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Audio Note UK IZero Integrated Amplifier Tube Amplifier Review

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The amplifier offers a significantly rich sound, with full body and texture and manages to retain very high quality transient behavior. What did surprise me was the level of bass depth and grunt that the amplifier possessed given that on appearances the transformers are smaller than the Audio Space amp. Sure it’s not of course going to make Jinro amp owners start drinking copious amounts of Korean Soju worrying about this little amplifier, because it doesn’t do what the best AN UK amps do. AN UK’s better amps create a better sense of space, and will arguably offer more at the frequency extremes, considerably more resolution and nuance. The IZero has a slight velvety rich character which might be described as leaning to the warm side of the spectrum. Then again that’s what many tube buyers are after and the IZero doesn’t go over the edge into mushy warmth or to the point of sounding veiled as some tube amplifiers tend to do.

The IZero engages the listener fully in the performance. I simply wanted to listen to music through this amplifier more than through my Audio Space.

Audio Note UK IZero Integrated Amplifier Tube Amplifier Inside View

Auditions:

Reviewing the IZero I had a brief opportunity to use Wilson Benesch Vector floorstanding speakers (rated 6 ohms with a minimum 4ohm impedance and 89db sensitive) as well as Audio Note (UK) AX-Two loudspeakers which are one of Audio Note(UK)’s natural partners for the IZero. The Zero series has matching Zero loudspeakers in the AX-One and AX-Two standmounts , and AZ-Two or AZ-Three floorstanders. (Note; the AZ-One model has been discontinued for some time…)

I used a wide array of music genres during my sessions and there isn’t space to go through them all. However, I will target a few specific albums. Great SET amplifiers are often purchased for their ability to handle the vocal range. I think very good SETs amps handle frequency extremes very well but they do require SET friendly loudspeakers. Still if there is a particular strength to SET amplifiers it seems to me to be vocals and the midrange. So I start with Eva Cassidy, a wonderful singer taken far too soon, Canadian Celtic folk singer Loreena McKennitt, and 40+ year rock veteran Jackson Browne.

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The IZero captures the voice cohesively without traces of exaggeration and sibilance. The live feel through both loudspeakers was remarkable for an amplifier in this price range and a good sense of the hall was retained. Directly compared with the Roksan K2 integrated amplifier reviewed by me for Dagogo, the difference was quite striking.

The K2 is a 125 watt solid state amplifier and one of the best solid state amplifiers in the price range. The Roksan amplifier produced the notes – it possessed “punch” and sounded good with the Wilson Benesch speakers, but I found myself looking at my watch waiting until I could get to the end of the track. Changing the amp for the IZero and there was an immediate sense of richer thicker bass lines and more ambient hall sound. In short, with my eyes closed I felt I was at Blues Alley listening to this wonderful singer.

There was no detached feeling and no looking at my watch. With Loreena McKennitt’s “Caravanserai” the Roksan amp painted in a 2 dimensional brush – there was more “air” but this seems to me to be more “noise.” The voice had more sibilance and seemed to place Loreena’s voice into isolated vocal sections and was ultimately detached and analytical as if her voice had been run through a processor. The IZero and my OTO Phono SE retain the emotion and body of the voice and ultimately sound complete – one voice and whole. For whatever else the IZero may lack, to me this is the singular overriding aspect that stereo reproduction must possess and it’s arguably the reason why people move from Solid State amps into the world of SET.

With Jackson Browne’s Solo Acoustic Vol 1 and 2 discs, Jackson plays to the crowd via piano and various guitars. The IZero presented a fuller sounding vocal and allowed me to hear more of the hall. Interestingly, I was better able to make out what audience members were saying to Jackson while on stage; this in turn provides more of a sense of being in the hall. Quite remarkable for an amplifier in this price class or any price class really.

6 Responses to Audio Note UK IZero Integrated Amplifier Tube Amplifier Review


  1. Jack Roberts says:

    What is the price?

  2. Adam says:

    $2,476.8US,

  3. Andrew Mackay says:

    Another interesting and informative review, but it would have been helpful to read Richard’s suggestions for overcoming the absence of a phono stage and what speakers he proposes should replace the apparently discontinued AX and AZ and AZH ranges (factory supply problems), the natural entry level speaker partners for this entry level integrated.

  4. Hi Andrew

    This is certainly news to me. I purchased the AX Two here about a year ago and it is in line for my review. Audio Note had discontinued the line a few years ago and then brought back the AZ-2 and AZ-3 but not the AZ-1. I went to Audio Note’s website where they list the AX speakers where they say they have “relaunched” them. It would be a shame not to have these speakers available because the AX Two is one of the finest budget loudspeakers around and flies under the radar.

    As for the phono stage – unfortunately, I had to sell my turntable when I moved to Hong Kong so I am currently without a turntable. Presumably, an Audio Note phono stage would be the best match but the cost may make it more worthwhile to purchase the OTO Phono SE. Audio Note Kits sells an L3 (M3) phono stage for $1425 and would likely be the sonic match. Apparently Audio Note offers a Zero series phono stage and in Hong Kong I saw an Audio Note tuner in a second hand shop.

    Seriously, they make WAY too much stuff – how they can keep track of it all is beyond me. So apparently, there is a phono stage. Eventually, I will be getting a turntable – but first priority is a full range speaker, then digital, then a preamp, then the turntable (cause this is more difficult and time consuming to finalize).

  5. Michael says:

    Can you compare your Audio Note J’swith the AZ3’s, if you wouldn’t mind?

  6. Raja Dutta says:

    What’s the price and how it will be available ?

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