Country of Origin



This review first appeared in January 2021 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of Dawid Grzyb – Ed.

Reviewer: Dawid Grzyb
fidata HFAS1-S10U, LampizaOr Pacific with KR T-100 or LV 300B and KR 5U4G
USB components: iFi Audio iGalvanic3.0, micro iUSB3.0, 3 x Mercury3.0, iPower 9V
Integrated amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M1
Speakers: Boenicke Audio W11 SE+, Børresen Acoustics B-01 [on loan]

Interconnects: Boenicke Audio IE3 CG
Speaker cables: Boenicke Auduo S3, LessLoss C-MARC
Power components: GigaWatt PC-3 SE EVO+ w. LC-3 EVO cord, LessLoss C-MARC, Boenicke Audio Power Fate
Rack: Franc Audio Accessories wood block rack
Network: Fidelizer EtherStream, Linksys WRT160N

Retail price of components as reviewed: €10'000

A while ago Aavik's lineup expanded to add products quite unlike their previous. Although these new arrivals all seemed equally chic, the I-280 integrated was my first target. This unfolds the next chapter in a story that began in late October '19. In Denmark's cities of Aalborg and Aarhus I was introduced to the Audio Group Denmark—previously known as UpperLevel ApS—and its brands Aavik, Ansuz and Børresen whose products formed entire systems of various performance tiers. Although the audio approach of my hosts struck me as holistic and free of compromise, to learn more meant sampling their work inside my own four walls. This led to three reviews published herehere and here to cover Ansuz and Børresen. Aavik were to factor on the HifiKnights site as well and today is finally that day.

This brand had tripped my radar years prior to the other two. Aavik's U-300 integrated amplifier stands tall as one of the most attractive audio components I'd ever seen regardless of type and price. Its matte-black minimalist exterior with massive rotary knob and subtle white surroundings etched itself deep in my mind. Although its U-380 successor would have made an intriguing first Aavik assignment for me, Srajan's review of it shifted my focus onto their lower-tiered U-150 range. By then I was simply told of new developments and associated wait times. Such insider info often translates to minor refreshers but Aavik's entire roster would quite literally turn upside down.

Their U-380 still packs a DAC, pre, phono plus stereo power amp into one gorgeous enclosure aimed at financially very liberal consumers. Still, many won't spend top dollar on any integrated product no matter how good. That's why Aavik's revamped lineup now features a standalone PCM/DSD DAC, a MC phonostage, class D integrated and streamer with its own app. They're all visually uniform and available as entry/mid/top-tier 180/280/580 specimens. Upon learning of these arrivals and taking into consideration Børresen's 01 loaner still on hand, the I-280 was the right model to continue my tale.

A diagonal split image to show two PCB sections in one frame.

A regular carton delivered to my doorstep housed a matte black carton, all corners protected by foam. The large glossy logo and generous paper wrapping in red reminded me of Aavik's distinctive color as opposed to the lime green and grey reserved for Ansuz and Børresen respectively. Although this packaging resembled more what's typical for upper-echelon graphic cards or motherboards, it looked very good and professional. The amp inside a cloth bag secured between a dense foam sandwich and Apple's petite remote wand was the one accessory included. Its click wheel adjusts volume and cycles through inputs, the middle buttons controls on/off standby and the two just below engage the main menu and mute.