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Pioneer Elite A-20 Integrated Amplifier Preview

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The Pioneer A-20 integrated amplifier with included remote control.

The Pioneer A-20 integrated amplifier with included remote control.

Summary

  • Product Name: A-20 Integrated Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Pioneer Elite
  • Review Date: July 24, 2013 10:00
  • MSRP: $299
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting
  • Buy Now
  • Power: 30W+30W (20Hz-20kHz, THD 0.05 %, 8 ohms); 50W+50W (20Hz-20kHz, 0.1 % THD, 4 ohms)
  • THD: 0.01 % (Rated Output -3 dB, 8 ohms, 1 kHz)
  • Speaker Impedance (2 Speaker Terminals): 4-16 ohms (A or B), 8-32 ohms (A+B), 4-16 ohms (Bi-Wiring)
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz-100 kHz, 0 dB/-3 dB, 20 Hz-20 kHz, ±0.5 dB (RIAA Eqalization) MM
  • Power Requirements: AC 120 V 60 Hz
  • Power Consumption: 135 W
  • Power Consumption During Standby: 0.3 W
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 17.12 x 5.03 x 14.17 Inches
  • Weight: 15.87 lbs.

Executive Overview

For some audiophiles, the term "receiver" is synonymous with low quality sound. The logic goes that the more stuff you pack into a single chassis (video circuitry, tuner, etc.), the more gunk you introduce into the system. While we don't necessarily agree with that line of reasoning, there's no denying that for some folks, a simple integrated amplifier would do the job nicely. Enter the Pioneer Elite A-20; priced at a very reasonable $299, there's no dirty "r" word here, just a pre-amplifier plus two channels of amplification. So how does the A-20 stack up to a bit of scrutiny from Audioholics? Read on to find out.

Build Quality & Features

As you might guess, the Pioneer Elite A-20 is a pretty bare bones piece of equipment. On the attractive brushed aluminum front panel, you've got the basics including a volume knob, tone & balance adjustments, a loudness button, a "direct" mode button, speaker A/B selector, and a headphone jack. That's it; there's no LED display, no attempts to simulate surround sound, etc. We're guessing for a lot of folks, that's just A-OK. Flipping over to the back panel, you get four pairs of standard 5 way binding posts, six analog inputs (including one phono input), a tape output, and a control in/out which allows centralized control of other Pioneer components via the A-20's IR sensor (the included remote offers some control for those other devices as well). Unlike the nice aluminum front panel, there's no audio jewelry on the rear, which isn't a big surprise given the price point. 

Pioneer A-20 Rear View

Rear panel of the Pioneer Elite A-20 integrated amplifier.

Performance

So what exactly can this baby do? As you might guess from the price, hundreds of watts aren’t exactly in the cards here. The A-20 is specified to deliver a relatively modest 30W into an 8 ohm load (20Hz-20kHz, 0.05% THD, both channels driven) and 50W into a 4 ohm load (20Hz-20kHz, 0.1% THD, both channels driven). Needless to say, these numbers aren't extraordinary as compared with the $349 Harman Kardon HK3390; however, next to the $449 Marantz PM5004 (rated to deliver 35W/45W into 8/4 ohms respectively) the A-20 doesn't look too shabby. And of course for those that would write off this Pioneer already, it does bear mentioning that an honestly rated 30W into 8 ohms is nothing to sneeze at; coupled with a reasonably sensitive pair of loudspeakers (90dB+ w/ 2.83V), this little integrated amplifier can deliver levels around the 100dB mark in small and medium sized spaces, which is subjectively quite loud.

Now as most Audioholics know, power is only one aspect of performance. Unfortunately, this is only a preview, so we can't give you a complete performance analysis of the A-20 just yet. Still, as far as other specified performance metrics go, there doesn't seem to be much amiss here. SNR is rated at 105dB (A-weighting), and frequency response is rated from 5Hz-100kHz (+0dB, -3dB); both of these ratings are quite adequate for high fidelity sound.

Summary

Are you looking to build a simple 2.0 system, and trying to avoid a lot of unnecessary junk that you'll never use? The Pioneer Elite A-20 might just be what you're looking for. At $299, it won't break the bank and you get the bare necessities for a high quality 2 channel system, including a phono input. Of course at this price point, you can't expect huge output capabilities, though the A-20's rated power should be adequate with reasonably sensitive speakers in small and medium sized spaces. In short, if you're sick of useless features, Pioneer Elite might just have the cure you're looking for.

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About the author:

Steve Munz is a “different” addition to Audioholics’ stable of contributors in that he is neither an engineer like Gene, nor has he worked in the industry like Cliff. In fact, Steve’s day job is network administration and accounting.

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Recent Forum Posts:

fmw posts on July 26, 2013 17:22
I love the glossy black finish of the old Elites. Both my VSX 92 and my A-35R have it. The VSX 92 has very strong amps. I don't think they had class D in those days did they?
Adam posts on July 26, 2013 15:38
slipperybidness, post: 979084
While I do like my Pio elite, my next receiver will probably be something else. One thing is I'm not convinced that class D is really mature yet. I also don't really care for the gloss finish.

You might still like their VSX line of Elites. Non-glossy and not class D.
slipperybidness posts on July 26, 2013 15:33
Adam, post: 979082
Dang it. This preview is like a gateway drug. I noticed that it was a Pioneer Elite (like my receiver), and long story short…now I want an SC-79.

While I do like my Pio elite, my next receiver will probably be something else. One thing is I'm not convinced that class D is really mature yet. I also don't really care for the gloss finish.

Maybe a Yammy, that is what I had before the Pio (pre-HDMI days) and I loved it.

Otherwise, maybe Anthem, Marantz, Denon.
Adam posts on July 26, 2013 14:54
Dang it. This preview is like a gateway drug. I noticed that it was a Pioneer Elite (like my receiver), and long story short…now I want an SC-79.
Adam posts on July 26, 2013 14:49
slipperybidness, post: 979079
Do these $200 receivers typically have phono inputs? RIAA equalization and phono pres take extra circuitry and parts. That could be a good example of the cost differentials.

Solid point, but you can buy an external phono preamp for about $20 at full retail. I bet Pioneer can put them into their products for much less.
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