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May 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Audia Flight FL Three Integrated Amplifier And FL Three CD Player
A dynamic combination from Civitavecchia, Italy, destined to turn heads.
Review By Anthony Nicosia

 

Audia Flight FL Three Integrated Amplifier And FL Three CD Player  Audia Flight is a highly respected high-end audio manufacturer based out of Civitavecchia Italy, about 70km north of Rome. Founded in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini, men with backgrounds in the professional electronics industry, their goal was to design and build components that neither altered the audio signal nor slowed its transmission. From 1994-1996 both men working together designed a new circuit, at current rather than voltage feedback allowing for a high speed response and easy load control, even if reactive. The first year of retail production occurred in 1997 and since that very first day their product and production policy has simply remained:

"Our products come from the synergy between sophisticated and original design, Italian style."

My first introduction to Audia Flight came via a visit to Blue Moon Audio in Pacifica, California. There owner Len Kinsey had me listen to their FL Two integrated amplifier priced at $5195, where it's glorious sound and simple elegant design immediately caught my attention. Audia Flight makes three different series of product lines. One was designed to meet the needs of cost conscience high end audio buffs, the Three Series, while the second is a step up in price for the more discriminating audiophile and called the Classic Series. At the top of the lineup, for those who seek only the very best, is the brand new Strumento series consisting of two power amplifiers, a preamplifier, and a number of forthcoming pieces due later this year .

Through the suggestion of their United States distributor Paul Manos, of High Fidelity Services out of Hingham, Massachusetts, the concept of a system review was born. Happily I consented to examine both the FL Three integrated amplifier and FL CD Three CD player. Synergy always being a good thing it felt right to couple both of these entry level products from the same company together in order to experience the full flavor of Audia Flight in its most pure form. In an effort to set the stage properly we shall start with an overview of the physical and technical details of each individual product. This is followed by a brief listening session of each unit alone placed within my main system for a comparison within a familiar to me environment. Once this background has been set we can then review the two played together in combination for a system analysis. Both Magnepan 3.6R Loudspeakers placed upon special custom made three wooden layer platforms and Spendor SP1/2R loudspeakers sitting atop Skylan Stands will be used at various times during this review.

 

FL Three Product Overview
Audia Flight FL Three Integrated AmplifierThe FL Three is designed for the high-end audiophile where budget is a concern. While being priced moderately for a high-end audio design it does not skimp on quality and is loaded with features that should satisfy all but the most demanding of audiophiles. Need an upgrade (what audiophile does not) then order the optional USB 24-bit/192kHz DAC board converter and or the optional MC/MM phono board. Standard equipment will include a headphone output with a loudspeaker off switch so you may listen to your music with headphones only. The remote control is made from a solid aluminum billet that fitted quite nicely in my hands, being neither too big nor too small. The input selector controls four unbalanced and one balanced input while featuring sealed relays in inert atmosphere and gold terminations. Also in use is a high quality ALPS blue potentiometer and lest we forget all their units are 100% made in Italy.

Audia Flight states the following about the FL Three,

 

FL CD Three Product Overview
Audia Flight FL Three CD PlayerThis reference quality CD player features a 24-bit/192kHz upsampling converter and an ultra-precision reference clock with the aim to produce a highly detailed presentation without any digital harshness. It has a toroidal transformer and a Class A full balanced analog output sections to help it achieve a very wide dynamic range. The 15mm front panel and remote control are made from solid aluminum like that found on the FL Three integrated amplifier mentioned above. Again the FL CD Three was brought to market in an attempt to offer exceptionally good value while giving away little with regard to high-end audiophile specifications or sound. XLR and RCA outputs are located on the rear panel along with a digital out output connector.

 

Audia Flight FL Three Integrated Amplifier
What better way to start a review of an Italian product than to listen to the great tenor voice of the Italian-born Andrea Bocelli from the CD Amore [Decca B0006069-02]. Here my OPPO Digital player was connected through its XLR outputs to the FL Three. The vocal magic and power of Andrea Bocelli was quite evident as he sang "Amapola". Playing this track as loud as I dare without risking damage to my ears, my Spendor SP1/2R Loudspeakers (mounted on Skylan Stands) stayed their course sounding clear and unwavering. The FL Three sounded great when played softly but as it approached playback levels of a larger magnitude it exceeded my expectations revealing the true potential of my loudspeakers.

Audia Flight FL Three Integrated AmplifierTo change things up a bit in stepped "Another One Bites the Dust" from the Queen Greatest Hits CD [Hollywood Records 2061-62465-2]. Here the FL Three showed it could play rock and roll music without sounding neither congested nor confused. It added a nice three dimensional image to the opening vocals on "Fat Bottom Girls" that was quite impressive. The piano track from Philip Glass's Solo Piano CD [CBS MK 45576] was up next. Here this performance not only sounded open and alive but expansive as well. Notes from the piano filled the space in-between my loudspeakers while extending back towards the rear wall as well. Not the deepest extension but satisfying nevertheless. Before going too far with the FL Three it seems time to talk a bit about its partner the FL CD Three CD player as this review, after all, is a "systems" examination of the two together. Moving on now my Parasound power amplifier and Aesthetix Calypso tube/hybrid preamplifier were placed back into the review system while removing the FL Three integrated and of course substituting the FL Three CD player for the OPPO Digital CD player.

 

Audia Flight FL CD Three CD Player
Audia Flight FL Three CD PlayerConnections from CD player to preamplifier were all done using XLR connectors. On the Johnny Cash CD The Legend of Johnny Cash [Legacy B0006288 02] I heard similarities to the FL Three integrated in that this CD player exhibited a clarity that immediately grabbed my attention revealing intricate details hidden within layers of the music. "Folsom Prison Blues" sounded more like a live performance than when played back through my OPPO Digital which though selling for considerably less than the Audia Flight has been known to outperform players costing a great deal more. Notch one up for the FL Three. Johnny Cash's guitar had an extra bite or sharpness to it lending credence to its ability to sound more live then recorded. Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" from the CD Great Overtures [Digital Stereo HCT-2-8816] is a classic bit of music history. This piece jumps right into it full force from the opening few notes and to me sounds best when played at louder levels. The FL CD Three had no problem reproducing the full orchestra with all its majestic overtones and dynamic contrasts. The string sections sounded quick and smooth, exhibiting no tonal harshness while sounding as expansive as my Spendor loudspeakers would allow. While this player does not read SACD media, my copy of The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet [abkco 95392] has both SACD and Redbook layering and the FL CD Three had no problem reading its Redbook content. "Sympathy for the Devil" exhibited a soundscape width that went beyond the loudspeakers while clearly keeping separate individual performers within the soundscape. But enough of this now as it is time to get on with the real purpose of our discussion today, which is to see how both components from Audia Flight would operate together as one complete integrated system. So onward we go placing the FL Three integrated back in to be matched up with the FL CD Three CD player. All connections again were done via XLR outputs/inputs.

 

System Review
Since my review sample integrated amplifier came equipped with their optional phono board that seemed like a good place to start. At a modest price of only $425 factory installed and good to use with either Moving Magnet or Moving Coil cartridges, I really did not expect much in the way of ultimate performance. It was after all to be used to replace my own Musical Surroundings Nova Phonomena Phono Stage ($1000) which is over twice its price. Silly me, I should have realized that Audia Flight makes a stand-alone phono stage the "FL Phono" which retails for $5995 that has recently received excellent reviews. It seems that a trickle down philosophy is at work here as this modestly price phono board was shockingly good for its price point and well beyond. Once the music started it was easy to forget its low cost as the sound coming from my system was of such a high caliper that I quickly become lost within the music. If you need to change the settings though you must remove the cover to the FL Three and flip some switches, unlike my own phono stage where the switches are located outside and around back of the unit for ease of access. To be fair though unless you are moving cartridges around often, most will just set it once and forget about it until a replacement cartridge, if different is needed. Starting out with Dinah Washington's', Unforgettable [Mercury Records MG20572] I naturally turned to its title song. Those not familiar with her Blues style of singing might want to give her a listen, especially if you can find some of her older vinyl recordings. Here the phono stage exhibited a window to the music allowing me to look clearly into the soundscape placing all instruments and performer appropriately within. The fullness of her voice was quite evident and did not sound thin as many lesser phono stages have a tendency to do. It was time now to pull out one of my favorite vinyl records, this one from Morten Lindberg of 2L, the Mozart Violin Concertos [2L-038-LP]. Using 180gram audiophile grade vinyl and recorded at the Selbu Church in Norway (May 2006) this recorded performance is top-self. Violins sounded as smooth as silk and created such an illusion that one could almost imagine being right there in that very church in Selbu. Whether listening at low or high volumes the music remained constant and always full of the small nuances that make listening to a good system worth its overall high cost.

Slipping over to the digital side of things it was time to turn on the FL CD Three. If connecting it to the FL Three though there is no digital input so XLR or RCA connections would be mandated. The company supplies, as standard equipment, a connection so that one may operate the turn on/off feature of both the FL CD Three and FL Three integrated together making easy of operation a slightly simpler quicker task. Both units are physically similar in size, shape and front panel design making for a nice "system" fit. It would seem appropriate to mention here that the FL Three integrated had some very useful features. Having a balance adjustment is always on my must list with preamplifiers and the FL Three satisfied that requirement. It also allows you to dim or raise the front panel lights. That is a nifty feature I adore as some audio gear occasionally gives me a headache with their overly bright lights shining directly at my eyes, no problem with here though. The review sample came not only with the optional phono boards but also the optional USB 24-bit/192kHz DAC board priced at $475, factory installed. You can also rename each of the five inputs to identify the source, which is always a good idea if like me you forget what went where. Now back to the listening portion of this review.

On Tracy Chapman's CD Our Bright Future [Elektra 514061-2] with "Something to See" being a recording I am quite familiar with, there seemed to be an added sense of mid bass depth. Also of note was a better three-dimensional imaging that was not so clearly evident in my previous listening sessions with this song. When listening to "Sing for You" vocal clarity remained a strong point with a little bit of extra detail found within. There was just that little bit of extra "you are there" presence, enough to give the recording a sense that you were being given a slightly new presentation with each song. Remember now out had come my tube/hybrid preamplifier and this now was an all-new solid state system so perhaps some tube haze had been removed. Either way the sound was definitely good especially considering products at this price point. Detail was surly one of this systems strong points both when listened to separately but especially when placed together in combination.

While listening through my Spendor loudspeakers to Carlos Santana's "Da Le Taleo" on the Supernatural CD [ARISTA 07822-19080-20] this "system" left little to the imagination with regard to detail and microdynamics. Here the soundscape was full of various performers quite accurately placed onstage although they seemed a little crowded together. Thinking this was not the fault of the Audia Flight products under review I switched over to my Magnepan 3.6 loudspeakers which Enjoy the Music.com's own editor Steven R. Rochlin swooned over in a past review. Ah yes, all was right now as the soundscape opened up to fill my room left to right with a new added sense of height as well. I mention this in case you get to hear these components using loudspeakers that do not allow them to breathe at full throttle. The Spendor's are great at pinpoint imaging and vocal texture but in a good sized room the much larger Magnepan's, given the right circumstances, can fill that room with music just a little bit better. Leaving the Magnepan's in place to better check the bass capabilities of this "system" I flipped forward to "Maria Maria" featuring of course Carlos Santana along with The Product G & B. Here the Magnepan's were able to expose the bass capabilities of this duo enough to give me a feel as to how well they could perform. I would have loved to try these two Audia Flight products with loudspeakers capable of going even lower as I think I did not test their bass capabilities to their fullest potential. What I did experience though was good solid mid to lower bass that made me quite happy overall, leaving me with no complaints and a smile on my face.

 

Interesting Features Of The FL Three Integrated
On the rear panel are pair of RCA outputs labeled pre out that can convert this integrated amplifier into a preamplifier only unit. This would come in handy for someone like me who also has six power amplifiers on hand at all times in my main system. Four of those six amplifiers are tube based and would match up well with the solid-state FL Three. While the need for more power never arose during my time with the FL Three, it was good to know that the option to have more was there if and when needed. I was though tempted to mate my 1960's Harman Kardon Citation 1 tube power amplifier with the FL Three to see what it would sound like. Using the 60-Watt tube power amplifier controlled by the FL Three as a preamplifier into my Magnepan 3.6 loudspeakers, the sound was glorious. It did not really take me by surprise that the KT-88 driven Citation 1 would drive those loudspeakers but that the Audia Flight would sound as good as a preamplifier only truly amazed me. The combination of tubes and solid state produced a sound I could easily live with, and did for days. I am not suggesting that one buy this unit to use as a preamplifier but it should serve you well if like me there were days when you preferred to mix it up with different amplifiers from time to time.

Audia Flight FL Three Integrated Amplifier And FL Three CD PlayerIf that is still not enough for you, the FL Three has a by-pass feature, accessed through the remote control unit allowing it be used as a power amplifier through a specific input. Be careful though and read the owner's manual as using it that way will then necessitate you have a preamplifier to adjust volume. Before wrapping up this review I would be amiss if I did not mention its headphone out/loudspeaker off feature. Sometimes my late night antics can be slightly annoying to my beautiful sleeping wife and so either a lowering of volume or switching over to headphone listening is a must. With the FL Three in place and the loudspeaker off button activated, listening was still a pleasure for both me and my resting wife. I ran a pair of Sennheiser HD497 headphones through the FL Three and was quite pleased with the results.

 

Summation
My recommendation is that if you are not happy with what you hear from these two components, think hard about all the associated gear and cables you paired it with. Everything including the source music (some recordings are just not up to par) and the actual room itself, as all will be laid bare. This revealing combination of integrated amplifier and CD player will throw back at you what you feed it, perhaps even exposing weaknesses in your other components. Give them some good source material, good cabling, than add full range loudspeakers if you can and off you will go towards audio nirvana. Not only that but the versatility of both and especially the FL Three makes this winning combo a must audition duo for anyone contemplating laying out really big bucks for separates. While not by far the ultimate in high-end audiophile terms it would seem hard for me to imagine most people not being very satisfied with them. You can definitely buy more in the way of sound reproduction but you might want to ask yourself at what price and is that tradeoff worth it to you. For some it will be, though I suspect that for many they will be quite content with their purchase of these two high-end products from Civitavecchia Italy. Still if you demand more remember these are "entry level" Audia Flight components, so check out the rest of their lineup before moving on. For my money and tastes they satisfied me quite nicely and both get a very strong-thumb up recommendation.

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet on the short wall slopping upwards to reach a height of thirteen feet in the middle than returning to eight feet at the opposite end. The hardwood floor is partially covered by a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the loudspeakers, placed dead center between but not under the listener or the audio rack. The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker on the long wall giving access to the hallway the other behind the listening position to a formal dining area. There are two large floor standing GIF Tri-trap acoustical panels one in each corner of the short wall in front of the listener and two panels from Acoustic Revive (AR) located on the wall directly behind each loudspeaker. A third AR panel is placed flat against the right side wall with Numerous Auralex Studio foam squares to found placed along walls and high up in each of the four corners of the room. All the audio equipment is located in a Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position.

 

Review Equipment
Magnepan 3.6R Loudspeakers placed on special custom made three wooden layer platforms
Spendor SP1/2R Loudspeakers on Skylan Stands

 

 

Specifications
Audia Flight FL Three Integrated Amplifier Technical Data
Output Power: 72 W @ 8 Ohms and 125W @ 4 Ohms
Amplifier Stage Gain: 26dB
Frequency Response: 1Hz to 450kHz (-3dB)
Inputs: Four unbalanced inputs, balance input, and monitor input
Outputs: Pre output, record output, and headphone output 
Slew Rate (on 8 Ohm) >80V/S
THD: <0.05%
SNR: >95dB
Unbalanced Input Impedance: 51kOhm, 150pF
Balanced Input Impedance: 30kOhm
Dimensions: 16.6" x 3.6" x 16.6" (WxHxD) 
Weight: 26.4 lbs.
Finishes: Silver or Black
Price: $3195
  Optional Boards
  MM or MC Phono Board $425
  USB 24-bit/192kHz DAC Board $475

Audia Flight FL CD Three
Frequency Response 0.5Hz to 20kHz (-0.1dB)
Upsampling: 192KHz
Dynamic Range: 122 dB
THD + Noise: > -100 dB
Maximum Output: 2.5 Vrms
Output Impedance: 600 Ohm
Dimensions: 16.6" x 3.6" x 16.6" (WxHxD)
Weight: 17.6 lbs.
Finishes: Silver or Black
Price: $2695

 

Company Information
Audia Flight
E-mail: info@audia.it 
Website: www.Audia.it

United States Distributor
High Fidelity Services
2 Keith Way, Suite 4
Hingham, MA 02184

Voice: (781) 987-3434
E-mail: info@hifiservices.com 
Website: www.HiFiServices.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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