Accuphase or Musical fidelity for Focal Micro Be


I have a Musical Fidelity A5 combo (cd player and integrated amp) driving a pair of Focal Micro Utopia Be augmented with a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer. The A5 combo is a good match for the Focals, the system is very musical, with good details, and never fatigue.

Recently, a dealer offer me the chance to upgrade my A5 combo to a Musical fidelity Nu Vista combo, i.e. M3 integrated amp and the 3D cd player.

At the same time, I have been offered a very good deal on a Accuphase system, i.e. the E-408 integrated and the DP-67 cd player.

The Accuphase route should be about 1000 euros more expensive (assuming that eventually I will be able to get a decent price for the A5 combo). However, as I am after the best sound this is not really an issue.

Since it is quite difficult to listen these electronics on my speakers I would really appreciate any feedback from people that had experience with these electronics.

I thank you in advance.
nvp
I haven't had any Accuphase since the 80s but they are a good company. I like the Mini Utopias , mine have the Titanium dome tweeters. But I find they are a little forward on some music and I still like the fabric domes on my Spendors, even though they are not as "fast" as the metal ones. The Focal is outstanding at detail retrieval and the Musical Fidelity is also very good at this. I have a NuVista 21 CD player but listen more often to my Audio Synthesis DAX, both used with Meridian 200 transports. The M3 is a very good unit , the best amp I have had. As you see I have 2 REL Stadium subs, which work well with the Focal. I suspect the M3 is a considerable advance on the A5 and I can recommend that combination. Whether is is better than the Accuphase I couldn't say.
I called the 21 a player, it is of course a DAC.
I have the original Micro Utopia's (now in a secondary system) and have powered them with both the E-408 and the E-530. Although I have since moved to tubes, the Accuphase integrated were the best I've owned (including JRDG, BAT, Sim Audio, Plinius)...the E-530 especially. It was a great match with the Micro's.

The only MF integrated I've owned was one of the lower end ones that I used in a bedroom system. I'm sure the Nuvista model is much more refined and more similar to the Accuphase and JRDG Concentra II.

Stan and Rrsclyde, thank you for the quick replies. I have quite a few questions for you guys. I hope you do not mind.

Stan,

1) Shouldn't I be worried about the fact the the NuVista electronics are almost 10 years old?
2) How sensitive is the volume control of the M3 amp? Is it usable late at night when one needs to vary the volume in small increments? (The A5 performs quite poorly in this regard.)
3) I know you do not have the NuVista 3D player, but do you think this player is still a top player by today's standards, or is it easily outperformed buy decent new players between 2-3k? 10 years is really a long time for digital sources.

Rrsclyde,

Can you elaborate more on the differences between the E-408 and E-530 amplifiers. Also, do you know how these two units compare to the new Accuphase models, i.e. E-350, E-450 and E-550. Is it worth buying the new models? Do I really need the power of the 400 series to drive the Micro Be?

Thanks again.
Nvp,

In my experience, the E-530 was considerably smoother and more refined than the E-408 (and bear in mind that I thought the E-408 was a great amp). Besides being pure Class A, I think the pre section of the E-530 was quite a bit more transparent. The E-408 obviously with much higher pwr rating might have had a bit more 'slam' and maybe a bit more on the 'foregiving' side (although I don't think I've ever seen any Accuphase products described as too analytical). Unless you listen to heavy metal type rock at really loud volumes, I can't imagine that you would need more pwr than the E-530 provides; it drove my Micro's to insane volume with no sweat (and retained its fabulous smooth resolution even at high volume). IMHO, the E-408 is one of the classic great ss integrateds, but the E-530 is a definite notch above, up there in a much smaller class of truly top of class ss integrated.

I have no experience with any of the new Accuphase amps.

Happy listening and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Randy
Hi,

Only a couple of comments. I believe that Utopias are great speakers that deserve decent applification. I do not think that A5 Musical Fidelity combo is capable of squeezing everything out of these Focals - I do believe that you need something better. Much better ...

I am not sure that Accuphase would be a right move. I had a long listen at my home with Accu E-307 and Focal Electra 1027 Be and that was not working exceptionally well. Saying that, Accus in class A are different amps than these E-307, E-308 or E-408 ... Maybe that could work well together ... I do not know - never tried it.

But my suggestion is that you take a look into Pass Labs offering. Some very interesting amps ... A lot depends of course on your budget, but the starting point could be Pass Labs X-250.5. It does work well with Focals ... very well indeed ...
I would not worry that the M3 is ten years old. It is actually the newest amp I have. Yes , 10 years is a long time for digital players. Ten years most of them were much better than the ones being made now. The high point in general CD performance was the early 90s. My DAX is from 1992 and is very close to some current $10,000 ones according to tests in HIFICRITIC. Most current DACs use parts intended for other applications, the big Japanese electronics companies took their best designers off CD years ago. I would not get the NuVista player as it seems that MF does not support them very well. It would still perform well but I wouldn't want to take the chance. This does not apply to the amps, whose parts are available from other sources if necessary, I haven't had trouble with the volume control but this is a subjective area.
its very difficult to go wrong w/ the accuphase integrated! they are among the best i've tried and owned.
they are warm and smooth but detailed (not in your face).
I've heard a few systems where the marriage of the accuphase & JM labs are a match made in heaven.
good luck!

Hi all,

Firstly, I would like to wish a "Happy New Year!" to everyone. Secondly, I should apologias for my very late reply. December was extremely busy, both at work and at home (also at the HiFi store). Nevertheless, I am back with great news.

I have bought myself two Accuphase units, i.e. the E-550 amp and the DP-500 cd player. As, Accuphase has just replaced the E-550 amp with the E-560, I've got a great deal from a local dealer for the E-550/DP-500 combo. Not only did I got a substantial discount for each unit, but the dealer also gave me credit for my Musical Fidelity A5 combo and also for a pair of Dali Helicons 300 with the original stands (which I did not used since I've got the Micro Be). Of course, I've bought two demo units but with full warranty.

As you can all imagine I am an extremely happy man now with not much money left in his account. Even with the substantial discount I have received I have still spent twice of what I had planed. My wife made it very clear that this was not a Christmas present, but rather my present for the next few years.

Now, regarding the sound, in my opinion the Accuphase combo together with the Focal Micro Be are a match made in haven. Personally, I find the Accuphase combo and the Focal Utopia speakers very similar in character. By similar I mean that 1) both retrieve tones of details without being thin and/or fatigue, and 2) both can play superbly any type of music.

Since I have my purchase I have listen to half of my music collection, e.g Metallica/Megadeth, Diana Krall/Norah Jones, Loreena McKennitt, Bill Evens/Chick Corea, Ludovico Einaudi, Bach, etc. and I am yet to find something lacking in the reproduction of every music gender. Everything sounds that way it should, nothing is recessed and/or accentuated. Of course, since the system consists of a 30 watts amp and a pair of monitors it can't reproduce the dynamics of a full orchestra or a big band. However, this is not a limitation for me as I am not listening those genders.

I have to go now as it is very late. I thank you all for posting your advices and/or opinions. Somewhere this week I will answer all your posts. I will also post more details about the auditions prior to my purchase, and of course thoughts about my new system.

Best wishes!

Hi all,

Firstly, I would like to wish a "Happy New Year!" to everyone. Secondly, I should apologias for my very late reply. December was extremely busy, both at work and at home (also at the HiFi store). Nevertheless, I am back with great news.

I have bought myself two Accuphase units, i.e. the E-550 amp and the DP-500 cd player. As, Accuphase has just replaced the E-550 amp with the E-560, I've got a great deal from a local dealer for the E-550/DP-500 combo. Not only did I got a substantial discount for each unit, but the dealer also gave me credit for my Musical Fidelity A5 combo and also for a pair of Dali Helicons 300 with the original stands (which I did not used since I've got the Micro Be). Of course, I've bought two demo units but with full warranty.

As you can all imagine I am an extremely happy man now with not much money left in his account. Even with the substantial discount I have received I have still spent twice of what I had planed. My wife made it very clear that this was not a Christmas present, but rather my present for the next few years.

Now, regarding the sound, in my opinion the Accuphase combo together with the Focal Micro Be are a match made in haven. Personally, I find the Accuphase combo and the Focal Utopia speakers very similar in character. By similar I mean that 1) both retrieve tones of details without being thin and/or fatigue, and 2) both can play superbly any type of music.

Since my purchase I have listen to half of my music collection, e.g Metallica/Megadeth, Diana Krall/Norah Jones, Loreena McKennitt, Bill Evens/Chick Corea, Ludovico Einaudi, Bach, etc. and I am yet to find something lacking in the reproduction of every music gender. Everything sounds that way it should, nothing is recessed and/or accentuated. Of course, since the system consists of a 30 watts amp and a pair of monitors it can't reproduce the dynamics of a full orchestra or a big band. However, this is not a limitation for me as I am not listening those genders.

I have to go now as it is very late. I thank you all for posting your advices and/or opinions. Somewhere this week I will answer all your posts. I will also post more details about the auditions prior to my purchase, and of course thoughts about my new system.

Best wishes!
Congratulation.
I have been in the same dilemma, choosing between the Accuphase 450 and the new 560, to drive Focal Electra 936.
In my experience, Accuphase and Focal go together very well.
I was worried about the ability of the new 560 to drive the speakers and future Focal scalas :). so I bought the 450.
Boy, after 50 hours of break in (the first 30 hours were horrid), this is a really great amp - a substantial improvement over the Accu. 213 I had.
I am sure the 550 is more refined.
Do you think the 550 has enough power to drive big speakers in big rooms?
Congratulation to you too Itzoros.

From my experience so far with the E-550 amp, whether or not the E-560 has enough power to drive your speakers depends mostly on the type of music you are listening and on how loud you like to listen to your music. I have found that the E-550 amp never run out of steam when playing rock music, e.g. Metallica, Dream Theatre, Rush, etc.. For some reason this music is recorded much louder than the rest of the music. When listening such music, I find the sound level to be good to almost loud when the meter indicators of my E-550 are around -30 dB (at -20 dB the music is way to loud). Clearly, as this music has almost no dynamic variations, the E-550 will never run out of steam. However, when listening to orchestra music the E-550 can run out of power. In my room, for good levels when listening to orchestra music the meters indicators should be around -20 dB, i.e. you will have 20 dB for dynamic variation, which should be enough in most of the cases. However, this will not be the case anymore if you want to listen at louder volumes.

I should also mentioned that in my experience the room size is not the most important factor. For example, in the dealers room I was able to make the E-550 (driving my Focal Micro Be) to clip by playing Loreen McKennitt (!). That is, the meter indicators went into the red area (above 0 dB) for fractions of a second, when Loreena was rising her voice while her entire band was playing. The dealer's room is approximatively 4.5 x 3.5 meters. At home, on the other hand, were I use the Micro Be speakers together with a REL Stentor 3, this has never happened. My room is 4 x 7 meters and I am listening along the smaller side. I should mentioned that in the dealer's room I was sitting further from the speakers than I do at home, i.e. 3 vs. 2.5 meters.

Finally, I should also tell you that in the dealer's room I have compared my Micros to the Wilson Sophia 2. On paper the Sophias have the same efficiency as the Micros, i.e. 89dB. The E-550 had absolutely no problem to drive the Sophias, the room was filled with well controlled and very low bass. Also, when driving the Sophias clipping did not occur earlier then it did when driving the Micros. However, the E-550 became hotter. Thus, since on paper your future speakers are more efficient than the Sophias. i.e. 92 vs 89 dB, I would say that the E-550\560 amp should have no problem driving them. But, as one can never be sure do not go for the E-560 without actually driving the Scalas with it.

Hope this has helped.
My current speakers are Focal Electra 936 which are 92 DB and go down as low as 2 Ohms (according to unofficial information gave me from Focal ).
I think the major problem for an amp. is the speaker load rather than their efficiency.
With the E 450 I hardly pass the 1 Watt mark in a room size 6 X 7 meters, and the sound is very powerful and big in all kinds of music and the only limitation is the room acoustic.
Since I like the sound of big speakers. I was really worried about the ability of 30W amp to drive those kind of speakers with ease.
Your description of the E550 go out of steam with Loreena McKennitt ( which is one of my first favorite), maybe proved I was right, because when I listening to Mummers Dance or Greensleeves (where she really shouts) the E 450 just cruise around 1 watt and the sound is very loud and relaxed.
I am almost sure the E 560 sounds more refined and controls the bass better than the E450.
The M3 is a great amp, but it gets distortion issues when the selector volume pots get dirty. There's only one guy who services them in the country.

On the other hand, the thing is built like a tank and sounds wonderful. A once every ten-year clean and tune is a small price to pay on this amp.

Hello everyone,

Finally, I have found some time to tell you about the auditions I have made before buying the Accuphase E-550 and DP-500 combo.

Firstly, I have listen to a Lyngdorf TDAI 2200 amp. The dealer brought the amp to my home and also set up the room correction system. I have used my Musical Fidelity A5 cd player as a transporter feeding the Lyngdorf DAC via the optical output of the A5. The dealer left me the amp for four days. Overall this was quite a bad experience. I will not go into details about this as this thread is not about Lyngdorf. However, if some of you want more details about this let me know and I will elaborate. I should say that I was verry surprised to obtained such bad results. Before asking the dealer to bring the Lyngdorf to my home I have listen the Lyngdorf driving the Diablo Utopia in his show room. The combination was superb. Probably, the dealer has messed things up when setting up the room correction system. Because of this bad experience I have decided that it is safer to stick to Musical Fidelity. This is how I have become interested in the NuVista M3 amp. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I was not able to audition the M3 amp driving the Micro Be speaker. The dealer that was selling the M3 was too far from where I live. Stan and Grimace, thank you for posting your thoughts regarding the M3 amp.

Secondly, I have listen the Accuphase E-350/DP-400 combo driving my Micro Be speakers in a dealer room. I went to the dealer also with my Musical Fidelity A5 combo so I could do a direct comparison. I have compared the two combos for about 4-5 hours. As you can all imagine the Accuphase combo did everything better than the Musical Fidelity A5 combo. The sound was more open and faster, and all the small little details in the music were more obvious. The music played via the Accuphase was more in the room (surrounding me) and better focused, e.g. on "The Dali CD vol. 2" I could "follow" Josefine Cronhold's mouse movements while she was singing "In your wild garden". Of course, all the details that were brought to my attention by the Accuphase combo could also be heard on the A5 combo. However, they were further in the background. This gave the Musical Fidelity combo a more softer/warmer, relaxed and less involving presentation, i.e. the music sounded like it was played not in front of the listener but a bit further away.

While comparing the A5 combo with the E-350/DP-400 combo I have also interchanged the two cd players. Interestingly, it turn out that the DP-400 cd player in combination with the A5 integrated sounded very close in character to the E-350/DP-400 combo (but had more power). This has clearly showed me how good an integrated amplifier the Musical Fidelity A5 is. On the other hand, the A5 cd player and the E-350 integrated sounded very close to the A5 combo. This was the first time I have hear a cd player completely changing the sound of an amp/speaker system. At first I was very surprised, however, after thinking more about this I have realized that the warm and relaxed characteristics of the A5 combo are often associated to tubes. As the A5 cd player is a tube player things started to make more sense.

After this comparison, I was quite sure that eventually I will buy and Accuphase combo for my Focal Utopia Micro Be speakers. The sound was superb and the attention to details was second to none. However, I was a bit reluctant to spent for the Accuphase E-350/DP-400 combo more than 3 times the price I have paid for the Musical Fidelity A5 combo. This dilemma was quite well captured by the "philosophy" of the two manufactures. Accuphase is a luxurious company that pays attention to the smallest detail, whereas Musical Fidelity is a company that makes "budget" products that can compete well with the big names (although not exactly in the same league). Eventually, I have decided to look at second hand Accuphase units, i.e. the same dealer had a E-408 amp in stock and I was able to find a DP-68 cd player at a different dealer.

As the post has gotten very long I will share with you the rest of my adventure, i.e. the comparisons between the E-408, E-450, E-550 amps (and also and Ayer amp), in a second post. I hope you have enjoy my story so far. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts.

Regards wishes,
Very interesting, waiting to be continue.


I have decided to buy the Accuphase E-550 & DP-500 combo after 2 - 3 days of rather long auditions, i.e. 5 - 6 hours per day. All electronics were compared in the same room using my Focal Micro Utopia Be speakers. I have also used a pair of Wilson Sophia 2 (for about an hour or so) to test the ability of E-550 to drive larger speakers (see my system page for a brief description Micro Be vs Sophia 2). For music I have used my usual test CDs:

1) Loreena McKennitt - Nights from Alhambra
2) Ludovico Einaudi - La Scala Concert 03/03/03
3) Dali CD - volume 2 (tracks 2, 5, 6, 7 and 13)
3) Marantz - High-End Audiophile Test DEMO SACD 12th edition (tracks 4 and 9)
4) Norah Jones - Come away with me (mostly track 10 to make sure I am right between the speakers and probably also parts of the tracks 1, 3, 5 and 7)
5) Diana Krall - Live in Paris (track 11)
6) AC/DC - High way to hell (track 1)
7) Dream Theater - Awake (tracks 1, 6, 7, and 11)

I have made the following comparisons:

A) CD players: Accuphase DP-500 vs. DP-400

I have compared these two units on both E-450 and E-550 integrated amplifiers. Speakers were my Focal Micro Utopia Be. The sound of the two units was very similar. The DP-500 was more fluid but the difference was not night vs. day. Also, I did not find a significant difference between balanced and unbalanced connections (cables were from Transparent but I can't remember the models).

B) Integrated amplifiers: Accuphase E-450 vs. E-550

The two amps, like the two cd players above, had very similar sound. Again, the more expensive unit, i.e. E-550, had a more fluid sound (that was also somewhat fuller and seemed a bit more transparent). Again not night vs. day, but the differences were more obvious than in the case of the cd players.
In my opinion, however, the most important factor when choosing between the two units should be the amount of power one needs. The E-450 is extremely powerful, much more than its 180 W/ch would indicate. About two months ago, at the same dealer, I witnessed a very impressive display of E-450's power. Driving a pair of Martin Logan Summit X and playing some opera, the E-450 has literally shaken a three floor building, i.e the entire store. Unfortunately, I could not see the indication of the power meters as I have left the room before the peak of the crescendo occurred (I was actually on a different floor one level below). Even if the dam think has clipped, who would care? The sound was unbelievable loud. Nobody (sane or insane) will play music at those level at home. Obviously, the E-450 drove effortlessly my Micros and also the Wilson Sophia 2 speakers.
It should also be obvious that E-550 with only 30 W/ch does not have the power reserves of E-450. However, E-550 too had no problems driving the Sophias. It got quite a bit hotter than when driving the Micros but it has kept unaltered its sonic superiority over the E-450 (at least at the levels that I consider as very loud). As I have already mentioned in my previous post, the E-550 clipped for fractions of a second when required to play very loud. This has happened with both Micro and Sophia speakers, though it occurred somewhat sooner when driving the Micros. Now (after 10 months), it is very clear to me that, during my audition in the dealer's room, I have driven the Micros (also the Sophia) way over the levels I normally listen. (I think this is a mistake most of us are making when auditioning audio components.) In the 10 months since I have the E-550, not even once did it clipped when driving the Micros. My room is rather large, i.e. 5 x 7 x 2.75 meters, but the Micros are paired with a REL Stentor 3 subwoofer.
Finally, in a pm Itzoros ask me if the E-550 had better controlled bass (not more powerful) than E-450. On my Micros I did not noticed this. But obviously, due to their limited bass output, the Micros are not the ideal speaker to judge the bass performance of an amplifier. I have listen only briefly the E-450 driving the Sophias, i.e. only a few minutes in order to compare the meter indications of E-450 vs. E-550, but I did not notices any significant difference.


C) Integrated amplifiers: Accuphase E-450 vs. E-408

The E-450 seemed a bit more open and more transparent maybe also a bit quicker. The E-408 retrieved the same amount of detail as E-450 but was wormer, i.e. a more laid back and somewhat fuller presentation. This gave me the impression that the E-408's presentation was closer to the one of E-550, i.e. more relaxing, though E-408 did not have the transparency and openness of E-550. Because of the large price difference between these two units, i.e. almost 3000 euros, and since the differences between the two units were subtle, I would have chosen E-408 over E-450.

D) Combos: Ayre the 7 series vs. Accuphase E-550 & DP-500

This was a rather short comparison, i.e. around 30 minutes. I have already decided to buy the E-550 & DP-500 combo, plus most likely I was tired and sick of paying attention to subtle differences. I have used only the Micro Be speakers for this comparison. The Ayre combo was very open, dynamic and transparent but not in the same league with the Accuphase combo. This was especially obvious when listening to Norah Jones' voice and piano recordings (e.g. Ludovico Einaudi). Some inflections in Norah's voice and some piano notes sounded quite harsh and uncontrolled through the Ayer combo. This was never the case through the Accuphase combo. Also, the Ayre combo looks incredibly cheep next to the Accuphase, e.g. the cases of the Ayre components ring almost like bells when tapped with the fingers.

I will conclude by telling that I am still as excited about the Accuphase combo as I was 10 months ago when I bought it. However, unlike 10 months ago, now I know that going the class A route was the right thing to do. The 30 w/ch are more than enough for my listening habits. I hope some of you will find this (again very long) post helpful. It know it is way overdue, i.e. I have promised to write it 6 months ago, but better later than never.

Best wishes,
Paul