLAC and other files into the A29. I’m using my well worn but soft B&W CM7 speakers to output. All in all a nicely balanced and priced test rig (in my humble opinion!).
There is a nice remote control that is better than most so no complaints there. I have barely used it if I am honest, it has a mute which is always useful if the phone goes. The remote can be configured to control Arcam’s range of Blu-Ray disc players, apparently.
The front of the A29 is very intuitive with a mute button, balance control and a display off option, that I like. There is the obligatory Line In AUX at the front for mp3 players etc. and a headphones out that is the rather annoying (only to me, it seems) 3.5mm jack plug.
In broad terms, whilst possibly lacking some excitement and verve, this is a very nice piece of equipment. The soundstage is big and powerful and presents a formidable sound, the Phono stage built in is a real treat and the RP3 matches up nicely. With CDs the performance is equally impressive with plenty of resolution to hear and DAC input, that I put into the AV input, was very clear and satisfactory. One of my favourite pieces for listening to detail is Jamie Cullum’s ‘Gran Torino’ of which I have a high quality FLAC recording on file. Using the T+A DAC 8 all of the resolution is here and it is very satisfying indeed.
The Aux In with an old style iPod is functional and fine, not special but it will do a good job for those instances when you want to turn up a YouTube video at a party after a couple.
Despite my general annoyance at 3.5mm headphone jacks, using a pair of Oppo PM-3s with a meter of cable the headphone output is well above par at this level.
As I say, the CD input is fine and is very detailed and ‘big’. Channel separation is very clear as Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ demonstrates. Dynamically there is plenty of power and flexibility on show here; Stevie Ray Vaughn’s electric guitars are well presented here. With a slightly more aggressive track, for example Zomboy’s EDM classic ‘Terror Squad’ (explicit lyrics!), a limit is found at greater volume, but that is fine if you know where it is. Like driving round a corner? However, overall I am satisfied with the dynamic performance from this amplifier. Resolution is very good and rhythm is generally good.
This is actually very nice indeed , a very competent place to enter the HiFi world if this is your budget. Do I sound surprised? I shouldn’t be. Arcam has done a pretty good job of introducing HiFi to a wider audience who are discerning with cash output. The rSeries of digital peripherals, such as the ir DAC II and the rPlay would complement this product very nicely indeed on the digital side and would set the listener on a fine path for future upgrade. I am always going to want ‘the one up from this’ and I do recall liking the younger brother to this, the Arcam A19. I recall wishing for a bit more fire power. The A29 has more fire power. Paired with a nice pair of speakers, and the CDS27, this is a really nice place to start. I do note, however, the Arcam FMJ A39, ‘the one up’, does look rather nice!
Loads of inputs
Very generous price
A little more bounce and verve
The Arcam FMJ A29 SRP is £849