No, I never had the sense that the Amp II was a purely mechanical component, or a straight wire with gain. To the best of my knowledge, such a piece of equipment does not exist. Instead, what I sensed was an intelligent designer—an engineer who was interested in recreating the musical gestalt, for lack of a better word, as best he could. Put otherwise, this Teutonic creation is not a sterile exercise in trying to convince the listener that he or she is listening to the event as it was recorded by conveying a stripped-down or lean sense of the music. Instead, the Amp II is voiced, however slightly, on the warm side but with the aforementioned purity.
If you are a beer aficionado, you will know that in Germany the Reinheitsgebot, or purity law dating from the Middle Ages, prevails, which is to say that there can be no artificial additives to the brew. The Accustic Arts Amp II appears to follow the same principle. This helps to endow it with a nice sense of transparency. On Adam Nussbaum’s new CD The Lead Belly Project, a creative reinterpretation of the folk singer’s legacy, I was smitten by the excellent transient snap on numbers such as Old Riley and Bottle Up and Go. On another CD that I recently acquired, the trumpeter John Raymond’s Real Feels Live No. 2, the Amp II provided the musical goods on some intricate and powerful passages on cuts “Be Still, My Soul.” Once again, the Amp II demonstrated that it was able to sail through complex passages without becoming bogged down or losing the sense of a capacious soundstage. Something occurred on what has become an old standby for me, Leonard Cohen’s final album You Want It Darker. I’m still trying to puzzle it all out, the message, or, to put it more precisely, wisdom, that this artistic sage from Montreal was trying to convey. The Amp II plumbed the sonic depths on cuts such as “Leaving the Table” and “If I Didn’t Have Your Love”—the bass line was deep and visceral. The acute bass control of the amplifier also came to the fore on a concerto for trumpet by Tomaso Albinoni in D major on a CD on the Sony label, featuring the Hungarian trumpeter Gábor Boldoczki, in which the violoncello seemed to throb with urgent vitality.
I’d be engaging in a stretcher, as Huck Finn likes to put, if I didn’t confess to indulging in playing some CDs and LPs by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd at what might be safely termed robust levels. Pushed to these volumes when driving the Wilson Audio WAMMs, the amp didn’t falter but I did pick up on a hint of fatigue. Driven to reasonable SPLs, I never experienced any sense of the Amp II faltering. Rather, it offered a wealth of tonal colors and detail that made it a delight to listen to for hours on end.
When time came to part with the amp, I did so not with a heavy heart—my far more expensive Ypsilon Hyperion monoblock amplifiers are superior, which is what you would expect—but with respect and admiration for a musical amplifier that is punching beyond its weight class. This Amp II is a classic example of what Germany has become the envy of the world for—its Mittelstand, or medium-sized industry, that produces reliable and high-quality products. For anyone seeking a reasonably priced, as the high-end goes, amplifier, the Accustic Arts offers an extremely enticing design.
Specs & Pricing
Output power: 275Wpc into 8 ohms, 450Wpc into 2 ohms, 675Wpc into 2 ohms (0.1% THD)
Input impedance: 20k ohms balanced, 100k ohms unbalanced
Crosstalk: >109dB at 1kHz
Signal-to-noise-ratio: -103dBA (ref. 6.325 V)
Dimensions: 19" x 13.8" x 17"
Weight: 121 lbs.