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Audio

Dayton’s tiny $143 stereo amplifier has big aspirations

The Dayton Audio DTA Pro stereo integrated amplifier is such a tiny thing you might underestimate it. That would be a big mistake.

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The Dayton Audio DTA Pro stereo integrated amplifier 

Dayton Audio

Dayton Audio's B652 Air bookshelf speaker has been a budget favorite around here for years, and its brand-spanking-new MK442T tower speaker ($228 a pair) looks like a real contender (a review is in the works). So when the UPS driver dropped off the Dayton Audio DTA Pro stereo integrated amplifier, I couldn't wait to check it out.

Measuring a scant 5.2 by 5 by 1.2 inches, the amp was a good deal smaller than expected. Considering its downright dainty footprint, the DTA Pro is a feature-packed component, connectivity runs to a Micro-USB input, one each of optical and coaxial inputs, Bluetooth (version not specified), RCA subwoofer output, 3.5mm stereo analog input, and five-way speaker cable binding posts. The DTA Pro's internal digital converter plays up to 192kHz/24-bit high-res PCM files.

Few budget amps are designed to handle 4-ohm speakers, but the DTA Pro is rated at 50 watts per channel for 4-ohm speakers, and yes the amp will safely accommodate 6- and 8-ohm speakers. The all metal chassis is nicely finished and it feels well put together. Dayton Audio sells the DTA Pro with a five-year warranty.

The remote control covers volume and input selection, but also bass & treble, loudness, a range of preset equalization options and a direct mode that bypasses all tone and EQ settings.

The DTA Pro's price is currently $143 at Parts Express.

Listening to the DTA Pro

Teamed with the Dayton Audio B652 Air bookshelf speakers ($51 a pair), the DTA Pro sounded assured with Dead Can Dance's new Dionysus album. The band's low downbeats were a solid foundation for the percussion and keyboards. Sure, I pumped up the bass with the DTA Pro's tone controls, but the B652 Air speakers didn't complain or distort when played at moderately loud volume. Of course, if you crave deeper bass, add a subwoofer. That said, the DTA Pro/B652 Air combination's ample bass definition was a welcome surprise.

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The Dayton Audio DTA Pro's rear panel

Dayton Audio

Sticking with Dead Can Dance and their In Concert album, the speakers unfurled a large soundstage with a fair amount of three-dimensional depth -- budget systems rarely sound as good as this. Vocals on jazz singer Sheila Jordan's stellar Portrait of Sheila album were present and natural.

Moving the B652 Air speakers aside, I hooked up a set of Emotiva Airmotiv B1 bookshelf speakers ($229 a pair) and the DTA Pro's sound improved. Especially the soundstage, it grew more spacious, the treble was more delicate, and the bass filled out. It's a much better speaker, and the DTA Pro made that fact abundantly clear.

There are two downsides to the design, though. First is the DTA Pro's superbright, nondimmable display is tough on the eyes in dark rooms. Secondly, even at the minimum "01" setting, the volume might not be as quiet as some listeners might want -- I've never had that issue with other amps.

The Dayton Audio DTA Pro stereo integrated amplifier's tidy size makes it especially attractive for use as a desktop amp, or in any situation where space is limited. It is the smallest, most feature-packed amp I've seen for $143. Oh, and its sound quality is excellent for the money.