Hi-Fi Choice Recommended: Edwards Audio IA5

The revered Hi-Fi Choice magazine has awarded our Edwards Audio IA5 integrated amplifier five stars in a recent review, recommending its invitingly warm, muscular sound and robust build quality.

Their review reads:

As a sub-brand of Talk Electronics, Edwards Audio continues founder and boss Kevin Edwards’ philosophy of striving for the best possible sound-per-pound across a range embracing turntables, speakers and integrated amplifiers.

The IA5 weighs in as the beefiest and largest of the ‘compact’ contenders, but also the most powerful – claiming 50W a side of Class A/B supported by plenty of current from a 200VA custom-wound toroidal transformer.

An evolution of the IA1 Mk 2, it has five inputs, four line-level (one via a rear-mounted 3.5mm jack socket) and a fully buffered MM phono stage.

Edwards will fit an optional pre-out for adding a power amp if requested. The aesthetics are an intriguing fusion of formulaic and fancy, but striking with red backlit graphics to spice up the black-backed, acrylic facia and a pebble-shaped remote with lurid green and blue buttons. The stocky, half-width amp comes across as something of a throwback to simpler times where minimalism was more literally understood and interaction occasionally involved having to stand up.

No matter, just like Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon the IA5 has got it where it counts, according to Edwards. Points of difference at the price are said to include a surfacemount circuit board to facilitate the use of higher-grade components such as the Vishay mini-MELF resistors and low-impedance capacitors from Panasonic, all assembled in house.

And the acrylic front panel isn’t there just because it looks nice. Kevin Edwards is fairly dismissive of the thick aluminium front panels rivals favour, lumping the practice with: “other expensive visual gimmicks that do nothing for the actual performance”.

Listening to the fully warmed-up IA5 – and it does eventually run very warm, thanks to the pushed A/B biasing – he has a point. The IA5 simply dons the cloak of believability. The sound has some old-school substance, but in a good way. There’s warmth, body and muscle – plenty of meat on the bone. Following the Cambridge, I Was Made To Love Her has even more impetus and heft, McDonald more expressive power.

The ensemble of backing singers, spotlit and separated laterally by the Cambridge, is slightly more muted and positioned further back in the mix, creating a more coherent soundstage and impression of depth. The performance feels gratifyingly all of a piece as a result.

Detail that sits deftly within a context dictated by the music and not pushed forward for effect makes the jazzy undercurrents of Edith And The Kingpin inviting and beguiling, despite the less than jaunty subject matter. The sound lacks a little top-end air and sparkle and its leading-edge bite isn’t the kind that will draw blood. But these aren’t particular traits of the phono stage, more a reflection of the Edwards’ overarching sonic mien, which is superbly natural and unforced for the most part.

With a rather hazy and distant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) reciting his iconic Tears In Rain monologue over a backdrop of rain and swelling Vangelis synth pads from the Blade Runner soundtrack, the IA5 simply brings more horsepower and torque to the task, lending Hauer’s voice more body and the keyboards greater depth and richness.