Why the facination with integrated amps?


I don’t get it. Is it the manufacturers spotting a trend with the tail wagging the dog or does a significant market segment truly prefer the idea of an integrated?
Pros;
Less space
One less set of IC’s
In theory-one less chassis/case to pay for
Shorter signal paths possible
Can combine transformer/cap function
Cons;
Power supply interference/spuriae
Reduced Flexibility-can’t switch amp or preamp as easily or go to monoblocs
Less resonance control
Long history of lesser performance per measurements and long-term subjective listening
Less resale value if it turns out to be a fad
Less liklihood of an extremely high performing active preamp

I freely admit I am a skeptic. The industry-like so many others-looks for new market niches to move product. 
FWIW, the only integrateds I myself would care to audition would be from Esoteric and Luxman who have a long history of designing no-compromise (low-compromise) high-end integrateds. 

Ca345ea6 6d98 46ab a9fe db0c7a572262fsonicsmith
The answer to your question is in the way its asked. All your pros are technical considerations, nothing about sound quality. Then the cons are also all technical, except for "long term subjective listening" which the giveaway there is "subjective". Nobody says "subjective" except to be derogatory, further adding to the obvious bias.

You like the technical stuff, be proud and open and honest about being a technophile. Own it. Just don't try and kid a kidder. I've shopped and compared and lived with both integrateds and separates long enough to know that if all you care about is sound quality for value you simply cannot touch a good integrated with separates for anything resembling the same amount of money.
The future is in one box wonders with dac, room correction, DSP functions, streaming, pre and amp all in one box.  Short signal paths and built in synergy are huge upsides.  Advances in DSP, Class D and digital are bringing a whole new world of lightweight  and terrific sounding gear.  Separates are not the future and sales will continue to decline. That pretty much sums it up in a couple of sentences. 
Space, total outlay, and complexity are big one's for me. I mean, think about it, the ideal bit of stereo kit is a unit the size of a paperback romance that does everything via a remote tablet or phone.

Add in an integrated with a good digital or phonograph section, and the question really is why would anyone insist on separates?

There's also a lot to be said for how and when we cycle through gear. I mean, if you are a serial audio buyer, then integrateds may not be your thing.

One of the important benefits of an integrated by the way may be reduced circuits. Your switching and volume control no longer need to be as complicated or built for all possible options of amplifier. You can design this with fewer parts and more certainty that one is going to match with the other. Not to mention the potential for noise and ground loops introduced by going out of the pre and into the amplifier.
Grannyring; short signal paths is the equivalent of “unfiltered’” in wine. It sounds like a great idea in theory but in pactice there is little corrollary between it and long-term satisfaction. ‘Built in synergy”? Other than input/output impedence and gain, things that are easily checked for, there is no reason to think such an argument is valid. I could as validly argue the buyer of an integrated has less ability to “season the flavor” by mixing and matching. Class D? I don’t need to go into the sonic deficits of Class D do I? 
It's nice to have options.  I have separates in my main system.  I have more space and am more concerned about sound quality in the main system. 

I have an integrated in my home office (Audio Research VSi55).  I have a tuner, turntable, and DAC connected to it.  Volume is usually pretty low and it's mostly background music (either the tuner or Spotify or Tidal through the DAC) but if it's a slow day or a late night of work, I will crank it up every once in a while.  I have a pair of Klipsch Heresy I speakers with a bunch of Bob Crites upgrades and the sound quality is very pleasing those times I do crank it up.

In my computer room I have a Heed Elixir integrated and a turntable, DAC, and Sony headphone amp.  I have some space limitations in that room.  The Heed doesn't take up much space and will drive my Canton speakers louder than I can listen to them.  The sound quality is excellent and the headphone amp in the Heed, while not as refined as the Sony is excellent.  It also has a phono pre, I haven't tried it yet, but by all accounts it's quite good.

I also have a Peachtree Nova 300 which has a great amp, dac, and phono preamp.  Quite frankly it has more bells and whistles than I need and it is currently for sale (replaced by the Heed).

The integrateds I own meet (or exceeded) my needs and were affordable options for the space and use I bought them for.  While not as good as my main system, if something happened and I had to downsize, I'd be really happy with either one of the systems I've built around my integrateds. 
@fsonicsmth I am in the wine business, for 26 years now, and I can tell you that not filtering wine makes a huge difference both in flavor profile but more importantly in terms of ageability. I was fortunate to taste two versions of a wine made by the same producer at about 15 years of age and the filtered wine tasted like a shadow of itself.

And I think the primary reason people, and companies, are moving to integrateds has a lot to do with smartphones and wireless and basically many devices getting smaller and at the same time more functional. No surprise some audiophiles, especially younger ones, would desire more functions in a smaller package.

The other end of that scenario, one that's happening more frequently these days, is the older audiophile retiring and moving to a smaller home. Or perhaps just not wanting to deal with lots of bulky heavy equipment.

There are many practical advantages to integrated amps so its good to see they are being taken more seriously by audio companies.
A separate amp and preamp has the flexibility that an integrated does not have!
I used to favor many "boxes" in my system then had a sea change toward simplicity and less boxes....now I use a tube integrated fed by a streamer DAC...I'm very satisfied.
OP we could not possibly disagree more. Oh well, it is the nature of these threads. Noise, noise, noise and noise again.  If you think short signal paths mean nothing, then I cannot help you. You asked why integrated gear is hot and you now need to be open minded about the reasons and possibilities. Carry on. 
Best sound I have ever had is with my Lyngdorf 2170 one box wonder.  I still build tube amps for fun, but the 2170 with room correction and built in dac simply sounds better.  I mentioned some of the reasons above and they do in fact play a role.  The times they are a changing and broad brushed statements bemoaning digital or Class D etc... are just plan old short sighted.  The innovation pace of all things digital and music is very fast,  very fast indeed. The fun and exciting part is all this is leading to more and more one or two box solutions that use little energy, are light in weight and sound phenomenal. 
For me it's bang-for-the-buck. I saved for 3 years to splurge on an Ayre AX-5. I'm not aware of separates at this price point that sound as good.
A separate amp and preamp has the flexibility that an integrated does not have!

Yes, but not everyone needs the flexibility and can be very happy with top end integrateds, especially if they bring nice tone controls along. :)


’Fascination’ looking for a reason... when you already have a position?

@grannyring is 100 percent correct in his prediction / assessment of the future, with respect to minimizing the number of components and offerings moving to all in one solutions.

In addition to the pros you listed, you can add one less power cord, one less isolation platform and perhaps even shelf if one is maximizing isolation. One less set of isolation devices, if one is going all in with isolation. One less outlet used in a power conditioner or a duplex in the wall. One less component to tweak, should one be into tweaking (and this one can add up, depending on the audiophile). Etc. AND this assumes a Preamp - Amp combination. Grannyring’s position saves at even higher levels.

Further, excepting the U.S. and a few other countries and the very wealthy (across the world) most people are living in smaller and smaller units that do not lend themselves to the footprint, cubic space, and cost that going with separates entails.

Since the vast majority (in billions, yes billions) are consuming music via a phone and earbuds or basic headphones...any investment by them will be made in inexpensive all in one devices, which they are already doing.
Integrated amps in the $$ upper end are at least as good if not better then seperates of even more money. My brothers 
Gryphon Diablo is a Perfect example of sheer excellence across the board , and with theoptional digital board really excellent 
and is a Best Buy ,for under $20k will go toe to to with Any amp,preamp digital at $30k  I heard many systems and owned a audio store in the UK for years . System synergy is key ,with 
great parts quality equal toor better the best modded equipment .
2 less power cords, and 2 less interconnects ,each seperate wire takes a pinch away  from the purest signal path. Myself bought 
a Gato 400-S with digital as well as custom analog build technologies from Denmark .i rewired it with VH audios best 
6-9s pure solid core Litz Teflon Wire. And top fuses for $6500
sounds  far more refined ,   There are very good  integrated amps but you need to do a lot of research and at least $5k and up if you truly want very good quality parts .  Everything is built to a certain 
cost parameter on average 25% goes into the cost that is why a $3k integrated has $750 in money’s spent including the case .
the latest  Gryphon Diablo was justbuilt with the best parts and Engineering - Period . By far one of the best integrated I  have heard , reviewers also agree .
Who cares. To each his own. Stupid topic. 
I've done both separates and integrated and there wasn't much difference between the two in sound quality. I prefer simplicity at this point and an integrated gives me that. 
Devialet makes the best sounding amplifier in the world and it’s an integrated amp. So there.
Typical misconception based on lack of experience by OP. 



25 years ago I bought a Linn Majik integrated which I loved like the brother I never had.  I have a Cambridge integrated now.   I’m happy with it but will be looking to upgrade next year to a Moon, Naim, or similar.  

I’ve had such great experiences with integrateds. Maybe if my income were in the six figure range, I’d look down on integrateds, but as it is, the integrated amps I’ve owned or auditioned have been absolutely wonderful.    
Based on what others (pro and non-pro reviewers) have said, the Gryphon Diablo 300’s sound quality cannot be matched by separates at this price-point.  So for me it is sound quality and value.  At my budget I struggle to find seperates that have audiophile grade transparency and imaging and yet also have a good bass foundation, presence and with overall musicality driven by drive, timing, attack, decay and dynamics.  I’ve been finding lots of options that achieve the transparency and imaging but seem to fall short in some or all of the other areas.  Another thing is that I find some audiophile grade components to have not the right amount of bloom to certain tones to suit my tastes.  In other words they sound too lean, cold, and dry and not as musically engaging.

I’m completely open to seperates if I can beat the Diablo’s SQ for the same price.

They reason the value is there is you don’t have to factor in the cost of the chassis.  I saw some mfr (could have been McIntosh) say that a major portion of cost of a component is attributed to the chassis.

That said, I still have yet to audition the Gryphon Diablo so I am at this point relying on what (many) others have said.  It sounds like it will tick off all the boxes I’m looking at.  I will be testing it over the next two weeks sometime to decide for myself.
I've been a separated guy for 40yrs as we evolved, or devolved as some believe, from vinyl to CDs, to streaming content, as we went digital DAC's became a necessity if you wanted warm sound. That meant another outboard piece of equipment and an even longer signal path with USB adapters all of which added to signal degradation and space.
I recently scrapped it all and picked up a Peachtree Nova 300 integrated. I was floored by the sound quality and realized that I had come full circle back to the warm sound of the 70's and my Sansui 1000S and JBL's. 
All in one neat, sweet and powerful unit running off my laptop into its many YSV inputs. It has preamp out so you can take advantage of its outstanding DAC and front end and use any amp you like with great results. Truth us you probably wont want to after hearing it.
This old gearhead is convinced that the future is in integrated amps.
IMHO


I think it is a fantastic price point to start a system.  
Take a look at another group of buyers......Some are starting out in the adventure of discovering good sound but don't have the $$$$ to spend. So, they buy an integrated that will accommodate a variety of input devices without the extra cost of separates.

Take all of the scientific theories like shorter signal paths and the like and explain it to someone who wants the best sound for the money. Perhaps that integrated buyer will add an outboard pre, phono stage, power amp, or something else to improve on what he has as funds allow. Or, maybe he will just ditch the integrated for something different in the future.
Just my take on why so many buy integrated amps initially before going to separates at the start.

Devialet makes the best sounding amplifier in the world and it’s an integrated amp
LMAO. I'm a fan of integrateds but Devialet's units are nowhere close to the best. Yes, I've heard them and they don't hold a candle to even a mid-tier class AB integrated - not remotely in the same ball park. 

Isn't it fun watching the changes taking place in real time! How much simpler and better sounding our hobby (lifestyle) has become. I think we owe a lot of this to our audio forums. Before this magazines ruled our perception more than they should have and the sell up revolving door was put to us as almost do or die. It was like facing banishment with more guilt thrown at us than anyone could have ever handled. Spend more, get heavier, dampen instead of tune, throw out controls and the lists went on, all making things harder to do than less and more impractical instead of practical. But one by one as listeners try low mass plus tuning the whole adventure has turned around and is now racing in the other direction, with a few left to yet discover.

The words "I've never heard that before" are being said more then ever.

Michael Green

http://www.michaelgreenaudio.net/

I have a Bel Canto c5i Digital Integrated amp in my family room. it is the bees knees. Dead quiet....amazing piece of modern technology. Integrated amp technology has come a long way. Many might be surprised. Rogue Pharoah is another really good one I have heard recently that I could easily live with.

I wish you could sit & listen to my little 26 lb.,17wpc.Tube Integrated Amp with BUILT IN DAC running Harbeth M30.1 speakers,then you would "get it"...
What I don't understand is the idea that integrated amps are a new trend. My first "good" stereo in 1965 had an integrated amp.  They have always been with us.  Took a back seat to receivers for a couple of decades due to the popularity of FM radio,  Now hardly anyone listens to terrestrial radio any more and we are back to integrateds. 
For another lesser used setup in my basement. I replaced a very reknowned vintage receiver with a modern Fosi Audio Class D integrated amp with bluetooth. $80 on amazon.   It is about the size of a pack of cigarattes and has  drive limits accordingly with only 50w/ch but sounds very good within its limits with vintage Boston A40s.

Flemming Rasmussen of Gryphon knew that he was going to retire soon, so he wanted to design the best integrated for almost reasonable cost he could for people who wanted his equipment but could not have separates for one reason or another. Not that he didn't design integrateds before. The result is Diablo 300. But he is separates man. Putting a few components in one box is not really a good idea. Though I wouldn't have space for his separates, in addition to funds.
Separates is always a way to go, if you can and have audiophile knowledge, or a trusted adviser.
"The industry-like so many others-looks for new market niches to move product."
Which product? Integrated amplifiers? They have been around for decades and I would bet they have outsold separates by a large number.

fcsonicsmith,

I will assume you are over 20 (years old). How many of your friends from teenage years, and later, have had integrated amplifiers at home or some school dorm? How many had separates? Integrated amplifiers are hardly "a new market niche".

On a technical entertainment side, some integrated amplifiers actually have pre-out/power-in capabilities so you can play with different combinations to your heart’s content.
I’m finding this discussion interesting and valuable. Integrates vs separates is something I’m contemplating as I think about replacing my entire rig. Maybe it’s time to stop buying all separate equipment like amps, preamp, phono stage, dac, transport, streamer, etc.  It would be nice if one or two units could be sonically competitive with all of that hardware and save space and money.  It seems I’m not the only one thinking this and many have already shifted to integrated components. Two brands that are new to me have been mentioned already. Thanks! 
But it does irritate me when people post trying to sell their wares in the middle of these discussions. Particularly when there is no tie-in at all. I guess it doesn’t bother other people as much as it does me since no one else has said anything. I just can’t respect anyone that does it. 

^^^@vinylfan62:have a look at the iFi Audio Retro Stereo control amps...I’ve read the phono stage is superb & I can vouch for the quality of sound via the internal DAC & headphone...
Integrated amplifiers? They have been around for decades and I would bet they have outsold separates by a large number.

glupson....Receivers!!! 100K to 1? 500K to 1? 1 million to 1?  Yeah, large numbers. 
My first “real” stereo had a front end Sansui 5000 receiver, some years later (40+ years),  through solid state integrated amps and separates, solid state amps/tube preamps, big amps and small amps, I finally stopped chasing audio perfection (doesn’t exist). 

I’m now listening to a reasonably powered tube integrated with massive power supply  (an effort to simplify and improve my listening situation) and haven’t been this happy in the 40+ years. 

A high quality integrated, solid state or tube, may be a very satisfying solution for lots of people. 
david_ten,

I completely forgot receivers as an even more integrated option. It would be interesting to know those numbers. They must be huge.

As an excuse for my forgetting receivers altogether, they were not that popular in Europe. That is where they were almost an actual niche product at some point. I knew a lots of people with integrated amplifiers but nobody with a receiver or separates.
Its technically cheaper to invest into a Integrated than a 2 or 3 box system. Sales are declining on a global scale thou Asia is showing better data on this aspect then the West. 

Simpler and neater would be one consideration, Space saving is another.
Diablo 300 without optional phono and dac is basically a stereo power amp, preamp section is passive. The least expensive Gryphon power amp is I think in the mid-$30k.
Can you do better than the Diablo for $16k with separates, speaking only transistor and hybrid amps ? New - almost certainly not, used separates vs new Diablo - maybe, depends on many things including speakers, maybe not. Personally, I would add great separate tube phono to the Diablo and be happy for the next ten years or so.
More to go wrong..HDMI.decoder failure common, no spares...bin!Separate components are better!
Agreed inna, for me it’s pretty simple - why would I pay the same amount of cash for seperates that have lesser sound quality versus the Gryphon Diablo?  Only reason may be to sacrifice some sound quality now for the sake of future flexibility facilitated by seperates.

That said, I’ve been trying and failing at finding separates that give me the type of sound I’m looking for - detailed and transparent with great sounstaging and dynamics, with well defined bass and good overall drive and timing.  And enough bloom on certain tones so that it doesn’t sound too dry and lean and non-musical, and yet having the right tones “pop” with immediacy and air and space, like with vocals.  And tonal evenness so that sibilants or sharp upper mids are reigned in and do not totally ruin lesser recordings.  Is that too much to ask?  So far at my price point I’ve found products that excel at some of these elements but not all of them, and because of that these products take me out of the “flow” of the music.  If the Diablo can check all the boxes above it will be worth every penny and will offer an experience I can’t get with separates.

Of note, last night on a whim I in-home demoed a Simaudio 600i integrated with my B&W 803 D2’s, and was totally dazzled by the detail and soundstage the amp offered.  But it was also dry and cold, shy on bass (but what bass was there was uber-well defined) and presence across the band, and rather cold and boring.  Not what I would call engaging....  Maybe just because my 803’s need more power, but something tells my the Simaudio is all about surgically presenting just the raw  facts and nothing more, which I don’t think is quite enough for me to stay connected with the music.




After decades of separates, some of the highest quality, I have recently moved to an integrated as well. While the original reasons were to some degree economic and space related, I was still not willing to compromise on sound quality. I ended up purchasing the Octave V80se from my dealer after auditioning a handful of other contenders. The sound of this unit combined with the total flexibility it offers and the ability for it to easily drive my speakers well beyond my needs made the choice a simple one.

The cost of the unit, while not insignificant seemed like a absolute value to me. I still have an outboard phono preamp and dac, so I am not a true "single boxer" but the performance and efficiency of the Octave makes more sense than most could imagine. Unfortunately I was not able to audition the Gryphon, as I am sure it is amazing....well actually, perhaps that is just as well....
I started wit han integrated. Now, I would never use one. I think it is totally up to the person doing the buying! What is useful to them. What makes the most sense to them. Just because I won't, does not mean someone else is in the same boat. 
My primary reason for not having an integrated is I have my amp between the speakers, and the preamp right at hand. No need for a remote! And I just could not see having 27 ft long speaker cables...
I'm not sure if this has been touched on, but there's no reason you can't combine separates with your integrated.  I started out with a Peachtree Nova 300 in my computer room which includes a great DAC, phono stage, and headphone amp.  You can also connect a preamp to it.

Even though the built in components were really good in the Peachtree, I am using a better external phono stage, DAC, and headphone amp and certainly didn't need 300 WPC in my small 10 X 12 room.  I came to realize that even though this was a modest unit, it was overkill for my needs and space.

I "downsized" to a Heed Elixir which takes up less space and doesn't have a DAC (it does have a very high quality headphone amp and phono stage, which I still don't use) and use an external DAC, phono stage, and headphone amp.

I realize most people are referring to a separate amp(s) and preamp or line stage when talking about "separates" in this, but you don't have to be limited by what's "in the box" with an integrated.

Some very high end big bucks integrateds are being mentioned in this conversation, but for someone getting into the hobby or with less lofty goals a very nice sounding system can be built around a good integrated for a relatively modest investment.
So many paths to walk on, and so many reasons to take any one of them. 


elizabeth,

"And I just could not see having 27 ft long speaker cables..."
That is some big room. How long is the cable between pre-amplifier and amplifier? 
I currently own(CA 640A v2, Yamaha A-S1000) and have owned about 7 other integrated amps(Luxman, Onkyo/Integra, CA, Denon) over the last 12 years. Definitely not a new phenomenon. Some of the best sounding(to me) were 80’s/90’s Denon integrated amps(PMA). Fast and punchy, built well, neutral sound.

As a matter of fact this Denon below has always been near the top of my list of "must haves" amps.
https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9bh77-denon-pma-2000r-mkiv-tube

Bill
willland,

I had Denon PMA-250 and it is still running strong with a friend I gave it to. It might have been the smallest and cheapest, but it was as good as they got.
Seems like the OP hasn't much to say with so much positive being said about integrated amps.
From Preamp to amp Balanced Kimber KS1116 is seven meters. (23 feet.) since a speaker cable has to not only get to the middle back of the room, it has to get to the other side.. thus 27 feet.
elizabeth,

You always impress me with your numbers. First it was number of records, now 7 meter interconnects. You  really play big numbers only.