Accuphase E-650 integrated amplifier

Integrated amplifiers

The more I listen, the more I’m becoming undecided about whether there’s a definite ‘house sound’ to Accuphase. Conventional wisdom often describes it as tending to ‘warm’ rather than ‘lean’, though I think that’s a mis-characterisation. I can see where it comes from: take ‘After the Gold Rush’ on Hymns of the 49th parallel [Nonesuch], the bass has real texture, strings are full and lush, the piano has power, a richly sonorous presence, and kd lang’s voice is creamy and full of character. But these are just reflections of the true sounds of the instruments, it’s not any kind of euphonic coloration. I think, rather, that it’s less of a ‘house’ sound, and more about the form of experience. When you listen to live musicians perform, there’s no tendency to analyse the sound as warm, bright, lean, or any of the other adjectives we fumble around with, it just is what it is. And that’s where I find myself with the Accuphase E-650: it’s easy to forget about the sound and just experience the music. Any perceived warmth is the natural warmth of real live musicians, the sort of warmth you experience in a concert hall with a live orchestra: living, breathing souls playing real physical instruments in your presence. The music as rendered by the E-650 simply has more shape, solidity and definition; it is what it is.

The Jacques Loussier Trio’s Theme and Variations on Beethoven Allegretto from Symphony No. 7 [Telarc] is a case in point, it’s not simply that the trio’s phrasing and timing is absolutely on the money, it’s that the whole musical envelope is more natural and convincing. The instruments are richly coloured and three-dimensional, and dynamics and timing are so effortless you don’t even notice. The overall effect is to refresh the music and show it in a new light; old and familiar tracks are newly interesting, but the music is brought out, rather than forensically examined. I didn’t find myself marvelling at the Renaud Garcia Fons trio’s timing on ’40-Dias’ from Arcoluz [Enja], because I was too busy enjoying it’s ‘rightness’ and the renewed sense of intrigue that gave it, right from the opening bars. Listening to Keith Jarrett, ‘Hymn of Remembrance’ from Hymns and Spheres [ECM], it was suddenly apparent that he wasn’t just improvising at the organ, but also making use of the vast and reverberant acoustic space to contribute to the music. These are not subtle musical experiences, but they derive from something being ‘right’ rather than ‘good enough’.

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