ICE Amps for classical music?


I listen to classical orchestral music at heavy volume. I detest reproduced music for always sounding more or less electronic and not acoustic. Real music is beautiful in a way reproduced music--so far at least-- never is. I have become curious about Wyred4sound amps because of low price and high watts. I am wondering if any of you "mostly classical" listeners have heard these amps and feel they do no more damage to music than amps which are NOT ICE amps. I am using a Plinius SA100 now and have used a VAC 100/100,
a Bedini Classic 100/100, a Music Reference RM-9, and other tube and solid state amps. They all had their pluses and minuses, of course, but for least electronic, clearly the Bedini was the winner. So what about ICE amps?
rpfef
i have heard two, but not the one you mention.

at the time, i had another solid state amp and two tube amps on hand.

i found the ice amps a bit "icy" sounding, i.e., very focused but not a pleasant experience unless recording quality was very good.
ICE amps sound as diverse as class A SS amps, or any other type. I have not heard WiredFor Sound, but have experience with JRDG 312 and Bel Canto Ref 1000 Mk.2. . . . I am mostly a classical music lover. . . lots of chamber to be exact. . . and love these particular amps. . . a few other ICE amps I am somewhat less particular about. Guido
Interesting that you should mention the Wyred 4 Sound amps. With curiousity having gotten the better of me, I recently acquired a used pair of the 250 monoblocks (more like monobricks, actually) to try out on my SoundLabs. The little amps drove them suprisingly well in spite of the difficult load. They definitely sound more forward than my Ayre monos, with a touch of brightness that I found to be just a touch irritating after a while. The single largest difference compared with the Ayres is a very definite shortening of the soundstage (i.e. front to back).

Keep in mind that these comments are 1) comparing what is in my opinion one of the world's finest amps to something that retails for roughly 10% of their cost, and 2) they were driving an extremely difficult load.

On balance, I would say that anyone looking for a high power, high efficiency amp and is on a budget would be very well served in auditioning these.
If you are interested in class D why not UCD amps like the Chanel Island D-200? I prefer the UCD technology over the ICE.
An ICE amp has to mount a great speaker to convey reality.

I have been working to harness the ICE amp wild pony for years. Now we are riding over hill and dale. The question is not only which ICE amp to buy, it is what you have to do to make them sound the way you want to too.

I love full orchestra. An ICE amp will morph into any different markings depending what you coral it with. If you desire just the clear sounds of players, then you need to whittle down the electronics and wires, so they don't spook the amp.
Interesting metaphor, Muralman,

I have the Gilmore Raptor ICE-based monoblocks, and I have found that what they sound like depends on what you feed them and what your speakers are. I find that a good tube preamp between the source and amp will make them sound more tube-like, while a direct connection from source to amp will make them sound more analytical, or "icy". My Zu Druids are VERY revealing and detailed with these amps, while my Kef 104aB speakers sound much more mellow and smooth. In my opinion, they are much more the "straight wire with gain" amplifier than any sort of sound-shaper.
Curriemt11- were you able to tame the speakers with the brillance control?
Ait - Yippy yi aye!

"""""In my opinion, they are much more the "straight wire with gain" amplifier than any sort of sound-shaper."""""

You couldn't be more right. Yours post is a great example why there are so many opinions of class D amps.

I too use tubes. They are in my non oversampling DAC. Never would I care to run my ICE amps direct. I prefer the romance of tubes, and the frankness of NOS.
Rleff,

Only to a degree. If I turned the control down far enough to get rid of the brightness, it clearly depressed the upper mids to an unacceptable degree.

I've had quite a number of amps on these speakers, and none have exhibited this behavior to this extent. It may be a matter of semantics, but in my opinion it's the amp that needs 'taming', not the speakers.

I don't want to make too much of this. The problem area is where the load is dropping into the 2-4 ohm range. Speakers with a more reasonable impedance curve might well fare much better, so my experience in this regard must be taken with a very large grain of salt.
Further info: I use a tube preamp (AI Modulus 3A) and Shahinian Hawk speakers.
I suppose this is heresy, but I have found tube amps (such as the VAC or Music Reference which I have used) can be just as grating on the nerves as SS amps. I have not found myself closer to the "real sound" with tubes. My Bedini was "mellow" while my VAC was a bit thin. Both had acceptible (to me) soundstaging and transparency. My Plinius, which I now am using, exhibits some warmth and great detail but sounds more "electronic" than the others I mentioned. Especially on violins and high brass at higher volumes, the amp introduces a touch of a sound which I think can best be described as like that of a whistle. It is neither musical nor natural. The feathery satin upper frequency finish of violins en masse is reproduced by the Plinius to a greater degree than any other amp I have tried; but that featheriness is right in the area where the amp sounds most like transistors and voltage rather than
wood and rosin. I am wondering if your experienceswith class D amps have revealed any greater likelihood that I will hear them as more plastic and steel than good class A or A/B ss or valve amps.
Curriem11, I beg to differ. My speakers are the infamous 1 ohm Scintilla. It matters not how loud I listen to them. Right now they are working in the 70 to 80 decibel range. No one else is in the house.

Ait has demonstrated just how temperamental class D amps are. There are all sorts of components manufactured with the seeming idea of screwing up class D. Now, I don't believe that; it's just that it works out.

My amps NEED SCs devoid of dielectric. Conversely, they NEED iron clad PCs. Those are only 2 rules of many.
Muralman,

What are you differing about? I referred specifically to the Wyred 4 Sound amps, I used several different interconnects and power cables of varying design and composition, and the fact is that on my SoundLabs, the amps were bright and the soundstage was collapsed. I can't make the fact that this was my experience - under the stated circumstances - any clearer.

I'm well aware of your gear and of your love for the H2O amps. Everybody who reads this forum is aware of it. Quite honestly, you are starting to sound a little defensive about the technology. Trust me, I have no ulterior motive here.

I have, in fact, asked about user experiences of the Gilmore and H2O amps on the SoundLab owners' forum. No replies yet. I think enough of the potential of the technology that if a pair of H2O Signature monos comes up for sale, I may well buy them. Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy the Ayres, OK?
Curriemt11, you have a wonderful system. I love the artful symmetry. My
apology. The only reason I jumped in with my speakers is because you thought
the low impedance of your Soundlabs may be a problem. My answer is no, the
load is not the problem.

I can say, for a fact, you SCs will be a poor match in a class D system. Any SC
with anything but a whisper of dielectric will announce itself loudly as fizz over
your music. The interconnects and vinyl would be stellar partners.

I would just love to bring over my gear to test on your Soundlabs. I in no way am
sure at all it will be a good match. Class D will spurn the wrong suitor. I make
no bones about that.
Rpfef, my experience is that some ICEpower amps can render that magic sense of rozin and 'wood' with at least the same finesse than some rare devices designed around other technologies. By coincidence, it is the hiss of rozin and that slightly 'bristly' harmonics from lower bowed strings instruments that which I seek in music reproduction. . . and also the rare 'good' kind of intermodulation. . . the one that you hear sometimes emanating from the middle of your skull while listening to solo violin doing multipart counterpoint. . . e.g. on the HDCD recording of Lara St. John playing Bach works. I can hear this kind of magic from 2 of my favorite amps, both currently in my system, the ICEpower Rowland 312 stereo and the equally ICEpower-based Bel Canto Ref 1000 Mk.2 monos.
Hello Guido,

How do you compare "312" vs "Ref1000 Mk2" ?
Thank you.
UCD modules in amps like the Channel Island D-200 are slightly improved over the ICE module. (High frequency response is not sensitive to speaker impedance). The TriPath module, used in the CarverPro ZR1600 amp gives nothing away to UCD or ICE. (I have both models of amp).

Unlike the ICE module, the UCD modules and appropriate power supplies and even a wiring harness are sold to consumers. You can easily build a superb amp for less than a grand.
Eldartford - I'm not sure if Icepower is sensitive to speaker impedance. By numbers it has even higher damping factor than UCD. Opinion might be just carried over from Tripath where output of the filter wasn't in the feedback loop. Somebody mentioned that Hypex sounds like very good class AB amp while Icepower sounds a little more like good tube amp. It might have something to do with output configuration (full bridge vs. half bridge) but I'm not sure.
Hi Simon, excellent question. . . to which I can't give an answer yet. I am in the process of breaking in the Bel canto as we speak. . . I am feeding them through Cardas Golden Ref PCs. . . while I had been feeding the 312 with a SR T3 for a little while. Once break in on Bel canto is complete I will take some good listening notes, then move the Cardas Golden Ref to the 312 and take more notes. I am in 'sunny' Toronto right now freezing my Texas buns off. . . I'll resume listening to music on Sunday after I get back home.
Hey guidocorona My H2O/Fire/AN system has all the qualities you enumerated. A comparison would be most interesting. It is in the application that the greatest victories can be garnished from great class D amps. Turning the monos around backwards and fixing them to the speaker terminals with thin ribbon SCs made a huge difference in extension, and depth.
the best way to optimize the performance of ice amps is to place them in an oven and set the temperature for say 100 degrees. leave in the oven until the ice melts. remove from oven and let them cool for a while. hook them up for warmer sound.
Another attempted witicism from one of the most unenlightened posting here.

Do you know Bartokfan?
Hi rpfef. I've owned the Wyred4Sound ST1000 for about three months. Most of that time it has been teamed with Usher Be718s & a REL sub. There is a single Mullard 6922 tube in the signal path (ARC SP9MkIII pre-amp). For classical music, above all other forms of music, I've found this combination brilliant.

The ST1000 has no glare, and retrieves immense amounts of detail. For older mono recordings it does wonders. For instance the Budapest Quartet's Library of Congress recordings of Beethoven's late quintets has sound from the 1940s - the added clarity, and the lack of harshness, help make the sound enjoyable. Likewise for solo piano - I recently acquired Solomon Cuttner's EMI box set, which has some discs remastered using their ART technology, and some transfers dating back to the early 1990s - the ST1000 makes things more believable through its transparency.

I can relate to your wish to recreate the beauty of live music. One of my favourite recordings is Andras Schiff's 1994 rendition of Schubert's last piano sonata. I can't think of a more beautiful piano performance, and, compared to to other hifi systems, I've found this one presents the music in the most intimate way. To be more specific: I've used the amp with Wilson CUBs, and the speakers with a Jadis Orchestra Reference (2 12AX7s, 4 KT88s); the pre-amp was previously used with an ARC D125 power amp (8 6550 tubes) - from what I can discern the ST1000 extracts the most information, and adds the least of its own emphasis. I would not describe its sound as "cool" at all - if anything it makes the bloom of massed violins more realistic through defining the sound; voices are similarly full and life-like - the finale of Mahler's 2nd, Berliners and Haitink, is stunning (this recording also showed up the advantage of limitless power, with no compression at all despite the huge dynamic range).

The Usher's amazing tweeter is a factor in my comments. The ST1000 with the Wilsons still delivers incredible detail, but the tweeter here is less smooth, and strings in particular are more "electronic". The difference becomes more apparent the longer the listening session.

While far from true "A/B" comparisons, I did audition many other amps - perhaps this is a (very rough) guide to my tastes, but as far as solid state goes I least liked Krell, and most preferred Gryphon; and generally ended up listening to valves - especially Jadis models. In fact possibly the best string sound I've heard came from a pair of Jadis JA30monos driving Sonus Faber Guarneri Mementos - with Jadis pre-amp this system came to Aus$50,000; the ST1000 plus Usher Be718s was 10% of this. And there was almost as much wood and rosin.

Hope this helps.
Robert.
Yes (assuming used with speakers that benefit form high power, high current SS amplification)!

The BEl Canto Ref1000 mkii delivers all the goods in my system even with power hungry larger OHM Walshes and I have yet to see it break a sweat, even with dynamic recordings at fairly high SPLs.
Mapman, I see you followed the testament of an Agoner from down under. Bezimienny succinctly described what I am hearing here. I love to crank up the sound when playing great recordings of solo piano. Tubes play a big part in my sound. There are four in my AN DAC.
"I listen to classical orchestral music at heavy volume. I detest reproduced music for always sounding more or less electronic and not acoustic "

So be careful with amplifiers based on switching power supplies. To the best of my knowledge - all except Jeff Rowlan 312 amp has peak voltage of about 50 volts.

One of the reason why you found delightful tube amplfiier sounding "thin" is that your speakers are extremely power hungry only 2nd to Shahinian Diapason in that respect. If you can get "ideal" amplifier and measure voltage at this amp outputs during orchestral creschenso - you will get not less then 150 - 200 volts peak voltage.

If you want class D amplifiers which can drive PROPERLY your speakers then you have to look Jeff Rowland - 312, Mark levinson - No53 and Spectron Musician III

If you like good tube sound then it must be Spectron amp. 1 - In monoblock mode it has peak voltage of 240 volts.
2 - One of the Spectron designer, Simon Thacher owned Diapason and voiced this amp specisfically for power hungry Shahinians.

Best Luck

Rafael


How can classical music sound natural at a heavy volume ?
"How can classical music sound natural at a heavy volume ? "

The answer to this interesting question lies in the attendance of classical music concerts parrtucularly orchestral, choral and operatic ones. You will be surpised to find out that SPL at your ear varies from zero to about 115 dB (if you happenn to conduct the orchestra during this attendance as well).

This variation is not in the form of the since wave (as most of amplifier manufacturers try to convience us with many useless specs) but according to the capricious imagination of a composer and even more capricious interpretation of a conductor.
Weseixas, ever been in a concert hall where 130 musicians are performing Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. . . or simply a soloist digging into his instrument? . . . Quite an experience! . . . "heavy volume" indeed! G.
"You will be surpised to find out that SPL at your ear varies from zero to about 115 dB"

Yes, but recorded music is compressed - tailored for average audio system.
Guidocorona..

Yes many times and i tend to get seats that are no further back than the 8 th row as most are recorded no further back than row 3-5 .

A symphony as most anything that comprises live un-amplfied instruments , goes from soft and delicate , to large and powerful, they never sustain high volumes.

Whenever a statement is made about playing symphony music loud, it tells me their system is compressed and lacking in low level details and dynamics, noted due to the system's inability to swell like live music.

Listening to a symphony on a system like that, would be nothing like a live symphony, no matter how loud you turn it up.

Dob,

In the past , many moons ago , i used to measure avg usually 82-88db , crescendos sometimes hit a peak of 109 db from row 7.


Even with compression, you can get a pretty good imaginary symphony to scale ...
"Yes, but recorded music is compressed - tailored for average audio system "

Keith Howard (Hi-Fi News Sept 2007) made actual measurments or peak power and peak SPL obtained using B&W805, Music Fidelity power amp and classical music recordings.

His measured peak SPL was about 110 dB (and corresponsing peak power was 3500 watts)

On other hand - most of today recorded music is compressed. This is one of the reason why I like Golden Age recordings...seem to be much less compressed.
I think the max dynamic range in Redbook CD format is 96db. Maybe someone can confirm.
People who run 7 inch woofers and then complain about dynamic range have no one to blame but themselves. But, it's understandable because if you live in an apartment or a dense housing development you simply cannot generate realistic SPL for an orchestra or organ. My system has 3 15 inch and 3 12 inch subwoofers along with 3 full range main speakers, and it just barely does the job.
Hello Eldartford:
What amplifiers do you use in your system?
I am very curious.
Thanks
Rafael
Eldartford - I think we're mixing sound level and dynamic range. Dynamics are very limited by recording and media while loudness is also a function of listening distance. Sitting twice further in large room requires 4x more power to obtain same loudness. There is nothing wrong with 7" woofers if they can provide sufficient sound level. I don't like very loud music and don't mind that orchestra's forte is not 120dB loud in my room. I will settle for 80% of that - it cuts power requirement in half. For you to listen 20% louder (I sense you need more power) means 6 15" subwoofers plus 6 12" subwoofers. Not my cup of tea.
Eldartford - I think we're mixing sound level and dynamic range. Dynamics are very limited by recording and media while loudness is also a function of listening distance. Sitting twice further in large room requires 4x more power to obtain same loudness. There is nothing wrong with 7" woofers if they can provide sufficient sound level. I don't like very loud music and don't mind that orchestra's forte is not 120dB loud in my room. I will settle for 80% of that - it cuts power requirement in half. For you to listen 20% louder (I sense you need more power) means 6 15" subwoofers plus 6 12" subwoofers. Not my cup of tea.
Oops - sorry for posting twice.
Dob.... My front channels (which is all I mentioned above) has three Channel Island D200 amps (Hypex module) driving MG1.6 main speakers. For the six subwoofer drivers I have three CarverPro ZR1600 stereo amps (six channels of 600 watts/channel) each connected to one driver. I vary the crossover frequency according to the type of music: anywhere from 40 to 200 Hz.

Kijanki... With the planar main speakers, (three of them) and the three line array configured subwoofer systems, my SPL does not fall off with distance as you suggest.

There are also two rear channels, CI D200 amps (again) and Madisound Odin speakers each with a pair of 7 inch drivers (good enough for rear channel use).

As you state, loudness and dynamic range are different, but maximum attainable loudness is what typically limits dynamic range. Every system can play softly.

The best illustration of what my set of large subwoofer drivers can do is to play pipe organ music. Not all organ music has loud bass, but when it does you should FEEL it in your stomach, and my system does achieve this. Also, when the SPL is moderate, the large drivers are loafing compared with small drivers that would be generating large excursion, with attendant distortion.

Obviously I could not enjoy such a system if my nearest neighbor were not about 600 feet away with woods in between the houses.

Very few systems "grow" this is the ability to have good micro and macro dynamics ..
Eldartford - I've been (long, long time ago) at some very loud rock concerts. At one of them my lungs were vibrating when I opened my mouth. I don't have any desire for that now (other than cleaning lungs - quit 6 years ago). In scale of things only some musical pieces require extremely high sound level but all of them benefit from better quality. I would rather spend money to improve my system's sound at the expense of peak power.

One have to be grateful for good things in life. I'm particularly grateful for not being your neighbor.
I agree with Eldartford on how dynamic swings depend on how much juice your power gear have on standby. I have a Dvorak 9th CDR that I got from someone. It is the king of all my CDs on dynamic swings. I turn it to 11 o'clock, and sit back for a hair blow-back performance. The first instruments are played gently. Then out cries the full force of the symphony, hard struck Tympani drums leading off.

Of course, bass power is driver dependent, and though my speakers can reach way down, there is no replacing what a well integrated sub-woofers will do.
Weseixas: In the past , many moons ago , i used to measure avg usually 82-88db , crescendos sometimes hit a peak of 109 db from row 7.

DOB: The answer to this interesting question lies in the attendance of classical music concerts particularly orchestral, choral and operatic ones. You will be surprised to find out that SPL at your ear varies from zero to about 115 dB (if you happen to conduct the orchestra during this attendance as well).

... Keith Howard (Hi-Fi News Sept 2007) made actual measurements of peak power and peak SPL obtained using B&W805, Music Fidelity power amp and classical music recordings.

His measured peak SPL was about 110 dB.
As someone who listens to a lot of classical symphonic music, on minimally compressed audiophile-oriented labels, and who has also listened to Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" from the very first row at Tanglewood (among many other live symphonic performances attended), these numbers all strike me as about right. (Aside of course from the reference to minimum spl being 0, since ambient noise will be much greater than that, both at home and in the concert hall).

I've never used an spl meter, but I've been able to develop what I think is a pretty good sense of sp levels based on sensing the onset of clipping with amplifiers of various power ratings, and extrapolating to spl at the listening position based on speaker sensitivity and listening distance.

Regards,
-- Al
Kijanki... As I mentioned even when the SPL is only moderate the large drivers, powered with big amps, reproduce the music with an efortless sound that small drivers, pumping their little hearts out, can't duplicate.

And, when the deepest bass organ pipes are felt in your stomach they do not always sound all that loud. You can feel well below what you can hear. Real organs are like that.

I don't do pop music and never have. The highly compressed sound of pop is a different kettle of fish.

One have to be grateful for good things in life. I'm particularly grateful for not being your neighbor.
Kijanki ...

LOL
Eldartford - Not only that small portion of classical requires high SPL but there are other genres like Blues, Jazz, Folk, World, R&B, Soul, Pop, Indian Classical, Reggae, Alternative & Punk, Latin etc. where very high SPL is not desired. I listen to all of the above and high SPL music is perhaps less than 1% of total. Sure it is nice to be ready but I have other constrains (like neighbors). My new speakers, larger and more expensive than previous, have similar bass extension but much greater midbass energy and very real bass attack and decay. Designer most likely tuned them for the lowest distortion and not the extension. Bass guitar players often use bass enclosures with a lot of 10" woofers instead of 15' or 18" to achieve better definition of the bass (18" sounds "wooly") - similar principle in DALI Megaline.

Now comes the room. When I play louder imaging is getting worse. It is because my room is less than perfect and at high sound levels many more reflections are still audible. My room is unfortunately not dedicated to music alone and fixing the problem becomes very difficult (especially at lower frequencies).

As for "deepest bass organ pipes are felt in your stomach" - it would give me stomach ache, I'm sure (and wife would leave me).

I'm surprised that Maggies 1.6 can keep up with your 6 subwoofers.
Muralman1, as I am a Dvorak fan, what performance of the 9th symphony are you referring to? G. 
Guido -- Pending Muralman's answer, if you don't already have it do try to find and purchase Horenstein's performance as remastered on Chesky (CD31). I would apply Muralman's words identically to that recording, and you will not believe that it was recorded in 1962!

I also enjoy the Slatkin/Telarc (on LP) for its overall combination of performance + sonics.

Best regards,
-- Al
Eldartford: The best illustration of what my set of large subwoofer drivers can do is to play pipe organ music. Not all organ music has loud bass, but when it does you should FEEL it in your stomach, and my system does achieve this. Also, when the SPL is moderate, the large drivers are loafing compared with small drivers that would be generating large excursion, with attendant distortion.

Obviously I could not enjoy such a system if my nearest neighbor were not about 600 feet away with woods in between the houses.
I would be more concerned with the structural integrity of my house than with the neighbors!

My closest neighbors are about 200 feet away, through the woods. However, iirc I have only played my 1978 direct-to-disk recording of "The Power and the Glory," on M&K Realtime, once. During which playing the windows in the room were set into easily audible vibration, and after which I found a couple of paint chips on the floor that had formerly been part of the ceiling! :)

Best regards,
-- Al
Guidocorona, I have 3 different Dvorak 9th. The CDR someone sent me is the best by far. That was a long time ago. I wouldn't be the least surprise it is the Chesky version.

My hair on the back of my neck stands up when a effervescent violin is played sounding like a cowering shiver, bookended between two emphatic passages.