The name "Accuphase" is derived from the
combination of "accu" (accurate) and "phase". Accuphase is a
Japanese company, who’s portfolio at the time of writing
contains 32 different standalone high-end products, and on top
of that several internally mountable modules such as a riaa-stage
and a d/a-converter. Considering its portfolio and technological
know-how, Accuphase is anything but a "garage setup". The
company has been in business since 1973, with products available
in Finland since the end of the 80´s. Accuphase has always opted
to take its own route with technical solutions, even compared to
other Japanese manufacturers, and they’ve never yet produced any
real "entry-level" products.
The E-530 represents Accuphase´s
"state of the art" -thinking for integrated amplifiers. Both the
pre- and power-amplifier sections work in pure class A, and use
current feedback normally associated with op-amps. The advantage
of current feedback compared to the more traditional
"voltage"-feedback is, among other things, more linear phase
behaviour, especially at higher frequencies. The output stage
uses Toshiba 2 SJ 618 and 2SK 3497 (180V/10A/130W) MOS-FET
transistors, three pairs per channel. The manufacturer claims a
doubling of output power all the way to two ohm loads
(30W/channel into 8 ohm, 60W/4ohm, 120W/2ohm). The stability of
the power source into lower impedances seems to have been
considered in the exceptionally well-shielded toroidal
transformer (450VA) shared by both channels and in the
audiophile-grade filter capacitors (2x 40000uF).
Short signal paths do not seem to
be a priority among the designers at Accuphase. The inputs are
handled by relays placed close to the input terminals, while the
volume-control is handled by a motorised potentiometer located
just behind the front plate. From there the signal is
transferred to a volume-amplifier with discrete transistors and
onwards by surprisingly thin wire to the preamp board. The
toroidal transformer, bridge-rectifier and filter capacitors are
situated close to each other, the capacitors being connected to
the output transistors by thick wires. Because of the amount of
functions the E-530 encompasses, the lack of extremely short
signal paths is understandable.
bypassable tone controls, peak output meters, separable pre- and
power amp sections, balanced inputs, loudness-control, tape
monitor, connectors for two loudspeaker pairs (not biwire) and
remote control are all part of the "standard" equipment. Add-ons
include a RIAA-card and a D/A-converter module.
With its high-quality finish,
excellent looks, massive weight (25kg) and sufficient
connectors, the Accuphase E-530 leaves a very dignified
The review sample was brand new,
so approximately 100 hours of burn-in was allowed before the
"real" insertion into the reference system. Sources were the
Accuphase DP-77 and Lindemann D680 CD/SACD-players. A passive
attenuator with Holco H4 resistors was used as a preamp during
separate evaluation of the E-530´s power amp section. The
amplifier was placed on a Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment
support. Interconnects were Audioquest Cheetah, Transparent
Ultra MM and a DIY-alternative. For loudspeaker cables a
DIY-alternative was also used and additionally a set of
Audioquest Pikes Peak. Finally, the power cable for the power
amp section was DIY, with the sources being connected by
Transparent Power Link XL15, Power Link MM, a DIY-power filter
and a DIY-cable for the Lindemann Power Brick. Speakers were
Avantgarde DUO SUB225 horns.
For the final evaluations I used
the Lindemann D680-player, the Transparent Power Link MM for the
transport, and a DIY-cable for the Power Brick. Interconnects
for the E-530 were Transparent Ultra MM´s, the power cable being
a DIY-version. In this instance I used my own DIY-speaker
cables. This aforementioned combination gave the most balanced
overall result in my reference system. The Audioquest-cables
yielded an overly bright result, while the overall sound was a
bit to "nasal" with all cables when using the DP-77 sacd-player
as source. It would seem to me that a slightly warmer-sounding
cable, such as the Cardas Golden Reference, might have been a
better match for the two Accuphase-units. Unfortunately such a
cable wasn’t available for this review, so it just leaves my
In "integrated" mode, the
Accuphase E-530 sounded more or less identical with all
different pieces of associated equipment. My initial impression
of the sound stayed with me until the end of the review period.
The level of tonal "cleanliness" is probably the first thing to
clearly set the Accuphase apart from the "mass market" offerings
out there. The neutral presentation is another such factor.
Dynamic shifts are controlled and presented with great ease.
Pace remains natural and unforced, without sounding "slow" in
any way. The bass is powerful, controlled and far from the
"one-note" bass of lesser amps. Space is clearly delineated,
with sufficient depth, width and height. Layered depth is very
good, albeit a bit behind the very best amps I’ve heard.
Soundstage focus was excellent in the lateral plane, but the
musicians were lacking that last it of air in between them.
When using the E-530 solely as a
power amp some change of character became evident. The musicians
gained some extra air in between them, dynamic swings were a bit
more clearly defined, the background became more “black” and the
overall sound got something of a “deep-cleansing”. Considering
the dynamic changes more carefully; when using the E-530 as an
integrated at low volumes, the sense of drive was better, almost
to a point of having a “loudness-effect”. When using the
Accuphase as a power amp, I had to turn up the volume to achieve
the same effect. However, in “power amp-mode” the dynamic swings
felt more natural, especially with large-scale orchestral music.
Differences between quiet and loud passages were just more
tangible. The improved retrieval of inner detail and the better
delineation of background passages (with the preamp section
bypassed) convinced me of the fact that the preamp section of
the E-530 is somewhat unable to pass a signal which is 100%
loyal to the original.
No matter how I used the
Accuphase (integrated or power amp), a certain “Accuphase-sound”
was continually audible. The overall sound left a lot of
positive impressions, but also some things I would have like to
be different. Neutrality, control and drive were all very good,
but I would have liked to hear a bit more liveliness, airiness,
layered depth and perhaps some warmth. However, if you happen to
be interested in spotting differences between, say, different
concert pianos you won’t be disappointed. Resolution is not a
limiting factor here.
Balance: Neutral, not
dominant in any specific area. If forced to make a choice, I’d
say the amp is balanced slightly to the cool side of neutral.
impressive, doesn’t “clog up” even on more complex material,
even though some less audible details remain hidden. When using
only the power amp-section, clarity improved and even the
smaller details became evident.
Transparency: When used as
an integrated amp, transparency was akin to looking out of a
clean three-layer window. With the preamp section separated, the
effect was comparable to using high-quality optics.
Treble: Clean and
detailed, without any extra sizzle or harshness. On some
occasions the treble got a little thin, I felt like I could have
used a bit more warmth and “fullness”.
Midrange: Closer to being
recessed than dominant, the midrange doesn’t give rise to any
objections. Some additional warmth would have made the listening
experience even more enjoyable.
Bass: Powerful, dynamic
and controlled. Its character reminded me more of a taut
electric bass guitar than a full and rounded acoustic one.
Dynamics: No lack of
rhythmic drive on low volumes as an integrated. On high levels a
“tad” restricted in this area, most noticeably with large-scale
orchestral works. When using only the power amp, the effect
became more or less reversed.
Soundstage: As an
integrated; wide, high and reasonably deep, but still lacking
the last bit of airiness. As a power amp; more transparent, with
better layered depth and quieter backgrounds. Either way, not
the best amp I’ve encountered in this regard, but it still gets
a very good grade.
I feel Accuphase has managed to
build a very solid integrated amplifier with the E-530. Even
though the E-530 wasn’t the best amplifier I’ve ever heard in my
system, it could well achieve that status in another setup. The
Accuphase might well be at its best in a system with a more full
and open overall sound. Despite this, it’s very well built,
using components which will last for a long time. You really
don’t have to look more than skin deep to see that the E-530 is
a very seriously developed and built piece of equipment.
If you’re looking for a
high-performance integrated amplifier, don’t bypass this
Japanese alternative. I’m sure the high-quality sound won’t
leave anyone untouched. Whether its somewhat dry, cool and
controlled sound is the one-way ticket to audio Nirvana or not
must be up to the audiophile her- or himself.
Price (incl. 22% vat): 9000€
Importer: Kruunuradio Oy
Distributor: Audiostar Oy