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Our readers are amazing. Full of passion and commitment. His systems of choice are building for years and are fruits of love and seeking.
One of them is Mr. R. Aker from Tokyo, Japan with whom I spoke about new SACD player from Accuphase, DP900&DC901. After a few mails I asked him for telling me his story. And it is…

Text: R. Aker, Tokio
Photo: R. Aker, Tokio

It's a long story. I'll try to summarize forty years of history in a short e-mail.

When I was sixteen, in the early 1970s in Japan (my mother is Japanese), I bought an Akai (no longer in business) reel to reel tape deck, plus a headphone to listen to it (I couldn't afford amplifiers and speakers). This system sounded really good to me at the time with pre-recorded tapes. Maybe I was already a bit eccentric, since very few people, even then, listened to reel to reel tape decks. The current revival of these machines makes me very nostalgic. Amazing to reflect now that I had apparently already discovered at that age the primacy of the source.

Then, many years later, in the early 1980s in Norway (my father is Norwegian), when my tape deck was history, I bought the American speakers DCM Time Window, relatively inexpensive, with Phillips speaker units, one of the first speakers on the market, I believe, to be "time and phase aligned". Its impulse response as measured was very good, and this could be heard. All in all, good sound for the time and the price. The rest of the system was mid fi Japanese, not very interesting, except maybe the Technics SL-10 turntable (for its design, if not its sound), which was no larger than an LP. I had discovered the second principle, the primacy of the speakers, which create the character of the system, being the most individual sound in any system.

When the CD was introduced, also in the early 1980s, I (perhaps because of my reel to reel tape and LP experience) was very skeptical about the CD's sound quality, and did not buy a CD player until almost ten years later, in the early 1990s in the Netherlands (Kenwood L-1000D, the rest of the system being the Kenwood L-1000T tuner, L-1000C preamplifier, and L-1000M power amplifier, the L series being Kenwood's then attempt at a "higher end"). The preamplifier, despite its relatively low cost, was fully balanced (unusual at the time). This started my obsession with fully balanced equipment (and with "coherent" systems). The tuner was really excellent, and the star of the bunch. The Kenwood (Trio in Japan) L-1000 series were apparently manufactured by Accuphase (Kensonic) for their "sister" company Trio, see the following link:
I did not know this at the time, nor when I bought my current Accuphase collection. I found this out today, researching the Kenwood series for this e-mail on the internet (amazing what you can find out with Google). It seems that here, like with many other things in life (for example, I grew up in Japan, left in the early 1970s, never returned to Japan to live, until my company transferred me back to Japan in late 2006), things eventually come full circle, even if it sometimes takes a long time for the symmetry to become evident.

My first jump into the "high end" was a big one for a relative neophyte, and started (and my obsession with speakers continued) with my purchase in Italy in 1992 of the Sonus Faber Extremas (also "time aligned", with a first order crossover), wonderful speakers, if a little bit "extreme" (eighty kilograms each with stands, and this for a "mini" monitor!), very difficult to drive, and very finicky. If anything in the system was slightly "wrong", you heard it with the Extremas. While the bass was "impressive" for their size, the really low bass was actually missing in action, and what bass which did exist was actually not very well controlled (partly depending on the amplifier, and partly on the setting one chose for the passive ABR (auxiliary bass radiator) in the back). Despite their flaws, the Extremas were, when they were "on song", spectacular, especially with vocals. I assume this was because of the lack of any capacitors in the crossover, the capacitors being replaced with resistors (!) and heat sinks (!!), which i believe is an unique design, one which I have never seen replicated. To this day, I regret selling the "special edition" and unique Extremas (they were only produced in limited quantities, and never replaced with a newer model) in 2000 (just to try something different, the Vienna Acoustics Mahlers (probably to try to get better bass quality), every one of us does something really stupid sometimes). The Mahlers were musical, but ultimately not the best treble quality. They were certainly not unique and special in the way the Extremas were. Whenever I see a picture of the Extremas on the internet, I get tears in my eyes. For reference, see: I definitely missed the Sonus Fabers in general, which I found very musical, and, since the Extremas were no longer being produced, I opted for the Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage speakers when they were introduced in 2004. I still have them, and barring any unexpected events, I intend to keep them forever (this time I won't make the same mistake I made with the Extremas). Now that Franco Serblin has left Sonus Faber, I don't believe the new Sonus Fabers will have the same magic as the classic Sonus Fabers had (the Stradivari being, in my opinion, the last of the "real" Sonus Fabers). Objectively, the Stradivari are much better speakers than the Extremas (as well as better looking), but the very special Extremas will nevertheless always retain a special place in my heart. The Sennheiser 800 headphones I use to listen to movies late at night, in order not to disturb the neighbors.

At around this time, I started to become interested in cables. I've tried numerous cables over the years (including the very interesting "non cable", the Fadel GoldLine, which utilize metal bars instead of cables, the best looking speaker "cables" I've ever seen, and the smoothest sound I've ever heard, but fatally flawed due to lack of dynamics). Finally, after many years, I seem to be reaching some sort of conclusions for myself: balanced is better than unbalanced (all my cables are therefore balanced), shielded is better than unshielded (the Purist Audio cables I have are fantastically shielded, the XLOs were unshielded, and could become very noisy in circumstances), copper (my Purist Audio 20th Anniversary cables are a gold/silver/copper mix, I believe, except for the power cables, which are pure copper) is generally better than silver (although I would like to try the all silver Purist Audio 25th Annniversary cables), a coherent cable loom (all cables from the same manufacturer and model) is better than "mix and match" (thus all my cables are Purist Audio, except for some Wireworld for the Pioneer plasma screen), and "upstream" cables are more important than "downstream" cables. Thus, power cables (which are more "upstream" than anything else) are thusmore important than any other cables, in my opinion, even "upstream" signal cables. All my power cables (again, except for Wireworld for the plasma) are Purist Audio 20th Anniversary and Canorus.

I also started to become interested in stands. I've tried numerous stands over the years, including the Arcici air suspension rack (generally much better than cones, despite cones being described as "mechanical grounds", but very difficult to maintain level, as the air kept leaking out, and a continuous pumping process was necessary). One very popular maple stand, made by Finite Elemente, I sold after five minutes of use, its negative effect on the sound of my system being blindingly obvious even after such a short time. Their Cerabase feet (with ceramic ball bearings, allowing movement to compensate for vibrations) are very good, though, and I still use them under my old Polycrystal stands for the Accuphase PS-1220 power supplies. The HRS stand I now own is superb, although it's extremely heavy and expensive, as well as difficult to level for the transport (the shelves having compliant feet, which make the leveling a pain, but this is a one-time process). Active stands which use micro motors to level components are potentially interesting, but I haven't tried them yet.

In addition to cables and stands, power is crucial (being the most "upstream" element in any system), so I started using Fadel (+115 VAC and -115 VAC resulting in the differential +230 VAC, balanced again!) isolation transformers to clean up my system power. They had a positive effect on my system, and I did not find that dynamics were reduced (as many writers claim for similar products). The trick to avoiding these negative effects, I believe, is to oversize the transformers by at least two to three times the actual power need. Thus, I eventually ended up with a Swedish balanced isolation transformer of 6kW. But transformers, even if balanced, are passive devices, and cannot correct the heavy distortion in the power line (my Tokyo apartment's power is showing 7% distortion (according to the meter on my Accuphase PS-1220), and this is after a 6kW balanced isolation transformer, so I purchased an active PS Audio power regenerator (the original 300), which had a fantastic positive effect on my system's sound. I continued with the PS Audio 600 for all my upstream components, then replaced the PS Audio with three Accuphase PS-1210s (upstream plus power amplifiers and plasma screen), so that my whole system could drink clean power (you wouldn't drink untreated tap water, would you?). Active is definitely better than passive. I am very skeptical about all these expensive passive "power conditioners" like the Shunyatas, how can they possibly correct 7% distortion on the power line? Short answer: not possible. Finally, I replaced the PS-1210s with the balanced PS-1220s (I feel unhappy without balanced).

I never really got into room treatment, but I finally got the (passive) Yter panels, since they visually matched my Stradivari, more than for any obvious acoustic effect (Franco Serblin having a hand in both companies). Again, though, I believe active compensation is better than passive, so I got the Accuphase DG-38 digital equalizer, which I recently replaced with the Accuphase DG-48 (much better than the DG-38, although I don't know why). The DG-48 shows all the peaks and nulls in my room's frequency (and therefore phase) response. I find it difficult to believe that this can be corrected with passive room treatment. Although not digital equalization, I should mention the Meridien 518 digital processor I owned many years ago, this reduced jitter and converted 16 bit to 20 bit, which had a very positive effect on bass response. In its day, a fantastic device, which I still remember fondly.

Initially, I was driving the Extremas with the Kenwood L-1000M amplifier (!), which was not such a good match. Looking for something better, I found (perhaps because my father is Norwegian) the Adyton Cordis 3B, which I still have. This was the amplifier which was later modified by Dr. Forsell (without any attribution!) to become the Forsell the Statement. It was a very good (and expensive) amplifier for its day, but my two current bridged Accuphase A-65s beat it decisively, for example in terms of bass and bass control (Class A really is good for bass). The A-65s are also much better than the A-60s which I also owned, the damping factor increase of four being very obvious for the bass, and the true balanced circuit of the A-65s leading to much better resolution and dynamics than the A-60s. By the way, the Accuphase people in Japan tell me bridging is much better than bi-amping on the A-65s. I cannot test this, since my Stradivari only have one set of amplifier inputs.

Getting the Adyton revealed the lack of a very good preamplifer in my system (I'm now coming more and more to think that the preamplifier is the key to any system, more important than the source or even the loudspeakers), since the Kenwood L-1000C clearly started showing its limitations in a system with the Extremas and the Adyton. By the way, I seemed to be building my system backwards, starting with the speakers, and slowly moving upstream. I tried a solid state Pass (no life to vocals), a passive Audio Synthesis (based on resistors, too dull in dynamics), a tube BAT VK-5 (the first BAT, very colored), an Einstein the Tube (too many tubes, and too difficult to keep operating optimally, the Class A heat from so many tubes leading to deterioration of components and channel imbalances), a Brinkmann hybrid (returned to the manufacturer after five minutes, bad noise in the system with unshielded XLO cables), no preamp (no dynamics), a Music First Audio passive transformer based volume control (great sound, no problem with bass, but still slightly lacking in dynamics, although much better than the Audio Synthesis), then the VAC Signature Mk. II (with Telefunken Cca NOS tubes, superb for vocals, soundstaging, and dynamics, tubes are very special, the sound is also good because it's fully balanced with input and output transformers, which provide great impedance matching) and the Accuphase C-3800 (also superb, in a different way, very good on vocals as well, much better bass). The C-3800 is truly balanced, and much, much better than the single ended C-2800 and C-2810, which I have also owned. I intend to keep both the VAC and the C-3800, alternating between them from time to time, perhaps the best of both worlds.

For the DAC, I started with the Theta Va (not as good as its reputation, bass average, output unstable), various Audio Synthesis models (the Decade, and then the Discrete, very transparent, but focusing on this one parameter has led to a loss of body in the sound), the Accuphase DC-801 (spectacular with SACDs, dead with CDs), the Reimyo 999 (musical, but resolution not the best, a bit "coarse", and clearly not balanced, but the conversion of 16 bits to 24 bits having a very positive effect, I believe that bit upgrades are much more effective for good sound than frequency upsampling, for example 44 KHz to 176 KHz), and now the Accuphase DC-901, so far (still burning in) very very good, high resolution, fantastic bass and body, timing also very good, great on both SACDs and CDs (unlike the 801). I think I will keep the 901 a long, long time. Here also, the 16 bits to 32 bits conversion in the 32 ESS DACs, 16 DACs per channel (four 8 channel ESS ES9018 DACs in total, two 8 channel DACs per channel) contributes, I believe, to its very good sound.

For the transport, I started with a Meridian 500 (average), a CEC TL-2 (musical, but clearly colored), an Esoteric P-700 (cold and sterile mechanical sound (all Esoteric transports sound like this, the Wadias as well, which use the Esoteric transport mechanism), sold after one day), a CEC TL-1x (musical, but no bass), the CEC TL-0x, which I still have (great timing and bass, plus musical as well, this could be one of the best transports in the world, except that the belt drive mechanism needs to be adjusted by CEC on a regular annual basis, otherwise it stops working properly), the Accuphase DP-800 (average), and, finally, the Accuphase DP-900, which seems to be as good as the TL-0x. I also have the Marantz 9004 for DVDs and Blu-Ray discs (great component).

To sum up, criteria such as resolution, timbre density, dynamics, and timing are important for me (soundstaging less so, since concert halls don't have pin point soundstaging either), but the overriding criteria is musicality. Musical systems are rare, but I believe mine is musical. It's necessary to select components (like the Stradivari, Accuphase, VAC, CEC, Purist Audio) which are musical, but which also work well with each other. It's not easy.

I strongly believe that coherent systems have a better chance of being musical than incoherent mix and match systems. That's why my cables are all from Purist Audio, and why I have so many Accuphase components (with very musical exceptions like CEC and VAC, a too rigid insistence on coherence is also flawed, in my opinion).

Balanced systems, from what I have heard and experienced, are much better than single ended systems. To control a flapping speaker diaphragm, especially, with one hand holding one edge, is almost impossible. Two hands makes this job much easier. Try it. Clean power is the source of all musicality, since if the upstream water is polluted, the beer will not taste good.

Active systems (equalization rather than room treatment, power regeneration rather than conditioners) work better than passive systems, if they are well selected and properly used components. Most of the criticisms one reads in the press (of active equalization systems, of power regenerators, of balanced components) are of such systems which are not properly implemented. Properly implemented systems of this type work superbly, in my opinion. High density information media like SACDs (which I initially was skeptical about, due to theoretical considerations about low bit conversion systems with high ultra sonic noise) and Blu-rays are much better than legacy CDs and DVDs, again if implemented properly. There is no contest.

So, some thoughts on forty years of amateur experience. I've never been a professional like you, so I would appreciate comments, if you have any. By the way, I will be in Berlin on business end of September. Perhaps I could visit Krakow 1 October to meet you if you're free? You've asked for some pictures of my system, here they are enclosed, enjoy.

Just to explain a little bit.

Upstream is:

Accuphase DP-900
Marantz UD9004 (for DVDs and Blu-Rays)

Digital Equalization is:
Accuphase DG-48

DACs are:
Accuphase DC-901
Reimyo DAP-999EX (not in the pictures)
Audio Synthesis DAX Discrete (not in the pictures)

Preamps are:
Accuphase C-3800
VAC Signature Mk. 2
Music First Audio Passive Magnetic (not in the pictures)

Amps are:
Adyton Cordis 3B (Norwegian, from 15 years ago)
Accuphase A-65 x 2 (bridged, bi-amping not possible with Sonus Faber Stradivari Homages)

Speakers are:
Sonus Faber Stradivari Homages
Sennheiser HD 800 (headphones, not in the pictures)

Power supplies are:
Accuphase PS-1220 x 3 (one each for each of the power amps, the third one for the upstream, etc., plus the Pioneer plasma screen)
CSE balanced transformer (for the digital units, after the third Accuphase PS-1220)

Cables are:
Purist Audio 20th Anniversary and Canorus cables

Stands are:
HRS, Yamamoto, and Polycrystal

Sound panels are:

Plasma screen is:
Pioneer Kuro 50"

Music is:
Classical (90%) and Jazz

Please direct your questions, suggestions, opinions, etc. to:


"High Fidelity OnLine" is an internet magazine, published since may 2004, devoted to high quality reproduction of sound and picture. It is a monthly magazine, but the articles are uploaded twice a month - in the beginning of the month and in the middle. The news column is updated on on-going basis, if possible. The main sections are: "Tests", "Events" (interviews, reportages, and similar), "Hyde Park" (user tests, opinions) and "Who asks..." (readers questions and HFOL answers). Articles from earlier issues can be read in the "Archive". Have a nice read!

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