Pioneer A-40AE Review – Thoughtfully Designed Mid-Range Desktop DAC with Integrated Amplifier

Today’s hi-fi market offers a broad range of audio equipment for those who want to listen to music in its best quality. These include all-in-one systems with Internet access, wireless speakers, portable players with headphones, and computer digital converters with desktop speakers. However, many audio enthusiasts prefer to use older, stand-alone types of audio circuits, as they can create their own sound instead of buying a standard product.

To cater to such a market, Pioneer treats its users with some exciting audio products. Among them is the A-40AE integrated amplifier. While the code name might raise some hopes, it has not come the time to remake the iconic A400X model. The A-40AE is simply another integrated amplifier belonging to the growing two-channel line-up.

Pioneer A-40AE Mid-level desktop DAC+AMP Review

Pioneer A-40AE Specifications

Type: Integrated amplifier, stereo | Output Power: – 60W+60W (20Hz-20kHz, 0.5% THD, 4 ohms, 2-wire connection), 30W+30W (20Hz-20kHz, 0.4% THD, 8 ohms, 2-wire connection) | Playable frequency range: 10Hz-100kHz (measured at +1dB/-3dB) | Signal-to-noise ratio (IHF-A): 106dB (line-in, SP out), 81dB (PHONO in, SP out) | Power supply: AC 220-230 V, 50/60 Hz | Power consumption: 150 W | Standby power consumption: 0.2 W | Dimensions (WxHxD): 435 x 129 x 323 mm | Weight: – 18 lbs (8.2 kg)

Features

  • Direct power design
  • Enhanced construction
  • Isolated power circuits
  • Custom ELNA capacitors
  • Built-in Wolfson 192kHz / 24-bit DAC
  • Support for high-resolution audio sources
  • Direct mode
  • Direct power amplifier mode
  • A + B speakers
  • Integrated tone control – available (bass / treble)
  • Balance control
  • Automatic switching to standby mode

Connections

  • Analog audio inputs (gold plated) – PHONO (MM), CD/SACD, LINE 1, LINE 2, LINE 3, LINE 4, P.AMP DIRECT
  • Digital audio inputs – optical, coaxial
  • Analog audio output – line out
  • Headphone output
  • SR input/output

Design & Ergonomy

The amplifier has a classic metal chassis and an aluminum front panel with buttons and keys for easy configuration and operation. Selected inputs are indicated by an LED.

Next to the main switch, are:

  • SR “detector,”
  • Gold-plated 6.3mm headphone jack
  • Four small buttons
  • Direct (bypasses the EQ circuit)
  • Speaker (volume control filter)
  • Speaker (speaker switching: A/B/A+B)
  • P.Amp Direct (switches the amplifier to power amp mode)
  • Four small buttons.

Between the gain control and the source selector are:

  • Eight blue LEDs indicating the names of the inputs.
  • Phono, CD/SACD, Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, Line 4, coaxial and optical.
  • There is also phono MM input, an output for a preamp, and an input for a power amplifier circuit.

Compared to the A-30, this speaker is even more impressive. The front panel, in particular, is made of a rather thick aluminum plate, as are the controls. The tone controls appear to be metal, while the volume knob is made of aluminum and is much more prominent. Other components of the enclosure are made of steel sheets. The chassis is 1.6mm thick, which gives the whole thing a relatively solid and sturdy feel.

The Pioneer desktop amplifier is a traditional class AB amplifier. After opening the cover, a fairly decent-looking power transformer and a satisfactory assembly of components appear. The transistors sit on an appropriately sized heatsink next to a pair of power capacitors from the famous Japanese brand ELNA. Simply put, the quality of the power supply has been improved over the A-30.

The manufacturer advertises an output power of 30W/channel (8 ohms, 0.4% MTF); 30W/8 ohms (60W/4 ohms) is enough to fill a small to medium-sized room or to power floor standing speakers.

The A-40AE amplifier has bass and treble controls and a Loudness “control” that can be turned on or off to compensate for bass non-linearity based on the noise floor. Other amps give you the ability to adjust the noise floor, but here you can only turn it on and off, which is less flexible.

Technology

The power amplifier uses the same circuit with two Darlington transistors (a pair of Sanken SD2390/2SB1560). The differences are visible in the design of the preamplifier and the control stage. The new model uses fewer transistors, and the motherboard has been completely redesigned. The volume control is still done with the classic Alpine potentiometer.

The Pioneer A-40AE is equipped with a D/A converter using an excellent Wolfson chip (WM8718S), which supports the 24-bit resolution and a sampling rate of up to 192 kHz.

The power transformer windings of the different circuits – preamplifier, power amplifier, and control unit – are kept as separate as possible to avoid mutual interference. The filter capacitors have been specially designed by ELNA for Pioneer audio equipment, as the labels on each capacitor show.

Pioneer’s proprietary technology, known as “Direct Energy,” includes power supply optimization and improved circuit layout. By optimizing the power supply and improving the circuit layout, the signal path is shortened, and the signal-to-noise ratio is greatly improved.

Sound Quality

Pioneer has impressive experience designing and manufacturing amplifiers, so everything is expected to be good here in terms of sound quality.

The amplifier is equipped with a 24-bit/192 kHz DAC. It handles orchestral music well and even better with less demanding recordings. It is well balanced, has a wide stereo panorama and good detail, but it is not an exceptional sound. It lacks dynamics, but this can be improved by using the direct mode only.

You’ll be greeted by a dynamic, clean sound, emphasizing rich bass and midrange. At the same time, the overall sound is not overshadowed, as is often the case here. The A-40AE mid-range desktop amplifier is designed for fans of rock and electronic music. But it’s also worth noting that this amplifier has an enviable “versatility” that makes it a universal amplifier for almost any genre of music.

Bass is deep, extended, quite loud, and manageable. Treble is also very convincing, considering the price of this integrated amplifier. They are selective yet airy, delicate, atmospheric, and rich in detail. The A-40AE home amplifier could be a phenomenon if it had more resolution in the midrange and if the amplifier clearly showed the depth of the soundstage and its different layers. As for the soundstage, it creates a wide and beautiful stereo image.

The extreme ends of the audio spectrum are simply wonderful, if not excellent, but the midrange is less than perfect. However, it is important to note that all bands worked perfectly together and created a neutral sound profile in terms of timbre and dynamics.

Overall, the A-40AE is clean and has very good tone control, even during explosive passages. However, when a very fast dynamic attack is required, some recordings may sound lackluster, the music lacks expression, and the sound seems a bit too soft.

Conclusion

The Pioneer A-40AE is a solid and contemporary representative of classic Hi-Fi. While many digital devices have complex controls, this desktop headphone amplifier is simple to use and can easily be used with conventional PC stereo systems or the latest digital sources.

Either way, the A-40AE offers decent sound quality and an ideal design that is unlikely to go out of style even in an ever-changing digital era. It is a good choice for those who want to enhance their music and experience it to the fullest. It is ready to build a variety of audio systems and has great playback capabilities.

I highly recommend it to those who appreciate the characteristic drive and assertiveness of sound since this amplifier will handle those requirements perfectly.

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