Amplifier of the Year $2000-$10,000
Amplifier of the Year $2000-$10,000
If amplifiers were listed in a phone book, this one would clearly be at the top of the first page. It would be an Italian phone book, of course, with the brand being designed and manufactured entirely in Italy, near Pisa. The new AAcento bears many similarities to the company’s Maestro Anniversary released a few years earlier, but it is significantly less expensive at $5590 (compared with over $12,000). One of the key differences is its lower power rating of 100W per channel into eight ohms compared with 150W from the Maestro — though as our colleagues at Australian Hi-Fi comment, that difference is less than many will think. Doubling a power output, say, doesn’t double the available volume — you would actually need an amplifier that’s 10 times more powerful in order to do that (a difference of 10dB). If you do the maths, 150W is only 1.76dB more powerful than the AAcento’s 100W. And the smallest difference said to be perceptible to the human ear is generally held to be 1dB when using test signals and 3dB when using music, so really, the additional grunt will be primarily useful in giving higher power output into low impedances and with transients if you have inefficient speakers. Otherwise much of the internal circuitry of the AAcento is either identical to or insignificantly different from the Maestro. Build quality is also identical. The remote control is also identical.
So all in all, then, we found the performance from this amplifier to deliver excellent value given the price. Its power was able to deliver amazing dynamic capabilities without a single moment when we thought more was required. We loved its presentation of pace, rhythm and timing, the way the AAcento was able to separate complex and contrastingly syncopated rhythms, and to deliver beautiful high-frequency sound. Vocal delivery might be a highlight among the highlights, for both male and female singers alike. From the dusky sounds of Frank Sinatra to the wails of Minnie Riperton to the strangeness of Björk, the sadness of Joni Mitchell, the croak of Leonard Cohen or the raspiness of Bob Dylan, the AAcento just nailed their sonic deliveries individually, so it’s almost as if you’re listening to the same music you’ve always owned, but it’s suddenly been miraculously re-mastered to extract the absolute highest fidelity.
The AAcento also shares the same basic control and protection circuits of the Maestro — something Audio Analogue calls ‘microcontroller-based equipment management’. It allows clever tricks, such as being able to control all the amplifier’s functions using the single rotary control on the front panel (a remote control is also provided), including selection between the five inputs, which include a fine phono stage switchable between moving magnet and moving coil (neither this nor the front panel headphone output appear on the
JUDGES’ COMMENT “A truly special stereo hi-fi amplifier from Italy, the AAcento combines clever design and tech with a thrilling performance.”
Maestro, we note), three further analogue RCA inputs and one XLR balanced pair. This last has what Audio Analogue calls a ‘native’ differential input, because according to designer Andrea Puccini the negative terminal, which would normally be part of a feedback loop, can be used for signal, because the AAcento does not use global feedback.
Audio Analogue’s AAcento would seem to offer rather more bang for your buck than the Maestro, and is a true hi-fi design at a highly competitive price. It can make your music live anew.
More info: www.absolutehiend.com.