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This article was originally published in issue #20
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Every now and then a new brand creates an instant stir. Reports of a 'stunning' range of electro-acoustic amps from a new Italian maker called Acus, reached the Quiet Room from various sources so we hauled one in for questioning. Tom Quayle asked the hard questions.
While it's a name that you may not have heard before, the Italian audio specialist Acus has a long tradition of designing high-end amplification for leading companies and international artists. Recently it decided the time was right to offer its products under its own name, promising: 'to bring the finest acoustic instrument amplification and reproduction within reach of all serious players at an affordable price.’
Acus has launched a small range to start with and the sample we were loaned was the Acus One 6, an impressive and classy looking creation thanks to its birch ply housing and modern, compact design. The vibration-free grill and well thought out control panel make for a very attractive finish that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The ‘One 6’ features a high quality 6” woofer and compression tweeter with an electronic crossover, powered by a 100 Watt bi-amplified power section. Acus has developed these ‘audiophile’ quality drivers with custom, ultra lightweight cones and soft suspension to match and re-produce the specific attack and transients produced by acoustic instruments, the company says.
The One 6 is a fully featured amplifier with three independently controllable channels offering three band EQ and gain/volume controls, Stereo In and Outs, Direct XLR Out, Phantom Power, DSP Hall Reverb effect and a ground lift switch. Onboard phantom power means that high quality condenser mics can be used alongside line-level signals, offering the potential for vocals, guitars and backing tracks to be played through a single, compact amplifier with a stereo out for output to a desk or DAW for recording. The onboard mixer is all analogue, with the highest quality transistors and input stages and when coupled with the Class A output stage offers a very warm, valve-like tone and dynamic range.
The hand-made construction is of the highest quality with the finest components throughout and a real attention to design detail. The birch-ply woodwork on our sample was flawless and little touches such as the recessed carry handle and indented central grill give the amplifier a real boutique, hand-made look. The controls feel smooth and responsive with an intuitive layout and easy to read labels. At around 14kg the Acus One 6 isn’t particularly heavy to move around but feels solid and reassuring in the hand and would probably survive unscathed after a few knocks in the back of a van or drops on stage.
Used with an acoustic with an on-board preamp the One 6 is a supremely impressive amplifier. Acoustic tone and feel are represented in a fantastically accurate manner and make playing fun and easy with a natural attack and expression. The amplifier responds quickly to changes in dynamics and level and the EQ is both musical and useful for shaping your tone as required.
The level of bass on tap from the 6” driver is astonishing and never becomes muddy or undefined with highs having lots of detail and bite without harshness or tininess. The onboard pre-amps are very quiet with a decent amount of gain on board for powering mics or quiet pickups with ease. Plugging an iPod into the stereo input is also a wonderful experience as all manner of material is presented with an ease and clarity that wouldn’t be out of place in a quality hi-fi amplifier! I would quite happily listen to my music collection through these speakers, making the One 6 perfect for solo gigs where backing tracks need to be used or even for amplifying electric guitar modeling pre-amps where cabinet and power amp simulation is in use. The onboard DSP Hall effect is also of good quality with a natural sound that only becomes metallic when used at its highest settings. While the decay cannot be tweaked at all, Acus has picked a sensible and useful reverb setting that will certainly be a good and useful addition if the player has no access to external effects or wants their set-up to be as compact as possible.
The Acus One 6 is a fantastic achievement from a company which obviously has a great deal of know-how and experience in acoustic amplification and knows exactly what it is doing. What makes it even more appealing is that it comes at an astonishing price. This is in the very highest league in terms of sound quality and yet sells for far less than its obvious competitors. Frankly, it’s impossible to see any downsides here so the Acus One 6 is awarded an almost unprecedented four a three quarter stars. Well done Acus.