It takes some doing, these days, to build smart audiophile products in Europe to a retail price of £600. The Audio Analogue Crescendo CD player and amplifier units are very nicely finished, with solid aluminium front panels, individual but easily usable ergonomics and a general feeling of class that one just doesn't expect at the price.
There are some very intelligent features, too, on the amp. The volume knob is a push 'n' twist control, which when briefly prodded switches to the next input.
There are four different characteristics available for the electronic volume control, accommodating loudspeakers of different sensitivity (that is, with small volume steps over different parts of the range) or simply 79 1dB steps. Balance is adjustable and the amp can optionally be set up as a power amplifier. Inputs are all line-level, including one mini-jack on the front panel.
The CD player is rather plainer but offers all the usual features plus 'Sleep' mode, in which it switches to standby after a preset time. It only plays regular audio CDs, however.
The CD player uses a TEAC IDE (computer-style) transport, apparently optimised for audio, which keeps design simple on the control front and allows AA to implement a relatively complex audio output circuit.
The amp is based on integrated circuits for switching, volume control and actual amplification – including the output. Again, this keeps costs manageable and frees up some budget for a surprisingly large toroidal mains transformer.
Although they never felt this to be the most insightful combination, our 'blind' listeners enjoyed many aspects of the Crescendos' performance. They felt it was particularly good at the casual, droll style of the Ian Dury track.
The bass line, while not especially deep or powerful, was easy to follow and clearly tuned. The solo piano track, with its captivatingly complex offbeat rhythms, was clear and precise, though possibly a little over-bright at times.
Opinions diverged rather more over the presentation of our full orchestral track. One listener found this very satisfying, with power, good imaging and a striking sense of acoustic space. Another was less convinced, missing some energy and conviction in the reproduction and also some bass extension.
Our overall feeling is that this combo has a slightly inconsistent approach to detail, managing it better in some areas of the spectrum than others. Our limited experiments with the units suggested that the amp is something of a bargain, the CD player less obviously so, though still clearly competent.
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