Am­pli­fier of the Year $2000-$10,000

Am­pli­fier of the Year $2000-$10,000

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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.

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