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I am actually in the process of reviewing the NuForce Reference 8 amps for the Stereo Times. I cannot offer a full report here as I've only had the NuForce amps a couple of weeks but I can offer some initial impressions.
I will also say that a friend of mine put me on to these amps and what got my attention was that he was so impressed that he is selling all his other amps to buy the NuForce. One of the amps he is replacing is a highly-regarded model that was well-received and reviewed here on Audiogon (no, I don't want to name it). He bought it recently and absolutely loved it... until the NuForce amps arrived.
In my own system, upon replacing my Aragon 8002 on my Newform Research Module 30 speakers, the Nuforce amps sounded clean and extended at first listen. The midrange was natural and musical, and the highs were very detailed, extended, and clear. Vocals seemed exceedingly natural and unstrained. Also, it seemed that the little NuForce amps actually had better bass articulation and control than the Aragon.
All of these realizations didn't hit me instantly, they took a while to soak in. What drove the point home was when I put the Aragon 8002 back in the system and felt like it was a step down. That's when it hit me in the face.
Previously, in that room, I used the Audio Physic Virgo II speakers with the Monarchy SE-160 monoblock amps and the Aragon 8002. A friend of mine who had heard the Virgo II system was recently invited to hear the NuForce amps with the Newform speakers in this same room. His opinion after hearing the NuForce/Newform combo was that he felt it outperformed the previous AP Virgo setup. I know that some of the difference can be directly attributed to the excellent musicality and articulation of the NuForce amps.
I have NEVER used the word "breakthrough" in describing any product I have reviewed in the last 8 years, and I cannot do it at this point in my evaluation. But next week, when I intend to put the NuForce on my VMPS RM30s, if they outperform my current reference amp then I may have to consider using the "B-word". I can say that this is the first digital amplifier I have heard that appears to sound more analog than analog itself!
As it is, I am completely certain of one thing. The diminutive NuForce amps offer extremely high bang-for-the-buck. They are bound to cause a fuss when they start competing with and outperforming some of the current crop of highly-rated audiophile amplifiers. My friend who visited last weekend is already thinking of what he has to sell so he can buy these amps (I know he owns a Spectral, but not sure which model)...
BTW, Pardales, NuForce is a subsidiary of NPhysics and they are using digital technology in a unique way that no other audio company has tried. The technology is patented and some is patent pending. The company does have plans to license it out to other manufacturers in the future.
These are inexpensive, and offered with trial periods, so trying them at home is an easy thing to do. The NuForce monos did not prod me to replace my VAC Phi 110/110...but it was close. There is a fine line between what sounds like real music and what sounds like a really good facsimile of real music, and the line can become finer when the costs of the equipment are considered.
I am currently evaluating the NuForce in my system,
Sonic Euphoria TVC
Gallo Reference 3
Cables: MIT, VenHaus Pulsars
I have listened to tube amps in my system for the last 20 years, yet the more I listen to the NuForce, the closer I come to admitting that I could easily live with these amps for the long run.
I am still in the first few weeks of evaluation, and these amps break in very quickly. These are my initial observations:
Dynamics are the best I have yet heard in my system. Low level detail is superb.
With the Gallos miraculous tweeter, extending as it does into the higher realms of the ethers, I find that any high-frequency garbage is immediately detectable to me. Yet, with decent recordings, I hear simply nothing objectionable going on in the top octaves of these switching amps; detail and speed are excellent without being "forward." This was quite a surprise for my ears, as I have heard very few solid state amps that have acheived this (these amps are also usually 90+ lbs. and functioning as room heaters 24/7).
Upper-mids are without glare or smear.
Palpability of the voice in the midrange leaves me only slightly wanting, but this aspect is very, very close to my reference amp. Bowing direction on stringed instruments (up-bow, down-bow) is easily rendered. Violas easily heard. I am still working on my final impressions of the midrange.
Mid-bass is warm, yet without bloat. Cello's and basses easily discriminated yet all overtones correct.
Bass is extended and spectral in its depth. In fact with these amps, I'm not thinking I would necessarily add the Gallo bass module any more.
I am still working out the soundstage, cables playing a big roll in the fine tuning. The soundfield is immense. Focus is uncanny. With the NuForce my listening position is somewhat forward and becomes more specific (I'm not wild about this aspect). The tubes have a characteristically more relaxed presentation, somewhat less focus - image is more smeary and floaty.
At the moment, the soundstage depth is somewhat lacking in my system regardless of which amplifier I use, I am still working with speaker placement and cabling, as I mentioned.
More to come.
Sorry, my last post was a graph garbled from the NuForce website (my laptop slipped, and I caught it by the keyboard accidentally hitting the return key enought times to post).
The Reference 8's power is 100 watts continuous into 8, 4, and 2 ohms.
Where the NuForce apparently differs from other switching amps is its peak power reserves. It has almost 1200 watts into 2 ohms.
Check out the NuForce website for more details.
After months of extended listening with rock, classical, vocal, acoustic and jazz from my collection....I have decided to sell all my tube amplifiers in favor of the Nuforce 8 monos. [Note that none of my tube amps are single-ended.]
There it is.
I won't miss biasing and replacing the tubes. Not to mention the heat, the expense, and the guilt associated with using all that electricity!
Those interested in the Nuforce amps may wish to read this StereoTimes review.
for the music
Just this weekend another Apogeeoholic finished his comparison of the Reference 8's to his stereo H20 Signature :
The short story is that in the context of his system, the Reference 8's came in a close second. The context of the system is important as they were driving the impedance from hell Scintillas in their one ohm configuration. There were no uncontained failures, in-flight shutdowns or aborted takeoffs.
These amps do indeed appear to be great bang for the buck.