Didn't I just mention a small shot of warmth? How could that coexist with a fully developed treble you wonder? I'd point at the lively many-hued timbres and a certain sonority in the midband. It's a tiny tendency not predicted by studio DNA but just so factored behind the particularly believable woody timbres of cello and viola on "Havanna 1952", the 2nd movement of Schnyder's string quartet. Likewise for William Fitzsimmons. On the oddball tune "You let me down" from No Promises, he works out some relationship stress with a slightly detuned piano and in very sonorous fashion.

On my usual bass test tracks "Prophecy" and "Plans we make" by Son Lux, the Acousence combo crossed off reach, blackness and articulation. The LF synth bloom simply came off a few degrees drier than over my residents. More important to me was their ability to finely differentiate low-down timbres. Particularly on sparse arrangements like the clarinet/upright duo Schwab Soro with "Posement" from Volons!, anything less can quickly get one-dimensional so boring. Not with Acousence's kit. Rarely has Raphael Schwab's upright felt this fleetfooted yet fundamentally bassy. Awesome!

Had I any penchant for excessive understatement, I'd say that when used as preamp, the Dac-Pre Reference really didn't disturb. Framed less stoically, its analog preamp section was a bona-fide hit! Perfectly even across the bandwidth, tonally neutral, ultra resolved and capable of tracking even extreme dynamics, with it I never missed the purity of my passive Silvercore 324 or the richer tuning of the €7'000 Linestage Two. That the roots of this kit reach deeply into the studio sector is no surprise given the designer's actual work as a tone engineer. Balanced signal processing, i/o transformers, modularity… the list goes on. Naturally resolution and neutrality operated at a very high level. It's simply erroneous to expect cool sound as a result. Au contraire. Fed the right material, this combo really flared up emotionally and dynamically accelerated with a small turbo boost.

Those into maximal creature comforts probably won't get around buying a Roon license. Regardless, sonically I already counted this Mu-Se and Dac-Pre Reference as top-calibre components of real distinction. Paired up for teamwork, I in fact rank them at the very top of their price range.

Psych profile for the Acousence Mu-Se & Dac-Pre Reference…
♦ whatever spatial and depth cues the recording contains are reproduced very well. This kit seems particularly capable of maximizing soundstage width.
♦  each on its own or combined, resolution is excellent. Detail density across all parameters is unusually high. The 'precision machine' moniker fits.
♦ such honesty and fidelity don't equate soullessness. Depending on listener focus, there's insight into recorded detail, mastering decisions or simply a merger with musical landscapes.
♦ dynamically this combo should be very hard to beat. Be it orchestral thunderstorms or the subtle tone modulations of a traverse flute, this gear gets very close to the live feel.
♦ the treble is clean and linear so nervousness or harshness will be purely down to recorded blemishes.
♦ the mids are very mildly balanced into sonority and warmth.
♦ the bass is solid and extended and by tendency a bit driver so neither too lean nor fat. Surprising was the high differentiation even in this band to illuminate structural detail often lost in the deep's blackness.
♦ skillful and solid build without bling. Useful socketry already in the base configuration. The option menu is extensive and should suit most conceivable applications.

Facts for the Acousence Mu-Se
Category: Music server/player
Trim: black or silver
Inputs: Frontal USB 3.0, then 2 x USB 2.0 (one for wireless transmitter), 1 x RJ45, 1 x service port, option slot for glass-fibre network transmitter
Outputs: Proprietary optical interface, option slot for AES/EBU or S/PDIF
Other: CD ripper, 4TB SATA SSD
Dimensions & weight: 450x57x315mm WxHxD, 7kg
Warranty: 2 years

Facts for the Acousence Dac-Pre Reference
Category: DAC with analog volume
Trim: black or silver
Inputs: Proprietary optical interface plus either AES/EBU on RJ45 or XLR, coax, BNC or Toslink, XLR analog, optional RCA analog, optional additional line-level input or MM or MC phono
Outputs: XLR analog, optional RCA analog
Data support: 24/192 PCM
Dimensions & weight: 450x57x315mm WxHxD, 7kg
Warranty: 2 years