That Golden Glow…

The Accuphase E-5000 integrated amplifier

By Steve Dickinson

We’ve had quality domestic audio products for close to a century now; Tannoy started in 1926, and QUAD a decade later, and there are other celebrated brands around the world looking at marking this significant milestone soon enough. Accuphase’s own antecedents lie with the Trio Kenwood corporation which itself dates from 1946. So, considered purely in those terms, Accuphase’s half-century makes it a mere stripling. By any other measure, 50 years is a jubilee worth celebrating, and staying at the forefront of audio thinking during that time doubly so. Accuphase has often been central to my domestic and reviewing system in one form or another, and remains a standard by which I judge many things that come my way. Until I had my head turned by CH Precision, I heard no call to look elsewhere for that benchmark. But CH Precision isn’t really in ‘voice of reason’ territory, is it?

The £13,000 E-5000 is a bit of a departure for Accuphase. Developed to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, it launched in 2023 and first appeared in the UK shortly afterwards. Demand for the early availability having been strong with dealers, I got my mitts on a review sample late in the year. At a nominal 240W continuous max. output (into an 8Ω load), it’s somewhat more powerful than previous Accuphase integrated amps – until now the class AB integrated amp range has always topped out at around 170-180W – but it’s not simply a matter of increasing the maximum power output. When you listen to the E-5000, the traditional Accuphase family attributes are all present and correct, but there’s something more here and it’s entirely welcome.

“How do I love thee?”

I always orient myself with a handful of familiar tracks, but this time it was a less familiar album that drove home the message that I was listening to/with something a bit special. The Tonbruket album Forevergreens [ACT] is one I’ve had for a while. Curious about the music made by ex-EST bassist Dan Berglund and the rest of his quartet, it has always intrigued rather than delighted. But here and now, it was connecting in ways it hadn’t done before. In many ways Tonbruket’s blend of modernism and rock-infused jazz continues the direction of travel set by the late Esbjorn Svensson, but takes it further. It needs a system with significant dynamic and timing abilities or it just sounds conjested, messy and a bit aimless. It’s the sort of music I don’t take to shows unless I want to annoy the exhibitors, because so few systems will render it in any way intelligible…

The E-5000 not only brought out layers of complexity, it rendered them as relevant, contributory parts: and it did this without getting all analytical and deconstructing the music. ‘Mano Sinistra’ acquired a sense of intrigue, a propulsive sense of purposeful forward motion that was only hinted at before. It made it apparent just how much of this complex, arresting music was blended and merged by lesser amplifiers, a lot of the subtlety and understatement that contributes to the cohesiveness, that creates the musical interest, glossed over. The performance I was hearing now was no mere progression from the previous amplifier model, it was a level of capability I’ve not heard at anything close to this price.

“Let me count the ways”

The E-5000 sits above the E-4000, an amp that recently superseded my own E-480. When I purchased mine, the E-480 sat at the top of the Accuphase class AB integrated amplifier range and the E-4000 offers meaningful, but largely iterative, performance improvements, in much the same way that each Accuphase generation always seems to evolve and develop, based on the last. By positioning itself above the E-4000, the 5000 creates and occupies a new niche at the apex of that integrated amplifier range. Accuphase itself describes it as a ‘Precision Integrated Stereo Amplifier’, a clear indicator of the role they see it performing, the term ‘Precision’ having previously been reserved for its range of class A integrated amps.