Bel Canto ref m series Class Ds based on Icepower are still very good. I know there is newer technology out there but I have no reason to consider a change at present. If it ain't broke....
I am very interested also in anyone finding comparing these to newer Class Ds at comparable price points.
Bottom line I think all these Class Ds are quite good and viable candidates. Newer technologies should should have the edge but do they and how do they compare in value? That is what I am wondering most at this point.
ALso its the final product that matters, not just the amp component used, though with Class D technology, the amp board used provides a lot of the main engine. Which end designs are the best and why? Which offer the most value? What are the marginal differences in how these sound, beyond just the differences in technology?
I just took delivery last week of a JRDG Continuum integrated. I'm told it contains a Pascal amplifier module. This replaces a pair of NCore 400 monos and a JRDG Capri preamp that I have used for about 20 months now. While the NCore/Capri pairing was very good to my ears, the Continuum is much better in terms of articulation, black background, and parsing of massed strings or voices in harmony. It really seems to perform at a significantly higher level.
It would be hasty, I think, to attribute this solely to the amplification design employed in the finished product however. The balanced cables I used in the former system were certainly inferior to the internal connection in the Continuum. The Ncores were assembled for me by the esteemed Mike Galusha using a pair of Parasound cases he had on hand. He said that their sound was indistinguishable from his own NCores. They are nice but do not come close to the build quality and materials used in the Rowland. And the Continuum contains the new, redesigned Capri S2 which is supposed to be head and shoulders superior to the original I replaced.
So apples to apples this is not. And bargains are more elusive than reviewers make them out to be. I bought my Continuum with a phono card but it can be purchased with an optional DAC card onboard instead of the phono, or with neither. Though it might be quite a stretch to get into a Continuum, do think about whether or not you can manage it, given that it replaces amp, preamp, and primary source conversion all in one chassis. I felt like I was sticking my neck way out there buying this thing but it only took a couple of hours for me to realize I had invested well. You get what you pay for, they say. Probably the Roy Gregory review did the most to convince me. Now I'm wondering if I'm crazy enough to hang my butt out there for an Aeris DAC.
I always wanted a pair of Bel Canto Ref1000 monos ever since I first heard them driving a pair of Magnepan 3.6s at Audio Consultants in Chicago. They had an effortless quality that was very dimensional and real. Plus, they looked cool.
I still have complete respect for those amps. Unfortunately, they were out of my price range then and it looks like they still are beyond my budget even used years later. I just hope the newer amps I'm looking at sound that good.
"I always wanted a pair of Bel Canto Ref1000 monos ever since I first heard them driving a pair of Magnepan 3.6s at Audio Consultants in Chicago. They had an effortless quality that was very dimensional and real. "
That's an excellent description that really captures the essence of these amps!
All else aside, there is a lot to be said for any amp that never breaks a sweat. Also compact and efficient. Like an optimally conditioned athlete. No steroids involved though. :^) Truly amazing technology!
Has the Hypex NCore fad petered out already? I guess it's been a couple years now but from all the hype at the onset I thought the NCore was the end. Oh well, the carousel keeps spinning.
A few years ago I owned the Bel Canto Ref500S amp paired with the Bel Canto Pre3. Through all these years that was the cleanest sounding amp I have owned. Admittedly, I don't push my equipment very hard; a smallish room with no super loud listening.
The Bel Canto combo never seemed to change it's absolute neutral character. It was the epitome of a "straight wire with gain." And man, I loved the size and look of those pieces.
Now I'm feeling pangs of regret.
Noble100, I have a pair of D-Sonic M2-600 amps that sound superb in my stereo system, but I think they actually produce up to 600 W into an 8ohm load and 1200 into a 4 ohm load. The extra oomph this whopping power provides gives rock-solid control over the bass drivers in my Snells.
Hi Macro, congrats about your new Rowland Continuum S2. Keep us posted about its sonic evolution during break-in... How about you start a dedicated thread to chronicle your experience.
Timrhu: "Has the Hypex NCore fad petered out already?"
I just want to be clear and freely admit that I have never listened to any Hypex, Abletec or Pascal power module based amps in my system or any other system. I have no idea which one would sound the best in my system, I'm just seeking to learn enough so I can take an educated guess and select one to buy.
The original method of going to dealer showrooms to listen to and compare audio components appears to be diminishing quickly. One new paradigm seems to be internet direct sales with various allowances for in-home auditions with components inserted into your own system and room, not the dealer's. This is bad for dealers but more advantageous to consumers since it offers the twin benefits of a more relevant listening audition and lower prices.
The latest purchasing model I see emerging is having amplifier(s) custom built by amp builders/assemblers with the power modules and options of the customer's choosing(similar to current versatile laptop purchasing). This is the method that I'm considering but it has its difficulties. Unless you're fortunate enough to have heard amps with various power modules and input sections, you're basically flying blind. This is exactly the position I find myself in now and the main reason I posted this thread soliciting the listening impressions from owners, listeners and, hopefully, even members who have had the opportunity to compare technologies and develop a preference.
I have been reading as much information as I've been able to find on online forums like Audio Circle, DIY Audio, AVS Forum, What's Best and here on Audiogon. Based on what I've read thus far, Hypex Ncore based amps remain very popular and receive almost universal praises for their neutral, dynamic and highly detailed audio performance and sound characteristics. I don't consider the Hypex Ncore technology as a passing fad but more of a milestone in amplifier evolution. Hypex Ncore seems to be the current gold standard in class D that all competing newcomers, like Abletec and Pascal, are judged against.
IMO, class D has just too many clear advantages over tube, class A and class A/B technology to not become the predominate basis for hi-end audio amplification going forward. My opinion will probably stand only until the next breakthrough in this newer amp technology comes along.
Hi Mcbuddah, do you happen to know if your D-Sonic M2600 amps are based on Pascal or AbleTech modules? G.
My mistake. It's my understanding that there were no physical changes between the M2-600M and M3-600M DSonic models; they are the same amps and do deliver 600 watts @ 8 ohms and an amazing 1,200 watts @ 4 ohms.
I believe your amps contain the Abletec power modules. Can you confirm this?
I auditioned the Ncore Atsah's in my system for almost two weeks and came away impressed with the controlled punchy bass, tonal density and musicality. IMO they fell a bit short of the Class A Clayton M300s in direct comparison, primarily related to a slight lessening of the development of very high frequencies and a sense that some of the ambient venue information around and between performers was not as present as with other high quality amps. Even so, I really liked the absolute quiet background and ergonomics and would consider them a strong contender if I were going to buy more amps. I would like to hear some more Class D options like the Hypex modules with linear power supplies (Auralic Merak and Channel Islands D500 MkII), or offerings using Pascal or Abletec modules.
I already answered that question for you Guido with a post on another thread regarding the same question you asked then.. Zzzzz..., Sooo..to refresh your memory, here we go again...
The previous D-Sonic M2-600M and the current D-Sonic M3-600M
are the exact same amplifier, The ABLETEC ALC-1000 Amp designed by Patrik Bostrom. The only difference between the two was a change in the chassis design. That's it. You can download photos of the interior from Google or Bing images. For the money, a very clean, elegant piece of work. The simplistic orderly layout of the multiple transformers and Caps and other parts is excellent. The signal path board print is first class. D-Sonic's most powerful amp, the M3 1500M, uses
a PASCAL X-PRO3 power module in a two channel configuration.
Who's the most advanced Engineer of the bunch?.. Hands down, PATRIK BOSTROM with ANAVIEW/ABLETEC. During the past five plus years, Bruno Putzeys, further advanced traditional Class D PWM, (Pulse Width Modulation) to an improved version called PWDM, (Pulse Width Density Modulation). Bostrom has abandoned PWM and similar version's stating there still exists flaws with that application and he has designed his own, one of a kind,
more advanced pulse modulation technique called PSM, (Phase Shifting Modulation) which avoids the inherent harmonic disorder problems found in Class D amps using PWM or similar applications. This PSM technology is used in the D-Sonic M3 600M amp and in the $45K pair of the Marten M amps in Sweden designed by Patrik Bostrom.
Correction..the D-Sonic M3 1500M amp uses the PASCAL XPRO-1
power module and not the XPRO-3.
I'm going to give my M2-600s (Abletec core) a new challenge early next week. I bought a W4S STP SE preamp for a very good price to replace my quarter-century old stock Classe DR-6. Since this is the only preamp I have had for 25 years, I don't have any way to know if it should be retired. It's controls and output are as quiet as new and it seems to match up with the D-Sonics well enough to make some really nice music lately. Nice enough that I haven't made any config changes or applied new tweaks since last June. Still, I am nagged by the thought that I may be shortchanging the system with this aging preamp.
Living with these amps for almost a year and a half, the first six months were a flurry of system changes driven by an obsession to get more and better sound out of them in a system with a $20K+ phono section. The last nine months have been just listening and enjoying the music. No, they do not sound 'better' than the 100w early 1993 vintage Atma-Spheres they replaced. But, right out of the box they showed enough promise that I began to try some things I had only read about before. The magic in these amps is that they reveal differences due to system changes (VTA, upstream cable changes, improvements due to cable dressing, footer changes, speaker positioning, for a short list) better than any amps I have ever heard, much less owned in my own rig. For six months, I was trapped in a never-ending circle of trying some new change(s) to the system, hearing the results plainly and clearly in many cases. These amps made power-cord changes,almost anywhere in the system, VTA changes, component position changes, and especially introduction of isolation platforms, all easy to discern.
I can't speak to the competing Class D technologies, but I have no desire to even audition any others much less go back to tubes, even after 20 glorious years with a pair of the finest OTLs made. But, it took me six months and over one hundred system changes to get them there. They are very rewarding to 'philes who are willing to get serious about clean cable setups, try different component isolation techniques, plug, pin, and socket cleanliness, EMI/RF mitigation, and want to be rewarded for their efforts by being able to really hear the results.
This appears to be the Pascal amplifier module present in my JRDG Continuum S2 integrated amplifier.
At this point I have had it in use for a week. Most of that time it has carried TV and FM signals. Today I plan to devote some time to careful listening. The apparent superiority over my NCore 400 mono amps came as a surprise to me. Before I bought the Rowland I was concerned that the NCores were irreplaceable. Those fears are now assuaged and I am honestly beginning to wonder if I may have blundered into the new State of the Art. One matter that prevents that optimism from blooming fully is the awareness that Jeff uses the Hypex NCore 1200 modules in his 825 and 925 flagship models. On the other hand, the early reports I've seen evaluating the Pascal designs suggest a new paradigm.
Well, it doesn't matter much really. I've made my bed, so to speak. At this price level I shan't be making frequent changes. However, I find myself thinking about the Aeris DAC. That same Roy Gregory who touted my amp so accurately, has also written in strong terms about the excellence to be found in the Aeris. Since my present sources are no doubt restraining what my system can do, I'm dreaming about better digital. The Aeris costs too much to be an experiment so perhaps an OPPO BDP 105 would be sufficient to properly evaluate my Continuum. Can anyone offer an opinion about this without completely hijacking Tim's thread?
Audiozen - while I can't pretend to understand everything presented on the Pascal data sheets, I can state that the XPro 3 is 3 channel, the XPro2 is 2 channel and the XPro 1 is 1 channel.
Since I am unfamiliar with the D Sonic line, I do not know what an m3 - 1500m amp purports to do but I can tell you that the number of channels it embodies will indicate quite accurately which module it employs. In order for it to be stereo, it would have to utilize either the XPro 2 or two XPro 1modules.
Limited experience with my new amp and reports from the reviewing community have me believing in Pascal's message. Which amplifier do you use?
Guido - You flatter me by suggesting I blog about my new amplifier. I have neither the hearing acuity, comparative experience or verbal flourish to carry forth a worthy monologue. I will instead refer interested parties to the opinions of Roy Gregory who convinced me of the merits available in the Continuum S2. Perhaps others will be as motivated as I was.
Here's the link:
Anyone who has ever thought about buying that last amplifier should consider this one. It is solid, compact, beautiful, and uses little energy. Mine runs cool to the touch, remains dead silent, and appears able to drive any speaker. Until now I have harbored some regrets over having sold my Concentra integrated a few years back. Now those regrets have vanished.
Thank you Audiozen, please refrain from sarcasm.... I do not need it this early in the morning.
Appriciate the info on module... I have added it to my class D tracking spreadsheet... Do you have any further tech specs on M3-600 and M3-1500?
E.g. power supply, input stages, max/peak current, etc.... As you may have read elsewhere on this board, I am blind and do not see images... Hence, If there is any hard information that you have extracted from the photo you mention, please outline them here.
Macrojack..M3 is nothing more than the "third version" since the original. When D-Sonic first got off the ground all their amps, whether they were high powered mono blocks or stereo or multi-channel, were all B&O ICE. In 2011 Dennis switched out to Pascal and Abletec to the M2 models then changed the chassis designs in late 2012 to the M3 models. I made a mistake pulling the model # from the Pascal website. The XPRO-1 is the correct mono model in the M3-1500M.
Guido..you need to chill out. I only get sarcastic with you
when you get into your over patronizing manner with Gon members. I'll continue to comment with my sarcastic manner when needed. "Mayflower Manner's" does not apply here.
Stats on the D-Sonic M3-1500M/PASCAL XPRO-1.
1500 watts at 8 ohms.
2400 watts at 4 ohms.
Peak output voltage is 160 volts.
Peak output current. 30 amps.
Voltage Gain is 32db's.
Input impedance is 60 kohms.
Dynamic range is 120 db's.
Sensitivity is 2 volts.
Damping factor is at 1000.
Stats on the D-Sonic M3-600M/ABLETEC ALC-1000
600 watts into 8 ohms.
1200 watts into 4 ohms.
Peak output voltage is 100 volts.
Peak output current is 24 amps.
Voltage gain is 32 db's.
Input impedance is 60 kohms.
Dynamic range is 120 db's
Sensitivity is 2 volts.
Damping factor is 600.
My apologies, everyone. I inadvertently (carelessly?) provided the wrong link in my las post above. The Roy Gregory review of the JRDG continuum S2 is linked here:
I hope it helps with the comparison.
Another integrated amp to consider is the Gato Audio DIA, which uses the Pascal technology. Gato is based in Denmark. The lower powered model, the DIA-250 is about half the cost of the Rowland. I'm breaking in a 250 currently, but so far am liking it. It has a built in DAC, and at some point I will have to compare it to my W4S Dac-1.
I just want to summarize what we've determined thus far in this thread concerning which power modules are utilized in various class D amps:
DSonic M3-1500M mono-blocks($1,375ea) use the Pascal XPRO-1 modules
DSonic M2-600M and the newer M3-600M mono-blocks ($975/ea.) are the same amps and both use the Anaview/Abletec ALC-1000-1300 modules.
According to a forum reply I read on www.diyaudio.com by Pabo, the current CTO and founder of Anaview(which owns Abletec), the ALC-1000-1300 has been discontinued and will be replaced with a new module, the AMS-1000, that's due out late summer of this year. It will be available for purchase at Profusion in the U.K. and possibly Shaw in the U.S. Current estimated price is $400-425 but has both the power modules and smps modules already integrated on the board.
This may cause DSonic to utilize this new module or substitute another module if they have insufficient supplies of the original Abletec ALC-1000-1300 modules.
The forum thread is at thttp://www.diyaudio.com/forums/class-d/190182-abletec-alc1000-any-experience-8.htmlhread
Aluminati Sound 'X-1' stereo custom amp build ($2,000 estimate) will use the newer and smaller Pascal SPRO-2 stereo module.
JRDG Continuum 2 Integrated amp ($4,900) uses the Pascal M-PRO2 stereo module?
I've noted this listing with a '?' because I think this needs verification. According to Matt Kraemer of Aluminati Sound, the JRDG Continuum 2 uses the newer SPRO2 module, which is the same module he'll be using in his new 'X-1' custom stereo amp build due out in mid- July of this year. Unless Macrojack knows for certain his Continuum 2 amp uses the Pascal XPRO2 module, I'll try to confirm with Matt Kraemer.
I think your class D spreadsheet is a very worthwhile effort and just want to be assured you have accurate information for it. Is your spreadsheet available online or is it only for personal reference?
I think your idea of using an Oppo 105 as an interim dac solution, rather than purchasing the expensive internal JRDG option right now, is a very good one. I own the same unit and can vouch for its very good performance as a stand alone dac and as a digital media renderer and player.
Its internal top of the line Saber 3018 dac chips are capable of up to 24bit/192khz, even DSD with free software upgrade, decoding and playback. It has an asynchronous USB input (including a wireless dongle) and also utilizes a 32 bit digital remote volume control to prevent any musical information from being lost or affected.
I stream my entire cd collection, and several FLAC and WAV hi-res files, from a Synology NAS to the Oppo with excellent functional and sq results.
Everyone, please feel free to reply on any errors I may have made above.
Tim - A couple of corrections are in order. The JRDG Continuum S2 lists for $9500. You can have a phono card installed in the first input for and additional $350 OR you can have a DAC card installed in the first input slot for $450. You cannot choose both. It is either/or on phono OR DAC OR neither one.
My dilemma with considering the Aeris DAC is bigger than you realize. The Aeris is an outboard DAC intended to take over state of the art and some people say it is a definite contender. It retails for $9800. That's why I am having so much trouble with the idea.
And lastly, thanks for providing your comments on the OPPO 105.
Oh, and BTW, I determined which Pascal amplifier module is in my amp by comparing the picture of its internals in the Roy Gregory review to the photos on the Pascal site. It is a dead ringer.
I do not wish to impugn Matt Kraemer, especially since he may be right and me wrong. My info is strictly the product of my research and my methods may not stand up to reality if challenged. For the record, though, I felt I had it right.
Timrhu: "Has the Hypex NCore fad petered out already?"
I just want to be clear and freely admit that I have never listened to any Hypex, Abletec or Pascal power module based amps in my system or any other system. I have no idea which one would sound the best in my system, I'm just seeking to learn enough so I can take an educated guess and select one to buy.
Just my attempt at sarcastic humor as I recall a couple years ago how the NCore was absolutely untouchable. Of course technology marches on and perceived sonic improvements are always on the horizon. Interesting that many find the 50 plus year old Dynaco ST-70 can provide sonic nirvana.
I wish you luck with your search and hope to hear your impressions of whichever amp you chose.
I incorrectly listed the Oppo 105's SOA Saber dac chip as the '3018' chip. It is actually the '9018' Saber dac chip which is used in the Oppo, as well as several other high-end dacs.
Hi Tim, Aluminati X-1 stereo amp seems similar in power rating to the transformer-coupled Rowland M525 bridgeable stereo amp, which retails for $4500. Conversely, Continuum S2 integrated is rated at 400W/8 800W/4.
My spreadsheet is still very incomplete. Amongst other things, I am missing links to most product pages and reviews.
You will be putting a lot of dollars into the case with Aluminati that could be better spent (performance wise) somewhere else. Of course if the aesthetics of a billet aluminum case are important to you, then disregard.
Determining which class D amplifiers use which specific amplifier power modules/smps modules is not a simple matter and requires a bit of detective work. After looking into this a bit online, here are my current thoughts:
1. The upcoming Aluminati X-1 and JRDG 525M amp, as you observed, both have the same power ratings of 250w/ch @ 8 ohms and 500w/ch @ 4 ohms. However, I think the 525M uses the Pascal XPRO-2 power module/smps while I know the X-1 will be using the SPRO-2 module/smps.
2. The Alumanati X-1 and JRDG 525M share other similarities: both chassis are milled from solid blocks of aircraft-grade aluminum and utilize PFC(Power Factor Correction) that preconditions/filters the room ac power prior to entry into the modules.
3. The Continuum 2, I believe, uses the MPRO-2 module/smps rated at 400w/ch @ 8 ohms and 800w/ch @ 4 ohms. The MPRO-2 module was released by Pascal after the XPRO-2 modules and before the newest and smallest SPRO-2 modules.
4. The JRDG 825 and 925 amps, as I'm sure you are aware, both utilize Hypex NC1200 power modules.
You are correct, the msrp of the JRDG Continuum 2 integrated amp is $9,500, not $4,500 as I incorrectly listed on a prior post. Thank you.
I also re-read my email from Matt Kraemer of Aluminati. He actually stated that his X-1 will use the Pascal SPRO-2 board and that the JRDG Continuum uses 'a' Pascal module also, not that they both use the exact same module. Therefore, you've been correct all along that the Continuum 2 uses the MPRO-2 module and I apologize for questioning your accuracy on your own amp.
I'm starting to think I'll be sonically pleased whether I choose the Hypex, Pascal or Abletec option. All 3 are roughly the same price, too. I may just do the audiophile unthinkable and decide based on casework, then progress from there.
Tim - When choosing your next amplifier, you might find that the Rowland is a wiser choice for a number of reasons. In my own experience, I was able to realize a very significant upgrade by moving from Hypex NC 400 monos to the stereo Continuum. In both cases, I used a Capri preamp but the latter case included the more recent and reputedly superior Capri S2 in board. While I'm sure that made a difference, I think the improvement in amplifier selection was greater. Since you do not intend to employ a preamp at all, perhaps this has no meaning in your pursuit. On the other hand, I would not overlook the Rowland implementation as an important factor, nor would I fail to consider the notoriously high Rowland resale. As one who has purchased his 26th final amplifier upgrade, I have become sensitive to that consideration. All of the Rowland gear is manufactured and serviced in Colorado Springs and Jeff himself handles every piece.
Unless there is an unworkable gap in pricing consideration, I would certainly prefer JRDG after my recent comparison.
Hi Tim, I looked at:
The only module listed that would match Rowland M525 power rating is S-Pro2. Did you find info elsewhere pointing to M525 possibly using X-Pro2 instead?
You are correct, Rowland M825 and M925 are amps containing NCore NC1200 modules. Here is related info:
I think I should limit by internal sleuthing of class D amplifiers' internal power modules lest I convict the innocent and acquit the guilty.
After a second look, it seems the Pascal SPRO-2 power board (250w@8ohms,500w@4ohms and bridgeable to 1,000w)was released in Feb of 2013. The JRDG 525 stereo amp (250w@8ohms,500w@4ohms and bridgeable to 1,000w) was released/announced at CES in March of 2013. I would think that Pascal, being the OEM for Rowland, had sufficient time to supply Rowland with enough of these new modules to begin production. I was unable to visually compare internal photos of the 525 amp components to photos of the Pascal SPRO-2 stereo power boards, however, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Rowland 525 stereo amp utilizes the Pascal SPRO-2 module based on the products' release dates and identical power ratings.
I did not find any info suggesting the 525 uses the Pascal older XPRO-2 modules.
I'm having a hard time, however, finding published reviews on either the 525's or the Pascal module's sonic characteristics.
While sq is my primary criteria in choosing a new amp, I'm not immune from the ascetics of a component, especially when it will be prominently visible in my rack whenever I'm listening to music or using my ht. I realize I will pay a premium for this benefit but it will not be excessive with the Alumanati amp build (about $2,000 for the same Pascal amp module, and similar anodized aluminum casework, as the JRDG 525 amp currently priced at approx. $5,000). It seems like a bargain to me, even though I realize I won't be getting the exact same value added internal components, technology or sq as the Rowland.
I agree with you about the desirability of the Rowland 525 itself over an Aluminati amp build. I don't think doubling my budget is currently feasible but I think a used or demo 525 at a reduced price will be added as my option#5. I'm not overly optimistic about finding one, though, and certainly will not be holding my breath.
Thanks for the assistance all,
Hi tim, ;there are a couple of reviews on S-Pro2 amps available...
Nothing in English on M525 yet, but you should be able to download a German language review of M525 at:
there is also tech info on M525 at:
The Gato DIA 250 integrated is also based on Pascal S-Pro2. You will find it reviewed in the last few pages of the 6Moons article at:
My current german skills were not sufficient to gather much info from the German language review you attached. However, the 6Moons comparison of the Gato DIA400 vs the DIA 250's sonic impressions were more helpful but required a bit more study to comprehend. I was able to decipher Srajan Ebaen's sonic impressions and descriptive variances between the two and found that my sonic system preferences are in tune with his and that I'm seeking a system sound that is more in-line with the DIA 250's than the DIA 400's.
That is, I would like my system to be detailed and transparent even if that means not all of my recordings will sound as good and some of my upstream components' weaknesses may be exposed.
I believe my system preferences are evolving from one that wanted a sound a touch on the warm side of neutral to one that is more accurate and detailed with warmth provided by the music/recording if it exists at all; I don't want to color the sound.
The section of his review concerning 'class D flavors' was particularly helpful in coming to this realization. It appears the Pascal SPRO-2 power modules, contained in the DIA, may be to my liking in tis regard. But, the Hypex nc400 and Abletec modules may also be suitable as well; it's hard to be sure without hearing them.
My current system(24 bit/96khz files via a Synology NAS processed via an Oppo 105, output direct via xlr to a CDA high powered amp that drives Magnepan 2.7qr speakers)is supplying a detailed, dimensional and palpable sound on well recorded music. My current favorite is a Carmen Gomes hi-res file called 'A Thousand Shades of Blue'. Some of my ripped cds have less of these qualities, which I understand is to be expected.
Thanks for the referenced materials, I think I'm getting closer to an informed choice.
Hi Tim, in case you opt for an amp based on Pascal S-Pro2, note that while S-Pro2 supports bridged-to-mono operations, and would deliver about 1000W/8 in this mode, it does not mean that bridged functionality is inherently supported by any particular emplifier using this module.
If you are thinking of adding a second unit for more power at a later time, and using the amps as monos, you need to make sure that the manufacturer supports bridging, lest you get an unwelcome late surprise. Rowland M525 is bridgeable, but I have no information on Aluminati X-1.
I also read one needs to make the distinction between bridging into 8 ohm vs 4 ohm speaker loads with this module, with the former being generally permissible and the latter being somewhat more restrictive. My use is a relatively constant 4 ohm speaker load over the audible range with few, if any, dips below 4 ohms at any frequency. I don't envision utilizing the modules bridging ability, anyway, but I appreciate your cautionary forewarning.
My personal recommendation with the disclaimer that I make the Merrill Audio VERITAS Monoblocks, for your Maggies would be either the Pascal or the NC400 for these resaons.
1. Better control from the Pascal. You don't have to worry about low impedance with the Maggies but it is a heavier membrane, so the low output impedance of the Pascals will give you better control on our speakers. You will enjoy this a lot.
2. The NC400 will provide excellent sound, not as good on control as the Pascals. When building the Nc400 (I have not looked at their build), it is important to separate the power supply from the amp board and to have a shield.
Either will give you a very nice musical experience and both are well priced.
Bridging will give you more power and you don't have to worry about speaker impedance. It will also give you better speaker control, however you don't need all that power, you really need the control to get nice slam at the low volume and at the high volumes. Keeping the noise level low is great for details and something you should strive for with an improved source and high res music, perhaps in the future.
Have fun. Any choice will still give you a significant improvement which you will really enjoy.
Tim, Merril raises some excellent points... So I am thinking that, if you opted for the Aluminati integrated with Pascal S-Pro2, as the amp is not quite ready yet, you might still be in time to persuade the manufacturer to support the bridgeable option of the module in one form or another.... So, if at a later time you decided to go for more power, you will be able to double your fun without ditching your investment. G.
Guido and Merrill(Ua100k),
I would like your opinions on another option I just discovered online that might be a possible good starting point in my situation but don't want to make a purchase I may regret.
Currently, there's a 'gently used' pair of Bel Canto Reference 500M mono-block amps for sale on EBay. Current high bid is $800 for the pair that are being sold by Overture Audio/Video in Wilmington, Del. They were a customer trade in that are rated as very good condition, which the photos seem to validate, at least cosmetically. Here's the link: http://www.ebay.com/itm/221439500514
I was thinking that these might be a good and less expensive option especially if the ref500m have similar performance qualities to the ref1000m amps and they could be bought at $1,000/pair or so.
I read an older review from 6Moons on the ref1000 that was extremely positive. The ref500 are half the power, however, at 500 w/ch @ 4 ohms. I know that's sufficient power for my speakers since my current class D amp is 440watts and attains spl levels far above my normal listening levels without a hint of strain.
Not having heard these or any other amp options I listed, I'm relying on your experienced opinion on whether you think I'd be better served by these or waiting and buying the Abletec, Pascal or Hypex Ncore based amps.
Thanks for your thoughts in advance,
Tim, if price is your main criterion for the new amp, a Bel Canto REF500M may be a reasonable option. However, do not expect REF500M to share the grace and sweetness of its more expensive and powerful REF1000M (Mik.2) brother.
Here is my original take of REF1000M (Mk.2):
And here is my take on REF500M
Furthermore, It is worth pointing out that when I wrote the articles above, REF1000M and REF500M were some of the most significant class D achievers on the market... The performance bar has risen significantly since then, and my original findings do not reflect today's state of the art.
My guess is Tim is looking for the amplifier counterpart of his speakers. Since he has no use for a preamp, I suppose that would mean he wants extremely cost-effective more than low priced. Additionally, I would imagine that he is looking for a solution that will remain viable for years to come. That, of course, depends on how much he allows us and the audio press to fill his head post purchase.
Isn't it clear to everyone that our hobby is driven by dissatisfaction more than anything else? Who amongst us has a system that outright sucks? That's what I thought - we could all stop right where we are and live happily ever after if not for the nagging suspicion that we are indeed missing something.
At least, that's how it has been for quite a few years now. But I would submit that the introduction and steady improvement of D Class amplification has created a paradigm shift. World class amplification at real world pricing has caused many of us to seek upgrades that just a few years ago were patently unavailable at our budgets.
The other interesting development is that kit building is experiencing a revival of sorts. Have we come full circle around to the Heathkit/Dynaco world? Not quite yet --- but the seeds are being sown. Nowadays we have manufacturers producing amplifier boards that can be purchased by end users for DIY, and established amplifier designers opting to purchase these overachieving boards for their amps rather than trying to compete with them from scratch. This trend, I think, bodes well for consumers like us.
So, Tim, I have to recommend that you take into account the initial purchase price, of course. But also think in terms of depreciation, which can be averted to varying degrees by buying used, warranty which usually does not follow used pieces when they change hands and reliability/serviceability which points toward the older more established source with the best overall reputation for QC before and customer service after the sale.
All of that points me toward Rowland. In fact it did direct me to Rowland.
That means I have an extra pair of NC 400 monos to dispense. Good as they are (and I mean incredibly good given their price point) the Continuum has shown itself to be much better. If the 525 is as good as my amp, there is no room for discussion. Buy it!!!
As a fellow JRDG Continuum S2 owner I am curious as to what power cords you have tried and what your sonic impressions of these power cords were. I'm currently using a VH Audio Flavor 4 pc with mine.
Hi BeatleTim, I am not at all familiar with performance of VH Audio wire products.
Rowland has showcased Continuum S2 fed by Cardas Clear and Clear Beyond in the last couple of shows... I heard it and found the sound to be highly desirable.
I do not havve CS2 in my system, but have had mostly Rowland amps in my system since the late 1990s.... I have had particularly desirable results with Nordost Valhalla 2, Shunyata Anaconda Z-Tron, and Shunyata King Cobra CX. I suspect that the new Shunyata Alpha HC PC may also work very well on CS2.
Beatlebum - I'm sorry to have to disappoint you but I just don't subscribe to the power cord thing at all. I'm not saying they don't have the potential to alter the sound, as many a person swears by them. My feeling is that Jeff Rowland is as capable as any wire designer out there and considering the lengths he goes to in designing an amp like ours, I just can't imagine that he would compromise the performance over a power cord negligence.
Different is not necessarily better --- although if you or someone else succeeds in convincing you of the superiority of a device, it then becomes better. It's a pick your poison kind of game since most aspects remain subjective and therefore open to any interpretation.
Have you tried the Flavor 5?
Sorry to be flippant if that bothers you --- I just don't care to pick at tiny nits.
Tell Guido I feel the same about his obsession with break-in. Subjective means just what it says. No absolutes. Everything is SUBJECT to change. Atmospheric pressure, humidity, your mood, ambient sound, time of day, the of wire, degree of isolation, sinuses, etc. can and probably will contribute to irregularities of comparison. And then beyond that what about the very real issue of importance. Isn't it just a tiny bit possible that we inflate the significance of all this to make ourselves feel we're doing something that really matters?
I like my big horns and my little amp and I'm thinking about improving my digital source. Do any of you have experience with the JRDG Aeris?
I have been following this thread and have a few points.
1) Have had both an NC400 and an NC1200 (Veritas) in my system.
As good (really good) as the NC400 is it is in NO WAY 90% of the NC1200 in sound. The NC1200, if done right, is in a WHOLE different league.
2) It REALLY does matter who and how they build these amps. And the quality of the parts and cases DO matter. The little things DO make a difference in the quality of the sound.
So if you go the DIY route make sure who ever does it KNOWS what they are doing.
3) The NC400 is ONLY a DIY. Hypex is very aggressive about that. So if a "builder" decides to use a different brand that may be or be part of the reason for the change.
4) One day I would love the chance to hear the Pascal and Albetec Class D amps. The more the better and the better sound for Audiophiles.
5) I agree with Merrill. The Maggie speakers will sound great with the amps he suggests for the reasons he states. A club member who has a pair tried the NC1200 and he said his system never sounded better. At the time he was using one of the better ARC mono amps.
6) As good as the Bel Canto amps are, I like them a lot, I agree with Guido that times have changed.
7) Tim, I see your price range is $2,500 but can you add to this if need be? I ask this because you might be putting all your eggs in one basket. As good as the Oppo is you might be better served by getting a stand alone DAC and a new amp. I have heard the Oppo in several members systems and then when the put in a reasonable priced DAC it really took their system up a notch. There are some great sounding DACs out there for a reasonable price. Say from around $1,000 to $2,000 new and less on the used market. Think Teac, Benchmark, BMC and Lynx Studio. And sometimes there are some really great DACs that cost $2,500-$2,800 new but can be had for as little as $2,000-$1,700 used.
I think the combo of an well built NC400 or Albetec with one of the above DACs would something for you to consider if you can.
Just some thoughts and my 2 cents.
PS Guido, how yu doin.
Opps, on my closing I meant the Pascal amps not the Albetec.
Macrojack and Guido,
Yes, I'm looking for a cost effective amp that is a good match for my somewhat inefficient Magnepans that enables me to take advantage, and try out, the newer class D advances. I am not opposed to buying used in good condition if it allows me to get performance beyond my modest budget. That's why the Bel Canto seemed attractive, a well reviewed $4k new pair of mono-blocks at 1/4th the price. With 4 days left, however, the high bid on the BC ref500s is now at $1,125 and will probably rise further.
OTOH, Guido raises a good point that the current class D modules from Abletec, Pascal and Hypex may surpass the sq of the older BC amps containing the older ucd modules. All 3 seem to be promising, with good reviews when being used in current amps.
So, back to where I started this inquiry, but that's alright. I'll spend a bit more on the newer technology but hopefully gain better sq for a longer time span.
My current thinking is to wait and buy the new Aluminati X-1 stereo amp with the Pascal SPRO-2 module (that Jeff Rowland obviously likes) and try it with my system. Best case, I love it and keep it for a long time. Worst case, I don't like it, sell it and then try one of the other options.
Thanks for your assistance,
Tim - If I may correct you on one point regarding the BC 500 amps, they utilize B&O ICE Power modules and not the UCDs. Best of luck whichever way you end up going.
Hey Al, doing well... Enjoying my heavenly Rowland M925s and Aeris DAC.
If you want value for your money, I don't think you will find it with Aluminati.