I will not hide, that to be able confidently and truthfully fulfill all review tasks, we can review quite thoroughly all burned-in devices within two-three weeks. But full picture of its capabilities can only be gained after having spent much more time with such component. Without having the pressure of time we can not only check the device in different configurations, but in addition we can take another factor into consideration – time. Regardless of the effort put into that, still, subconsciously, being in contact with something new, we will assess it through the prism of being excited with that novelty, trying to catch sometimes only imaginable nuances confirming the rightness of our choice. Yet it does not happen often that you can read in reviews – for obvious reasons – what happens when emotions cool off, when the new thing is not so new anymore, and becomes a part of your system. In the best case scenario, when we can assume everything is OK., we just resume daily activities and forget about this whole thing. Things get worse, when audiophilia nervosa does not let you rest, and things that inspired at first, now irritates, and what was soothing, now puts you to sleep and becomes boring. You cannot have such dilemmas within a few weeks, so in a situation common for reviewers, and so in most cases this is just hypothetical. Very dynamic fluctuation of components in the listening system does not leave even a minimal chance for boredom, or a device becoming too acquainted. But even in our, hermetic audio-world, there are some extremely positive exceptions to the rule. Positive, yet confirming all what I wrote before. Exceptions, for which it is not important to have the shortest possible test time, or the highest amount of tests appearing in the press or internet, but which need the highest possible thoroughness, quality, and most of all, having the test environment as close to real world usage, as possible. This is an uncompromising approach, but if you treat High-End as a domain, where there is no place for compromise, and if you value long term satisfaction of your clients, then this is the way to go. This is the moment where we finally come to the main topic of this review, the split amplification Abyssound ASP-1000 + ASX-1000, which was present in our system from … July last year. Yes, this is true. This test was the longest in the history of our magazine and reached almost 12 months of duration. During that time we tested over fifty combinations and systems, so in the footer you will find only the last, most recent, configurations.
When we agreed for the test of the Abyssound, we took the “compact” option, the smaller one, although this is not the most fitting description in this context, the power amplifier ASX-1000 and the only available preamplifier, at least currently, ASP-1000. As it turned out, the size and weight difference between the ASX-1000 and ASX-2000 is almost cosmetic, as it only means 4cm difference in height and 6kg in weight, what with the size of 54x54cm and weight of 46 vs 52kg is absolutely negligible. But it is not about the size of the chassis, but what you can find in the inside and the class of the amplification. We received the more “ecological” version, capable of delivering 180W at 8ohm (360 at 4), and where “only” the first 35W are served in Class A, passing into Class AB only when you need more juice. Additionally innovative solutions were applied, like BQVA – complimentary Bi-Quartet setup in the voltage amplification stage and the ULHD module (Ultra Linear High Damping) in the output stage, allowing for a very high damping factor. The mentioned technologies are supported by solutions tested in High-End for years, like the powerful, toroidal power transformer with 1600VA power and a bank of capacitors with a combined capacity of 220000µF. No compromises. I kept the description of the chassis and the external design for last, as Polish constructions are usually known for being capable of tackle the best products of abroad in terms of sound or materials used, while the looks were usually neglected – they look like a little bit better DIY devices. But fortunately during the years things are changing for better, and the proof for that are products from Amare Musica, Egg-Shell or the G Lab Design Fidelity Block, we just received for testing. It is the same with the ASX-1000, which is a device of imposing posture, which combines the best characteristics of the classic Krell, BAT or PASS amplifiers. It is big, rough, black and … disconcertingly monumental. The multilayered front, made from thick brushed aluminum plates, is decorated only with a silver power button surrounded by a blue ring, and a milled company logo. Conventional side panels were replaced by heavy heat sinks, the top cover has lots of cut ventilation holes, protected with a dense mesh. This minimalist design is splendidly augmented by the back panel, were there are only gold plated RCA sockets (WBT 0201) and two pairs of singular loudspeaker terminals WBT 0765, which may make the EU officials happy, but are a nuisance to all owners of spade terminated loudspeaker cables, and I am one of those people. Leaving EU directives aside, I would try to convince the manufacturer to customize the unit, and replace those terminals with WBT 0730 or Furutech FT-866, or some thumbscrews like Krell uses in their FBI model. There is also an IEC power socket integrated with the main power switch and a fuse. There are also massive handles, which are necessary with such size and weight, to make moving it around easier. This is especially helpful to place the amplifier in the case it is packed in.
The preamplifier ASP-1000, equipped with a company remote (not very comely), looks tiny compared to his “bigger brother”, but please do not be deceived. This is a standard sized component, weighing almost 10kg, big enough to be a middle level integrated amp. But first things first – let us start with the exterior. First of all solidity and materials used are similar to the power amp. The over one cm thick, brushed aluminum front panel is divided into three parts by vertical milled lines. The left section houses a power button with a blue ring, exactly the same as in the ASX-1000. The middle section is occupied by a centrally placed volume knob, with the company logo milled to the left of it, while three LEDs indicating the gain (-6dB, -12dB or mute) with the appropriate knob selecting placed next to it. The right section contains the input selector with LEDs indicating the active input. The remote sensor was placed in a small recess, while the bottom right corner contains the model name. What is odd, that instead of this being milled, the name is written with white ink, contrasting too much with the elegant black front.
The back panel looks like an audio jeweler. Five pairs of RCA line inputs (one of them being direct) are rhodium plated, while the pair of XLRs come from Neutrik. The two pairs of RCA outputs are gold plated, there are also XLRs. We can also find a ground breaker, a socket for the trigger and an IEC power socket intergrated with the main power switch and fuse. There is also an antenna socket, but its purpose remains unknown.
As the set was almost powered up for the whole time which it spent at Jacek’s home, I did not have to worry about burning-in, but only take a few hours to stabilize the set, what seems obvious with this amount of filtering capacity. In contrary to its appearance, the Abyssound does not catch the listener’s attention with the volume of the generated sound, but with an organic, fully analog warmth combined with brilliant resolution. Does this remind you of something? Well, yes. This is the trademark and characteristic of the best tube amplifiers on the market. And here, it turns out, that the most obvious characteristic of the Krakow made amplifier set is the ability to keep splendid selectivity and saturation even at low volume levels. This could be expected from a worked out 300B SET, or 2A3, and yet this is achieved by a 50kg monster able to drive any kind of speaker, even very big ones, and even at the sound levels of afternoon-night whispering it can show its assets. I recalled the typical tube analogies, as even with not so “juicy” material, like “Quelqu’un m’a dit” Carla Bruni, the tested amplification was able to extract quite some sweetness and reverie not losing any of the roughness and dullness of the voice of the singer. Underlining the first plane only amplified the intimacy of the album and the delicate thickening of the sound of the guitar made the whole sound very sensual. It was similar with “Small Change” Tom Waits, with only a small difference, that the delicate orchestration, placed in the background (“Tom Traubert’s Blues”) built an surprisingly holographic, suggestive space, reaching far, far behind the vocalist and piano, placed on the foreground. Such a way of sounding made us become part of the spectacle, dedicated only to us. The sound was thick, big and omnipresent – it surrounds us and includes us in its own microcosm.
But you do not place multiple tenths of kilograms of amplifier in your room to be limited only to small ensembles, although I must confess, I did prolong listening sessions almost every night to be able to soothe my nerves after a busy day with rhythms like “Slow Motion Orchestra” Solveig Slettahjell or “Vägen” Tingvall Trio. No nervousness, complete calmness and beautiful timbres made the world slow down, normalize and become more pleasant to us.
But well, it is time to try higher revolutions. In repertoire demanding appropriate power and vitality from the system, the Abyssound move from “comfort” to “sport” mode, and it really pays off to buckle up, I mean, to have the remote close, because it really becomes 24h Le Mans. From the first bass hit ‘Killing Strangers” opening the Marilyn Manson album “The Pale Emperor” you could feel the power of the Krakow made amplification. But it was not a motionless beefed-up mass, but a brilliantly controlled, precision machine hitting you with atomic power exactly when needed and where needed. Everywhere, where rhythm and pace were leading, starting with “Going To Hell” The Pretty Reckless to “TaTaKu Best of Kodo II 1994-1999” Kodo, the PRAT had its ground. But this was just the introduction to the spectacle that took place during “Wagner Reloaded” Apocalyptica. The “Fight Against Monsters” starting with a snare drum started slowly, but the increasing amount of instruments made the impressive sound stage become as large as a stadium, to release the demons sleeping inside the ASX-1000 at 2:35. However to feel the potential and the iron consistency in keeping the sound on a very short leash we did not even have to reach out for the repertoire of the crazy Finnish, or the “Khmer” by Nils Petter Molvaer, as the almost classical “Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons” offered such an emotional load you would not expect from the original version. “Summer 3” sounded monumental, with swing and an extremely solid bass foundation – almost Hollywood-like. As if Hans Zimmer would conduct the tutti. The openness and clarity of the treble allowed to appreciate the used instruments as well as the quality of the recording itself. The tested combo does not hide anything from the listener and the qualification of the material listened to as to the quality of the recording is easy as pie, yet I must confess, that it does not torment the shortcomings. When someone in the studio did not work well, then even the Abyss will not extract the non-existent space, or will not create any bass, if it was not recorded as such.
Like I mentioned, the Abyssound unifies in itself the almost tube-like saturation of timbres with the power of true solid state beast, a power which is tamed, and most of all consciously used to reproduce the ideas of the artists creating their music. Mr. Julian Studnicki and Mr. Marek Stoliński, responsible among other things for the sound of the ASP-1000 and ASX-1000, were able to combine outstanding technology with absolutely audiophile sound qualities, like musicality and resolution. Such explosive mixture can make you addicted to it in a few days, and I must say it does, I have felt that. In addition, when you administer it every day, it changes your psyche. The sound it creates, absolutely unconstrained in terms of dynamics and freedom becomes obvious, becomes a native characteristic of our system. It becomes “our sound”. Unfortunately even the almost one year long marathon came to an end, and the sad moment came to unplug the reviewed devices.
After eliminating the duo from the sound path everything became less present, less obvious, less palpable. The organic musicality and natural lack of constraints in terms of micro and macro dynamics are no more there. Everything seems OK, but the longer we do not listen to the ASX-1000 and ASP-1000, the more we become convinced, that we are cheating ourselves, and that it makes no sense. Of course life does not stand still and goes on, but the loss is evident and painful, really painful.
System used in this test:
– CD/DAC: Ayon CD-1sx
– Digital input selector: Audio Authority 1177
– Network Music Player: Olive O2M; laptop Dell Inspiron 1764 + JRiver Media Center; Lumin D1; QAT RS3
– Integrated amplifier: Electrocompaniet ECI5; Trilogy 925
– Power amplifier: Wells Innamorata
– Loudspeakers: Gauder Akustik Arcona 80 + spike extenders
– IC RCA: Antipodes Audio Katipo; Siltech Classic Anniversary 770i
– IC XLR: LessLoss Anchorwave; Organic Audio; Amare Musica
– Digital IC: Fadel art DigiLitz; Harmonic Technology Cyberlink Copper; Apogee Wyde Eye; Monster Cable Interlink LightSpeed 200
– USB Cables: Wireworld Starlight; Goldenote Firenze Silver
– Speaker Cables: Organic Audio; Signal Projects Hydra
– Power Cables: Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R; Organic Audio Power; Acoustic Zen Gargantua II; Ardento Power; Organic Audio Reference Power; Furutech NanoFlux
– Power distribution board: GigaWatt PF-2 + Furutech FP-3TS762 / FI-28R / FI-E38R
– Wall Socket: Furutech FT-SWS(R)
– Antivibration platform: Franc Audio Accessories Wood Block Slim Platform
– Ethernet cables: Neyton CAT7+
– Accessories: Sevenrods Dust-caps; Furutech CF-080 Damping Ring; HighEndNovum PMR Premium; Albat Revolution Loudspeaker Chips
When we talk about testing a device created by Polish engineers, I am usually very excited, but at the same time I have many thoughts like: “What will happen, if a tested component will not fare well against expectations of the potential buyers?”. Such digressions are part of each test, to some extent, also when testing a product from abroad, but when such product fails, this does not impair my patriotism. Fortunately the brand being tested this time, due to very solid constructions gaining lots of appraisals, is known in our country for years, as something worth spending more time with, and not just listen to a few phrases and finish with a text like “this device has potential”. I think, that lots of the readers know, that such a sentence, such a slogan, is rather a reflection of the owner of a device, requiring appraisal, than a diagnosis of the product. But often it is better to say something like that, than to abuse a person, who is completing his system half of this life. But let us return to the test. This time, together with Marcin, we agreed such a long time for testing, that it will be an accumulation of many months of different system configurations. Also to date each of the components of the tested set was usually described individually, so there is time to test the pre-power combination from the Krakow based manufacturer Abyssound named ASX 1000 and ASP 1000.
Starting the description of the exterior of the devices I will begin with the line preamplifier, which looks tiny compared with the power amplifier, but in fact it is quite comparable with medium sized components. The thick front panel is quite low and split in three parts by vertically milled lines, from which the left one houses only a round, silver switch, the central one two knobs – the bigger one for controlling volume, and a smaller one for muting and adjusting gain, while in the right part there is the input selector. The continuation of design minimalism taken from the power amplifiers, which were designed as earlier products, did not allow for too many ornaments, so we have only the model description printed in the bottom right corner and milled logo to the left of the volume knob. Moving to the back we see the side and top panels covered with delicate ventilation holes, while on the back we have five RCA inputs, one XLR input, double RCA output and one XLR output. There is also a ground breaker switch, a control port, an antenna socket and an IEC socket integrated with the main power switch. As you can see there is not too much extravaganza, but everything you might need is there. Unfortunately trying to quickly pass through the power amplifier will not be so easy, as this monstrous product easily surpasses 45kg in weight. Trying to lift by only one person it is really a challenge, but when it is placed in the destined place, the configuration proposed by its constructors will reward us with beautiful sound. But let me continue with the description first. Despite the seeming monotony of the exterior, I perceive it completely differently after those months of seeing the amplifier in my room. The side plates of the front, which is divided in three sections, come to the center in a quite sophisticated way, what greatly improves the looks of the product. When I mentioned the minimalism of the power amplifier during the description of the preamp, you might not have expected it being so minimal – as besides the milled company logo and a round switch in the middle and a milled model name on the right side, there is nothing. It may seem a tad too sad, but in direct contact with the unit, it turns out to be a very well chosen solution, as given the size of the front panel, any kind of vivid accents might have been too much. This was avoided, we have a big chassis, but with very toned down design. As you can see on the pictures, our power amplifier – I think, I can call it like that after so many months of using it – has big heat sinks mounted on the sides, and the top panel has openwork windows to support cooling. Unfortunately using a monstrous transformer, as for audio standards, requires such solutions, and if we want to enjoy high quality of the sound, then we have to live with that. Finishing this paragraph about the looks of the tested devices, I would like to mention the back of the amplifier, where on the sides we have two handles, used for transportation, next to them single loudspeaker terminals and in the middle RCA inputs with an IEC power switch below them. Maybe without the wealth often presented by devices from China, but fully compatible with all, even foreign, components.
I already mentioned, that the Abyssound turned out very helpful, as a supplement of many test encounters, like with the Thrax Teres (preamplifier), or the loudspeakers Thrax Lyra, Odeon No. 28 or Gauder Cassiano (power amplifier). Interestingly, many of those encounters were really of the bulls-eye type, what only placed the threshold for the company combination higher. This is the reason, that before starting the test, I played a few discs to accommodate to the tested set. We all know, that each combination results in a different final result, so having in my memory previous sounds, I had to somehow dampen them, to find the “X”-factor, which was on the mind of the constructors when creating the ASX and ASP 1000. Based on my previous experience I learned, that when starting the test I have to broaden the margin of my criticism, as many times my initial expectations do not become confirmed later on. I mean, that the set may have different focus on sound nuances than separate components. But my fears were absolutely not grounded, and the Krakow made duo turned out to remain in the sound aesthetics I knew from months of listening to both devices apart. What aesthetics? Let me tell you. Putting the tested set in my system I received well saturated sound, of which I am an advocate. I know, that this is a kind of departure from neutrality, but I am absolutely capable of giving away some of the speed to get joy from listening, but not falling into silting. This has to be a dense, yet resolved sound, and this is exactly what we get. It was a bit thicker and sweeter, when compared to my Japanese reference system, but I never caught the Krakow made set losing resolution. The virtual sources are drawn with a thicker line, what brings a bit more of the lower registers, but we do not lose much of their quality. The contrabass sounds thicker, using more the bout than the strings, and the saxophone becomes a more noble attribute of the artist blowing air into it. For most music I listened to, it was the addition of some extra spice, and not the removal of some information. Frankly speaking only once during the few weeks of the final test I had the feeling of too much of the good, but I would not blame the Abyssound, but the nonchalance of the sound engineers of the Cassandra Wilson disc “New Moon Daughter”. This disc shows the fullness of low frequencies even if played through a very well balanced system, and with a system which has a bit more weight, it can show all the issues of the listening room, bringing all standing waves to broad light. I am painfully aware of all my listening room issues, so I can easily identify the source of the issues, and in this case it was the disc, and not the system. And this is not an attempt to cover-up any shortcoming of the “thousands”, but just thorough information, as all the other test music did not cause any of such problems. Besides the momentary bass swirls, the rest of the sound spectrum gained rather than lost. Of course people loving music with the tempo of a fast machine gun would like it sharper on the edges of the sounds, but I would not fight about that, as the way music was presented by the system signaled me the way we would move from the very beginning, and we should not be looking for any guilty parties. Interestingly, the treble and midrange did not suffer at all from the thickening, giving me full information in good resolution, only with slight sweetening of the treble, yet without damping their reverberation, and this is not an easy to achieve. Also the virtual sound stage was very good, which comes close to my reference system in size – I would like to remind you about the emphasis on building depth, and the musicians were clearly located on it. You can probably already see from those sentences, that the engineers went down the path planned during the creation process of those devices, that resulted in much more than just a warm sounding system. From my experience of using them in different configurations, it seems, that we are dealing here with a true chameleon. Recalling the sound with the easy to drive loudspeakers of the German Odeon, of the Gauder Cassiano (when someone of you knows them, then it is also known, that they require a powerful amplifier) it turned out, that having the power reserves at hand, the ASX 1000 uses them only when required by the loudspeakers. I mentioned the highly effective tube loudspeakers on purpose, because when driving them, the power amplifier used rather the first 35W it generates in class A, offering us a very nice, very airy and homogenous musical picture. Recalling the power-hungry Cassiano I wanted to bring to your attention how easy the power, hidden in the transformer with the size of a big pot, can be unleashed, allowing it to work with almost unbearable volume levels without any signs of clipping. And when we would claim, that playing with the first mentioned loudspeakers are nothing special – although after testing of many different amplifiers I would say the opposite is true, then being able to cope with the current draw of the Gauder at any volume level must be regarded as very rare, not forgetting about the quality of the sound produced by them, as just being able to drive a set of speakers does not dot the “i” in any buying process. Only full synergy is able to break through the tenths of configurations listened to during such a process, and the tested set was able to create such synergy many times.
Concluding, Abyssound seems to be another step towards establishing an official title in audio “It is good, because it is Polish”. How else would we be able to appreciate the excellence of Polish constructions? But we are not talking about that today, so let us return to topic. The tested configuration was universal enough, that either together or separated, they can find their place in many different combinations. It can handle easy and hard to drive loudspeakers, adding to that the homogenous element of musicality, that is intrinsic to the tested amplifiers. If power was provided to highly efficient loudspeakers too nonchalantly, then such an amplifier would be immediately removed from the list, not allowing itself to enchant the potential buyer. On the other hand, when the Watts would not be provided readily to loudspeakers consuming them in enormous amounts, will kill their potential from the beginning. And those are only the basics of what this amplification can do. We cannot forget about the spirit of musicality given to your beloved music. For some people such music may mean the blaze of rock instrumental and vocal cavalcades, for others just a few musical phrases played in silence. According to me both of those musical genres are beautifully within the scope of the tested ASX 1000 and ASP 1000, so I really encourage you to try them out on the living tissue of your stereo system, but at the same time I must warn you, there may be no way back to your old configuration.
System used in this test:
– Separate DAC + CD player: Reimyo CDT – 777 + Reimyo DAP – 999 EX
– Preamplifier: Reimyo CAT – 777 MK II
– Power amplifier:Reimyo KAP – 777
– Loudspeakers: TRENNER & FRIEDL ISIS
– Speaker Cables: Harmonix HS 101-EXQ (mid-high section); Harmonix HS-101 SLC (bass section)
– IC RCA: Harmonix HS 101-GP
– Digital IC: Harmonix HS 102
– Power cables: Harmonix X-DC-350M2R Improved Version
– Table: SOLID BASE VI
– Accessories: Antivibration stand for the power amp by Harmonix TU-505EX MK2, Harmonix Enacom improved for AC
– Power distribution board: POWER BASE HIGH END
Drive: SME 30/2
Arm: SME V
Cartridge: MIYAJIMA MADAKE
Phonostage: RCM THERIAA
ASP-1000: 17 900 PLN
ASX-1000: 29 899 PLN
Gain: 12 dB or 18 dB
Frequency response: 3 Hz – 375 kHz (-3dB)
SNR: 107 dB
Maximum output voltage: 12 Vrms max
Input impedance: 30 kΩ (RCA); 50 kΩ (XLR)
Attenuation control: -6 dB, -12 dB, MUTE
Ground switch: chassis / floating
Analog Inputs: 4 pairs RCA + DIERCT; 1 pair XLR
Analog Outputs: 2 doubled Outputs for each ch. RCA; 1 pair XLR
Main voltage: AC (50-60Hz) 220-230 V
Power consumption: 30W – active; <3,5 W -idle
Dimensions (w x h x d): 490 mm x 90 mm x 340 mm
Weigth: 9.5 kg
Output Power RMS: 180W/8 Ω, 360W/4 Ω
Pure A class Output Power: 35 W/8 Ω
Input Sensitivity RMS: 1.2 V
Gain: 29 dB
Frequency Response: (1W -3dB) 7 Hz – 125 kHz
THD: < 0,017 %
S/N Ratio: 106 dB
Input Impedance: 10 kΩ
Napięcie zasilania: AC (50-60Hz) 220-230 V
Power consumption: 1600 VA (max)
Dimensions (w x h x d): 540 mm x 225 mm x 540 mm
Weigth: 46 kg