This review first appeared in the September 2016 issue of high-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of Accustic Arts in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Accustic Arts - Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: C.E.C. CD 5, iPod classic 5 160GB with Pure i-20 Dock, Notebook with foobar and Logitech Squeezebox-Server,
Rega RP-1 with Ortofon RED, B.M.C. PureDac
Amplification: Pro-Ject Phonobox MM, Abacus Preamp 14 preamp, Abacus Ampollo power amp, Audreal MS-3 monos, Trends Audio TA 10.2 integrated
Loudspeakers: Tannoy Turnberry Gold Reference, Quadral Rondo, Nubert nuBox 101
Cables: Goldkabel Profi, Oehlbach XXL Series 7 MKII (digital coax), Oehlbach XXL Serie 80 Toslink, Ortofon SPK 500 speaker cables, Real Cable OFC 400 speaker cables
Listening room size: 25.5 m², 3.6m ceiling
Review component price: starting at €6'490 [€6'790 in black]

Cool cruise through chaos. In Lauffen on Germany's Neckar river, someone has already spent 20 years in the pursuit of everything that makes the musical heart twitch: from amps to CD players to streamers to accessories, Accustic Arts even include an audiophile music label in their resumé. Despite ongoing new developments particularly in their Reference range, our Germans also rigorously update their existing lines. Reinventing the wheel isn't always required. Sometimes incremental progress does the job. Enter the Power 1 stereo integrated which today enjoys its fourth incarnation.

That a few fundamentals were overhauled since the precursor is clear with one glance at the rear. Where the Power 1 Mk3 sported RCA inputs exclusively, the Mk4 is down to 'just' three of ‘em. That's because two inputs now carry XLR. For the full story, I asked company chef Joachim Voss what other novelties might smile at the shopper. His answer: "The core design of the Power 1 remains intact for the Mk4. The goal of the overhaul was the addition of symmetrical inputs which we've achieved at a high level with selected parts. That's the core difference which implied a different signal path, additional components and much fine-tuning of the circuit boards. We also revisited the power transformer with a Swiss-sourced core for improved shielding and performance. Another upgrade involves the new system remote which can control other Accustic Arts machines and is now standard with the Power 1 Mk4."

What remains unchanged are the pre-outs and the face pate with its silky smooth volume control and chunky input selector both turned of solid copper alloy and the three status LED. And of course the headphone socket stays put. As to inner virtues, Accustic Arts always prefer to err on the side of overkill rather than skimping. There are eight gain FET carefully selected and matched and a power trafo with dedicated windings for the pre and power section's left and right channels. There's 80'000µF of filter capacitance and an RMS rating of 135wpc into 8Ω. Finally the protection circuitry operates outside the signal path and activates only to interrupt clipping or ultrasonic instability.

What I enjoyed already with the precursor made for a lovely revisit now: exceptionally high finish and luxury materials in a full-metal chassis with microlated aluminium fascia, the already mentioned massive control knob and perfectly mounted bomb-proof plugs and sockets. The generous heat sinks and potted 600VA toroid add to the final 22kg tally. Which concludes foreplay. Leashed up via XLR to the C.E.C. CD5 player/DAC, I tripped the mains switch on the back, waited a bit and then the curtain rose.

Sonic merits. A first spin of the new Dinosaur Jr album Give a glimpse of what yer not should elicit a chuckle. Just who mixed that bunter Hund? All recording studio conventions seem to have been chucked. Take "Be a part" for example. Drums and bass, the typical core tracks which create groove, structure and rhythm, are relegated way into the background. The highs of hi-hat and cymbals are nearly completely obscured, the bass drums pump in limbo, bass is there somehow but in no way fundamental as though severely tortured and sieved through a high-pass filter. Then everything changes for the guitars. J. Mascis and cohorts proudly stack track upon track, a few left, a few right – and all of their guitar layers are the sole sonic sources which offer immediacy and uncurtailed top-to-bottom tonal presence. Similar to late Neil Young, say his Psychedelic Pill, it's thus the guitars which do the aural talking to take up centre stage. Their lower reaches create a brilliantly sonorous foundation, the mids shimmer in saturated colours and despite feedback and noise of microphone gain, even the treble exudes plenty of sheen and brilliance.