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Praecisa Acustica Sonoro - integrated amp

Pure Home Entertainment!

[Praecisa Sonoro]
[Italian version]

Product: integrated amp Praecisa Sonoro
Manufacturer: Praecisa Acustica - Italy
Approx price: 2,200 Euro - 2,300 US $ (15% off on web orders)

This is not the first time I write about Praecisa Acustica, a lively Italian HiFi firm that is renowned for designing and making pretty unconventional HiFi components, amplifiers and loudspeakers, mainly.
Maybe it is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Italian HiFi Companies but the guys at Praecisa are working hard to offer high quality/price ratio components to the audiohile community worldwide.
This new Sonoro amp is the FIRST integrated designed and manufactured by Praecisa...but it is not exactly a "really" integrated amp at all. It is a fully dual mono solid state 100 watts per channel hexfet-equipped power amplifier coupled with a passive line stage. Not enough? Well, what about two different separated cabinets into a third one (the one you see from the outside...)?
Now, the power stage of the Sonoro derives from the massive NSA 200 156 power amp I tested some month ago: a pretty interesting amplifier with some noticeable drawback (see that review for details).
[The Sonoro, inside view]

The designers at Praecisa Acustica have worked hard to improve that power amp and the first results have been applied to the power stage of this integrated.
The preamp section, entirely passive, offers 5 line inputs plus the ubiquitous tape in/out, a motorized volume control and a traditional inputs selector. The simpler the better.
On the rear panel you find an IEC mains socket (hence a detachable AC cord) and four massive pure copper gold-plated loudspeakers output posts, a pleasure to use.

The quality of the craftsmanship is very good (see the thick aluminium front panel, for example) and the Sonoro gives a sensation of solidity and durability.
The remote volume control is very easy to use but you die-hard traditionalists can rest assured you can use the volume pot in the "traditional" way (rotate it by hands :-) ).

The Sonoro has been playing Music at home for a long time so I've had the possibility to carefully evaluate it's sound, both into a really hi-endish system and a budget-oriented audiophile set-up.

Pure Home Entertainment!

Reminding the listening experience I had with the bigger brother NSA 200 I was a little bit skeptic about this Sonoro, especially because I knew this integrated amp was derived from that power amp, more or less.
Luckly, after few minutes of listening, my fears melted like snow under the Sun since it was suddenly CLEAR that the designers had made their "homework" right.
A whole different animal, I'd say. The deep bass is just there while the mid-high range appears to be crystal-clear yet not fatiguing.
So, why it is easy to detect the relationship between the two circuits....the tonal balance is way better now!
Does it sound "warm"? No, definitely. It is rather analytical and very precise, never too soft or "rounded": the highs are very detailed, sometimes on the cold side but the powerful bass and mid-bass range help to counterbalance the sound.
It is like the mid and high range take some benefit from a rock solid bass, so that the Music never lacks impact, energy and oomph.

Probably the first thing one notes when listening to the Sonoro is it's bass range, undoubtly of the solid-state kind, deep as it can be and coherent till the first octave. Never boomy or muddy the bass notes have plenty of energy and articulation.
Think of an old-style tube amp, well the Sonoro is exactly the opposite :-)
This doesn't mean this amp sounds metallic or harsh, nope! It is detailed, clean and vivid instead.
Obviously, when matched to bright loudspeakers the result can be fatiguing and cold but smart audiophiles should know how to choose the right partners for their HiFi components (more about this into the Some advice paragraph).
When compared to more expensive amps this Sonoro appear less "classy" and sometimes "grainy", something that, according to my experience, can be due to the hexfet power stages which have been used.
Again, do not forget we're talking of a 2,000 US $ dual-mono 100 watts integrated amp here... and by no means it can sound like a 5,000 $ power amp.

Micro & macrodynamics

[Sonoro, inside view]

100 real watts per channel in a dual-mono set-up can be detected quite easily: the Sonoro is an inexhaustible power surge! OK, it is not like it's bigger brother (the 200 watts power amp) but it's power is sufficient to drive almost any kind of loudspeaker into any kind of listening room.
This amp likes to be played LOUD, very loud: while at low listening levels it's lively personality seems a bit compressed, the louder the level the more explosive it gets...funny, since normally it is the other way around: good dynamics at moderate listening levels and harsh compression at high listening levels...
Hence don't be afraid to play it loud: it likes that. The louder the better. It seems like it knows the Music it is playing and enjoys it.

Not recommended for the audiophiles who like to listen to background Music since the Sonoro is dynamically violent and visceral, absolutely explosive...
Take the Reference Recording edition of the Berlioz's Sinfonia Fantastica, for example: if you want to hear a large orchestra playing seriously loud you should listen to this record: especially the Finale requires huge amounts of sheer energy and many amplifiers fail to keep track of the neverending power demand.
The Sonoro has played this Sinfonia Fantastica with plenty of energy and impact...never giving up even during the most difficult minutes...
Do not think it can't sound delicate when required...the EASE it shows with hyper-dynamic tracks allows a good performance even during the pianissimo's.
With electric pop and rock...the Sonoro shines literally. Keep the remote control near you since you'll be invited more than once to turn that volume higher and higher...for example, put a Dire Straits or Police recording and enjoy an almost-like-live impact (provided your loudspeakers can do that)!

I've listened to this amp for several months and I've spent a long time searching for the most significative aspects of the sound of the Praecisa Sonoro. I've come to the conclusion that the highly dynamic no-compression sound this amp creates is the thing that has amazed me since the first minute of listening.
It sounds fast, very dynamic and pacey, detailed and crystal clear...really entertaining in a word.


The crucial difference between a good audiophile integrated and a big power amp is the ability to create a LARGE soundstage. Well, with respect to the width and depth of the 3D scene the Sonoro can rival with much more expensive power amps. The loudspeakers disappear and the virtual image fills up the rear wall.
The ability of this amp to keep track of each tonal and dynamic variation allows the creation of a very detailed and bright soundstage, with instruments and singers placed carefully into the scene with no "blur" effects even at loud listening levels.

Some advice

DO NOT use this amp into soft sounding set-ups: choose dynamic, bass-extended loudspeakers so to give to this amp the possibility to show you what it can really do to your Music. Use bright and thin loudspeakers and your ears will scream for vengeance :-) and it would be a shame since with the right partners this amp can be very entertaining.
Use neutral sounding cables and avoid hyper-analytic or cold CD-players like the plague.
Choose a solid table (a TNT FleXy, for example :-)) to place this rather heavy (15 kgs, 35 lbs) amp though you don't need to use spikes or aftermarket damping feets: the stock ones get the job done and, being quite tall, allow a good ventilation of the bottom of the chassis (where the power stages are located).
A good shielded mains cable is a must.


Sooo many :-)
Jokes aside, there are several things that could be improved.
For example the writings on the front panel are virtually invisible and it is very hard to detect in which position the inputs selector is.
Since many audiophiles like to listen in almost dark listening rooms, a led (more or less like in the Audio Research preamps) could have helped...especially because the inputs selector can't be controlled by remote.
The same invisibility is shared with the top cover writings, where you can find the name of each input/output connector (neat, since you don't need to look at the rear panel).
A minor complaint about the inputs selector: besides being hard to detect which input has been choosen, each input is labeled with a number instead of a name (so it is 1, 2...5). Plus I'd have preferred a remote controlled inputs selector.
Also, a remote controlled stand-by or mute would have been very useful.

From a sonic point of view let me underline the strong personality of this integrated: don't think of it as an universal do-it-all please-'em-all HiFi component because it is NOT.
If you like it, you'll LOVE it...otherwise, warm-sound low-listening level addicts can find it way too punchy and crisp.
Finally let me spend a few words about the price: given the crafsmanship level and the quality of the finish it's price seems adequate.
Given the way it sounds the price is good, very good, I'd say.
Now, if the guys at Praecisa could just consider to build a less expensive little brother, with 50/60 watts per channel and a less expensive and refined cabinet, all for, let's say, 1,000-1,200 US $ (or Euro) I think this could easily become a serious competitor for many mid-class audiophile integrated amplifiers, at least here in Europe.


The one you've just read is the result of a long and painful listening test. Though I was perfectly conscious that this integrated wasn't the best in terms of neutrality I couldn't help but admit it was simply amazing.
You see, there are many HiFi components so good sounding that it is hard to find a "weak spot" then there are others which aren't clearly perfect but amazingly entertaining, something of their sound touches the heart if not the brain.
I'm sure you've met some woman (or man) who, though far from being "perfect", had something "special" and unique....and many women (o men) who were so perfect to appear completely "false" and, dare i say it, unnatural.
Now, the Praecisa Sonoro isn't perfect but it does have something special that touches the heart (mine, at least).
I'm not the kind of guy who falls in love with HiFi gear. I just fall in love with good Music records and fast cars :-)
Anyway, this Sonoro has brought some sano entertainment during the listening test...and I can assure you this doesn't happen so frequently.
Now you understand why I've subtitled this article as Pure Home Entertainment! Choose good HiFi....forget Home Theater!!! :-)

A warm thank you to the guys at Praecisa Acustica for having sent us this amp for reviewing.

© Copyright 1999 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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