Accuphase M-2000 monoblock power amplifier Page 2

So—getting beyond the lighter, slightly less punchy bass that my spoiled self has become accustomed to, I nevertheless found much to enjoy in "Use Me" 's superb acoustic bass intro. It was rich, deep, satisfying, and involving, the full harmonics not sounding so vibrant as to muddy the waters. In general, with a wide variety of material, the basso profundo always sounded under control, finely turned and intricate, never bloated or excessive: not bombastic, but subtle.

The profile of the typical M-2000 owner will likely include an appreciation of nuance, elegance, and style—most emphatically not a headbanger, but a midrange-loving sort more Beta than Alpha. If you're looking for a rich, lush tapestry in the mids—where the music lives, they say—and you don't want to bother with tubes (a misguided sentiment, in my view), then look no further than a pair of these. That is, if you can handle the freight.

The M-2000 delivered what I'll call the New Midrange: not thick, euphonic, or glazed-over, but rendered whole by the sheer quantity and quality of information. The natural, unforced detail allowed harmonics to develop, bloom, and fade to black. In that way, the M-2000 was YBA-like, a touch Zen and serene in its presentation, like a tranquil contemplation garden. The midband worked its magic on everything from the lush-sounding "Casino" on Run Lola Run (TVT Soundtrax 8220-2) to the gorgeous, plaintive flute in Debussy's Syrinx, and his Cello Sonata 1 (Musique de chambre, Calliope CAL 9837). During the Sérénade, I fell under the spell of the delicacy and shimmer of the strings as they spoke eloquently of mystery and romance. It all hung together beautifully, finely crafted and inviting.

Continuing my search for meaningful midrange, I spun my favorite tracks from Cellissimo (DG 439 863-2). We'll overlook the unbelievable getup that some insane art director must have coerced cellist Mischa Maisky to wear—if only for the manifest skill and soul with which he invests the works of Bach, Handel, Schubert, Schumann, Debussy, and Bloch, among others. I luxuriated in the sound, letting the intimate ambience and rich, burnished tonalities overcome me. Heady stuff.

Fanciers of female vocals are home (not exactly) free with these amplifiers. The ladies were always rendered extremely palpable and dimensional, lit up from within almost as if by single-ended triodes. Listening to The K&D Sessions again, I was captivated by their seductive sound. While enjoying the pounding Run Lola Run, the English, French, and German vocals physically pulled me into the music, while the entertainingly populated soundstage wrapped around me in the Ribbon Chair. Notes: "It's a struggle not getting vertigo! The loft is gone, I'm in the virtual world of filmmaker/composer Tom Tykwer."

If you've a strong romantic streak, the skill with which the M-2000 lays out the babes is just phenomenal. Late one night I went through all three of Patricia Barber's recordings, enjoying them for the sheer quality and presence of her voice. I was attracted to a highlight in the treble that cut through the rich harmonics and nicely balanced the overall presentation. It was so involving that way.

Male vocals were also finely rendered. Try "Introduction (Remix)" on Lola. It starts with a fantastic, trance-inducing monologue in German that always nailed me to the listening chair. Translation: "Man—the most mysterious species on our planet / A mystery of open questions: / Who are we? / Where do we come from? / Where are we going? / From where do we know what we believe we know? / Why do we believe at all?" (Sounds very audiophile!) The voice was shockingly present and powerfully real, super-ambient and dimensional via the M-2000s. I needed a drink.

Set atop the midrange like crown jewels, the upper midrange and treble tended toward the sweet side of life. If there was any charm at all in a particular recording, I could count on the M-2000 to find it, especially when supplied a quality signal from components like the upsampling dCS gear and the Mark Levinson No.32 preamplifier.

But let's limn the treble with some vinyl. How 'bout Red & Ross (Concord Jazz CJ-90)? Enjoy the musical conversations between Red Norvo and Ross Tompkins in the middle cuts on each side—they're almost as fine as that greatest of musical chats, "Rent Party," from The Timekeepers: Count Basie Meets Oscar Peterson (Pablo 2310-896 and JVC XRCD2). Red's vibraphone is not nearly as ambient and wet-sounding as most of Milt Jackson's oeuvre on early Atlantics, but the piano is sharply and beautifully rendered. Red's background with the wooden-barred xylophone shows through his handling of the vibes in this 1979 recording. He's a purist, I guess, and doesn't use motor-driven sustains. It's a club date and the crowd loves them both—it's very participatory. The sound was gorgeous and revealing on the M-2000s, especially through the Insider/Forsell/ML No.32.

Flipping to the seminal Bags Groove (OJC-245), I was immediately awash in Rudy van Gelder's closer, more burnished, more wet recording of Bags' exquisite vibes. As expected, his sound was more bell-like, textured, and harmonically fleshed-out than Red's. I prefer this classic old sound to the slightly dryer mix of Master Norvo, even while applauding the M-2000 for laying it out so effortlessly.

During the time they powered our system, the Accuphase M-2000s impressed me most with their expressiveness: the way they rendered the bass—and the rest of the audible frequency range—and made available the small, certain turns of phrasing and timing, the very construction, texture, and nuance of the music; more simply put, that which makes the music live.

Another inescapable truth about the M-2000 was its subtle sense of refinement. Over time, I discovered this to be the secret of its entire presentation. The M-2000, you might say, was refinement personified. This richness of texture was evident throughout its operating range; it excelled at reproducing finely formed, delicate, nuanced dynamics and tonal shadings. It wasn't so much the master of detail per se; rather, it seemed to coalesce many finely crafted smaller events into a larger whole. And while I wouldn't describe the M-2000s as paragons of dynamics or transparency, their soundstage always managed to sound large, airy, and well populated.

Bottom Line: Expensive. Sleek. Seductive. Capable. Civilized. Refined. For even greater heights of refinement, at the cost of a smidgen of drive and oomph, add the PS-1200 conditioner. In a well thought-out and acoustically tailored system—likely where'd they'd wind up anyway—the M-2000 is highly recommended.

US distributor: Axiss Marketing
17800 S. Main St., Suite 109
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 329-0187