posted on Thursday, 15th December 2016 by Steve May
The Bijou 600 zone amplifer, from Seattle-based audio specialist AudioControl, won a Consumer Electronics Association Audio Product of the Year Award at the 2015 CES. Not bad for a relatively modest two channel amp. Ultra compact, it's designed for both analogue and digital sound sources, from multiroom systems like Sonos and HEOS to streaming players.
AudioControl Bijou 600 zone amplifier: Build quality and specification
The Bijou appellation is well used. This amp measures just 215.9 x 190.7 x 43.9mm (w/d/h) but weighs a significant 2.27kg. It’s small enough squirrel away out of sight, perhaps behind a TV from which it's taking a digital audio signal or in a 1U rack chassis, but feels incredibly well made.
The rear of the 600 is busy, busy, busy. There’s a three pin RS232 connector, IR control i/o and 12v trigger, stereo speaker output (via push-on 4-pin Euroblock terminals), plus subwoofer output, a pair of analogue inputs plus 2 digital connections (with options for optical or coaxial connection). There’s also a headphone jack.
The amp can be configured via a selection of dip switches. Amongst other things they allow you to volume defeat the inputs (so that level can be controlled from a local device) and put the amp into Sleep Defeat mode, which essentially prevents it going into Standby when it no longer registers a signal. If you have a source which is a little on the quiet side, you can also apply a 10dB High Gain lift.
Despite the small footprint, there’s a lot of power on offer. The amp delivers 2 x 100w into 8 Ohms (200W into 4 Ohms) but can also be bridged to perform as a 400w monoblock.
The 600 also AccuBASS circuitry, a proprietary process to reinstate bass lost on compressed music sources.
AudioControl Bijou 600 zone amplifier: Installation
A typical one source set-up would see your chosen source, be it Sonos Connect, CD player, media streamer or games console, plumbed in on the rear, with speakers connected directly.
System set up is versatile. A 2.1 speaker system is perhaps the most obvious configuration, but you can actually get away with running two stereo pairs in parallel. And by bridging the power supply (by setting the appropriate dip switch), just can treat the Bijou 600 as a surprisingly powerful mono amplifier. Pair two and you have a sound system that can fill a huge space, or dislodge plaster in a smaller one. In this mode, one Bijou 600 is designated the master unit, where all connections are made.
The amp features a switch mode power supply and class D digital amplification. But it still runs warm, so you’ll need to ensure good ventilation.
A number of optional accessories are available, including single and dual rack mount kits, mounting brackets and an in-wall back box.
AudioControl Bijou 600 zone amplifier: Performance
Sonically, the Bijou 600 doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of muscle on tap, and stereo imaging is pronounced. For this audition I mainly used the amp to drive a pair of bookshelf KEF speakers using an Amazon Echo Dot as the source (pictured below). This probably reflects the kind of usage the system will see – it’s difficult to imagine higher-end sources being hooked up. That said, inside the sturdy metalwork case is quality Wolfson DAC.
Delivery was consistently dynamic and musical. The Bijou 600 is just at home with Spotify playlists as it is with talk radio – a clean mid-range does a fine job with spoken voices. If you have a subwoofer in play, use the 80Hz filter (80Hz LP) to route out your lower bass.
Volume control, AccuBASS processing and input selection can be selected from the pebble-shaped RTR-1 remote supplied, or via third party control system. In use, the remote proved to be rather unresponsive – you have to depress the input switches with considerable force for it to register. Power is via a coin battery.
AudioControl Bijou 600 zone amplifier: Verdict
Overall, we were impressed. The Bijou 600 is a powerful zone amplifier solution, suitable for both multiroom and standalone sound systems. We're not a fan of the supplied remote, but in most instances that’s not going to be the controller of choice for integrators anyway. It’s compact size, considerable power output and configuration flexibility make it well worth listening out for.
The AudioControl Bijou 600 is available now.
Retail price: £950
The AudioControl Bijou 600 is available through Invision UK. For more news stories about Invision’s product portfolio and services, visit our resource page here.
Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.
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