I’ve known Audio Analogue products for a long time and have tried/evaluated many of them over the years. I remember the iconic Puccini integrated amplifier best, but also Paganini, Puccini, etc.
This prolific Italian high-end audio company from Tuscany was founded almost three decades ago and has always stayed on its firm course: to produce great audio equipment made in Italy in collaboration with small, local subcontractors.
That same drive and dedication are still there, and the Audio Analogue ABsolute embodies the brand’s rich heritage in a super-integrated amplifier that certainly stands out from the crowd. Not just physically, but sonically as well.
The new and most ambitious project ever realized by Audio Analogue has been completed with a new top-of-the-line integrated amplifier: ABsolute, which can seamlessly switch between 50W in pure class A or 150W in class AB.
The name ABsolute sums up the essence of this integrated amplifier. After more than 25 years of history in manufacturing refined audiophile products, this is Audio Analogue’s most enterprising venture and certainly the best way to celebrate such an important anniversary.
ABsolute offers the possibility to enjoy the sophistication of a pure Class A sound or the power of Class AB, simply by pushing a button. Audiograde components of the highest level have been selected to optimize the amplifier’s performance in both modes.
The massively shaped chassis combines the cleanliness and timeless elegance of the well-known Italian-made Audio Analogue design and features an extreme solidity, characterized by the heavy heatsinks made of solid aluminum.
ABsolute was designed to be a powerful, versatile, refined, and extremely musical super-integrated amplifier, and as you can read below in the review, it delivers what it promises.
Here are some of the Absolute highlight
- Zero global feedback circuit from Airtech (SeGeSTA configuration)
- All stages are fully balanced, with dual mono configuration and discrete component circuits
- Power amplifier with 12 bipolar transistors per channel, 81600mF filter capacity per channel
- Oversized military resistors to minimize thermal distortion Audiograde components
- Microcontroller management
ABsolute Relay/Resistor volume control
In a semiconductor, a special circuit is used to solve a particular problem in analog audio preamplifiers. This circuit ensures that switching occurs exactly when the audio signal passes through zero, thus preventing abrupt interruptions.
While this method is effective, its use in conjunction with relays is challenging because the switching action of the relays is too sluggish, making it difficult to accurately determine the zero crossing.
For example, with a 1-kHz signal, there would be about three signal periods during the time it takes the relay to operate (about 3 milliseconds). Even if the zero crossing is detected, the signal would still have steep transitions.
To mitigate this problem, Audio Analogue has implemented a fast “mute” function that is activated when the signal approaches zero. This mute remains active for 4 milliseconds (to account for relay movement) and is then deactivated at the next zero crossing.
In this way, the short signal transitions that are a major source of noise during volume adjustment are effectively eliminated. All of these operations are performed using high-precision logic circuits. A short signal pause of about 4 milliseconds during volume changes, goes unnoticed under normal conditions.
The Absolute Control function offers the following advantages:
- Remote adjustability: it allows convenient remote control of the preamplifier.
- Signal purity and longevity: the use of high-quality military-grade signal relays and precision resistors ensures high signal purity and long life of up to 10 million cycles.
- Reduced interference: It minimizes “click” and “pop” interference commonly associated with relay-based controls.
- Channel balance: it ensures a perfect balance between the right and left channels, even at low volumes.
- Minimal signal path interference: It follows Audio Analogue’s “Zero Global Feedback” philosophy by not using operational amplifiers (op-amps) in the signal path, preserving audio quality.
With the technicalities being covered, this section of the review is about the usual nitty-gritty of the music.
I managed to dig up some undiscovered virtues with the Audio Analogue ABsolute. This integrated amplifier brings out the best in music at all times and isn’t tied to any particular genre of music.
Café Blue 1Step 180g 45rpm 2LP – Patricia Barber
Café Blue is without a doubt the audiophile end-game record, and although it’s out of print, the equally impressive Nightclub is still available. These 1Step versions aren’t cheap, but when they show up on Discogs, prices can go to extremes.
Some contemporary records are worth pulling off the shelf, and boy have I paid a lot more for some rare-to-find gems that also don’t come with zero clicks and pops, surface noise, and premium packaging that Impex Records has meticulously crafted.
Café Blue can be polarizing in a musical sense, but I like and love it even before any kind of sonic merits appear. And with some bizarre soundtracks and avant-garde jazz, which I appreciate, it’s not even on the fringe of my eclectic tastes.
If you are fully earmarked into Café Blue, especially with an amplifier impressively potent as Audio Analogue ABsolute, and have no preconceived notions, you will be taken on a tremendous journey, as ABsolute ensures that the magnetic pull resonates and continues on a deeper level.
The enchanting hypnotism of Mourning Grace recalls Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint in the best possible way, and when the drum battery exploded at the end with remarkable crescendos and force, something unique happened that I didn’t expect to happen anytime soon.
Impex 1Step and ABsolute ricocheted the sheer vibrancy of the unbridled and extraordinary Makoto Aruga And Percussion Ensemble Toccata For Percussion And Others, one of my longtime references for what is possible in terms of dynamics in the analog domain.
It’s extremely rare for a voice not to sound like a homunculus, regardless of the price, but the Audio Analogue ABsolute integrated reproduces Barber’s vocals not only with an eerie presence but with something I hate to say loud and clear; a genuine sense of human voice in your room. But here you have it.
This happened with both 1Steps; Café Blue and Nightclub.
Korn Untouchables, the fifth studio album by American nu-metal band Korn, is another fascinating and great-sounding album that requires a diverse kind of inner amplifier core to deliver to its fullest and quite surprisingly, Audio Analogue ABsolute instantly locked and loaded with Untouchable’s pure raw energy and unbridled emotional expression.
A gothic, macabre mood runs throughout the album calling for an amplifier that can cater to and not mask such emotional depth, no matter how poignant it is. The ABsolute has once again proven that it pulls no emotional punches, and doesn’t skip any vigorous beats, delivering elemental facticity and complex textures without getting in the way or adding its unnecessary presence.
When Korn’s hard music gets down to the nitty-gritty, too many amps or amp-preamp combinations simply start to churn out sonic drivel. On the contrary, from track to track, ABsolute has shown its sort of nascent nature, clearly showing how it’s all about phrasing and feel, by seamlessly blending organic, organized chaos with kaleidoscopic note vibrancy.
Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 Berliner Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado
And to the very different musical realms with an ominous four-note opening motif in which Beethoven mysteriously sets a dramatic scene of an encounter with the universal law of Kharma, an encounter with one’s own faith, which runs supremely and subtly through the music.
“Allegro con brio” delves into the composer’s complex, dark psyche and shows how he dealt with his inner demons, which he gloriously escapes with catharsis in the final part.
Audio Analog ABsolute decodes short and long leitmotifs without ever changing the orchestral tempo. This is something that is very apparent not only from conductor to conductor when listening to a different version of the same composition, but also from amplifier to amplifier. Again, it is not necessarily related to the price of the amplifier/preamplifier, but to the way they are executed.
In the reproduction of Symphony No. 5 in C minor, ABsolute avoids any chaotic floating of notes or breaking of the orchestral “bubble” in which the music must appear as a whole, as in reality.
ABsolute confirmed once again that its spot-on music reproduction is not a happy accident, but a well-thought-out and controlled endeavor by the Audio Analogue team. This was underlined at every moment by the exact reproduction of timbre, tone and color, timing, and sequencing of notes.
Audio Analogue ABsolute was conceived from the beginning as a herald tipping its hat to the legendary Audio Analogue products at the top level of the portfolio of this Italian high-end audio brand.
It was depicted to deliver the richness and complexity of music and ABsolute crux delivers it all in abundance. The inherited density easily projects a higher level of spatial components of the sound, so that the plasticity of the music is always in the foreground and instruments and performers are reproduced with valid three-dimensionality.
With any kind of high-end audio electronics, there is always a certain limit, a design restraint, where not to go with the sound, and how not to lose the finesse. ABsolute is free of any of such glaring flaws that can occur even with much more expensive amplifiers.
Audio Analogue integrated amplifier refrains from dominating with its sonic imprint. It stays out of the way, does not faux rejuvenate the music, and consistently delivers unrestrained musical energy.
The phenomenon of incomparable perception of differences that is intimately connected with some amplifiers and preamplifiers, regardless of price, simply does not occur with ABsolute.
ABsolute represents a rarefied audiophile and music lover amplifier, is far more than the sum of its parts, and with the right balance between power and delicacy, fosters a faithful model of reality.
The ways are many, the sonic authenticity is one. All technology, circuits, concepts, and everything that goes with them are inextricably linked to the sonic result
With Audio Analogue the path is discreetly connected with idiosyncratically sophisticated propriety volume control, and there is no frantic gain riding and, above all, no listlessness. In combination with the internal amplifier circuitry, the music locomotes to the visceral level, acting as via medium that instantly sets the music in motion, with the suprising momentum and emotional weight needed to fetch aural validity.
ABsolute defines its territory, far from the sonic paucity, and delivers a wealth of information in which music has a firm place.
As every electronic component inside, every curve and contour of the chassis has been thoroughly considered. The result is a sonically and esthetically impressive high-end audio integrated amplifier that captivates the listener from the first note and envelops him in an aura of music.
As a starting point, technically everything must be measured, but if the music is not celebrated, then everything fails.
It is often seen how high-end audio brands reach a plateau and go into static mode. The Audio Analogue ABsolute ably combines high-end audio preamplifier and amplifier in a device that is a wonderful menagerie of new and old technologies and is certainly not just another Class A and Class AB cermet, but it takes them to a new level.
Both classes of operation are suitable not only for different types of audio setups, but also for speaker sensitivity, room size, and amount of music energy distributed. The Class A option can easily tempt the listener into a nighttime escapade at low volume.
For what it represents, it quickly became clear that the Audio Analogue ABsolute was a fitting candidate for the Mono & Stereo 2023 Upper Echelon Product Award. Concluding my review, I am content to bestow upon it this unequivocal award. ❖
- Channels: 2
- RCA inputs: 3
- XLR inputs: 2
- Power on 8Ω load: 50W(class A)/150W class AB
- Power on 4Ω load: 100W(class A)/300W class AB
- Power on 2Ω load: 200W(class A)/600W class AB
AF Group SRL
Via Cesare Battisti 126G
51015 Monsummano Terme
Tel. +39 0572 030964