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Accession first impressions/Review

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Drewan77 View Drop Down
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    Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 5:23pm
I had arranged to visit John Cadman yesterday as he was building me a Rega TT-PSU twin switch & cables, supplied by a 24vAC GSP PSU1. Suffice to say it all works perfectly and the TT-PSU now switches 33.3 or 45 to either Rega from the GSP power supply.

Imagine my delight and surprise when he also informed me that I could have the first of two finished Accessions to take away and evaluate. Graham knows that I travel a lot with work and I had asked a long time ago to trial the ’new phono stage’ when it was available so he made sure one was finished whilst I am home for a while…… YES! - my own ‘Key to Accession’ (sorry couldn’t resist).

The Accession has been in my system for only one day and I’m not sure I possess the vocabulary to properly describe my first impressions but I’ll give it a try, making notes as I listen to various LPs….

The best words I can find to express what I am hearing are: smooth, silky, delicate, ambient, or in two words: absolutely beautiful. The AT150ANV has never sounded quite like this before - silky as in smooth & sensual but not lacking in any way with dynamics, just that it no longer sounds slightly ’hi-fi’ and is more natural than I could have reasonably expected.

Where I normally hear a strong and holographic soundstage with layered imaging, I now have the addition of what I can only describe as individual reverb and tiny ’echoes’ around vocals or instruments. I can sense the original recording space interacting with each microphone for the first time…. I guess you call this ‘ambience’ and it really draws you in to the music. Delicate, because there is an ethereal ‘floaty’ quality, especially with percussion (I don’t mean drums specifically, the closest way I can describe this is as when I listened to some Martin Logan or Quad electrostatics, a sort of 3D shimmer to cymbals, tambourines, brushes etc). i suppose it was always there on the recordings but the remaining mush and interference has been stripped away from the tiny source signal and this beautiful effect is really noticeable on a revealing system - my Alu/magnesium driver OBs with ribbon tweeters do seem to share many of the qualities of electrosatics. The first album I played (Al Di Meola - Elegant Gypsy) was so realistic, it was quite a shock to hear something I had spun through the Reflex the previous day now sounding so perfect - and very different.

I then pulled out the most tortuous LP I think I possess - ‘Buffy Sainte-Marie - She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina’ where her slightly warbling, sustained vocals are normally very grating and harsh, almost unlistenable on some of the carts I have used in the past and still rather nasty on the 2M Black and AT150. The warbles are still there but now the vocals are etched and crisp, the shrillness has gone. Neil Youngs’  ‘Helpless’ properly conveyed the emotion in her performance to me for the first time without being masked by treble nastiness. Clever stuff.

Moving to the other extreme, a Sep 2015 album, ‘Golden Void - Berkana’ is quite a busy, dullish recording with rather compressed dynamics. The Accession manages to add a nice shimmer to the top end and reveals layers within the lower frequencies where previously it was rather ‘muddy’. Whatever ambience the recording possessed is now there (great music by the way).

And so it goes on…simple plucked guitar & vocal on ‘Bert Jansch - Live at the 12 Bar’ produces a very realistic strike & sustain on the strings, BJ sits right in front of you and the audience sound all-enveloping and ‘really there’ when they applaud. On another album, the 180gm reissue of Yello - Stella, the tracks ‘Desire’ and ‘Sometimes (Dr Hirsch)’ have a thunderous and atmospheric instrumental soundstage which Dieter Meirs’ deep, resonating vocals cleanly cut through and that ambience is very present once again in spite of a lot going on. ‘Oh Yeah’ is a rather corny track but on both versions of the song it’s amazing how much clarity and sharpness this new phono stage brings to the proceedings. In fact, all Yello albums are superbly recorded/mastered and most could be reference LPs as far as quality goes. They really excel through the Accession to a degree that I’ve not heard before.

Finally, I wanted to see what effect, if any the Accession has on albums recorded with slightly sibilant vocals. There are very few in my collection but I recalled that the proggy LP ’Trafalgar’ by the Bee Gees was among the worst (similar in style to the superb Odessa which does not have any). The first thing immediately apparent was the ‘shimmering’ clarity of the percussion and the separation among the voices - that word ‘ambience’ comes to mind once again. I really enjoyed hearing this album again (Maurices’ song ‘It’s Just The Way’ could very easily be The Beatles and sounds superb) and became so immersed that I realised as side 2 finished that I had not noticed any sibilance. I know the Accession cannot be credited with this, it’s probabaly that I am using my new turntable, an outboard motor, GSP power supply etc and I took even greater care with alignment and setup this time. I then played through again and on this occasion tried really hard not to immerse myself in the music. Sure enough I then found it - some slightly sharp ssss’s on the Barry Gibb vocal, title track Trafalgar, not really sibilant any more though. I will try and remember which one of the Billy Joel albums had some sibilance and play that as well in the next couple of days. Another very noticeable effect is the drum simulating gunfire at the start of and during ‘Lion In Winter’. The faint echo deep away to the left (in my room, somewhere beyond the rear wall) stands out in a way I never heard before. I resisted a strong urge to play this album a third consecutive time but will pull out Odessa sometime soon.

At times here I may sound like I am recommending albums just as much as appraising the Accession. That is because this little box seems to have stripped everything right back to what must have been part of the original mastering and I have been noticing so much more from and within the music itself rather than the piece of electronics. If that’s so, then Graham has really hit the target this time.

I had not realised my system was capable of an improvement by this magnitude, particularly the smooth and shimmering treble and the airy ambience. Whereas music through the Reflex M is fabulous, what I am now hearing is truly stunning (the difference between this and the Reflex M is greater than the Reflex M to my Reflex Era Gold, which are actually quite similar. The Reflex Era Gold and its PSU1 will be going up for sale when I buy this). I also know with confidence that this is going to tower over every digital format that I possess (sorry Majestic, I still love you) but I can’t bring myself to stop playing vinyl at the moment.

Who knows how long it will take or where this will end up once it is fully burned in…. Graham confirms that it is mine if I decide to buy & keep it. Anyway at risk of just seeming like a GSP fanboy, I think I have made my point. This will deserve its place as the flagship MM stage in the GSP lineup and I expect MC users will similarly enthuse when partnered with an Elevator. It is a remarkable product and will not be going back!

(The settings I am using are - fixed output, Eq-RIAA, cap load 100pF)

Edited by Drewan77 - 03 Oct 2015 at 6:27am
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Andrew
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote suede Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 8:04pm
Thanks for a great review Andrew! It really makes me miss my turntable, Reflex M and record collection I've stored away but it's sadly not for studio living.
At least I'm still thoroughly enjoying the incredible Bitzie, but as any vinyl hi-fi enthusiast knows it's just not the same... Ouch
Proprius, Reflex M, Solo UL, Bitzie, CuSats & Spatia
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Fatmangolf Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 8:39pm
You've described it really well with the examples. Thanks Andrew. I look forward to hear an Accession in my own system soon.

Well done on the Rega with TT and PSU1. That sounds like a great investment and makes me think I must follow up on my turbo-TT for the GyroDec.

Jon

Open mind and ears, whilst owning GSP Genera, Accession, Elevator EXP, Solo ULDE, Proprius amps, Cusat50 cables, Lautus digital cable, Spatia cables and links, and a Majestic DAC.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CageyH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 9:48pm
Any idea on the cost of the new Phono Stage?
Just working out if I have to sell a kidney.
Kevin
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Drewan77 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 10:03pm
Originally posted by CageyH CageyH wrote:

Any idea on the cost of the new Phono Stage?
Just working out if I have to sell a kidney.
Yes, both John and Graham have confirmed the retail price to me but it may not be for me to pass that on. From what I was told, it is yet another GSP bargain. I suggest you PM either

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ICL1P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 10:13pm
Exciting!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BackinBlack Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Oct 2015 at 11:08pm
Andrew, an excellent review, seems that you like it!
Temptation is before me, again.
Just listen, if it sounds good to you, enjoy it.
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