Manufacturer: Sekiguchi Machine Co., Ltd.
his review is, I hope, one of more interesting attempts to understand the phenomenon of the so-called “audio accessories” and whether they at all affect the sound, and if they do, then in what way. It has taken me some time to get down to it, perhaps half a year. Naturally, I could have done it straight away, without thinking twice; after all, I have practice, appropriate “tools” and a developed methodology. However, since that’s such a sensitive topic, stirring up lots of unhealthy emotions, I wanted to make sure I’m a few hundred percent sure of what I write. I had to verify my findings in several places, on a few audio systems and discuss them with different people. The final decision to publish the review in the May issue of “High Fidelity” was made shortly after I’d learned that Mr. Ken Ishiguro, the owner of Acoustic Revive, would be coming to Poland at that time. He was accompanied by Mr. Yoshi Hontai, representing Muson, Acoustic Revive agent outside of Japan, and a high-class photographer, Mr. Yuichi Matsuki (his work can be seen HERE). Knowing this, I arranged a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, and the Acoustic Revive Polish distributor organized an open day at the Nautilus audio salon in Krakow. This way I would have two days with Mr. Ishiguro, full of demonstrations, comparisons and explanations. The main body of this review was ready before that, but I added the introduction and some minor changes after the departure of the guests from Japan.
This is the most comprehensive change I have dealt with in my system. Swapping the speakers, the amplifier, the cables, or even the source are but spot modifications – important, but one-dimensional. Acoustic Revive products are designed to improve the sound of all audio components and are combined into several groups. You can find a detailed list, including prices, in the frame below. I focused on the accessories that I could add to my system without changing any of the components I use. Therefore, I left testing cables for another occasion. It will involve analog and digital interconnects, USB cables and speaker cables. The most important decision I had to make concerned choosing the testing method: I decided to test the system as a whole. We have repeatedly discussed individual Acoustic Revive products and in the next issue of “High Fidelity” you will find audition impressions on most of them individually in my report from this month’s Krakow Sonic Society meeting. What is remarkable is the cumulative impact of all particular changes. However, I was first and foremost interested in what all the accessories at once could contribute to the sound.
The system consisted of:
Such a comparison requires a relatively long time between auditioning the system WITHOUT Acoustic Revive products and WITH them (A and B). Hence, for the first few days I was listening to the music WITHOUT them, getting used to the sound, before listening to the music WITH them for the next few days. And they remained in the system – the sonic changes introduced by the accessories were so significant and so uniformly good that I decided not to return my system to its original state. For starters, however, I pulled out the RAF-48H platform I had been using on a daily basis from under the CD player, and the RHB-20 Hickory platform from under the preamplifier (which also sat on the OPT-30HG-SC HR/3P + OPT-30HG-UK HR/3P ceramic spikes from Audio RePlas, see HERE). However, I kept in the system the RTP-4EU power strip and the custom made spacers for my Harbeth 40.1 speakers; without them my system would not be the same.
Albums auditioned during this review)
It is good to begin with a statement, a personal confession of sorts. This way we authenticate our speech, we make it into something more than just another announcement. But we also make a stronger impact on the audience – and that’s my intention in this case, regardless of how much it may seem cynical and calculated. Make no mistake: every message, both written and spoken, has a purpose, and the sender of the message wants to accomplish something. This is normal and completely natural. Being aware of that it is important, then, not to miss what is most important: the content of the message. In this case, the point I would like to make at the outset is twofold.
First, my system without all products (parts, accessories or gadgets; call them what you want) from Acoustic Revive sounds brilliant. I really like its slightly warm and somewhat dark tonal balance, its incredible dynamics and outstanding smoothness. Anyone who has ears to hear (and who listens), after leaving my place tries to make some improvements back at home; often to build one’s own system from the start, and not infrequently to set up one’s first audio system in life.
For me, it’s the greatest form of recognition, when I find out that after auditioning at my place people buy their first amplifier or speakers, or re-position their speakers, or that after changing the cables they listen to the music deep into the night, astonished at how they could have so far tolerated the garbage from their loudspeakers. I envy them all; such “threshold experience”, especially one so pleasant, is fantastic! (Since some time my wife has obliged me not to play music to our invited friends, arguing that she is concerned about their wallets).
I’m no fool, though: I know that is not the peak of what audio is capable of; I know better audio systems here and there, or components showing more than mine do, and even cables (Siltech Double Crown) outclassing my own. It’s just that at home I have achieved a sort of balance between all the sonic components, my listening room and my expectations. I am happy with my system.
The second point I would like to convey is this: Acoustic Revive products that I used at home have not changed the character of my system, which is what I feared most, but instead changed its class. It is now a much more sophisticated sound. Deeper, cleaner, smoother, more accurate, more resolute. Darker but clearer at the same time; more dynamic but also calmer. Simply, a lot better. Closer to that I know from music concerts.
Anyone who has dealt with audio knows that changing a component brings a change of the sound. This is the basis of the audio industry, its axiom. Another axiom is that it takes an audition to describe real changes in the sound. The measurements are very important, but they really belong in the stage of product’s design and manufacturing. After that, they have a supporting role. There is one more, quite deep-rooted dogma concerning a definition of the so-called “accessories”.
The Acoustic Revive system tested in this review, taken as a whole, has brought in my audio system the greatest change ever, along the Harbeth M40.1 speakers and the Siltech Royal Signature Series Double Crown cables. I know what I’m saying. I have known this manufacturer since several years, have been the first to bring Acoustic Revive products Poland (thanks to Mr. Yoshi Hontai) and have been testing them at home, at the Krakow Sonic Society meetings, and in other systems. Never before, however, have I used so many of them at once. Now, I can finally hear what it sounds like.
One of the things I fear the most, adding new products to my system, and one I just can’t stand in any components, speakers and cables that I test/review is a bright top, garish midrange and too hard (contoured) bass. All of these things are needed at some stage and at some point are a step forward. Even then, though, they must make some sense, be translated into something else; otherwise they are just annoying coloration. The Japanese system makes the sound easier to listen to. It is at the same time louder and less aggressive. Louder, because we can listen to the same recordings at a lower volume level, not feeling that we changed anything; less aggressive, since upping the volume doesn’t cause discomfort. I heard both these characteristics, at the same time, on the album He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Chris Connor. The monophonic recordings originating in 1956 favor her voice: it is close to us, large, while the band and the orchestra are shown at a distance, quieter. The higher vocal components are slightly emphasized, which make it seem that the lady sings mostly through the throat. One can live with it, but it always draws attention. After introducing to my system the products from Mr. Ishiguro the color remained unchanged, except that the upper midrange aggressiveness, of which I previously did not realize, was gone. The vocal was even closer and bigger, but it was better connected with the instruments. The difference in the size of planes intended by the sound engineer was clear, but the context was equally significant.
Yes, treble is silkier, it seems darker and deeper, although there is – paradoxically – more of it. The bottom end is very similar. I was particularly curious about the sound of Gould’s piano on the golden edition of his Variations.... I still had in my mind what I had heard at Janusz’s, at a meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society dedicated to Siltech cable system, when we’d listened to the Crystal Glass CD version of this recording. A remarkable smoothness and calm, but first of all an absolutely unique bottom end. Now I observed a similar phenomenon at home. Although the Harbeths offer a strong bass with outstanding color and placing them on Acoustic Revive stands makes it very well controlled, without contouring, accompanied by other Acoustic Revive products theys sounded lower, warmer, more accurate, with nicer differentiated elements. Everything sounded more natural, more like what I know from music concerts, or when I soundboard the piano, double bass, electric guitar. Depth and breath; breath and depth – all at once, at the same time. More music in music.
The whole Acoustic Revive system which I applied to my reference system costs just a tad more than its least expensive component, the CD player. It can be assumed that it is similar money. Is it worth it to spend so much on “accessories”? Let me answer that for myself: it’s not just "worth it" but rather “it would be foolish not to do it”; without those accessories the system shows only a fraction of what it is capable of. A brilliant feature of Acoustic Revive products is that they do not alter the fundamentals of the system; they do not modify the sound in a way that most other “gizmos” do. They support all its strengths but point out its weaknesses, too. If there are more of the former, if weaknesses are not dominant, then they ignore the latter or help US ignore them. How is it possible that the products towards which some people not related to audio, those who do not listen to music on high-end equipment, or are deaf, malicious, or just plainly stupid, have a definitely negative attitude, affect the sound at all? Mr. Ishiguro designs them in cooperation with university technical departments, measures them, and shows the measurement results. And these clearly confirm what one can hear – changes do happen. But as to how such slight modifications can so profoundly affect the sound, I do not know, nor do I even pretend to understand this mechanism. However, since the changes made by individual accessories from Acoustic Revive are repeatable, both in terms of those listening, as well as audio systems, I assume this is a case of theory that has not kept pace with practice. As it actually usually happens in audio: experiments conducted by the “holy fools” – designers, manufacturers and audiophiles – translate into concrete results. That’s good enough for me, I do not ask for anything more.
The system receives GOLD FINGERPRINT award. It is the first time we give it, bowing low to Mr. Ishiguro and his abilities.