What the heck is an Articulation Control Console? To a cynic, it’s nothing more than a fancy name for a speaker cable. To others, the Articulation Control Console represents the culmination of everything MIT founder Bruce Brisson has learned over his 35-plus-year career designing interfaces between a power amplifier and a loudspeaker.
What everyone will agree upon, however, is the breathtaking price of MIT’s ACC 268 Articulation Control Console evaluated here—$80,000 per pair. I’m acutely aware that most of you will find that number obscene. Nonetheless, this groundbreaking product exists, and sales have been brisk. In fact, delivery of my review pair was repeatedly delayed because MIT couldn’t keep up with the demand. The review pair bore serial number 54, suggesting that MIT had 53 customers for the ACC 268 in the first few months since its introduction, without benefit of advertising or reviews. Because there’s a market for such a product, and the ACC 268 ventures into uncharted technical territory, it’s worth evaluating and reviewing. I would never be able to afford such a product, but there are readers who could. Moreover, the ACC 268 speaker interface and MA-X SHD interconnects are new versions of speaker interfaces and line-level interconnects that I’ve used as my reference for more than eight years. Remember, the name of this magazine is, after all, The Absolute Sound.
The ACC 268 is the top model in the three-product ACC line, which includes the ACC 169 and ACC 206. The numbers in the model names refer to the number of “poles of articulation” in the interface.
For the very few who are sufficiently well-coined to afford the ACC 268, along with a system for which it is appropriate, there’s nothing quite like it. Take its sheer physicality for starters. The consoles are 48-pound sculpted aluminum enclosures that house the termination electronics along with four knobs, the function of which we’ll get to in a minute. The spade-lug-terminated cables—one input and one output—attach to the console via massive screw-on industrial-grade connectors. The cables that run from the console to your speakers, and from the console to your amplifier, are thick and heavy. Be prepared to give up some floor space to accommodate the ACC 268.
The ACC 268 is essentially the technology platform of MIT’s Oracle MA-X speaker interface, but with more elaborate execution along with the addition of “Articulation Control” adjustment ability. The ACC 268’s adjustability takes the form of four knobs on the console’s top panel. Three of the knobs are marked “Low,” “Mid,” and “High,” respectively. The fourth on-off knob is marked “2C3D” (Two-Channel, Three-Dimensional). Rather than interpret the idea of “articulation” in cables, I’ve included an interview with Bruce Brisson so that you get the story straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ll address the sonic effects of these adjustments later in the review.
The console is machined from a solid block of aluminum, with the large internal volume dictated by the size and number of components inside, along with the space needed for optimal layout of those components. These components include the termination networks, the control boards that hold the switches, and a vibration-isolating plinth on which the components are mounted. The control boards themselves reportedly contain 100 circuits. Each pair of consoles requires about 200 man-hours of hand labor to build. The cable part of the whole affair is constructed from large-diameter conductors that are hand-twisted in a specific pattern and twist ratio. There are actually three stages of this twisting, with a technician measuring and then adjusting the twist at each stage.
The MA-X SHD interconnects are a revised and upgraded version of the previous generation Oracle interconnects. They also offer adjustable “articulation” via two small knobs. One of these knobs engages low-frequency articulation, while the second, marked “mid,” offers a six-step adjustment—plus and minus three steps from the neutral setting. A slider switch optimizes the interface for the particular input impedance of the components the source component will be driving. If you don’t plan to change equipment, the MA-X SHD can be custom built for your particular components’ input impedances. The custom interconnects omit the adjustable impedance switch but retain the articulation adjustments.
MIT offers this impedance adjustability because component input impedances vary wildly from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is no industry standard except in professional audio where the input impedance of components is always 600 ohms. But the input impedance of consumer equipment can vary from a few hundred ohms to more than 1M ohm (one million ohms), with most falling in the range of 50k ohms to 200k ohms. The three switch positions on the MA-X SHD are marked “Low, 5–50k ohms,” “Mid, 40k–100k ohms,” and “High, >90k ohms.”