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This review first appeared in the December 2008 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or Astintrew. - Ed.

Reviewer: Martin Mertens
Sources: Creek CD 43 Mk II, Logitech Transporter
Amplification: Jadis Orchestra, Myryad MXI2080
Loudspeakers: Expolinear T 120, Thiel CS 2.4
Cables: low-level Vampire CC, high-level inakustik LS 1002
Review component retail: €1800

Clichés are fun stuff. Who hasn't indulged heated discussions in circles of friends only to show off his 'knowledge' exclusively through popular clichés? German cars are powerful and solid, Italian cars have killer cosmetics but no reliability, Frenchies are softly sprung and rust easily and you'd best stay away from Brit efforts - unless you buy two since one will always be in for repair. Since clichés are widespread to simplify our lives, we also have 'em in hifi. Japanese amps are solid but shrill, Yanks strut power and are usually overbuilt, the English are warm with little power. Certain clichés ignite routinely, such as whether Italian automobiles truly have it or whether Brit amps get closer to the truth.

Which gets us on topic, namely Brit amps. They've been legendary since the 80s when the first good-sounding though somewhat freakily put together boxes challenged the supremacy of Japanese integrated amps and the concomitant faith in specmanship. To mention a few, one recalls the Naim Nait, Mission Cyrus One, Musical Fidelity A1 and NAD 3020. Common to all was a blasé attitude toward power, distortion and S/N figures, Japanese material worship and cosmetics which annihilated any hopes of assembling a visually integrated hifi rig.

In matters of output power, measurements, visual flair and features, the integrateds from the rainy isle nearly created an antithesis to the competitors from the land of the rising sun: little power, comparatively poor test bench behavior, idiosyncratic design, missing features (no tone controls, the most basic of speaker terminals or worse, DIN plugs) and occasionally shoddy fit'n'finish. Eccentricity ran rampant but surprise - the bloody things sounded fantastic, took on the Far-Eastern establishment like rabid dogs and fundamentally altered our audiophile weltbild.

Since then, BritFi has enjoyed high if not universal renown. Many firms which then were little more than garage operators have become today's establishment. The stark minority continues to produce domestically. Most have shifted to China, Taiwan or wherever labor is cheap and environmental controls lax. Yet development and marketing tend to remain in the UK. Ditto for
Astintrew whose machines are conceived in England but built in China. Though a Johnny-come-lately in the scheme of things, Michael Osborn's team has already delivered applauded kit like the pre/power combo At1000/5000. The At2000 is the latest integrated from these up'n'comers. And because one does well to occasionally question one's clichés, I will use this review to verify my preconceptions on the subject of Brit kit.

The first cliché: English amps are poorly or at least idiosyncratically styled. Cosmetically, the
Astintrew line implements massive chassis with black or silver fascias punctuated centrally with a kind of dark acrylic window to show model-specific display data. With CD players like the At3500, this window also includes the drawer, with integrateds the volume control. The appearance is fine but the black At2000 tester wouldn't win a design award from yours truly. With hifi fashion cycling through silver, gold, Titanium or graphite trim, I don't care as long as it's black. But insistent types may get a silver front today. To cross off the first cliché, the Astintrew incorporates recent design trends in color and materials as one finds it in similar machines of dissimilar origin. Hence the At2000 is far from exotic (or eccentric if you will).

Cliché No. 2: Brit amps are shoddily put together. The At2000's build is solidity itself, with a chassis from strong aluminum plates weighing 12kg and stout controls and connections. The machine barely gets warm over the long haul. The included remote with aluminum top and precisely sprung controls spells quality. For my money, the
Astintrew At2000 aces this preconception with a vengeance.

Cliché No. 3: Brit amps miss vital features. The stock remote controls all essential functions like volume, inputs, muting and even display brightness from bright to dim to off. A matching CDP may be operated from the same wand. The At2000 is full-featured also with its display which shows the active input and numerical volume setting. Adjacent to the chunky volume control are individual buttons for various functions, with the source selector requiring sequential prompts to shuttle through the sources which aren't accessible directly. Further buttons control display brightness, remote mode (more on that below), power amp mode and mute. There's also a 6.3mm earspeaker socket and 3.5mm plugs for small headphones and portable devices like MP3 players. Loaded for bear is the rear which, besides the power IEC inlet and speaker outputs, sports four low-level RCA inputs, a fixed record out, a variable pre-out, a main input, a mono sub output and even a pair of XLR i/o ports.

Lest you think that's it, additional socketry goes multi-room. Ethernet ports can connect two additional At2000s and the master remote not only will control those, even CD prompts will be forwarded bi-directionally. Let's assume your system is in the living room but you want quality sound also in the home office. Now you can put together a complete second system with an At2000 and matching At3500 CD player in the den plus a second At2000 with Ethernet links. The At2000 in the office can now control the CD player in the den and since a third At2000 may be accommodated, you can envision the possibilities. Ergo, in matters of trim, the At2000 is more than fully featured and offers an attractive multi-room expansion path.

Cliché No.4: Brit amps adopt funky circuitry. The At2000 list of circuit details is lengthy, hence I'll mention just three - the Never Connected power supply, the valve driver stage and the balanced-signal handling.
Astintrew is heavy on power supplies because what exits the speaker terminals is what entered through the AC inlet simply modulated by the music signal. Hence discussions on power cables, outlet boxes, AC wall sockets or power mains fuses. To cheap out on an amp's power supply would compromise its most fundamental raison d'être. Thus many amplifiers adopt multi-stage solutions, dual-mono transformers and discrete regulator circuits to scale up costs. Astintrew avoids those with their "Never Connected Isolating Power Supply". That employs just a few high-rated parts to effectively separate power deliveries to individual stages. The money saved on multiple transformers is invested into the ECC82 driver stage for the output transistors which also decouples the input and power buffer stages; and the special That Corporation ICs which create the symmetrical i/o feeds. For this cliché, the Astintrew does go its own way in certain regards.

Cliché No. 5: Brit amps have little power.
Astintrew claims 65 RMS watts into 8 ohms. Compared to other integrateds in this price class, that isn't much but compared to Brit precedents, it's conventional and where most single-ended triodes are concerned, a lot. While the At2000 even at elevated levels had no issues with my modestly efficient Expolinear T120s, I'd not mate it to known power mongers. This amp isn't a beef cake. A few words on the electronic volume control whose setting is confirmed on the display. Below 20, I don't hear a thing over my speaker. At 50, music is subdued. 70 gets me to room level. And when 96 maxes out, it isn't due to limitations of my speakers or ears but the amp's red line. To show my hand early, the amp's bass could be a bit more dynamic and articulated. Experience shows that more powerful amps exert a firmer grip on woofers than weaker colleagues. The fifth cliché determines that at 65wpc, the At2000 exceeds a few legendary predecessors to be sufficient for most 'normal' applications.

Cliché No. 6: Brit amps are musical and warm. So what's it sound like? To counter the dreary Berlin weather, I kicked off with some swing, Caterina Valente's "Lullaby of Broadway" from one of my all-time fave CDs, Caterina Valente in London. Usually that track compels the toe tapping yet the At2000 playback is a bit more restrained even though the BigBand sound per se is solidly in the room. The amp handles the complex material without confusion, each instrument's character discrete and Mme. Valente's voice strong and compelling - but overall, it's more understatement than luminous power. That trait remained constant with various program material. Smooth Jazz is a strong point. The Lisa Bassenge Trio's expertly recorded "A Sigh, a Song" conveys each piano attack in minute detail, with Lisa's voice unbelievably emphatic and the At2000 honoring each nuance. Merely the strongly popping bass strings could have been more incisive and powerful. But bass brutality and impact aren't the amp's chief virtues. Nor are special effects. The focus is on honesty and a keenly developed flair for the subtle where competitors of fierier temperaments tend to brush over routinely.

This does not mean that the Astintrew bores. Au contraire. Music's internal tension is fully conveyed. As listener, I simply tended to melt rather than bop away. Now you'll suspect a somewhat saucy sound but again, the unadorned clarity is quite the opposite. Impulse happiness except for the bass is fundamentally accurate without soft focus. Check out "Tango" from Ofrin's On Shore Remain which shows the At2000 plenty quick and detailed when required. Should you favor more conservative stuff, I'm a softie for the vibraphone on "Summer Samba" of Lyambiko's eponymous album, a good antidote to weather misery. Over the At2000, my fling with this tune nearly turns addiction. If you prefer the classics, cue up Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto No. 5 on vinyl whose Clifford Curzon had his favored Steinway concert grand flown to the Vienna Philharmonic. After listening with the At2000, you'll not consider this extravagance unseemly in the least. As attuned to detail resolution as
the At2000 is, what always remains in the foreground is musical connectivity. Each nuance is embedded in context. Hence one never suspects the analytical and instead remains solidly on the side of music. Ditto for soundstaging. The At2000 casts the whole into your room rather than feverishly dissecting the stage into individuated locations.

Astintrew’s At2000 is musical and, when measured against emphasized highs and FX dynamics, also warm. Measured against musical truth, the At2000 is very honest but less an amp for audiophile bean counters and more a ticket for pleasure animals. The only lack I noted was ultimate bass control and here and there a few watts of power. Considering the stunningly coherent presentation and the realism of instruments and particularly vocals, such minor limitations were barely demerits. So the Astintrew At2000 does celebrate a bit of individuality with non-excessive power, a few uncommon circuitry details and, most of all, a sonic character which squarely serves musical enjoyment. Highly British then!

The Astintrew At2000 will match your needs if you...
  • Value music over effects.
  • Don't mean to accompany parties or at least can provide sensitive loudspeakers.
  • Want music in more than one room.
  • Don't insist on whippersnapper bass.


  • Category: Hybrid integrated amplifier
  • Dimensions and weight: 430 × 110 × 370mm (WxHxD) / 12kg
  • Trim: Silver or black
  • Power: 2 x 65 Watt (RMS)
  • Other: multi-room ready; pre/power separation, headphone sockets, sub out, XLR i/o ports, tube drivers
  • Website