Calyx Audio is a subsidiary of the Korean-based company Digital and Audio. They offer a wide range of digital and audio products from their portable DAC the Coffee all the way up to the high end Femto DAC that utilizes a femto clock not unlike the one in Auralic’s [VEGA] DAC. The intent of this review is to shed some light on one of Calyx’s flagship amplifiers, simply named the Integrated. The Calyx Integrated ($2,500) offers up a 200W class-D amplifier, 3 RCA and 1 USB (24/96) inputs as well as a amply-sized dot matrix screen all packaged nicely in a very sleek matt black or aluminum finish case.
The build of the external casing is quite a sight. The design exudes its entitlement to the high-end of audio – not exceptionally wide, but dutifully deep enough to reach the back of your standard-size a/v rack. The weight of the component is audiophile heavy and undercarriage is void of your typical 3 or 4 leg suspension setups. The fully-equipped screen lets you know what input and volume level you are dealing with. Thankfully, it is viewable from long distances and is one of the very few amplifiers I’ve ever reviewed that is able to do so gracefully. A complementary heavy aluminum-brick of a remote accompanies the amplifier. I found the weight and feel quite comfortable in my hand, a welcome break from the usual classic light plastic of the TV remote. Hook up is as simple as you can imagine with an integrated. No balanced inputs are included with the amplifier, but all singled ended inputs I tested were free from ground loop hum or a static treble buzz. Calyx also made a wise choice including a set of RCA pre outs, which can be very helpful if you would like to connect the unit to a power amp at a later date. In further support to its straightforward design, one knob is simply designated for volume while the other switches the input.
Listening sessions where drawn from a windows-based server into the Benchmark DAC2 D. The single ended connection into the Calyx immediately drew my attention to the treble when paired to the new Zu Soul MkII. The duo pumped out smooth, refined top end with plenty of extra air to breathe. Switching over to more affordable REGA Brio-R integrated ($900) made the differences seem even more obvious. In fact, the sonic returns from the financial leap came as quite a surprise. More spatial identity and a crisp, quick reaction made it clear why the Calyx is in a separate league, both in performance and price. Even the pitter patter of little hands in the beginning of Led Zepplin’s Ramble On seemed to take on a new sense of sonic truth as the amp and speakers danced together. While not a vocal track that inspires much attention as an audiophile reference, the song as a whole barreled forward with as much detail and life as I’ve ever heard it. The dynamic swing between verse and chorus felt exactly right, nothing mushy or overdrawn. Increased fidelity across the mids and treble pushed the stereo image even further into focus. Bach, Sonata No.2 in D BVW 1028 Antdante as performed by Janos Starker and Gyorgy Sebok reaffirmed what was quickly becoming apparent; the Calyx’s stellar performance wasn’t exclusive to its treble. Even the acoustic timbre from the piano felt more genuine than usual. The hammer and stings of the large instrument was amplified with precision dynamics that felt substantially well placed within the sonic field. This became even more apparent as parts played individually by the left and right hands were relatively easy to pull apart from each other as the song progressed. Vocals called out to the listener with a solid sense of 3-dimensionality and less grain. Bass was balanced and never overdrawn over the rest of the mix.
Overall the Calyx Integrated surprised me where few audio products do, performance is pushed up near the brink of possibilities within such a small footprint. Outside, looks do impress. Insides rock the house in ways that delight and entertain. While the price point starts to charge into the premium frontier, the Calyx delivers a nice bump in performance for those looking to migrate up to the next tier. An audition is recommended for those poking around the $2-$3k amplifier range looking for an integrated. The package deal here keeps things simple, clean and compact where separates start to diverge into larger and larger plots of real estate. The tremendous clarity, fluidity and dynamic responsiveness of this well organized loudspeaker amplifier help project value against its monetary cost. Its solid build, presentation and a useable display screen help raise it even higher.