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PS Audio Sprout100 integrated amplifier Review

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Office System

Like a fair number of our readers, I have an office at home and, for those who don’t, I reckon there’s some sound system in your office away from home. My office becomes the repository for the overflow of gear in my listening area. My guest room: sadly, the warehouse. The desk upon which my office system calls home has been so annexed that no usable surface area exists and this defeats the purpose. Presently, there is a Bel Canto s300 i/u integrated amplifier, Fostex HP-A4 DAC, Rotel AM/FM Tuner, the Lord only knows why that is, and a pair of KEF LS-50W speakers which for some reason possess a larger physical footprint than I would have thought.

Piece by piece I removed everything that duplicated features and functions of the Sprout100, and that left with me two things: a usable desktop surface and that pesky Rotel AM/FM Tuner. Nonetheless I connected the Sprout100 to my trusty Phil Jones designed Platinum Audio Studio1 speakers mounted on their matching stands and went ahead writing this very piece. It was really nice to be re-introduced to my desk without skipping a beat.

One of the things I love and still do about the Bel Canto s300 i/u is the design and functionality of its remote control. The Sprout100’s is far more basic and in that simplicity is the relief that a remote control even exists. Many is the time that I bury myself and everything around me under stacks of papers, reference A Brilliant Mind, and as the remote is magnetic (learned from a fellow reviewer) it can be positioned above the fray, hence easily found. With the extra room on the desk, I set up the Parasound LT 900D turntable for no other reason than I could and now have the space for it.

For most of us with office systems, we ideally want as little clutter as possible. So, as I have streamed music via Bluetooth to the KEF LS50W speakers, it was only fair that I do so with the Sprout100. It did not skip a beat. The connection between my MacBook Pro and the Sprout100’s Bluetooth receiver was flawless, and listening to my favorite KCRW Eclectic 24 radio stream just felt natural, same as it ever was. This got to me comparing the LS50W all-in-one solution with the Sprout100, its Bass Boost, my Blumenstein Audio Orca speakers, and turns out that the latter combination sounds great, costs less, and weighs less too.

 

Travel System

I like to travel. I live(d) on both sides of the Atlantic and have done my fair share of continent hopping for both work and pleasure. On extended voyages, where I’d be living somewhere for at least a few months, I’d make it a point to take some means of a system with me. There were some rather basic but necessary criteria: that it fit in my carry-on roller bag and that it could switch automatically between 110/220 voltage settings. This narrowed my options considerably, but in the end the aforementioned Bel Canto s300 i/u did the trick, and with all the travel it’s done, it still works flawlessly. Sadly, it is big and forces me to make critical decisions as to what does and does not come with. I’d like to be able to take an entire system with me.

The headphone amplifier in the Sprout100 is an added plus. It’s something I don’t normally think of because I never listen with headphones at home, only on the road and even only then when there is no other option. Having it means not having to boost the volume on the source whether it be my iPhone or DAP to the point where it becomes an unpleasant experience.

I managed to pack the following system in my Samsonite:

  1. PS Audio Sprout100
  2. Blumenstein Audio Marlin Single Driver Speakers (no relation to author)
  3. Iso Acoustics L8R 130 Monitor and Small speaker stands (for tables and desktops)
  4. Meze Classic 99 Headphones

And a selection of cables: USB, RCA interconnects and 8ft/3M pair of speaker cables. For readers wondering why that length, 6ft/2M just doesn’t cut it. There have been occasions where by dint of physical layout and supplied furnishings that slack was vital. My Apple MacBook, computer accessories and external hard drive are givens, and they fit in there too.

The PS Audio Sprout100 is the Rosetta Stone of HiFi at the moment. It speaks to rank beginners, aspiring audiophiles, friends/family of audiophiles and audiophiles themselves. I can devise countless scenarios in which music lovers could fall for the Sprout100. As I write this, I can tell you that I am personally responsible for at least two Sprout100 purchases. The online requests for recommendations keep coming, and I now have my go-to recommendation for an affordable, multi-purpose, 21st Century integrated amplifier.

For the purpose of this review, my time with the PS Audio Sprout100 is done, but given that I like it so much, it is more ergonomic for travel and looks so spiffy perched atop my Apple Mac Mini, I’m going to purchase one. I have convinced myself of the Sprout100’s suitability to so many tasks, and if I’ve done the same for you, you know what to do, and if you’re really feeling generous gift that someone in your life with one, someone close to you experiencing or about to experience a rite of passage moment. All this for $599 . . .and it’s a PS Audio!!!!

Postscript: As you will get to know about me from my articles and reviews, I know full well that I cannot be the sole arbiter, so I have my very own band of what Sherlock Holmes would refer to as his Baker Street Irregulars. I am not about to release a review into the wild without the insights and perspectives of others. My irregulars number 10 at the present, and while some are indeed audiophiles, the bulk of them are music lovers and/or system curious. They provide a baseline for me to best understand just how intuitive, how ergonomic, how sensibly priced a component appears to a cross-section of the public.

The Sprout100 received unanimous approval from the gang, and here’s a summary of their reactions to my personal concerns and issues:

Operating System/USB alerts: Once they were shown the on-screen alerts, there were some momentary gasps, but when I demonstrated how switching back to Digital returned things to normal and explained PS Audio’s power conservation philosophy, they were fine with it.

Analog Out: Suffice to say, given the amount of explaining I had to do about what this actually meant, I could see that this would be a non-starter of an issue for most. A good number of them could not even dream up what else they would connect to the Sprout100. For the Millennials in my modest focus group, they were pretty much satisfied with having the one connection for their Game Boxes. And as for the self-proclaimed audiophiles none of them, much like me, even considered the addition of a power amplifier to the mix. The jury remains out on this one.

Bass Boost: The gang here were in complete agreement regarding this feature. For their benefit and my sanity, I attached the Sprout100 to 6 different sets of speakers with no sub-woofer attached to any of them, and they too were not able to discern a difference, at least not a noticeable one if any at all. While it does not hurt to have the feature, it’s not something I foresee myself or anyone enabling or worrying about one way or another.

The Irregulars were all in disbelief when I started stacking up all the separate components that PS Audio has managed to fit into a relatively small box. They were really jazzed about the fact that they could afford a HiFi component that conceivably almost does it all, and that comes from a company with a history, a pedigree, which for them meant they pierced the veil, and were on their way, down the road into a hobby/pastime that could last their entire lives.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

4 Responses to PS Audio Sprout100 integrated amplifier Review


  1. Mr. Q says:

    The Sprout100 is so good that I purchased two myself. One is permanent on my bedroom and the second one is a mobile unit anywhere I drive to. In my case I already had the Stellar M700s and Gain Cell DAC and other equipment in several rooms, but this Sprout100 made a compelling and irresistible case or aesthetics, functionality, WAF and value. So even we,the most seasoned enthusiasts are enjoying it.

  2. BradleyP says:

    Other than driving a power amp — something I agree is not very likely to happen — Analog Out can feed an ADC for those who wish to digitize vinyl or get started with home recording, or drive powered monitors/speakers, or drive a (tubed) HP amp. Shoot, you could even put a HT processor between the outs and ins. It probably cost all of five dollars to add this feature, so what the hey.

  3. Terry Hetzel says:

    Why doesn’t it have a USB input for use with an i phone??

  4. Rudy says:

    Although I am a millennial, I do welcome the idea of the analog output intended for the Sprout 100 to be used as a preamp, as this would allow me to upgrade my system in a modular fashion as finances permit. Clever marketing strategy as staisfied customers would likely go down the high en audio road the PS Audio way.

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