Talking of subtlety, there’s as much fine detail as you could wish for, including those vital ambience cues. It’s not a smooth, airbrushed presentation – any beauty is entirely down to the music. Unlike some more analytical amplifiers, detail isn’t pushed at you for its own sake; it is layered but not separated or highlighted, so the Accuphase seems to trigger the ‘music appreciation’ part of my brain more than the ‘music analytical’ part. You perceive the music as a gestalt rather than as a collection of elements, which is closer to what happens in a live experience. It’s that ‘rightness’ thing again. Key musical touch points: timing, pitch, tonal colour, dynamics, and no doubt a myriad of other parameters such as phase relationships, all rendered just a little bit more convincingly, so the brain has less work to do in maintaining a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. So, I now find I have the capacity to notice that when Tord Gustavsen plays piano on ‘At Home’ from Being There [ECM], while this is unquestionably jazz, his precision of touch has much in common with classical technique, for example V.kingur .lafsson’s exquisite rendering of Philip Glass Piano Pieces [DG]. And that’s not me getting all analytical again, it’s just the sort of thing I’d notice in a live gig, when I’m engrossed and not having to process the signal just to make sense of it. Dave Brubeck, ‘Unsquare Dance’ from Time Further Out [Columbia] and the little miracle of how everything comes to an end ‘just so’, is even more miraculous when you can hear how the quartet plays with the timing without ever letting it get away from them.
And on the subject of detail, I’ve already mentioned Keith Jarrett’s use of acoustic space, but live albums are also a particular pleasure. The audience appreciation in ‘Hotel California’ from Hell Freezes Over [Geffen], or the applause on Arcoluz [Enja] is not just window dressing, it contributes to the feeling of presence, of an event. And have you ever been to a live gig, then bought the CD and been disappointed?I remember being astonished by a set by a Joshua Redman quartet a year or two ago, but the CD of some of the same music, Compass [Nonesuch], sits largely unplayed. I dug it out again, and the music now makes more sense and I’m starting to remember why they blew me away when I was there.