It’s very encouraging that such masters of understatement as ATC manage to thrive in the marketing powered world of the 21st century: a testament to the increasingly challenged idea that quality will out when all around is overhyped mediocrity. ATC isn’t immune to the demands of modern audio enthusiasts but neither does it jump on every bandwagon that trundles by in the hope of making a couple of extra bucks. There are few companies in this business that have stuck to their guns so admirably and yet also appear to succeed in the marketplace through sheer bangs per buck. Compare ATC’s prices and engineering quality to almost any other company that manufacturers in the UK and you’ll see what I mean.
The SIA2-100 is the least expensive integrated amplifier that ATC offers but it generates up to 100 watts per channel of continuous power, has an onboard DAC and headphone amplifier and comes with a six-year warranty. Its design is based on a couple of other ATC components: the output stage has the same circuit as the P1 power amplifier but not the dual mono power supply found in that model. The discrete preamplifier stage was last seen in the CD2 (tested in Issue 183), which, sporting the same 2/3rds width as the SIA2-100, also featured a minijack input and full-size headphone output. The SIA2-100 has a more ‘up-to-date’ digital section based around an AKM chipset that supports PCM up to 384kHz and DSD256 via the USB input. The S/PDIF inputs don’t fly so high.
Its reduced size was a result of a demand from ATC’s Chinese distributor for a more compact design style – I like it but imagine that some may not take this amplifier seriously because it isn’t in a full width chassis. There is often a conflict between aesthetics and real-world requirements in audio equipment; electronics in particular do seem to get more traction if they have lots of bolt heads on view and substantial slabs of aluminium, plus the apparently obligatory hand biting cooling fins on either flank. Yet as this product proves, you don’t need to make something look like lab equipment for it to do a fine job. This ATC has heat sinks, but they are under vents in the top and not likely to cause any harm despite the amp’s near 10kg mass.
On the input front, the SIA2-100 is minimally but adequately equipped for most music lovers’ needs. It has two analogue inputs on RCA phonos and three digital options including coaxial S/PDIF and the aforementioned USB. ATC points out that PCs but not Macs can provide highest DSD option it supports – DSD256 – so for audiophiles at least the less fashionable platform is ultimately the most capable. It’s unusual to see a minijack input on the front of any audio component these days (USBs for thumb drives are more common), but this means that those wanting to play tunes from a smartphone can do so without the faff or sound quality limitations of Bluetooth, albeit that iPhone users are not so well catered for. This amp comes with a system remote of the practical if plain variety. It’s not fancy but it does the job more easily than the single input select button on the front panel, even though fine volume adjustments are trickier to achieve.
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