Engström is not a household name yet in the audiophile world, the Stockholm-based family company was only founded in 2008 but their reputation in the UK is growing. The two co-founders, Lars and Timo Engström, are the chief engineer and industrial designer respectively.
The ARNE is the company’s first integrated amplifier. Like the other Engström products it is named after a famous Swedish musician, this time Arne ‘Dompan’ Domnérus, the jazz musician best known for his 1977 classic ‘Jazz At The Pawnshop’.
ARNE is a fully balanced 30 watt per channel 300B integrated stereo-amp with a brilliantly minimalist design. The aesthetic of this amplifier is thoroughly modern and Scandinavian but of course the prominent valves are familiar from amplifiers of the past. Engström have managed what is incredibly hard to do and merged the best of classic and modern perfectly.
The ARNE features four 7721/D3a valves and four 300B. The set which the amplifier is supplied with are from Czech company Emission Labs. These are very nice valves, but Engström also offer two alternatives of even higher quality at a premium. The other options are the Elrog ER300B (£2,700) and the incredible Takatsuki TA300B Tubes (£4,400).
The minimalist aesthetic also translates to the engineering of the amplifier. ARNE is a simple but expertly made product. It has two balanced XLR inputs and two single-ended RCA inputs. The front panel has just two unmarked knobs for input and volume. If you are looking for a versatile amplifier with digital inputs, a phono stage, equaliser and headphone socket than I would look elsewhere. The strengths of the this amplifier lie elsewhere (the sound).
At £27,950 the ARNE is certainly a high-end serious product but compared to its bigger siblings, the LARS power amp (£59,590), MONICA preamp (£45,950) and the ERIC monos (£136,950 per pair) it is the entry offering of the Engström range.
Probably the most surprising aspect of the ARNE is how much of the sonic character of the MONICA / ERIC combination it is able to replicate despite being 1/6th of the price. We were lucky enough to host the UK debut of the ERIC amplifiers late last year and got to spend extended time with them. Everyone we played them to said the same thing – they are able to bridge the gap between valve and solid state. Most valve amplifiers have a sweet, organic sound. Engström amps capture this but also keep complete command of even the top high-end speakers, which is very unusual. The ARNE is able to conquer both fronts. It doesn’t sound completely valve and it doesn’t sound completely solid state. It is the best of both. A remarkable achievement.
In terms of sound signature the ARNE is a really enjoyable amplifier. The best words to describe the sound are detailed, open, and effortless. Vocals sound natural and clear, piano sounds crisp and layered with detail and strings sound so real and easy to listen to whilst drums and bass have enough body and punch to put the whole package together into an incredible audiophile experience.
Of course the ARNE is not on the same level as the breath-taking MONICA / ERIC combination, but it is truly a marvel that Engström have been able to get as close as they have. The ARNE keeps the company’s distinctive sound signature and offers and a new entry point into the exclusive range of Engström valve amplification.
The ARNE is available in two stunning matte finishes (white or black).
We now keep the ARNE on permanent demonstration in store. Get in touch to book a personal audition and hear this incredible amplifier for yourself.