PS Audio Sprout100 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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The PS Audio Sprout100 (buy at Amazon) is an entry level audiophile integrated amplifier made by the folks at PS Audio. Packed into one tiny little package (and I mean tiny) it measures at 6.2 inches wide by 1.9 inches tall and 8.2 inches deep, with weight of just 2.9 pounds. In terms of inputs, you get a moving magnet phono stage, a stereo line-level analog RCA in, a stereo analog RCA out, an optical in, a Type-B USB in, and Bluetooth support. The Sprout100 puts out 100 Watts per channel int 4 ohms and 50 int 8 ohms for loudspeakers, and 500mW into 32-ohm headphones and 125mW ing 300-ohm headphones. It can be difficult to separate yourself with so much competition in the integrated amplifier space at this price, but PS Audio has certainly made an effort to with their combination of input options and power in such a small form factor. It also has a subwoofer output, which is increasingly crucial these days.

PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amp reviewed by Andrew Dewhirst
The PS Audio Sprout 100 in a product designed to get audiophile sound into younger people’s systems

What Makes the PS Audio Sprout100 Integrated Amplifier Special?

  • I mentioned the diminutive size of the PS Audio Sprout100, but it is a sleek looking device as well. This amp is equally happy in a dedicated AV rack as it is hidden somewhere out of the way. There’s some very high wife-acceptance-factor calculated here. 
  • There is very little that this integrated amplifier can’t do. With support for a subwoofer, a phono stage, and a good mix of wired and wireless connectivity, you likely won’t find yourself needing extra inputs unless your system is unusually large.
  • You can use the PS Audio Sprout100 as an audiophile preamp, if you like. If you find yourself wanting more power, the PS Audio Spout100 has RCA outs so you could connect it to a bigger powerhouse down the road. 

Why Should You Care About the PS Audio Sprout100?

If you’re looking for a starter component for your or someone else’s audiophile system, the PS Audio Sprout100 makes a compelling argument for why it should be in first position. It’s so small that you can move it to another room if you decided to make some upgrades to your system or you can take your time with it and leverage it as a preamp if you want to start with adding power from a separate amp, and then look at a preamp upgrade down the road. The sky is the limit for this type of product, and with it being reasonably priced, you shouldn’t have much trouble selling it or finding it a new home if that is your preferred path.

PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amp reviewed by Andrew Dewhirst
A side view of the PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amp

Some Things You Might Not Like About the PS Audio Sprout100

  • One of the things that stood out to me as missing was the lack of higher-quality codecs for Bluetooth. I would have loved to see support for aptX and/or aptX Lossless instead of just the standard SBC. Even AAC would have been appreciated.   
  • The only other thing that I felt this integrated amplifier was missing is a coaxial digital in. You get one digital optical in, but some digital components don’t have optical outs. This isn’t going to be the end of the world, but it is something you will want to be aware of if you already have digital components, such as a CD transport, you’re looking to use.
  • While the Sprout100 comes with a solidly machined metal remote control, the remote itself didn’t work all that well for me. I found that I was pressing the buttons a lot to try and increase the volume and ultimately just started to get up and turn the nob to get to the volume I wanted.
The PS Audio Sprout 100 installed in Andrew Dewhirst's reference audiophile system
The PS Audio Sprout 100 installed in Andrew Dewhirst’s reference audiophile system

Listening to the PS Audio Sprout100…

The first track I used to test the PS Audio Sprout 100 was “Beyond the Wheel” by Soundgarden (CD Quality 1440 Kbps). This track preceded their mainstream 1990s fame and is an early grunge track, so the guitars have a lot of distortion in a way that would eventually become commonplace, but in 1998 it was a bit of a new sound for many hard rock fans. You also get a strong howl from Chris Cornell’s vocals as you often did from Soundgarden at this stage of their career. While the music was grungy, the sound on coming out of the PS Audio Sprout100 was anything but. Through all the Seattle-inspired distortion,I had no issues identifying instruments. The mids were clear and the highs were vibrant but never harsh or bright. This was the case on my Paradigm Premier 700F speakers  or the more expensive Monitor Audio Silver 300 7G floorstanding speakers (read the reviews) as the Sprout could power both with ease. 

“Beyond the Wheel” by Soundgarden

Another track that I used was a 1980s classic pop hit in “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood (CD Quality 1,440 Kbps). I listened to this one through the USB input to test the DAC. This track oozes of the 1980s electronic style with the synthesizers layered overtop of the legendary pianist’s work. So much so, I had to go and check to see if the track was featured in Beverly Hills Cop (spoiler alert, it wasn’t). You can certainly find more technical work from Winwood, whether it was from his work in Traffic or jamming-oriented performances with Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix. One distinct thing I noticed was that the Sprout100 added a bit of sweetness to the top end, whether it was coming from the keyboard or the backing singers, but otherwise the song sounded as very neutral in the midrange and lower.

“Higher Love” by Steve Winwood

The last track I auditioned with the PS Audio Sprout100 was “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse (CD Quality 1440 Kbps), via Bluetooth. This 2006 rock track features a litany of different sounds as the band started moving themselves more into the Prog Rock space, but the one aspect that stands out the most to me is the groove that is established early on. The PS Audio Sprout100 had no issues defining the instruments and, again, I did detect a little bit of brightness at the top end from the unit, but it was never a distraction for me. 

Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse

Does the PS Audio Sprout100 Have Any Resale Value?

It absolutely will have good resale value. There have been a few of these sold in the last few months on eBay, and they all sold close to retail price. PS Audio is a quality brand, and to be honest, given how small it is, I’m surprised people are selling them at all as there isn’t a room into your house that you couldn’t fit it into. The other nice thing that adds to the resale of the Sprout100 is that because it is only 2.9 pounds, it is easy to ship.

PS Audio Sprout 100 reviewed
Note: the quality of the volume knob on the PS Audio Sprout 100

Who is the Competition for the PS Audio Sprout100?

If you’re looking for more inputs, the Marantz PM6007 ($669 – Buy at Crutchfield) might be a good choice. The Marantz has two optical inputs and a coaxial input, as well as four RCA inputs, a phono stage, and support for a subwoofer. To get that, though, you are getting a larger package, and you’re giving up about half the power to your speakers.

To match the power output, you might need to go up to the Parasound NewClassic 200 ($1,399). You’re getting quite a bit for the extra money, as it features dual mono subwoofer support, both optical and coaxial digital inputs, as well as moving coil and moving magnet support in your phono stage. 

Now if you’re like tube amplification and you don’t plan to use any digital components, the Monoprice Pure Tube Stereo Amplifier with Bluetooth, Line and Phono Inputs, and Qualcomm aptX Audio ($399.99) might be for you. This comes with a phono stage, RCA in, and a pre-out. It also has AptX Bluetooth support so that you can get a higher-fidelity connection from your phone or tablet.

PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amp reviewed by Andrew Dewhirst
Here’s a look at the rear panel of the PS Audio Sprout 100 neatly organized.

Final Thoughts on the PS Audio Sprout100

The PS Audio Sprout100 is a fantastic, no nonsense, do-it-all audiophile component that I have quickly grown to love. No, it doesn’t have every feature you might find in a comparably priced AV receiver, per se, but when you consider the versatility that it creates by being so small and still providing fantastic sound, what isn’t to love? 

From my research, at the $800 price point in the audiophile space you have to make some decisions on which features mean the most to you. You can get more inputs, but you might sacrifice power, for example, or have to deal with a larger, more traditional chassis. If I had to recommend an integrated amp as a starter piece for someone, though, this would be my pick right now. There is room to build a hi-fi system out of it because you can add a subwoofer, you can try out a turntable, or a CD player, or even network streamer. Then, if you want to upgrade to separates later, you can easily move the Sprout100 either into your living room to boost the sound there or into an office and just add some nice bookshelf speakers and continue to enjoy this wonderful piece of hardware. Great sound paired with well-chosen features at a very fair price makes this reviewer very happy. 

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Mark Alfson

And while I’m not in need of this product at this time, I think it would really shine in a desktop computer setup. It is my backup plan for when I’m ready to make the change from my current setup.

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