With integration and connectivity technologies grabbing the limelight in recent years, it’s often easy to turn a blind eye to the build quality of A/V gear.
Consumers have become enamored by streaming audio, wireless configurations and voice control. These innovations have all helped breathe new life into the audio industry, but bells and whistles can only go so far to ensuring a high-quality listening experience, Integra maintains.
“It all comes back to the build quality of the components,” says Keith Haas, Integra Director of Brand Development.
“It’s a narrative that has been almost completely missing in the integration market of late.”
Heritage of High Performance
That’s not to say that build quality was ever a missing component of Integra products; nor is it something that the company has ignored.
“We still look at the construction of our products as the most important element, just as we did 50 years ago,” Haas says. “We just need to bring the importance of build quality back to the forefront in the minds of integrators and consumers alike.”
“It’s what ensures superb performance, and superb performance is what leads to satisfied customers; satisfied customers lead to more word of mouth referrals which the dealers depend on, and those referrals lead to additional revenue and profits.”
“The dots are not hard to connect,” he continues. “Building a musically accurate component is the goal. If we achieve that, then home theater performance levels come almost naturally.”
So how exactly does Integra set its products apart?
For starters, as Haas describes it, the chassis of Integra components remain made of steel and aluminum; not a combination of steel and molded plastic as has become common.
The composition of the steel and aluminum materials is simply more anti-resonant; critical to the design of any audio component. The company backs up its anti-resonant construction with a robust internal audio engine driven by oversized power supplies and storage capacitors.
This ensures minimal degradation of the power feed to each audio channel.
“When consumers invest in product boasting to deliver X amount of wattage output per channel, they’re entitled to buy what they’re being sold which is that performance with all channels driven, not just one channel tested or just the front left and right channels measured. Our engineers work hard towards the goal of delivering on that expectation.”
Integra also incorporates hand selected parts in pursuit of tighter tolerance ratings and employs parts like state-of-the-art DAC’s from AKM—again the pursuit of building a musically accurate component.
Another build-feature that helps Integra maintain high-quality A/V reproduction is the bridge construction found in its top tier of products.
Audio signals are handled by their own dedicated circuit board; video signals are handled by a completely different circuit board. These two circuit boards are completely isolated to reduce the amount of noise that can bleed from one trace wire to another.
Multiple power supplies minimize any degradation, as well, with one supply dedicated to audio, another for video, and even a discreet power supply for the on/off button. “It’s like having separate construction concepts assembled into one chassis,” says Haas.
Despite the high-quality construction of Integra’s receivers and amps, the company has been able to maintain competitive pricing. Even putting many of its products through the rigors of THX certification—“a very expensive endeavor,” says Haas—hasn’t priced Integra out of the ballpark.
Top Tier Integra Products
The top end SKUs comprise Integra’s “Research Series”. These components include additional bridging and internal bracing that add rigidity to the chassis. Extra sheets of aluminum around the power supplies provide additional shielding and 30+ bonus screws tighten up the housing even further for an even greater anti-resonant environment.
Integra’s commitment to the high-quality construction of its components has remained its focus despite the industry’s love affair with new connectivity and control features.
That’s not to say that Integra has ignored new A/V developments. “Every Integra product offered RS-232 connections even before integration was a thing,” Haas says, and for nearly a decade, IP-connectivity has been a standard feature.
“All in all, Integra components are arguably the most feature-laden receivers and preamps available,” claims Haas, “but not at the expense of build quality.”
“That is in great part why the brand continues to command a roughly $300 premium over its competitors,” he says.
“We will continue to refine our products and push the envelope for integration and connectivity, but we’ll also cling to our roots and assure that the overall quality of our construction remains as strong now, and moving forward, as it did generations ago.”