Remember those old commercials where two people walking down the street in opposite directions—one obliviously carrying an open jar of peanut butter; the other mindlessly nomming a whole chocolate bar—slam into each other as absentminded people will do and invent Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Swap the peanut butter for a Bob Carver tube amp and the chocolate for something like a solid-state ChiFi amp from the likes of SoundArtist, and I have to think that meet-cute collision would result in something that looks like the Dayton Audio HTA200 hybrid integrated amplifier ($349.98, all prices USD).
We’d normally have to wait for the product to come out of the box for that sort of observation to really land, but in the case of the HTA200, its design is telegraphed on the outside of the packaging. In line art, mind you, but you get the vibe right off the bat. Other than that illustration and the ambiguous “200 Watts” rating, there aren’t a lot of technical details on the box.
Opening up the shipping carton and the inner box for a first peek doesn’t really seem all that informative, either. The instruction manual, remote, and accessories are just sort of whatevered into the box with as much care as you could reasonably expect for a $350 stereo amp.
What jumped out at me immediately, though—to the surprise of exactly no one who regularly reads my unboxing blog posts (there have to be at least three of you)—is that the packing foam isn’t expanded polystyrene, which I would have expected it to be at this price. Overall, the amp is well-padded and well-protected, which is nice given that anyone buying the amp is likely to be receiving it in the post or via UPS.
With the amp and packing removed from the inner box, you can get a better look at the pack-ins, including the all-important Bluetooth antenna. The remote will look familiar if you own any of Fluance’s powered speakers, such as the Ai41. The buttons are programmed and labeled differently, but they appear to come from the same OEM. On the HTA200’s version of the remote, you get individual source-selection buttons, as well as volume control and transport controls.
With the HTA200 fully removed from its wrapping, we can see the tube guards, as well as—of course—the individual preamp tubes: a pair of 13P1P pentodes, a pair of 6K4 triodes, a pair of 6H2 pentodes, and a WY-3P cold-cathode regulator. I’ve been told that they can get a little dislodged in shipping, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case with my review sample.
You can also see here the textures of the brushed black aluminum chassis, all the buttons and knobs (which feel quite nice, to be frank), and the adult-size headphone jack.
Zooming in a bit gives us a better look at the overall textures of both the chassis and the knobs. The main volume knob has a little bit of play in it, but once it engages it has nice inertia, and the tone knobs stop at 12 o’clock with a crisp thunk.
This is what I’m here for, though. Those lovely, little round VU meters simply define and dominate the aesthetics of the amp, even with the tubes on top. What you can’t quite tell from this photo (apologies) is the fact that the numbers on the bottom represent the percentage of total power used, not wattage. Personally, I prefer that.
Around back, the first thing that grabs my eye is the little 12V/0.06A cooling fan, which I’m hoping isn’t too loud. You can also see the very-nice-for-the-price five-way binding posts and the rest of the I/O, including the Bluetooth antenna.
Zooming in a little closer, you can see all of the HTA200’s inputs—a generous selection for an integrated amp at this price. In addition to an MM phono input, you get a stereo aux in (RCA), a coaxial digital in, an optical in, and a USB Type B DAC input. There’s also a subwoofer out, which I’m assuming is a summed mono preamp out, but I’ll investigate deeper once I get this thing set up and running.
Speaking of which, I typically have these unboxing writeups in the can and submitted long before I hook up a single cable or wire, but after plugging in the HTA200, I couldn’t help but grab one last shot with the tubes all aglow and the VU meters dancing. My listening room is impenetrably black even with my lamp on, so it tends to be nearly impossible to photograph anything in here, but the glow of the HTA200 definitely helps. And I have to admit: seeing the LCD screen lit up with the selected input, I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would. In fact, I kinda dig the way the modern-ish readout complements the decidedly old-school vibe of the rest of the amp.
Of course, the question of whether performance matches aesthetics will have to wait until I’ve had a chance to sit down for some extensive listening, but keep an eye out for my full review, coming soon.
. . . Dennis Burger