Nothing turns people off of audio electronics quite like complexity. If you want to make absolutely certain your audio product never sees the inside of more than a few hundred homes, just give it more buttons and knobs than the cockpit of a 747, make sure the back panel is loaded with at least two dozen cryptic connections, and print up a user manual roughly the thickness of War and Peace. Indeed, it seems most audio gear manufacturers are woefully out of touch with what normal people want/need. Thankfully, there are a few audio companies that just get it, and PS Audio proves it’s one of them with its latest effort, the Sprout integrated amplifier.
It’s not often that a 40-year veteran of the audio industry turns to Kickstarter to fund its next project, but PS Audio did, and we think it was a brilliant move — crowdfunding the Sprout placed the product in front of an audience that might never have heard of it otherwise. Today, you can pick up a Sprout directly from PS Audio, or from a handful of retailers, for $500.
This cute-‘n-compact integrated amp can beg such a price because it successfully bundles a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) phono pre-amp, headphone amp, and Bluetooth, all in one gorgeous little package. While some all-in-oneder products succumb to the age-old adage, “jack of all trades, master of none,” the Sprout manages to execute each of its tasks with panache, delivering the kind of high-end experience audiophiles want, without any of the complicated trappings that tend to close the world of high-quality audio off to all but total tech-nuts.
Don’t let the Sprout’s sapling-like size fool you, because it sounds as big as a redwood. A compact and efficient 50-watt per channel digital amplifier supplies plenty of power for most speakers. But we imagine the Sprout will work best as master and commander of a more compact audio system, involving perhaps a nice turntable or a disc player. If you’ve been wanting to set up a dedicated music system but were concerned you might not have the space, then it might be time to reconsider — the Sprout can help make it a reality.
We’ve only had an hour or so to enjoy the Sprout so far, but it’s ticking all the right boxes. Weighty, tonally-accurate bass, a warm midrange, and a slightly laid-back top end that handily avoids the “sterile” Class-D amps are often accused of. At this point, we have no no reservations about recommending this amplifier, but we look forward to digging in deeper and providing more detailed impressions later on.