Well dear friends “audiophile-music lovers”, or not. On this occasion we are fortunate to have with us a product from the firm Accustic Arts, the previous one from its Reference series, Tube Phono II.
The Accustic Arts company is a reputed German firm created in 1997 and dedicated to the design and manufacture of “High end” Audio devices. It is located in Lauffem am Neckar, very close to the city of Stutgartt, home of the Porsche and Mercedes Benz firms and its main goal and reason for its existence and philosophy is the word “Precision”. To achieve this goal, all of their products are manufactured in Germany, putting the components through elaborate tests and individual tests of each product, which can last up to two weeks, before the component is considered good enough to be shipped.
His dedication to music and its best reproduction led the company to found an audiophile label in 2009 called ACCUSTIC ARTS AUDIOPHILE RECORDINGS (AAAR).
The finish of this Accustic Arts Tube Phono II is exceptional. As can be seen in the photos, it is a machine that exudes sobriety and good taste in abundance. Its appearance is just a sample and a good example of the care and attention to detail that has been taken in all facets, from the design and construction of its chassis to finally correcting its exquisite and neutral sound presentation to the point of exhaustion. I would like to highlight the exquisite hollow out of the brand’s logo on the top cover of the chassis, which demonstrates a high-level machining work. Its weight is correct, 12 kgrs, very much in line with what one expects from a device of this level, solid and with a chassis without resonances. Successful construction and design quality in this section.
The handling and adjustment of the Phono II is quite intuitive in its process. First connect the cables of the arm to the exclusively RCA inputs of the device (it has two pairs of inputs, one for MM capsules and the other for MC). Second, connect to the line preamp through its balanced or unbalanced outputs (here we do have both modes). Third, connect to the network, press the switch and wait a moment for the valves to heat up and that’s it. A highlight is the “Tubes off” function that allows the valves to be turned off while leaving all the other circuitry powered, ideal to avoid wear and tear while keeping everything else at operating temperature on the other hand. It is certainly a very clever stand-by type for a tube appliance.
Having said all this, we can get down to business and put this whole dissertation into perspective. In the case of the Accustic Arts we must bear in mind that this device is tremendously neutral, in every way. If we plan to add spice or cut something from the recording that we are playing, we are very clear about it. More powerful bass? No! More controlled? No way! Half more mellow? Don’t even dream about it! More opening in treble? Are you crazy? Larger scene and depth or more black background, impossible!
And so it is, the Tube Phono II reproduces exactly what is in the recording and what the artist and the engineer wanted to be transmitted to the listener, without any kind of sweetening or anesthesia that can rid us of the good or bad intentions of the listeners. creators of the musical work. And this is important to take into account when considering how we like our music, because the Accustic Arts will neither remove nor put, and whatever touch we want to give it, we will have to do it with another of the members of our team.
Some may wonder why we want to give it that little touch, to put it to our liking. Well, everyone will know that, but the truth is that, if one visits the teams of different people for years, they will observe that despite changing components and components, these teams continue to sound with nuances that tell us that this is undoubtedly the team of so and so, menganito, etc. Each one in the end ends up configuring their equipment in their own way, combining the different components to achieve a very specific result, and above all, very to their liking.
Well, the truth is that it had been a long time since I evaluated a device that integrated so well into my team, varying the result so little. I know perfectly what each unit of my analog source does, both the cymbal, the arm, the capsule, the wiring and of course the Zesto Audio preamplifier. I have had countless opportunities to change the different components within my team and I have listened to them in other configurations so I have a pretty good idea of what sound characteristics each module has. Well, the Accustic Arts produces exactly the result that you should expect from an absolutely neutral device, or at least as close as possible without being perfect. Let’s see, you can always find nuances, there is no “perfect” device, and in this particular preamplifier we are going to try to tickle German perfection. Personally, it really seems like an achievement. Very few gadgets you’ve ever heard do, and this is one of them.
Well then let’s start describing what The Tube Phono II sounds like.
The bass is defined, with just enough force to build the musical foundations on which the different cuts that we play on our turntable are built. Here there are no concessions to preciousness. Not one more gram of seasoning is added in order to add a “pinch” of spectacularity to the sound presentation. These German engineers are incorruptible and do not allow themselves to be carried away by any kind of temptation, much to my misfortune. But hey, this is the comment you might expect from a “weird” guy who has 4 15 “woofers and one 18” woofers to reproduce bass in stereo in a 45 m2 room. Anyway, for normal people it will be more than enough, easy to control, and without any coloration.
The mid frequencies are natural, open and airy. The female voices are reproduced with great ease and without any type of edges, ease is the right word. The masculine ones flow uphill from the low middle with the same disposition and relief that the feminine ones do. The feeling is that throughout the range there is a “silkiness” that at times defies the very limits of analog sound (forget that no digital recording can even dream of approaching this level of quality). With this said it may be understandable that opera in particular and choirs in particular are especially enjoyable and dangerously addictive, future owners are warned.
The sharp end is again an example of neutrality. Not a concession for the gallery, the correction is brutal, full definition as far as the recording allows, without adding a single comma to the information from the highest part of the spectrum. Crystalline and transparent are the two words that could best describe what one perceives at the highest end of the music, when the correct recording is played.
The scene is very adequate, the depth is very good, producing, if the equipment, the room and the recording allow it, an exceptional sense of layers that really gives us the impression of attending the real event. The width and height are very correct, although “personally” I would have appreciated a little more width. On the other side of the scale, the sensation of three-dimensionality, with a good recording, is exceptional, you can almost perceive the volume of the performers in the room, really impressive.
The dynamic presentation is only correct, again the engineers at Accustic Arts are not tempted to offer a presentation that is as neutral as possible. Not an iota of spectacularity is wasted in the face of concessions to the gallery, what is in the recording is what is offered, not a little extra help. In my opinion and for my taste it is a bit timid and for this reason I would recommend marrying the Tube Phono II with capsules that stand out for their high energy and dynamic delivery. I would combine it for example with a Clearaudio capsule, which would undoubtedly add that little bit of spice that in my opinion the dynamic response of the Tube Phono II needs.
The detail is one of the strengths of this device and the level it provides is at times overwhelming. The audiophile will undoubtedly enjoy finding those moments of catharsis, in which one realizes that he is diving into the recording at a depth that he did not think possible before, and with a clarity at the height of the most incredible and exquisite waters. Coral reef. On the other hand, the silences are also exceptional, causing on more than one occasion those “moments of creeps on the neck”, which will once again make the most recalcitrant fan fall in love.
Accustic Arts Tube Phono II Preamp System Conclusions
In general, the Tube Phono II is a very balanced device with a sound presentation of true height. The truth is that it is difficult to find a weak point to this previous one. In most of the sections, if that is possible, it borders on perfection, offering a representation of the sound event that I suspect is the most faithful to reality that one can hope for. However, for me, and making it clear that it is only from my point of view and taste, it suffers a bit of that little bit of bad milk in the dynamics and intensity of the bass that one of your servants loves so much. I understand that for 99% of audiophiles, this will not represent the biggest inconvenience, but rather the opposite. In short, a device of a really great class and level.
- 1 x MM (RCA)
- 1 x MC (RCA)
- 1 x balanced (XLR)
- 1 x unbalanced (RCA)
- MM: 47.5 kΩ / 60 pF – 160 pF – 280 pF – 380 pF (selectable)
- MC: 100 Ω, 235 Ω, 475 Ω (selectable)
- MM: 95.6-times / 39.6 dB
- MC: 960-times / 59.6 dB (factory setting)
- 770-times and 1460-times (optional)