To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Pioneer has introduced this affordable integrated amplifier that exceeds expectations, thanks to a tantalizing combination of flexibility and smooth sound. With five line inputs, a moving magnet phono stage and built-in DAC, the A-40AE will form the heart of a great budget system. With generous plugged-in power, Pioneer’s “Direct Energy” amplifier design comfortably handles most speakers, and does so very sweetly. Sonically, its polished yet captivating sound makes for a satisfying listen, setting up a wide soundstage that is brought to life through great dynamics. It’s a great first step on the hi-fi ladder.