Knowing about the many apparently very good class D amps on the market right now and even though I'm very satisfied with my current ClassD Audio SDS-440CS amp, I'm seriously considering purchasing one of these amps to try out in my system. My thinking is that, if I do like the amp in my system, I can just use my current amp to replace an older Adcom GFA-545 that currently powers my Magnepan CC3 center channel and my unamplified (passive)sub for ht purposes. I would then always be able to choose which amp I used for my 2 ch music and which amp I used for ht(cc and sub).

Well, I should get to my point:

I'm using an Oppo105 as the master source in my streamlined A/V living room system used 40% for 2-ch music and 60% for ht. For 2-ch listening, I stream my cd collection and hi-res Flac files from a Synology NAS in another room to the Oppo. The Oppo acts as a stand alone dac and sends the analog output via xlr cables to my class D amp (440 w/[email protected]) which powers my Magnepan 2.7qr speakers. For ht, I use the Oppo for decoding surround sound from Netflix, Directv and bluray discs. Two class A/B amps power the Oppo's ht audio outputs to my Magnepan CC3 center channel, LFE sub and in-ceiling rear surround channels.
I've narrowed my new amp choices down to the following four listed below. I'm requesting feedback on any or all of these 4 amp options, especially from anyone who has used 1 or more in their system. My budget is $2,000 to $2,500 and my room is 18ft x 13ft with 8ft ceilings. Here are my options:

Option#1 Hypex Ncore nc400 based amp builds from James Romeyn in Utah. A stereo, dual-mono build is $1,500 total and is rated at 400 watts @ 4 ohms. It includes 2 Hypex nc400 power modules both powered by 1 nc12000 smps mounted in a generic case with a black or silver aluminum faceplate with both se and xlr inputs. A pair of mono-blocks built runs a bit under $2,000/pr. total and consists of a nc400 power module mated to a nc600 smps in each 'NCORE' labeled black case with both se and xlr inputs.

Option#2 Pascal amp build from Aluminati Sound in Ohio. This is a stereo build only that will use a new stereo board from Pascal in Denmark, called the SPRO-2, that has a smps incorporated on the board. Power output is rated at 500 watts/ch @ 4 ohms. Forecasted price is about $2,000 but may run a bit higher. Pascal modules are used in the new JRRG Continuum 2 integrated amp that has received very positive sq reviews. Alumnati is owned by 2 former CNC machinists/fabricators. Their main advantage is their case work. One of the Aluminati owners, Matt Kraemer, told me the new stereo Pascal amp is tentatively named the "X-1" and should be available for order by approx. mid July. He said the stereo case will be milled from a single large aluminum block. The finished case will have an anodized finish (think JRRG cases but milled as 1 solid piece instead of multiple anodized face panels attached to a chassis underneath. The aluminum case will have a blue power/status light mounted underneath projecting downward.

Option#3- Abletec amp modules in the DSonic M3-600M mono-blocks. I'm not certain which Abletec modules are used in these amps but the price is $1,950/pr. and power output is 600 watts/ch @ 4 ohms in black cases with a blue power/status light with both se and xlr inputs. The Abletec modules have built-in smps just like the Pascal modules. According to DSonic's owner, Dennis Deacon, the 600Ms and their top-of-the-line 1500Ms have similar sound characteristics, even though the 1500Ms use Pascal modules(likely either a MPro or XPro module).

Option#4- Identical ClassD Audio SDS-440CS amp to replace my older class A/B amp that powers my center ch and sub. This option is least attractive to me since it would mean my music amplification would remain the same and I wouldn't be auditioning any of the newer class D amp modules. If I liked option 1,2 or 3 above better for music playback, I would simply move my existing CDA music amp over to center and sub duties anyways. The only benefit of option #4 is that it's the least expensive at $630.

I've ruled out some amps, like the Wyred4Sound and Red Dragon offerings, because they use the older Ice ucd power modules typically considered sonically inferior to the newer Hypex Ncore, Pascal and Abletec power modules. Any comments comparing the sq of these options is greatly appreciated, especially if you've owned or listened to some of these. I do understand that there is more involved with how various class D amps sound than just the power modules utilized, such as high quality components and custom input stages.

I should also say, just like Audiozen, I have never actually heard a Hypex, Pascal or Abletec powered amp. I'm just curious and base my optimism on the positive reports from owners, listeners and professional reviewers. If I had a larger $10k plus budget, I'd likely just buy a completed amp based on the Hypex Ncore nc1200 power modules, such as Merrill, upcoming Mola-Mola or Acoustic Imagery.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts, comments and suggestions. Please feel free to suggest other reasonably priced class D amps I may have omitted.

Thank you,

Much like Audiozen, I am basing

Showing 3 responses by timrhu

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.
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.
Tim - It doesn't matter a bit whether or not something better exists. Pursuing the latest and greatest will make you crazy and broke and can lead to nothing but regret eventually. What you have coming should be very satisfactory as long as you keep your mind in the listening room and out of the magazines. This entire industry is built on dissatisfaction. You already tried to beat the system and failed to do so, breaking about even, and caused yourself worry and delay in the process. The real way to beat the system is to be happy with what you've got.

Hard to beat advice like that. Of course that's not the nature of this crazy hobby. At some point you may get there...hopefully.
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