Atoll IN300 - quick review
In 2017 I was invited by a friend to experience Axpona - and what fun it was! I listened to many rooms...some good, some not so good, and some pretty great. One room that caught my ear early was the Atoll and Atohm room, where I heard the Atoll IN300 integrated amp powering Atohm GT2 speakers. The tonality and overall presentation overwhelmed me in a big way and I made several return visits to the room to refresh and level set my ears. In essence, the setup became my reference. I’m not a rich guy, but the price point of the system put it on my "maybe someday" wish list.
This Christmas my "maybe someday" day came - or, at least, the start of it.
My current system has appeased me for a good 15 years, but I know its shortcomings. It’s been "good enough" to tide me over for quite a while - I’m not the "box swapper" type. I’m using Focal Chorus 807V "bookshelves" on their matching stands, and have been using a Luxman MX-100 amplifier to drive them. Source has been an Apple TV *gasp* fed over HDMI into a Denon AVR, out its preamp outputs and on to the Luxman powering the Focals. I was always pretty happy with the simple system overall. The imaging was acceptable...the midrange always had a bit of bloat in the ~400hz-ish range which bugged me if I bypassed the AVR’s room correction...but with Audyssey it was again, acceptable. The bass was, well, they’re bookshelves...
I decided it was time to move up from the bookshelves and to some "big boy" floor standers - and of course the Atohm GT2 HD is what I want since experiencing them at Axpona...and if that’s what I’m getting, I want them powered by Atoll. And so I went on a pursuit to purchase an IN300 - the same integrated I heard at Axpona driving the GT2 - in preparation of ultimately replacing the Focals with Atohm. I did find a localish dealer and made the purchase.
Let me tell you this. After 15 years or so with the Luxman powering my Focals, I’m very familiar with what the system does in terms of staging and imaging, and of course tonality. I expected a slight improvement moving to the Atoll with its dual mono layout, but what I was mostly expecting was a tonality change. And change it did - in a big way. The midrange hump was gone and I’m left with a neutral transparent and lifelike midrange, silky smooth airy treble, and much more controlled midbass. As I mentioned, I expected some tonality changes, but what I DIDN’T expect was the incredible change in staging and imaging. The different was stark. Night and day. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I’d also changed my speakers. Where the stage width ended at the speakers previously, I now have stage boundary extremities 3ft beyond the speakers. The 3D front-to-back dimensionality also increased substantially, and the imaging is now spooky good. Where I felt I had a reasonably stable center image before...not even in the same ballpark to what I have now.
With the IN300’s on-board AKM AK4490 DAC I’m now able to fully experiment with high resolution playback on the system, which is something I’ve been doing with headphones for a bit, but not with the previous configuration. Also, I’ve kept the AVR in line and am feeding the IN300’s "bypass" inputs with it, so for TV/movies, etc, it acts as a simple amp. But when I want music...the IN300 as the DAC/preamp is pretty amazing.
I figured I’d be wanting to pull the trigger on the Atohm GT2 HD speakers pretty quickly after receiving the Atoll piece, but I’m going to take a minute to enjoy what this initial piece has done to transform what I’ve got. Super happy at the moment!