Review : Sugden A21a Int Amp

Category: Amplifiers

I have owned this amp for over 3 months now and felt this is a good time for a brief review.

Equipment Used

Source : NAD521BEE cdp sitttjng on DH cones & Squares ( Transport Dampened with Blu Tack and with sandbagged Clock Tweak)

I/C's Tara Labs Prism
Int Amp Sugden A21a on three Brass cones.
Speaker Cables : 2.5 m Goertz Mi2 Veracity
Speakers : Klipsch RF-3II

I had a budget setup earlier with a NAD 320BEE Amp driving the speakers. It had a nice warm and smooth sound. The Bass was good and deep.
I had heard a Klipsch Rf3 with a Jolida Amp once and I kmew that there was someting missing in my sound...which the 320 was somehow unable to deliver. I wanted the Tube sound from SS and at my budget what I could find was the Audio Analogue Puccini and the Sugden, Both Class A amps.

After couple of auditions the Sugden won me over..

Due to the difference in prices would be very unfair to compare the sugden to the NAD..but i will be using the NAD sound as a reference point.

Enter the Sugden.

Build and Looks : This a Class A design which Sugden and has changed very little in the last 25 years. It is Heavy and with a Very solid and reliable feel to it.
You can read more about it here Sugdens Secret as it is much better described.

Was pleasantly surprised to hear that this is still handmade in England in Yorkshire. Apparently Sugden spends money on products rather than advertising and packaging. Infact the only users manual was a 3 page Photostat copy ! ...initially this had me worried a bit, although now i find it rather quaint ;)

The Music: I felt that this amp synergised with my slightly bright Horn Tweeters really well. although rated only 25 watts, i still need to turn the volume knob only till 9:00 am to get really loud (And very clear) sound...which was around the same as the the 50W NAD. but the sugden was the least fatiguing

The most noticeable characteristics the moment this was broken in (25 hours of play) and connected were

1. Control at low volumes. On playing Pink floyd, The Wall (Another Brick in the wall) even at low volumes the drums had a good "Feel" to it. In the NAD volume neede to be cranked up and the BAss was, on hindsight, a bit loose

2. Soundstaging: I am not a great fan of the soundstage and do not really look out for that much when i listen, but the difference between the entry level NAD and the mid range sugden was reallly striking as it had more depth to the sounstage. Drums really sounded as though they were behind in the Stage in Peter Gabriels "Passions". This was the first time, in my setup that the soundstage went beyond the speakers..
In the Ray Brown Trio's " Blue Monk " you can very clearly hear the vibrations of the strings as well as feel the tautness and the tension in the Double Bass string !
I could not make this difference in the NAD, and the tone of the Bass strings in the NAD had a "Banjoish" feel to it.

In Eric Claptons "Unplugged: the sound of strings being plucked in his guitar is really uncanny.

In Wish you were here by Floyd, the welcome to the machine track can be pretty startling as the engine is really very realistic.

Finally..this is the first time I could clearly make out the dialogue right at the beginning of Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon Album!

3. Involvement :the music really flows through and somehow you feel that the entire web of music is all around you. I am unable to put it to words but the feeling of involvement with the music was really great. especially so during Simon and Garfunkels' Bridge over troubled waters and Brothers in Arms by Dire straits. both of these are songs I love but had not enoyed to this level before.


1. Can run pretty hot...I meant really Hot in spite of it fins. it needs to have enough space around it to keep cool
2. No remote !!!. would suggest a CDP with volume control !
3. No "power amp in ".hence this cannot be used as a Power Amp.
4. Other functions : No Phono In, No Headphone out. although this does not matter to me.

This amp has given me great joy as well as a pride in the future even if I do upgrade I very well intend to keep this with me perhaps as a second system.
...funnily it is very dificult to get a used one in the market
Arj-this was my amp for a good while and I was a big fan of it.
Plenty of power there despite it's low rating.
Great value for money and a good balanced sound.
I love using int. amps. Of all the ones I tried... Naim, Bryston, Arcam, Nad, Sony, Kenwood, Kora, etc...I've always wanted to try the MFD Mistral and the Sugden A21a. I wish you many hours of enjoyment! Last time I looked, NorthCountry Audio carries both the Mistral/Sugden A21a( if anyone is interested. Bill
Interesting mini review in Stereophile
I still have a Sugden A21 II. It has served me well for 15 years.
When all is said and done, the A21a is the best buy for a reasonable amount of money. Obviously you need a pair of extremely transparent sounding speakers to fully enjoy the quality that J.E. Sugden really had in mind. Don't turn it up to loud, it's not a "Krell like" powerhouse :-) Used up to 5 Watts (reasonable volume) it really has a sound quality that is unsurpassed in this price range.