“ The Arcam Delta 290 is a seriously impressive amp. Whilst it is not the most expensive in its field, it delivery very high sound quality, has a sleek appearance and is super reliable. „
This is possibly the greatest amplifer that Arcam ever made. Forget digital technology and plastic cases. This is an analogue behemoth with all-metal contstruction and solid black-anodised Aluminium front panel.
I bought one of these second hand 10 years ago and I think it was about 13 years old then! Well, it's still going strong and if you're considering buying one of these there are only a few places you can buy it; eBay, a friend/relative or perhaps through private adverts in Hi-Fi shops/magazines. The price will be around £100 second hand even today.
The sound quality is... perfect. It manages to maintain incredibly deep bass while providing the fullest treble detail and overall clarity. It has quite a neutral tone, not particularly biased towards either end of the spectrum but might be described as a slightly gritty or gravelly sound. The specification claims it goes down to 10 Hz and I have seen the speaker cones moving when I played a 5Hz tone from my PC through it so I can believe this.
Feature wise this has everything you could ever possibly need. More inputs than you can shake a stick at plus two tape loops (more on those later) and pre/power in/out.
Yes that's right you can open it up, flick a switch and then Hazaar! It has the same specification as a 290P (the partnering power amp). You would then use the PWR AMP IN sockets to use this as a power amp.
I use mine as a power amp nowadays since the input selector got a bit noisy and I got tired of taking the lid off every week and cleaning it with petroleum based switch cleaner (which does work by the way). I use it as a power amp in a different way though using the PROCESSOR input. This is actually one of the tape inputs but when you press PROCESSOR on the front it bypasses the input selector stage. There is a switch on the back for this input marked AV/NORMAL. In NORMAL the volume control on the front determines the level. In AV the volume control ONLY is bypassed. You can still tweak the bass, treble, balance. BUT why would you EVER want to do that? Leaving DIRECT pressed in all the time reduces speaker hiss and improves the sound slightly anyway. I actually use it in NORMAL and leave the volume control at about 40% so that a) my subwoofer comes on at lower volumes from the rest of the surround system and b) so that I can't hear the high pitched digital noises my new TV seems to put onto the system.
This can of course be partnered with other 290's or 290P's and I have tried mine with another 290 set to be a power amp. The sound was very rewarding, much more control of the bass and treble as expected. More noticeable was that there was LESS separation between the bass and the treble. So it sounded more cohesive. I didn't get much time to play with this setup though but if you can afford it and have the space I can highly recommend it. The manual claims you can daisy-chain a greater number of amps together for tri-wire or multi-room purposes.
Another advantage of having bi-wireable speakers with this amp is that since it has two sets of speaker outputs you can wire the tweeters to one output and the woofers to the other. This means you can turn them on and off individually and when combined with fully rotating the balance means you can easily diagnose faulty speakers- comparing one tweeter to another etc.
It has a remote which has got to be the most generic remote in the world but it does the job including changing source and changing the volume. I don't use it though since I only need to turn it on and off which has to be done from the main panel anyway! The remote will also operate a wide variety of CD-players and Tuners. I know for a fact it works with a Marantz CD-48 and an Aura CD-player but I can't confirm compatibility with any other models.
Problems & Solutions:
My ONLY gripe is that due to the age of the plastic parts of the phono sockets on the back of mine some of them have regrettably now broken. They can be repaired but it is not easy and best left to a Hi-Fi shop to actually replace them. This would not affect the sound quality at all.
Curiously, although the input selector went noisy the record selector did not so I did use that for a while to switch different stereo sources sending the result out of the other tape loop to the surround processor which would then send the main channels back to the Arcam's PROCESSOR inputs and amplify to the speakers. Confusing? You bet! Why didn't I just use the surround processor to switch analogue inputs? Well... another advantage of this madness was that it completely eliminated the ground hum that was coming from my Sky box. Presumably this was because the Arcam is properly grounded whereas everything else has a "floating" ground.
Output Power: 75 Watts, both chanels into 8 ohm / Input Impedance: 10kohm / Output Impedance: 100kohm / Noise: .99dB typical /