Review: Acurus ACT-3 Surround Pre

Category: Preamps

Ok here are the facts. The Acurus ACT-3 has had mixed reviews. Look out on the net and you will hear all kinds of good and bad. I took a chance on this unit used because of the unbelievable deal Modial has right now with their upgrade program. Let me just say, even without the upgrade this unit is great. I love the simplicity of this unit. It is easy to set up, straight forward to use and a real upgrade it sound from my Yamaha rv793 receiver. I have had this unit for a month now and I have no problem with hums or high sound floor. I payed about 400 for this unit, if you factor in the $950 cost to upgrade to a 7 channel configuration it still beats everything else hands down. I mean try to find a 7 channel pre/pro with the upgraded dac and other features offered in the upgrade for only $1350.

if your looking for a good quality pre/pro that can do stereo sound really really good(the upgrade adds a two channel audio pass through that allows you to use the unit as a simple pre amp for audio) this unit is the best deal. If your looking for something with all the bells and wistles that add no real value then I would pass on this unit.

Modial passed on the onscreen display because it effects the video image, they passed on having 500 different DSP modes because, well DSP is crap. The units look is clean, the sound is clean, and the price and upgradability should make this unit a no brainer.

Associated gear
B&k av5000
B&W 6 series 3 speakers
rbh sub

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I have had this unit for about a year now and i really enjoy it. I am using matching a200x3's and absolutely love the sound. I am truly more into HT than 2 channel, but think the 2 channel holds its own well. Haven't had any problems with the unit and for the price tough to beat. As far as going from recvr to seperates as in this case with the act 3, there is just no way to describe the incredible difference to what a person is missing.

Acurus ACT 3
2 A200x3 Amps
North Creek AV7 5.1 Speakers
I have owned the ACT-3 for a year and a half and I feel that it is the best bargain in pre-pro's for the person that is making the jump to seperates from a receiver. You need to make sure you are getting the ABM model because the noise floor is lowered and threre is no buzzing. It all had to do with a ground, apparently. The ABM feature is really nice. 2-channel is ok, but I feel like I would be getting a better presentation with a good Conrad-johnson or other nice tube preamp. The remote is only useful for the Prepro itself because not a single one of my components worked on it. I bought a $60 sony unit and never looked back. I have considered the upgrade to 7.1 and new DAC's for $950 but the way I look at it, I can pick up a California audio labs ssp-2500 pre-pro for about the same price overall. I am confident that the CAL would stomp on the Acurus. The DAC's in the ACT-3 are very good. A little bright on top, but very dynamic. The transport makes a huge difference as I can attest to. When I switched to a cheap NAD from my Yammie DVD as the transport I was floored by how much better the NAD was. The NAD's DAC's are a little soft, but match my NHT 2.5i's brightness a little better. I am now looking for a good tube CD player. All of this high(well, mid) end stuff is a delicate balancing act. I have heard cheap systems that sound better than much more expensive systems because of good component matching. The Acurus is a great way to get into the high-end and know you are getting a great product. I bought the Acurus 200X5 and promptly sold it. I now use a Citation 7.1 for the fronts and a little Adcom for the rears. The Citation is the ABSOLUTE best deal in low priced amps. Just my 2 cents - Tom
I owned a couple of ACT 3's over the years, and sold it on a retail level. I also had the Aragon Soundstage, which I sold in favor of the, yes, sonically excellent ACT 3! The Act 3's dynamics, lack of coloration, detail, soundstage, and just plain excellent digital sound sold me over the slightly soft Soundstage, wich was "not as dynamic"! The Soundstage did have about a 9 db lower Signal to noise however, which wasn't so much of an issue in my system, at the levels I listened to mostly. I did all my listening with the digital in connection for CD and DVD listening on the ACT 3. For over all sound, I would say there wasn't anything I heard on the planet that bested it for the money!...nothing! (haven't heard the Angstrom).
Still, and I did have the ABM models for $2200 retail, the act 3's ONLY real down fall for what it was(other than lack of analog direct pass-through, which you'd find on more expensive players) was the signal to noise level or "noise floor"! I could tell, at louder volumes with different systems, that it could slightly add noise to the system. In short, it was a tad noiser than many more expensive offerings out there. The Aragon, for one, was quieter, but more money, and not as exciting sounding to my ears! The Classe, Aragon, Krell, Theta's, and others I'd heard where indeed quieter. ONly the raved(someone got paid) Sony SDPEP9ES piece was louder, from what I've had in my system.And I couldn't live with the Sony. The ACt 3, in the right system, that I could definitely live with!
Still, the only thing, again that I was wanting for in that piece was perhaps a quieter processor. But, it was marginal there. I'm sure many wouldn't even peep about it.
As for that unit being "bright", no! It was not bright! It was very very well balaced. Infact, about perfect. Now the Acurus 200x5, that might be a little thin on top!...but not the ACt 3. It wasn't bright. Maybe something in Tootch's system was adding brightness. But it wasn't the ACt 3. I can tell you that right now.
Anyway, anyone wishing to give this unit a try for dirt cheep should do so! At the very very least, you will hear what a good pre pro can do sonically. I would say only the likes of the Krell HTS in it's day was superior for over all soncis for a pre/pro!! The piece was that good, for only having 20bit dac's! Just as pristine, clean, musical, detailed, uncolored, and dynamic as you could want from a digital processor for movies!..and not bad for PCM CD's either for what it was. Nice piece.
for the record, I do remember the Sig to Noise ratio for the digital input as around 90db, while the other Mondial offering in the Aragon line(soundstage), was I believe at least 10db better! The Classe SSP25, which was also a good piece was like 96db or 98. Anyway, this can make a difference in some systems. Try and find out, it's worth it.