By Lam Seng Fatt
After several days listening to the Xtark IA10 integrated amplifier in my system, I have to say that the design by a retired electrical engineer, who only wants to be known as Mr Hoe, works quite well.
Priced at RM4,680, the Xtark IA10 integrated amplifier, which is a 100-watter, sounds better than many of its competitors from the UK and Japan in its price range.
In my home, I had connected the Xtark to the source comprising YS Encore CD transport and Wyred4Sound DAC2. A pair of Kimber 12TC speaker cables connected the Xtark to the ATC SCM50 floorstanders. I used my own sLAM Tenaga power cord.
I had been listening to Adele CDs recently and I played all three – 19, 21, and 25. I also played a Frank Sinatra album to hear how the Xtark would handle male vocals.
The outstanding aspect of the Xtark’s sound quality is the mid – the vocals sounded smooth and quite natural without sibilance and hardness. The treble region is quite open and clear while the bass was quite tight and deep.
When compared with my reference system – the Lamm LL2 Deluxe tubed preamp and the Bryston 4B SST – the Xtark lost out in terms of separation, soundstage width and depth, details and bass control. But bear in the mind the reference system costs about eight times more.
At its price range, the Xtark will compete against the lower-end Cambridges, Audiolabs, Musical Fidelitys and other popular brands like Marantz and Denon. Based on what I heard, the Xtark will not lose out to the entry-level models of these well-established brands.
In terms of design, the Xtark is in the minimalist camp and reminded me of British amps like the Audiolab and Naim. There are only two control knobs on the front of the integrated amplifier – one for volume and the other for input. The volume knob doubles as a mute button. Press it and the mute function is turned on, press it again and the mute is off. On the left side is a power button and beside it is a window for the volume-level display.
It has four RCA inputs and two pre-out jacks. I did not test the pre-out function as most – if not all – owners would use it as an integrated amplifier in a simple sound system.
I have to mention the quality of the casing as it is not made of cheap pressed metal; instead it is a thick plate of aluminium of a quality seldom found in components in this price range. Plus the Xtark comes with a cute and compact remote control which is also solidly made.
AFC Top Hi-Fi on the ground floor of the retail podium block of Eight Kinrara condos in Bandar Kinrara 5 has been appointed the sole distributor of the Xtark integrated amplifier.
Owner of AFC Top Hi-Fi, Matthew Ong, has used the Xtark integrated amplifier to drive speakers like Xavian Quarta and LA Audio Monarch. He has also used it with ATC and Thiel speakers.
Head to the AFC Top Hi-Fi showroom in Bandar Kinrara 5 to audition the proudly made-in-Malaysia Xtark IA10 integrated amplifier. You will be pleasantly surprised.