Sprout: The Audio Antidote to Too Much Choice

The proliferation of choice wrought by the digital explosion has resulted in the pendulum understandably swinging back toward a realization that less is more.

Sprout is an incredibly simple yet versatile amplifier that delivers the full promise of amazing sound without an exhausting range of features that deliver only diminishing returns.

While not a complete ‘Back to Mono’ manifestation that probably only Phil Spector would endorse, the Sprout does not require you to give up all your current entertainment sources. In other words, you can use this elegantly designed unit with Bluetooth, digital, analog and vinyl sources. (In a future installment about the rise of vinyl we will reference this article for further context).

To further explain, the Sprout’s Bluetooth functionality lets you connect to a mobile device or computer, which is a nod to the growth in that direction. The digital option lets you use either a USB or COAX input. The analog option works with TV or Sonos or equivalent inputs. The vinyl option means the built-in preamp affords direct connection to a turntable.

Setting up the Sprout is incredibly simple, as there are a reduced number of choices. But these fewer choices in no way degrade the experience.

With an incredibly seductive front panel, your choices are only four (as above). A smooth detent volume knob is the only other front panel control, offering true analog stepped volume. The brushed aluminum case surrounds the vertical faces of the unit. There are no hard edges to the unit, which adds a visual and tactile warmth.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.34.49 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.35.40 AMThe back of the unit collects the several input choices. To keep the front of the unit crisp, the power switch is on the back. On the front panel I would have preferred a small ruby colored light above the headphone jack to let me know the unit is powered up.

I ran the Sprout through its paces, using a variety of input sources. I found the sound warm, rich and accurate. I used both headphones and a pair of Genelec G Three Active Loudspeakers, and in both instances the sound was refreshingly balanced.

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.35.24 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-26 at 10.36.20 AMThe Sprout never got warm after hours of use, which was in contrast to my beloved Marantz 2270 from back in the day. The Sprout pumps 50 watts per channel at an A-weighted signal to noise ratio greater than 90dB with less than 0.025% total harmonic distortion. For neophytes these are superb specs, all for less than $800.

PS Audio has developed the Sprout leveraging over four decades of experience. Paul McGowan and Stan Warren started their eponymous company in Santa Maria, California but now operate in Boulder, Colorado. Units are hand built with a sense of craftsmanship that is being welcomed by connoisseurs of well-crafted products. With a design mantra influenced by the esteemed Dieter Rams, the Sprout is the manifestation of less is more.




Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.