Electrocompaniet ECI 80D

It’s been over a decade since we last reviewed anything from Norwegian company Electrocompaniet, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect from the ECI 80D integrated amplifier. As things turn out, it’s an impressively polished performer that’s brimming with useful features.

Features

Electrocompaniet ECI 80D features

(Image credit: Electrocompaniet)

We can’t imagine too many occasions where this integrated amp will be caught short in a price appropriate two-channel set-up. It has a good range of digital and analogue inputs, including a moving magnet phono stage, multiple coaxials and opticals, as well as two-way Bluetooth in high-quality aptX HD form.

Electrocompaniet ECI 80D tech specs

Electrocompaniet ECI 80D

(Image credit: Electrocompaniet)

Power output 2x 80W

Coax x2

Optical x3

Headphone out 3.5mm and 6.3mm

Remote Yes

Dimensions (hwd) 9 x 47 x 26cm

Those hardwired digital connections will accept up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM files, though the lack of a USB input means there’s no option of playing DSD or PCM files of higher sampling rates. We suspect that won’t be a major issue for most potential buyers.

As for outputs, there’s a basic set of multi-way speaker terminals, 6.3mm and 3.5mm headphone outputs (inconveniently placed on the rear) and a dedicated preamp connection for those who need more muscle than the ECI 80D delivers.

Electrocompaniet claims 80W per channel into an 8ohm load, with that output almost doubling to 150W per channel as the speaker impedance halves. It’s enough grunt to power most speakers to decent levels in all but the largest of rooms.

Build

Electrocompaniet ECI 80D build

(Image credit: Electrocompaniet)

The amplifier’s build quality is nice and solid but perhaps lacks a little slickness compared with the best at this level. The ECI 80D feels like a good example of what it is – a product from a small-scale specialist manufacturer. We don’t feel so generous about the remote handset, though; while admirably simple, it does feel cheap.

Any amplifier at this level deserves good quality partners. We use our usual Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer for both analogue and digital signal feeds, with a Technics SL-1000R/Goldring 2500 MM turntable package backing it up. We also use more price-compatible sources in the form of the Clearaudio Concept Active MM record player and the Cyrus CDi CD player.

The ECI 80D proves unfussy with speakers, producing consistent results across the ATC SCM50, KEF LS50 Meta and Triangle Borea BR08. We also use an iPhone XS Max as a Bluetooth source and a pair of Beyerdynamic T1 Mk2 to test the headphone output. Lastly, we use a pair of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 to try the Electrocompaniet’s Bluetooth transmission capabilities.

Sound

Electrocompaniet ECI 80D sound

(Image credit: Electrocompaniet)

In use, this is a wonderfully capable amplifier for the money. It majors on delivering an open and spacious sound brimming with subtleties. Give it a low-key album, such as Found Songs by Ólafur Arnalds, and it shines, rendering nuanced soundscapes that are populated by expressive instruments and sounds. We’re impressed by the resolution on offer and the way this amplifier organises all this information into a cohesive and musical whole.

It has a refined presentation that’s free of any unwarranted hard edges, yet there’s enough in the way of bite when the music demands. This is made clear when we switch to Holst’s Mars. We enjoy the Electrocompaniet’s stereo imaging here, particularly the way it layers the sound and prevents instruments from sounding cluttered or as if they are having to jostle to be heard.

Larger-scale dynamic shifts are handled well, though if you switch to rivals such as the cheaper, purely analogue Naim Nait XS 2, you’ll notice that the ECI 80D doesn’t convey the same sense of muscularity and punch. Equally, the Electrocompaniet delivers a sense of insight and sophistication that the Naim struggles to generate, so it’s a case of horses for courses rather than one being notably better overall than the other.

Tonally, the ECI 80D sits on the slightly smooth and rich side of neutral – but not so much that it unduly affects the amplifier’s overall transparency or smothers the sonic characteristics of individual recordings.

Playing Watch The Throne by Jay Z and Kanyé West through the digital inputs proves that the Electrocompaniet’s cultured presentation doesn’t stop it from being an entertaining and enthusiastic listen. While lacking the Naim’s rhythmic drive and attack, it still has enough in the way of power and punch to keep us listening. We love the way it conveys voices and the way it communicates the passion and meaning behind the words so effectively. This DAC module is broadly as good as the better standalone choices that cost around a quarter of the amp’s asking price.

We’re pleased to report that the built-in moving magnet phono stage is surprisingly capable too. Usually, such things sound like they’re a bit of an afterthought, a box-ticking exercise rather than something to really get excited about. But it’s different here.  This phono module retains a good deal of the clarity of the lines stages and works well with everything from Bob Marley’s Exodus right the way through to Orff’s Carmina Burana. We’re similarly positive when we try the headphone outputs. The sonic character is just as engaging as through the speaker outputs, and that’s not as common as it should be.

The Bluetooth input gives more good news. This is one of the best implementations we’ve heard in a product like this. While the wired inputs are our go-to choice for absolute performance, the ECI 80D’s Bluetooth sound is impressively effective.

Verdict

Electrocompaniet has done an excellent job here. The ECI 80D is a well-specified amplifier where all the key features work really well – and, in our experience, that’s a rare thing. Add to that sound quality that is comparable to the best of its rivals and it’s quite clear that this amplifier is an excellent buy.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 4

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