In particular, there’s an absence of ‘ringing’ to the sound that only manifests itself when you go back to regular CD playing. Suddenly, after hearing it through the Accustic duo, CD sounds shiny and as if it’s played through a ring modulator (the thing that gave the daleks their voice, albeit not to anything like that extent). This pairing strips back the brightness of digital without sounding dull in the process. There are a few players that do this, but often at the expense of some bottom end energy. This one manages to keep the integrity of the sound intact right across the frequency range, delivering a potent mix.
Of course, this description makes the AA duo sound a bit sterile. Not a bit of it. These two play with fire and energy when the disc demands it, grace and subtlety when it needs those elements and a lot of balls when spanking through Led Zep.
Truth is, we put a range of discs down the Accustic chain – everything from old ‘leccy noodling from early Kraftwerk to the most mellow slice of Wes Montgomery guitar its possible to hear without falling into a coma and everything in between. Nothing foxed this pair, every piece of music fell into place beautifully, and kept coming back for more.
As suggested in the review of the Bryston CD player in the last issue, most high-end CD players seem to fall into either the accurate-but-dull or the entertainingbut- wrong camps. This is one of the very few exceptions. Accuracy and entertainment can be bed-fellows, but not very often it seems. The Accustic duo manages to combine the precision and exactness of the most accurate players with the sheer sense of musical fun of some of the more beat oriented designs. No, it will not out-resolve a Resolution Audio or out-pace a Naim, and neither will it provide that seemingly endless musicality of a Wadia or Zanden. But it gets close to all these things.
Slightly garish looks aside, there’s not much to find fault in the Accustic duo. It does what all good players try to do… get out of the way of the music. Which makes it perform remarkably well in a wide variety of systems and with all kinds of music. You could easily plonk the Accustic Arts Drive and DAC down at the head of a soft, comfortable valve system or a tight, upbeat, smallspeaker, solid-state system and the result would be the same… you get to bypass any encroachment on the sound by the digital stages. In fact, arguably the only real downside to the duo is their integrity. It’s not the sort of performance that lends itself to two-minute snap decisions. Instead, it’s the slow build, as it dawns on you that this combo is playing the long game and those more immediate-sounding players begin to sound peaky and wrong. Of the two, the DAC is always going to appear the more exciting product, because of that superhigh sample rate and word length.
It shouldn’t; the two both offer improvements over the norm and in combination, they are an unstoppable force, requiring a large cash injection to better the sound. It’ll take a few days to burn into your psyche, but the Accustic Arts Drive I Mk 2 and DAC I Mk IV turn in a memorable performance.