You know how I used to start off each of my integrated amplifier reviews with an opening paragraph on why I love integrated amplifiers? Yes, I made a promise not to do that ever again, so don’t worry. It’s just that after spending the last few months with the Allnic Audio T-2000 30th Anniversary stereo integrated amplifier, it’s no longer a question of why I love them. I’ve realized when it comes to that retirement system I keep discussing, I’ve already decided in my heart that it will be powered by an integrated amplifier.
Why? It’s no longer about shared power supplies vs. one more set of interconnects. It’s not even about having a little extra space on my equipment rack. (My Fern and Roby equipment rack has plenty of space, so that’s not the selling point it once was.) It’s not about that friend of mine in the hi-fi industry who is fond of saying, in a slightly more colorful way, that separates are for grown-ups. If you’re serious about amplification, you shouldn’t even be considering an integrated amplifier.
No, it’s that third reason I often mention, that integrated amplifiers have gotten so good lately that they’ve nearly shrugged off their status as a high-end audio compromise that needs to be made when you’re trying to save a little money on your system. Over the last few years I’ve heard a handful of six-figure integrated amplifiers (VAC and Acapella are the two that immediately spring to mind), and I’ll wager you won’t find any design concessions due to cost.
Integrated amplifiers can be truly great. That’s what I think I’m getting at. I believe that an integrated amplifier, properly designed, should be capable of state-of-the-art sound just like separates. We’re seeing it around us, all the time now.
It comes down to this—many of the most rewarding systems I’ve assembled over the years featured an integrated amplifier instead of separate power amplifiers and preamplifiers. Just during the last three years, when I first joined PTA on a permanent basis, I’ve encountered a number of integrated amps that could happily serve in a proverbial yet still reasonable dream system that could be chosen to accompany me on my musical journey for the rest of my life.
And the Allnic Audio T-2000 30th Anniversary integrated amplifier? Where does it stand?
If you’ve read my recent review of the Allnic Audio H-5500 phono preamplifier and Amber MC cartridge, which I used with the T-2000 as frequently as I could over the summer, or if you look at Grover Neville’s separate reviews of the Allnic Audio L-8000 DHT preamplifier and the A-2000 25th Anniversary stereo power amplifier, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how this plot is going to develop. Will the Allnic Audio T-2000 make me the happiest audiophile in the world by the end of the story?
This is not a Hitchcock movie. You already know how it ends.
Inside the Allnic Audio T-2000
At over 80 lbs., the $13,900 Allnic Audio T-2000 is a beast of an integrated. But because it’s an open-architecture tube amplifier it doesn’t look nearly as imposing as, say, the massive black transformer box that is the Rotel Michi X5 integrated amplifier. That Michi nearly killed me, by the way, with its grippy rubber feet preventing me from sliding it comfortably across the floor. As Grover mentions in his review of the A-2000 stereo power amplifier, however, this massive chassis is made maneuverable thanks to the solid and easy to grip side handles.
Still, the Allnic Audio T-2000 was still a little too bulky to fit on the rack—let’s be honest, I didn’t want to pick it up any higher than I had to since those innovative Permalloy outout transformers put all the weight toward the back. I grabbed my old Target amp stand and placed the T-2000 right up in front of the rack, in a place of honor. It looked somewhat majestic sitting there, those gleaming acrylic tube protectors guarding those large KT-170 output tubes on top of the chassis.
Speaking of output, the Allnic Audio T-2000 is one of those fun amplifiers that allow you to switch from tetrode (120 watts per channel) to triode (60 watts per channel) with a flick of the switch. So yes, you can do it on the fly. I think that’s fantastic, because for many years I imported and distributed amplifiers that did this, but they couldn’t do it on the fly. In most cases you needed to turn it off, flick the toggle switch, and turn it back on. That, of course, means you have to wait until the amp warmed up again before you can make any serious comparisons of the sound quality. You could turn the volume all the way down and make the switch, but that was supposedly risky as well. (That’s what I kind of did, though. Shh.)
With the Allnic Audio T-2000, however, you can push that button on the front to your heart’s content while music is playing and you can immediately hear the difference between the more powerful and linear sound of tetrode or the warmer, more textured sound of the triode (which Allnic calls “SET like.”) In a way, you’re encouraged to do so because the T-2000 should be always turned on and off in tetrode mode. If you don’t—and again, Grover discovered this with the very similar but KT-120 based A-2000—you get this weird rush of pink noise through your speakers and a singular and panicky WTF will escape from your lips.
Usually when I have an amp with this switching feature, I immediately pick triode and forget about it. But with the Allnic Audio T-2000, I found that my choice between triode and tetrode was completely dictated by the loudspeaker I used. For instance, the high-efficiency TotalDAC d100 speakers LOVED triode, but the sound was a little too lean in tetrode. With the Falcon Acoustics LS3/5a MoFi Edition monitors, however, it was tetrode all the way. Tetrode made the MoFis sound much larger than you’d think possible, while triode kept the dynamics from really developing into a realistic presentation of the music at the frequency extremes.
What else would you like to know about the Allnic Audio T-2000 30th Anniversary integrated amplifier? What makes it so extraordinary? Here are some of the technical details of the design:
- A remote controlled 61-step constant impedance silver contact attenuator, which is so specialized that it’s made in-house. It’s designed specifically for low distortion and “channel completion.”
- “Full Engagement” output transformers with Large Nickel/FeSi Cores. The use of Permalloy is, as I mentioned in the H-5500 review, is one of Allnic’s design principles. Allnic claims that “this provides for higher inductance with fewer windings than other designs can provide and results in the great benefit of an extremely wide range of output frequencies.”
- “Soft-start” circuitry to prolong tube life.
- Analogue Power Tube Current Monitors, which are another trademark of the Allnic design. You even get two of these gorgeous little meters, one for each channel.
The full tube complement of the Allnic Audio T-2000 is four KT170s used for power, two 6J4s for the first stage driver and two D3as for the second stage. It’s all really pretty up close.
Allnic Audio T-2000 Set Up and Initial Sound
Since the Allnic Audio T-2000 was in my listening room for so long, it naturally spent a lot of time with a wide variety of equipment. But here’s the system that I’ll remember for the rest of my days—the Allnic T-2000 and H-5500, the Technics SL-1200G turntable with the Koetsu Urushi Black and the Koetsu SUT, and both the Qln Prestige One and the MoFi LS3/5as, all hooked up with a combo of Furutech and AudioQuest.
(I’m not dissing the Allnic Audio Amber MC at all. But we’re talking the $4900 Amber vs. $11,500 worth of Koetsu, and it was still a tough choice.)
The $6800/pair Qln Prestige Ones were not a surprise—these were warm and balanced two-way bookshelf monitors that impressed me like few other transducers at this price. But the $1995/pair Falcon Acoustic LS3/5as? Are you sure you want to tell us how good a $2000/pair of shoebox-sized speakers sounds when you hook it up to $20K of amps and a $15K analog rig? All I’m saying is that it says a lot about the Falcons that the match was so extraordinary and memorable, but it also says a lot about the Allnic Audio T-2000 and its ability to elevate the rest of the system to new heights.
As I mentioned in my review of the H-5500 and the Amber, the Allnic Audio gear is unusually synergistic when used together. I tried to keep the trio together because, well, why wouldn’t I? Once I opened a new loaf of sliced bread and reached for two slices in the very middle, as I always did back in the days when I still ate bread, but I made the mistake of doing so in front of a house guest. This person was downright shocked, and acted as if I was immoral and selfish for not working my way through the nasty stuff on the ends to the good stuff in the middle, which wouldn’t be as good once you put all that work in. I calmly looked at this provincial and sanctimonious bore and said, “I bought this bread…why shouldn’t I help myself to the best possible slices at any given time?”
I felt that way with the Allnic Audio T-2000. I fed it only the best while it was here, and most of the time that was the other Allnic products. Why should I deny myself of its glory?
Sound and Further Listening
I’ll need to go back to my review of the H-5500 and Amber, which in turn goes back to Grover Neville’s review of the A-2000 25th Anniversary power amplifier and L-8000 DHT preamplifier, to describe this misty, ethereal thing we call “the Allnic Sound.”
First, I’m not convinced it’s a signature per se because Grover and I keep bandying around words like “linear” and “neutral” to describe our impressions of the overall sound quality. As I mentioned, I found it a little easier to come up with specific adjectives for triode mode because I could see that additional richness lurking in the background compared to tetrode. This additional layer of presence often acted as a foundation for the soundstage and the imaging, one that wasn’t heard as much as felt. But I could feel it, on a fairly consistent basis. Hand me the blindfold and I’ll show you.
Switched to tetrode operation, the Allnic Audio T-2000 transforms into that ultimate neutral presence that scoots out of the way when it comes to getting the music to your ears. If I did hear what I sensed was brightness in the lower treble, it was usually because I had just switched from triode and was still condition to that sound. Basically, that was a cue for me to flick the switch back to triode and that, of course, is a major benefit of owning this integrated—you’ll have your bases covered in terms of both music and speaker loads.
One LP that sounded unforgettable with the Allnic Audio T-2000 in triode was the Impex 45rpm reissue of Legrand Jazz. This is one of those “window in time” recordings, but the tetrode mode seemed to compensate for the passage of time by creating a detailed account of what happened among all those famous musicians playing those Michel Legrand tunes, both singular Columbia Records legends and Calgon-take-me-away orchestration. Switching back to triode, well, I barely remember what happened after that. It made sense. It made me forget about everything else but that music.
If you want to know when the tetrode mode was preferred, we have to take the Yulunga Test. Yes, we’re going back to that first soft beat of the big bass drum on Dead Can Dance’s “Yulunga” from the MoFi reissue of Into the Labyrinth. In triode mode, that beat was magnificent and huge and deep, but perhaps a tiny bit indistinct at the very bottom. In tetrode mode, that subterranean whummmmppphhh was tight and well-defined down to that last h. Mind you, I also performed the Yulunga Test with the Allnic Audio T-2000 hooked up to the massive MC Audiotech Forty/10 loudspeakers, which can reach down to 20 Hz according to the specs. I don’t think I can get a 20 Hz tone to develop in my listening room, but that day I came close.
In essence, the Allnic Audio T-2000 isn’t just a great-sounding integrated amplifier. It’s two great-sounding integrated amplifiers. Now that $13,900 is starting to sound like a bargain, at least to me.
Allnic Audio T-2000 Conclusions
I’ve heard only a handful of integrated amplifiers that I’ve reviewed that come anywhere close to the sonic performance of the Allnic Audio T-2000. They’re all in the same ballpark pricewise. It’s a mix of valves and resistors among these champions, to be sure, but none of them sound like solid-state nor tubes. They’re merely so close to that ultimate truth, and so linear in response, and so meticulous about the frequency extremes, that they just exist in harmony with your favorite music. I know I had everything I needed with each of these amplifiers in the chain.
The real way to evaluate the Allnic Audio T-2000 is with the H-5500 and the Amber cartridge, and perhaps some of Allnic’s own cables. The H-5500 and the Amber MC worked will with every other piece of gear, but they swept me away together, and that feeling is amplified (pun intended) once you add the magnificent, noble Allnic Audio T-2000 30th Anniversary stereo integrated amplifier. If some highly fictitious benefactor gave me roughly $25K to spend on high-end audio to continue my pursuit of musical nirvana, this is what I’d do. In a heartbeat. Highly recommended.