Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Integrated Amps & Stereo Receivers

Arcam RADIA A25 Integrated Amplifier: The Audiophile System Builder

Does the Arcam A25 have what it takes to compete with some excellent integrated amplifiers from Rega, Cambridge Audio, and NAD? So many choices. All of them good.

Arcam Radia A25 Integrated Amplifier with Bluetooth

When ARCAM invited us to London last October for the launch of the new Radia series, we had no idea what to expect because the brand has always maintained a rather conservative approach to its products.

In a departure from the traditional ARCAM black and silver boxes, the Radia series components include bold new “Radia yellow” accents which allow the components to stand out without looking gaudy or ostentatious. The Radia series is comprised of five components: the A5A15, and A25 integrated amps, the CD5 CD player and the ST5 high resolution streamer.

The A25 retails for $1,499 USD and finds itself surrounded by some rather worthy competitors like the Cambridge Audio Evo 75, NAD C 700, and Rega Elex MK4.

Arcam Radia A25 Integrated Amplifier and ST5 Music Streamer Stacked Angle
ARCAM Radia A25 Integrated Amplifier (top) and ST5 Music Streamer (bottom)

The new Radia amplifiers feature the latest Bluetooth aptX Adaptive codec support, internal antennas and multiple analog and digital inputs. Vinyl lovers will be happy to see ARCAM’s signature MM (moving magnet) phono stage on board, so you won’t need a separate phono pre-amp.

The A5 (50 WPC) and A15 (80 WPC) feature efficient Class AB amplifiers and the ESS ES9018 Sabre DAC (Digital/Analog Converter). The A25 (100 WPC) steps up to a Class G amp and the ESS ES9280AQ DAC.

The A25 supports aptX Adaptive Bluetooth, offers three pairs of line-level inputs, and a stereo preamp output.

A USB-C input stands at the ready for your laptop or tablet — and processes up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD1024. The 19.9-pound A25 also includes one optical and two coaxial inputs.

Arcam Radia A25 Rear
Arcam Radia ST5 Rear

The A25 features a seamless integrated OLED display on the front panel. An ARCAM rep at the event told Chris Boylan that the A25 stays in a pure Class A mode up until about 15 watts of output.

ARCAM also sent us the ST5 streamer and whilst it does the job — the A25 has really stolen the show so far.

Tip: Watch our unboxing videos of the A25 and ST5 streamer here.

The industrial design is a significant departure and one that was a huge hit from the moment it was unboxed and setup.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

When you have been doing the same thing for so long, it is hard to break free of that behaviour, and what is clear is that the Radia series is not for its traditional customer base. Both in terms of the look and feel, but also the sonic presentation.

The pricing of the components would also seem to back up that as one could assemble a rather good system for under $3,000 with these components and a pair of loudspeakers.

Arcam Radia ST5 and A25 with JBL L100 Loudspeakers
Harman Luxury Group recommends ARCAM Radia ST5 Streamer and A25 Integrated Amplifier with JBL L100 Loudspeakers Black Edition.

Listening

Most of my listening was done with the A25 connected to the ST5, but the availability of other components allowed me to substitute the new Cambridge Audio CXN100 and WiiM Audio Pro Plus Network Players into the mix as well.

Most people considering the A25 are unlikely to spend almost $1,800 on something like the Pro-Ject X2 B Turntable that we just reviewed, but I wanted to see how the ARCAM’s MM phono stage performed with something like the Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 which is a high output MC and the Goldring E4 (3.5mV) MM Cartridge.

Loudspeakers were the Q Acoustics 5040, Acoustic Energy AE100 MKII, and Q Acoustics 3050i; QED and Chord Company loudspeaker cables were used with all 3 loudspeakers.

Q Acoustics 5040 vs. 3050i Floorstanding Loudspeakers Front
Q Acoustics 5040 (left) vs. 3050i (right)

Almost immediately, the A25 established itself as a very confident and incisive sounding amplifier with a slightly forward sounding presentation.

Listening to Peter Gabriel’s i/o and a steady diet of vocalists including Yishay Ribo, Amy Winehouse, Peggy Lee, Blondie, Sam Cooke, and Jonatan Alvarado, it became apparent that the A25 can hit rather hard in the low end, yet maintain a rather neutral sounding tonal balance throughout the rest of the range.

Alvarado’s “Amargura” (TIDAL, 16-bit/44.1kHz) has such a haunting beauty about it that I’ve made it a regular part of my review playlist; the A25/5040 combination didn’t quite the rival the resolution of the Bowers & Wilkins 703 S3 ($5,999/pair) driven by the Cambridge Audio Edge A ($6,499), but the clarity and detail were excellent at the price and the A25 added some necessary weight and punch in the mid and upper bass giving the system some genuine impact in my 16′ x 13′ x 9′ listening space.

Even as I raised the volume with Blondie and Amy Winehouse, the bass range remained very strong and well controlled and there was no sense of bleed into the lower midrange.

Both male and female vocals were very clean sounding; albeit pushed slightly forward of the rest of the instrumentation.

Winehouse’s “Valerie” has a rather thin sounding top end and it can become somewhat unpleasant with analytical loudspeakers and similar sounding amplifiers.

The A25 definitely exhibits some additional energy in the treble range, but it never came across as too much detail or metallic sounding when listening to percussion or poorly recorded vocals.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

ARCAM A25 Integrated Amplifier Front
ARCAM A25 Integrated Amplifier

The 5040 has a rather detailed sounding tweeter and there was a definite concern that the A25’s additional presence would be too much of a good thing.

With the WiiM Audio Pro Plus, that was most certainly the case.

Using the analog outputs of the Cambridge CXN100, the treble softened somewhat and there was a rather significant uptick in midrange tonal weight giving vocals greater body.

Switching over to vinyl for a few days, it became clear that the included MM phono section is rather competent; the E4 is an extremely clear and detailed sounding cartridge and the A25 added very little to the tonal balance with the exception of added weight and impact in the bass range.

Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 Moving Coil High Output Phono Cartridge
Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 Moving Coil High Output Phono Cartridge

The Sumiko Blue Point No. 3 required a few more steps on the volume control but the change in tonal balance was noticeable; vocals and horns were reproduced with additional layers of texture and the music just felt more cohesive.

The A25 can reproduce a rather wide sounding soundstage with the right pair of loudspeakers and the 5040 obliged.

Because of its incisive presentation, I switched out the Q Acoustics 5040 for the 3050i and the differences confirmed that the A25 could be ideal for warmer sounding loudspeakers that require greater control in the low end, additional transparency in the lower midrange, and some illumination in the treble.

The 3050i’s treble presentation is extremely reserved and polite sounding and very much like the NAD C 316BEE V2, the A25 provided some necessary detail and airiness to the sound.

The Acoustic Energy AE100 MKII performed well with the A25, but with perhaps too little color for my liking; clarity and detail were excellent, but texture felt lacking with vocals and lower string instruments.

Arcam Radia A25 Integrated Amplifier Front Lifestyle
ARCAM Radia A25 Integrated Amplifier

System Building

The ARCAM A25 is a rather confident and dynamic sounding integrated amplifier with a slightly forward sounding presentation and excellent clarity.

The Cambridge Evo series and NAD offer greater tonal weight and a softer sounding treble range, but the ARCAM knows when to hold back just enough to keep the top end airy and detailed without becoming fatiguing.

Could it work with something like the DALI Oberon 5? Possibly, but I would look for both sources and cables that soften the top end somewhat.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Whilst somewhat expensive, the Wharfedale Evo 4.4 or 4.3 might make an exceptional loudspeaker pairing for the A25 for a few reasons.

The overall presentation of both loudspeakers is surprisingly reserved considering the drivers, and both benefit enormously from an amplifier with a strong level of control in the low end and a slightly forward sounding tilt in the midrange and treble.

Bingo.

Both loudspeakers also deliver a wide and spacious sounding presentation and that would work with the ARCAM amplifier.

The Evo 4.4 requires a larger room and a lot more distance from the walls if you are considering it; the bass can be excessive if placed too close to the wall behind it.

One can also find the Evo 4.4 for around $1,798 USD right now and the Evo 4.3 is likely available for around $1,300 USD.

Selecting the Evo 4.3 saves you almost $500 which can applied to something like the Pro-Ject Debut PRO Turntable and the Sumiko Wellfleet MM cartridge which will sound excellent with the A25’s phono section.

But what about the streamer?

The WiiM Audio Pro Plus is too incisive sounding unless the rest of the system is darker sounding, which leaves the ST5 and Cambridge CXN100.

The ST5 is more affordable than the CXN100 by almost $250 but I’m not sure it offers the same level of sound quality.

Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player Front
Cambridge Audio MXN10

The most logical answer for me is the Cambridge MXN10 for $499 USD for the simple reason that it offers so much for the price.

The MXN10 offers the same features and functionality of the larger (and more expensive) Cambridge AXN10 in a much smaller chassis. The goal was to offer a hi-res network player that could be placed out of sight or be integrated more easily into a vintage audio system with a free set of analog inputs. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Downloading the StreamMagic app and installing it properly should not take more than 5 minutes; especially if you have all of your passwords handy. 

Whilst one would probably not describe the app as “slick,” it does provide rather responsive operation that allows one to cycle between streaming platforms without any noticeable lags and searching for albums or tracks is quite simple. 

The app also provides access to built-in internet radio that offers MPEG-DASH support, giving one access to an extensive list of radio stations around the globe. The sound quality listening to radio stations in Israel during the current conflict was excellent and almost on par with the Naim Uniti Atom that we reviewed back in 2021. 

It can also locate and play any music file stored on the same home network, such as from NAS devices connected to your router.

It also thickens up the midrange somewhat and softens the treble just enough to make this a rather logical cost-saving alternative.

Arcam Radio A25 and ST5
Arcam Radio A25 (top) and ST5 (bottom)

Final Thoughts

The more I listen to the ARCAM A25, the greater I appreciate its sense of drive, clarity, spaciousness, and strong control of the bass range.

Where it loses some points with me is in regard to its reproduction of timbre and texture. There is a coolness to the sound in the midrange that almost demands using darker sounding loudspeakers.

Surprisingly, its top end doesn’t take a flying leap off the cliff and that certainly broadens the range of loudspeakers that can be used with it.

Whilst its Bluetooth performance with my iPhone 12 was adequate, one really should invest in a dedicated network streamer like the ST5 or aforementioned Cambridge Audio options; the uptick in resolution, texture, top end detail, and overall reproduction of space is considerable.

ARCAM’s flagship amplifier in the Radia series is a winner to say the least.

Where to buy: $1,499 at Crutchfield (A25) | $799 at Crutchfield (ST5)

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. David

    March 5, 2024 at 1:25 am

    Hi Ian,

    I really do like the industrial design of the Radia amps. Understated elegance with just a small splash of color. Nice.

    I had a listen to Jonatan Alvarado. Beautiful voice!

  2. David

    March 5, 2024 at 1:35 am

    I forgot to mention that it is a shame that many amplifier manufacturers still refuse to board the HDMI ARC train. I do believe they are missing out on a significant portion of the buying public who are ready to ride those audio-video rails (HDMI) to a combination 2-channels tereo and home theater destination.

    Choo-choo!!

  3. Alari

    April 6, 2024 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for the comprehensive review.
    One observation though…
    Why streamer if Arcam A25 has USB-C input? Connect mentioned iPhone 12 with lightning to USB-A adapter and USB-A to USB-C cable… Newer devices (iPads/iPhones) with USB-C can be connected straight to the amp.
    Apple Music have plenty choices to listen high quality albums and tracks but unfortunately doesn’t have options to stream without their proprietary devices.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

HDTV 4K & 8K TV

We got a sneak peak at Sony's 2024 BRAVIA line-up of Mini LED and OLED 4K TVs and soundbars and there's a lot to...

New Products

Sony offers up four new ways to improve TV sound for 2024 which include two BRAVIA soundbars, Theater QUAD and a wearable speaker.

Home Theater

Trinnov's advanced Waveforming bass optimization technology is getting easier to access and use for custom installers and DIY home theater enthusiasts alike.

News

Feeling lucky? Enter for a chance to win a pair of Q Acoustics M40 Wireless Speakers with QED Cables. Must be 18+ and U.S....

Articles

Build a complete audiophile-grade stereo system around the Acoustic Energy AE1 Active Bookshelf Loudspeakers for under $4,000.

Amplifiers

With 300-watts per channel RMS, Goldmund claims Telos 800 is one of the finest Stereo Power Amplifiers ever crafted.

Integrated Amps & Stereo Receivers

2nd generation CXA81 arrives with upgraded DAC and new circuitry for improved depth and stereo imaging for $1,119.

Bookshelf Speakers

In celebration of the beginning of its 50th Anniversary, ATC is proud to announce the forthcoming release of an exclusive new active stand mount...

Advertisement

ecoustics is a hi-fi and music magazine offering product reviews, podcasts, news and advice for aspiring audiophiles, home theater enthusiasts and headphone hipsters. Read more

Copyright © 1999-2024 ecoustics | Disclaimer: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.



SVS Bluesound PSB Speakers NAD Cambridge Audio Q Acoustics Denon Marantz Focal Naim Audio RSL Speakers