Audio Refinement Tuner Complete
Sugg. Retail: $995 (CAN)
Audio Refinement CD Complete
Sugg. Retail: $1495 (CAN)
Audio Refinement Integrated Amplifier Complete
Sugg. Retail: $1695 (CAN)
Distributor: Plurison Inc., C.P. 37, Station Youville,
Montreal, Quebec, H2P 2W1
(450) 585-0098 FAX 585-5862
(Reprinted from the Summer 1999 Audio Ideas Guide)
Giving the name “complete” to the components in this system of French origin and oriental manufacture reminds me of an old insult: “Everyone wants their life to be complete, and yours is, because you’re a complete (fill in appropriate word).” I suspect the word “complet” has different connotations in French, but I think the whole idea is to get you to buy the whole system.
This tuner, CD player, and integrated amplifier were designed by Yves Bernard Andre to achieve the sonic goals of his YBA philosophy at a more affordable price, and are built in Taiwan. Available in either brushed aluminum or black finish, these are handsome components with a definite high end look.
As with all YBA components, the Complete series has 3 pointed feet, though here they are rubber, which I guess softens the concept of mechanical grounding. The trio stacks nicely, and I put the amplifier (which runs cool) at bottom with CD player above, and tuner on top. All are controlled by a system remote control which is sold separately for $75, perhaps another inducement to buy all three; I think dealers will throw it in if you do go for the whole shebang. The remote has only 13 buttons, 3 of which assign others to CD, Amp, and Tuner functions. This allows control without confusion, something that’s been forgotten by many makers of home theatre components. How many times recently, when reviewing HT stuff, have I had to turn the light on to find the right button in the forest on the remote? Too often. This solid, metal-cased control is worth the 75 bucks. I’ll say more about its operational oddities in looking at each component’s functions.
The tuner offers both AM and FM, with 14 presets in 2 ranks of 7 assignable to either. The rotary tuning knob is at right, and can be assigned to scan presets or tune manually, and presets can be accessed directly via 7 buttons beneath the LCD display at centre. Scanning of presets and frequencies are possible with the remote control.
In our reception test with a directional outdoor yagi antenna, the Complete tuner showed itself to be very selective, allowing reception of numerous close together stations. It was also quite sensitive, very close to our reference Fanfare FT-1 in this respect, bringing in 45 stations. However, it did show somewhat more propensity to multipath distortion than some tuners we’ve reviewed, but this was in combination with an ability to bring in weaker stations in quite good stereo. Reception comparisons with our other two tuners (within a 1/2-hour period and therfore with virtually identical reception conditions), the FT-1 and a Sony 5130 yielded 49 and 43 stations, respectively, compared to the Complete’s 45.
The AM section was pretty much average in sound quality and sensitivity, but benefited quite a bit from the tuning capabilities of the Terk AM Advantage. This loop antenna is quite directional and has its own tuning dial to bring stations in better.
FM sound quality was surprisingly good for a tuner in this price range, and though not in the class of the Fanfare, certainly better than what we hear from most receivers. The FT-1 seemed to be a little cleaner at high frequencies. I also compared it to a vintage Sony 5130 that I bought for a song a couple of years ago, mostly for its beautiful oiled walnut case; I knew it was a very fine tuner, and set it up in the home theatre room. For this test it was brought in and set up with the Complete in the audio listening room, hooked up to our outdoor Yagi directional antenna.
The Sony tuner has a nice analog quality to it, but because of its fixed IF window, which is rather narrow, it tends to sound a little mellow and closed in at the top, though very pleasant to listen to. The Audio Refinement does have a little more, ahem, refinement in its sound, and a little more sparkle at upper frequencies. The Fanfare sounds smoother, more detailed, and has more depth and breadth of soundstage when listening to a good classical station. They are all very good tuners, and the Complete holds its own in the group.
The Audio Refinement CD Complete was tested in our usual manner, starting with the Verany calibrated dropouts. In the single ones, it played right through track 37 (3mm) without a glitch, and then played 38 (4mm) after a tick or two. In the narrow gauge dropouts, it ticked on 42 (2mm), and played on, this also the case through track 50 in the double dropouts (2 x 3mm). This CD mechanism seems to adapt itself to missing data and then go about its business, at least with these 400 Hz sine wave tones.
The Canadian CD Check Disc was played without incident through track 4 (1.125mm), also unusually good performance, while our random error disc played to 1:35 before muting, and then skipping forward to the 2:10 point and playing on. It muted a few more times, but kept playing, never locking up or skipping ahead again. The partially transparent disc we use to test for sensitivity to manufacturing defects, such as pinholes, was played in fashion similar to what we’ve heard from most other players, with loud ticking on tracks 1 and 2, and clean play on 3 and 4. The CD Complete is a very good tracker with the ability to ignore large errors, so it should be relatively immune to dirt and fingerprints, but might have problems with disc you can see through when you hold them up to the light. On balance, it’s one of the best CD trackers we’ve encountered. I’ll have more to say about its sound quality below.
The Complete integrated amplifier offers 6 inputs, 2 of them tape monitors, these accessed by tiny front panel buttons at right or by scrolling through them on the remote. The rotary knob at right is the Record selector, that at left Volume. The other inputs are labeled Tuner, CD, Aux, and Video. All RCA inputs on the rear panel are gold plated, as are the 5-way speaker output binding posts; a rubber sleeve (red +/black -) covers these, and each is marked YBA. There is only a single set of outputs. This integrated amplifier is quite fully featured, but also very simple, both operationally and in its elegant styling. I started our listening using the Totem Arro speakers, connected with our bi-amp/bi-wire Kimber 8TC with its new WBT locking and stackable banana connectors. I’d been very impressed with the Arros driven by the Celeste I-5080. However, here the sound was rather edgy and bright, very solid state sounding in that 70s way, and I knew the Complete amp had to sound better than this.
The next day, speaker designer Andrew Welker arrived with his new babies (API’s Ian Paisley is also a proud godfather), the Mirage MRM-1 small monitors, and they immediately went onto the end of the 8TC.
What a difference! Suddenly the sound was full bodied, open, and very musical. Now, the Arro dips to 4 ohms around 200 Hz, and has quite high impedance peaks above and below, so that might be the problem. The MRM is a perfect match for this system, though pehaps not in price at $3500 a pair. I spent a whole afternoon listening to various musical selections with Andrew and Jason Ziedel, the Mirage product manager. The Complete system sounded superb throughout this auditioning, and that with the various tuners the next morning. The MRMs have quite astonishing bass for their size, reaching with authority down into the mid-30-Hz range, and the Complete amplifier drove them with ease and panache. By the way, I haven’t mentioned power output because there is nothing about it in the literature from YBA. I would guess that it’s at least 50 watts per channel.
At about $4000 for the complete system, this is budget audio only in relation to YBA. There are matched systems out there in the same price range, such as the Myryad components reviewed in the last issue, that also deliver very good performance, though few are as consistently good from component to component as the Complete system. Here you have a truly excellent tuner, a CD player that is one of the better single box types under $2000, and an amplifier that, while fussy about driving low impedance speakers, sounds quite exceptional for its price with the right pair. If I know Yves Bernard Andre (and I know him but slightly), he’s probably already designing an upgraded amp with 2 power transformers and a beefed up power supply just as he did with the YBA Integre. Then this system will really be made “complet”.