Legend has it there’s a dusty tome called ‘How To Build Really, Really High-End Amps’ floating around. We’re betting that Simaudio has a copy, so great an example of the breed is the i-7. It’s built superbly, imposingly styled, costs a lot, and – most importantly – sounds like a slice of heaven.
It has the family sound: refined, with a midrange of rare fluidity coupled to a strong rhythmic drive. However, it’s capable of transparency and insight we haven’t previously heard in the company’s amps, and that’s what takes it straight into the big league. Sure, this kind of money will buy better neutrality and a more authoritative low end – take a bow, Krell – and you can get a sweeter sound from a Unison Research or Pathos. But for us it does enough in other areas to surpass just about anything else we’ve heard at this price point.
Consider that the i-7 is a full-spec integrated amp delivering 150watts per channel, yet still competes head on with hardcore low-power contenders, and you see the scale of the achievement.
Vocals beyond reproach
Listen to Prince’s excellent 3121set and the i-7’s precise timing and ability to unravel a complex mix is impressive. There’s undoubtedly a hint of superfluous richness in the midband, but so convincing is the way this amp handles the diminutive former squiggle’s vocals that it would be churlish to criticise.
Move onto Tchaikovsky’s Marché Slave and the powerful dynamics impress, as does the inherently stable stereo imaging, no doubt thanks to the symmetrical circuit design. Most of all, it’s the power of the music that will move you: this is one piece of hi-fi that simply doesn’t intrude.
Flaws? If you have difficult-to-drive or very insensitive speakers we’d look elsewhere. The i-7 has a decent output but hasn’t got the muscle to stay fully in command when pushed hard, losing its smoothness and balance in the process.