Accuphase is an outstanding brand name. Just like the American McIntosh, Accu has its followers, that see every next product as a big event. This is how it happens with cult brands. But there is also no possibility, that all products will be equally outstanding and equally special. Even keeping a high level, inside a brand we find better and worse products. I think that Accuphase is no exception to the rule. That is why in my opinion the player DP-700 (review HERE) is better than the more expensive combo DP-800/DC-801 and the tested preamplifier C-2410 does not give way for the top preamplifier C-2810. Maybe I exaggerate a little bit, as there maybe are some assets of the more expensive products, but given the price difference they are absolutely negligible. How did they do it – I do not know. The simplest explanation would be that there is progress between each and every model, everything is being improved, and every new model is better. But… Placing a more expensive and a cheaper product in the price list, when the cheaper model introduced later is not worse than the flagship, is not a conventional move, one might even say that this is a non marketing move. Obviously the Japanese made something so well, that they even did not expect that. But this is good news for us – the clients.
Because this is very important I will repeat it once again: it happens not very often, and inside one company almost never, that – in my opinion – the preamplifier C-2410 is better than its more expensive brother C-2810. “Better” is maybe a word too heavy in this case, because it suggests that what is “worse” should be thrown out. It should not be like that here, and the C-2810 is in some aspects more mature than the C-2410 and shows its supremacy. So I’d better say, that the C-2410 was more to my liking. It is better for me, but not with objective “better” but a subjective one – I prefer that way of sound presentation. I mention it again that it is the second time this happens – the first time it was with the DP-700 player, that for me is a better buy than the split system DP-800/DC-801 (the KSS meeting reportage HERE). And both are splendid.
During the direct comparison with my Leben a few things are immediately audible. The first thing is that the Accuphase sounds a bit more conservative. Leben shoots the works, sounds in an intensive, strong way, drawing a clear attack, saturated sustain, “dramatizing” a bit that what happens between the speakers. That is why the transmission is so intensive, that three seconds of listening to the system by Marcin Michalczyk, the guy who’s system we described during the KSS meeting devoted to K2HD discs (report HERE), were enough for him to sat that this is not “his” sound and not that what he is searching for in hi-end. Because this is my sound. Accuphase sounds more like Marcin would like to hear it. When Milt Jackson’s vibraphone is hit on the disc Pyramid The Modern Jazz Quartet (Atlantic/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-25125, CD), Leben seems to accelerate the contact of the stick with the metal. Accuphase is different – it enjoys the even, slightly softens the attack, but not in an easy way, because there is no lack of precision, but the whole transmission is a bit softer, and even more vivid. It was similar with the re-edition of the disc The Köln Concert Keith Jarrett (ECM [Japan], UCCE-9011, gold-CD), that is softer than the original. And at the same time incomparably more natural. Here another asset of the Accuphase became visible, that came to full blossom with new masterings. I am talking about the sound stage.
In terms of building the image as a whole one could speak about the assets of one or the other preamplifier, but in terms of the sound stage in new recordings the C-2410 was clearly better. Actually not only with new recordings, but in contemporary masterings this was visible better. The tonal balance of the Accu is slightly lighter than the Leben, or the other way round – Leben is a bit darker than the Accu. This is the reason why after hearing the first few sounds of the Pyramid I immediately knew, that the Accu draws a bigger, deeper and better defined stage. That what happened on the first plane, the leading instruments were better defined in the Leben, it seemed that this preamplifier has better resolution. But that what was happening those, interaction with other instruments, also the definition of an instrument in a given place were a bit better from the Accuphase. Thus the newest novelty, beautiful, splendidly mastered disc Filia Praeclara Ensemble Peregrina (Divox Antiqua, CDX-70603, CD) with the music from XIII and XIV century Polish Poor Clare Order sounded beautifully. Here the Accu showed the voices more thorough, without sharpening, as the lower part of the midrange is slightly damped and there is no sharpness there, with better reverb. The Leben sounded like usual, with swing, but it was the C-2410 that sounded more credible. I had similar thoughts when listening to a disc from the other end of the galaxy Violator Depeche Mode (Mute CDM7, SACD/CD + DVD-A). Bass did not go as far down as with the Leben, it was also not as fleshy, but its saturation was good, and tightness even better. Here it was audible, that the voice from the Accu, although set minimally higher, had a better drawn reverberation, that the insight into the stage is better and that there is really a lot happening there.
And this is how one should look at the C-2410: this is a splendid, but a bit specialized preamplifier. Old recordings, like the mentioned Pyramid, but also Blues Breakout (Polskie Nagrania, PNCD 940, CD) sounded a bit better with the Leben. The differences were not big, but at such a high general level we have to define very well what we are looking for. With such recordings Accuphase sounds in a super-civilized way, but the first plane events are a bit smoothened, a bit “gilded”. Everythin besides that – super. And the mentioned bass. Accuphase plays with a slightly rounded, really slightly, but very well controlled, short, dense and at the same time naturally warm bass. It does not go so far down as the Leben, but it is lower than from the preamplifier EVO 222 from Krell. Even more, although the American device sounded brilliant in its system, it was almost irreplaceable, then outside of it, with other devices, like my Luxman M-800A, it had a flatter lower subrange, with a slightly underlined midrange-bass border. This built a big and slightly warm sound, but was a departure from neutrality. The Krell EVO402 power amplifier only profited from this, and the set was phenomenal, but only Accuphase showed, how you can sound with a slightly warmed sound (by a trace) without emphasizing any of the subranges. Although the voices from the mentioned Divox disc were strong and clear, then it was not due to the pushing the midrange in front of the speakers, but due to good resolution.
So the C-2410 is a very competent preamplifier that brings hi-end sound for relatively low money. It is not as vivid as the C-2810 or as precise as the C-290V from the same company, but nothing comes free. It is fully balanced, what is worth exploiting. I put together a system in my head, that will be splendid: the player CD-1 Ayona, the tested preamplifier C-2410 and the poweramplifier A-45 Accuphase. And with Tara Labs or Acrolink cables. Loudspeakers – Harpia Acoustics, or Von Schweikert and it will be fine. We have the balanced audio path and universality of the Accuphase that becomes a kind of a nerve center. Because I love my preamplifier RS-28CX Lebena so I do not look at the troublesome handling and absolutely basic functionality it offers. It does not bother me that it does not have a remote, that it has limited controls, etc. But if one deals with a product as complete as the C-2410 then one can get angry, that hi-end is so user un-friendly sometimes. It fades away in time, and I am again enchanted with the Leben, but somewhere the question remains, why not everybody thinks about the user in a way like Accuphase does. This is not an ideal device, but extremely competent. You have to listen to it.
The C-2410 preamplifier from Accuphase is a big, full size device. It is as big as the integrated amplifier E-213, its weight is also nearly the same, what tells much about the construction of the preamplifier. In the front we have two large knobs – one for the volume control and one for input selection, and an acrylic plate covering the following indicators:
This list shows how advanced is the C-2410. Almost all controls are available from the front panel only – the remote control only allows changing the volume and selecting the input, as well as controls the basic functions of an Accuphase CD or SACD player. The front panel is busy, but the back plate partners it quite well. We have three slots for extension cards, five line RCA inputs, a tape loop, two RCA outputs and input for an external device like a home cinema processor. Below we find a row of XLR sockets – and those are not only for show, the C-2410 is a balanced device. We have two inputs, two outputs and a processor input.
The insides is packed with PCBs. Before we get inside we have to go through a complicated, massive enclosure. The top cover is made from two sheets of metal glued together (something like the Stealth Mat in Arcam) and additionally damped with bitumen mats. Interestingly the wooden side panels turn out to be metal panels veneered and varnished with a high gloss varnish – one has to cut costs somewhere… And the costs have to be cut, because the device is much cheaper than the top C-2810 and it does not look like that. Its heart is the same circuit AAVA-II (Accuphase Analog Vari-Gain Amplifier). In short – we deal with an element that controls the volume, but not in the analog domain, like potentiometers or resistor ladder (discrete and in form of ICs). The signal is converted to a current one, and it is controlled in sixteen current switches (what allows for 65536 possible combinations) and converted back to a voltage signal. Here is the place where all manipulations to the signal are done, like amplification adaptation, balance, etc, as it eliminates the problems in matching the input and the output, and this allows eliminating the buffers. The inputs are switched by means of hermetic NEC relays. The device is fully balanced, dual-mono, with separate, shielded EI transformers for each channel. The channels are separated from each other and other structures by shields. The initial filtering is happening in four (two for each channel) big capacitors (40000μF in total). The volume knob is attached to a conventional potentiometer with a motor. In this case it is not in the signal path, but functions only as a voltage source for the AAVA circuits. It is shielded together with the motor. This whole part is covered from top by an aluminum shield. All the PCBs in this device have gilded traces. Near the front panel we can see the microcontroller that controls the device, together with its own power supply.
CD FROM JAPAN
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