ACCUPHASE A-65

MJ12.01.2011

Power amplifiers

The A-65 has a better bottom-end control and though it does not equal to the solidness of, let's say, Bryston or Plinius, the improvement has moved the new amp in the right direction. Overall, the Accuphase A-65 is more refined, comfortable and embracing. The sound is free of constrains and breathes. Interestingly enough you would realize it especially when music stops: listen to ambient decays, a vocalist taking a breath, soft noise of a violinist’s jacket or a cymbal’s trailing off into the silence of a studio.

 

100% reference

Function and form

100%
Ease of use
79%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The A-65 is built with no compromise and with fanatical attention to detail Accuphase is famous for. It is a pure class A amplifier with power MOS-FET devices in parallel push-pull configuration. Should you need a bit more technical information please refer to product sheets that are available at Accuphase’ s website and that share unusual amount of information including the block schemes and photos of the PCBs.
I may perhaps point out that the A-65 does not have a separate power supply for each channel and there is only one 1kVA toroidal transformer to be found inside. However, the toroid is air-tight sealed in a non-resonant aluminum housing filled with damping material with pre-defined heat transfer characteristics. Remove the lid and you’ll be surprised by two oversized filtering devices with the capacity of 82,000pF. Signal paths are kept completely balanced as is the rest of electronics inside that are mounted directly onto massive heat-sinks and Accuphase employs current rather than voltage feedback to reduce phase shift. The inner layout is very neat and tidy, the finest I have ever seen.

What is significantly different in the A-65 vs the A-60 is its input stage which is designed as an instrumentation amplifier (a kind of differential amplifier that is used in measurement and test equipment). By using this type of input stage Accuphase would like to achieve great accuracy, better stability, less input impedance sensitivity and lower distortion values.

The A-65 is declared as a 2x60W amplifier into 8 ohms, however, this is a very conservative rating; the maximum power output is usually on very safe side in Accuphase’s manuals but if you read them carefully or measure the actual output on a test bench you would soon reveal that the A-65 is almost perfectly linear from 1 to 16 ohms, which consecutively means that it can deliver astonishing 2x118W into 8 ohms or 2x202W into 4 ohms. Provided your listening room is not the size of a hangar and your speakers are normally sensitive the power reserve should be ample. The easiest thing to do to check the real power requirements in your listening environment is to turn on the digital read-out on the A-65’s display.

I really like Accuphase’s famous speaker posts with oversized plastic nuts and plenty of room around. The grip is extreme so be careful not to squash your wires. It is possible to use banana plugs and it makes the Accuphase’s post even better than the winged nuts of Mark Levinson which are the runner-ups. From the rear there are balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) inputs, IEC outlet and toggle switch for switching the amp into a DUAL MONO (bi-amping) mode or into a bridged mode. In the bridged configuration the A-65´s output rises to 480W into 4 ohms.

The fascia is occupied by large display (a bit wider and lower than with the A-65) with all the indicators: the red digit read-outs, bar display, input mode and configuration mode LEDs. Unlike the A-60 the new Accuphase hides its control buttons under a cover, including a gain selector with four settings: 0, -3, -6 and -12db; if your speakers are sensitive enough then a lower setting is going to further minimize residual noise.

Bass management

Weight
90
Slam
88
Articulation
86

I assume that the Accuphase is an ultimate choice for the listeners who prefer rich orchestrations (classical pieces, jazz big bands, world music). The others may find to pay the €17,000 a little inappropriate. However, give a listen to Dave Gahan’s voice (Depeche Mode) and you may be surprised by the new textural magic that was lent to the vocal by the A-65. The amplifier transforms any piece of music into something that is not available on lesser machines.

Also the pummeling electronic beats of VNV Nation can profit from dynamic contrasts between individual synthesized lines (VNV Nation, Empires). The A-65 has a firm grip on speakers and from the faintest sounds to extreme loudness levels (the very moment when plaster on walls starts to crumble) there is no shift or alteration in inner ratios of a recording – no sense of compression or getting out of breath.

Fragments of VNV Nation is like a relentless grinding machine that is impossible to stop – it features punishing rhythm overlaid by electronic clouds and vocal declamations with choral samples thrown in here and there. All of a sudden the music stops just for a fraction of second to start again with even higher intensity. The Accuphase introduces a human factor into the piece – it nicely delineates the vocalist and puts stress on the heat coming out of electronic boxes by which the sound was created. When I listened to the same track through Bryston 28B-SST monoblocks, I was receiving more mechanized techno-sound that was definitely on the side of machines rather than humanity. Still, the Brystons had punchier bass and in comparison the A-65 was a tad softer with more rounded notes. When it comes to bass the Bryston (and the New Zealand’s Plinius too) are the best in the field.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
89
Air
90
Transparency
89

Now, there is a superb live recording rotating in my SACD player - DCD´s Desert Song (Dead Can Dance, Towards The Within, Mobile Fidelity DSD remaster) – and the sonic nirvana continues. Strokes on tabla and a big drum are expansive and the Accuphase moves me in time and space to a very ambient and dynamic soundstage. It is difficult to talk about bass, mids or highs as the whole frequency range is virtually seamless in a very organic fashion. A rattling tambourine sound is exquisite with its impeccable resolution and life-likeness and I could swear I can see the instrument moving in the space. Both male (I am Stretched on Your Grave) and female (Persian Love Song) vocals are very real and soon it is clear that mids are where the A-65 is at home with ease. I´ve been listening to high end audio for two decades and the A-65 remains unrivalled in this aspect – at least for my ears.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
86
Dynamics
90
Temporal resolution
90

Les Parfums de la Nuit is the second part of Debussy´s Ibéria suite (Jésus Lopéz-Cobos, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Music of Turina and Debussy). We are lured, bit by bit, into a refined orchestration that blooms with colors, lights and shadows and tactile impressions. The Accuphase works with the same palette like the composer and reveals dozens of musical layers in a fashion that is breathtaking.

Muted strings render a silky canvas that seduces a listener deeper and deeper into darkened gardens. The A-65 provides both your typical audiophile detail (like an unwanted resonance of a violin´s string) and the radiant warmth of instruments. Before one can realize that he or she is listening to an extremely well reproduced music, the piece takes a turn and our ears are caressed by a haunting oboe that leads us back into fragrant gardens under deep blue sky with the first stars, that are astonishingly delineated by sounds of a celesta, tambourine and xylophone. Everything is perfectly precise, perfectly natural and perfectly locked within the soundstage. Accuphase can do this and it can do much more.

Spatial resolution

Holography
92
Soundstage width
91
Soundstage depth
92

The soundstage is not so wide as with Musical Fidelity´s Titan or Plinius´s SA-Reference – both know better the secret how to remove side walls of your listening room. The Accuphase is the master of the soundstage depth: it removes the rear wall and opens the room into infinity that is limited only by the quality of a recording. The front to back soundstage is multilayered, expanding and scaled by millimeters rather than by meters. The result is an aural bliss bordering with magic.

Price as reviewed:460 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

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

Associated components

  • Sources: C.E.C. TL-51XR, Accuphase DP-78, Accuphase DP-600
  • Amplifiers: Bryston 28B-SST2, Plinius SA Reference, Mark Levinson No. 432
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: NAudioquest Oak, Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Krautwire Fractal,
  • Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Virgo V, Revel Ultima Studio2, Dynaudio Confidence C1
  • Power conditioning: Furutech Daytona, Nordost Thor (modified), Nordost Valhalla, Kubala-Sosna

Gallery

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