Accustic Arts

Finest High-End Audio Jewellery - Hand Made in Germany
High-End from ACCUSTIC ARTS® is expected to sound natural and detailed,
Accustic Arts offers a comprehensive range of high-end products. A full range of electronics and accessories, all are available from one source, while the range is constantly being perfected. Accustic Arts products captivate through their natural sound reproduction and high output potential. The timeless, perfectly-shaped design is easy to integrate in every living environment. These fine music components are the result of thorough research and development work, use of best quality elements and the most careful handmade production at the facilities in Germany. The ultimate musical enjoyment is expressed through clarity, dynamics and depth of detail within the natural acoustic pattern. 

We use experience, derived from work in recording studios and the use of P.A. systems at other recording venues when developing new ACCUSTIC ARTS® products. “Absolute Sound Fidelity Through Reproduction” is both the name and the goal at the same time. ACCUSTIC ARTS® stands for ACCUrate acouSTIC ARTS, which means “the correct art of sound”. To meet this demand, only precise and high-grade components as well as latest technologies and construction principles are being used.

High end from ACCUSTIC ARTS® is expected to sound natural and detailed, it must not sugarcoat music, but has to allow emotion to shine through. Warmth is a desirable result in the naturtal sound pattern, but won’t be used as artificial showmanship.

SAE does not produce in mass production, but each individual Accustic Arts unit is handmade with the utmost care and attention to detail, in the well-known meticulous way associated with German craftsman-ship all over the world. This is the only way SAE can meet the high quality standards set by them-selves. Accustic Arts units are designed to meet the needs of the future, and so can easily be adapted to further developments of the products. Innovation and diversification are important principles for the Accustic Arts product philosophy.

HISTORY

ACCUSTIC ARTS®, the High-End product line of SAE - SCHUNK AUDIO ENGINEERING GmbH & Co. KG, was introduced for the first time in 1997, following five years of development, co-operation with external developers and audio experts. Countless tests and listening sessions, material and component checks have shaped the products. The roots of ACCUSTIC ARTS® go back to 1990, when interest in music production, recording and sound playback was born in the Schunk household. The backbone of ACCUSTIC ARTS® is provided by a typical German Mittelstand family business. Senior partner Fritz Schunk ran the Fritz Schunk GmbH for over 30 years. It was a world leader in industrial robotics and industrial handling. Customers included Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Porsche.

In 1997 Fritz Schunk was looking for a new direction, and sold the Fritz Schunk GmbH. Together with his sons, Martin and Steffen he launched SAE - SCHUNK AUDIO ENGINEERING GmbH & Co. KG to focus on his big passion - music. His years in the high tech industry allowed him to use his production know how and detailed understanding. Fritz Schunk still remains the ultimate decision maker at SAE GmbH & Co. KG, he oversees the areas buying, financing, investments as well as quality control. 

Martin Schunk, mechanical engineer, is responsible for development and production of ACCUSTIC ARTS® High-End equipment. At the age of 15 he started to develop his own loudspeakers. His passion and long lasting experience can be found again in today’s ACCUSTIC ARTS® range.  In collaboration with external and internal audio engineers his areas of expertise are technical engineering and R&D.

Steffen Schunk holds a degree in technical business administration and is a professional music producer.  At SAE GmbH& Co. KG, Steffen is responsible for the commercial area as well as marketing and distribution - ACCUSTIC ARTS® products are now available in over 40 countries. Since 1990 Steffen has been working as professional producer for international record companies. Along with a number of sound engineers Steffen launched Evolve Studios in 1995, today the professional music production and recording business area of SAE GmbH & Co. KG. These priceless experiences had an important impact on the development of the ACCUSTIC ARTS® high-end range. The idea was to take the reproduction as close as possible to what could be heard in the original studio. The first development were near field monitors for recording studios and control rooms, the most sensitive room a loudspeaker can possibly be used in. In 2009 the areas of high end manufacturer and music production were combined to launch a new audiophile label called ACCUSTIC ARTS AUDIOPHILE RECORDINGS (AAAR). AAAR is made up of Steffen Schunk, Milan Sajé (sound engineer) and Rasmus Muttscheller (A&R). All three have been active in the international music business for years and together are responsible for the selection of tracks and artists that are to be released by AAAR.

The synergies coming from both music production/media publishing and ACCUSTIC ARTS®  manufacture can be seen in all products and allow for the implementation of music reproduction on the highest level. The success can be seen in the rising global demand year by year for ACCUSTIC ARTS® products, handmade in Germany.

HIGH-END MADE IN GERMANY

Precision is the name of the game for production that takes place exclusively in Germany. All materials and components are subject to detailed incoming and outgoing tests. The products are designed to offer uncompromisingly high-end quality, but also to offer good value for money. 

PRODUCTION FACILITIES

The location of the SAE headquarters in Lauffen am Neckar lies at the gates of Stuttgart, home of Mercedes Benz and Porsche, in the south of Germany. In the autumn of 1998 the company moved into its new premises which allowed substantial expansion of production capacity and the fine-tuning of production processes. 

The building complex also includes: 

• demonstration and presentation rooms 
• development laboratory 
• production of all electronics components and loudspeakers 
• separate testing and measuring facilities, storage, and dispatch 
• own music studio with professional recording facilities for music productions. 

Featured

All Products

Reviews

Awards

Testimonials

Videos

Featured

AA 20 DA REFDAC
NZ$ 19,995.00 (incl. GST)
The tube hybrid TUBE DAC II DA converter from ACCUSTIC ARTS® was introduced in 2007 and has since enjoyed a lot of success and received numerous awards. Now the converter has been fundamentally...
Audiophile reference D/A-converter with a so called "tube hybrid" concept.Special and unique 2x...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
AA 25 PA REFPRE
NZ$ 19,995.00 (incl. GST)
THE REFERENCE TUBE PREAMP II – MK2:  The TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 is the revised version of our hybrid tube preamplifier which enjoys success all around the world. The revised version includes a...
TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 highlights:Audiophile reference preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid”...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
AA 26 PS REFPHON
NZ$ 19,995.00 (incl. GST)
Magazine AUDIO tested the TUBE PHONO II - ACCUSTIC ARTS® TUBE PHONO II received the “Sound recommendation”. Audio-employee Lothar Brandt came to the following conclusion: “The puristic...
Audiophile reference phono preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid” concept Advantages of this “...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Accustic Arts has long since established itself among the top German manufacturers...
AA 31 AM MONO300
NZ$ 33,995.00 (incl. GST)
The ACCUSTIC ARTS® DNA:Thorough development and best components = wonderful sound experience.
MONO II highlights (per piece) Reference class mono power amplifier 12 selected MOS-FET...
EXTENDED REVIEW: are you easily seduced? No, I’m not talking about an extra evening beer or a...

All Products

CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

AA 11 CD TOPPLAY
NZ$ 13,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
AEX JAPAN - AUDIO EXCELLENCE AWARD 2016:STEREO JAPAN - BEST PRODUCTS of the YEAR AWARD 2015: CD-PLAYER I-MK3 highlights:24 Bit/192 kHz Upsampling CD-Player in top-loader designCD positioning in drive...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
AA 21 CD REFDRIV
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
PERFECT CD TRANSPORTThe DRIVE II is a CD transport of the absolute reference class and works according to the top-loader principle. The unit is designed exclusively to play CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs in...
Audiophile reference CD transport in top-loader designHigh-Class CD mechanism (CD-Pro2LF) with...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
AA 23 CD REFPLAY
NZ$ 29,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
BRAND NEW ACCUSTIC ARTS ® PLAYER II mk2 - The AWESOME MULTI TASKING , ALL-ROUNDER!High-End, State-Of-Art, Audiophile CD player, DAC and Preamp with "Tube Hybrid“ technology
Audiophile Top-loader CD player and high-precision DAC - D/A converter in one deviceUltra-precise...
FOR AN INDEPTH REVIEW PLEASE VISIT  http://absolutehiend.com/ahe_files/pdf/AAP2.pdf

Integrated amplifiers

AA 13 IA TOPOW
NZ$ 13,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
POWER I-MK3 highlights Audiophile integrated stereo power amplifier with high output performance 8 selected MOS-FET output transistors of highest quality Shielded and encapsulated 600 VA toroidal...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
Integrated amplifiers

DACs

AA 20 DA REFDAC
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The tube hybrid TUBE DAC II DA converter from ACCUSTIC ARTS® was introduced in 2007 and has since enjoyed a lot of success and received numerous awards. Now the converter has been fundamentally...
Audiophile reference D/A-converter with a so called "tube hybrid" concept.Special and unique 2x...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
DACs

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

AA 25 PA REFPRE
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
THE REFERENCE TUBE PREAMP II – MK2:  The TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 is the revised version of our hybrid tube preamplifier which enjoys success all around the world. The revised version includes a...
TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 highlights:Audiophile reference preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid”...
EXTENDED REVIEW:

Phono Stages

AA 26 PS REFPHON
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Magazine AUDIO tested the TUBE PHONO II - ACCUSTIC ARTS® TUBE PHONO II received the “Sound recommendation”. Audio-employee Lothar Brandt came to the following conclusion: “The puristic...
Audiophile reference phono preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid” concept Advantages of this “...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Accustic Arts has long since established itself among the top German manufacturers...
Phono Stages

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

AA 27 AS REFAMP
NZ$ 27,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Finest electronic components – finest sound The top priority in the development of the AMP II – MK 3 was a perfect signal feed with short distances using the finest components. Some of the components...
Dual-mono reference power amplifier with completely isolated power supply for each amplifier...
EXTENDED REVIEW:
AA 29 AS REFAMP6
NZ$ 35,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
What do so many reviewers have to say: 
THERE IS NO BETTER AUDIO PRODUCT AT ANY PRICE!  "At the end of my long quest, I have finally found a couple amplifier / preamplifier (Ultra Amp-III &...
EXTENDED REVIEW: This review is about both the AMP-III and the PREAMP-I-MKIII (the previous model...
AA 31 AM MONO300
NZ$ 33,995.00 pr (incl. GST)
The ACCUSTIC ARTS® DNA:Thorough development and best components = wonderful sound experience.
MONO II highlights (per piece) Reference class mono power amplifier 12 selected MOS-FET...
EXTENDED REVIEW: are you easily seduced? No, I’m not talking about an extra evening beer or a...
AA 32 AM MONO650
NZ$ 59,995.01 pr (incl. GST)
The ACCUSTIC ARTS® MONO III – our statementThe brand new ACCUSTIC ARTS® MONO III power amplifier is the latest member of the ACCUSTIC ARTS® family of amplifiers and after the very successful MONO II...
MONO III highlights (per piece)Extremely powerful mono power amplifier; reference class24 selected...

Reviews

In the end, it looked pretty darned good to me. Track one down and see for yourself!
John Potis

REVIEW SUMMARY:
No matter what the speaker, the Power 1's bass remained highly damped and well handled. .....Air? Transparency? Ease? Edgy rhythms? The Power 1 gave me all of that in spades in an excellent balance of speed, articulation and harmoniousness......It should be obvious by now that when it comes to treble performance; I regard the Power 1 as the bee's knees particularly for a solid-state amplifier. In this regard, it is perhaps the best I've ever used. .....Through the midrange, the Power 1 was as transparent as just about any amplifier I recollect ever hearing. That means it's excellent for a high-powered solid-state amplifier and was in fact much more like the Art Audio Symphony II - pretty high praise indeed.

EXTENDED REVIEW:
Please note - this review is of the earlier POWER-I Mk-I model back in 2004 that has gone through 2 upgrade iterations to the latest and more powerful POWER-I Mk3 model:
 
I have to admit that as I removed the Accustic Arts Power 1 integrated amplifier from its box, it was hard not to be impressed. If bells and whistles are your style, you won't be quite as taken as I was - the Power 1 seems to be about clean "form follows function" simplicity. With the possible exception of the aluminium casework that substitutes for the ubiquitous black powder coat found elsewhere, the Power 1 is all business, no frills. At 48lbs., it's no flyweight either and at 5.7" tall x 19" wide x 17.7' deep, it's not what one could reasonably call compact. But it's extremely well finished, with a front panel that's as simple as function allows and merely sports a large non-stepped rotary volume control, a matching source selector and what at first appear to be three small LEDs. Closer inspection reveals one of those LEDs to actually be an infrared remote sensor. The others indicate power and protection activation mode. That's it.
 
Around back, the Power 1 displays high quality if relatively few connectors. In total, it can handle four sources, one balanced, three single-ended. If the Power 1 is short on input options, it does much better on outputs. The Amp 1 is a full-function integrated amplifier claimed to deliver 130wpc into 8 ohms and 190 into 4. It offers two pairs of preamp outputs, one XLR, one RCA. Accustic Arts' own Balanced Amp 1 can be used for bi-amping via the balanced outputs while the single-ended outputs can feed a powered subwoofer or unbalanced amp. Both pre-outs can be used simultaneously.
 
The speaker binding posts are of the high-quality shielded/ slotted WBT variety that usually gives me a tickle. However, the close vertical orientation with one pair directly above the other gave me some pause. Those using banana plugs won't have a problem (though the spacing prevents the use of double bananas) but I found that inserting spades upwards into the down-facing shielded slots proved difficult because of the cramped quarters. While normally just a one-time annoyance that most users won't have to worry about after initial setup, I still found that when using heavier and stiffer speaker cables, the lower connection required that I either bend the wire at a hard 90° angle to clear the shelf (difficult and unhealthy for the cable) or place the component such that the speaker lead could comfortably dangle past the rear edge of the shelf supporting the Power 1. The location of the binding posts isn't a deal-breaker but a simple sideways orientation of the slots plus a touch higher mounting of the lower terminals on the rear panel would be a welcome change. Lastly, the binding posts' close proximity to the IEC inlet didn't help matters as my JPS Lab's Kaptovator was too bulky for comfortable accommodation. Oh, did I mention that squeezed into the same proximity is the power switch? 
 
The other ergonomic peculiarity had to do with the aforementioned XLR input. The front panel labels the inputs numerically and sequentially, with 1 assigned to the balanced input. Since I use no balanced components, this meant that I only used inputs 2 through 4. It may seem silly but I found it somewhat disconcerting that my primary source was to be found as input 2 and source number 1 had to go unused. Naturally, this limited me to three 3 sources. For those assembling an all Accustic Arts system, these reservations will be rendered moot as their CD player and DAC both make use of balanced outputs.
 
Rounding out the feature set is the fairly small and lightweight remote control that's nevertheless milled from a solid block of aluminium and sports just two buttons for volume up and volume down effected via a motorised potentiometer, which is fine by me. Don't look for a balance adjustment - there isn't one. Again, that's fine by me. Accustic Arts isn't the first company to take note of the fact that audiophiles don't use balance controls. Don't look for a phono stage either - the Power 1 is a line-stage only. In short, the Accustic Arts unit is minimalist despite being an integrated amplifier. Did I mention that it's designed and built in Germany?
 
On the inside, the Power 1 boasts ingredients such as 8 selected MOS-FET output transistors "of the highest quality" as well as the exclusive use of Burr Brown ICs. The 550VA toroidal power transformer is magnetically shielded and encapsulated and said to incorporate separate windings for the preamp section, power amp section and left and right channels. The Power 1 is protected by an "integrated circuit" that switches off the outputs when it detects clipping or HF oscillations as well as too high a DC offset. From use, I was able to confirm the "constant low operating temperature due to a generously dimensioned heat sink integrated into the housing". The Power 1 was indeed fairly cool running and never got much more than mildly warm to the touch.
 
My ergonomical quibbles notwithstanding, the Power 1 operated without a glitch in practice and proceeded to produce seriously good music. While motorised volume control changes were mechanically audible at the listening seat when the music was at fairly subdued volumes, that failed to annoy. In fact, the infrared remote worked quite well and was able to perform from unusually wide angles. Despite a relative lack of exposed heat sinking, the Power 1 never once approached anything like worrisome temperatures even after some spirited listening sessions with the 4-ohm 87dB-efficient Ohm speakers.
 
Right out of the box, it was the Power 1's robust yet refined bass performance that impressed me the most. The overall personality was sweet and somewhat reticent - clean and transparent enough through the mids but noticeably sweet and rounded on top. As it turned out, this was not a harbinger of things to come. In fact, the out-of-the-box personality was the ying to the Power 1's once broken-in yang.
 
The Power 1 spent a lot of time mated to the absolutely superb Thiel PCS monitors and SS2 Smart Subwoofer combo (review forthcoming) despite the fact that this was, perhaps, the least optimum mating I had in the house. The length of time they did end up mated to one another was indicative of the fact that despite one minor reservation, the Accustic Arts/Thiel system was making some wonderfully pleasing music. The highly resolving Thiel tweeters put a reviewer's spotlight on the Power 1's treble performance, which in turn favoured the speakers. That is to say that the two combined for some of the most extended and smoothly illuminated treble I've ever heard in my room. Detail was wonderful with absolutely no harshness or edge. I've never before witnessed such detail and extension coupled to no downside whatsoever. Ever.
 
Moving down into the midrange, the Power 1's performance never balked or strayed from the righteous no matter the speakers in use. The Accustic Arts integrated performs nearly as well in the midrange as it does through the treble. Marked by excellent transparency and smoothness, the Power 1 is one amplifier that could well please those tube lovers who think that they could never live with a solid-state amplifier. The Power 1 does an excellent job of combining musical detail with a very high level of transparency and velvety smoothness. If the Power 1 is to be faulted at all, it will probably come from those who are looking for a higher degree of harmonic density, taking some issue with the Power 1's more ethereal presentation. That's not in any way to say that the Power 1 is light in its loafers or that it lacks meat on its bones. Neither is true. Through the midrange, the Power 1 is similar to a good 300B tube whereas some may look for more EL34-style colour and density. Without question, either tube offers superb midrange performance albeit of slightly different signatures. Regardless, I found the Power 1 pretty difficult to quibble about.
 
Though the Thiel SS2 Smart Sub is a powered subwoofer, it takes a high-level input from an amplifier's speaker outputs. This makes the main power amplifier responsible for the integrity of the subwoofer's input signal and in turn (and to a significant extent) for the signature of the bass that arrives at the listener's ears. Through the SS1 subwoofer, I came to the somewhat surprising conclusion that the Power 1 was highly detailed and damped yet somewhat lacking in real muscle. For some reason, the Power 1 didn't seem as happy to push the bass into the subwoofer as my Art Audio 845-based Carissa SET was. We're again talking about shades of grey and it wasn't to such an extent as to leave me feeling cheated. The opening drum whack from Aimee Mann's "Humpty Dumpty" [Lost In Space - SuperEgo Records SE-007] was never without its highly articulated and weighty gravitas - so much so that I usually hit the 'back' button at least once just to experience it again. 
 
Peter Gabriel's UP [Geffen 0694933882] is a very bass-heavy CD which anything less than superior control in the bass can leave overly heavy, slow and murky. Not so with the Power 1 - not so at all in fact. Bass was so controlled that you could find evidence thereof throughout the rest of the spectrum, with the entire CD exhibiting an extra helping of airy spaciousness. Despite the surrounding mayhem and chaos, Gabriel's voice always came across with almost a halo of space around it to keep it distinct and completely intelligible. Ditto for the rest of the instrumentation - the Power 1 did a super job of unraveling the pandemonium. If the Power 1 did perhaps not have the greatest amount of oomph, it certainly had the control of a quality amplifier.
 
Though its basic character remained essentially the same, things changed just a bit when I swapped for the Hørning Perikles speakers. By seemingly injecting them with a dose of steroids, the Power 1 took such a hold of the Perikles' dual 10-inch Beyma woofers that I was actually taken aback. Why would an amplifier drive a 'real' speaker load with more brute force than the resistive load of a subwoofer's high-level Z-coupler? I confess that I was stumped but pleasantly so.
 
Then the Hørnings' 96dB efficiency created another surprise. In my experience, big amplifiers often have trouble getting out of first gear with efficient speakers. This can actually leave small amplifiers to sound more powerful and satisfying into such loads. But not the Accustic Arts Power 1. It came across as both powerful and complete. In this regard, the Power 1 easily trumped my Bryston 7B-STs. For the first time in recent history, Danny Gatton's "Pudding And Pie" [Crusin' Deuces - Electra 9 61465-2] marked by a super-snappy rhythm, crisp percussion and deep and weighty yet sharply defined bass sounded exactly that way. This song's bass line has a way of purring and growling both at the same time. That can drone throughout the room when allowed to get out of hand. The Accustic Arts' complete lack of bass overhang lent both an extra measure of speed and agility to the song as I've not experienced it before. And this was presented to me on a soundstage as wide open and airy as imaginable. Image solidity was rock-steady and there was plenty of space and excellent depth around and behind the instruments.
 
Other than in the bass, the Hørning/Power 1 combo provided no further surprises, just listening pleasure. Like the Thiels, the Hørnings are equipped with a high-resolution tweeter, which again amply demonstrated the Power 1's treble attributes. Now ordinarily, I'm a midrange guy. After a speaker gets the midrange right, I look for some good bass. As far as treble, I'm often taken with speakers that, while not dark or overly sweet, may just err on the side of politeness. Better to play nice than to go out of one's way to expose warts and other shortcomings in recordings, sez I. But I have to also say that the Power 1 was doing a great job of showing me that extension and detail don't always have to equate brutal honesty. Chimes, cymbals and percussion instruments were portrayed almost stunningly present yet remained remarkably and surprisingly organic and non-irritating - somewhat paradoxical at least in my experience. Where I'm usually pleased enough with a treble that's smooth enough to commit no sins, I found myself more and more enamoured by what the Power 1 was bringing out of the music. 
 
When I let the Accustic Arts have a go at the 87dB/4-ohm Walsh 4.5Mk II -- a speaker more in line with the amp's 190-watt delivery into such a load -- it was late in the Power 1's stay yet it gave me more of the same. While I doubt that the Power 1 will be confused with any of the mega-watt bruisers, bass through the Ohms came across as properly linear, nicely detailed and, again, very much in control. No matter what the speaker, the Power 1's bass remained highly damped and well handled. My Ohms are still breaking in and though not quite the most transparent speaker I have in the house, the Accustic Arts amplifier held up its end of the midrange bargain with smoothly flowing detail and true instrumental timbres.
 
But guess what? Once more I was attracted to the gestalt of the treble. Don't get me wrong, the treble wasn't standing out from the rest of the musical spectrum - it was neither reticent nor too prominent, something that will turn me off in a flash. But it just seemed very extended and detailed while remaining utterly natural and musical in a way that I don't hear very often. In all my time with the Power 1, I never observed any hash, edge or unnatural luminance and this was achieved without throwing instruments back in the shadows or bringing them too much to the fore. "Highway On Sunday 51" from the Aimee Mann disc had musically tight and focused air about it. Rumbling bass and subdued percussion along with steely guitars were clustered around the immaculately intelligible vocals while it all remained separate but part of a musical whole. Though clean and transparent, it avoided sounding artificially hifi-ish. For that I have to credit an unusually high degree of transparency that lacked any aforementioned edginess.
 
"Tragedy" from the Danny Gatton disc offered yet another such demonstration. I found myself coming back time and again to this cut just because it sounded so captivating. I came back for its array of colours and textures that placed the Power 1 in such an excellent light and just sounded so damned good. Air? Transparency? Ease? Edgy rhythms? The Power 1 gave me all of that in spades in an excellent balance of speed, articulation and harmoniousness.
 
Comparisons 
 
It should be obvious by now that when it comes to treble performance; I regard the Power 1 as the bee's knees particularly for a solid-state amplifier. In this regard, it is perhaps the best I've ever used. It illuminated treble details as no other amplifier I've heard, including the 300B-based Art Audio Symphony II, my other high-water mark of an amplifier. I'm not prepared to say which one I'd rather live with for the long term simply because while each is excellent, they are also slightly different. The Symphony II is subjectively as extended and detailed yet remains somewhat more ethereal and heavenly while the Power 1 sounds more concrete, earth-bound and business-like.
 
Through the midrange, the Power 1 was as transparent as just about any amplifier I recollect ever hearing. That means it's excellent for a high-powered solid-state amplifier and was in fact much more like the Art Audio Symphony II - pretty high praise indeed.
 
In the area of imaging and soundstaging, the Power 1 excelled at recreating large and spacious venues with excellent image density. I've never heard the Power 1 significantly bettered if at all. And by now I think I should have made my case for the Power 1's bass performance fairly well. No, it won't be mistaken for one of the big Krells or Levinsons when it comes to power and slam. But I found it more than reasonably linear while being exceptionally well controlled. And of course it doesn't cost what one of those Krells or Levinsons would, either. Just how much muscle it will display will be somewhat dependant upon the chosen speaker and, as with any amplifier, an audition with your speakers is a good idea.
 
The Accustic Arts Power I integrated is not an inexpensive amplifier. On the tongue-in-cheek dollar-per-pound value scale, it may even be a hard sell. But I keep reminding myself that I had replaced my $9800 pre/power combo of Shindo Partager preamplifier and Art Audio Carissa and enjoyed two gains (8 x as much power and that endearing treble articulation) and only minor losses. On that basis, it's a much easier case to make. Throw in the convenience and economy of both a synergistic pre/power section (guaranteed by all integrated amplifiers); one less power cord and interconnect to worry about -- not to mention the need for one less shelf when it comes time to upgrade your equipment rack -- and the Accustic Arts Power 1 integrated amplifier just keeps looking better and better. In the end, it looked pretty darned good to me. Track one down and see for yourself!
………John Potis
At the end of the day, the Accustic Arts Amp II competed in a price category that more than doubles its own - fact is that it’s only in comparison to substantially more expensive amplifiers that I was able to fault the Accustic Arts Amp II at all
Jeff Fritz
REVIEW SUMMARY:
SOUND: 
"The Amp II MkI came across as sounding honest. Its presentation was balanced -- no aspect of its sound stood out. In fact, you might initially have a hard time identifying a sonic fingerprint from which to identify it." "A sharply focused soundstage, a smooth-sounding midrange and upper frequencies, and a general lack of veiling across the musical spectrum" define the Amp II-MkI performance.
FEATURES:
"Massive" solid-state amp that delivers "240Wpc (MkII-260w/ch) into 8 ohms, 400Wpc (MkII-425w/ch) into 4, and a whopping 600Wpc (MkII-650w/ch) into 2 ohms." "The output stage consists of 24 MOSFET transistors, 12 per channel, while filter capacitance is specified as 160,000 microfarads."
VALUE:
There will be better amplifiers than the Accustic Arts Amp II-MkI, but you’ll have to spend considerably more money to get a small measure of 'better.'"
 
EXTENDED REVIEW:
Please note - this review is of the earlier REFERENCE AMP-II Mk1 model back in 2004 that has since been upgraded to the latest and more powerful (260w/ch) REFERENCE AMP-II Mk2 model:
 
Although you may not have heard of the Accustic Arts brand name, the company behind it looks to be poised to become a force in specialty audio. In fact, in some parts of the world, Accustic Arts already is a force, evidenced in part by the exposure at the European High End show each year. Here in North America, however, the brand has until just recently kept a low profile.
 
Accustic Arts audio components are manufactured by Schunk Audio Engineering GmbH & Co., in Lauffen, Germany. What initially impressed me about the company, which led to my interest in this review, is the manufacturing prowess the parent company seems to possess over a full product line that includes: three amplifiers; an integrated amp; a preamplifier; a CD player, transport and DAC; as well as a line of speakers, cables and furniture. Accompanying the diversity of manufacturing is, apparently, equally adept electrical-engineering talent. The company's facility is featured prominently on the Accustic Arts website, and it appears to be the model of clean, efficient manufacturing.
 
Does all of this equate to good-sounding gear? It’s not enough to make all of the components I listed above; each one must be designed for audiophile performance from the start. If my experience with the Amp II-AC High Performance amp is any indication, Accustic Arts products appear to have the right stuff.
 
"Big Beauty"
 
Accustic Arts calls the Amp II-MkI High Performance amplifier the "Big Beauty." Whether the term sums up exactly what the company meant or something was lost in the marketing department’s translation, I can’t say. Regardless, the amp itself is big and, in a German sort of way, attractive. (I can’t bring myself to use the term beautiful when describing an amplifier, no matter how hard I try.) The Amp II is 14"H x 19"W x 17"D, making it appear massive while viewing it straight-on due to the imposing height. The appearance of the outer casework demands attention. The silver version I received is hard to miss, although I imagine the black edition appears a little more conventional for those inclined to go that route.

The AMP-II is a "Massive" solid-state amp that delivers "240Wpc (MkII-260w/ch) into 8 ohms, 400Wpc (MkII-425w/ch) into 4, and a whopping 600Wpc (MkII-650w/ch) into 2 ohms." "The output stage consists of 24 MOSFET transistors, 12 per channel, while filter capacitance is specified as 160,000 microfarads." with  two magnetically shielded, potted 1100VA toroidals in a dual-mono configuration. Comprehensive protection circuitry guards against clipping, high-frequency oscillation, and excessive DC offset. 

 
Fit and finish are what you would expect of an amplifier that costs over ten Gs: excellent. The faceplate is nicely machined aluminium with beveled edges and a chrome insert displaying the Accustic Arts logo as well as the push-button standby switch. The rear panel is outfitted with two sets of high-quality WBT binding posts for bi-wiring, a main power switch, the aforementioned XLR inputs, and a fuse button that must be reset anytime the unit is unplugged (The latter must be held down for a full three seconds to power up the amp, a fact that I initially overlooked, and one which caused me much frustration). The only criticism I have of the build is the somewhat thin, and therefore a bit flimsy, top plate. I would think a little more structural integrity could be gained from a slightly thicker panel covering the innards.
 
Busy rotation
 
My system has taken on many permutations during the course of this review. The Accustic Arts Amp II-ACHP was used with three different preamps: the Audio Research MP1, the Orpheus Labs Two, and a Blue Circle BC3000 Mk II, all of which provide balanced outputs, thereby avoiding any potential sonic degradation from adapters. Sources were the Esoteric DV-50, also used balanced, and the Lexicon RT-10. Both are universal audio/video players and were used with a variety of CD, SACD, and DVD-Audio material. I used Nordost Red Dawn interconnects and Red Dawn II speaker cables. Power conditioning was provided by a pair of Shunyata Research Hydra Model-2s and a single Model-8. Wilson Audio X-2 Alexandrias anchored the speaker section.
 
The Amp II-MkI operated without a hiccup throughout the review period and was mechanically silent during operation. I could hear no transformer buzz coming from inside the amp with my ear placed just a few inches away from the vented top plate. Whether coincidence or not, I’ve found amplifiers that have potted transformers, which the Accustic Arts amplifier does, to be much less susceptible to hum and mechanical noise. I don’t know about you, but buzzing electronics drive me crazy. The Amp II-MkI was silent.
 
Sound
 
First impressions with a variety of music were positive. The sound of the Accustic Arts amp immediately characterised itself with a sharply focused soundstage, a smooth-sounding midrange and upper frequencies, and a general lack of veiling across the musical spectrum. The Amp II came across as sounding honest. Its presentation was balanced -- no aspect of its sound stood out. In fact, you might initially have a hard time identifying a sonic fingerprint from which to identify it. This is usually a good sign, and oftentimes is one indicator of long-term satisfaction. I could find no instance where the Amp II-ACHP spot-lit certain areas of the musical spectrum, nor did it add any haze or impurities to the sound of my most demanding recordings.
 
Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley [Blix Street 10046] has become a favorite recording of late, with its forthright and natural-sounding presentation. The intro to "Tall Trees in Georgia," where Cassidy is introducing the song to her audience, presents a good opportunity to hear her spoken words without any instrumental accompaniment (except for an occasional strum of the guitar). The ambient environment of Blues Alley is tactile, as is Cassidy's voice. The Amp II reproduced Cassidy right in front with no image wandering or veiling of her voice. It also let the crowd and background noise through clearly without burying any details. The Accustic Arts amp handled this, the simplest yet hardest of tests, the human voice, with apparent ease. The rest of the album also provides a good test, as a number of acoustic instruments accompany Cassidy. The Amp II was able to keep the many elements of the performance separate, with no congestion or blurring.
 
Lest you think 240Wpc is lightweight in a world where super-powerful solid-state amplifiers are more common every day, don’t give it a second thought. Just to see if I could make the Amp II lose its composure I tried a frantic blast from Guns N’ Roses Live: Era ’87-‘93 [Geffen 490514]. The available power from the Amp II proved to be more than sufficient for exuberant listening levels -- "Rocket Queen" for all the neighbours to hear. My ears definitely gave up before the Accustic Arts amp did. Would more power sound better, or different? I wouldn’t count on it. I’ve heard intoxicating dynamic ease from amplifiers like the big Krell FPB-700cx, but I also heard that with the Accustic Arts Amp II. And there’s no guarantee that a more powerful amp would get the small-scale stuff right, as the Amp II did. If you’re considering one of the monster amps partly because of a high power rating, don’t count out this amp. Unless you have hugely inefficient speakers, I can’t imagine the Amp II-ACHP not having enough juice. It also kept perfect composure when playing loud. Well, as composed as possible while playing G’N’R.
 
I’m grown quite fond of Laurie Anderson’s Strange Angels CD [Warner Brothers WB25900-2], particularly "The Dream Before." This track manages a delicate balance between instrument and voice. The Amp II-ACHP was able to reproduce the quiet, delicate moments without losing any detail to the noise floor or shrinking the soundstage to an unnaturally small size. Just as we want our large floorstanding speakers to sound small when the occasion arises, we also want our powerhouse amps to shrink to the task of the more subtle recordings. The Amp II strikes a fine balance between power and finesse, not sacrificing one for the other. Bass weight was solid, which was evident on the first 45 seconds of "Monkey’s Paw." The sound was well paced and composed, just as you’d want.
 
Enter Gryphon and Halcro
 
I’ve been fortunate to hear a fair sampling of some of the best solid-state and hybrid amplifiers available, all within the context of the same timeframe, same system and same room. The Accustic Arts Amp II had some tough acts to follow as it entered my listening room, and it held up pretty well considering the price of some of the competing behemoths. To be honest, it’s only in comparison to these world-beaters that the Amp II's limitations come to light.
 
Compared with the Gryphon Antileon Signature stereo amplifier (US$24,000), the Amp II scored points with a lower noise floor and a more sharply focused soundstage. .....
 
The Amp II did not sound more or less powerful than the Halcro dm68 monoblocks (US$38,000). The German amp was wholly competitive with the 225Wpc Aussies in almost every respect until I reached the upper frequencies, where a lack of any noise, and frequency extension for miles, put the Halcros in a league unto themselves. The dm68s also sounded slightly quicker than the Amp II, although only by the slightest of margins. The Accustic Arts amp, though, did hold together the soundstage as well as any amp I’ve heard. I know I keep coming back to the term focus, but that is one key to the Amp II sound. If your speakers don’t have quite the image specificity that you’d like, try the Amp II and see if doesn’t improve.
 
At the end of the day, the Accustic Arts Amp II-MkI competed in a price category that more than doubles its own. While it was clear to me that you can get better sound in some areas by spending more money, you’ll find some performance characteristics that are simply hard to beat with the Amp II. You may still choose amplification like that from Gryphon or Halcro after hearing this amp, but at least you’ll know what you’re laying out all that additional dough for.
 
The end
 
There are better amplifiers than the Accustic Arts Amp II, but you’ll have to spend considerably more money to get a small measure of "better." The frequency extremes can be improved upon by shelling out the big bucks, but each listener will have to decide whether those performance improvements are important. The fact is that it’s only in comparison to some substantially more expensive amplifiers that I was able to fault the Accustic Arts Amp II at all. There were no glaring errors, and plenty of things to praise.
 
The bottom line is that Accustic Arts and the Amp II-MkI are real players in an industry populated with fine-sounding amplifiers. The Amp II casts a sharply defined soundstage while producing a balanced, clear view into the music. It’s also a powerhouse of an amp. This "Big Beauty" may prove a popular alternative to the usual suspects if its list of strengths is attractive to your audiophile sensibilities. Keep an eye out for Accustic Arts products, and the Amp II, at a dealer near you.
……Jeff Fritz
Collection of some of the many International Awards won by Accustic Arts.

Germany - S tereoplay 11/2000:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE I

> Test assessment outstanding, highlight Award

 

Germany - Stereoplay 03/2001:

ACCUSTIC ARTS conditioning system

> 99 out of 100 points

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/01:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC

> Product of the Year Award

 

France - Revue du Son 03/2001:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE I

> Recommandation you Magazine

 

Taiwan - Audio Note 01/2002:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE I and DAC I

> Product of the Year Award

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/2002:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE I

> Product of the Year Award

 

Japan - Audio Accessory 05/2002:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC HP

> Best HiFi Components Award

 

Japan - HIVI Magzine 07/2002:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC HP

> Best Buy Award 2002

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 11/2002:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC HP

> Audio Excellence Award 2003

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/2003:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DAC I MK-2

> Product of the Year Award

 

Japan - HIVI Magazine 07/2003:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC HP

> Best Buy Award 2003

 

France - Haute Fidelité 10/2003:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP I + PREAMP I MK-2

> Référence du Magazine Award

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/2004:

ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER I

> Product of the Year Award

 

France - Haute Fidelité 03/2004:

ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER I GOLD

> Référence Award

 

Hong Kong - Audio country 03/2004:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-AC + PREAMP I MK-2

> Components of the Year

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazines:

ACCUSTIC ARTS SURROUND PLAYER I

> Audio Excellence Award 2006

 

Germany - DV-Rec.de:

ACCUSTIC ARTS SURROUND PLAYER I

> Buy recommendation

 

Japan - Web Audiophile 06/2006:

ACCUSTIC ARTS SURROUND PLAYER I

> Visual Grand Prix Award

 

Russia - DVDxpert 06/2006:

ACCUSTIC ARTS SURROUND PLAYER I

> Best Buy Award

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 08/2007:

ACCUSTIC ARTS PREAMP I - MK 3

> Audio Excellence Award 2007

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 08/2007:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II - MK 2

> Audio Excellence Award 2007 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 08/2007:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DAC I - MK 4

> Audio Excellence Award 2007

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 08/2007:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE I - MK 2

> Audio Excellence Award 2007

 

Japan - STEREO Magazine 01/2011

POWER ES

Best Component Award

 

 

Japan - STEREO Magazine 01/2011

PLAYER ES

Best Component Award

 

Japan - STEREO Magazine 01/2011

TUBE-PREAMP II

Best Component Award

 

Japan - Analog Magazine No.. 30, 11/2010

TUBE-PREAMP II

Analog Grand Prix 2011

 

UK - Hi-Fi Choice 03/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS SURROUND PLAYER I

> Hi-Fi Choice Gold Award

 

Hong Kong - Hi-Fi / AV Super AV Magazine 03/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE-DAC II

> DAC Outstanding Award

 

UK - Hi-Fi Choice 03/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE-DAC II

> Editor's Choice

 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 04/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE-DAC II

> Audio Excellence Award 2008

 

Japan - Web Audiophile 08/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS CD PLAYER I - MK 3

> Visual Grand Prix Award

 

Japan - Web Audiophile 08/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER I - MK2

> Visual Grand Prix Award

 

Germany - www.areadvd.de 10/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and TUBE-DAC II

> AREADVD Masterpiece Award

 

Italy - Fedelta Del Suono 10/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DAC I - MK 4

> HiFi Award 2008 

Japan - Audio Accessory Magazine 10/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II

> Audio Excellence Award 2009

 

Vietnam - Audio Visual Magazine 12/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and TUBE-DAC II

> Best Product Award 2008

 

Vietnam - Audio Visual Magazine 12/2008:

ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II-MK2

> Best Product Award 2008

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/2009:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II

> Product of the Year Award 2008

 

UK - Hi-Fi News 07/2009:

ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and TUBE-DAC II SE

> Highly Commended Badge

 

Super AV 09/2010:

ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER ES

Super AV Award 2010 for outstanding performance

 

 

Hong Kong - HiFi Review 03/2011:

ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER ES

> Product of the Year Award 2010

 

Germany - AUDIO TEST 02/2011: 
ACCUSTIC ARTS PREAMP I - MK 3 
EXCELLENT 

Austria - semper-audio.at 01/2012: 
ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER PLAYER ES and ES 
Editor's Choice

 

Japan - MJ Audio Technology 02/2013: 
ACCUSTIC ARTS POWER I - MK 3 
> MJ technology of the year award 2012 

Japan - MJ Audio Technology 02/2013: 
ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE DAC II - MK 2 
> MJ technology of the year award 2012

 

Hong Kong - HiFi REVIEW 03/2013: 
ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and TUBE DAC II - MK 2 USB 192kHz 
> Product of the Year Award

This is one of three solid state amps I have reviewed over the past 17 years that I would be happy having in residency in my system.
Gary Lea

REVIEW SUMMARY:
Both the Amp II and the PreAmp II reviewed separately are exemplary pieces, and I would recommend that anyone looking for the grunt of solid state with the warmth, ambience, and lack of edge of tubes, this is a great combo. As a standalone amp the Amp II represents the evolution of today's higher end solid-state pieces and their ability to deliver slam, detail, and sparkle with less of the edginess and in-your-face analytical sound that plagued solid state components for so long. This amp would do well in just about any system, but really comes into its own when mated to the PreAmp II, as they were absolutely made for each other. Check them out. You won't be sorry you did. +

EXTENDED REVIEW:
ACCUSTIC ARTS - Tube PreAmp ll Mk2 and Amp ll Mk2 combo review - Part Two – The REFERENCE AMP-II Mk2
 
This is a continuation of my review of these two Accustic Arts pieces. I pick up where I left off at the end of the PreAmp II Mk2 review. I left a bit of a crumb and a spoiler alert at the end of that review and it seems an appropriate opening for this part of the review.
 
The combination of the Accustic Arts PreAmp II Mk2 and the Amp II Mk2 is a union not to be taken lightly.
 
First the requisite propaganda, and as I always do I will provide you with the manufacturers comments directly.
 
"The basic circuitry and design concept of the current Amp II Mk2 is based on this original version. Naturally, over the years the Amp II Mk2 has been and continues to be refined and improved. But, as you would expect with a "classic", the typical cubic housing design remains unchanged. The top priority in the development of the Amp II Mk2 was a perfect signal feed, with short distances using the finest components. Some of the components are individually selected, as this is the only way to realise the perfect measurement values which form the basis for the breathtakingly beautiful sound of this dynamic amplifier. The Amp II Mk2 is a so-called "dual-mono power amplifier," i.e. apart from the common mains cable both channels are completely separated from each other—from the transformer to the output stage board. This ensures the excellent values, for example, for channel separation and signal to noise ratio, etc. The high performance and simultaneously extremely low distortion in the Amp II Mk2 is achieved using 2 x 1100 VA transformers, a filtering capacity of 160,000 µF, 24 selected MOSFET output transistors and much more. The result of this substantial over sizing is that even when working under high loads the components are never stretched to their limit of performance, and therefore ensure the described excellent values. The Amp II Mk2 works with Class A operation in most applications. And, despite its enormous power, the Amp II Mk2 reproduces the finest details with extreme precision, in our opinion just as one would expect from a real reference product."
 
The driver stage of the Amp II Mk2 works on the principle of the current mirror. This circuit principle enables power to be drawn from an existing current. The Amp II Mk2 is therefore a "power-controlled" output amplifier whereby the large number of MOSFET transistors ensures a very high current capacity without having to stretch the transistors to their performance limit. The Amp II Mk2 is therefore also suitable for impedance critical or low-ohm loudspeaker systems. Ingenious circuitry removes the need for a servo controller for the "offset" and the quiescent current is generated via the IC or current mirror driver. As a result, direct and alternating current errors (DC and music signal errors) are immediately corrected. This means the total offset is exclusively determined by the quality and symmetry of the used ICs.
 
The heavy parts:
Dual-mono reference power amplifier with completely isolated power supply for each amplifier channel
24 selected MOS-FET output transistors of finest quality
Magnetically shielded and encapsulated toroidal core transformer of premium quality for highest output reserves
Maximum total transformer power: 2,200 VA (watts)
Optimum smoothing thanks to 160,000 µF power supply capacity; Premium quality capacitors ("Made in Germany")
Very high damping factor for perfect speaker control
Professional protection circuit against clipping, HF oscillations and too high DC offset
Integrated switch-on current limitation for highest operational safety
Constant low operating temperature due to generously dimensioned heat sinks
Balanced input (XLR) and unbalanced input (RCA) – the inputs are switchable
All used components and parts are selected and of highest quality
Very high quality, gold-plated bi-wiring/bi-amping speaker terminal
Extremely stable, massive and resonance optimised housing, fully made of aluminium; inlay made of massive brass, polished and chromed
 
So again here we are at the part of this session where we have to attempt to relate what all this means to the ears. What it means is a whole lot of nothing and yet a great deal of everything!
 
Once I mated the Amp II to the PreAmp II I wondered aloud to myself if this subsequently created a system 4? What with two pieces dubbed II together it seems logical that the grouping would result in an Accustic Arts Amp/PreAMP MK4 system (II plus II – get it?). I think I will offer this marketing genius to Accustic Arts for a small fee!
 
My comments from the Pre-Amp review in regards to the listening session are actually very similar, but tweaked to point out the individual contribution of the amp. I spent the first half of my review time having the pre-amp resident in my system with my Music Envoy amps. Then came time to take the Envoys out and replace them with the Amp II. The change to the system brought about some noticeable and quite satisfying changes to the overall presentation of the music. For continuity I stuck with the same playlist and in the pretty much the same order as I did with the pre-amp.
 
I started my sessions this time on the combined unit listening to my normal selection of songs.
 
As is generally the case I tend to start with a familiar old friend. In Eva Cassidy's, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from her Songbird album, what I immediately noticed about the delivery of the Amp ll was that there was a stark contrast between this amp and the Music Envoys, but not in the way I was expecting. What happened was that this amp had surprising warmth to it. While it did not have as much warmth as the Envoys, it did seem to remove a bit of a halo, or veil, off the music. It was slight, but enough to make me immediately notice it. As with the addition of the Pre-Amp II into the system there was a sudden change to the overall dynamic. It was suddenly less laid back and a bit more "in your face," but not the least bit offensive, just different and definitely more articulate in detail. The result right out of the start was a more dynamic presentation that had more defined edges to everything.
 
I then brought up a song that I recently stumbled upon while watching Jools Holland's show on TV. I was passively listening, got up to go to the other room for a second, and when I returned a singer was fronting a band, and I was drawn into the music. I had no idea as I sat there at first who the singer was. I was just drawn into the voice and the melody. Neither the song nor the singer blew me away, but I was enjoying it. I kept looking at the face of this rather slender gent, and suddenly it dawned on me that I was grooving to the soulful vibes of a rejuvenated, healthy, and vocally fit George Allen O'Dowd, more affectionately known as Boy George, whom I have always said I could not stand. I thought of him as a frivolous flash in the pan, more attention grabbing for the extreme gender bending than for any real vocal talent.
 
Lo and behold I had to do a bit of re-examination of his talent. The song, "King of Everything" off his new album This Is What I Do, showed a matured singer who has risen from the ashes with a more refined voice and a sensibility that totally eluded him in his younger days. He now appears to be more concerned with being a serious singer and artist than a freaky side show character. This particular song has a solid back beat, and a self descriptive story that is captivating. Through a system being fronted by the Accustic Arts PreAmp II MK2 you are right in front of the singer, and he drew you near enough to think he was simply telling you he was back with a vengeance. No, I do not plan on joining the Boy George fan club, but I did enjoy the song. There was the solid rhythm section fully backing the typical pop tune ensemble. The piano not only delivered the notes but also the percussive nature the instrument operates by. It was delivered in way that actually felt like I was sitting in the audience during the Holland show. Good bass delivered in a tuneful manner, but with impact and the kick drum driving the whole thing and pushing enough air to move the hair on your head. Right there up close with a small group of club goers who just stumbled on the resurfacing of a has-been reborn. His voice was articulate and very strong with smoothness and an almost pleasing quality to it that I do not remember him to have possessed in the past.
 
As we were heading into the holiday season I could not pass up a chance to add Emerson, Lake and Palmer's, "Father Christmas" from Come See the Show, The Best of ELP to my list. Easily the most cynical Christmas song ever written, and arguably one of the most beautiful! All of the sparkle of the acoustic twelve string guitar which supports the entire song, the string ensemble and full orchestra were there in full force with incredible detail, depth, and a width of the soundstage it would take to reproduce this piece live. At the point that the synthesised bass comes in it moves you a couple of inches in your chair. Shortly after that part of the song there is a harmonic chiming of the guitar, and the chime is brilliantly full with the requisite bloom and decay that you would have heard had you been listening to it live. Tympani drums filled the room along with all of the brass. I almost expected my ceiling to open and angels to descend from heaven. The presentation from the soft intro, through the build up and the climax of the end was absolutely glorious!
 
Where I ended my official last session was with a song, that for various reasons has become very near and dear to me and that is Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart" from his final album The Wind.
 
Stark, direct, and self-confessing, this tune hits deep in the soul and requires a sound system that merely conveys the pain, the resolve, and the hope of one man that he will not be forgotten as the moments of his life are rapidly ticking down. When most are faced with imminent mortality it tends to draw the most naked, uncluttered, and raw emotions out of us all. It is in those moments that most pure feelings and thoughts come to the surface. (I know as I have been there more than once in my own life) This is not something you want a HiFi system to alter by injecting its own biases into the musical performance.
 
With "Keep Me in Your Heart" the presentation was, well to put it bluntly, honest! I am not sure there is much more to convey about the musical presentation that the Accustic Arts unit provided. In a way it sounds anticlimactic, but in reality it was an astonishing moment. Nothing false added. No strident highs with any biting edge, nor was there a fuzzy bloating masquerading as warmth. It was natural and much like I would have heard if a few of my musician friends and I had grabbed some guitars and sat around playing music together. It literally brought a dying man, who could easily be my friend, into my listening room where he shared with me through his music a concern we all have about being lost to time and other lives that continue after we leave this life. Intimate, raw, moving, sad, and yet somehow comforting to know I am not alone in that particular concern. All of the emotion just flowed out of the system into the room and enveloped me like a warm blanket.
 
This effect was even more pronounced with the insertion of the Amp II in the system. Soundstage breadth and depth were impressive, and every song seemed to have an innate intimacy that I was not expecting it to create. What is missing in this amp that I usually find in solid state amps is an overly analytical presentation to the music. I think of it as a sort of sterility that I have often found to be off-putting. As the years roll on it seems that this trait is less and less prevalent. Them Amp II has none of that in the musical presentation. It is more natural and less biting than I am used to. It seems that some manufacturers are mastering the black art of making solid state more ear-friendly. That is just my opinion, but I feel it is the case. This is one of three solid state amps I have reviewed over the past 17 years that I would be happy having in residency in my system.
 
Both the Amp II and the PreAmp II reviewed separately are exemplary pieces, and I would recommend that anyone looking for the grunt of solid state with the warmth, ambience, and lack of edge of tubes, this is a great combo. As a standalone amp the Amp II represents the evolution of today's higher end solid-state pieces and their ability to deliver slam, detail, and sparkle with less of the edginess and in-your-face analytical sound that plagued solid state components for so long. This amp would do well in just about any system, but really comes into its own when mated to the PreAmp II, as they were absolutely made for each other. Check them out. You won't be sorry you did. +
………Gary Lea
All of the emotion just flowed out of the system into the room and enveloped me like a warm blanket....
Gary Lea

REVIEW SUMMARY:
Overall this is one of the better preamps I have had in my system for a while. It integrated exceptionally well with my Music Envoy amps, and I have no doubt it could anchor any number or combination of components. Where it got really interesting was when it was mated with the Accustic Arts Amp II. That you will have to read in part two of the review, but suffice to say I would feel rather excited to live with the Accustic Arts preamp II Mk2 in my system indefinitely, and it is well worth the time to audition the unit. (spoiler alert – it gets a whole lot better when the two are paired as intended by the manufacturer!) 

EXTENDED REVIEW:
ACCUSTIC ARTS - Tube PreAmp ll Mk2 and Amp ll Mk 2 review - Part One Tube PreAmp ll Mk2
This is part one of a two part review of both the Tube PreAmp II Mk2 and the Amp II Mk2.
 
Conundrums exist in every phase of life. It seems on some days, though, they exist more in HiFi than other parts of life. So many different shades of the same colour, and it is hard on some days to truly define the differences without sounding repetitive and boring. I want to praise this item or that, but how do I say it without simply plagiarising my own work?
 
This past year has seen me do more listening to solid state pieces than any single year I can recall. Not that it is a bad thing but more that I tend to avoid solid state because of my own biases and listening preferences. I tend to prefer, or at least in the past I did, the warmth of tubes over the analytical sterility and absolute abject correctness of solid state. So it was an odd year that I had so many solid state amplifiers and preamps in my listening room.
 
These latest review samples ironically cut the middle ground. Tube buffered preamp, with a succinctly solid-state amplifier.
 
Let's talk about this preamp! 
 
The Tube PreAmp II MK2 is a hybrid preamplifier that is intended to combine the advantages of transistor technology with the advantages of the tube buffering. This combination should allow it to achieve very low-resistance output, also characterised by a high current capability. The hope is to utilise the capabilities of both concepts and technologies to drive an exceptional, analogue sound experience with an extremely low harmonic distortion. At least in theory that is the targeted outcome. There are many purists on both sides of the HIFI argument that would say that the design goal starts with a bunch of compromises and goes downhill from there. Fair enough I guess, but sometimes in the world we live in the best results come from a good balance of compromises. I can point to my very happy 26 year union with Paula as a fine example of how much better a result can be through compromise, but I digress. Well let me succinctly say that the engineer's target has been hit, right dead in the middle of the bulls-eye. Before launching into configurations and listening session results I would like to present a word from the manufacturer, or a lot of words.
 
"The Tube PreAmp II MK2 is in fact fully balanced, with four completely separate amplification stages from the signal input to the signal output. According to Accustic Arts the four amplification stages are divided into one inverting and one non-inverting signal path per channel. Each of these amplification stages contains a high precision tube manufactured according to military specifications. This principle is designed to enable "perfect" channel separation.
 
A generally accepted notion for power supplies is that the requirements for the power supply with a tube-hybrid preamplifier are much higher than for a purely transistor-based device.
 
"This is because the tubes require different low voltages, and also a high voltage of approx. 300 V for the anodes. This high voltage has to be precisely controlled and absolutely free of interference so that the music signal can be perfectly amplified in the tubes. For this reason the Tube PreAmp II MK2 is equipped with a number of separately functioning power supply units and two separate high-end transformers, with one transformer exclusively reserved for the voltage required for the tubes. Both the toroidal core transformers used in the Tube PreAmp II MK2 are of an exceptionally high quality and have the best possible core material from Switzerland in order to prevent any negative interference inside the unit. In order to ensure that the power supply units work perfectly, the filter capacity for all voltage circuits was selected generously (e.g. 20,000 µF alone for the voltage supply to the semiconductors)."
 
As Accustic Arts points out, the quality of tubes is one of, if not the most important factors in designing and delivering a unit of this type. They manually select and match tubes to strict parameters to ensure they are getting the best quality available for the unit. Accustic Arts maintain they use a rigid two stage inspection process to select tubes.
 
Before and after the first continuous test of 100 hours, all functions and parameters of the whole unit are inspected and recorded in a protocol. The values are compared, and if the deviations are within a defined low tolerance range the unit is subjected to a further second continuous test of 100 hours. After this test further measurements are made and here the parameters must fit perfectly with the output values. In total, a Tube PreAmp II MK2 is measured and tested three times and the tubes are even tested four times. WHEW!!!
 
Accustic Arts use a dual triode tube E83CC of military grade similar to the 12AX7. This tube is no stranger to the audio industry, even finding a home in one of my CD players, and I can say that they produce a pleasant warmth, low distortion, good bass reinforcement, and sparkling highs. The company maintains that the level of quality, screening, and sourcing of all components are equal to the tube selection process!
 
The fit and finish of the unit is absolutely exquisite, and the pictures cannot do the unit any justice at all. Silver faced with highly polished, chrome plated control knobs. It presents itself with an almost jewel-like finish. This is a unit that you never get tired of looking let alone listening too.
 
Operation is simple and straight forward.
 
The two chrome-plated rotary controls are equipped with gold-plated contacts, which are corrosion-resistant and also enable many thousands of switching cycles.
 
Hmmm. Lofty claims to be sure and there is always an amount of bravado in every maker's comments, marketing and hyperbole.
 
Important features of the MK2 are:
1. Four analogue preamplifier outputs
2. Option of AC-coupling or DC-coupling for the preamplifier outputs. This allows for the better mating with both balanced and unbalanced outputs and for bi-amping.
3. Integrated headphone amplifier
4. Uncontrolled output (FIXED OUT) for connection of an external headphone amplifier.
5. Analogue input "Surround bypass"
6. Phase switch for 0° and 180°
Other notable specs include:
 4 military tubes (2 tubes per channel)
Fully balanced circuit design from input to output
Advantages of this "tube hybrid" technology:
- very high impedance
- very high bandwidth
- very low distortion factors and a "good-natured" distortion spectrum
- "analog" and very precise sound performance
- 4 separated amplification paths, which are not influencing each other
Easy change of tubes without any adjustments, just "plug and play"
Professional Class A output stage using technology derived from studio engineering
All used components are of outstanding quality (e.g. Burr Brown® OPA 627) and additionally selected; all relays have high quality gold-plated contacts
4 high precision military tubes; 4-times selected
4-channel volume potentiometer for best crosstalk
3 x fully balanced high level inputs (XLR) and 2 x unbalanced high level inputs (RCA)
1 x unbalanced input (RCA) configured as "SURROUND-BYPASS"
2 x fully balanced outputs (XLR) – 1 x AC coupled, 1 x DC coupled
2 x unbalanced outputs (RCA) – 1 x AC coupled, 1 x DC coupled
1 x headphone output, switchable (1/4" stereo female jack)
1 x unregulated, switchable output for the connection of an external headphone amplifier (RCA)
Phase switch for 0° and 180°
2 magnetically shielded, encapsulated 75 VA toroidal core transformer ("Made in Germany") of premium quality for high output reserves
Front panel, cover and remote control are made of massive and solid aluminum; turning knobs made of massive and chromed brass.
 
So now we move past the hype, the specifications and get to the heart of the matter. If you are used to reading my reviews you may have already passed by the entire prelude to get to the meat of the issue. How does the bloody thing work? Well, as I said early on, this preamp hits on every design aspect that Accustic Arts was aiming for. Let me start with how it worked when substituted for my Music Envoy preamp. Once everything is connected you power up the unit and let it warm up. It has a tube stand-by switch, and an indicator light lets you know when it is time to rock. You simply select the appropriate input, of which there are five to choose from, and adjust the volume either from the included remote or the silky smooth volume control knob.
 
I started my sessions this time with the both the amp and preamp, plus combined unit listening to my normal selection of songs, in Eva Cassidy's, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from her Songbird album. What I immediately noticed about the delivery of the MK2 was that some of the warmth went missing as compared to the Envoy. That is not an indictment but rather an objective observation. It did not detract at all but simply was replaced with some neutrality that I was not aware was missing. The result right out of the start was a more dynamic presentation that had more defined edges to everything. I was hit with how smoothly everything flowed from the Von Schweikert VSR4 MKIII speakers. The room filled initially with her acoustic guitar and her soft, lifting voice, and accurately presented the dynamic shifts in the song right up to the crescendo ending where her voice soars beyond the boundaries of the room. Brought the tears to my eyes, and I immediately thought, "Well we are off to a good start then!"
 
I then brought up a song that I recently stumbled upon while watching Jools Holland's show on TV. I was passively listening and got up to go to the other room for a second, and when I returned a singer was fronting a band, and I was drawn into the music. I had no idea as I sat there at first who the singer was. I was just drawn into the voice and the melody. Neither the song nor the singer blew me away but I was enjoying it. I kept looking at the face of this rather slender gent, and suddenly it dawned on me that I was grooving to the soulful vibes of a rejuvenated, healthy, and vocally fit George Allen O'Dowd, more affectionately known as Boy George, whom I have always said I could not stand. Not sure if my biases were flamed (no intentional pun that) originally by the extreme gender bending or the subsequent self-destruction, but I wrote him off years ago, right after the first time I saw him on MTV with Culture Club.
 
Lo and behold I had to do a bit of re-examination of his talent. The song, "King of Everything" off his new album This Is What I Do, showed a matured singer who has risen from the ashes with a more refined voice and a sensibility that totally eluded him in his younger days. He now appears to be more concerned with being a serious singer and artist than a freaky side show character. This particular song has a solid back beat and a self descriptive story that is captivating. Through a system being fronted by the Accustic Arts preamp II MK2 you are right in front of the singer, and he drew you near enough to think he was simply telling you he was back with a vengeance. No, I do not plan on joining the Boy George fan club, but I did enjoy the song. There was the solid rhythm section fully backing the typical pop tune ensemble. The piano not only delivered the notes, but also the percussive nature the instrument operates by. It was delivered in a way that actually felt like I was sitting in the audience during the Holland show. Good bass delivered in a tuneful manner, but with impact and the kick drum driving the whole thing and pushing enough air to move the hair on your head. Right there up close with a small group of club-goers who just stumbled on the resurfacing of a has-been reborn. His voice was articulate and very strong with smoothness and an almost pleasing quality to it that I do not remember him to have possessed in the past.
 
As we were heading into the holiday season I could not pass up a chance to add Emerson, Lake and Palmer's, "Father Christmas" from Come See the Show, The Best of ELP to my list. Easily the most cynical Christmas song every written and arguably one of the most beautiful! All of the sparkle of the acoustic twelve string guitar which supports the entire song, the string ensemble and full orchestra were there in full force with incredible detail, depth, and a width of the soundstage it would take to reproduce this piece live. At the point that the synthesized bass comes in it moves you a couple of inches in your chair. Shortly after that part of the song there is a harmonic chiming of the guitar, and the chime is brilliantly full with the requisite bloom and decay that you would have heard had you been listening to it live. Tympani drums filled the room along with all of the brass. I almost expected my ceiling to open and angels to descend from heaven. The presentation from the soft intro, through the build up and the climax of the end was absolutely glorious!
 
Where I ended my official last session was with a song, that for various reasons, has become very near and dear to me, and that is Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart" from his final album The Wind.
 
Stark, direct, and self confessing, this tune hits deep in the soul and requires a sound system that merely conveys the pain, the resolve, and the hope of one man that he will not be forgotten as the moments of his life are rapidly ticking down. When most are faced with imminent mortality, it tends to draw the most naked, uncluttered, and raw emotions out of us all. It is in those moments that most pure feelings and thoughts come to the surface. (I know as I have been there more than once in my own life) This is not something you want a HiFi system to alter by injecting its own biases into the musical performance.
 
With "Keep Me in Your Heart" the presentation was, well to put it bluntly, honest! I am not sure there is much more to convey about the musical presentation that the Accustic Arts unit provided. In a way it sounds anticlimactic but in reality it was an astonishing moment. Nothing false added. No strident highs with any biting edge, nor was there a fuzzy bloating masquerading as warmth. It was natural and much like I would have heard if a few of my musician friends and I had grabbed some guitars and sat around playing music together. It literally brought a dying man who could easily be my friend, into my listening room where he shared with me through his music a concern we all have about being lost to time and other lives that continue after we leave this life. Intimate, raw, moving, sad, and yet somehow comforting to know I am not alone in that particular concern. All of the emotion just flowed out of the system into the room and enveloped me like a warm blanket.
 
Overall this is one of the better preamps I have had in my system for a while. It integrated exceptionally well with my Music Envoy amps, and I have no doubt it could anchor any number or combination of components. Where it got really interesting was when it was mated with the Accustic Arts Amp II. That you will have to read in part two of the review, but suffice to say I would feel rather excited to live with the Accustic Arts preamp II Mk2 in my system indefinitely, and it is well worth the time to audition the unit. (spoiler alert – it gets a whole lot better when the two are paired as intended by the manufacturer!) +
…….Gary Lea
I would wholeheartedly recommend it against systems costing double without a second thought. If you are looking for a high end audio system, you owe it to yourself to give this playback system a real chance,
Brett Rudolph
THE CONCLUSION:
There is always a downside to doing a review of high end audio equipment and that tends to be the price. Unfortunately the system as it was configured is likely beyond most people's means, but it nevertheless represents a serious value. I would wholeheartedly recommend it against systems costing double without a second thought. If you are looking for a high end audio system, you owe it to yourself to give this playback system a real chance, and imagine this is really only their entry level.

EXTENDED REVIEW:
ACCUSTIC ARTS CD-Player I - MK3  It is always a thrill when you have the opportunity to review components and cables on the higher end of the audiophile spectrum. Several months ago, the opportunity presented itself in the form of two components from ACCUSTIC ARTS, the CD-Player 1 – MK3 and our world premiere of the Power 1 – MK2. Both of these products are crafted and produced in Germany.
 
After a fairly lengthy conversation with the North American distributor about the abilities and capabilities of the components, we decided that he would send the components and also order the correct cables to truly allow the equipment to perform at its absolute best. A mere two days later two rather heavy boxes arrived on my doorstep just begging to be opened and examined.
 
After unpacking both components, the first impression was that they were both visually stunning and certainly worthy of a place in any playback system. While this certainly should never be a deciding reason for purchasing equipment it never hurts to have a component impressive. In fact, the styling of these components and the craftsmanship that obviously went into not only their design, but their production as well, says a great deal about the company itself. 
 
The ACCUSTIC ARTS CD-Player 1 – MK3
 
The CD-Player 1 is the ACCUSTIC ARTS entry level two channel digital front end. However, that is about the only thing that can be said about it being entry level. It features a top loading CD mechanism and a magnetic weight that allows it far better vibration dispersion, ultimately leading to far less jitter than many comparable units. This is coupled with the fact that the unit itself weighs 35 pounds which by design creates a very stable platform further lowering the jitter and increasing the performance.
 
The design and artistry of the component is not just superficial. Although the player is impressive to the eye, what lies inside is equally impressive. The player features five separate power supplies for laser control, digital signal processing, display control, display heating and D/A conversion. Once again the company paid very close attention in its design of the player to allow the unit to function optimally and without compromise.
 
Although the list of features is extremely lengthy and certainly notable, perhaps one of the most important is the company's use of a 24-bit/192kHz multi-bit D/A converter. This coupled with the use of a 12dB Butterworth-Filter, precision filter capacitors, metal film resistors and what is definitely a very high quality digital filter once again adds to the overall extremely thoughtful design of the unit. It also, as you will find out later on in this review, only increases is overall performance.
 
If there is one thing can be considered both and asset and a liability it is the front panel controls. Although it has the basic functions such as play, stop, skip forward/backward and standby/operate, everything else requires the use of the remote control. Perhaps it is somewhat of a pet peeve, but for the most part my preference is to use the controls on the component itself and not the remote where possible. 
 
The World Premiere Of - ACCUSTIC ARTS' Power 1 – MK2
 
ACCUSTIC ARTS Power AMP I - MK2 ACCUSTIC ARTS offers several amplifiers, but the Power 1 is the only integrated amplifier in the company's product line. Like the CD player, do not let the fact that it is an entry level component fool you into believing that it is anything but an extremely well designed component. It offers many of the features of their amplifiers and preamplifiers, but at a substantially less expensive price point.
 
The Power 1 is fairly simplistic in its external design. The front panel of the integrated amp is a thing of beauty. It has all the controls you could possibly want at your fingertips. Two large dials control nearly all the functions. The first one allows you to switch effortlessly between the three unbalanced inputs, a single balanced input and an unbalanced input which bypasses the preamplifier for use in surround systems. The other allows you to control the volume of the four inputs controlled by the integrated preamplifier.
 
On the rear, the unit has five inputs that are controlled by the front knob as well as one unbalanced and one balanced pre-outs for use with another amplification system. In addition are the binding posts for the amplifier, to be discussed later, and a place to connect a power cord. The layout of the rear panel is spectacular and the connecting inputs and outputs is simple and easy. You need not worry about not having enough space to connect even the most difficult cable, there is plenty of space.
 
The Power 1 is not only well designed on the outside, but like its sibling it is also well thought out on the inside as well. The unit contains a magnetically shielded and encapsulated 550 VA toroidal core transformer which allows for high output reserves. In addition there are separate windings for the preamp section, the power section and both the left and right channels, which alleviates many of the concerns about an integrated preamplifier versus a separate preamplifier/amplifier combination.
 
The amplifier itself utilises eight MOSFET output transformers. Ultimately the rated output is two channels at 190 watt at 4 Ohms or 130 at 8 Ohms. However, while this reviewer did not measure the actual output, these numbers are likely extremely conservative. In fact, during the review the integrated preamplifier was connected to a pair of rather power hungry Martin-Logan ReQuest speakers, and there was certainly no problem whatsoever.
 
The Power 1 also comes with a very well laid out remote control. Although pretty much everything can be done on the front panel of the unit, the remote control does give you a great deal of flexibility. Like the CD player it is built from aluminium and matches the unit completely.
 
The Initial Review
The components arrived already broken in so it did not take long to connect them to my reference system. After a few moments everything was ready to go and it was time to see how the components performed. Quite honestly my first impression was that the CD player was extremely precise and sounded like one would expect from its outer beauty, spectacular. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the Power 1.
 
After trying the Power 1 with my Wilson Watt Puppies as an integrated amplifier, my findings seemed to indicate that the two were not a match made in heaven. In fact, after several hours of listening, I took advantage of the component's pre-out ability and utilised my Krell amplifier instead. This definitely improved its performance, but not to the level which would be expected. After speaking with the distributor, he suggested that perhaps the cables which had just been shipped would rectify the situation. However, as a precaution, arrangements were also made to connect the components to different speakers when the new cables arrived. Luckily that was not remotely necessary.
 
About two weeks after receiving the initial equipment, a substantial box of cables arrived. Normally, packaging doesn't impress me, but in the case of the cables received this wasn't the case. Like ACCUSTIC ARTS' components, not only were the cables extremely handsome, but even the packaging made a great impression. It was sort of funny to read the note from the distributor apologising for not shipping the power strip in its packaging, but it didn't fit in the shipping carton. The carton contained ACCUSTIC ARTS Powerstrip Active 6, Silver Line XLR interconnects, Powercord Ferrite (wattgate), and Top Line MK-2 bi-wire speaker cables. All the cables needed to connect the components and the speakers utilising all ACCUSTIC ARTS cables. Once again setting the cables up in the system was simple and while the cables were not broken in, at my request, the difference was immediately noticeable.
 
Although it normally takes several hundred hours of utilisation for cables to really break in and show their true potential, the ACCUSTIC ARTS cables took relatively no time. After only 70 hours or so, they had settled down and while my evaluation of the system itself waited until they had been running for 200 hours, they change was nearly imperceptible. Once again, it seemed that the ACCUSTIC ARTS cables were certainly somewhat different in their break in characteristics, but given the system itself, not all that surprising.
 
Review Take Two
The review certainly took a huge turn from my initial evaluation. The system with the new cables installed and broken in took on an entirely new dimension. While the review will certainly go into far more detail, it is important to note that all the shortcomings of the Power 1 disappeared entirely. In fact, its performance was such that it seemed that everything had been replaced with an entirely new set of components. (cables do matter)
 
The first album used to review the system was EMI Classics, Kate Royal. The album contains a number of classical selections featuring Kate Royal as soprano accompanied by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Edward Gardner conducting. The second track, Debussy's Les Filles de Cadix, is a superb example of the synergy between a female soprano and a stellar orchestra. It is often times very difficult for a playback system to fully realise as there is so much information over a full ranged spectrum. The ACCUSTIC ARTS system was one of the first that could really accurately render the material not only lifelike, but enveloping and magical. The pace and timing was seemingly perfect and created an overall feeling of involvement in the music itself. In fact, the experience left me feeling as though no matter how many times it had been heard in the past somehow something had always been missing until now.
 
A second selection from the same album, track thirteen, Strauss's Morgen!, the sweet overtones of the orchestra combined with rich musicality of the vocals left this listener breathless. There was a palpable realism that seemed to grow the longer the selection was heard. Once again, while the material was familiar, the amount of detail gave a much fuller immersion in the music. Before moving from classical music, it seemed appropriate to evaluate the system with a full orchestra. Therefore, the next album chosen was Telarc's Britannia performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. I chose track one, Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance Marches 1 & 4", because of their notability. The marches also tend to take a fair amount of energy from the amplifier to reproduce correctly even at fairly low volumes.
 
The reproduction was simply amazing. The powerful passages were every bit as lifelike and entertaining as the slightly less energetic ones. The material was extremely holographic in its presentation and the listener was easily captivated during the passage. In fact, while I have heard in both its two-channel and multi-channel SACD versions also included on the disc, neither had the same impact or sound quality, even with the supposedly increased reproduction fidelity.
 
Jazzy Evaluation
The first Jazz album used to evaluate the system was Telarc Jazz Label's Seraphic Light by Saxophone Summit. The album which is an album containing a great deal of saxophone music as the band suggests is a great example of how various saxophones can not only make a beautiful combination, but with the right playback system, allow the listener to actually experience the attack and decay of various instruments.
 
The first selection used from this album was track three, "Reneda". Two tenor saxophones and one soprano saxophone accompanied by percussion create a myriad of different sounds, each independent and yet dependent on the other for completeness. Once again the ACCUSTIC ARTS system did a spectacular job of recreating the performance. Since the recording was done in a studio, the acoustics were such that the listener was able to actually hear the instruments both independently while also being cognizant of the synergy within the recording. On the same album, track five, Message to Mike, provided a great example of the playback system's ability to not only resolve the music, but reproduce it in such a way that the attack and decay of the notes were evident without being overpowering. Once again, hearing the passage left me with the feeling that I was hearing things within the music that I had missed.
 
The second album used to evaluate the playback's system ability to capture the jazz experience was Patricia Barber's Night Club. This is a great example of a graceful female vocalist accompanied by a jazz band in a live setting. The ambiance is equally as important and the texture of Patricia's voice and the musical instruments. The system captured the ambiance nearly perfectly. There seemed to be a slight loss of holographic imagery, but at the same time, the vocals were so overwhelming it was extremely hard to tell. Closing your eyes you could hear breathe as she sang the songs on the album. Once again the attack and decay of the instruments was palpable and only added to the overall visceral impact of the album itself. 
 
Don't Forget The Rock
While it was hard to stop playing jazz and classical music, it was time to move on to rock. So, I cued up what has become one of my favourite albums for reviewing playback system's Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The new remastered version not only sounds somewhat better, in my opinion, than the original, but it also offers a chance to see how well the system is able to resolve lower bass and reproduce it.
 
The first track, "Speak to Me/Breathe", begins with what ultimately becomes the sound of a beating heart. Since it starts out very low in the bass region, many amplifiers tend to have problems meeting the requirements to allow the speakers to fully reproduce the selection until it reaches a somewhat higher volume and has greater detail. The ACCUSTIC ARTS system had no such problem. Although nearly inaudible at first, it was almost immediately apparent what the sound would resolve itself into and even at its lowest levels the amplifier was able to keep up with the power requirements.
 
As the level increased and the sound grew louder the system only became more transparent and able to resolve the following music into a holographic tapestry that reviled any that I have heard. In fact, where many systems tend to lose their focus and the imagery slips into a sort of distorted mess of sounds, the ACCUSTIC ARTS system became even more effective in its reproduction. Although the SACD two-channel and multi-channel versions of the same passage do tend to have slightly more detail than the CD version, neither seemed to sound as good as it did on this playback system.
 
The second track that I used to evaluate the system was number five, "Money". While the track is not as difficult as some others on the album on some levels, the ability of the system to resolve the music into distinct channels and then move the sound realistically between them is often a challenge. This is especially true when it's heard at higher volumes. Luckily, the ACCUSTIC ARTS system had no such problems. In fact, the realism and definitive and distinct separation was handled extremely well. Although it normally sounds far better using headphones, in this case there was enough separation and combination that they were not needed.
 
Moving On
Obviously my experience with the ACCUSTIC ARTS equipment and cables was extremely intense and somewhat overwhelming. In my experience very few systems are able to reproduce so many different kinds of music without having some sacrifices. However, I found no such issues with the ACCUSTIC ARTS playback system as it was put together in my evaluation.
 
Before finalising my review, I decided to try one last test on the equipment. Until the end I had been utilising my Wilson speakers, but I switched them with my Martin Logan speakers to see what it would do to the ultimate quality of the playback. Of course there was a second reason, which is the Martin Logan speakers require far more power and tend to be much harder on an amplifier, but at the same time they can also be far more musical and transparent in their reproduction. The end result was that I can honestly say I have never heard the Martin Logan speakers sound quite so good. The amplifier, which is rated at 190 watt on 4 Ohms, had absolutely no problem powering the speakers at even somewhat higher volume levels. The bass, which can sometimes become anaemic, was full, rich and sounded amazingly detailed. 
 
The Conclusion
There is always a downside to doing a review of high end audio equipment and that tends to be the price. Unfortunately the system as it was configured is likely beyond most people's means, but it nevertheless represents a serious value. I would wholeheartedly recommend it against systems costing double without a second thought. If you are looking for a high end audio system, you owe it to yourself to give this playback system a real chance, and imagine this is really only their entry level.
.........Brett Rudolph
The Accustic Arts combo equals or betters my reference MBL 1521A transport and 1511F DAC combo in every grade on the audio report card
Marshall Nack

REVIEW SUMMARY:
An interesting point—the AA's treble is wholly unrestrained, yet it almost never sounds harsh. How do they do that? 
AA macro dynamics are exceptional. I had not met my mbl Noble front-end's match… until now.
The AA is a very neutral front-end. Neutrality means, among other things, you don't hear the same-old, same-old all the time. 

I'm happy to report the coronation of a new bits and bytes king. The ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and the companion TUBE-DAC IISE comprise a major contender in digital front-ends. At its price point, it is the best I've come across.

EXTENDED REVIEW:
When I set up the DRIVE II and the companion TUBE-DAC IISE from ACCUSTIC ARTS, a red light on the back of the transport lit up. Red lights are never a good thing. According to the manual, it was an AC Polarity Indicator. If it lights, polarity is inverted. The manual instructed me to push the adjacent button to reverse it. The light dimmed, but didn't go out. This occurred with both ACCUSTIC ARTS components plugged into my TARA Labs IDAT power conditioner.
 
When I disconnected both from the IDAT and plugged them into the wall via an Ensemble power strip, the light went out. Hmmm, I wondered, what does that say about my TARA conditioner?
 
I've never seen a Polarity Indicator on a transport before. Likewise the DRIVE II's Integrated Mains Filter. This feature came in handy, as it gave me the option of power conditioning without using the "red light" TARA IDAT unit. However, it wasn't as if the AA front-end needed any conditioning at all.
 
Plugged into the Ensemble power strip without any conditioning, I had a definite impression of less "improvements" being made, of less "goosing" of the signal. It was fast and focused and, interestingly, there was no appreciable increase in noise—noise being what conditioners principally address.
 
This speaks quite commendably about AA's power supply and circuit designs. It also reinforced the impression I got when I reviewed their Preamp I - Mk 3 a short time ago. That component was keenly sensitive to the power messenger. ACCUSTIC ARTS pays more attention to the power line than most companies.
 
But I was catching a chill and the AA's laser-like focus was bothering me. Contrary thinking mandated I should try engaging the DRIVE II's built-in conditioning. As expected, it became smoother, warmer and less forward. Still, in my solid-state system, I wanted more flesh on those bones and even more warmth, although some listeners really liked the direct and honest quality from straight into the wall. "Direct and honest" would keep cropping up in my listening notes.
 
I wanted the sound to be more like the way my reference mbl 1521A transport and 1511F DAC front-end does it. I knew I could get there largely by swapping to more synergistic wires. What I didn't care to know about were the other insights into the mbl's presentation that the AA made apparent.
 
What's Musical?
 
In a quick A / B, you'd probably say the mbl "sounds more musical." What does that mean? In pondering this question, I experienced another of those "ah-ha!" insights.
 
During the course of reviewing the McIntosh Mc501 monoblocks, it became obvious that transients in my current setup had lost their snap. As the amps were the only variable in play, I was able to trace back that persistent softness to my reference mbl 8011 AM amps. Now, guess what? Thanks to the AA, I'm hearing the same thing in the mbl digital front-end.
 
Remember how digital sounded back when it was first introduced? Like chalk on a blackboard. (Even today, the thought of it makes me wince.) Twenty-five years later, we're into the second (or third) generation of these products and designers have addressed those digital nasties. Typically, they opted to voice their products to sound more like analog or tubes. So, now we have the answer to why my mbl front-end "sounds more musical."
 
It has a degree of softening applied. Its sharpness has been moderated and its edges have been smoothed over. It has a round sound. And it has the same scooping transients and lingering tails as the mbl 8011 amps. One effect of this is that instruments make their entrance without "breaking" the silence.
 
I have to believe the voicing is done deliberately to address the problems of the medium. But at what cost?
 
Too high a cost for the designers at ACCUSTIC ARTS. This respected German high-end manufacturer doesn't buy into the softening strategy. And for their top-of-the-line digital product, they reject most of the other common solutions, too. Instead, they came up with their own approach. In the process, they created a front-end that doesn't sound like all the rest. I'll cover some of this when we get to the Technical Discussion below; more is available on their website. But solve the digital nasties they did all right—I can vouch for that.
 
Transient Quality
 
Let's start with speed. The AA front-end is fast as blazes. Its transient has a beautiful shape. It doesn't soften the onslaught. It also has excellent coherence. My mbl front-end doesn't approach its speed and sounds comparatively sluggish. I tell ya, I didn't need to know about this. But enough on the mbl front-end—let's get back to the AA.
 
Most often, when we talk about the leading edge we have the treble frequencies in mind. Our ears are keenly sensitive to timing aberrations in this band. This might sound silly, but did you know that a piano, for example, has the ability to produce low frequency notes with sharp attack? The closer you get to the instrument, the more pronounced this becomes as you're getting more direct sound, less hall reinforcement and decay. Certainly this is what the microphones register, since they are typically placed in the near field.
 
The AA is the first digital front-end I've heard that handles sharp low-frequency transients.
 
The Tail End
 
It's the same at the notes' tail. From a close orchestra seat, the tail of the note doesn't hang around, like it does in the balcony. And the closer you get to the stage, the shorter it becomes. On occasion I've heard languorous decays through the AA, as when the piano's sustain pedal is intentionally engaged, but I've never heard truly short ones from the mbl. The AA places you in the tenth row in terms of decay.
 
The Sustain
 
Even more exciting is what's happening in the sustain—there's actually resolution there! Digital playback never does this. Typically, it gives you a homogeneous and textureless span of time. With my mbl, for example, you get a beautiful tone, but it is smooth and glossy (again "musical," like old-fashioned tubes). Analog always gives you little variations of tone or timbre or texture. This goes a mighty long way towards establishing analog's vaunted credibility—it is one of the major feathers in its cap. The AA has this quality. (But it still doesn't sound like good analog. Analog brings other things to the table.)
 
Timbral Quality
 
In terms of timbre, the AAs is complete, but because it is so focused, it doesn't sound rich or robust. "Which one did you say has the tubes?" you might ask. The DAC II is a hybrid employing a pair of 12AX7 tubes, but it is not the one that sounds "tubey." It doesn't make timbres beautiful or lush. However, it succeeds in no small way in nailing the distinctive harmonic clusters of each instrument.
 
Neutrality, Benefits of
 
The AA is a very neutral front-end. Neutrality means, among other things, you don't hear the same-old, same-old all the time. Let's start with the Richard Strauss Sonata for Cello, with Johannes Moser (hanssler Classics 93.207), a young cellist I would recommend keeping an eye on. From his very first CD, he's been garnering awards left and right. On this recording of the Strauss sonata there's no imaging to speak of. Both instruments are bunched up in center stage. Perspective is approximately what you might hear from mid-hall seats. Decay is modest.
 
Contrast that with Johannes Moser doing the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 (hanssler Classics 93.222). I was tipped off to this CD by a short review I read on www.allmusic.com. The performance is excellent; the sound is demonstration quality. The orchestra doesn't have a lot to do in these concertos. Sections come in and out, occupying appropriate stage locations, which sometimes stretch clear across the width of my room. Imaging is quite discrete with no overlap. The perspective on this CD is close, approximately from tenth row orchestra seats, and it is a bit dry. I refer to it often to get a baseline.
 
Demonstration sound of an entirely different order can also be found on the RCA SACD reissue of the Richard Strauss Symphonia Domestica (RCA 88697-08282-2). Here the aural space literally explodes, pushing up and out in all directions, bearing no resemblance to the two previous CDs (or any hall I've ever been in). The reissue impresses in a hyped-up way.
 
The point is that you're not put into the same space all the time. Just a curious aside, but a lot of guys judge their music software by how well the new CD measures up to their most impressive one, impressive being defined as having the widest, deepest stage and dynamic range, among other things. Well, there are other things in life. There are tons of compositions in the repertory that are scored piano over long stretches.
 
Macro dynamics are exceptional. I had not met my mbl Noble front-end's match… until now. The AAs dynamics are on par. You can tell they're out of the ordinary because I've been spending inordinate time with the likes of Rimsky-Korsakov. While he is known principally for Sheherazade, there's much more to explore (admittedly, much of it is reminiscent of, and not as good as, that classical war horse). I have a four-disc set of his orchestral works (BIS-CD-1667/68) and I put one disc in each front-end. It makes for easy comparisons.
 
An interesting point—the AA's treble is wholly unrestrained, yet it almost never sounds harsh. How do they do that? As this is a well-known problem area for digital, some kind of band-aid must be in place. It sounds as if a degree of sweetening has been applied to the top end. This is the only frequency band with such a treatment that I can detect.
 
Just for the record, in case you're getting the impression the AA's honesty comes bundled in an analytical envelope, you do have to choose ancillaries carefully. But pair it with synergistic wires and gear leaning to the musical side and it produces correctly-sized images with good body and satisfying weight.... .
 
Caveat
 
Also, please understand that my task is to highlight differences in the two front-ends. While the AA compares favorably or equally to my mbl Noble Line front-end throughout this copy, it's not as if it renders the mbl unlistenable. When I come home and put on the mbl, I'm quite content. It's only when I do A/Bs in quick succession that my grumbling begins and I stay with the AA for the rest of the session.
 
Design and Features
 
The DRIVE II and DAC II belong to ACCUSTIC ARTS' reference line. They share cosmetics with the AA Preamp I Mk3 I reviewed a few months ago. All three exude the same quality, attention to detail and build quality. This is well-made stuff.
 
Basic functionality is provided on the front panel controls of the DRIVE II. Additional functions are accessed via the matching aluminium remote. Everything operates with a silky, quality feel, except the CD drawer cover mechanism.
 
The top-loading DRIVE II sports a solid aluminium chassis of substantial weight—40 lbs. To operate, you slide back the drawer cover (which weighs 3.5 lbs on its own) and place the CD on the spindle of the CD-Pro2LF die-cast metal CD holder. Then stabilise it with the magnetic puck and close the cover. The drawer cover rails give the unit a sporty appearance, but the sliding action of the drawer cover has the feel of the flywheel on an inexpensive analog tuner, the ones you have to push, unlike the ones that glide.
 
The well known and highly regarded CD-Pro2LF is mechanically decoupled by steel springs and rubber bumpers, forming its own sub-chassis. Special attention is paid to the power supply, which has approximately 61,000 uF of capacitance available. Other nice features are the built-in conditioning and the Polarity Indicator.
 
Technical Discussion
 
In the TUBE-DAC II, the common solution of using oversampling was rejected in favor of something quite original. Oversampling typically generates a degree of high frequency noise. The higher the sampling rate, the more noise is generated. This necessitates the introduction of filters to clean it up, which bring their own set of issues. AA developed a new algorithm.
 
Instead, AA uses 26 "multiplying processors" working in parallel on the incoming signal. The arithmetic mean value of these 26 processors is computed and that is the bit stream sent forward. No noise is generated, no filters are needed, and more precision is the claimed result. The newly computed bit stream is also boosted to 32 bits. Moreover, left and right channels are separated at this point to become dual-mono—two 32-bit streams are generated from the original 16-bit one. From here forward, left and right are processed separately, requiring two DA converter chips, etc.
 
TUBE-DAC IISE Ref
 
The Tube DAC II I'm using is the Special Edition. The 12AX7 tubes in the SE version are military grade and are matched after 200 hours of burn-in. The SE version also has gold-plated tube and fuse holders and closer tolerances for parts and pcb boards. The SE costs $500 more.
 
Conclusion
 
I'm happy to report the coronation of a new bits and bytes king. The ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and the companion TUBE-DAC IISE comprise a major contender in digital front-ends. At its price point, it is the best I've come across.
 
ACCUSTIC ARTS opted not to follow the pack and pursued an original route to solving the digital nasties. For one thing, in their reference level product, they didn't buy into oversampling. For another, the DAC II may be a hybrid employing a pair of 12AX7 tubes, but it is not "tubey" sounding. And the trump card is they don't buy into the softening cover-up most designers use. Consequently, their top-of-the-line digital front-end does not sound like the rest of them.
 
The Accustic Arts combo equals or betters my reference mbl 1521A transport (MSRP US$10,950) and 1511F DAC (MSRP US$10,650) in every grade on the audio report card, but the difference is not huge. It is only when I do direct A / Bs that I start to grumble. Then I'm forced to swap to the AA for the rest of the session.
 
While the ACCUSTIC ARTS DRIVE II and TUBE-DAC IISE still doesn't sound like good analog, it brings you closer to the truth than any comparably priced digital front-end.
..........Marshall Nack
With high-resolution "software" truly an audiophile to flights of fancy. A great part.....the first streamier I would really like to keep.
Jochen Reinecke

REVIEW SUMMARY: (GERMAN to ENGLISH Translation) For me, the conclusion is at this point so clearly from how rarely: The Accustic Arts Streamer ES is a real investment. Who owns it, can disengage from the eternal "Rat Race" in order to better components is certainly a long time. He plays both wirelessly and wired at the highest level - tonally perfect, high contrast, lively and dynamic, but never brushed on riot, but always as it requires the supplied music. The higher the quality the music material, the more you can benefit from the streamer ES. With high-resolution "software" invites the streamer ES truly an audiophile to flights of fancy. A great part. And the first under me Come Streaming player I would really like to keep.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Did I want to test a streamer, I asked the Fair Audio Editor. "Oh yes, why not," I thought a little indifferent, while I fully automatically "Oh yes, great!" Replied. "Is indeed so new-fangled stuff, but still better than a Phonokabel- or Tuning-test", so the auto-text function of my brain bubbling continued to himself. But wait! As the editors more precise their offer, they considered that it is the new subjects to the Accustic Arts Streamer ES to vorfreudiges hair lace tingling presented in conjunction with shuffling hooves one: months ago, nine I had namely the pleasure with the Power 1 integrated amplifier , and had me at the time really liked.
 
The Accustic Arts Streamer ES is an all around ambitious product. This is evident not only in view of the price tag; we're talking about after all, of 3,990 euros. Like all components of the enterprise should be developed not only in Germany, but also handmade ibid also this device. And indeed, every delivered Streamer ES is a quality certificate, on the next to the serial number four manufacturing steps (the "Pre-Assembly", "Final Assembly", "Full Functional Test", "Final Inspection Including Packaging") noted and each with a binding signature were provided. Now I know so, who has assembled and checked my device - kind of a good feeling. Nice also that a spare fuse included fine, but I did not have fortunately.
 
The "audiophile network player ", it is called the Streamer ES officially at Accustic Arts, can mainly two things: Stream from the network - namely cable or via built-in Wi-Fi reception unit - and the D / A converting of data via coax S / PDIF or non-powered USB sources are supplied. The mandatory Internet Radio functionality's even on top of it. In this I will however not go into detail, since a review of these skills is obsolete from an audiophile point of view, apart from a few Highbrow stations.
 
Once unpacked, the Streamer ES makes an impression up smartly: He weighs six kilograms moderate, the workmanship is excellent and the unit works because of its massive housing rock solid. Dominant on the front page is the centrally positioned 3.5-inch TFT color display with QVGA resolution (320 x 240 pixels). Two other chrome "buttons" there is still: To the left a ratcheting pressure switch that switches the operating mode of the device from the streaming mode in the D / A converter mode. To the right we see an identical look no switch, but a round protective cover for the front USB input. Pretty, so the streamer ES looks from the front right symmetric-mannered, but you can very fast times hang a USB stick, without peeping equal frowning behind the unit or having to even crawl.
 
The latter assumes the reviewer now thankfully for you, but only once: If we look at the back! There,'s - from left to right - a pair of gold-plated RCA jacks for analog output, a coaxial digital output, a coaxial S / PDIF input, RJ45 network jack, a second USB port, a pivoting wireless antenna and IEC socket and a hard power switch. The Streamer ES is either on or off - a standby mode, there is not. This is bearable because it starts up in less than 30 seconds. If you still have a tube amp in the equipment pool, which can anyway not start faster with the listening session.
 
Given the USB inputs may emerge the questions. Can the Streamer be used ES as an external sound card, ie as "USB Streamer"? Can I even connect an iPod directly and Ripping? Unfortunately, neither the one nor the other possible. Both USB ports are intended for passive storage media, so hard drives or thumb drives and are technically equivalent.
 
The Streamer ES "eats" data in the following formats: FLAC, WAV, AIFF (up to 24 bit / 192 kHz), ALAC (up to 24 bit / 48 kHz), WMA9 lossless, Ogg Vorbis 1.0, MP3 and AAC. In all the audio formats of the streamer ES allows seamless playback (gapless), but also fast forward and rewind. It should be noted that over WLAN up to 24 bit / 96 kHz are possible. If you want to stream higher quality FLAC, AIFF or WAV material, absolutely depends on a wired connection.
 
Basis for successful cooperation between Accustic Arts Streamer IT and network is an ongoing UPnP / DLNA Server service, which is ensured with Windows machines either on the current Windows Media Player, or Twonky / Foobar and other programs with appropriate add- ons. In Accustic Arts recommends you the way Twonky, as according to operating instructions on Foobar2000 occasionally in erroneous data rates and clock frequencies in conjunction with the Streamer ES is to come - which, incidentally, did not happen with me, which I also use Foobar2000.
 
I particularly like that the streamer ES can be by the aforementioned pressure switch to enable two quite different "states of matter": a living and a quiet, if you will. In the streamer mode, the color display lights up and you can use the remote control - optional with a cost and unadorned but functional app cozy zap through Internet radio stations or the offer of own network media server. In DAC mode, however, the display goes out and the Streamer ES converts behaved and unobtrusive the data it "behind your back" gets by coax. The network section is turned off in this operating condition.
 
For testing, I have the Streamer ES directly with the Abacus Ampollo- connected output stage, which serves me for a few months as a reference amplifier. This is of course only because the Ampollo actually a controllable amplifier - and thus a single-source amplifier - is because, of course, is the Streamer ES unregulated line signal. Since I get along in this test setup without a preamp, I hope to see our volunteers in this way at close quarters and unadulterated. We do it! And we hear what the Accustic Arts Streamer ES has it.
 
Oh, you know what? I'll spare you at this point the slow introduction to the synopsis. Let's make it a try the other way around: The Streamer ES is from phonetic point of view, by far the most convincing Streamer and converter that I've come so far. Why is this so? Because he sounds so great even over Wi-Fi that you do not even need a wired connection for most home applications. Thus, the review at this point does not have an end, I would like to explain a few examples, the likes.
 
Basis for the following sound samples were lossless ripped as WAV files original CDs that were supplied to the streamer from the Foobar2000 UPnP server via the network cable - but just as well it sounded over Wi-Fi, only with a little more buffer latency.
 
A little reggae complacent? At the moment I hear - well must be the weather - very happy times again Tiken Jah Fakolys 2004 released album "Coup de Geule". I especially like like the songs "Alou Maye" and "Tonton d'America" ​​because they provide for me what I essential important find in reggae music: Tiken Jah FakolysProfound in the abdomen bass, super crisp offbeat rhythm guitars, pleasant stoned chanting and beautiful much umrankendes percussion work. The Streamer ES brings all this so convincingly that it is simply a joy. The bass courageous, deep, fast-acting control maintained. The heights differentiated clean, well lit, but not pointed. Playback highly rhythmic and dynamic. The dance floor fidgets impatiently, the mood of the reviewer's fine. There is simply nothing to complain about. So must Reggae!
 
Also very positive experiences with Donald Fagens album "Kamakiriad", namely the song "On the Dunes". This much-praised, sound technology almost from Sterile Overlapping production are the Streamer IT again very convincing. Why? Because he perfectionism of the producers Donald Fagentakes account of stupendous high frequency resolution, the proper representation of the formants of horns, guitars, vocals and a wide and deep stereophonic stage. But also because he was just not in the case of some digital "graininess" groping. Donald Fagen has not really a beautiful voice. Put that case, you know that and focuses on hearing it, this reveals the streamer ES also. But only then! For when I am less in Tonmeister- and more in the enjoyment mode road I goutiere on the Streamer ES but all the little details that are hidden in the production: The part played delicately, partly threshed to the squawking Fender Rhodes, the finely chiselled bass runs, the hum-free dissected rhythm guitars - whatever. Maybe just this way: The Streamer ES is fun because he just singing this song the way I feel it, namely at the same time crisp and deeply relaxed.
 
Talk Talks masterpiece "Spirit of Eden" was also part of the listening session. The opener, "The Rainbow" receiving the handset with a spherical intro from long played woodwinds, strings and organ sounds, backed by natural sounds. The Streamer ES provides this with a lot of width and depth to the room, creating an intense mood. After this introduction, it is more leisurely with a gently distorted guitar to talk talk left, slowly played drums with unhinged Snare, ersterbendem vocals and driving percussion shaker. The Streamer ES provides the proverbial raven black background for this idea and builds the individual sound sources with a lot of depth and space between the actors on. Especially with the distorted guitar every little Verstärkerklirr seems to be audible, it is correct as a listener "in touch". On the tonal side like that of the streamer ES seems to prefer any frequency range really, but that he holds out his neutrality to the frequency response ends. Untenrum is, if it will bear as the starting material, properly what's going on - and even in the highest positions of the streamer ES is right on request "shiny" Therefore, without glisten at any time or to dazzle.
 
We have staked the synthetic side, I've been using the Streamer ES in the album "Give you the Ghost" of the American indie band Poli ç a purely belongs. A confusing mixture of a wet cold blended, often Policadoubled female voice, jittery drums (sometimes two drummers are used in parallel), synthesizer Einsprenkseln and restless changing scenarios Hall. Particularly recommendable for me the song "Dark Star", which comes across both brittle and anmachend. The Streamer ES shows here that he both tonally and dynamically and rhythmically the entire keyboard can. The intentionally produced "fragmented" acoustics of the individual tools with their different spatial units is perfectly complemented by the female voice. Between verse and chorus, the overall acoustics of the song alternates very strongly, a rugged interplay that sound convincing "delivers" the streamer ES.
 
Even with complex classical music can convince me of the streamer ES. Gustav Mahler's first symphony, the third movement, "solemnly measured, without dragging," Minute builds up slowly when worn step for minutes on and evolving from a slow march toward almost enthusiastic-Viennese Gustav Mahlerdance music. Striking three-dimensional and exactly forms the streamer ES also here from the large orchestra. All instruments sound absolutely natural tonal is everything where it belongs, both fine and coarse dynamics are exemplary. Above all, the Streamer ES, radiating on the meta-level of a great peace and sovereignty.
 
The Streamer ES convinced in direct comparison to other Setup mainly by two things: A much more generous and relaxed - more freedom of movement to the actors around - space representation on the one hand and a higher richness of detail, combined with all the frequency ranges completely neutral coloration. The Accustic arts Streamer is showing all details and gives them plenty of room at the same time, which caused me to relax and (positive) voltage at the same time. I could in a sense that nothing escapes me, one hand recline casually, just as I was but electrified by the variety of details were also in a pleasant way.
 
Let's take the above quoted Polica-piece again. About the Audiolab rotator and its internal preamp, I focus on Accustic Arts Streamer ESthe song primarily on the basic driving force generated by the still front preschende drums and quite idiosyncratic phrased vocals. Basically a good thing, has not always made ​​me so joy. I hear this song on the Streamer ES, then the stereophonic space opens both in width and in depth, and it draws a lot more in the dynamic structure of the piece, but also in the details of the percussion instruments and the hall technical "interior design" into . I just get more and I like that.
 
Voltage promises then the theme "other bitrates / resolutions", yet it was indeed just streamed files in classic audio CD standard 44.1 kHz and 16 bit. In Highresaudio.com I treated myself recently JS Bach's Sonata for harpsichord and viola da gamba in G major (BWV 1027) - and in FLAC 88.2 format. I can only express a warning: The Streamer ES transports the music so directly and immediately into the listening room that it almost shocked.
 
But also in terms of tonal representation is for me a little increase conceivable: how he works out the slightly nasal formants of the Viola da Gamba and alongside differentiated gambling in similar situations harpsichord thereof, is exemplary. The deep harpsichord strings seem to be bursting with excitement almost. Everything is just audible, plucking the string, the transient, the leaving behind of the clay, the soft clacking of the keyboard and the hum-rich, relatively abrupt ends of the sound when you release the button. Especially the second movement of the Sonata is fun: Though it comes at a leisurely pace, therefore, but no trace of boredom. Quite the contrary, the atmosphere is so livehaftig, so vibrant that you can enjoy the piece full of tension. And that is what the streamer ES so special for me: It focuses on the essentials.
 
Test Conclusion: Accustic Arts Streamer ES
 
For me, the conclusion is at this point so clearly from how rarely: The Accustic Arts Streamer ES is a real investment. Who owns it, can disengage from the eternal "Rat Race" in order to better components is certainly a long time. He plays both wirelessly and wired at the highest level - tonally perfect, high contrast, lively and dynamic, but never brushed on riot, but always as it requires the supplied music. The higher the quality the music material, the more you can benefit from the streamer ES. With high-resolution "software" invites the streamer ES truly an audiophile to flights of fancy. A great part. And the first under me Come Streaming player I would really like to keep.
 
The Streamer ES ... 
convinced by a confident manner in all relevant sonic disciplines.
characterised above all by a stupendous detail.
adopt highly neutral, starting with the lowest to the highest registers.
provides a spacious, airy, and accurate at all times soundstage.
plays gross and fine dynamic model.
sounds precise, rhythmically clean and rather anspringend-crisp as "soft".
manages to breathe the "unhaptischen" bits and bytes character and life
The Accustic Arts Combo really sum up what Digital high quality music reproduction currently means…..
Edgar Kramer - AUDIO ESOTERICA

ACCUSTIC ARTS - ES STREAMER & REFERENCE TUBE DAC-II Review - see link for excellent PDF reveiw: 
http://www.accusticarts.de/pdf/testberichte/audio_esoterica_2014.pdf

Its ability to convey the texture and emotion of the music is breath taking.

REVIEW SUMMARY:
When I think of a product being made in Germany there are immediately a number of clichés that come into my mind. It will be superbly engineered, very well made, efficient, the player is all of these and more, it is natural, musical, subtle, and beautifully posed, what is it not is clinical, sterile and humourless, it is a fun engaging player to live with. .....To a lot of people the words natural, musical and CD player do not fit comfortably together they need to hear this combo it will blow their mind!

EXTENDED REVIEW:
For those of you unfamiliar with Accustic Arts, they are a based in the town of Lauffen am Neckar on the outskirts of Stuttgart, Germany. With a back ground designing products for the studio market they started producing hifi equipment about 15 years ago. 
 
The name Accustic Arts is and abbreviated version of ACCUrate acouSTIC ARTS no less! 
 
Producing a wide range of exotic equipment the Drive 11 / tube dac 11 is their current state of the art reference series cd player. They have taken the rather unusual but not totally unique path of combining the latest digital dsp processing technology with thermionic valves, in this case ECC83s located in the analogue filter stage of the DAC. 
 
The drive is a top loader based around the hi-end manufacturers favourite, the renowned cdPro2LF cd module. This differs quite dramatically from the normal draw loading mech found on the vast majority of players, its most significant difference being it utilises a heavy die-cast metal frame with mechanical decoupling instead of the normal plastic or pressed metal chassis. This has excellent damping characteristics and simultaneously offers high stability and rigidity. Fairly par for the course so far. 
 
The really interesting things start happening when we get round to the tube hybrid dac. 
Here they combine very elaborate, digital signal processing with thermionic valves to give; they say extraordinary precision and musicality. They go to great lengths to tell you that this is not an up sampled dac but instead uses over sampling and dsp to product what is claimed to be true 32 bit signals.
 
The heart of the dac is the 32 bit digital filter and 26 parallel operating processors, which redefine the word as a 32 bit signal this is then processed by individual dacs for each channel. An oversampled player like an upsampler uses a higher sampling frequency but in this case it is a multiple of the original 44.1Khz (352.8Khz for 8 times oversampling as apposed to say 192Khz that most people use for upsampling.) What this is not doing is up converting the signal at this stage to a high bit rate. Where an upsampler increases its accuracy by decreasing the scan times and up converting the word to normally 24 bit an oversampler is in reality still processing at 44.1 KHz but is taking multiple samples in the same time frame and outputting the mean average so cutting down on error rate as a result. Both of these systems push the digital noise further from the audio band so mean less harsh filters can be used. In this case it is a Burrbrown OPA627 opamp followed by the ECC83 for each channel. 
 
Aesthetically the player is a mixed bag. You can see the superb engineering and quality of materials used in the construction but with the big bling chrome knobs on the front it is a bit brash for me, but hey that’s down to personal choice. Most people who have seen it when visiting have loved it. I also feel that although the loading cover looks impressive it is a little agricultural in its operation and does not have that silky smooth action I would expect at this price point. There is great attention to detail in the build and choice of components used with the obvious philosophy of nothing but the best being very evident.
 
There is a beautiful sense of fluidity with the player, lucidity and sweetness that is missing from all but a handful of cd players. Gone is the clinical sterility that can plague the medium in general including the vast majority of ‘hi-end players’. 
 
This combination really does get the to heart of the performance, its ability to convey the music in a natural analogue fashion combined with the transparency, clarity and dynamics you expect from the best digital source is astonishing. You are drawn into the music and find yourself simply enjoying the experience and performance. It has the ability to perform well across all genres of music, coping admirably with the dynamic swings of full scale orchestral work as well as the fast rhythmical beats of modern synthesised tracks and the raw energy of rock. 
 
If your ideal player is one that ekes out every last detail and ruthlessly exposes every aspect of the performance this is not a player for you. The detail is there but it does not jump out at you. The imaging and scale are impressive but not at the holographic levels presented by some of the players in the stratosphere of hifi exotica that this resides in. The bass is well extended and articulate; vocals are expressive and tonally very natural sounding. 
 
It seems silly talking about a player costing £14,000 getting back to basics but that is exactly what this does, it gets back to the core, the fundamental reason for having a hifi in the first place, the music. There is such an inherent sense of rightness about the player, the timing is metronomic, the subtleties and nuances of the music come through beautifully it just sounds right. there are players out there that will sound more impressive, that will give you greater scale and authority and that will give you pin point accuracy when it comes to imaging, but I am yet to hear one that is as musical, as natural or has the ability to put a smile on my face and draw me into the performance. The player is amazing adept at conveying the delicacy and subtleties of the harmonic structure of the music. 
 
Its ability to convey the texture and emotion of the music is breath taking. 
 
When I think of a product being made in Germany there are immediately a number of clichés that come into my mind. It will be superbly engineered, very well made, efficient, the player is all of these and more, it is natural, musical, subtle, and beautifully posed, what is it not is clinical, sterile and humourless, it is a fun engaging player to live with. 
 
To a lot of people the words natural, musical and CD player do not fit comfortably together they need to hear this combo it will blow their mind!
unquestionably gifted with macro-dynamics, these aren’t muscle-bound brutes. Nearly as an aside, they unravel the most gossamer tendrils and illuminate the quietest of details.
Frank Hakopians

REVIEW SUMMARY: with these monaural amps, temptation really can get the better of you, particularly so since all of the above didn’t just apply to the Acapella La Campanella but also Clockwork’s 2-way Event Horizon monitors. Stable into 2 ohms with sufficient reserves to set fire under the arses of sensitivity midgets, the Accustic Arts Mono II are archetypal classic muscle amps - but thankfully without the often attendant physical excess. No less compelling is their other side of finessed aesthetes with plenty of feel for musical structures, flow and the ability to not merely amplify but deliver an emotionally persuasive replay of the musical action to your speaker terminals. It’s a fact then than despite their not insignificant sticker, the Mono II do reset the yard stick plenty high. Definitely the devil in a red dress wearing Prada. Whosoever falls for it ought to be envied.

EXTENDED REVIEW: are you easily seduced? No, I’m not talking about an extra evening beer or a second piece o’ cake. I mean something more substantial that might change your life. Well, at least your hifi existence. My last temptation of this kind doesn’t date back that far. In the spring I’d taken the measure of the Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II and found it exceptionally suitable. Suitable? Well, the thing had everything I wanted: plenty of socketry, balanced valve circuitry, top fit’n’finish and sound to… well, just read the review. It’ll tell you why I couldn’t let it go. No cheap pleasures, mind, but worth every cent. And now the firm followed up with a fine mono amp called, simply, Mono II. Devil in a red dress? Sure felt like it.
 
Once I’d liberated the monoliths from their shipping cartons, I had a small reality check. Until now, Accustic Arts have amassed some pretty hefty stereo amp specimens in their portfolio, of the sort which pains my biceps just looking at their impressively chromed fascia inlays. On the carpeted floor of my listening room, the two monos meanwhile looked anything but monumental and closer to petit. Then their optics were dominated by heat sinks. 
 
Granted, 25 kilo per ain’t cardboard. Given the brand, it simply didn’t seem properly macho. This new understatement, I was told, ups the ol’ WAF quotient. Presumably that didn’t count for too much with their massive AMP II and AMP III stereo amps. That said, with the monos solidity didn’t go AWOL. Thick aluminium panels with the company’s signature chrome trim and a precisely machined Mono II cutout on top instantly mirror the Schwabians’ high standards. Those extend to the business end where biwire devotees are catered to. Practicality gets its due with a mute switch which enables noise-free cable swaps without powering things down. This delights a reviewer’s heart. Ditto the option to switch the monos for RCA or XLR signal input.
 
AMP II
 
Even through the jeweler’s loupe, finish and trim showed no cause for criticism. Today that’s not a given. Even the power mains was in easy reach on the front where it belongs. It’s logical that a €12’500 proposition wouldn’t play it fast and loose on perfection. And so this firm delivers. To match the sonic experience with the attractive cosmetics, Accustic Arts have called upon proven solutions. Those who’d correlate their substantial real estate of cooling ribs with solid power wouldn’t be completely wrong. The Mono II isn’t shy and delivers 300 watts into 8Ω. Even critical loads are catered to with 700 watts into 2Ω. To accompany those ratings with proper current, each channel gets a 1.2KW power toroid. Attendant filter capacitance of 80’000µF ought to be properly sufficient.
 
Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II
Valves as in the Tube Preamp II are MIA. Here the output devices are transistors and Mosfets in particular. Each channel gets 12 stringently selected parts which explains the impressive output rating. The circuitry is based on the proven well-reviewed stereo AMP II, a balanced class A/B affair with very high current output to support challenging low-impedance loads. The firm’s comment that each Mono II is essentially half an AMP II is overly nonchalant given that the surcharge over the €10’300 stereo amp wouldn’t just buy twice the casings.
 
Over the years, Accustic Arts have constantly refined their symmetrical PCB layouts. Optimised shorter signal paths led to layout changes, better parts, upgraded capacitors but also a reduction of certain filter banks for the input stage, all in the pursuit of a musical result that would be free of typical transistor artefacts. Factor in luxurious power supplies and one entertains justified cause that the yardstick for sonic excellence has been moved up appreciably and beyond just typical marketing claims. After pressing the carefully chromed power buttons, these power amps checked in for duty with a fat relay click. A few seconds passed whilst the circuits stabilised and other relays opened the gates. This process was visualised by two LEDs moving from red to blue – and not of the optic nerve-rattling type which haunted older Krells. All my signals hit the Mono II amps via my matching Tube Preamp II Mk2. Needless to say, I was most expectant to welcome such a family gathering in my own four walls.
 
To kick off, I couldn’t possibly resist cueing up Volume I of Accustic Art’s own CD production Uncompressed World. This sampler of select performers was mastered extremely carefully and with maximised dynamic range. From the first beat, the diaphragms of my Acapella La Campanella floor-standers surrendered themselves into the grip of these muscular drivers. I had no reason to question the claimed damping factor of 600 into 4Ω. The attacks of Michael Frey’s concert grand on Feathers and Flames had the type of unassailable solidity which simply eludes smaller amps. The entire stereo panorama was perfectly sorted and unbelievably stable as though cast of a mould. And that across the entire audible bandwidth. Common claims for extra authority gained by using big monos seemed well earned.
 
One of my fixed references to assess the tonal accuracy of review loaners has been the CD version of the legendary Mercury long-play record SR-90175. Howard Hanson and the Eastman Rochester Orchestra demonstrate the sound of classical acoustic instruments solo and in orchestral interplay. This album enforces very realistic impressions. My carefully practiced protocol went quickly out the window however when the Mono II showed perfect mastery over the timbre discipline. This came off so assured and self-deprecatingly that I had the tacit sense of listening to this familiar disc not with amps but through a kind of acoustic microscope. The strings evidence lovely woodiness but perhaps a bit too much so. Equally obvious? Whilst the brasses of this orchestra thunder with bravura, they miss the perfect intonation of bigger orchestras. Where I’d assigned the Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II the label of ultra-professional mastering tool well beyond just working flawlessly, the same qualities seemed to apply to the amps and not to miserly degrees.
 
It seemed child’s play for them to sort out complex timbres with great precision. When in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante (KV 320d) the solo violin effortlessly separates itself from the viola or in Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater the alto remains distinct from the soprano or counter tenor, it not only shapes our listening experience but points at the exactitude whereby amplifiers can differentiate between overlaid often very similar sounds. 
 
Should this conjure up anxious concerns that undue analytical keenness veers in the opposite direction of fun, I can assuage such fears by saying that the Mono II packaged insight with an exceptionally elegant liquid note that was nearly entirely free of hardness. The upshot was very pleasant and stress free, albeit at a safe distance from the romanticised homeliness of in my view mediocre valve kit. The sonic fingerprint of the Mono II reminded me more of Hegel’s big equally 300-watt rated €11’490 H30 stereo amplifier which I reviewed a few years back and then found related somehow to Tenor Audio’s 75Wi monos as my very personal references for sonic flow and elegance.
 
Let’s call it an atmosphere of intensely charged musicality. This also profited Louis Armstrong who displays an unexpectedly potent Jazz vibe on the suitably called Louis Armstrong meets Oscar Peterson LP of 1957. This is a bird of a different colour than the popular "What a wonderful world" persona of the New Orleans maestro. Here Pops swings with the ingenious Oscar Peterson on the ivories to bravura effect. This early stereo effort still surprises with its freshness and strong colours to put a lie to five decades of graying. Armstrong’s trademark voice manifested in the middle of the room with powerful sonority. And again and again there was that infectious swing. Those who would diss powerful amps for lacking nimble joie de vivre wouldn’t recognise the Mono II as belonging to the same category.
 
By then I’d detected a small tonal tell. Whilst I’ll maintain that the Mono II is very balanced and doesn’t exhibit any gross deviations, how does Radio Eriwan put it: in principle yes but. Ben Harper’s early work Fight for your mind with a well-rested Juan Nelson on the bass guitar attested to a certain faible relative to low-frequency pressure and associated blackness. Building upon such a solid foundation makes perfect sense for a muscle amp. Cue up the eponymous title track and meet a massively propulsive e-bass riff. I was surprised by how loud I could run these amps. Usually my 24m² room quits at high SPL with progressively more diffusive bass bloat. In standard living rooms not optimised for hifi, similar effects tend to kick in far sooner, at worst at subdued levels already. In this case, the tipping point at which room effects got dominant had been magically moved up by a very substantial margin. Apparently the German bricks exerted unrelenting breaking control over the drivers well beyond plain loud. And that was just fine by me. I simply hit ‘repeat’ for the same bass orgy cut.
 
Lack of an alternate preamp prevented me from sussing out how much the stable mate preamp influenced these results. What I can say is that even when connected directly to the pre-outs of my Bladelius Gondul M, the lion’s share of the described qualities—the powerfully muscular gestalt, the impressive bass registers, the molecular resolution—remained in place. What fell under the table was some of the colour intensity of the Tube Preamp II. Given the €8’000 offset, that seemed fair. If you already own a quality preamp, I see no reason why you wouldn’t leash up the Mono II to competing kit. That’s a rerun on my preamp which likewise has no compunctions to play brilliantly with gear from other makers.
 
Should you fancy a generously scaled airy rendition of the sonic action, this could well be your final address. That this won’t devolve into ill-defined nebulous excess should be a given by now. That’s easily heard with an LP reissue of the Berlin Philharmonic covering Schumann’s symphonic works. The German amps not merely cast the first-rank orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle in accurate height and width but illuminated the far reaches of the stage where the bassists and drummers labour. At €5’000 admittedly in a different range, that feat remains out of reach for my Audionet Amp 1 V2 via my La Campanella. A fairer more able competitor would be the €12’000 Devialet D-Premier which conceptually is more of an integrated amp with onboard DAC of course.
 
The French integrated unearthed a tad less air around individual performers to feel more compact. That was a matter of taste. Regardless, the Schwabian monos broke no sweat to transfer the acoustics of the Berlin Philharmonic which I’m well familiar with into my room at stout recognition factor. The highly believable dimensionality of the instruments and musicians was an extra bonus. Limited to 1’000 pressings, this 180g virgin vinyl not only attested to the Mono II’s superior spatial chops but presented them with a tough dynamic challenge. Whilst the earlier Ben Harper had already indicated the final destination, the more than 100 heads of Berlin’s premier orchestral forces ratcheted up the task at hand.
 
True, Schumann’s symphonies generally aren’t known for unbridled exhortations of dynamic violence. So I believed as well until I heard what happens when Sir Simon leads the parade. In the 3rd Rheinish Symphony for example, he develops tensional arcs which others don’t even touch upon as a faint echo. With expertly emphatic though never overdrawn pathos, the Berliners scale dramatic peaks which particularly in the third movement recalled to me the despair of Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique.
 
The Mono II retained the overview, supplied the necessary pressure during the tutti and kept sufficient headroom in reserve to follow up when the conductor demanded even more intensity. "Mission accomplished" is what I imagine Sir Simon would have sez.

With these monaural amps, temptation really can get the better of you, particularly so since all of the above didn’t just apply to the Acapella La Campanella but also Clockwork’s 2-way Event Horizon monitors. Stable into 2 ohms with sufficient reserves to set fire under the arses of sensitivity midgets, the Accustic Arts Mono II are archetypal classic muscle amps - but thankfully without the often attendant physical excess. No less compelling is their other side of finessed aesthetes with plenty of feel for musical structures, flow and the ability to not merely amplify but deliver an emotionally persuasive replay of the musical action to your speaker terminals. It’s a fact then than despite their not insignificant sticker, the Mono II do reset the yard stick plenty high. Definitely the devil in a red dress wearing Prada. Whosoever falls for it ought to be envied.

 
Psych profile for the Accustic Arts Mono II…
• they create exceptionally potent and easeful sonic conviction. The term power limit at least for halfway typical listening rooms seems merely academic.
• the mid and treble bands are poster children for neutral, uncoloured and homogenous. A bit more character reveals itself in the bass. True to the motto "dish if you can", this seemingly opened up one level lower in the bass than other amps I’m familiar with in this price range.
• though unquestionably gifted with macro-dynamics, these aren’t muscle-bound brutes. Nearly as an aside, they unravel the most gossamer tendrils and illuminate the quietest of details.
• as befits reference class amplification, they’re capable of supremely generous soundstaging. Excellent depth layering and lateral expansiveness are must haves in this class and the Mono II have mastered the space discipline.
• they also do musical flow and elegance with no transistor-reminiscent edges in evidence. Some listeners might even prefer a ‘straighter’ demeanour.
• finish and industrial design are fully up to par with the sticker.
 
Facts.
• Concept: monaural transistor power amp pair
• Power rating: 300 watts into 8Ω
• Trim: silver or black
• I/o: RCA and XLR, biwire terminals
• Dimensions and weight: 350 x 240 x 430mm HxWxD, 25kg
• Power consumption: ~100 watts at idle

..........Frank Hakopians

 
Perhaps some of you wonder I’m smoking. But I can't find better descriptors. To me it was very strong tobacco indeed how this machine managed to draw voices in believably embodied concreteness. Dynamically the Accustic Arts left nothing to be desired...
Ralph Werner

REVIEW SUMMARY: Perhaps some of you wonder by now just what I’m smoking. But I can't find better descriptors. To me it was very strong tobacco indeed how this machine managed to draw voices in believably embodied concreteness. Dynamically the Accustic Arts left nothing to be desired. Some converters emphasize the leading edge more to tease out Garwood’s guitar picking in sharper relief – Moon’s Neo 380D comes to mind. Others play it softer than the German, say NAD’s M12. This reiterated how the Schwabians prioritize the gestalt of wholeness over extremes in any one possible direction. You could call the result tonally balanced but veering toward the sunny; or dynamically charged without sacrificing flow. Nobody who shops these leagues is purely concerned by cost/performance ratios. It takes advanced HighEnd passion, a few rolls of real cashish and, let’s be honest, a desire for luxury. And the Accustic Arts delivers in full measure. Such a massive and beautifully finished converter I’ve not hosted before. Its gleaming bank vault casing cashes in heavily on the Made in Germany cliché - and in the best meaning.

Don’t expect sonic spectaculars but instead, a properly balanced, self-assured realistic and natural panorama of excellent long-term suitability. The Tube DacII Mk2 plays it on the sunny side of the street and excels at rendering voices and instruments in true 3D extraction. Most of all, it’s a true all’rounder whose many talents sum into a very non-technical total sound.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Others use this amount of metal for a pair of monos without risking a jittery foundation or ringy covers. Our DAC tester stems from the Reference range of Accustic Arts who work with a different set o' rules. Remember the Amp II/AMP III transformer häuser? Or the MONO II we reviewed last year? Mentally prepped, I took in stride the 12kg pulling out my arms whilst I unpeeled the Schwabians’ top digital deck from its carton. Tube Dac II Mk2 is its proper title. In for a pound, out with a kilo. But forget brutish material excess. This deck exudes luxury no matter what angle you ogle it from. The surface finish of the brushed aluminium is perfection. So is the fit of all seams. Bomb-proof socketry adorns the business end. Brass knobs turned from solid and dipped in chrome transfer tactile feedback on the front.

Sure, sour pusses and minimalist sticklers will point out that the stylized valve symbol cut out of the top panel à la Tube Preamp II serves no real function. But hey, hasn’t one already chased those bitchy Calvinists away by mere consideration of this type sticker in the first place? Of course it’s glamour, not Bauhaus sobriety. This is a luxury machine, dammit. Anyone shopping this price range demands special optics and fit’n’finish sans pareil. Hence any such expectations are met head on by this posh player. I’ve not met anything quite as deluxe in the DAC sector yet.

True, this house’s top converter is nearly a classic by now. Its predecessor launched in 2007. The core circuit remains in place. To sketch it on a napkin, focus on three points. One, the over- dimensioned power supply would suit many an amplifier. Two power toroids of 100 and 50VA respectively gang up with 84’000µF of filter capacitance. Deux, digital goes deux mono with two parallel paths, two chips and a 32-bit microprocessor entrusted with signal prep and upsampling (which, say the Germans, operates significantly more accurate than the typical on-chip SRC). Finally, nomen est omen, a hybrid valve/transistor output stage with balanced and single-ended legs. Fixed gain only. That's because, or so feels developer Martin Schunk, shoppers in these strata tend to be married to a separate pre/power combo already. Where the Mk2 does the original one better is the HD input card with its asynchronous USB. HD obviously is short for hi-def, i.e. 24/192 (though not 32/384 or DSD). "We might offer a future upgrade. It’ll depend on demand." Martin Schunk shrugs. I’m personally amused by the present DSD hype. Never mind the excessive dearth of relevant music catalogues [amen and hallelujah to that – Ed]. For equally good reasons, I’m only marginally interested in how makers and distributors describe the sonics of their own kit. "Rendering all else broken by comparison" is all so… well, boorishly boring. Still, I readily remember the words which did accompany the Tube Dac II Mk2. Something like, "designed for the audiophile gourmand" but "minus any FX". Yeah, here I’ll sign my own Kaiser Wilhelm on the dotted line!

That’s because any true gourmand couldn’t give a fork about identifying specific ingredients. She wants their masterful combination to melt on the tongue in unison. A proper chef better remember that. And that’s exactly how our DAC chef has cooked his deck. Does it deliver unheard of resolution? BMC’s UltraDAC plays no second fiddle. Extreme depth layering? Perhaps. But my Luxman D-05 does it too. Punchy bass? Definitely. Though I do recall a CD player which dished it out even harder, Gryphon’s Scorpio. So no, don’t expect gold medals to step out of individual disciplines. That’d mean special effects all over again. And that's really the last thing anyone would ever accuse our German of. It’s the particular mix which is so tasty (and to finally wear out the foodie parallel). This machine plays it so integral, so effortless and 'right' that individual aspects are synthesized into and absorbed by a wholosity which eludes lead-pencil analysis. You simply listen to music. But fear not, I’m not about to drop my ball point just yet!

Pegging tonality was easy. I had BMC’s UltraDac which drew quite the contrast. It plays on the lighter side of neutral whilst the Accustic Arts does it juicier and more fulsome. That’s true not just for the extra portion of bass but also the lower midrange. It was more developed to make the vocal range more sonorous. Ditto versus the Luxman SACD/DAC though that split the bill when it set up shop between BMC and Accustic Arts. But even here the Tube Dac was fatter in the bass, slightly warmer in the mids and a tad more polite in the treble. That came to the fore with femmy vocals to net a basic observation: they sounded a bit fuller, more fetching; and a bit less open. One example was Ofrin’s "Give it a shot" from the Jazz/Pop album On Shore Remain with its electronic seasoning. Ofrin Brin’s voice had more chest volume and a bit less breathiness. The bass underpinnings were more massive and a tick softer than I’m accustomed to. The lower registers still were defined and clear, simply not ultra-dry. Semi-sec perhaps. Particularly with acoustic instruments, this can be advantageous.

What else? The sonic panorama came off noticeably broader than I tend to enjoy for this Ofrin song. The electronic spider webs which drift or flicker across the stage occurred more outside the speakers and toward me than I knew and thereby created greater involvement. It filled more room space with music. This grew quasi enveloping in fact.

Still, the true key to this converter opened yet another domain at least for me. Where this valve deck truly excelled was with the dimensional extrication of individual sounds particularly in the vocal band. This was the 3D glasses version of Ofrin Brin. No longer a flat if singing layer, I now had a musical sculpture in my digs. I’d acquired the earlier mentioned Luxman D-05 because it too covers not just resolution plus bass/mid/highs but also grippy embodiment. Just so, the Accustic Arts elevated this particular art to a higher octave. I’m not keen on calling digital sources ‘analogue’ but if this term should signify a relaxed gestalt, slight warmth and extreme dimensionality, then we’d have reached a proper analog. Here the Schwabian has really got it going on.

An exemplary demo thereof repeated with Marc Lanegan & Duke Garwood’s Black Pudding disc, a kind of gloomy Indy Blues albeit blessed by high production standards. "Pentacostal" sports an acoustic guitar, Lanegan’s nearly shot vocals and one subdued rattle. In short, sparse action but still an intense number. Relative to pure data mining, it was irrelevant whether I leashed up the Tube DacII Mk2 or the previously reviewed BMC UltraDAC. The latter retrieved more in the treble, today’s tester more in the mids. The Accustic Arts managed the more complete in-room projection of the guitar. In fact, I thought that I could better hear how the instrument sounded different at different junctures. Usually that quality gets obscured by spatial homogenity; by less three-dimensional cues; by more total point-source sound. I thus tend to listen more to music’s progression over time than its spatial layout.

Perhaps some of you wonder by now just what I’m smoking. But I can't find better descriptors. To me it was very strong tobacco indeed how this machine managed to draw voices in believably embodied concreteness. Dynamically the Accustic Arts left nothing to be desired. Some converters emphasize the leading edge more to tease out Garwood’s guitar picking in sharper relief – Moon’s Neo 380D comes to mind. Others play it softer than the German, say NAD’s M12. This reiterated how the Schwabians prioritize the gestalt of wholeness over extremes in any one possible direction. You could call the result tonally balanced but veering toward the sunny; or dynamically charged without sacrificing flow. Nobody who shops these leagues is purely concerned by cost/performance ratios. It takes advanced HighEnd passion, a few rolls of real cashish and, let’s be honest, a desire for luxury. and the Accustic Arts delivers in full measure. Such a massive and beautifully finished converter I’ve not hosted before. Its gleaming bank vault casing cashes in heavily on the Made in Germany cliché - and in the best meaning.

Don’t expect sonic spectaculars but instead, a properly balanced, self-assured realistic and natural panorama of excellent long-term suitability. The Tube DacII Mk2 plays it on the sunny side of the street and excels at rendering voices and instruments in true 3D extraction. Most of all, it’s a true all’rounder whose many talents sum into a very non-technical total sound.

Psych profile for the Accustic Arts Tube DacII Mk2...

• Plays it on the somewhat warmer side of neutral.
• Bass is properly developed, its texture more juicy than wiry. Definition and pitch are high, dry-as-dust violence isn't. Especially unplugged, this is mostly the more natural take. For electronica with gnarly infrasonics, some may wish for more incision.
• In a certain way, the midband sounds 'precious'. Cause for that is a relatively rare combination of 'somewhat warmer' with high resolution. Vocal renditions are the hammer.
• The treble is a natural elongation of the mids, i.e. perfectly integrated and never explicit. Others play it more spot-lit but nothing is really missing.
. Macro and micro dynamics are in the pocket. When in doubt, the machine prioritizes musical flow over robotic attacks.
• This luxo converter cast a wide panorama which doesn't hesitate to get forward when the recording asks for it. Good depth layering. The special virtue is the exceptionally extricated three-dimensional sound sculpting. This creates a very grippy performance.
• Fit and finish set new standards for the upscale sector.

…….. Ralph Werner

at the end of my long quest, I have finally found a couple amplifier/preamplifier that is, in my humble opinion, clearly above the others.
Aurelien -Audioasylum.

SUMMARY REVIEW: Up to now, I have not been able to find a single weakness. They just sound like the live event! I am not sure we are speaking anymore about electronic device. At this level of perfection, we are dealing with works of art.

EXTENDED REVIEW: This review is about both the AMP-III and the PREAMP-I-MKIII (the previous model before the replacement ULTRA AMP III release)

I have been an audiophile for many years. I have owned quite a lot of amplifiers and preamplifiers (including Plinius SA-Reference, Audio Research Reference series, Nagra, YBA Passion, etc.) and heard most of the so-called high-end amplifiers on the market. 

A few months ago I decided to rebuild a system from scratch. My system was already very good but at each iteration there as a iittle something that was not perfect. So, I have spent a huge amount of time listening for many, many, systems without any consideration of price (of course, money matters for me but I wanted to try to find the ideal system).

As you have probably guessed from the previous sentences, English is not my mother language, so I have to be brief: at the end of my long quest, I have finally found a couple amplifier/preamplifier that was, in my humble opinion, clearly above the others. 

Namely: the AMP-III and PREAMP-I-mkIII. I believe it is the best just because it does everything so right:

- the power is nearly unlimited. (the power transformer reads an incredible 3200 VA).
- the sound is incredibly refined & Powerful
- it works as well with classical music than with jazz or rock
- you easily forget about it and just hear the music
- the building quality is just fantastic and I like very much the design

It should be noticed that most of what I say here about the AMP-III (that I now own) is true for the AMP-II (which is basically the same with less power @ 250/ch but still enough for most situations).

Of course, they are expensive. But much less than many other amps I have tried at home (including LAMM, Goldmund & Krell). 

It was therefore very good news for me to find them so clearly above the others! It could very well be that this is just my taste but this conclusion was shared by my wife and my children so something rather objective could be true here!

Up to now, I have not been able to find a single weakness. They just sound like the live event! I am not sure we are speaking anymore about electronic device. At this level of perfection, we are dealing with works of art.

Nothing is perfect in this world. But both as a researcher in astrophysics (who works on a space experiment and understand something to technical engineering) and as a music lover I would like to recommend with the greatest enthusiasm Accustic Arts amps and preamps.

…….Aurelien 
Whether you value power and force or prefer the focus to the finest details. The Accustic Arts Power I can do both, and turns out to be so as a very universal device that does all kinds of music for listening pleasure.
Jochen Reinecke -fair audio Germany (English translation)

The sound character of Accustic Arts Power I:

  • Bass and bass not act forcefully, but in the sense of over-emphasis, but especially through absolute awareness and controlled much reserves.
  • The mid-range joins seamlessly and is marked by clean.
  • In overtone of Power I dissolve crystal clear and extremely detailed, but at no time is drifting into the artificial tip.
  • Overall, the Power I works well balanced tonal, plays in the overtone but minimally on the "lighter" side.
  • Coarse and fine dynamics can be described as superb, especially since both are possible simultaneously.
  • The spatial representation is realistic and easily goes beyond the Speaker vertices sound sources appear very lively and have plenty of room for development.
  • Even at high levels can cause the aforementioned qualities to express the Power I.

EXTENDED REVIEW: A short tour around the device: Wow, this is really a murder solid strand. 22 kg, he brings on the scales, the night black metal housing, an impeccable processing - the thing looks like built for eternity. From her operating concept, which is equal to clear the Accustic Arts Power I is a representative of the old school: There is no display, no multiple occupation function switch, no parameters graves - HERE is still applied, and that the left, in a very grippy, tired latching input selector and the right to a smooth and precise current volume potentiometer.

The knobs of Accustic Arts Power 1 consist of solid, chrome-plated brass and also feel as comfortable on solid. A bit unusual, but ultimately a hallmark of the house, is the huge resplendent in the middle of the front panel circular corporate logo, which is loosely greater than the input selector or the volume control. You have to like.

Only a further pressure switch there, namely a "Phones On" switch, the speaker outputs mute and instead the headphone amplifier is activated which sends the signal to the headphone output is also located on the front panel. Below the logo's even three LEDs: The first ("Remote") accompanies the use of the remote control with a cheerful "Yeah, got it!" - Flickering. The mean ("On") are on the operating status information and the right ("Protect") lights up when the amplifier quasi in "safe mode" is. This is either during the gentle start-up when switching on the case, or must intervene when the protection circuit due to unforeseen events such as clipping, excessive DC offset etc.. Which brings us to the frontal surfaces by, we look at the rear wall!

Again: Perfectly - Gold-plated RCA jacks and speaker terminals best provenance. The Accustic Arts Power I is available in two variants. In the basic version it is equipped with four unbalanced RCA line-level inputs and an unbalanced surround bypass input that makes the Power I in a surround setup for front channel amplifier (therefore you should connect to this input if possible no unregulated high-level source, otherwise föhnt there any way). In addition to the speaker terminals of Use are an unbalanced preamp output. The extended variant holds an additional MC / MM phono module ready to dispense it, however, on another line level input. About two "pianos mice" can be MM systems at 50, 150, 270 and 370 pF adapt.The input impedances will be 47 kOhm (MM) or 100 Ω (MC).

And now a look under the hood. The Power I is a thoroughbred solid-state amplifier. Yes, "Power Rules", you might think by looking at the fundamentals. In Power I selected eight MOSFETs sweat on a very generous heatsink. Is supplied the appliance through an 600W toroidal transformer with separate windings (precursor, left and right amplifier channel), the one as a charging station

Capacitor bank with a total capacity of more than 80,000 uF is available. This all leads to a given power of two times 200 watts at 4 ohms.

Conceptually was when I power on a high damping factor (> 700 according to data sheet) set in order to control the speakers better.Mention should be sure that the Power I has a "real" headphone amplifier section - and not only on a level-adapted routing of the "normal" output signal to a headphone jack. A use of materials, which - has paid off - as we shall see later in the listening test. Included is a well-to-hold plastic remote control that does not look like "off the shelf", on which, however, also only the volume can be controlled.

I admit that I, given the forceful external impact and the announced internal values of the Power I could hardly wait for it to bring the dutiful practice period behind me and to start the listening sessions. And when it finally was time, is what happened 

FINALLY A/B in the LISTENING ROOM

Do you know that? Rewire a new component, insert a CD - and instantly have a grin on his face and into the soul "Jau!"? Just as it was with me and the Power I. There are indeed amplifiers that "yes, ah interesting" let sit a frowning and muttering.Mostly these are amplifiers that "certain nothing" have this, which is then "studio standard super neutral" nice talks to be.Quite the opposite of Power I. He says from the very beginning where to go. And ultimately, the three impressions I scribbled as the very first listening in my little notebook, almost decisive for this amp: Live character through dynamic without end, Bass Control and highly transparent treble.

Suppose Richard "Groove" Holmes, the unduly always shaded by Jimmy Smith acting Hammond organisten. His live albumGroove's Groove shows him in top form - and, moreover, it may be referred to as audiophile pearl, because here it is the producers succeeded in capturing the rousing live atmosphere of club gigs, and these in through gentle intervention in the post-production transporting superior sound quality in the listening room. Let us listen to the song "Blues All Day Long".What is striking about the Power I?

Firstly, a quasi faster and deeper, controlled bass: Every single sound of plucked walking bass runs is set with the vibrant energy of a rubber balls in the room. Secondly, the cymbals sound authentic to your knees! While the drummer around stirred quite groovy and counter-cyclical in the snare, he proposes the same time very relaxed straight eighth on a half left in the stereo panorama seated ride cymbal.And this cymbal sounds bright, silky, close, every cymbal crash is a little pleasure, namely brilliant and resolved to the smallest detail.Something poetic: It lights, namely light, but it does not dazzle.

After initially the subject, which has been "tune" presented, the piece with a solo by saxophonist Houston Preston, which is seconded rhythmically by Richard "Groove" Holmes wisely deposited Hammond chord shreds begins. "Affengeil" and similar non-critical as populist terms whizzed through my mind when I heard this. The Accustic Arts Power I bring pure live feeling. And that succeeds with two things:

On the one hand he has a very vivid stereophonic sound stage image. The Saxplayer seems to be almost three-dimensional projected into the room (far left next to the drums) and gets in the environment enough "air" allotted to unfold can. From half right beads the Hammond orgeleinwürfe by Richard Groove Holmes, he also seems to be on a small, well-defined one-man island in the sea sound and feel there magnificently well. The Accustic Arts Power I distinguished a stage that goes well on the speaker stand points, without, however, drift into an unrealistic Widescreen Panorama. Nevertheless, to allow the sound sources space and they do not like to be placed in a sardine can succeed.

The second to the live feeling contributing Talent Power I is to my mind that he has mastered both coarse and fine dynamics masterfully. The organ solo in the middle of "Blues All Day Long" shows this clearly. Holmes registered during the solos from time to time to the organ; initially it sounds slightly muffled, classic Gospel registration, without switching Vibrato and with only a low-speed Leslie. Gradually, Holmes attracts more and more registers (or drawbars), the Leslie are the spores and enters the gas pedal through to the bottom. Here the Power I shows both the fine "growth" of the Hammond sounds, but it can also be from the prior herausschleudern bold, surprising organ attacks in the room.

Ever represents the harmonious and simultaneous coexistence of fine and gross motor one of the hallmarks of the Power I for me. The can be very nice in the song "The Understand: Answer "by Bad Religion (Album Generator).Basically I did this album now not just as a technical sound tidbits in memory, but as the thick black amp because so seductive stand in the rack, I wanted to feed him sometimes with hearty fare. And I was very surprised at what the Power I turned this little narrow blended pieces. The in my memory rather zischelig-hochtonlastige and provided with little stereophonic spatial information track got real pressure and punch - and also spatial extent. But even more striking, I found the following:

The drummer plays throughout a quite strong mixed forward half-open hi-hat, in the frequency range additionally around jostles the frequency Zerr-share of electric guitar. And although the bass drum was mixed for my taste in this piece simply too quiet, she goes into the whole fuss is not under, but sets clear accents - including, and this is something special, a spatial information. Room information here means not the exact position of the bass drum in the stereo stage, but a realistic information about the dimensions of the room in which the drums were miked. Sounds like a about 15 square meters large, heavily damped, "woody" space. Well, that is already a very specific example at the cutting edge of nitpicking.

What I really want to say is: The Power I can not separate in tonally very confusing food wheat from the chaff. This reminds me of the TV entertainer Harald Schmidt: He can equally serve a demented hillbilly Brachial humor, but also enjoy the educated classes with fine irony. Thus makes the Power I also.He rocks with appropriate music relentlessly forward, spoil the expert listeners but also with surprisingly finely drawn details. 

Well it is possible that too at the song "Bug Eyes" by Dredg(Album: "Catch Without Arms") listen. Actually, this song is from the first to the last bar a veritable Haudrauf number. In the intro of drummer skin, accompanied by a guitar is warmjaulenden four-measure crescendo eighth on ride cymbal and snare - and then it's off:

Fuzzgitarrenbreitwand, semi-open hi-hat and most splendid thrashing.But instead of making it a rock-am-ring event, does not conceal the Power I that between intro and the first verse continues the reverb is cut back on drums, so the first few bars still sound spherically while then in the first stanza is furztrocken - from acoustic ago, understood.

It is here, incidentally, does not give the impression of power I had just for friends of electrical Haudraufmusik. The above-mentioned merits of this amplifier can also enjoy music very different persuasions come into play. Suppose Leonard Cohen's "I Tried to Leave You" from the albumNew Skin For Old Ceremony. At the beginning we only hear the old man and the guitar. Fascinating how the Power I not just two sound sources - vocals and guitar - captures, but the whole room atmosphere. Background noise such as breathing or the gently-heard in the background rhythmic footsteps of Cohen were in the studio just not filtered by Noise Gate, but mercilessly recorded.

And so you just have the feeling that there really sitting in front of a Cohen, with its fragile-lachrymose voice, the guitar with anything but fresh reared strings and the whole thing on a rainy day probably somewhere in a small studio. Later are added nor used in chamber music fashion in Song Drums, an acoustic bass and muted instruments. Similar to the aforementioned jazz piece the actors have again space around them. You do not face each other in the way, but playing "Livehaftig".

To the extent that deliberately ordered not by category impressions. You should provide information about what constitutes the essence of this amplifier for me. Nevertheless, I want the horse now again put the cart before the other side and try to illuminate the Amp according to transparent criteria 

Let's start with the tonality. We have an excellent clean down to the deepest foundations by drawn the bass range, the scores both with depth and with speed and precision. A seamlessly a coupled, clean differentiating central region is also consistently followed by a treble range, which tends to be on the light side, but tilts second to none in the Glimmering.

I had several times, especially with cymbals, which are word "sparkling" in Notizbüchlein my Hörnotizen. Here's my special service for eyeglass wearers: Imagine you have your glasses for a few days not cleaned. And then you enough someone such a beautiful, smelling of lemon fuel Brillenputztuch. They clean the glasses, put on his glasses and think: "aaah!" Something like it is with the high-frequency range of the Power I - he adds nothing which is not there. But what is there, he is with the utmost cleanliness. For fine and coarse dynamic has been further said all relevant above: Either he can exceptionally well. He has neither before escalating double-bass drum thunderstorms anxiety before the presentation of the finest nuances. It should be emphasised that all this still works well even at very high listening levels. The power reserves will last for efficiency weak speakers and larger listening rooms.

From tonal basic character here reminds me of the power I a bit to the Abacus Ampolla, a controllable outputs which passes as a purist amplifier. Even the Quadral Aurum A5 is aimed a bit in the similar direction. What the power of two but I sound stand out positively (he is also a significant piece of expensive than both comparison devices) are two things:

The above-mentioned absolute equal coexistence of coarse and fine dynamics, which still leaves room for nuances in the biggest thunderstorm of sound - and a somewhat more generous handling sonically not optimal material. Generally, I like it, although when amplifiers have an analytical vein, but that must not penetrate into the area of vivisection up. When an amplifier that is "exactly" that every mistake he shows me reproachfully at less good shots, then makes the purely passive listening to music no longer fun.

This can be good show at the legendary album Concert of The Cure. Sonics not exactly a masterpiece, but the music and atmosphere for me still a fantastic album. With the Power I makes it despite the somewhat idiosyncratic production fun.Suppose the song 'Charlotte

Sometimes ". The Power I steers sent to look at the positive things, like the tight interplay between bass and drums. He leaves the long decaying, sent through a flanger guitar chords much space. It shows that on the right striking singing very softly and hidden there is still a delay that unravel somewhere to the rear right. And that the crash cymbal - probably inadvertently - were mixed completely into the background, actually interferes not continue. Much nicer, but is that the snare bangs so beautiful. You understand what I mean? I say it this way: Who wants to listen to his "old friend" recording error, which they continue to listen. But you will not hit the nose on it.

A few words about the Phono part: I enjoyed this very much, but - like looking at my "equipment Park" - is the focus of my investment in the field of digital sources, so that I could offer the Power I do not really adequate opponent in the range phono. I have taken the opportunity a listen again in a few old plates of Modern English, which differs from sinister Dark-Wave (Album: Mesh and Lace): developed to an almost orchestral-pop band (Ricochet Days Album).

Basically can be similar to say about the phono section as well as for the rest: He is gripping, makes fresh, involvierend,

powerful - but not kraftmeierisch.The song "Black Houses" from the debut album is blown with a tremendous directness into the living room, a directness that is so presumably can simply "feel" only on vinyl. The song "Heart" again from the Album Ricochet Days starts with a Bläser- / string quartet and then slowly turns into an electronically-influenced pop song.Wonderful plastic and organic sounds of this transition on the Power I.

In somewhat greater detail, I want to talk about the headphone amplifier, this is in fact superb! I leinte more so for the sake of completeness my Ultrasone Pro 900 on I like veritable on longer trips with the iPod. When I pressed the "Phones On" switch on the Power I, I had my first time his eyes or ears rub.All Weather! Seriously: So beautiful I've heard no longer on headphones for a long time. The cross-comparison between the adjustable headphone output of my Marantz SA 7001 and the Power I was quite amazing.

Well it does not sound really bad from the Marantz, but what the Power I can do with a headphone signal in terms of fine resolution and detail that has still surprised me. It can be better high frequency resolution and a bass flinkerer be stated, also affects the sound through the Accustic Arts Power I total in spatial terms in more detail. The Ultrasone PRO 900 blows the signal not directly into the ear, but the driver of this headphone use by their angled arrangement, the "space-shaping" shaping of the pinna from with. The generated per se already a headphone amazingly realistic space imaging. This, however, is drilled through the Power I again. Of course, we are still far away from here "Holography", but it's actually fun to hear about the Accustic Arts via headphones. That was for me far more of a chore that is owed to the nightly rest needs of neighbors. With the Power I I can imagine smooth, and then sometimes do voluntarily.

We have everything? No, now would still have the "Meckerecke" come, therefore: What I do not like so well? Oh, there's something. I do not mean to keep behind the mountain: One thing I find even really stupid: I have to give back him now. Sonically, however for me there is nothing to complain about - but I concede also that I have also checked the phono section here relatively uncritical.

The Accustic Arts Power I is a powerful amplifier, the fine spirit and fun at the same time offers. These of profound and yet controlled, springy bass range, the superb resolution heights and very dynamic - and thus very livehaftige - overall performance. Whether you value power and force or prefer the focus to the finest details. The Accustic Arts Power I can do both, and turns out to be so as a very universal device that does all kinds of music for listening pleasure.

.......Jochen Reinecke

The fascinating thing about the Accustic Arts is that it offers another potent reminder that for less than stupendous sums you can construct a devastatingly good (and ultra-reliable) stereo system. It is nimble and powerful and, above all, artful.
Jacob Heilbrunn

SUMMARY: Ultimately, the warm and sumptuous sound just seemed to mate very well with analog. Often it’s alleged that German equipment has a somewhat stentorian quality to it. But I didn’t find that to be the case when it came to the Accustic Arts. Instead, I very much enjoyed the ravishing sound of strings, the evocative plangency of a solo piano echoing in the hall, and the ability to discern easily when the pedal was being applied. If you want an even greater level of fidelity than that offered by this gear—and it does exist—then you’ll have to disburse considerably more funds to attain it. As a point of comparison, my own Ypsilon gear is purer, faster, and more sweeping. But then again, the cost is markedly higher. The fascinating thing about the Accustic Arts is that it offers another potent reminder that for less than stupendous sums you can construct a devastatingly good (and ultra-reliable) stereo system. It is nimble and powerful and, above all, artful.

EXTENDED REVIEW: As heretical as it may sound, there is audio equipment that looks so attractive that sonic considerations can take a backseat, at least until you actually listen to it. The Accustic Arts gear falls firmly into this camp. Its fit and finish aren’t just appealing; they’re breathtaking. A friend of mine wanted to want to buy them based on their looks alone even before he got a chance to hear them.

The good news, however, is that the Reference Hybrid Tube Preamp II Mk II—or, as they put in German, “Der Tube preamp”—and Mono II not only look fetching but also deliver the musical goods.

As the bilingual instructions in the owner’s manuals indicate, Accustic Arts hails from Germany. Put bluntly, there is no wiggle room on products made in Germany. Germany is, of course, getting a lot of press these days for its phenomenally successful small and mid-sized businesses known as the Mittelstand that form the fiscal backbone of the country’s economy. Accustic Arts fits right in with that ethos of quality and performance.

The Accustic Arts equipment appears to be bulletproof in both reliability and performance. As its name suggests, the Hybrid Preamplifier features a mix of tubes (two 12AX7s per channel) and transistors. The unit is truly balanced from input to output, with four separate signal paths (left +, left –, right +, right –) and a four-element potentiometer to control the volume. A front-panel button allows you to choose between direct-coupled (no coupling capacitors between stages) and AC-coupled operation (coupling capacitors between stages), depending on which sounds best in your system. Three balanced and two unbalanced inputs are provided. Two variable-level outputs are included for bi-amping. A third output, this one a fixed level, can drive an outboard headphone amplifier (although the Hybrid includes a front-panel headphone jack). A theater “pass-though” allows the preamplifier to be combined with a multichannel system.

The same sort of thoughtful design appears to have gone into the power amplifier. It’s pure solid-state, delivering 300W into 8 ohms and 500W into 4 ohms via 12 MOSFETs in each amplifier’s output stage. It effortlessly powered both the Magnepan 3.7i and Wilson XLF loudspeakers. The amplifier’s diminutive size belied its power, which pretty much appeared to be limitless on either speaker—and any amp that can drive the Maggies isn’t whistling “Dixie!” The amp features a protection circuit that will trip if the amp is clipping, or if it detects DC offset from the preamplifier, the latter phenomenon something that can crater your loudspeaker’s drivers.

On both digital and vinyl I was impressed by the preamp and amp’s silky midrange and the wealth of detail they produced. Mated together, they definitely supply a sound that lands firmly on the tube side of the sonic spectrum. The preamp is a balanced hybrid design that takes several minutes to warm up. I would emphatically suggest that the amp needs several hours before it sounds its best. Upon startup it will appear to be a bit grainy and compressed. These qualities vanished after a few hours.

In keeping with the balanced design, I used a pair of Ypsilon transformers to create a balanced signal from the cartridge on my Continuum Caliburn turntable to drive the preamplifier’s balanced inputs. From the dCS Vivaldi I used Nordost Valhalla 2 cabling, as I did for the speaker cables as well. The balanced design helped to ensure that there was no audible noise or hum. In fact, even when I ran the amplifiers in single-ended mode from the Ypsilon preamplifier, I was pleased to note that there was also no hum or buzz. Accustic Arts gives you the option of switching off the tubes via a button on the front panel to save on precious tube life.

Like most manufacturers, Accustic Arts makes much of its wide bandwidth and low distortion, and those qualities were in evidence on both CD and vinyl playback. The equipment sounds extremely linear with no part of the frequency spectrum appearing to be overemphasized. It is this very linearity that may strike some listeners as producing a sound that is staid, but it is not. Rather, the Accustic Arts equipment is non-fatiguing and engaging, though it definitely has its own sonic hallmark.

Right from the outset, I was bowled over by its reproduction of a Pablo album featuring Oscar Peterson and Jose Pass playing Porgy and Bess. I’m not sure that I could actually recommend that anyone rush out to procure this album, as the combination of clavichord and acoustic guitar is somewhat peculiar. But it’s certainly an enjoyable lark and the Accustic Arts preamp and monoblocks did a sterling job of capturing the timbral nuances of the clavichord, which first surfaced in the Middle Ages and possesses metal blades known as tangents that strike the strings. Each note was clearly rendered; it was possible not just to hear the clavichord but into the instrument itself, to the point where you could hear how the reverberations were being created. Particularly noteworthy was the large and sonorous soundstage the preamplifier conveyed—the sense of acoustic space was about as good as it gets. Throughout, the interplay between Peterson and Pass on this exotic album came through beautifully.

The same can be said for another album that’s been in heavy rotation recently—a marvelous Angel LP of Kathleen Battle and Christopher Parkening. Several songs by the Renaissance English composer John Dowland may sound simple, but Battle and Parkening bring them to life with great precision and emotion. Battle’s pure and radiant voice was precisely captured by the Accustic Arts. So was Parkening’s fine guitar work. On the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria, the very low noise floor of this Teutonic equipment allowed Battle’s silvery vibrato to emerge as though from nowhere. Spooky.

What about the big stuff? Was the Accustic Arts able to hack it on orchestral powerhouse numbers? On a London recording of Julius Katchen playing Liszt’s Concerto No. 1, the piano was solidly grounded in its own space while the orchestra was spaciously arrayed with each section clearly delineated. The preamp and amplifier had no problem producing orchestral fortissimos and the piano never became swamped by the London Philharmonic. All that amplifier power, for example, allowed the Wilson XLFs to belt out trombone choruses with tremendous vividness and punch.

Still, in this era where everyone seems to be chasing neutrality, it was readily apparent that the Accustic Arts gear does have a sonic signature, a somewhat emollient approach to reproducing music. There’s never going to be a hint of stridency or rebarbativeness with it. Rather, it focuses on the midband, offering a full and slightly dark sound. Take a CD that, if it were an LP, I probably would have worn out by now, Mavis Staples’ One True Vine [ANTI-]. Even in her seventies, Mavis can belt it out like few other singers and her impassioned, full-throated voice came through clearly on cuts such as “I Like The Things About Me.” The backing choruses on the album were always clearly audible but slightly softened. The same went for the bass lines. Cymbals displayed a fine alacrity and clarity, while electric guitars sounded fuzzy and powerful. Distorted? Well, yes. But the truth is that there is a lot of distortion in their sound on this album.

The careful ministering to the treble that the designers of this equipment carried out is also clearly audible on a Delos CD with the flautist Joshua Smith, who performs the Bach’s sonatas together with harpsichordist Jory Vinikour. This is sterling playing by both, and I was struck by the control and limpidity of the sound, especially in the treble region, of the Accustic Arts. Everything was rendered just so, creamy and unflappable, tranquil and poised.

Ultimately, the warm and sumptuous sound just seemed to mate very well with analog. Often it’s alleged that German equipment has a somewhat stentorian quality to it. But I didn’t find that to be the case when it came to the Accustic Arts. Instead, I very much enjoyed the ravishing sound of strings, the evocative plangency of a solo piano echoing in the hall, and the ability to discern easily when the pedal was being applied.

If you want an even greater level of fidelity than that offered by this gear—and it does exist—then you’ll have to disburse considerably more funds to attain it. As a point of comparison, my own Ypsilon gear is purer, faster, and more sweeping. But then again, the cost is markedly higher. The fascinating thing about the Accustic Arts is that it offers another potent reminder that for less than stupendous sums you can construct a devastatingly good (and ultra-reliable) stereo system. It is nimble and powerful and, above all, artful.

The combination of the Accustic Arts PreAmp II Mk2 and the Amp II Mk2 is a union not to be taken lightly.
Gary Lea

SUMMAERY: Both the Amp II and the PreAmp II reviewed separately are exemplary pieces, and I would recommend that anyone looking for the grunt of solid state with the warmth, ambience, and lack of edge of tubes, this is a great combo. As a standalone amp the Amp II represents the evolution of today's higher end solid-state pieces and their ability to deliver slam, detail, and sparkle with less of the edginess and in-your-face analytical sound that plagued solid state components for so long. This amp would do well in just about any system, but really comes into its own when mated to the PreAmp II, as they were absolutely made for each other. Check them out. You won't be sorry you did. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: This is a continuation of my review of these two Accustic Arts pieces. I pick up where I left off at the end of the PreAmp II Mk2 review. I left a bit of a crumb and a spoiler alert at the end of that review and it seems an appropriate opening for this part of the review.

The combination of the Accustic Arts PreAmp II Mk2 and the Amp II Mk2 is a union not to be taken lightly. First the requisite propaganda, and as I always do I will provide you with the manufacturers comments directly.

"The basic circuitry and design concept of the current Amp II Mk2 is based on this original version. Naturally, over the years the Amp II Mk2 has been and continues to be refined and improved. But, as you would expect with a "classic", the typical cubic housing design remains unchanged. The top priority in the development of the Amp II Mk2 was a perfect signal feed, with short distances using the finest components. Some of the components are individually selected, as this is the only way to realize the perfect measurement values which form the basis for the breathtakingly beautiful sound of this dynamic amplifier. The Amp II Mk2 is a so-called "dual-mono power amplifier," i.e. apart from the common mains cable both channels are completely separated from each other—from the transformer to the output stage board. This ensures the excellent values, for example, for channel separation and signal to noise ratio, etc. The high performance and simultaneously extremely low distortion in the Amp II Mk2 is achieved using 2 x 1100 VA transformers, a filtering capacity of 160,000 µF, 24 selected MOSFET output transistors and much more. The result of this substantial over sizing is that even when working under high loads the components are never stretched to their limit of performance, and therefore ensure the described excellent values. The Amp II Mk2 works with Class A operation in most applications. And, despite its enormous power, the Amp II Mk2 reproduces the finest details with extreme precision, in our opinion just as one would expect from a real reference product."

The driver stage of the Amp II Mk2 works on the principle of the current mirror. This circuit principle enables power to be drawn from an existing current. The Amp II Mk2 is therefore a "power-controlled" output amplifier whereby the large number of MOSFET transistors ensures a very high current capacity without having to stretch the transistors to their performance limit. The Amp II Mk2 is therefore also suitable for impedance critical or low-ohm loudspeaker systems. Ingenious circuitry removes the need for a servo controller for the "offset" and the quiescent current is generated via the IC or current mirror driver. As a result, direct and alternating current errors (DC and music signal errors) are immediately corrected. This means the total offset is exclusively determined by the quality and symmetry of the used ICs.

The heavy parts:

Dual-mono reference power amplifier with completely isolated power supply for each amplifier channel
24 selected MOS-FET output transistors of finest quality
Magnetically shielded and encapsulated toroidal core transformer of premium quality for highest output reserves
Maximum total transformer power: 2,200 VA (watts)
Optimum smoothing thanks to 160,000 µF power supply capacity; Premium quality capacitors ("Made in Germany")
Very high damping factor for perfect speaker control
Professional protection circuit against clipping, HF oscillations and too high DC offset
Integrated switch-on current limitation for highest operational safety
Constant low operating temperature due to generously dimensioned heat sinks
Balanced input (XLR) and unbalanced input (RCA) – the inputs are switchable
All used components and parts are selected and of highest quality
Very high quality, gold-plated bi-wiring/bi-amping speaker terminal
Extremely stable, massive and resonance optimized housing, fully made of aluminum; inlay made of massive brass, polished and chromed

So again here we are at the part of this session where we have to attempt to relate what all this means to the ears. What it means is a whole lot of nothing and yet a great deal of everything!

Once I mated the Amp II to the PreAmp II I wondered aloud to myself if this subsequently created a system 4? What with two pieces dubbed II together it seems logical that the grouping would result in an Accustic Arts Amp/PreAMP MK4 system (II plus II – get it?). I think I will offer this marketing genius to Accustic Arts for a small fee!

My comments from the Pre-Amp review in regards to the listening session are actually very similar, but tweaked to point out the individual contribution of the amp. I spent the first half of my review time having the pre-amp resident in my system with my Music Envoy amps. Then came time to take the Envoys out and replace them with the Amp II. The change to the system brought about some noticeable and quite satisfying changes to the overall presentation of the music. For continuity I stuck with the same playlist and in the pretty much the same order as I did with the pre-amp.

I started my sessions this time on the combined unit listening to my normal selection of songs.

As is generally the case I tend to start with a familiar old friend. In Eva Cassidy's, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from her Songbird album, what I immediately noticed about the delivery of the Amp ll was that there was a stark contrast between this amp and the Music Envoys, but not in the way I was expecting. What happened was that this amp had surprising warmth to it. While it did not have as much warmth as the Envoys, it did seem to remove a bit of a halo, or veil, off the music. It was slight, but enough to make me immediately notice it. As with the addition of the Pre-Amp II into the system there was a sudden change to the overall dynamic. It was suddenly less laid back and a bit more "in your face," but not the least bit offensive, just different and definitely more articulate in detail. The result right out of the start was a more dynamic presentation that had more defined edges to everything.

I then brought up a song that I recently stumbled upon while watching Jools Holland's show on TV. I was passively listening, got up to go to the other room for a second, and when I returned a singer was fronting a band, and I was drawn into the music. I had no idea as I sat there at first who the singer was. I was just drawn into the voice and the melody. Neither the song nor the singer blew me away, but I was enjoying it. I kept looking at the face of this rather slender gent, and suddenly it dawned on me that I was grooving to the soulful vibes of a rejuvenated, healthy, and vocally fit George Allen O'Dowd, more affectionately known as Boy George, whom I have always said I could not stand. I thought of him as a frivolous flash in the pan, more attention grabbing for the extreme gender bending than for any real vocal talent.

Lo and behold I had to do a bit of re-examination of his talent. The song, "King of Everything" off his new album This Is What I Do, showed a matured singer who has risen from the ashes with a more refined voice and a sensibility that totally eluded him in his younger days. He now appears to be more concerned with being a serious singer and artist than a freaky side show character. This particular song has a solid back beat, and a self descriptive story that is captivating. Through a system being fronted by the Accustic Arts PreAmp II MK2 you are right in front of the singer, and he drew you near enough to think he was simply telling you he was back with a vengeance. No, I do not plan on joining the Boy George fan club, but I did enjoy the song. There was the solid rhythm section fully backing the typical pop tune ensemble. The piano not only delivered the notes but also the percussive nature the instrument operates by. It was delivered in way that actually felt like I was sitting in the audience during the Holland show. Good bass delivered in a tuneful manner, but with impact and the kick drum driving the whole thing and pushing enough air to move the hair on your head. Right there up close with a small group of club goers who just stumbled on the resurfacing of a has-been reborn. His voice was articulate and very strong with smoothness and an almost pleasing quality to it that I do not remember him to have possessed in the past.

As we were heading into the holiday season I could not pass up a chance to add Emerson, Lake and Palmer's, "Father Christmas" from Come See the Show, The Best of ELP to my list. Easily the most cynical Christmas song ever written, and arguably one of the most beautiful! All of the sparkle of the acoustic twelve string guitar which supports the entire song, the string ensemble and full orchestra were there in full force with incredible detail, depth, and a width of the soundstage it would take to reproduce this piece live. At the point that the synthesized bass comes in it moves you a couple of inches in your chair. Shortly after that part of the song there is a harmonic chiming of the guitar, and the chime is brilliantly full with the requisite bloom and decay that you would have heard had you been listening to it live. Tympani drums filled the room along with all of the brass. I almost expected my ceiling to open and angels to descend from heaven. The presentation from the soft intro, through the build up and the climax of the end was absolutely glorious!

Where I ended my official last session was with a song, that for various reasons has become very near and dear to me and that is Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart" from his final album The Wind.

Stark, direct, and self-confessing, this tune hits deep in the soul and requires a sound system that merely conveys the pain, the resolve, and the hope of one man that he will not be forgotten as the moments of his life are rapidly ticking down. When most are faced with imminent mortality it tends to draw the most naked, uncluttered, and raw emotions out of us all. It is in those moments that most pure feelings and thoughts come to the surface. (I know as I have been there more than once in my own life) This is not something you want a HiFi system to alter by injecting its own biases into the musical performance.

With "Keep Me in Your Heart" the presentation was, well to put it bluntly, honest! I am not sure there is much more to convey about the musical presentation that the Accustic Arts unit provided. In a way it sounds anticlimactic, but in reality it was an astonishing moment. Nothing false added. No strident highs with any biting edge, nor was there a fuzzy bloating masquerading as warmth. It was natural and much like I would have heard if a few of my musician friends and I had grabbed some guitars and sat around playing music together. It literally brought a dying man, who could easily be my friend, into my listening room where he shared with me through his music a concern we all have about being lost to time and other lives that continue after we leave this life. Intimate, raw, moving, sad, and yet somehow comforting to know I am not alone in that particular concern. All of the emotion just flowed out of the system into the room and enveloped me like a warm blanket.

This effect was even more pronounced with the insertion of the Amp II in the system. Soundstage breadth and depth were impressive, and every song seemed to have an innate intimacy that I was not expecting it to create. What is missing in this amp that I usually find in solid state amps is an overly analytical presentation to the music. I think of it as a sort of sterility that I have often found to be off-putting. As the years roll on it seems that this trait is less and less prevalent. Them Amp II has none of that in the musical presentation. It is more natural and less biting than I am used to. It seems that some manufacturers are mastering the black art of making solid state more ear-friendly. That is just my opinion, but I feel it is the case. This is one of three solid state amps I have reviewed over the past 17 years that I would be happy having in residency in my system.

Both the Amp II and the PreAmp II reviewed separately are exemplary pieces, and I would recommend that anyone looking for the grunt of solid state with the warmth, ambience, and lack of edge of tubes, this is a great combo. As a standalone amp the Amp II represents the evolution of today's higher end solid-state pieces and their ability to deliver slam, detail, and sparkle with less of the edginess and in-your-face analytical sound that plagued solid state components for so long. This amp would do well in just about any system, but really comes into its own when mated to the PreAmp II, as they were absolutely made for each other. Check them out. You won't be sorry you did.
..........Gary Lea

Throughout the years I have heard many great amps of different topologies and most of them were special in one regard or another but never offered so COMPLETE and OVERALL musically SATISFYING performance.
SUMMARY: ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 represent such a potent combination that leaves a lingering reference status and with the requested prices for both MonoII and Tube Preamp IIMK2, show a value that it’s not only hard to match, but quite unlikely to match.
The Accustic Arts trio could drive every speaker I have tried with absolute ease, however in combination with the SoulSonic Impulse speakers the ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 managed to create something special that operates at the level imagined by few. This combination reproduces the music at the “cost no object/au plus haut niveau” and brings a refreshing statement in the world of high-end audio.
When both ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 are working closely in a system with the SoulSonics Impulse speakers, they embrace the music and reproduce it with such realism that this must surely be widely acknowledged. And as such they are the recipients of the Upper Echelon Mono & Stereo award for not only being the state of the art audio products but also for being music machines capable of bringing the full emotional content hidden in the music grooves... and thus being able to satisfy the most discerning ears and highest demands. 
EXTENDED REVIEWL I’ve stumbled upon the Accustic Arts components through Walter Kircher, their sales agent. We’ve exchanged quite some emails and messages that eventually led to the first Mono & Stereo and Accustic Arts special listening event.

The complete Accustic Arts system grabbed my attention and eventually I got an opportunity to experience in-depth their MONO II power amplifiers, Tube Preamp IIMK2 and Tube DAC II. 

In this test and review I’ll be focusing on the MONO II power amplifiers and the Tube Preamp II in trying to bring the best insights.

I’ve had a pleasure to hear both the MONO II power amplifiers and the Tube Preamp II in my own reference setup as well as with the state of the art SoulSonic flagship Impulse speakers. This combination brought out the best of Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II and I will mostly focus on this dedicated combination as it represents a state of the art system that is capable of really impressive reproduction in the EUR 200.000 region of systems pricing scheme.

Let us first take a look into the technical side of both units.

MONO II highlights (per monoblock):
Reference class mono power amplifier
12 selected MOS-FET output transistors of finest quality
Magnetically shielded and encapsulated toroidal core transformer of premium quality for highest output reserves
Maximum total transformer power: 1200 VA (watts)
Optimum smoothing thanks to more than 80,000 µF power supply capacity; Premium quality capacitors (“Made in Germany”)
Very high damping factor for perfect speaker control
Professional protective circuit against clipping, HF oscillations and too high DC offset
Constant low operating temperature due to generously dimensioned heat sinks
Balanced input (XLR) and unbalanced input (RCA) – the inputs are switchable on the rear panel
All used parts and components are selected and of highest quality
Premium quality, gold-plated bi-wiring / bi-amping speaker terminals
Mains power switch on the front panel
Extremely stable and resonance optimized, massive aluminium housing; inlay made of massive, high gloss polished and chromed brass
ACCUSTIC ARTS® MONO II is “Handmade in Germany”

ACCUSTIC ARTS® MONO II power amplifier is the first MONO output amplifier from ACCUSTIC ARTS and the latest addition to the ACCUSTIC ARTS® family of power amplifiers. MONOII DNA is based on the company already established AMPII, which already found many happy homes around the world.

ACCUSTIC ARTS MONOII continues the company “leitmotiv” design in timeless Bauhaus shape that clearly radiates a special aura which can stand the test of time and can actually aesthetically please and carry on with all generations.

From the ground up MONOII is designed as an optimised high-performance power amplifier. ACCUSTIC ARTS technical team strictly focused on the short distances in the circuits and with the selection of finest components. As a rule in the upper echelon of power amplifiers every electronic part is strictly selected and measured for maintaining the best tolerances. But this doesn`t stop at the technical level, namely, ACCUSTIC ARTS is one of the few companies that strongly advocates the listening fine tuning, along with an urge for technical perfection. MONOII feels like Made in Germany product from the first glance, but behaves beyond expected in sound performance. It transcends the way typical German high-end components sound (precision above emotion) and welcomes the radiant, emotional impact.

Before delving deeper, what makes MONO II exceptional performers? As already mentioned the first thing is surely the selectivity of the materials, next comes strong, potent power supply. Made in Germany, this strong toroidal transformer with 1200 VA rating, a special core and additional Mu metal shielding along with 12 hand selected MOSFET output transistors and 8 large power supply capacitors (10.000 µF) manufactured in Germany to ACCUSTIC ARTS` exact specifications, ensure the amp can deliver thunderous power with ease and without any struggle. This helps in presenting the music with natural flow and without dynamic constraints.

What does this mean in earthly language? Properly sized and refined power supply is something not too many high-end audio designers are paying enough attention to. Another thing is how gain stages work and how and where the signal is attenuated. Like with my reference Robert Koda Takumi K–10 preamplifier (27.500 EUR), at the highest operating level the electronic components are hardly pushed to the limits and they can keep the distortion levels down. This is an open secret that only few designers fully understand but it brings out the music reproduction on the reference level. DartZeel uses this in its own way but basically employs the similar principle.

The heart of ACCUSTIC ARTS MONOII is certainly its very high current capability coupled to a really fast and responsive power supply that gives an incredible control of all speakers and loads. I cannot stress enough the importance of a FAST and POWERFUL power supply for realistic music reproduction but this is obviously something Mr. Martin Schunk, the Accustic Arts electronic designer knows extremely well.

MONO II is also designed from the ground with enough room to keep the air flow and let the circuits ventilate at the best temperate point, without bringing the performance levels down.

ACCUSTIC ARTS PREAMP II MK2 HIGHLIGHTS

Audiophile reference preamplifier with a so called “tube hybrid” concept and 4 military tubes (2 tubes per channel)
Fully balanced circuit design from input to output
Advantages of this “tube hybrid” technology:
- very high impedance
- very high bandwidth
- very low distortion factors and a “good-natured” distortion spectrum
- “analog” and very precise sound performance
- 4 separated amplification paths, which are not influencing each other
Easy change of tubes without any adjustments just “plug and play”
Professional Class A output stage using technology derived from studio engineering
All used components are of outstanding quality (e.g. Burr Brown® OPA 627) and additionally selected; all relays have high quality gold-plated contacts
4 high precision military tubes; 4-times selected
4-channel volume potentiometer for best crosstalk
3 x fully balanced high level inputs (XLR) and 2 x unbalanced high level inputs (RCA)
1 x unbalanced input (RCA) configured as “SURROUND-BYPASS”
2 x fully balanced outputs (XLR) – 1 x AC coupled, 1 x DC coupled
2 x unbalanced outputs (RCA) – 1 x AC coupled, 1 x DC coupled
1 x headphone output, switchable (1/4" stereo female jack)
1 x unregulated, switchable output for the connection of an external headphone amplifier (RCA)
Phase switch for 0° and 180°
2 magnetically shielded, encapsulated 75 VA toroidal core transformer (“Made in Germany”) of premium quality for high output reserves
Front panel, cover and remote control are made of massive and solid aluminium; turning knobs made of massive and chromed brass
ACCUSTIC ARTS® TUBE PREAMP II – MK 2 is “Handmade in Germany”

MADE IN GERMANY
ACCUSTIC ARTS are clearly proud of their Made In Germany signature. Both MONO II and TUBE PREAMP II are exclusively manufactured in ACCUSTIC ARTS premises in Lauffen am Neckar, Germany. As an important part the company states:

“The development, component insertion of PCBs and final assembly takes place in Germany and all housing parts and many individual components are sourced from long-term suppliers based in the south of Germany. Our specially trained and experienced technicians build this high-end audiophile amplifier from a large number of individual components.”

A sudden burst of life energy!
Although there may be differing opinions among audiophile crowd in regard to the order of importance of all components in the reproduction chain, the fact remains that amplifiers play the VITAL ROLE in all systems that are aiming for the ultimate in sound quality levels. Like with every component there are technical requirements and of course, sonic requirements. With amps, the technical requirements address the target electrical power levels and things like stability, dynamic headroom, etc.

If we agree that the sound of live, un-amplified instruments and voices contains the highest levels of dynamics (dynamic swings) that at the present our high-end audio systems can only approach to some point, but never fully reach, then we are starting to realize the immense challenges each high end audio amplifier designer is confronted with.

Electrical power (static power) is one thing and dynamic responsiveness (dynamic power) is another, but of course, they are related. Just from the technical standpoint one could assume the size of the power supply plays the biggest role here, but aural experience tells us there must be something else at work that is at least equally important. True, weak power supply doesn`t help here, yet after listening to numerous high quality amps I cannot help but conclude that the power supply responsiveness plays a critical role in this regard. I have heard numerous power amplifiers with monstrously over-sized power supplies but many of them lacked speed, control and authority, sounding dead, not alive. In the ultimate sense we are aiming for instant transient responsiveness and here I have noticed big differences among amps. Some are voiced for transparency, some for smoothness, some for neutrality (whatever that means), others for natural tone colors, etc. 

Bringing all the desired traits under one hood is not a trivial task. If we aim for those elusive live sound quality levels, then we have probably noticed, how besides micro and macro dynamics, live music possesses a kind of sound authority (weight) that even many of the really expensive audio systems fail to convey…and this is the second prerequisite for anywhere realistic sound reproduction.

UNDERSTANDING THE PURSUIT OF HIGH-END 

The preamps (or preamp sections in integrated amps) are supposed to deliver a signal that a power amp will give a meaning to. Of course there are power amps that are very (input signal) sensitive and might need just an attenuator but that is not the subject of this review.

If we understand the term HIGH END AUDIO literally then we are probably aiming for the absolute: wanting to get as close as possible to what we hear at live musical events. Of course END doesn`t mean we can get identical sound quality levels with high end audio equipment (nothing ever ends) In this case it just means we’re not interested in merely »good« sound.

The aforementioned »authority« (subjective weight) of the live sound is placing BIG demands on all components in the audio chain and is also showing the biggest differences among amplification. Sometimes it seems it is easy to achieve incredible transparency in the reproduced sound (not that it really is) and I have witnessed it many times, with high quality audio systems. Some components (or a combination of components) are like magnifying glasses, they can highlight tiny details in a way that cannot be heard with a live played instrument or a human voice. Although this might be attractive to some listeners – it is not a step closer to the live sound but a step away; we are substituting the real quality for an artificial one.

To make a reproduced music anywhere more realistic, we need to ensure the system will be able to preserve this AUTHORITY of the live sound as much as possible otherwise the reproduction will NEVER BE reminiscent of the REAL THING.

OK, so this brings us back to the subject of this review, the fabulous ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 and the ACCUSTIC ARTS MONOII monoblock power amps. Potent trio that excels precisely in the most difficult to reproduce areas: micro/ macro dynamics and authority of the sound – among many, many other things.

Throughout the years I have heard many great amps of different topologies and most of them were special in one regard or another but never offered so COMPLETE and OVERALL musically SATISFYING performance.

To begin with, the ACCUSTIC ARTS combo is able to drive ANY speaker with astonishing control, authority, showing incredible dynamic swings, fantastic levels of transparency, proper tonal colors, soundstage delineation and overall believability. That was a really short description. Now let us dig deeper.

My encounters with SoulSonic speakers, open baffle dipoles with tall ribbons showed me they have some special qualities that even lesser amps are able to reveal but it was only with the ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 and ACCUSTIC ARTS MONOII that I began to discover and fully appreciate all their virtues.

For instance, the lower and upper bass had qualities that just gave a much more convincing impression of the real thing. The beat of a kick drum was reproduced with a tremendous, uncompressed punch but the absence of box gave it a really lifelike feeling which was enchanting. Various big acoustic instruments like the big Kodo drums, upright basses or even pianos had a sense of authority that is rarely heard. This authority means the sound was powerful, dynamic and controlled at the same time; no instrument or voice was thinned or robbed of its weight. The piano, a very difficult instrument to reproduce, in particular sounded very dynamic and lifelike in its character. The instruments covering the midrange frequencies had a great definition with just the right timbre (especially with Skogrand Beethoven and Vovox Textura Fortis speaker cables). The solo vocals or choirs had tremendous clarity and natural, dense tonal colors with captivating openness that made the whole aural experience very intimate and called for prolonged listening sessions.

The guitar player`s chord movements were easily heard, yet still not highlighted in a negative way. They were just referenced according to how they were recorded.

The transparency was exemplary and this among other things led to a very holographic impression of the instruments placed on the imaginary soundstage.

The energy produced in live music was preserved extremely well; the reproduction was vibrant, immediate and ensured an incredibly emotionally dense and musically involving experience – a true rarity nowadays.

The combo showed no preferences for any musical genre, everything was reproduced coherently, stressless and very natural. Bad recordings were easily revealed, but not in a way that would diminish the musical enjoyment – quite on the contrary, for anyone who is a music lover first and foremost, this could be a dream system, with it, one could listen for all day long (even very loud) without any listening fatigue or sense of boredom.

I should mention that I have briefly tried to substitute the ACCUSTIC ARTS TUBE PREAMP II with some other preamps that I have had on hand. With the exception of Robert Koda Takumi K10 preamplifier none of them was able to serve the monoblocks in a proper fashion. The sense of energy and body was mostly lost and this further showed how difficult it is to find a proper preamplifier/power amplifier pairing.

CONCLUSION

ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 represent such a potent combination that leaves a lingering reference status and with the requested prices for both MonoII and Tube Preamp IIMK2, show a value that it’s not only hard to match, but quite unlikely to match.

The Accustic Arts trio could drive every speaker I have tried with absolute ease, however in combination with the SoulSonic Impulse speakers the ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 managed to create something special that operates at the level imagined by few. This combination reproduces the music at the “cost no object/au plus haut niveau” and brings a refreshing statement in the world of high-end audio.

When both ACCUSTIC ARTS Mono II power amplifiers and Tube Preamp II MK2 are working closely in a system with the SoulSonics Impulse speakers, they embrace the music and reproduce it with such realism that this must surely be widely acknowledged. And as such they are the recipients of the Upper Echelon Mono & Stereo award for not only being the state of the art audio products but also for being music machines capable of bringing the full emotional content hidden in the music grooves... and thus being able to satisfy the most discerning ears and highest demands. 

The Power 1 is a stellar performer...You'll get an excellent performer that has a superb way with timbre and detail, plus more than sufficient bottom end grunt not to mention more than a dollop of emotional engagement...Highly Recommended
Larry Cox

REVIEW SUMMARY: My first impression was that the amp was very refined, very resolving yet retaining a delicate sweetness from the midrange up. This became a lasting impression. Unlike many German audio products, the Power 1 sounded emotionally engaging and sweet rather than harsh and distant. The tubeophilic and solid-state-phobic Francisco Duran liked it much better than the sweet and robust ATC SIA 150, which he also liked.The sound was open from the bottom to the top. I felt that I could relax into the sound of this amplifier. There was no hint of spittiness or glare, yet plenty of detail and transparency.

The Power 1 provided a very high level of resolution in the midrange without trampling the vocal beauty of Mary Black, The Story, Fiona Apple, or Maria Callas, or on male vocals like those of Mark Knopfler or Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. In this, the Power 1 was nearly unique among the solid state amps I've heard

EXTENDED REVIEW: The Accustic Arts Power 1 integrated amplifier is worthy of attention, even if that attention reveals a detail or two worthy of criticism. The Power 1 may not be an amplifier for the ages, but its performance is very special. Before I get to the details, let me describe the amplifier. At 48 pounds, it is fairly heavy, and though it is only a couple of inches wider than the standard 17-inch component, it takes up some real estate,. I had to place its front feet only partially on my rack to make room for the connections on the back of the amp. As is typical with German products, the fit and finish are quite good. When I opened the amp, I found a tidy layout, with excellent workmanship. It looked like something out of Architectural Digest.

The faceplace sports two knobs, one on each side of the Accustic Arts logo, which is smack dab in the middle. The left knob selects from four sources, source one being balanced only. The right knob is for volume, which can also be controlled by a heavy aluminium remote control. The Power 1 puts out 130 watts into 8 ohms and 190 into 4. The power rating seems conservative. There are two sets of preamp outputs, one XLR, one RCA. An additional Accustic Arts Power 1 can be used to biamp using the balanced outputs, and the RCA outputs can be diverted to feed a powered subwoofer or a sub amp. The amplifier was relatively cool in operation compared to my tubed E.A.R. mono-blocks and the ATC SIA 150 amplifier, but in my cramped rack it got a wee bit warm when left on all the time. The unit had no operational hiccups, no on-off thumps or the like.

I was the second reviewer to have this piece, so it was already broken in. Right out of the box, the Power 1 sounded good.
My first impression was that the amp was very refined, very resolving yet retaining a delicate sweetness from the midrange up. This became a lasting impression. Unlike many German audio products, the Power 1 sounded emotionally engaging and sweet rather than harsh and distant. The tubeophilic and solid-state-phobic Francisco Duran liked it much better than the sweet and robust ATC SIA 150, which he also liked.

The sound was open from the bottom to the top. I felt that I could relax into the sound of this amplifier. There was no hint of spittiness or glare, yet plenty of detail and transparency. The Power 1 showed the ATC SIA 150 to be bunching up the bass from the lower 30s to about 80Hz. The German amp delivered more open-sounding bass that sounded more precise in its starts and stops, without adding any extraneous thumps. The ATC, by comparison, was like a less-than-precise pianist who hits extra notes, blurring correct timbre. While the ATC sounded good, the Power 1 was better,....the ATC's top end wasn't as open, extended, or detailed.

The Power 1 provided a very high level of resolution in the midrange without trampling the vocal beauty of Mary Black, The Story, Fiona Apple, or Maria Callas, or on male vocals like those of Mark Knopfler or Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. In this, the Power 1 was nearly unique among the solid state amps I've heard. The Chord 1200B was perhaps a bit cleaner, but a bit of glycerine enveloped its sound. Instead, the Power 1 simultaneously provided the delicacy of a feather and the precision of a laser. The Power 1 produced a velvety, but very precise, 3-D, rendering of vocal nuance, tonality, and warmth. Vocals were presented with precision and emotion—a rare accomplishment, especially for a solid state amplifier.

While others have commented on the Power 1's way with treble, I found its midrange to be even more startlingly excellent. At low to moderately loud levels, everything pretty much sounded great, to the point that I was beginning to wonder if my decision to purchase the ATC SIA 150 was a mistake. That said, I found the domain of the Power 1 to be more for refined music like Gene Harris' All-Star Tribute to Count Basie, the quieter pieces of Lyle Lovett, and large-scale classical music like Grieg's Piano Concerto, but not sustained, loud pieces. When faced with Led Zeppelin's Greatest Hits at high volume, the Power 1 came up a bit short compared to the ATC, with its 150 watts. When the volume increased, the ATC seemed to grow with the music in an organic way. The Power 1 seemed to decide that the potato was just too hot. It lost the scale of the music, and started to distort.

To understand this comparison, it will be helpful to keep a few things in perspective. First my reference speakers are only 85dB efficient. Second, they are in a 5200-cubic-foot room. Third, the ATC amplifier has a built-in circuit that keeps it from clipping. And finally, Led Zeppelin must be played loudly or it isn't Led Zeppelin. I'm talkin' about music you feel as much as hear, with bass that pushes you around. At those levels, the SIA 150 was a champ, and showed the Power 1 to be a finesse player rather than a hammer—er, amplifier.

I've been talking about the ATC in comparison to the Power 1 because they are closer competitors with respect to price, but you may want to know how the Power 1 stacks up to much more expensive separates. Bass was not quite as fast or precise with the E.A.R. amplification, but it had more complex timbre...... The top end was not quite as filigreed as the Power 1's.

The Power 1 is a stellar performer....., It will cost US$6200 (excl sales tax) to acquire an Accustic Arts Power I integrated amplifier. You'll get an excellent performer that has a superb way with timbre and detail, plus more than sufficient bottom end grunt for most room and speaker combinations, not to mention more than a dollop of emotional engagement. Given the Power 1's performance, its price is very reasonable. Highly recommended. 

.......Larry Cox

.....literally shoots individual notes and brings an energetic, pulsating character with well-formed rhythmic structure.
Hi-Fi REVIEW (online)

REVIEW SUMMARY: After an hour of warm-up on the heavy metal turn to thoughtful listening. Amplifier shows the handwriting immediately, and it is unlikely to be confused with any other. First of all, I note the average range - it is informative, with plenty of tonal composition, like a good tube amp. Wind and string instruments are literally like living with a mass of timbral detail. Noticeable tendency Power ES few select, how would amalgamate separate sound images, which is why they seem to be slightly pushed in before. As if trying to power to the listener does not miss a single movement bow, no touch drumstick. This interesting property will enjoy an advanced audience, tracking the slightest nuances of performance.

EXTENDED REVIEW: At first glance it may seem that the name of the German company is misspelled. In fact Accustic stands ACCUrate acouSTIC, and the main aim is formulated as follows: to achieve "absolute fidelity".

Such a task is set before him, each manufacturer of audio equipment, but Accustic Arts, unlike many competitors, there is a very real opportunity to address it.

Let's start with the fact that all the products of this brand are made in Germany at the factory, located near Stuttgart. This area is considered the heart of high-tech industry, where there are research centers and factories of companies from around the world. Here enterprises producing high-quality electronic components - is it after a careful selection of the company uses. Each product before sending it to the sale being thoroughly tested, and then a two-week run to detect possible faults.

But some high technology to achieve "absolute fidelity" is not enough, then there must be an understanding of the essence of the music and the relationship of this fact with the technical aspects of playing.

And here it just costs a little deeper into the story. Brand Accustic Arts is owned by SAE (Schunk Audio Engineering). Its founder Fritz Schunk in the early 90's had a successful career as a producer and a professional sound engineer, had his own studio AAAR (Accustic Arts Audiophile Recordings). The first technical project Fritz steel studio monitors, with which he tried to achieve extremely natural, lively sound. Before going into serial production of audio, Fritz about five years devoted to experiments otslushivaya as complete schematics and individual electronic components. Currently, the company has also sons Fritz - Martin Steffen, experts in the field of electronics, production and marketing.

Integrated Amplifier Power ES - one of the recent developments family team. It is made in a massive full-sized chassis width of 482mm. The front panel is audiophile laconic, her only big polished handles input selector and volume control. In the center between the two barely visible indicators of inclusion and protection operation, as well as the IR-receiver. On the remote control at all, only two buttons, the volume "+" and "-".

Relay switch serves four line inputs, but you can add an individual with a phono jack for MM and MC-heads. In this module, there are DIP-switches, which are given by the input resistance and capacitance. Speaker terminals on the two channel, so the amplifier can be connected only one pair of speakers.

After an hour of warm-up on the heavy metal turn to thoughtful listening. Amplifier shows the handwriting immediately, and it is unlikely to be confused with any other. First of all, I note the average range - it is informative, with plenty of tonal composition, like a good tube amp. Wind and string instruments are literally like living with a mass of timbral detail. Noticeable tendency Power ES few select, how would amalgamate separate sound images, which is why they seem to be slightly pushed in before. As if trying to power to the listener does not miss a single movement bow, no touch drumstick. This interesting property will enjoy an advanced audience, tracking the slightest nuances of performance.

On the construction of the scene is impossible to find fault, it will depend entirely on the most soundtracks and acoustic properties. In other words, everything that is laid in the sound space director, you will hear without any simplifications.

If we talk about the drive, the amplifier does not seek to unleash a barrage of sound at the listener (though it is in the right place can do it), but literally shoots individual notes and brings an energetic, pulsating character with well-formed rhythmic structure. The higher sensitivity of the acoustics, the more evident this character trait.

it’s the sonic performance that was most treasured and which placed it, in my experience, among the most impressive of digital sources
Edgar Kramer

FOR AN INDEPTH REVIEW PLEASE VISIT  http://absolutehiend.com/ahe_files/pdf/AAP2.pdf

......you'll be hard pressed to find as universal a machine of equivalent sonic prowess.
Frank Hakopians

SUMMARY: It's about engineering know-how and plenty of experience which arrives at highly natural results without miracle parts. With acoustic music the Tube Preamp II then really reaches for the stars. But it'd be wrong to pigeon hole it for specific music genres or styles since its flexibility makes it so interesting. Add the generous i/o options, the liberty to decide between AC or DC coupling and a quality headphone socket and you'll be hard pressed to find as universal a machine of equivalent sonic prowess. The Tube Preamp II Mk2 doesn't appear in the discount pages could be cause for reluctance (owners keep them) But consider its purely domestic manufacture of a quality that should promise reliable operation year in and year out and at a very high performance plateau. Now reality kicks in. Those interested in giving this a whirl should note that the machine's special virtues might not translate over a quickie audition. It's during lengthier involvement that its special engagement in the service of serious playback comes to the fore. Should my wife wonder what to get me next Xmas, I really hope she reads this. Such a fine tool is the dream of any ... er, handiman.

Psych profile of the Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II Mk2...
• The sound is characterised by a high degree of naturalness. Despite a small infusion of warmth this preamp doesn't stray from the path of tonal virtue.
• For a valve hybrid the bass is exceptionally deep, firm and articulate. This combines the quality of very good transistors without sacrificing the typical tube strengths of colour richness and inner structuring.
• As expected for a tube preamp, the Accustic Arts clocks high with a lively midband and very realistic vocal reproduction.
• The treble is detailed and very resolved.
• Soundstaging is particularly believable. Be it chamber music or large orchestral, the dimensions are always appropriate.
• Dynamics show up impressively.
• Balance is a more overriding concern than gold medals in particular disciplines.
• The everyday usefulness of this machine is admirable.
• Concomitant with its price fit'n'finish exhibits quality and the user interface has no issues. 
 • Penty of i/o. AC and DC coupling is up to the owner.
• The headphone output adds value. 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Xmas 2013. A sizable package beneath the tree. The card shows my name distinctly. A questioning glance at my wife elicits a nod. Off with the wrapping paper. It's a Makita power screwdriver. A tool for pros and those thinking themselves such. I don't really belong to either sort but think I understand my wife. It goes without saying that I tend to avoid handiman chores in our digs. Not because of laziness or disinterest to keep up real estate value. But should a heavier than normal mirror end in a wall crater of the sort you suspect is the result of someone hunting flies with a 45 Magnum... then restraint is the better part of valor. Sure, I exaggerate. A bit. And once the mirror hangs, any mishap is fully concealed. Thus it happened as it was ordained. Whenever anything in the house needs fixing that involves screws and holes, the happy owner of said Makita gets to demonstrate his skills. And the miracle had legs. The more often I used the power drill, the more I got used to it. Was it possible that it screwed with more precision and responded with more immediacy whenever the screw sat far enough? I also had the impression that the battery lasted longer than the Home Depot competitors. And when I did have to recharge, the thing revived in no time. In short, the Makita and I became inseparable. Kinda.

By now you're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Stick around and you'll appreciate the opener. Accustic Arts? The oddly spelled name points at a hifi firm seated in the Schwabian Lauffen by Stuttgart. They're nearly better known abroad than domestically. And Accustic Arts is a near one-stop shop—speaker production has stopped—with three hierarchical product tiers: Evolution, Top and Reference. Fairaudio already looked at their Power 1MkIII and Power ES. This time the Accustic Arts folks reached for the top rack and their best Tube Preamp II of the Reference Range. It's a machine whose aesthetics don't scream valves. But behind the opulent aluminium panel hidden from view sit two bottles per channel mounted military style i.e. horizontally.

The by now MkII circuitry is fully symmetrical or balanced and a refinement over the 2009 original. More on which anon. Once the 12kg deck took pride of place on the decoupled top shelf of my rack, it was time for a closer inspection. The industrial design celebrates right angles to be matter of taste but it's clearly functional. No demerits for workmanship. The surface finish of the astonishingly thick metal plates is very high. The stylized tube circuit diagram in the lid isn't mere eye catcher but also for ventilation. Though the deck never exceeds hand warm in use, it clearly benefits from plenty of thermal 'head room'.

The manual controls are well spaced. The quite sizeable source and volume selectors sit at the far left and right in typical Accustic Arts style to bracket two smaller buttons and three LEDS. The right control inverts absolute phase, the left one turns off the tubes whilst the solid-state electronics remain online. That's because transistors benefit from lengthier work hours to stabilize for top sonics. Now the circuit revives quickly after breaks. Clearly two useful features. The LEDs in red signal standby and go in blue. Polarity inversion shows up blue as well.

Self-assured is the fat fully chromed central plaque with company logo which even in my grandfather's coin collection would have impressed. On either side of said medal are two more chromed 'knobs'. The left one engages a quality headphone output which the original lacked. Activated, it automatically mutes the main outs. The right 'knob' is a removable dummy cover to hide the actual 6.3mm socket. Headfi heathens are thus spared a look into the reminding hole. This option and the phase inverter are exclusive to the MkII. 

The business end proves a real El Dorado for the hifi tester with an enviable array of socketry. Think 3 XLR and 2 RCA inputs. There's a home-theatre bypass, a fixed output and doubled-up XLR and RCA outputs to account for bi-amping, active subs and sundry. But that's not all. Over the predecessor this German preamp offers AC or DC coupling. The former inserts coupling caps into the signal path. Technically that's the safest mode since it eliminates DC offset and potential oscillations. According to the owner's manual, the maker seems to also sonically favour AC coupling in most instances but also says that the final choice will depend on the listener and his or her ancillaries. 

That the signal path relies on top-quality parts is a given. Hence no ubiquitous foil capacitors but 5% MKH caps with purportedly superior sonics. In my rig—I leashed up the MkII to both my Tenor Audio 75Wi valve monos and Audionet Amp I V2 stereo amp—DC coupling won the day by being more open, larger and showing the truer vocal timbres. The AC version felt a bit strained and less spacious but hit hard dynamically. I had no technical snafus either way with my valve monos or the sensible protection circuits of the Audionet. New owners of the Accustic Arts really ought to try both options.

By design a fully balanced circuit needs twice of everything, hence four circuit legs for stereo. This arrangement automatically cancels distortion for a presumably cleaner output signal bought with higher complexity. Accordingly the volume control (here the only remote-controlled element) as the well-known and reliable motorised Alps Blue is a quad-gang affair. Ditto the E83CC twin triodes which double up per channel. Here Accustic Arts eschews NOS ware of dubious availability and cheap Chinese mass production to go after military-grade types of top consistency and current European manufacture. When after 2'000 – 3'000 hours the time for replacement arrives, the company sells perfectly matched quads for less than €200. Pull out, plug in and off she goes. No adjustments required.

The symmetrizing of single-ended input signals and the current gain in the output stage rely on Burr Brown opamps, hence a hybrid circuit. Er... opamps for a top preamp? Accustic Arts aren't snobs and very pragmatic about the parts which technically make the most sense at particular junctions with an open budget. It's no secret that the costliest parts often don't make for the best sound. For Accustic Arts, the final selection has to pass muster with founder Fritz Schunck and his sons and current company managers Martin and Steffen. In the global market the firm has acquired an enviable reputation to serve as the first indicator for top performance. The power supply occupies the majority of the motherboard's left half. The two 75VA toroidal transformers might suggest dual-mono but in fact supply the valve and semiconductor circuits respectively. Particularly the former is more complex to deliver various perfectly stabilized voltages to the twin triodes. Suffice it to say that such material substance reflects on the sticker, here a proud €7'990. Just on coin this parks the MkII in the top range where one expects not just quality parts and build but first and foremost well above average performance.

Whilst Accustic Arts gear undergoes 200 hours of break-in at the factory, another weekend of acclimatizing in one's own digs shouldn't hurt. Here the Tube Preamp II replaced my aging but sonically still immaculate Gryphon Elektra, the former reference of this Danish luxury house then selling for a solid 18'000 Deutsch Marks. The first welcome lap wasn't about focused critical listening but stress free casual consumption for which I often use Young Sun Nah's Lento CD in my Ensemble transport. Great recording, calm to very calm cuts. At first the German preamp acted mostly invisible and the familiar number in essence sounded as it always has. Okay, the stage moved slightly backward to feel a bit less immediate than with the Gryphon. And perhaps Nah's voice on the Nine-Inch Nails' "Hurt" had been a tad harder before and was more femmy now, with sibilants less fiery. Even after a night of deeply inebriated excess Young Sun would never touch Johnny Cash's shocking version of the same song. But an 'only beautiful' reading was just fine by me. Tonally I had no complaints. Everything was as it should have been.

Another female vocal but no longer as streamlined as the ACT recording. Is Kerstin Asbjornsen's typically raw delivery on her latest I'll meet you in the morning due to the typically high consumption of cod-liver oil in Northern Norway? Here the Accustic Arts preamp didn't really have the answer but Asbjornsen's slightly scratchy intro of the "Take my mother home" opener came off without prettification. This would calm suspicions that the use of bottles could mean soft play. Not here. I'd rather call it naturalness coupled to a good dose of calm.

Calm? Lest that suggest civilized boredom, not. There's nothing boring about the deck's stoic nonchalance which even during the densest melée applies highly specific image focus. On Ketil Bjornstad's Seafarer's Song opus it's again Kerstin Asbjornsen's voice which for "Dreaming of the North" has to compete with an ecstatic electric guitar and Nils Petter Molvaer's solo trumpet. Again the Accustic Arts didn't lose its composure. All three parallel melodic lines of vocals, guitar and trumpet remained effortlessly discrete. That's the great calm of this machine against which many usurpers lose the big picture when the going gets thick.

But most importantly, this preamp always sounds exceptionally natural. Which, you might demur, should only be expected from a top example in this category. 100% correct. Does this imply extraordinary neutrality then? If I apply the relentless neutrality of a classic studio linestage like Funk's MTX Monitor as a standard, this gets a bit iffy. But just how neutral can a valve preamp get before it begins to deny itself? The Preamp II Mk2 demonstrates how. After all, the company has its roots in pro. There's thus just a tad of enveloping warmth, just enough for that decisive dose which renders voices and instruments with more flow, life and impact. Benefits? With my Canadian OTL monos I had a clarinet sound which approached the concert experience perilously close (Antonio Casimir Cartellieri Concert für zwei Klarinetten in B-Dur, audio DVD, Dabringhaus & Grimm). Really close.

For that it's not enough to capture the timbre of the woodwinds. During the live concert I also enjoy instant data concerning their size, placement and relationship within the space. And at home? The Tube Preamp II captured the virtual sources with high outline sharpness and air. Three-dimensional? Yes but not to the extent of hyper realistic plasticity which some top contenders apply. Whether it's actually sensible to expect being able to walk around a stereo image is up to each individual. In my season-ticket seats in the 8th row, eyes close, I hear pretty much exactly the perspective which the Accustic Arts delivered.

Apparently a lot of Schwabian self reliance flowed into this preamp. It's no surprise then that even highly critical ears will take to its correct scaling. The type of zoom effect my Gryphon Elektra can apply to render soloists clearly larger than life wasn't invoked. Even during the superb cadence of the third movement, the two clarinets retained realistic sizing. Where exactly Dabringhaus & Grimm cut their concert with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra I couldn't say but the Tube Preamp II clearly knew that it was a sizable if not exorbitant stage. The reduced orchestra was expertly layered in breadth and width. The Elektra casts its stage shallower if wider and less specific. If memory serves, a valve-fitted Nagra PL-L didn't manage to outdo the Accustic Arts either. Though I didn't have a price-matched current competitor handy, I'm quite certain that the Tube Preamp II on this score belongs at the top of this class.

For some dynamic water boarding I called on the choo-choo train to the coal mines of Johannesburg compliments of Hugh Masakela's Hope album and its "Stimela" track as an evergreen hifi show demo whose brachial impulses and unleashed dynamic eruptions stress a speaker to its ends. But it also contains quieter more poetic moments. Compared to the trumpet the outright soft-sounding Flügelhorn made for startling contrast which the German preamp handled nuanced and filigreed. A few moments later there are startling drum rolls and a few potent e-bass attacks. And the Tube Preamp II rendered these dynamically charged passages with the aplomb one expects of a top-flight contender. Valves 'n' bass is a theme that has transistor fans at ho-hum and tube lovers in pain. But Accustic Arts says, relax. Their machine reaches low and with control. As a hybrid, think of its bass as belonging purely into the semiconductor realm – even a tad better than the no-tube very bass-endowed Elektra. The Tube Preamp II's ability to contrast exact tone colours remains valid all the way into the abyss.

Only those keen on the blackest of electric basses in certain house music productions might find this deck's bass not dark and mighty enough. Everyone else should rest assured that in 99% of all cases a silly grin will be the result. When Keith Jarrett takes violinist Michelle Makarski on a classical spin, it's micro detail and small-scale dynamics which are tasked hardest. With J.S. Back's Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano Jarrett is purely about serving the composer to eschew virtuoso fireworks. Both musicians concertize without getting too serious and particularly the Jazz pianist seems to tap his toes here and there. Whilst this fare lacks the macrodynamic swings of Hugh Masakela, it's chock full of nuance. At times it's the tempi which get subliminally tweaked, at others Jarrett accentuates a repeat motif whilst Makarski responds with a skoch more bow pressure. This only comes off alive and spontaneous when a preamp doesn't brush such micro data under the carpet. Here the Accustic Arts showed itself to be an explicit guardian of minimalist structures.

Particularly Makarski's violin left no doubt about playback excellence. None of my other preamps is quite as adept at recreating the full colour breadth of the violin's sound. It was rather astounding how unpretentious and nearly as an aside the deck from Lauffen covered this. Whilst I'm leery to invoke 'analytical', it does fit where the multitudiousness of discrete information is concerned which here gets clarified. That of course has nothing in common with unnatural hardness or a glassy treble which are often invoked in tandem with analytical. This formidable level of magnification power without any sense of sharpness I've rarely encountered before and then sadly only with rather pricier preamp specimens. I can't report on the 1/4-inch jack in detail since I don't own a headphone. A short-term Sennheiser loaner suggested brilliant results which had me think of getting used to nightly large-scale orgies à la Bruckner. The sonic scenery felt charged, substantial and exceptionally transparent. 

Which returns us to the power screwdriver. The tool whose reliability and perfect adaptation to the task at hand won over my heart. Which is exactly how an owner might feel about the Accustic Arts Tube Preamp II. It's put together soundly and at high quality. At first glance the circuit doesn't appear extraordinary despite its part density and robust power supply. One wonders where the secret hides, the shot of voodoo or wrinkle of the esoteric which certain costly gear promises. There's no top-secret potted module. 

It's about engineering know-how and plenty of experience which arrives at highly natural results without miracle parts. With acoustic music the Tube Preamp II then really reaches for the stars. But it'd be wrong to pigeon hole it for specific music genres or styles since its flexibility makes it so interesting. Add the generous i/o options, the liberty to decide between AC or DC coupling and a quality headphone socket and you'll be hard pressed to find as universal a machine of equivalent sonic prowess.

The Tube Preamp II Mk2 doesn't appear in the discount pages could be cause for reluctance (owners keep them) But consider its purely domestic manufacture of a quality that should promise reliable operation year in and year out and at a very high performance plateau. Now reality kicks in. Those interested in giving this a whirl should note that the machine's special virtues might not translate over a quickie audition. It's during lengthier involvement that its special engagement in the service of serious playback comes to the fore. Should my wife wonder what to get me next Xmas, I really hope she reads this. Such a fine tool is the dream of any ... er, handiman.

The SCIENCE of ART - This is, quite simply, a magnificent phono preamplifier.
Matthias Böde

SUMMARY: Everyone in the room immediately realised that something special was happening, and so we put on one after another of our oft-heard test favourites: Chadwick’s brilliant “Jubilee” projected a sweeping orchestra into the listening room, followed by Diana Krall’s sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholic “Love Scenes”, while the Vivaldi violin concertos, which rushed from fragrant and lively to forceful, plunged into the expressive world of the baroque. Throughout, the TUBE PHONO II maintained a dignified aura of unassailability and perfection, effortlessly conveying every mood and thus underlining its musical range. With this phono stage, anything goes, even hard rock, as it proved with “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush.

Speaking of competitors, the Accutsic Arts has few to fear; for our testing, our hitherto solitary top reference Brinkmann Edison was used as a benchmark, and there was no need for any further comparisons – the two were on a par. While Edison was a bit more committed, the TUBE PHONO II delivered even the finest. There’s no question about it: the art of sound comes from skill and science and that’s just what Accustic Arts delivers

EXTENDED REVIEW: Accustic Arts has long since established itself among the top German manufacturers. Will the new TUBE PHONO II phono preamplifier live up to this exalted reputation?

The components of high-end specialist Accustic Arts often occupy the top positions in our tests and as a result can be found among the top references, as is the case with the TUBE PREAMP II/AMP II preamp/power amp or the TUBE DAC II D/A converter, the company’s current “Reference Series”.Now it has a newcomer with similarly lofty ambitions, the TUBE PHONO II phono preamplifier at just under NZ$20,000.

As is usual with the company’s products, the black or silver casing of this 12kg unit is made from thick aluminium profiles, with a “tube” logo milled into the lid.
Together with the typical large and flawless chrome-plated knobs on the front panel, this is a real eye-catcher, and an external statement of the efforts made within. Two pushbuttons allow temporary muting of the device and activate or shut down a tube stage (see box), which is as sophisticated as it is artfully integrated into a matrix of top-quality op-amps. That way the solid-state electronics, which are not affected by continuous operation, can remain warm, while the tubes are protected against unnecessary wear, LEDs indicating the operating status.

Practical values

The switch for MM and MC cartridges, for which separate RCA sockets are provided, is recessed into the rear panel of the TUBE PHONO II: the owner should choose between them before connecting the cable, because the simultaneous connection of two turntables isn’t permitted.

However, the separate adjustment according to capacitance (MM) and resistance (MC), which is done via the substantial outer buttons, is a good idea. With selectable 60, 160, 260 or 360 picofarad capacitance, the moving magnet input can be used even with bright-sounding cartridges, but while 100, 235 and 475 Ohm input impedance is offered for moving coil cartridges, some might still wish for a few more intermediate steps in this adjustment. The uppermost value is, by the way, twice as high: with the switch in the “V1” position its is, like the smaller impedances, applied directly to the RCA-MC input, but in the “V2” position it combines with the capacitive load between the first and second amplifier stages, which should enable the opening up of the sound image of high-impedance moving coils without the slight tonal brightening usually associated with them. Yes, the Accustic Arts engineers may be real bean counters, but clearly they fought for every bit of sound quality from the TUBE PHONO II.

The 40 and 60dB basic amplification for MM/MC are chosen correctly, but for the MC input you can also increase or decrease this standard value, which is best suited for average cartridges giving average levels, in 3dB steps via internal DIP switches. That’s because a larger widening of the MC gain range would have required unacceptable compromises in the circuitry – but, on request, the customer can have the preamp set up for a different basic value. You want 68 dB for your quiet Audio-Technica ART1000 or 54 dB for a comparatively loud EMT TSD75? No problem – and the +/-3dB switching remains. We like that – the freak in us is once again satisfied!

Set up was quite straightforward, as is usual for the brand’s components: a red adhesive dot marks mains phase, and with the preamp connected and warmed up, off you go! No buzzing, no noise – the TUBE PHONO II did exactly what was expected of it.

Every disc in top style

Our expectations, raised by the price and our inspiring experience with the other “references” of this manufacturer, were

entirely met. First on the turntable was Lyn Stanley’s brand-new album, “The Moonlight Sessions Vol. One”, a 45rpm disc pressed in a quality-conserving” One Step “process. Things couldn’t get any better, not least because the record revolved on Transrotor’s Rondino Nero, with an SME 3009 arm carrying the turntable manufacturer’s top MC cartridge, the “Figaro”, the “Fine Line” diamond stylus of which slipped smoothly through the flawlessly cut groove. In fact, the Accustic Arts made this audiophile jewel shine with all its sparkling, shimmering vitality and elegant grace, outlining the almost perfect analog recording in its full three-dimensionality and making clear the distances between the musicians. We have rarely heard vinyl sounding so good!

Everyone in the room immediately realised that something special was happening, and so we put on one after another of our oft-heard test favourites: Chadwick’s brilliant “Jubilee” projected a sweeping orchestra into the listening room, followed by Diana Krall’s sometimes cheerful, sometimes melancholic “Love Scenes”, while the Vivaldi violin concertos, which rushed from fragrant and lively to forceful, plunged into the expressive world of the baroque. Throughout, the TUBE PHONO II maintained a dignified aura of unassailability and perfection, effortlessly conveying every mood and thus underlining its musical range. With this phono stage, anything goes, even hard rock, as it proved with “Jacob’s Ladder” by Rush.

Accustic Arts does it all.

And how does the TUBE PHONO II deal with moving magnet cartridges? Just as well: as Diana Krall’s famous “Live In Paris” album revolved on the Transrotor, now fitted with Clearaudio’s Super-MM Charisma V2, the Accustic Arts created a very transparent image between the loudspeakers with the lively “Deed I Do”, its nuances underlying the unrestrained joy, verve and sure handling of the track. The phono stage gave free rein to the driving rhythm of the fast-paced piece, but also did not forget all the filigree reverberations and lip noises: sometimes suppressed by lesser amplifiers, they’re, essential for the realistic spatial representation and the natural fluidity of the performance. Here, they were all present and correct – and how!

Speaking of competitors, the Accutsic Arts has few to fear; for our testing, our hitherto solitary top reference Brinkmann Edison was used as a benchmark, and there was no need for any further comparisons – the two were on a par. While Edison was a bit more committed, the TUBE PHONO II delivered even the finest. 

There’s no question about it: the art of sound comes from skill and science and that’s just what Accustic Arts delivers
….. Matthias Böde

Awards

EDITORS CHOICE AWARD 2015

Accustic Arts PLAYER ES MK 2 receives Editor's Choice Award from Hifi & HIVI magazine

STEREO JAPAN - Best Products of the Year Award 2015

Testimonials

I ended up taking the rest of the week off work for a kaleidoscope of listening pleasure.

Thank you so much Terry for these little beauties. (Accustic Arts Reference Mono-II amps).

I can not believe just how great they are. The detail, tightness, and warmth is truly amazing.

Coming from a electronics background I always thought amplification was just a matter of numbers...DB gain, Current, Impedance etc that’s why I have always had the best source I can afford,thinking the sound can be only as good as the DAC’s etc at the front end.

But boy! Have I been proven wrong these Mono ll’s just confirm that amplifier design is more of an art (excuse pun) than simple maths.

I ended up taking the rest of the week off work for a kaleidoscope of listening pleasure.

 

Thanks again...I think I owe you a beer next time I’m up that way

 

....James

I never dreamt when I first contacted you that I would end up with the system that we now enjoy!

Hi Terry,

Many thanks to you and the delivery team for getting those magnificent speakers safely installed on Tuesday, they certainly are impressive in both appearance and sound!

 

You always wonder if you have made the right decision and if the new equipment will live up to your expectations especially an item as significant as this. After only 2 days the answer is a very definite YES!! 

 

I have always believed that the true purpose of a high end system is 2 fold – primarily to give enjoyment to the listener/s, but secondly in so doing it is to bring the artist or artists into the living room, if you were to close your eyes you should be able to imagine the performers right there in front of you.
The Magico S7 do that and much more. The sound is so clear and clean, a very wide sound stage and brilliant imaging. The resolution is so good that you are able to pick out each instrument and the timbre of each note. But it seems more than that as everything blends together into a brilliantly enjoyable experience.

 

I have played a number of tracks now but there were 2 in particular that had been played a number of times on my previous gear and were enjoyable but played through the Magico’s gave an amazing WOW it has never sounded like that before!! I’m finding that you do hear notes and tones not heard before, right through the range.
The reason for choosing the S7 was the base extension, and so far it is exceeding expectations, very tight, strong and extended but thankfully not overdone. The base is there when needed and is very precise and deep.

 

It’s a wonderful combination from the MSB DAC & UMT/ Acoustic Arts Mono III’s and now the Magico S7’s. Judy and I are looking forward to much enjoyment and many very pleasant hours exploring.

 

Thanks Terry for your advice over the last almost 2 years, I never dreamt when I first contacted you that I would end up with the system that we now enjoy!

 

Kind Regards

David

.....really enjoyed the Acoustic Arts REFERENCE TUBE PREAMP II

Hi Terry
Thought we would let you know that we really enjoyed the Acoustic Arts REFERENCE TUBE PREAMP II over the weekend. It has made a world of difference. Simon is appreciating the Magico's again now!
Thamnks
M

Videos

http://youtu.be/HdCE0v8tHgU

http://youtu.be/944OIbd6En0