Review: Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2 Transport

Category: Digital

When Accustic Arts came out with their new reference DAC, the DAC1-MK4, they decided they wanted to upgrade the highly regarded Drive1-MK1 transport to get the absolute best performance possible with the MK-4.

I'm not an engineer, but to my best understanding Accustic Arts beefed up the power supply, did significant parts upgrades with very precise matching tolerances, and worked on even better isolation/vibration control then in the first generation transport. The Drive 1-MK2 is truly "eye candy" with its beautiful casing and blue illuminated CD transport door. If you want more technical details I recommend you go to Accustic Arts website were they are listed.

This review is done in the context of not comparing the first generation Drive 1 to the new MK2, but to my reference of four years the latest edition Ensemble transport. The Ensemble had replaced the highly regarded Mark Levinson 31.5 in my system because it offered better performance across the entire sonic spectrum.

I still think the Ensemble piece is one of the better transports available on the market today, however, I was delighted with vast improvements the Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2, when matched with my Accustic Arts DAC 1-MK4, brought to my system.

Here's the specifics:

1) A dramatic drop in the noise floor so micro-dynamics and fine details just float out of a totally black background.

2) More extension on both the top and bottom end, with more precise details/speed/slam, but not in an "etched" or overly dramatic "HIFI" way.

3) About a 20 precent increase of the sound stage with more air and space between the individual players on the soundstage.

4) I would never have called the Ensemble transport anything less then smooth and very natural sounding, however compared with the Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2, it was noticable less "silky" and lacked the liquidity that the MK2 brought to my digital front end and entire system.

No piece of gear is perfect, however, so far I have not experienced any sonic shortcomings with this transport. In all my reviews I state their is no BEST in world of high end gear, but many fine pieces that offer wonderful performance. It always comes down to personnal taste and system synergy. If the goal of Accustic Arts was to produce a transport to squeeze out every ounce of performance from their reference MK4 DAC they have succeeded in a major way. My hunch is that the Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2 will match up with any DAC and is competitive with other reference level transports, at a very reasonable price compared to other manufacturers. So, if you are looking for a new transport I would recommend you put the Accustic Arts Drive 1-MK2 on your list.

Associated gear
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Hi Teajay,
Pretty nice review... I will personal audition this combo in two weeks and I will report here my findings but, already Accustic Arts combo seems like a true winner for real world money. Only thing that betters it in real musical involvment and some other thing is Metronome C2-A Signature/Kallista Reference combo. Since this combo cost big time money I think that we need to find "real world" reference and Accustic Arts combo is true candidate!
BTW, I am right now in system changes process(speakers in system No.1 and most of the stuff in system No.2) so I will report in about two months time about some new stuff in my systems.
Back to the subject-Accustic Arts combo is IMHO almost at the same level as far more expensive Esoteric D-01/P-01/G-0s combo and that is in my book not a small thing...
Branimir, it's truly a pleasure to hear from you again. I know that you shared you were going on vacation some time this summer, but you then you kinda "dropped out of sight". You mean there might be other things more important then listening to high end gear and great music, in one's life!

Thanks for the kind words regarding my review of the new Accustic Arts transport. Since, I have great respect for your "ears" and opinions, it is a very serious compliment to compare the performance of the Accustic Arts combo with the Esoteric separates which cost almost $30,000.00 more.

I have found that the Accustic Arts combo to offer better performance then other gear I have auditioned, DCS, Meitner, Esoteric CDP, Audio Note, Etc., but never have had the opportunity to listen to the Esoteric reference pieces. I have read reviews regarding them, that thought they were "state of the art" and as good if not better then anything else concerning digital front ends. So, if you think the the Accustic Arts combo, " is almost at the same level" as the Esoteric pieces regarding performance that is quite a thumbs-up indeed.
I am glad that your review is here because Accustic Arts gear do not get enough attention in High End press(printed and internet). They are some kind of "sleepers" in upper class of Reference digital gear IMO. Some other stuff(although IMHO not that good) is getting all the "Scene" lately...
Since this is your review thread I will give you few hints about few new pieces that I reccomend highly:
Accustic Arts Player 1 Mk2
Accustic Arts DAC1-Mk4/Drive 1-Mk2 combo
Krell Evolution 505
Lindemann 820
Metronome T-2i Signature
Metronome C-2A Signature/Kallista Reference(my favorite!!)

All these gear is in #2 flavor(suprise, suprise!) but, they are not too warm or slow. In fact some of them are PRAT champions.
Big Esoteric combo(P-01/D-01/G-0s) sounds almost too clinical comparing to Metronome reference combo(C-2A Signature/Kallista Reference). But, more about gear mentioned above soon...