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Wyred 4 Sound mINT integrated amplifier Review

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I have always enjoyed attending the California Audio Show and feel it is worth the drive to Northern California to attend as much as I can. This year I had the opportunity to listen to a number of products that are not sold by my local retailers or are available only direct from the manufacturer. One company with a direct-to-consumer sales model is Wyred 4 Sound, based in the Central California city of Atascadero near San Luis Obispo. The owner, E.J. Sarmento, started Wyred 4 Sound in 2007 with a small team of friends and colleagues and with a mission to produce great products at affordable prices that provide years of pleasure to fellow music lovers. All of their products are designed and built in California. I have never had experience using any Wyred 4 Sound products in my system, so this review will serve as an educational experience into the brand.

I had a chance to meet E.J. at the 2019 California Audio Show (CAS9), where I found him to be a very pleasant person who knew his product line well. The Wyred 4 Sound room at CAS9 was always crowded, so I had to catch him early before the show started. I was looking for a reasonably priced integrated amplifier to review and E.J. thought the Wyred 4 Sound mINT integrated amplifier would be the perfect component to review. This amplifier also includes a DAC (Digital-Analog Converter), which would give me an additional feature to enjoy. Since the amplifier was not available at the show, E.J. was nice enough to make delivery arrangements while I was listening to the products that he brought to this show. He is proud of all of his products and was confident that I would enjoy this particular integrated amplifier.

The Wyred 4 Sound mINT (short for Mini Integrated Amplifier) is $1,499 but is now on sale for $1,399. It is small and extremely light (9 pounds) and sports a very neat, industrial look. The Wyred 4 Sound mINT produces 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 170 watts per channel into 4 ohms running in class D, which should be capable of driving most speakers while being environmentally friendly for its efficiency. This is a truly modern integrated amplifier with a built-in ESS DAC supporting 24 bit 192KHz through S/PDIF inputs and 24 bit 96KHz via USB, plus a powerful headphone amplifier. Also included are configurable analog inputs and outputs, giving you everything you need in one component. There is a remote but no tone or balance controls and no phono section. I did not open up the mINT to look inside, however, externally there was a feeling of quality so I assume inside the mINT would have the same quality. Before you turn on the mINT it is important to have the external voltage switch set to the correct setting, in my case 115 volts.

When you power on the Wyred 4 Sound mINT from the back, it enters into standby mode. You can then turn on the power and choose which input you want to use directly on the front of the amplifier or with the remote control. You can also adjust the volume either with the volume control on the front of the amplifier or with the remote control. I just used both the volume control and selected the source directly on the amplifier even though most people would probably use the remote control.

I connected the Wyred 4 Sound mINT to my main system. My turntable setup includes the Acoustic Research “The AR Turntable” with a Sumiko Premier MMT tonearm and the wonderful sounding Hana EH high output moving coil cartridge. This was played through an NAD PP1 phono stage. I connected my Audio Alchemy transport directly into the mINT via the coaxial input, which allowed me to compare the mINT’s built in DAC with my Audio Alchemy DAC. The mINT’s output was connected to a pair of Acarian Systems Alon 1 speakers. AudioQuest speaker cables and interconnects were used throughout the system.

My first impression was of a clear, musical sound with a nice, full bass. A major criticism of my Alon speakers has been the difficulty of matching components, especially solid state preamplifiers and amplifiers. I had switched to tubes (Antique Sound Lab line stage and a pair of Quicksilver monoblocks) because most solid state preamplifiers and power amplifiers sounded forward and bright with these speakers and tubes was a way to tame the sound. A few weeks ago, I inserted a very old solid state power amplifier in the system and although it sounded fine, it was nowhere close to the performance of my tube Quicksilvers.

This was not the case with the Wyred 4 Sound mINT. The mINT had a very nice, relaxed, musical sound playing both CDs and records. One reason digital listening is so good is the mINT’s built-in DAC is so superior to my 25 year old Audio Alchemy DAC. In particular, I also found no forwardness or brightness when using my turntable set up, so it is not just the DAC; the preamplifier and power amplifier sections of the mINT are outstanding. And there was plenty of power. Playing the Reference Recordings RR-70CD of Eiji Oue conducting the Minnesota Orchestra playing Stravinsky brought out bass that shook the room. Playing my Miles Davis Kind of Blue LP brought out the midrange’s natural sound, which, combined with good side-to-side imaging and a wide soundstage, gave a realistic presentation of this classic jazz album. The highs were on the sweet side, reminding me of an EL34 tube except with a lot more bass. The only area my tube combination betters the mINT was the three-dimensional sound that only tubes can give you. You get more of the front to back depth. The gain of my Antique Sound Lab line stage is also a little higher than the preamplifier portion of the mINT, so the volume level had to be turned up. The mINT holds its own in every other area. I played a wide variety of music and no matter what genre I played, there was a natural, musical sound.

My Hana EH phono cartridge still sounded great but it had well over 2,000 hours on it, so I switched to a newer cartridge, the Sumiko Olympia, of which I gave a very positive review last year. The mINT sounded wonderful with the Olympia although the superiority of the Hana was obvious. The mINT was able to show the advantages of the over-twice-the-price Hana phono cartridge.

I also used the Wyred 4 Sound mINT with my 86 dB, 4 ohm Magnepan MMG speakers. The load would really test the capabilities of the power amplifier portion of the mINT. The Wyred 4 Sound mINT is so small and lightweight that I wondered if it would be capable of driving the Magnepans, which are known for being power hungry. Any preconceptions that the mINT might not have the muscle to drive the smaller Magnepans quickly vanished. The mINT had a nice, sweet sound whether playing my records or CDs with the Magnepan MMGs. I am sure it would drive the new Magnepan LRS speakers with no problem.

The versatility of this product combined with the convenience is incredible. This one very small and lightweight component replaced four of my existing components during this review: a DAC, a line stage preamplifier and a pair of monoblock amplifiers. This meant two fewer pairs of interconnects, resulting in a much less cluttered stereo setup. I only used the mINT with my turntable and CD player (used as a transport), but the product also offers a headphone amplifier and a USB input that others may find useful.

I found the customer service first rate when I accidentally called the company after hours with a simple question. E.J. himself picked up the telephone and provided the answer instantly. I was also kept updated on the status of my order when I ordered the mINT by their outstanding customer representative Alissa. This means that before you buy anything from Wyred 4 Sound you will be fully informed about the products you intend to purchase and, afterwards, the company will be there to support your purchase. They have a wide range of products, including line preamplifiers/phono stages, monobolocks/stereo amplifiers, DACs/other digital components, music servers, and some accessories.

The Wyred 4 Sound mINT combined with a pair of speakers such as the Magnepan LRS and maybe one of the many under-$400 turntables that come with a built-in phono stage will get you started with a fine sounding stereo that will meet the expectations of most music lovers. You could add a CD player with a coaxial output and an inexpensive USB cable for your computer and still be under $2,500.

I may have to change my listening habits. I have always been an “old school” kind of guy, feeling that analog played by a vintage turntable combined with tube amplification was the only way to go for my needs. The Wyred 4 Sound mINT has made me reassess everything. This little amplifier sounds so wonderful and is so easy to use that I plan to use it to review other products in the future. I have been writing how much I enjoy my current system and was not planning on changing anything. Since I am not selling my tube preamplifiers and tube power amplifiers, the last thing I need is another amplifier. I even have unused amplifiers packed in their original boxes just sitting in my closet. Even though I retired as a certified public accountant over a year ago old habits die hard. I get more excited about a great product that I consider a bargain than the very expensive products out there, so I have decided to purchase the Wyred 4 Sound mINT review sample.

 

Copy editor: Dan Rubin

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