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Which leaves the midrange. If for argument’s sake we divide this into lower and upper bands, it’s true to say that SAC’s combo has a penchant for the bass and plays with a minor presence emphasis. These are minor personality traits rather than flaws and interesting about this combination is that one might expect either/or rather than as well as. With this voicing, a cello sounds full, embodied and substantial whereas a violin might seem somewhat wanting in that department but retaliates with great clarity sans hardness or glassiness. Male vocals are perfectly rendered and anchored but female vocals could stand more chest than throat. That said, a certain turn-on factor can’t be denied since this weds detail to intimacy and the songstress moves towards the listener by a step. Forwardness would be too strong a term but clearly, the ladies don’t gather behind the line of the speaker baffles. The staging perspective thus begins ahead of the line and is both broad and layered in depth. The monos do illuminate the edges better but considering price, stage depth is certainly a strength of this cheaper combo and image focus is flawless to boot.

Beta in close-up: SAC’s preamp deserves additional commentary not only for being extraordinary potent at €698 but for its contributions to the combination. Variables are 0 vs. 22-ohm output impedance and the optional power supply  but fundamentally, we’ll consider Out 1 and the stock PSU. Rightfully so, Funk’s Lap 2-V2 preamp is called a small price/performance wonder and at 20% less money, SAC’s Beta sounds different but none the worse, with talents in different areas. The Funk unit offers a very convincing and natural midrange which renders voices with a particular charm to elude the SAC. Joanna Newson for example has very particular pipes which some find thin and unpleasant.

So either the Funk embellished her voice or the SAC was neutral and Newson really does sound that edgy. No matter —I frankly didn’t care—the Funk was my favorite. Equally true however was that the accompanying bass run of the harp ["The Book of Right-On", The Milk-Eyed Mender] was a few clicks more feathery, rhythmically accented and defined over the SAC. The same held true for Sufjan Stevens’ "One Last Whoo-Hoo for the Pullman" – vocal points for the Funk, bass points for the SAC and the latter was a tad more open on top than the Funk from Berlin.

Interesting too was soundstage perspective. During densely arranged numbers, the SAC was more fastidiously sorted and checker-board correct, albeit also endowed with a somewhat artificial note. The Lap 2 was the more organic in trade but didn’t quite light up space to the same extent. At the end of the day, it was a matter of taste. Again. Both machines offer a lot for the money but not the same.

On the subject of tuning, Herr Fuchs’ claim that the choice of cables becomes far less critical is a fact if we focus on the speaker cables. Swapping Altmann Audio’s model for a twice dearer Ecosse, things turned somewhat lighter, more detailed and dimensionally structured but if I didn’t already own both, I’d settle on the Altmann and apply the savings to a bi-annual inventory of red wine. Personally, the sonic difference was too insignificant to fret over. Non drinkers will settle on a cable a bit more expensive but should avoid extra lean and angular variants. Interesting for the freebie options though not a big difference is the output impedance option. Out 2 veers into softer bass, the tonal balance turns fleshier and the upper mids more pleasant – softer, more fluid, less grainy.  Out 1 is airier on top but the slight presence region emphasis is stronger. Over Out 2, P.J. Harvey’s voice on "Song The Wind" gained plasticity but the accompanying bass run lost a bit in impact and structure for the typical trade-off: a more linear character at the extremes with Out 1, somewhat more charm, body and flow in the midrange with Out 2. These were tendencies rather than world views but given that both options are present, what prevents one from doing vocal jazz on Out 2 and hard rock on Out 1? Choices are always good to have.

Those reluctant to engage conflicting choices will meanwhile reach for SAC’s fat power supply to get both and then some. My notes on that count showed no negatives. Rhythm tightened up, bass extended lower and gained a tick of definition, stage illumination at the edges improved, sounds gained body and higher voice regions became more natural. Mind you, we’re now up at €3.200 for a pre/power trio, no longer €2.200. This upgrade isn’t chopped liver. Personally, I’d begin with the stock outfit which offers a lot for a very fair purse. The future is always open for upgrades.

Renovated classics from SAC, the Beta pre/Igel 60 power combo offers high value and particularly the preamp is a steal. Music transmits with rhythmic tension and the mixture of juicy bass and utter clarity in the presence region makes for a very direct yet involving presentation without risking overload or long-term discomfort. If perhaps not 100% neutral, the fun quotient is very high because of it…

The SAC combo is characterized by:
• Firm and well articulated bass. The very lowest octaves lack a bit but considering price are more than respectable.
• Bass proceeds according to the motto ‘best a tad more than not enough’. This creates an infusion of warmth but is minimal enough not to impact tonal differentiation negatively.
• The upper mids are somewhat emphasized and naked. Occasionally female voices could stand more heft but as is, they also create more intimacy.
• The treble is free of hardness, fully developed and well integrated.
• The soundstage is opulently dimensioned and particularly broad but depth layering too is good. The frontal stage edge is moved toward the listener some. Individual sounds are well outlined.
• SAC’s Beta & Igel have good PRaT and impulse fidelity without overdoing the subject. A piano hammer fall is very plain but not zippy, a piano run accentuated but not staccato.


• Category: Pre/power separates
• Dimensions and weight: Preamp 170 x 60 x 195mm (WxHxD), 2kg | Monos 170 x 82 x 205mm (WxHxD), 4.5kg /ea.
• Trim: Black
• Output power: 80 Watt (8 Ohm) / 120 Watt (4 Ohm) / 150 Watt (2 Ohm)
• Socketry monos: Single pair of binding posts, RCA input
• Socketry preamp: 6 x RCA input, 1 x tape loop, 3 x tape loops, 2 x pre-out
• Other: Preamp outputs at 0 Ohm and 22 Ohm, upgrade option of regulated power supply for the preamp (€980)
• Warranty: 3 years
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