Streaming amplifiers have become a very popular segment in hi-fi with some heavy hitters in the category from Naim, Cambridge Audio, NAD, Bluesound, and Audiolab; the combination of DAC, streamer, phono stage, headphone amplifier, and integrated amplifier makes for a very compelling option for consumers.
People love simplicity and one-box systems that they can control with a tablet or smart phone. As much as audiophiles love separates on a rack, the mainstream music listener wants something with a small footprint and a pair of loudspeakers. The brand new Audiolab Omnia Streaming Amplifier is designed to meet those home stereo needs.
One of our favorite affordable integrated amplifiers is the Audiolab 6000A; it has been the cornerstone of my bedroom system for a few years working its sonic magic with a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 10.1 speakers and other bookshelf loudspeakers that I’ve had under review. It’s definitely on the neutral side but proven to be a workhorse that can also be used as a preamplifier and DAC. The included MM phono stage is one of the best aspects of the design and a great match with warmer sounding cartridges.
Audiolab’s matching CDT6000 CD Transport works fabulously well with the 6000A; they are the same size and can be placed on one shelf together for a very compact system.
Where the 6000A stumbles slightly is in the streamer category. You can use Bluetooth to stream music from TIDAL or Qobuz but you’re not exactly listening to those digital streams with the kind of sound quality you would expect.
Audiolab introduced the 6000A Play Streaming Amplifier which is the meshing of the 6000A and a network amplifier but it still requires the matching CDT6000 if you want to listen to CDs.
Enter the Audiolab Omnia.
The Omnia is a total one-box system (minus loudspeakers and turntable) that supports DSD, MQA, and is Roon-Tested. The internal phono stage is derived from the section inside the 6000A and supports MM cartridges.
The Class AB amp produces 50 watts per channel which is comparable to the 6000A Integrated Amplifier.
The pre-amp section works fully independently, letting you add your choice of active speakers or a more powerful power amplifier.
If you’re looking for a network amplifier with a dedicated headphone amplifier, you’re in luck with the Audiolab Omnia; the independent, current feedback amplifier supports a wide range of headphones from 20 – 600 ohms.
There are multiple optical, coaxial, and USB digital inputs (and 1 coaxial output) and 3 analog RCA inputs.
The Omnia is equipped with a 4.3 inch, TFT color display, that also displays real-time VU metres, letting you keep a track on the dynamic peaks from your music.
Two aspects of the design give us pause. The decision to use DTS Play-Fi which is not a gapless platform and the absence of an HDMI output. The Play-Fi iOS/Android app streams through your smartphone and the platform creates annoying gaps of silence (4-5 seconds) in-between tracks. Classical fans will hate this feature.
There’s no Apple AirPlay, or Chromecast built-in either. Spotify Connect does work on the Omnia which will satisfy those who use the streaming service.
The real question for us is how the Omnia compares to the 6000A/6000CDT or 6000A Play/6000CDT combinations for around the same amount of money.
The Audiolab Omnia retails for €1799 / $2,299 and is available in black or silver.
For more information. audiolab.co.uk/omnia
Where to buy: $2,299 at Crutchfield