For starters, What is your budget?
32 responses Add your response
Handling them is not quite the issue. As someone how makes amps like that (disclaimer: I build and sell amps), there is one small caveat.
The Ear amps, the H2O amps, the Rowlands, Red Dragon, the ones I make......a bunch more, use ICEpower amp modules. The only drawback is that the frequency respsonse is load dependent. You need to keep that in mind if you audition them on another system.
They should work with a tube preamp, but almost all of the ones mentioned above have the stock input impedance of 8K ohms. If the tube preamp is capacitor-coupled, there may be a slight loss of bass.
Emphasis on "slight" and "may". Depends on the design.
The only consistent comments that I hear about the EAR designs is that they are a real pain to attach speaker cables to. It is quite possible that they have some newer designs that don't have that problem.
Another option is the Belcanto Design eVo amp range. These are great and not as clinical sounding as most of the digital amps , www.belcantodesign.com
I have a few belcanto products in my system including the Belcanto PRe6 multichannel preamp which I find excellent, the best preamp i have owned so far, beating out the likes of Theta, Gryphon, EAD and Meridian.
Your speakers are close to a resistive load. It may be a very low one, but it is still close to being resistive.
As you go from 8 ohms, down to 4 ohms, the respsonse tends to level out some. But drop below that impedance and it starts to fall off rather rapidly.
Ribbons and planar magnetic speakers are a nice, constant resistance. Cone drivers have peaks and dips in their impedance curve. What us technical types like to refer to as a complex load. Complex in that it has resistance and reactive components to the impedance.
So......in general.......amps like reistive loads better, until they get too low. Such as your speakers. Yes, that does create problems.
ICEpower is a different beast. By its very nature, it has to have a low-pass filter on its output. It will interact with the load to make it sound dull into a higher impedance speaker, and more bright into a lower impedance speaker. (May be that it has just the right amount on your system, which could explain why you are so enthusiastic, and others don't get it.) This is why some listeners will say that one sounds bright, the next will say it is too dark.
With a cone loudspeaker, with all of its variations in impedance, it can be difficult to predict exactly how an ICEpower amp will respond. Granted, we are talking usually less than 0.25 dB variation at 20 kHz, but that is more than enough of a change to have a very noticeable effect. One that is clearly heard.
So........the guy wants to buy an Ear amp. He hears at a buddy's house, sounds good, and he buys one. He brings it home........hooks it up to his 4 ohm load, and it is too bright. He hates it, maybe.
So.....the point is: listen one on the the system that you are buying it for. Listening to one on another system may skew the results enough to make a marked difference in how it sounds.
So........since we are discussing it:
In my experience:
The 250 will interact with the load less than the 500. The 1000, which only comes in the ASP series, will interact a great deal. I do not think that you could use one on your Scintilla system. Yes, it would drive the daylights out of them, but the roll-off with that value impedance would not be to your liking.
Unless you like almost -2 dB drop at 20 kHz. Who knows.......maybe you will.
Anyway.....as an amp designer, this minor wart is the sort of thing that gnaws at me. Maybe at some other time I will discuss some of my approach to this problem. This isn't the right place, though.
I would second Bel Canto eVo series amps. Esp eVo 4 is worth auditioning, since is much better sounding than 200.2 or eVo 2 and only slightly more expensive (eVo 4 is two eVo 2s in one chessis).
I run my eVo 4 in bridged mode (2 x 700W at 4 Ohm) with 4Ohm / 87dB Avalon Eidolons with excelent resoults.
Ar_t I wish you wouldn't suppose you know what the H2O's capabilities are, just because you make ICE amps. FWI owners of a wide variety of speakers are excited by the H2O's performance; Speakers including, Meadowlark, Green Mountain, Soundlab, Gallo, German Physics, Maggy, Wilson, to name just a few.
You being a builder, I think you should restrict your comments to your own products, and not make sweeping generalizations impugning a competitors product.
It is a fact of life, not my opinion. Simple as that. Maybe Henry takes steps to minimise that, I don't know. But he can not eliminate it any more than I can.
Facts is facts, bub.......
The point is......perhaps it was buried........you need to audition an ICEpower amp on the system that you intend to use it on. Auditioning it on a much different system could give the wrong impression.
BTW.....I have heard mine on 4 of the ones you mentioned. My comments stand.
It goes without saying, try the amp in your on system. on more than one occasion H2O amps have been dropped into existing systems with less than satisfactory results. I totally revamped my system to augment the H2O.
Your amps on four of the same speakers..... opposite results..... hmmmmmm
I don't agree with you on ICE HF limitations. It isn't born out in the white papers.
If I may - this will seem off topic but isn't really. Go to www.realtraps.com (no relation to me) and look at their room response videos. When you then realize the extent of the room effects on specific frequencies, you know intuitively that you MUST audition in your own circumstances to know how something will sound.
My buddy's amazing sounding speakers sucked badly in his friend's listening room, and in mine (different amps, yes, but different ROOMS.)
Muralman touts H2O and I can't blame him - Henry is a great guy and he generously allowed me TWO auditions. While a friend of mine LOVED AND BOUGHT the S250 on the spot (converting a tube lover), so did HIS friend (another even more fanactical tube guy) who has speakers the same as mine. On MY system, to MY ears in MY room, my tube amp held the magic, and I couldn't get the H20 to equal it (even though I wanted to do business with Henry, loved his build quality, the price, the convenience.)
You read YMMV frequently in these posts. That's NOT a casual remark as you will learn on the REALTRAPS site.
Good one Woodburger. In no way will I say the H2O is the best amp for everyone. We all have at least slightly different expectations. There is no substituting something else for tubes for a die hard tube lover. The H2O review by Sajran at 6moons bore that out. For me, as well as Sajran, the H2O does mimic tubes to an extent. I think it's sound closer to tubes than to solid state. Given it runs cool, and you never have to roll tubes, it is a good alternative.
The room is the thing.... I have heard SET amps. With the right speakers, the sound is captivating in a small space. (Need that sub, though)
I'm not agreeing with you about anything. You don't have a clue what my amps sound like. They don't sound like yours. I have never heard two ICE amps that sound the same.
Yeah, all three are below .05 THD + N up to near full power, which I never approach. even with my >dead short speakers.
Sure, the graphs look wildly divergent, until you realize the minute parameters, now you see .005 compared to .05 THD. Big deal.
OK, getting back to Huck's question...can a digital amp do a good job of driving the very current hungry Focus 20/20?
I have the Focus too (and I love them) and have found that changing amps has a dramatic effect on the speaker's performance. Since these speakers can dip below 2 ohms, I seem to be most rewarded by amps that can deliver big current (although I have only tried a handful of amps).
From my limited experience, power (watts) seems to have little if any effect on performance. I say this beacause I went from 1200 W/ch to 350 w/ch and had a great improvement because the 350 watt amp could deliver more current...or at least that has been my conclusion so far.
Full circle now - can the H20 or other digital amps from Rowland and other companies do the job for this kind of current demanding load?
call dusty varner ,he makes a digital mono and i think he had focus also he is on here ,he should know,Channel Islands Audio
(805) 984-8282 http://www.ciaudio.com/ he has been good when i ask him something,he even sent me power cables for my aa stuff for free,i think i remember him haveing some legacy on here for sale some time back..
Hi to all: Seems everyone has a different opinion, somewhat! I guess I will have to do some more research, cause there seems to be a pile of these new switching amps available, some weighing 3 pounds(Nuforce),to 60 pounds (H20). Maybe I will look for a digital integrated(psAudio)?
I was looking for something that doesn't draw big amps and I have limited rack space, so one box deal preffered. Thanks to all that posted! Huck
Can't you find any common ground? I'm trying hard here, bub......
Ok, you don't know what mine sounds like, and I don't know what yours sounds like. OK, find a reason to argue that.
But you missed the point, I am afraid. I am pointing out differences in frequency response as load Z changes, and you switch gears to THD.
I am not talking about THD, I am talking about frequency response aberrations. I am not making it up. ICEpower clearly states it. I use that as a reason why it is important to audition one on the system it will be used on.
OK.......back to the subject. The guy is asking about a "power hungry load". I do not think that you can judge how it will work just based on weight. Yes, a lot of the amps are light. Some are light (Rowland for example) because it has a SMPS. Others (H2O) have large transformers. While someone will obviously disagree, you can not say "A" will and "B" won't simply because of weight. Sure , they will probably sound somewhat different, but weight alone is no indicator of much.
If you examine how much current the speaker will actually use, most of the current comes from discharging the filter caps. So, it is possible to drive such a load with what may appear to be a small transformer based supply.
Bottom line is........you will just have to try them. Or use the advice of someone with the same setup.
A_rt, how about you telling us what it is B&O says about their module 500A HF aberrations. I can't find anything.
Are you talking about their Performance Characteristics graph illustration at 4, 8, 16, and open ohms? Can't be, there's nothing there.
B&O's ASP module's digital supply produces some noise. This can be clearly heard, when comparing well made amps using the two modules. B&O's graphs do bare that out.
I think we are looking at the same graph. In some of mine, they are in color, in others it is multi-color.
So.....assuming that we are......look closely at the area between 10 kHz and 20 kHz. You will some slight variations.
At first, you may not think that little change is audible. I can assure you that is. Very audible. Which is why you need to listen to one on the system you intend to purchase one for.
Look......all amps will interact to some extent with the speaker. These amps just happen to have a particular type of interaction that will be much more audible to the average listener.
At some other time, I can relate a story about RIAA networks, and how very noticable a difference of 0.25 dB is. If not, let me say that most RIAA networks have a hump of around that much from 250-500 Hz. Very hard to take out. Very few products take it out. (Some leave it in on purpose..........)
You can verify this by listening to CDs and LPs that you have in both formats. Some will prefer the warmer sound of vinyl, and others the "accuracy" of CD. Not the point which is better. Just to demonstrate how little of a frequency change can make very large changes in perceived sonics.
Anyone wanting info on stuff that I make, or have made, is welcome to send me an e-mail or PM. I would rather discuss items of technical nature that interest me, than bang the drum for our products. OK?
(There is more than one thread that deals with not being able to identify myself and my company without screaming "www.buy.my.amps.com".)
Art, my highs are pristine. If you look at that graph dcarefully, you would see the dead short has the widest divergence from the other three. The 16 ohm line has maybe a 1/8 dB divergence, while the 4 and 8 ohm lines remain tied beyond 20dB.
The 500A is clearly superior to the 500ASP. The ASP graph have the four lines diverging between 10 and 15 kHz. Yet, you say whether one or the other sound better is a matter of opinion.
How about sending me one of your amps. I will arrange a group of honest people to give it a good listen.
Muralman1, your enthusiasm sometimes compromises your opinion. Your replicating the same notions you had for the EAR gear. I don't think Ar_t is claiming any superiority between his products and anyone elese, just that some building blocks seem to share some commonalities. I don't think your opinons are wrong they sometimes just come off as a bit directed(?). Your offer for comparison would be of much interest to all of us. Just let it be understood that as Ar_t has tried to clairfy that the results(as is usual, and according to Ar_t maybe more so than usual, but, the jury may still be out on that) maybe system dependent. Ar_t like Roy of Green Mountain offer unique perspectives that I think we should encourage. I'm sure the members are taking the appropriate amount of sodium intake, not that medicinal dosages appear to be necessary.
Uh.......there is no "dead short" data. I think you mean "open" data. It won't work into a dead short, will it???
Yes, it may very well be pristine on yours. As I stated, it could be that it works out to be the right amount on your system. No one is questioning that it sounds right on your system. We are ecstatic that it has worked out so well for you. (Maybe the amp you had before it had too much, or too little HF roll-off on your system.)
It just may not sound right on the next guy's. And the chances are mine won't either in that case. That is the point.
I do think that you need to look closer at the graphs, though.
As for the ASP......some may not hear what you feel is an objectable amount of noise. In a HT system, it may well be the ticket. Lots of power in a small, light, cool running box, that is short circuit protected, has soft clipping, and will most likely be very reliable. I don't use them in any 2-channel products, but that may also have to with the user's perception of what a serious power amp should be like. Somehow, the idea of something that only weighs (say) 10 pounds putting out 500 watts seems impossible to some.
As for your generous offer.........I know how my amps stack up to the competition. Enough prospective customers have auditioned mine along with the competition. I suspect most will agree that is a more diverse, and possibly un-biased, cross section of the market.
Again, I don't think that there is enough of a difference between all the competing brands to say one stands out above, or below, the others. I tend to dismiss comments of that nature, I hear them all the time.
The only comment that makes me stand up and take notice concerns speaker cables. I have heard......many times, many sources..........that high capacitance speaker cables suck all of the midrange out of the sound. Some of that can be borne out in the performance data supplied. "Designed to be stable for capacitve loads up to 470 nF." Luckily, no load, even a 'stat, is purely capacitive.
I had the eAR amp for a short time in my system. It was a revelation. It was the best sound I had on my large Apogee systems up to that time. Things just got better and better. BTW, the eAR MKII is a 500A amp.
The difference between the ASP and A versions is well documented. I am not saying the ASP amps are worthless. Henry of H2O has his own version. For a lot of speakers, an ASP amp will do wonders.
Many amps change their frequency response based upon load. This was much more of an issue 30 years ago when it was discussed at length in International Audio Review. At that time many amps were optimized for an 8 ohms resistive load and went to pieces into other loads.
I believe that the extent of mechanical and electrical isolation issues presnt in a system is at least as significant as frequency response deviations and can help account for diverging opinions on Class D amps. I have found that my H20 and eAR amps benefit greatly from a good isolation platform (pneumatic or bearing design)and from electrical isolation from the rest of the system. Isolate a class D amp as you would your front-end. In my system this is accomplished by the use of FIM bearing-based isolation platforms, PowerWraps on the power cords and the isolated outlet banks of the PS Audio Premier. RF picked up by speaker cables can end up at the inputs of amps. Powerwraps seem to have a different effect than other RF treatments (ferrite rings, 'magic dust', carbon) by removing only the crud and leaving the highs alone. I notice that Dave Magnan has quite a list of tweaks for Nuforce amps over at his web site. Many of these address vibration and electrical issues.
I had a 4B something-or-other that I replaced with a Mac MC-352, then a Krell FPB-300C, and now Theta Enterprise Monos. Each step was a noticeable improvement. One footnote though, when I had the Krell, I upgraded from the 20/20s to the Whispers. The 20/20s very likely prefer a different amp than the Whispers.
I say this because I tried my Theta Dreadnaught on the 20/20s and was impressed with the clarity and detail, but not at all with the bottom end. When I put the Dreadnaught on the Whispers, it had no problem at all, especialy the bottom end. This is why I eventually went with the Enterprises.
Feed these speakers well and they'll reward you in spades.
Just my experience...