Review: AVM OVATION A 8.3 Integrated Amplifier

The AVM Ovation A 8.3 Integrated Amplifier is a hybrid design, featuring a pair of AVM-branded ‘803 T’ dual triodes in the preamp married to a Class A/AB high current MOSFET output offering 200 Watts of power into 8 Ohms and 330 into 4.

But the Ovation A 8.3 isn’t done yet as it also includes a built in DAC with a choice of two digital filter settings (Smooth and Sharp) and the option to upsample all incoming data (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352, 384 kHz) or let it run native. There’s also a balance control and tone controls (Bass, Treble, and Loudness) that can be set globally or for specific inputs and you can adjust the input attenuation, i.e. level setting, up to 6dB for each analog input. If that’s not enough customization options for ya, you can name each input to your liking (max. 8 characters).

The Ovation A 8.3 offers two sets of speaker outputs (A & B) for driving two sets of speakers and a front panel mounted headphone jack for your ear goggles. The blue luminescent front panel display lights up with a variety of useful information like the active source and volume level. For the digital inputs the display shows the incoming sample rate of the file in play, the upsampling mode or native playback, and the selected digital filter. All of the above mentioned options can be accessed using the buttons under the display. The included all-aluminum remote controls volume, input, and power on/off. There are additional remote features when using other gear from AVM.

AVM was founded in Germany in 1986 and the company offers a complete line of amplifiers, preamplifiers, all-in-one devices, digital products, and turntables that are built to a very high standard. Every AVM product I’ve seen at shows over the years has impressed with superb build quality and attention to detail that reminds me, on some level, of T+A , a company that also happens to call Germany home. I am a fan of longevity and quality, so I welcomed the AVM’s arrival in Barn like an acquaintance I’ve always wanted to get to know better.

Let’s begin with the internal DAC. The Lumin U2 Mini (review) sent the Ovation A 8.3 stored and streamed music using a length of AudioQuest Diamond USB cable and I found I preferred the USB input to Coax and my best guess is most serious digital music users will prefer USB as well for its ability to handle higher resolution PCM and DSD files. I also preferred the USB inputs sound output but here we’re also talking about the sound quality output of the network player in use so your bits may vary. All that said, I found I preferred the totaldac d1-tube DAC/Streamer sending its converted bits to the AVM for its slightly softer, rounder, and more full bodied sound. The AVM’s DAC seems to place more emphasis on micro detail and resolution which some listeners may prefer over the totaldac’s warmer glow.

I paired the AVM—whose tank-like build quality continued to impress each time I turned its big shiny smooth and silky volume knob, something I preferred doing over the very nice remote, for the tactile pleasure—with the DeVore Fidelity O/96 speakers, the Klipsch Cornwall IV (review), and my preferred longer term partner the Marten Parker Trio (more info). It was this last pairing that I’m going to talk about for the listening notes that follow. Cables from AudioQuest, including their Robin Hood Speaker Cables and ThunderBird interconnects, connected everything together.

I keep going back to S.G. Goodman’s recent record Teeth Marks for its relative simplicity and beauty, with Goodman’s vocals and song writing reaching new highs (for me). The AVM/Marten combo presented this music in believable and bold relief, throwing out a rock solid sound image that was so physically present it felt as real, or realer, than the Parker Trios. “Finely sculpted” kept coming to mind when my thoughts moved from the music to how to describe the AVM listening experience. The a capella track “You Were Someone I Loved” is about as bare as a song can get, and the AVM/Marten pairing put S.G. Goodman’s voice on full display in Barn. Clean, clear, and stunningly present.

Guitarist Mary Halvorson’s latest, Belladonna, is her first time composing for string quartet but the music belies that fact as this ensemble works and plays together as if they’ve been joined at the hip since birth. Intricate guitar work, Halvorson’s signature dense and wiry probing, twists and turns around the Mivos String quartet and the AVM/Parker pairing once again brought them to life, in Barn. Each string pluck, every bowed moment, every line and movement came to life in exquisite detail with the AVM/Parker Trio combination presenting a super clean and super clear materialized sound image that seemed completely devoid of anything extraneous. Pure signal.

The similarly priced Constellation Inspiration Integrated 1.0 (review) made for an interesting comparison. When paired with the same Marten speakers, the same music sounded less etched with a softer and more delicate feel. I would not say there was any less detail, but the focus with the Constellation Integrated shifted my attention to body, tone, and more macro matters as compared to the AVM’s predilection for resolution, drive, and the micro. The AVM also seemed to coax a bit more bass energy from the Marten’s, but I was not left wanting for bass when the Constellation was in play. If it sounds like I’m seesawing between strengths, it’s because I am. A preference for one or the other of these fine integrated amplifiers comes down to personal preference and associated gear more than a choice based on better.

Where the AVM Ovation A 8.3 really stands out is its physicality coupled with superb clarity and drive. Congotronics International’s Where’s the One? is a monster dance party of sound made by artists Konono No. 1, Kasai Allstars, Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Juana Molina, and Matt Mehlan for a collective assault on jubilation. Drum and beat heavy, this music is dense and noisy in the best possible way and if you can stay seated during “Doubt/Hope” you have more self-control than I exhibit. The AVM/Marten pairing nearly blew the doors off the Barn, as I couldn’t resist turning the volume up, and up again until my senses were doused in pure delight. That wonderful sense of drive, control, and clarity of the AVM made this experience damn near psychedelic as these fine musicians felt powerfully present. Boom!

I spent a bit of time, not a lot, with the tone controls and for me the most useful was the Loudness control for those times when I wanted to listen at lower than normal levels. Here, a bit of curve is welcome, boosting bass and treble, and the AVM’s loudness function adapts to the volume setting making for a seamless transition to higher levels and back to a linear response.

I follow the artist Tali Lennox on Instagram because I enjoy her work as an artist and her penchant for posting photos of the nearly unimaginably exotic. She recently shared a music selection, Maurice Ravel’s Piano Works: Vol. 1 performed by Andre Leplante and within moments I was streaming the same from Tidal. I’m a fan of Ravel and Debussy’s piano works and while this performance was new to me, I welcomed the cascading beauty of Leplante’s take on Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit, M. 55” like an old friend. A piano can create a world of sound as forceful as any headbanger band, but with the added qualities of grace, delicacy, and nuance. If you allow yourself to jump completely in to a performance like this, and the reproduction is so flawless it transforms into a performance, time and the madness of the day fade away. The AVM/Marten pairing offered such a performance and I got lost in Ravel at the hands of Andre Leplante and I wondered at and wandered into this exotic sound world.

I spent week after week with the Ovation A 8.3 just listening to music, album after album of new treats and old favorites, and I was able to forget about sound quality and get lost in music’s qualities. This transition can be seamless but it can also be clumsy, drawing our attention away from music into sound. The AVM never once broke the spell of whatever music was casting its magic in Barn. Bravo!

AVM OVATION A 8.3 Integrated Amplifier
: $16,995
Company Website: AVM
US Distributor’s Website: Bluebird Music


Analog Inputs: 1 x XLR, 4 x RCA
Digital Inputs: 2 x S/PDIF Coax, 2 x S/PDIF Optical, 1 x USB B
Analog Outputs: 1 x Line/Fix Out XLR, 1 x Line/Fix Out RCA, 1 x Pre/Var Out RCA
Output Power: 2 x 330 W [4Ω]
Headphone Output: Class-A 6,35 mm
Speaker Outputs: 2 Pairs
DSD: DSD128 (5,6 MHz) via USB B
Inputs: Analog RCA, Analog XLR, Digital Coax, Digital Opto, USB B
Outputs: Analog RCA, Analog XLR, Headphone, Line/Fix Out, Loudspeaker, Pre/Var Out
Tone Control: Balance, Bass, Treble, scalable Loudness
Trigger Outputs: 2 x 3,5 mm
Tube Line Stage: A 8.3: OVATION 803 T
Bluetooth: HiFi Bluetooth (4.2 Standard)
Power Consumption: 1500 W max / < 0.5 W standby
Included Remote Control: RC 3 Aluminium Remote Control
Optional Remote Controls: RC 8 Remote Control
Finish: Aluminium Silver, Aluminium Black, CELLINI Chrome
Product Dimensions: 355 x 430 x 130 mm (L x W x H)
Product Weight: 22 kg