A few years ago, I heard a remarkable jazz harpist, Edmar Casteneda, perform live at a festival. Imagine if Stanley Clarke played the harp instead of the bass, and you’ll have some idea. He’s recently done an album of duets Live in Montreal [Telarc], with Hiromi, the tiny-but-awesome Japanese jazz pianist. What becomes apparent, after a short while, is the similarity between the piano and the harp. Both hugely dynamic, somewhat percussive, full-range stringed instruments. And this lack of variety could be a problem, except that the Accuphase brings out layers of extra colour and tonal shading that keep you interested beyond the musical fireworks that this duo conjure up. It’s not an album I listen to often, being used more as a crash-test for lesser equipment, but the Accuphase has shown me that, actually, there’s more to it than just crazy levels of energy and dynamics and yes, I can quite easily sit through this for the sheer pleasure of it.
When you attend live performances (assuming we ever get to do that again) there is always a tiny moment at the start of every classical concert, when the conductor raises the baton but before the performance starts. Total silence. And that feeling of living, breathing, expectant souls in the room, about to share in something remarkable. The way the Accuphase goes about its business reminds me of that moment. It’s in the way the music is brought forth from a place of untroubled calmness. I think there’s something special in their low noise approach. The noise floor on most digital audio is, of course, well below accepted thresholds of audibility, and it’s certainly never intrusive in an audible sense. But I reckon noise is parasitic in nature. Even inaudible noise robs music of vitality and colour, at a subliminal level, and at its most intrusive, it can add an unwelcome edginess to a performance. We’re all used to it, we accept it, and it’s only when a remarkable performer comes along that we realise there might be another way. The Accuphase seems to take the precision and exactitude we should expect from top-flight players, and overlays that with still deeper layers of colour and texture, coherence and timing. Beautiful music is simply more beautiful; not airbrushed or soft-focus, rather it’s that what makes it beautiful is shown more clearly. We get a layer of flesh and blood, a sense of humanity that, at its heart, is what gives music its compelling interest and character.
Type: One box CD/SACD player
Disc types: CD; SACD; CD-R/-RW; DVD‑R/-RW/+R/+RW
Digital inputs: HS-Link (proprietary standard); USB; Toslink Optical; Coaxial S/PDIF
Digital outputs: HS-Link; Toslink Optical; Coaxial S/PDIF
Analogue outputs: Line level; Balanced (with switchable phase selector)
D/A converter: 4 per channel, parallel, MDS+ (delta-sigma)
Frequency response: 0.5Hz–50kHz (+0, -3.0dB)
THD + noise: 0.0006% (20-20,000Hz)
Signal to noise ratio: 120dB
Dynamic range: 117dB
Output level control: 0dB to -80dB (1dB steps, digital)
Size: 465 × 151 × 393mm (W×H×D)
Manufacturer: Accuphase Laboratory Inc.
UK Distributor: MusicWorks (UK) Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)161 491 2932