Audio Show 2016 • Best of Show

Absolut Sound & Vision presented a modest system in one of the Pestana Palace’s smaller rooms, but did so to great effect. The system was based around Arcam’s ambitious and impressive C49 preamp (€3750) and P49 power amps (€4500 each), and speakers were the Ubiq Audio Model One floorstanders (€12,800/pair), Slovenian debutantes with a stated intent to play long and loud. Front-ends were an Atoll DR200 CD transport (€1260) feeding a Chord Hugo TT DAC (€4250) and a Music Hall MMF 9.1 turntable with Nagaoka MP-300 cartridge feeding the Audolici AVP-01 phono stage/preamplifier (€5290). While purists will doubtless point to the multiple redundancy around the control and switching facilities, functionality that is arguably more than just duplicated, compared to many of the alternatives on offer this was a distinctly affordable and genuinely versatile solution -- and it was hard to argue with the sound.

The wide-bandwidth speakers really thrived on the quick, clean power of the class-G amplifiers, while their well-controlled bottom end meant that the bass wasn’t a problem despite the small room. This was a system that was full of life and soul, from traditional Portuguese fado through to mainstream pop or established classical. Its breathy intimacy and the way it filled the room, enveloping the listener, was especially effective with jazz, where the effortless sense of shape and phrasing were particularly impressive.

If proof were needed that you can build musically communicative and satisfying systems for less than megabucks money, here it was. Bear in mind that most listeners wouldn’t need the full range of options represented here and the system becomes cheaper still. For instance, take out the C49 and the Hugo, replacing the DR200 with a one-box CD player or a streamer and DAC and you’ve got a substantial savings on a system that will do a lot more than just get you up and running. Ubiq’s emphasis on musical and dynamic integrity might be considered old-fashioned, but it is certainly musically effective, and we have a feeling that the Model One/P49 combination could be a cult classic in the making -- particularly if the performance here was anything to go by.

The Audio Beat • Nothing on this site may be reprinted or reused without permission.