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If so many choices have your hairs on end, best skip the following. There are more options still. The PowerAmp’s stereo trim can be expanded to four channels for bi-amping or surround sound. It can also get a DSP module with PC interface for sonic tuning. That includes 16 selectable filters (high pass, low pass, all pass, notch filter, EQ, Linkwitz compensator) and up to 21ms delay per channel to address certain room modes, offset arrival time differential with challenged speaker setups and/or become an EQ tool to personalize sonics. Did I mention that this small amp box—class D of course— makes 250 watts into 4 Ω per channel?

The modular PreAmp too is expandable. Stock trim includes six relay-switched inputs. For €100 or 110, there’s an MM/MC phono board or an extension module for multi-channeling. The earlier mentioned DSP board can of course also plug into the PreAmp.

By now the PreAmp’s touch panel should make sense. It means that DIYers needn’t concern themselves with fitting various controls. A rectangular cut-out in a chassis suffices to insert the in-house developed  touch panel. This plugs into the amplification board with a ribbon cable. Presto. The panel includes an IR transmitter and receiver for bi-directional remote comm based on standardized RC5 protocol. This worked splendidly with the wand of my Marantz SA 7001 SACD spinner. Even programming a learning remote is possible.

[The optional boards - DSP for the PowerAmp upfront, then left to right extension, DSP and phono modules for the PreAmp.]

Fan boys and gals of the iPod or iPad will regard the academic’s touch pad with a tired smirk at best. There are only two colors and the icons are clearly Teutonic in origin. But, everything is perfectly functional and so intuitive that the owner’s manual becomes redundant. Input signal can be trimmed for each source to linearize divergent signal strengths and even sausage fingers won’t complain about working the main functions of source select and volume. Otherwise there’s always the remote. End of tutorial. Wake up class, there’s music coming.

During one’s teens we overplay certain music so badly that it finally and quite involuntarily ends up on an internal black list – and often undeservedly. One of mine is Phil Collins’ "In the air tonight" simply because the moment the drums kick in, my inner eye glazes over with visions of dimly lit party basements, boys playing air drums with distorted visages while the embarrassed girls had their noises deep into blue Curacao/OJ glasses. Unfair!

The song is good. It deserves to be stood by. To this date, it offers nice production values too. A Roland CD-78 drum box with dry-fart room echo is its rhythmic scaffold, a sparsely used Prophet 5 applies keyboard washes to the massively minimalist vocals which are dramatically offset against a few lazily decaying guitar tones. The percussion groove in the tune’s central section has been commented upon to death. We’ll merely remind ourselves that the toms are phat as can be and the snare is hard like thousand year-old oak. A good hifi chain ought to present it all as such. Without further ado, the HiFiAkademie combo complied. The calm but ominous opening of the song captivated this listener without smeared or artificial ambiance.

The beat box puttered along, the sawing guitar decayed wonderfully long and clear, the solo vocals seemed nailed to the acoustic center. The highly dynamic, massively cresting and then suddenly vanishing "well I remember" tickled the cortex by how involving and to the point the academy members rendered it. When the room-filling toms kicked in a bit later, I nodded with appreciation. Yep, that’s how it ought to be: heavy, fat, broad, with massively wooden toms, nervously bright ghost notes from the snare. My first impression registered no tonal issues but instead good grippy dynamics, excellent image localization and clean if not exceptionally broad soundstaging.