I’m always on the look out for great gear that will intrigue friends who otherwise throw up their hands and shriek “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies!” when presented with putting together a sound system. If it looks sexy, so much the better; in a world of iThingies, it doesn’t do to stick out like a black plastic sore thumb. Folks want something easy to use that fits with their aesthetic and their budget, and they’re hungry for bigger, better sound than what they’re getting from their laptop speakers.
PS Audio‘s Sprout Lounge at RMAF demonstrated that they’re well aware of these desires. The small room adjacent to PS Audio’s larger system was done up in superb first-nice-apartment style: a white IKEA couch, cool Mid-Century-esque lowboy and end tables, and Marilyn Monroe on the wall. Sprout ($799), with its brushed silver sides and walnut top panel, fit right in. The set-up was flanked by Golden Ear Aon 3 loudspeakers (about $1,000/pair), and a white Pro-Ject turntable and vintage reel-to-reel deck completed the picture.
Sprout offers a load of functionality in its cute little package. The unit is an integrated amp with 50 watts per channel, an analog preamp, 192/24 asynchronous DAC, MM phono stage, low impedance headphone amp, and AptX Bluetooth receiver. What this translates to for my frightened non-audiophile friends is “No, really, just plug in your speakers, plug in your turntable, and go.” Easy-peasy.
We’ve established that the looks and function are very much there. The next question, of course, is whether the sound is satisfactory. While I wasn’t able to listen long enough to answer questions about long-term listening fatigue, my experience with an LP of Beck’s Morning Phase was rewarding. “Morning” was very sweet, smooth, and listenable, without the etched sound I tend to associate with class D amplification. Oftentimes, longer listening can reveal more subtle issues, but my initial reaction was that Sprout offers excellent sound, versatility, and looks for a very reasonable price tag. I could easily see this as an entry-level integrated for a college student’s first Real Stereo, or as the backbone of an office system where space is at a premium — or, for that matter, for my sane friends who don’t believe that amps should double as space heaters.
Sprout ships in late November, just in time for the winter holidays.