CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

SpaceX, NASA delay Demo-2 mission HBO Max Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pinball HBO Max Harry Potter movies Mortal Kombat 11 Aftermath DLC launch trailer Best VPN service

Can an audiophile find joy in an under $100 amplifier?

The Dayton Audio DTA-120 stereo integrated amp skimps on features, but this desktop-friendly device pumps out 60 watts a channel.

The Dayton Audio DTA-120 Parts Express

The Dayton Audio DTA-120 stereo integrated amp isn't very big, but for anyone searching for a decent amp that won't break the bank it's a real contender. First, let's look at the numbers: It's rated at 50 watts per channel for 8 ohm speakers; 60 watts per channel for 4 ohm speakers; the rear panel has stereo RCA inputs and speaker cable binding posts. The front panel has a 3.5 mm stereo minijack input, a 6.3 mm headphone jack, and a volume control. The DTA-120's extruded metal chassis feels solid, it's tiny, just 2.2 x 3.4 x 5.5 inches, including feet, faceplate, and volume knob.

The separate power supply box is about the same size as the amp, so it's a good deal larger than your typical wall wart.

I used my old PSB Alpha B speakers and Oppo BDP 105 Blu-ray player for most of my listening tests. Nothing about the DTA-120's sound made me feel like I was listening to an entry-level amp. It was reasonably powerful, imaging was spacious, the sound was neither bright nor dull. I played a bunch of tunes and was perfectly happy with the sound. I also watched a few movies, and even without the aid of a subwoofer the little Alpha Bs provided satisfying, though not room-shaking, bass.

I plugged in my Audio Technica ATH M50 headphones and liked what I heard. The DTA-120 summoned up a lot of detail from the M50s and bass definition was well ahead of what I get from these 'phones plugged into my iPod Classic or Mac Mini computer.

The DTA-120's rear panel Parts Express

I compared the DTA-120 with the $25 Lepai LP2020A+ amp, and they sounded very different. The LP202A+ is mellower and more laid back; the DTA-120 is clearer, more open sounding. The LP2020+ is rated at just 20 watts per channel, so the DTA-120's dynamic oomph was well ahead of the LP2020A+'s, and treble "air" and detail were lacking compared with the DTA-120. Still, for the money the LP2020A+ is pretty spectacular, especially if you don't play tunes all that loud. The LP202A+ sounds sweet and rich at moderate volume levels.

The DTA-120 would also be a fine match with a set of desktop speakers, ones that don't have built-in power amps, like the Audioengine P4.

Parts Express sells the DTS-120 for just a hair under $100.