ACCUPHASE E-450

MJ02.08.2011

Integrated amplifiers

The Accuphase could create the illusion of Diana Krall’s presence in my listening room – it is not only a headless or bodyless voice in the room but the whole person performing just for you. If I should be nitpicking then the E-450 could not lend the fourth dimension to the Diana’s voice: I lacked the inner depth and harmonic richness that is reserved for the best. To have this (and more) you have to invest into one of Class A hungry watt-eaters in Accuphase’s line-up. They have few.

Function and form

88%
Ease of use
78%
Sound
100%
Appearance

In Accuphase they use current feedback and MOSFET topology in push-pull arrangement and the E-450 is not an exception. If you open its case you would see a massive toroidal transformer encapsulated in a not less massive steel sarcophagus to be shielded effectively from the rest of the amp’s circuitry, large filtering capacitors and typical cleanliness and neatness of Accuphase’s layout. The input stage is totally decoupled from the power stage both electrically and mechanically – the E-450 is practically a preamp and a power amp in a single case.

A few years ago Accuphase arrived with a revolutionary volume control system (AAVA) that finds its place also in the E-450, however, in the second generation incarnation. The AAVA-II completely removes variable resistors from the signal path – the input signal is converted from a voltage into a current by means of proprietary circuitry and the current is then controlled by current switches before it is converted back to the voltage. As the music signal does not have to pass through resistors the whole volume control process is lower in distortion and shows a better signal-to-noise ratio, yet it is completely analog process – no adjustments happen in a digital domain. The number of steps of such a volume control is 216, which yields over 65 thousand (!) possible adjustment steps – it is well beyond the resolution thresholds of our audiophile ears.

Who has ever touched an Accuphase’s amp knows that it is always a beyond words experience - the craftmanship is impeccable and speaks for itself. On the E-450, there is an input switch knob on the left, a volume knob on the right and sizeable illuminated VU meters in between. Whatever else you need to control the amplifier is hidden under a front subpanel so nothing distracts you from the purity of the E-450’s design. Once you open the subpanel you’d find a full set of controls: a speaker selector that enables switching between two pairs of speakers (the E-450 has two sets of speaker binding posts), a MUTE control, controls for TAPE and REC, knobs for tone controls, phono board adjustments and buttons to switch on and off the VU meters and loudness compensation circuits. The E-450’s tone controls have quite a wide range of operation of +/-10dB from 300Hz and 3kHz, however, it is possible to exclude them from the signal path completely by simply pushing a button. The loudness compensation work very effectively and therefore at night you can give +8dB boost to the frequencies below 30Hz which makes low level listening much more enjoyable.

The Accuphase E-450 offers two pairs of balanced XLR inputs and four pairs of single-ended RCA inputs. In emergency you can also use its tape inputs. It is important to know that should you need to use the E-450 as a standalone preamp (or a power amp) then you can only do that via RCA (no balanced input or output is available in this configuration).

Bass management

Weight
84
Slam
83
Articulation
81

The jazzy number She´s Not There (Christy Baron, Steppin´) shows that the E-450 provides less deep and less enticing double-bass notes than the E-560 that is higher in Accuphase's catalogue. The E-450 highlights strings rather than the body of the instrument. Also texturally the E-450 does not reach the refinement of the E-560 and stays on surface where the E-560 explores hidden territories and reveals more. Shortly said, the E-450 is more rocking whereas the E-560 is more harmonically complex.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
87
Air
86
Transparency
85

Should you need to transport yourself into sonic bliss than right ingredients are the following: 1 pc of the E-450 and 1pc of Neck To Neck CD (Mark Knopfler & Chet Atkins). The sophisticated precision of the E-450 meets the analog warmth of Columbia house from the very beginning of digital era when the CD format was still young and unspoilt. The Neck To Neck surfs the very same wave like legendary Sheffield Lab recordings – rich and full drums, sparkling textures of Atkins’ Gibson and relaxing virtuosity of Mark Knopfler. The sound is very dynamic, tonnally colorful and wonderfully illuminated by a soft golden light. Details are decoded from the CD to the last bit and the Accuphase E-450 provides a listener with embracing delicacy and maturity that is very addictive.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
84
Dynamics
84
Temporal resolution
84

The Accuphase E-450 provides 3 switched power outlets on its rear panel. The outlets can accommodate up to 200W of connected appliances. I am not sure if this is a standard version as on the pictures provided by Accuphase on their website there are no outlets whatsoever. However, the outlets might have been extremely useful to connect a CD player, a sub, an external DAC etc. if they were not designed only to take flat two pin connectors. Looking around my house I could find only a very old shaving machine to have a compatible plug. I suppose that an amp in Accuphase’s category should be equipped with Schuko industry standard.

Spatial resolution

Holography
88
Soundstage width
89
Soundstage depth
89

Another example where the Accuphase truly excels is the the magnificent recording of Erich Leinsdorf’s rendition of Sergey Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, taken in legendary Metro Goldwyn Meyer studios for Sheffield. The soundstage of this recording is a bit more complicated as musicians perform on a tilted platform so, with high-resolving gear on hand, you should be able to hear both vertical and horizontal layout of the stage. The E-450 could do that and provided me with a sensationally smooth and communicative ambience that enabled me to immerse deep into the recording. I like the moment when a listener becomes a participant of the performance rather than just an observer. The events in the orchestra are not isolated and a hand-over of violins and cellos is very natural as opposite to the typical left-right classification of less gifted amplifiers. Horns are almost abrasive through the E-450 and it is the dynamic drive that lends almost hard rock quality to Dance of Knights.

Price as reviewed:200 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Nisel SK, Bratislava, tel. +421 905 203 078

Associated components

  • Sources: Luxman D-05 SACD, Audio Analogue Maestro Rev. 2.0 CD
  • Amplifiers: Accuphase E-560,  Accuphase E-450, Luxman L-590AX
  • Loudspeakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1, Xavian Giulia, Xavian Preludio
  • Interconnects and speaker cables:  Krautwire Fractal, Homegrown Audio DNA, plus all speakers cables from our megatest
  • Power conditioning: Vincent Power, Black Rhodium Avenger DCT++

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