Reviewer: John Potis
Digital source: Pioneer DV-535 DVD player and Bel Canto DAC2, McCormack UDP-1 Universal player [on review]
Analog Source: Sota Jewel, Sumiko Premier FT3, Micro Benz MC Silver
Preamp: Shindo Partager
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Bryston 7B ST
Speakers: Hørning Perikles, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 Mk 2 upgrade, Thiel PCS/Smart Sub SS2 [for review]
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor interconnects and speaker wire, DH Labs D-75 digital interconnect, JPS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature with Wattgate upgrades
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, ZCable Ultra-1 ZSleeves
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling. Speakers set up on long wall in quasi Audio Physic orientation.
Review component retail: $6,200

I have to admit that as I removed the Accustic Arts Power 1 integrated amplifier from its box, it was hard not to be impressed. If bells and whistles are your style, you won't be quite as taken as I was - the Power 1 seems to be about clean "form follows function" simplicity. With the possible exception of the aluminum casework that substitutes for the ubiquitous black powder coat found elsewhere, the Power 1 is all business, no frills. At 48 lbs., it's no flyweight either and at 5.7" tall x 19" wide x 17.7' deep, it's not what one could reasonably call compact. But it's extremely well finished, with a front panel that's as simple as function allows and merely sports a large non-stepped rotary volume control, a matching source selector and what at first appear to be three small LEDs. Closer inspection reveals one of those LEDs to actually be an infrared remote sensor. The others indicate power and protection activation mode. That's it.

Around back, the Power 1 displays high quality if relatively few connectors. In total, it can handle four sources, one balanced, three single-ended. If the Power 1 is short on input options, it does much better on outputs. The Amp 1 is a full-function integrated amplifier claimed to deliver 130wpc into 8 ohms and 190 into 4. It offers two pairs of preamp outputs, one XLR, one RCA. Accustic Arts' own Balanced Amp 1 can be used for biamping via the balanced outputs while the single-ended outputs can feed a powered subwoofer or unbalanced amp. Both pre-outs can be used simultaneously.

The speaker binding posts are of the high-quality shielded/ slotted WBT variety that usually gives me a tickle. However, the close vertical orientation with one pair directly above the other gave me some pause. Those using banana plugs won't have a problem (though the spacing prevents the use of double bananas) but I found that inserting spades upwards into the down-facing shielded slots proved difficult because of the cramped quarters. While normally just a one-time annoyance that most users
won't have to worry about after initial setup, I still found that when using heavier and stiffer speaker cables, the lower connection required that I either bend the wire at a hard 90° angle to clear the shelf (difficult and unhealthy for the cable) or place the component such that the speaker lead could comfortably dangle past the rear edge of the shelf supporting the Power 1. The location of the binding posts isn't a deal-breaker but a simple sideways orientation of the slots plus a touch higher mounting of the lower terminals on the rear panel would be a welcome change. Lastly, the binding posts' close proximity to the IEC inlet didn't help matters as my JPS Lab's Kaptovator was too bulky for comfortable accommodation. Oh, did I mention that squeezed into the same proximity is the power switch?

The other ergonomic peculiarity had to do with the aforementioned XLR input. The front panel labels the inputs numerically and sequentially, with 1 assigned to the balanced input. Since I use no balanced components, this meant that I only used inputs 2 through 4. It may seem silly but I found it somewhat disconcerting that my primary source was to be found as input 2 and source number 1 had to go unused. Naturally, this limited me to three 3 sources. For those assembling an all Accustic Arts system, these reservations will be rendered moot as their CD player and DAC both make use of balanced outputs.

Rounding out the feature set is the fairly small and lightweight remote control that's nevertheless milled from a solid block of aluminum and sports just two buttons for volume up and volume down effected via a motorized potentiometer, which is fine by me. Don't look for a balance adjustment - there isn't one. Again, that's fine by me. Accustic Arts isn't the first company to take note of the fact that audiophiles don't use balance controls. Don't look for a phono stage either - the Power 1 is a linestage only. In short, the Accustic Arts unit is minimalist despite being an integrated amplifier. Did I mention that it's designed and built in Germany?

On the inside, the Power 1 boasts ingredients such as 8 selected MOS-FET output transistors "of the highest quality" as well as the exclusive use of Burr Brown ICs. The 550VA toroidal power transformer is magnetically shielded and encapsulated and said to incorporate separate windings for the preamp section, power amp section and left and right channels. The Power 1 is protected by an "integrated circuit" that switches off the outputs when it detects clipping or HF oscillations as well as too high a DC offset. From use, I was able to confirm the "constant low operating temperature due to a
generously dimensioned heat sink integrated into the housing". The Power 1 was indeed fairly cool running and never got much more than mildly warm to the touch.

My ergonomical quibbles notwithstanding, the Power 1 operated without a glitch in practice and proceeded to produce seriously good music. While motorized volume control changes were mechanically audible at the listening seat when the music was at fairly subdued volumes, that failed to annoy. In fact, the infrared remote worked quite well and was able to perform from unusually wide angles. Despite a relative lack of exposed heat sinking, the Power 1 never once approached anything like worrisome temperatures even after some spirited listening sessions with the 4-ohm 87dB-efficient Ohm speakers.