Stereophile Magazine .....
It was fall 2000. I'd just begun working at Stereophile, and I clearly remember sheepishly, innocently putting this question to former senior editor Jonathan Scull.
I think the question confused him—not because he didn't know the answer, but because the answer seemed so obvious, the question itself should have been unnecessary. How could anyone not know what an integrated amplifier is? I might as well have asked, "What's a song?"
I was 22 years old, and I believe my ignorance of integrateds was in no way unique. Ask most young people what an integrated amplifier is, and, if you're lucky, you'll receive blank stares. But age is beside the point. Ask most older people what an integrated amp is and you'll fare just as well. Only audiophiles are generally familiar with the term, and, for better or worse, audiophiles make up a small percentage of the overall population. We tend to keep to ourselves. Hi-fi isn't as hip as it once was, or as it should be.
J-10 explained that an integrated amplifier is one in which a preamplifier and a power amplifier are built on the same chassis and enclosed in the same case. Now I was confused. You mean we can save space, reduce cost, eliminate a pair of interconnects, and still make music? Then and there, the integrated amplifier took its place as my favorite audio component: smart, efficient, useful, handsome—like some writers I know. Why have separates at all?