Scroll to top

Acoustic Portrait Swara Integrated Amplifier

Acoustic Portrait Swara Integrated Amplifier Review

(Review by Abhijit Pani, Feb 19th 2024)

Acoustic Portrait is a brand I have known since 2004. Those were pre-forums, pre-social media days. Hifi normally meant a foreign brand with legacy, aka Wharfdale, NAD, Marantz & Denon for newbies and Dynaudio, McIntosh, Pass Labs for knowledgeable folks. In those days when I came across Acoustic Portrait, a Bangalore based hifi brand who supposedly challenged established brands like Dynaudio for sonic performance, I was quite intrigued. Since then I have been following them, visiting their listening rooms and listening to many of their models at their place. Acoustic Portrait now has won multiple awards at WhatHifi shows and is now a much more well known brand among audiophiles of India. All these years, one thing they have consistently followed was using high quality components to build proper high fidelity equipment. They never delved into entry level stuff. They avoided building integrated amps for a long time. They always had pre-power offerings. But here they are with one of their first integrated amplifiers in Swara range of equipment. Acoustic Portrait has 2 ranges, Swara and Thiyaga. Thiyaga being their reference range. Acoustic Portrait builds complete range of products from DAC, Preamp, Power amps, Integrated amps, Bookshelf speakers & Floorstanding speakers. Most of the times they are demonstrated with their own brand of equipments, which is logical.
As an audiophile for the last 20 years, I have gone full circle starting with a Plinius integrated amplifier in 2003, later upgrading to Symphonic Line pre-power, later playing the game of tubes and SETs for 10 years, and now again fascinated by integrated amplifiers. The simplicity, coherence and predictable musicality that an integrated amplifier brings to the table is difficult to match even with a lot of money to spend. But integrated amps are typically considered entry-level or mid-fi at best. High quality integrated amplifiers with high definition sound are very few or very expensive. To put things into perspective, one of my all time favourite integrated amps is the Naim Nait 5i. A fabulous little amp which gets to the heart of music with decent usable power of 50 watts. Last I checked it costs INR 1,40,000. When AP (Acoustic Portrait) offered me to try out their Swara integrated amplifier, it was a pleasant surprise. I was getting an opportunity to listen to an AP amp in my own non-AP system and secondly they were quite excited about this amp. Awesome!

First Disclaimer: I am a tube guy. Listening to high quality tube amps for many years has made my ears particularly sensitive to typical solid state distortions. 

Second Disclaimer: I am a vinyl-phile. My primary source is a Jean Nantais Reference Lenco Mk2 turntable. I use it with a combination of various tonearms including SME 3012R, Thomas Schick & Jelco 750D. Cartridge is an EMT JSD Platinum, Phonostage is an EMT SUT + EAR 834p with Telefunken 12ax7 tubes.
My resident system consists of a pair of Tannoy Turnberry SE speakers & Custom designed 300B amplifier. Preamplifier has been a combination of Conrad Johnson PV12, Dave Slagle
Autoformer passive, Lyrita Audio DHT preamp, Yamaha CR-1 (vintage). For cables, I use selected studio cables.

Getting back to the amplifier under review

The Swara Integrated amplifier puts out 80 watts at 8 ohms. It weighs about 10kg. In my system that is 10 times more power than my 8 watt SET. Tannoy prestige series speakers are peculiar in that they can run with a 6 watt amp all the way to 400 watt amps and not feel out of place. Inserting Swara into the chain was interesting. It was neither an instant winner or an instant loser. It turned out to be a very refined and balanced performer. I was reminded that this is an AP product, it can’t sound entry level or mid-fi. Even at 75k, they have pulled off an integrated amp which sounds like proper hifi. I started off with the Billy Joel, Piano Man album. He is one of the very few classic rock songwriters who uses a lot of piano in his music. Listening to the original pressing of this LP record with Swara integrated, from the first moment I noticed that piano sounds like a real piano. Big, powerful, sonorous and defined. We don’t expect sub ₹100k amps to do it so clean. I was happy. I listened to the entire side1 of the LP. The sound was balanced, powerful with just the right amount of warmth not to feel like a solid state amp. Music popping out from black backgrounds, no fuzzy sound here. When I hear a neutral uncongested audio product, my respect for the product goes up a lot, at the same time my expectation of its MRP also goes up. The Swara integrated did just that. With my Tannoy Turnberry speakers, the Swara refused to sound like a sub 100k amplifier and those 80 watts were powerful, grippy, tonally correct and above all foot tapping. That’s another aspect I look for, PRAT. I have been a long time Naim user and admirer. When music flows with the right timing and transients, our brain locks into the rhythm and we get emotionally involved in the music. Many products don’t do it well. The Swara nails the PRAT. Music sounds like music, foot tapping and engaging.

Next up I played Eagles Greatest Hits, Analogue Productions LP

Music which we have listened to many times can either sound boring or rejuvenating. It depends on the reproduction. If it brings out the good old sound with something more, it is enjoyable. With Swara integrated, “Lying Eyes” started playing with a soundstage spanning from outer boundaries of speaker to speaker with a propulsive rhythm and warm deep bass. Well separated soundstage, cohesive, dark background, warmish, quick on the feet music. That is Swara. So what can be bettered? The better amps may present an even wider and higher soundstage, illuminate the soundstage even more so that even the corners of the stage are well defined and lit up. That also leads to higher resolution of every individual instrument. We are talking about amps which cost at least 3 to 10 times as much as Swara.

My final test was with a relatively more emotional music.

Hindustani Classical – Kishori Amonkar

Mark Knopfler – Get Lucky

These 2 albums are all about the ability of a system to communicate simple music. If the structure of music is authentically reproduced with enough realism in tone and resolution, music connects. I am very happy to report that with the Swara Integrated, I listened to the entire albums without any niggling feeling to stop and change the music. It communicated the live feel of hindustani vocals capturing the micro inflections in her voice and presenting it without sounding analytical or mechanical. That shows the amp is not manipulating the music while bringing out nuances. On Mark Knopfler Get Lucky, it is again about getting lost in Knopfler’s rhythm and fluid guitaring. I also noticed that Swara has a grip on the speaker which doesn’t allow the slightly warm rounded bass of Knopfler’s music to create an overhang. It sounded big and controlled with a nicely separated soundstage. Speakers disappear very easily with the Swara. This is a sign of excellent channel balance.

Negatives? At this price, I can’t complain. The volume control could do with more range. It gets too loud too quickly. Additionally if you are used to the holographic colourful sounds of tubes like me, it is advisable to have a tube source or consider the Swara Pre-Power which has a tube preamp (review coming soon).

Summing it up, this is an amplifier which can drive most speakers which are reasonably efficient (88db and above) with authority, fluidity and proper insights into musical details. Wide soundstage, black background, good PRAT (pace rhythm & timing) and just a hint of warmish tone. Allows speakers to disappear with ease. At this price the likes of Marantz, Audiolab, Cambridge Audio are its competitors and frankly they fall short of the resolution and dynamics that this baby Acoustic Portrait Swara Integrated brings. Highly recommended!

80 watts per channel
Price: 75k

Reach us at:

Related posts

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *