Essentially, the Advance Acoustic MAP-105 is a completely traditional stereo integrated amp.
There are one or two surprises, though, including a relatively ungenerous provision of line inputs (four) and a complete absence of a recording output.
On the other hand, you get both flavours of phono input and separate pre-out/power-in sockets, the latter linked by default with external jumpers.
Build is typical of the breed, though the inclusion of separate toroidal transformers for each channel is quite a deluxe touch for a £400 model.
Two circuit boards carry the circuitry, one looking after preamp functions and input-switching (done with relays) while the other has the power amplifier section, an all-discrete affair culminating in a single pair per channel of bi-polar power transistors, fitted to an internal heatsink.
Component quality is good for the price, with practically all the resistors, for instance, being precision metal-film devices. We're particularly impressed with the output terminals; chunky types which are connected internally with low-resistance wire.
The look of the unit is perhaps rather a matter of taste, but there's no denying that the all-metal front panel gives an air of considerable class to the model and the remote control is metal-bodied, which is another welcome break with expectations.
Cheap it may be, but this amplifier made some friends in our listening panel and quickly, too.
Its sound seems to have a degree of energy that was missing in earlier presentations and, as such, it provided relief to listeners who were beginning to wonder if something else in the system was perhaps restricting the musical communication.
Its timing was felt to be among the best of its class and this was particularly welcome in the rock and piano tracks, both heavily reliant on rhythmic integrity to keep one's interest alive.
This isn't the only aspect to good sound, though and one listener expressed reservations about the MAP-105's resolution and tonal truthfulness. He felt that it was conveying less of the ambience of the recording space and even slightly limiting dynamic range compared with other amps.
He also pointed to a degree of sibilance in the sound and a rather superficial, 'safe' overall presentation that did little to maintain his interest as each track progressed.
Clearly this is a classic example of sound biased in a particular direction, which will consequently please some listeners a lot more than others.
Our subsequent listening confirmed that the rhythm and timing aspect is well catered for, but we could certainly see why those who look for detail and precision in their sound will end up frustrated by this amp.
Bass is certainly good by budget amp standards – well extended and crisp – but treble is a little loose at times, with less extension than one might ideally like and stereo imaging is more than a little approximate.
The phono stage is pretty much okay for occasional duty, but regular vinyl lovers will appreciate an outboard unit and the moving-coil setting is noisy and, as far as we can see, a bit of an irrelevance. Still, this is a high value, lively and enjoyable amp that's certainly worth a try.