Accustic Arts REFERENCE TUBE PRE-II Mk2 fully balanced Preamp + Headphone amp

AA 25 PA REFPRE
NZ$ 19,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Accustic Arts

High-End from ACCUSTIC ARTS® is expected to sound natural and detailed,

New
The General Concept of the State-Of-Art - TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 - Audiophile Reference preamplifier with “tube hybrid” concept with 4 military tubes (2 tubes per channel) 

 STEREO REVIEW SUMMARY:
“The swabians made their big amplifier even more comfortable and at the same time implemented a sonic upgrade. Now the TUBE PREAMP II – MK 2 more than ever ranks among the best preamplifiers on the market and remains STEREO top reference.”..........Matthias Böde of STEREO on the TUBE PREAMP II – MK 2 

6 MOONS - 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.
• 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.
• The everyday usefulness of this machine is admirable.
• Concomitant with its price fit'n'finish exhibits quality and the user interface has no issues. 
• Plenty of i/o. AC and DC coupling is up to the owner.
• The headphone output adds value. 

CLEAVER CIRCUIT DESIGN: The circuitry 
The ACCUSTIC ARTS® TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 is a preamplifier with an exceptional and uncompromising design along the lines of the so-called tube-hybrid concept. This concept, also an integral part of our TUBE-DAC II, combines the advantages of transistor technology with the advantages of the tube principle. Tubes are excellent voltage amplifiers, but can only supply a limited amount of current. As a result, in the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 we place the tubes exactly there where these clear advantages can influence the acoustic pattern, i.e. for the voltage amplification. In places where current has to be supplied, e.g. for impedance conversion, we use the proven premium IC OPA627® from Burr Brown / Texas Instruments. This combination allows us to achieve very low-resistance outputs which are also characterised by a high current capability. We use solid state technology and tubes to take advantage of their physical characteristics to realise an exceptional, analogue sound experience with an extremely low harmonic distortion and excellent harmonic distortion spectrum which sets standards.

As opposed to most tube preamplifiers, the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 is in fact fully balanced, i.e. with 4 completely separate amplification stages from the signal input to the signal output.

The 4 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 enables perfect channel separation.

The loudness is adjusted via a high-end selective, high precision 4 channel potentiometer. It is natural that the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 functions completely according to the proven Class A principle.

ELABORATE: The power supply

An ideal power supply is a precondition for a high-end preamplifier. 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 2 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).

PERFECT: The tubes 

There is no dispute that the quality of the tubes is decisive for the quality of a unit based on tube technology. Tubes are sensitive components and thus have to be carefully selected and tested. We manually select the tubes and make pairs according to strict testing and measuring criteria to ensure that only perfect tubes are used in the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2. Before the tubes are fitted to a TUBE PREAMP II, they have already passed a two-stage inspection process: one inspection carried out by our supplier and a second inspection made by our own specialists.

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. The TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 only leaves the premises of ACCUSTIC ARTS® after the requirements have been 100% met. This high level of scrutiny guarantees an extremely low failure rate of the tubes and ensures many years of uninterrupted musical pleasure.

The type of tube used is a so-called dual triode tube type E83CC and belongs to the tube group 12AX7. The tubes meet the high requirements of the military and come from the current production of a European manufacturer. The sound can be described as: pleasantly warm with a very balanced sound pattern, a sophisticated bass range, clear high frequencies, good dynamics and low harmonic distortion.

We prefer tubes from the current production and do not use NOS tubes, as these are not available in sufficient quantity and not available in consistent quality. 

QUALITY: The rest of the components 

The TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 guarantees absolute perfection through the exclusive use of selected components with low tolerances and highest quality grade. A number of the individual components are re-measured by hand and sorted into matching pairs.

The housing is also uncompromising: solid, carefully crafted aluminium plates combined with chrome-plated rotary parts in brass allow for a high quality look and surface feel and excellent stability. Stability is important to ensure that the tubes can work undisturbed and are not compromised by any vibration present in the housing. 

SIMPLE: Operation 

As with all ACCUSTIC ARTS® products, the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 is also easy to operate. This is a welcome change for many music lovers today when most electronic devices are overloaded with partly unnecessary functions.

The basic functions of the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2 are operated by two chrome-plated rotary controls. Both controls are more or less built to last for ever. The rotary controls, for example, are solid and are equipped with gold-plated contacts, which are corrosion-resistant and also enable many thousands of switching cycles. 

PHENOMINAL: The sound experience 

The result of top quality individual components, detailed development work, innumerable sound tests, careful production and involved measurement tests is a sound experience of the highest perfection.

In combination with the other reference series products of ACCUSTIC ARTS®, music is transformed into an incomparable sound experience “Handmade in Germany”.

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 number of features requested by customers. 

The changes of the MK2 version are as follows: 
1. Four analogue preamplifier outputs 
The original TUBE PREAMP II was equipped with two fully symmetrical outputs and one unsymmetrical output. We have integrated a further unsymmetrical output in the new TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 to take into account the wish for bi-amping configurations in the case of an unsymmetrical connection. In addition, the outputs are available with AC‑coupling and DC-coupling.

2. Option of AC-coupling or DC-coupling for the preamplifier outputs
In recent years our customers have continually made requests with regard to AC-coupling and DC-coupling and a number of customers wished to have their devices either completely AC-coupled or DC-coupled. Some customers also asked for both possibilities. As already mentioned above, the new device integrates both variations so that each customer now has the total freedom to make his own choice.

The question of which variation sounds “better” mainly depends on the design of the connected power amplifier. There are some power amplifiers which are better connected via AC‑coupled preamplifier outputs and other power amplifiers which achieve their full sound spectrum via DC-coupled preamplifier outputs. The question is ultimately also one of personal taste. We do not intend to enter into such “philosophical” discussions, but would prefer to let the listening impressions of the customer make the decision.

a. What does AC-coupling of the preamplifier outputs mean?
The AC-coupling of a preamplifier output is made using a capacitor and a resistor. The selection and the size of the capacitor are important factors for a perfect result. The TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 is equipped with high quality, very rare 5% MKH capacitors, i.e. no wound film capacitors. This ensures the best possible low inductance.

b. Advantages of AC-coupling from our point of view
1. Avoids operating point adjustments caused by undesired, but often unavoidable DC components in the signal.
2. Reduction of high frequencies which can be efficiently filtered out by the integrated capacitor.
3. Greater security (protection of DC components) in the case of defects, in particular with the connection to third party equipment or connection of tube power amplifiers.

c. What sounds better?
There is no general answer to this question. With an unbalanced device connection, i.e. via the outputs OUT 3 and OUT 4, the result with AC-coupling and the used types of capacitors is usually a more delicate, spatial, slightly softer and more musical acoustic pattern. The DC-coupling, on the other hand, sounds slightly more “direct”, “more overt” and perhaps slightly “more analytical”. For a symmetrical device connection there is no general answer, whereby the result depends largely on the connected power amplifier.

Case 1: Power amplifier connection via balanced single output (= “usual case”, i.e. NO bi-amping).
1.) Balanced connection of the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 to ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II: use OUT 1 (AC) 
2.) Balanced connection of the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 to a third-party power amplifier: use OUT 1 (AC).

Case 2: Power amplifier connection via unbalanced single output (= “usual case”, i.e. NO bi-amping).
1.) Unbalanced connection of the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 to ACCUSTIC ARTS AMP II: use OUT 4 (DC) 
2.) Unbalanced connection of the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 to a third-party power amplifier: use OUT 3 (AC).

Case 3: Connection of power amplifier via two outputs (bi-amping).
If two power amplifiers are connected to the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 (bi-amping), the recommendation is to control the bass range of the connected loudspeakers via the DC‑coupled outputs OUT 2 and OUT 4 and to connect the mid and high range via the AC‑coupled outputs OUT 1 and OUT 3.

3. Integrated headphone amplifier
High quality headphones are becoming more popular and as a result there have been a number of customer requests for an integrated headphone output. The headphone output is protected against dust under the chrome-plated brass cover cap labelled “PHONES” and is switched via the “PHONES ON” button on the left. We believe this switching ability to be absolutely necessary for the sound quality as the music signal is then only sent to the used connection. All possible interference factors are thus removed.

4. Uncontrolled output (FIXED OUT) for connection of an external headphone amplifier
A number of audiophile customers already possess a high quality headphone amplifier and wish to continue using it. To enable the best connection to the TUBE PREAMP II - MK2, we have integrated a switchable, uncontrolled output designed especially for this purpose. This output is also switched via the “PHONES ON” button.

5. Analogue input “Surround bypass”
The analogue input SURROUND from ACCUSTIC ARTS® is a configuration possibility which allows the “loop through” of a signal of a surround processor through the TUBE PREAMP II – MK2 without further amplification. This means the volume of this signal is controlled by the external home cinema processor or amplifier and not from this preamplifier. This enables connection of a high-end audio system with a home cinema system without quality loss.

6. Phase switch for 0° and 180°
Some customers and importers have requested this phase reversal. We have responded with the integration of such a switch.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Related

Videos

Features

TUBE 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

Specifications

Inputs: 
3 x fully balanced high level inputs (XLR) 
2 x unbalanced high level input (RCA) 
1 x surround bypass (RCA) 
Outputs: 
2 x fully balanced line-out (XLR) 
2 x unbalanced line-out (RCA) 
1 x unbalanced fixed out (RCA) 
1 x headphone output (1/4" stereo female jack)
Maximum gain: 
4-times / 12 dB (balanced to balanced) 
8-times / 18 dB (unbalanced to balanced)
Signal difference left/right: 0.2 dB (from 0 dB to –40 dB)
Input resistance: 
balanced: 2x 50 kΩ 
unbalanced: 50 kΩ
Output resistance: 
balanced: 2 x 34 Ω 
unbalanced: 34 Ω 
AC coupled with 2.2 µF
Max. output voltage: 
balanced: 19.8 Veff on 10 kΩ 
unbalanced: 9.9 Veff on 10 kΩ
Signal-to-noise-ratio: -90 dB (A weighted)
Intermodulation distortion: 0.006 % with 4.0 Veff on 10 kΩ
Distortion (THD+N): 0.002 % with 4.0 Veff on 10 kΩ (22 Hz – 30 kHz)
Tube type: 4x Dual triode E83CC / 12AX7 – selected and matched
Power consumption: approx. 20 watts (unit totally on) 
approx. 3.5 watts (tube section in “standby" mode)
Dimensions: 100H x 482W x 375D mm 
Weight: 12 kg 

Reviews

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
......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 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. 

Testimonials

.....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

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