Musical Fidelity A1 Integrated Amplifier

Musical Fidelity A1 Integrated Amplifier

The original Musical Fidelity A1 was an absolute classic in the mid-80s. When I bought my NAD 3020e around 1986/7, it was the NAD, the A1 or the Audiolab 8000 to choose from. Admittedly the NAD was the budget choice (I was shelling out for a pair of JPW P1s as well) but from that point, I have never looked back.

I can’t be sure, but I am fairly certain that apart from price, I chose the NAD as it was Class AB, offering ‘more for less’ over the straight Class A A1 and the Audiolab (which was/is also Class AB).

NAD has updated their 3020 in the last few years unrecognisably with a super Class D upgrade, however, Musical Fidelity has reverted to type with a full Class A update, retaining the original chassis design style. As far as I recall the modern price differential is still quite notable; this A1 is at that very competitive fifteen hundred pounds level where it competes with many players (see Thoughts section, below).


This Musical Fidelity A1 integrated amplifier is a straight analogue unit with no digital options built in. The A1 has 25 W/channel of pure Class A power (8 Ohms) on tap utilising two output transistors. It could be reasonably called a dynamic Class A integrated as it ‘slides’ into Class AB output if required (up to 40W into 4 Ohms). The basic advantage of Class A is its simplicity broadly. There is less distortion through the amplification stage because the output transistors are always on, so there is no crossover distortion in the sine wave signal path.

The A1 unit has been upgraded from the original 1985 version (and a few iterations in the meantime) with a new dual-wired transformer with a ‘dual mono split rail’. This transformer is claimed to be more efficient than before and supports supply separately to both channels, improving ‘stereo imaging’. There are also new Planar Audio transistors rated to offer 25 Amps output.

The preamplifier stage is the same as the 1985 version with a gain bypass that reduces the output by 10dB. I used this feature on my old NAD, and it affords the opportunity to push more power through with a lower gain, apparently improving performance. There is also a new premium ALPS RK series potentiometer, that is now motorised. This enables a new infrared remote control to be included that manages volume only.

Musical Fidelity A1 Integrated Amplifier

The top of the Musical Fidelity A1 is a heat sink.

Finally, the chassis has been redesigned to manage the considerable heat output. The whole of the top is ribbed to manage the waste heat.

On the input side, there is an MM/MC Phono stage and 5 x RCA inputs, the output is 4mm banana-style loudspeaker binding posts. There is also a Tape Out and Pre Out as well, the latter could be used with a headphone amplifier as there is no headphones output here.


This unit is solid, and nicely put together. The rear of the unit has a centimetre overhang that hampers accurate input and output setup but there we are. Overall, the unit is sleek and classy looking, the blue lighting is very cool indeed in the dark.

The whole of the top of the unit is the ribbed heat sink so you’re not leaving CDs on the top due to the heat dissipation. The volume and selection knobs are very responsive indeed, they are ribbed for grip and plastic, I guess due to the potential heat issue if they were metal. No problem.

The remote is metal, small but classy, handling volume control and mute only.

The dimensions (WxHxD) of the Musical Fidelity A1 are; 440 x 68.3 x 283.3 mm. It weighs 10.5kg.

The A1 is thirsty being Class A with a maximum consumption of 130W. Musical Fidelity quote 0W in standby, implying you should switch it off when not in use!

The price of the A1 is £1, 499, Henley Audio has a list of approved dealers here.

The full specification is here.


Review Equipment

Musical Fidelity A1

Musical Fidelity A1 with Eversolo DMP-A6, and Rega RP3 with Audiolab 7000CDT

I’m using the Eversolo DMP-A6 as my streaming DAC. It has had several recent updates which is impressive on the support side. Though it is a bit brighter or livelier than most, the combination with the A1 should take the edge off. I have an Audiolab CD transport into the Eversolo using the TOSLink optical input. I use Atlas Mavros interconnects and loudspeaker cables with Grun to the wall. The A1 is driving the peerless Kudos Titan 505s that are 6 Ohms, they are free, agile, and fast with excellent resolution.


I’m just turning the power on this thing on and off when required. As a Naim Fanboy, I’m used to just leaving my NAC and NAP on 24/7. After about half an hour of listening this thing is quite hot and you do not want to leave a CD on top of it. After several hours of prolonged use, this A1 is screaming hot, and I love it.

Musical Fidelity A1 Integrated Amplifier

Rear overhang

The overhang at the rear is unnecessary and quite annoying as I’m hooking inputs and outputs in leaning over from the front. It reminds me of the Micromega M150, one of my earlier reviews! Of course, once you’re up and running, the overhng is irrelevant.

The remote is quick, responsive and very accurate, it is smooth and very tactile; it works in Normal and Direct Mode. It is my new favourite remote control, bettered only the Moor Amps preamplifier remote control.

Sound Quality

…dynamically the system is on point. This is a long listening soundstage…

As mentioned, the Eversolo DAC is brighter up in the treble in my view, but it has bags of resolution, it is extremely revealing in this respect. This is a nice combination overall and the warmth of the amplifier’s Class A presentation is clear. There is no edge or glare to the tone of the amplifier and there is no harshness. It feels this amplifier might be a pretty good partner to an easy-driving Klipsch-style horned speaker and this is something I’d quite like to explore.

Listening to a very familiar piano track, Nils Frahm’s Some (a 24-bit download from his site from the onboard SSD library in the Eversolo is wonderfully presented. The fizzing energy of the recording is all there and it is a really special and atmospheric presentation.

Turning to streaming and Wish You Were Here (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit 192kHz), the soundstage is bold and punchy, there is little left behind. I do note the sneeze in the left channel at the beginning of the track doesn’t quite come through with the same surprise or clarity as it does with the Moor Amps but then it is several times the price with the preamplifier so what would you expect?

Overall, this presentation is pretty laid back and I like it, it is long listening. Even the likes of Everything in its Right Place (Qobuz FLAC 16-bit, 44.1kHz) are chilled which is interesting and the remainder of the album slips by in perfect harmony. Even The National Anthem’s jazz section drives through with an engaging ease. The bass line is fabulous in these Titans.

Somehow, with this amplifier, I end up listening to Candy Dulfer’s 12” Pick Up the Pieces from my networked Naim UnitiServe library (Naim WAV Rip 16-bit, 44.1kHz), the track is dynamic and fun, and the A1 does not miss a step.

If we need a wall of sound, it is time for Rage Against the Machine’s, Bombtrack (Qobuz FLAC 24-bit, 44.1kHz), if you like that kind of thing (I don’t). Even here there is good clarity in the mass of noise that I find grinding, I even make it to Wake Up. There is nothing this amplifier cannot deliver, I conclude.

Musical Fidelity A1

Qobuz Playlist for the A1

The key takeaway is there is a fraction of compromise on the resolution but dynamically the system is on point. This is a long listening soundstage that will see you through a long, cold evening (ehem, outside at least!) and for me, I love it.

Musical Interlude

Here’s the Musical Interlude Playlist on Qobuz.

MM Input – Rega RP3

Simply Red

Simply Red- Picture Book

I’m just hooking up my trusty Rega RP3, the one before the latest Planar 3. It is still a very capable turntable and I have the MM Elys 2 cartridge. Therefore, I hook it straight up and make sure the MM button is correctly out. Satisfyingly, there is no cross-talk at all on switching the input knob to Phono whilst the streamer is still going.

It feels like a bit of mid-80s is needed, and what better than Simply Red, Picture Book (1985 Elektra/Asylum Records)? Whatever you think of Mick Hucknell this is one of the great records.

Tony Bowers’ Bass is resolute and deep in Sad Old Red however their best song on the album follows their version of David Byrne’s Heaven (which was co-written with fellow Talking Head Jerry Harrison). Jericho is that song. This is just the most beautiful of tracks, probably about the conflict in relationships, I guess relating them to the stories of Jericho and rebuilding them. As the track concludes, that high hat falls off into the baritone sax and trumpet to a conclusion, perfect. And Holding Back the Years is still to come… The MM Phono section in this amplifier is perfectly acceptable at this level.

Switching back to a vinyl copy of Kid A (the Kid Amnesia Red version on XL Records) again, the warmth of the vinyl with the Class A does do something to you.

Audiovector QR3 loudspeakers

I have a brief interlude with the rather smooth and open Audiovector QR3 loudspeakers. The A1 takes in the mood and delivers more of the same. The AMT ribbon-style tweeter is a lovely match with the A1. The latest QR3 SE loudspeakers are on review here at and the review will come shortly.


I love this amplifier. It is bold, powerful and punchy

I’m conflicted here. I love this amplifier. It is bold, powerful and punchy. I’m just struggling to think who buys this amplifier in the 21st century. It is up against Rega’s ELEX Mk4 at £1200 and even Cyrus Audio’s integrated i7-XR at £1500; these two amplifiers have good DACs built in and a decent MM input. Indeed, Musical Fidelity themselves have the M3si integrated amplifier at £999 or the M5 at £1899, with the same. And that is before you think about the Hegel H95 at £1500.

If you have an existing streaming DAC solution, MM phono stage and a headphone solution, this could be for you. Could you build a system around it? I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that if you are after endless long listening with any speaker this is the one for you, particularly if you have a horned speaker setup.


… give this Class A amplifier a listen.

To mix a metaphor, the A1 paints a great picture, one could argue that close examination of the brush strokes is less accessible but if you look at this image for hours you will fall in love all over again, give this Class A amplifier a listen.

copyright HF&MS Ltd 2024

Long listening
Remote control

Volume control responsive
Pre Out
That MF didn’t compromise with a fan!

No overhang at the rear


Full details are on the company’s site.

+ There are no comments

Add yours

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.