Review: Arcam Alpha 9 int Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

I picked up the Alpha 9 on clearance (discontinued line) at Audio Concepts in Houston, Texas, about 15 months ago. I think I paid about $500 for it, without the phono card. Prior to this purchase I had been using progressively better receivers, concluding with the Denon AVR 3300. That Denon model is one of the best sounding receivers I have ever heard. It was so clean compared to the previous Sony and Yamaha cheapies, particularly in “Direct” mode, which switches off balance and tonal controls to remove hindrances to the signal. When I hooked up the Arcam to my Paradigm Reference Studio 60’s, my first reaction was a rubberneck at the presence. Everything seemed punchier and more neutral. My brother and I were forced to grin at the voice of Louis Armstrong hanging in the living room. Rock and roll is a lot of fun with this amp. Might not be refined enough for true classical lovers. I have not had much occasion to hear these speakers with many other amps, but what I have heard I would not prefer (Marantz, Anthem). The Arcam sounds ‘alive.’
This said, let’s face it – this is an UGLY amplifier. The plasticky, retro-gone-wrong face plate I liken to an early 70’s garage sale sculpture. But it grows on you. It actually seems kind of ‘groovy’ to me now, especially in comparison to the dry, boring appearance of the Diva line. But who cares about looks, right? My main sonic criticism is that the amp is a bit noisy. At higher volumes, background hiss is more audible than I would like, especially with phono (using later installed phono card - $110). One other annoying aspect is the tight cluster of speaker posts in the back. You cannot use banana plugs, only a special ‘reverse banana’ – the name of these things escapes me. In order to direct wire, you have to ‘thread the needle’ while avoiding the obstacles of the other posts. I later paired it with an Alpha 8P for bi-amping, but I swear I hear a volume difference between the two amps, despite what the Arcam reps said. I am currently searching for a 9P.

Associated gear
Paradigm Reference Studio 60, Sony C555-ES, MSB Link III DAC, Beogram RX 2 (TT)

Similar products
Anthem Integrated, Marantz Stereo Receiver, NAD C370
I owned an Alpha 9 for a while. Nice piece, especially for $500 from a dealer!

You can use Nordost Z-plug bananas on the Arcams because the Z-plug is hollow and fits nicely over the center protrusion. The z-plugs are available from any Nordost dealer or possibly direct from Nordost. Also, they area an option on any factory terminated Nordost speaker cables.

I replaced the Alpha 9 with an Alpha 10 and it was in another league in my opinion. Everything was better (more power, more control, better ergonomics, remote switchable HT bypass, etc). If you like Arcam, you might want to consider the Alpha 10 over a 9P. BTW, you could also bi-amp the 10 in the future.


I have an alpha 9 and don't have much hiss as long as the direct switch is engaged. I actually use Nordost cables (which are awesome)and they work really really well with the arcam gear. As far as the phono stage. I'm not really impressed.