NAD M23 Stereo Amplifier: Best Amp Ever Bench Tested?!?


 

kuribo
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 What he did on the Atmasphere amplifier thread was just awful and mean spirited.

@troidelover1499, 100% agree...

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I don't think NAD uses Purifi modules, they license the technology and build their own. 

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What really grabbed my attention in the review was the fact that the amp's distortion was below the measuring capabilities of the test equipment and at or below the threshold of human hearing.

NAD Purfi Modules sound like total rubbish. Tried twice and sent them back. JUNK!

D.B. only posted this to incite a riot.

Odd that you needed to try them twice.

Have read dozens of reviews and this is the first time anyone has said that they sounded "like junk". Maybe you have issues with other parts of the system.

In any case, you make my point that there is no accounting for taste. Thanks.

Is there a part 2 to this where Gene actually listens to the amp and provides comments vis a vis his test results?

Nah was just curious if that was something he bothers doing; or if he just tests

@facten 

The written article mentions at the end that he intends to publish a report on listening impressions later.

Or maybe they are just junk!

QLN and Sonner, Speakers, Simaudio 680D DAC, Treated room, and the system sounds great with my Rogue Audio Pharaoh II, Simaudio 600v2, Simaudio 390, 330A. Bel Canto E1X.

Both the M32 and M33 sounded like shite along with an M10 I almost forgot about.

So that is that D.B. Purfi is not all that.

 

Thanks for your opinion. Odd that you like the Rogue amp but the NAD is junk since they both have at their heart an amp designed by the same person. The Rogue is an earlier, older version and the NAD an improved design.

 

At least he bought them, listened to them and determined they are not for him. Unlike what you did on several other threads. 

It's usually DACs that test the limits of the Audio Precision analyzers. I've never heard NAD purifi amps but I have heard the Purifi modules as well as different hypex and Pascal implementations. They've all sounded good to me as in I couldn't attribute a sound to them but then again I don't have bat ears.

@juanmanuelfangioii 

Yeah, twice, lol...

I don’t consider or buy audio components from manufacturers who won’t provide measurements. I screen products by their objective performance and if this data isn’t forthcoming, they are ignored. Those that publish and meet certain requirements are auditioned. That’s my approach. Many state of the art amp manufacturers publish their performance data. I look at such transparency as excellent customer service and appreciate companies that give the complete picture to their potential customers who value such data. Not everyone cares, which is their business. I do, and that’s mine.

@djones51 

I know, right?! Pretty amazing.

There is another class d amp coming out later this year for the diy crowd from Hypex that measures, so they say, even better than the Purifi. At this point though, I think we are entering the point of diminishing returns. Once it's below audibility, it's more an engineering exercise to keep improving the performance.

I don’t consider or buy audio components from manufacturers who won’t provide measurements. I screen products by their objective performance and if this data isn’t forthcoming, they are ignored. Those that publish and meet certain requirements are auditioned. That’s my approach.

Wait, wasn’t this just copied and pasted from the ASR website?  For those who can’t judge for themselves or trust their own ears I can see this being gospel.  And please, when Gene publishes their “objective” subjective review by all means post that too along with the Crutchfield review when that comes out.  All those who need to be told what sounds good will greatly appreciate it.  
 

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Actually you are wrong the entire Pharaoh was revamped and re-designed hence the II designation.

So here is a snip from Marks interview.

Like I said Purfi is garbage in my opinion no matter what you spec sheet jockey’s say.

 

 

 

September 2022

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Best Of 2022 Blue Note Equipment Awards By Enjoy the Music.com

Rogue Audio Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier Review
A new King is crowned!
Review By Ric Mancuso

 

Rogue Audio Pharaoh II Integrated Amplifier Review

 

Rogue Audio has once again upped the ante with their Pharaoh II hybrid integrated amp. I’m always a bit wary of the ’New & Improved’ versions of any products that come to market. I seem to gravitate to original models (brands) of most premium products. Why do you ask? Well, because Herculean engineering efforts usually go into the development and production of a groundbreaking design. The Pharaoh I was launched in 2013, nearly ten years ago! It has been my reference amp for years. I have seen the evolution of many Rogue Audio products over time and had asked Mark O’Brien, designer and owner of Rogue Audio, periodically if there was going to be a revamp of the now classic Pharaoh. His answer was always, not at this time.

The Pharaoh II is a hybrid design utilizing the famous Bruno Putzi Class D Hypex Ncore amplifier module with a tube front end. One of the first integrated amps to feature this pairing. Class D back in 2013 was still a novelty piece of gear. The Pharaoh was a breakthrough design that rivaled many pure vacuum tube or solid-state amps in sonic performance. A powerful beast of an amp along with possessing the musicality of a single-ended amplifier. I own the first version of the hybrid Rogue Audio Sphinx, which is powering my vintage Martin Logan SL3 speakers upstairs in our living room. Try that with a single-ended amp! A smaller version of the Pharaoh.

The DNA of the Rogue Audio hybrid designs has flourished, capturing the "Best of both worlds" of tube and SS with true intent and purpose of delivering those superb sonic qualities in spades! I reviewed the Sphinx 3 a while back and was very impressed with the improvements over the previous series 1 and 2 with retrieving detail and offering more resolution from recordings. Knew that was going to filter down to the Pharaoh at some point. Well, here it is folks.

 

 

Let There Be Light
After the warm-up, I put the Pharaoh II into service with the Magnepan LRS loudspeakers. The LRS is a highly resolving sound producer, they are my go-to tool to evaluate electronic gear. There will be comments about other loudspeakers used in this review too. I replaced the Pharaoh I with the new unit. I played the new Pharaoh Sanders album, Floating Points, to get started. I sit in a near-field configuration with the speakers only a few feet in front of my listening chair. The reality was suspended with the lights out putting me in a meditative state of consciousness.

This was a 3D experience of listening to sound emanating from all directions. It made surround sound without any other array of speakers in the room. Total immersion along with spotlighting every instrument in the mix. You could reach out and touch the performance actors. I listened to the entire album. It is a wonderful spiritual instrumental recording.

Next was to listen to some vocal recordings to see how Pharaoh II portrayed the human voice. I also listen to recorded sounds of nature to calibrate my ears to the real world. Yes, animals have ears too. They listen to us, so turnabout is fair play.

With a lot of electronic gear, one has to identify, Oh, there is more detail, or Oh, there is more soundstage, or Oh, there is more there-there? The Rogue Audio Pharaoh II comes right out of the gate to say, "Let there be Light" to witness. I played several vocal tracks that illuminated the vocalists separated in the mix allowing the listener to witness the shape and presence of a person in recordings. You could tell how tall they were! It was as if the sound coming from singers was squeezed out of their bodies. No, not in the literal sense, more of a release of energy from the vocalist’s body. Not like the soul being released from the body, as in the Movie Ghost, however, freedom from a hollow heavy mix in recordings.

The sound is integrated with musicians and vocalists in the performance. LIGHT! Some amps are too heavy sounding with the upper mid-bass tilted up. Guess you could say, Open sounding and airy without the sacrifice of weight. A full-bodied sound, but is not thick. Like a chorus line dancer, who is light on their feet, and able to pound the floorboards with a heavy thump when needed. Radio City Rockets come to mind.

 

 

Some Q&A With Designer / Owner Mark O’Brien
What Hypex module are you using in the Pharaoh II? Are the toroidal transformers different?

We use the new OEM version of the N-Core module because it is more transparent and sounds better than the UCD module we used in the original Pharaoh. The N-Core modules are more powerful and require a higher operating voltage than the old modules, so we need to use a larger toroid to provide the higher B+ voltage.

 

Has the topology of the circuitry changed from Pharaoh I?

Yes, the new Pharaoh is quite different from the original version and the circuit has been redesigned to achieve a higher level of performance. We use high-quality components in all of our equipment, but we did upgrade some of the critical capacitors and resistors in the Pharaoh II. In general, we believe the quality of the circuit is of fundamental importance, but better parts can improve an already good circuit.

 

Has the front end (tube) circuitry been improved?

The new Pharaoh II circuitry was designed using a newer and much more sophisticated CAD system than the original version; this alone results in enhanced performance. Beyond that, the circuit grounding, as well as the tube design parameters, have all been improved upon.

 

Has any of the major specifications changed with the new revision?

The biggest specification difference is the higher output power of the new Pharaoh II. It went from 185 Wpc to a 250 Wpc (conservative) rating. More importantly, the specs don’t indicate how much better the new version is. For example, the new version has a larger and higher quality power supply, which doesn’t affect the specs but improves the sonics.

 

Is there anything new in the headphone and Phono sections?

The headphone has been completely redesigned and is effectively a single-ended version of our dedicated headphone amp (the RH-5). It features MOSFET buffers and higher output power. The phono design is similar to the original but uses better components for a lower noise floor and better sound.

 

Does the unit have to be on (Blue Light) for the Pharaoh to be used as a preamp? Tubes engaged?

The unit does need to be turned on to use it as a preamp and it does incorporate the tubes when used in this manner.

 

Any similarity to the RP series of Phono Preamps?

The preamp in the Pharaoh is its design. While it does have some similarities to the RP series, when you design a preamp for an integrated amp, you can optimize it for the power amp section.

@jerryg123

I said the Rogue uses an earlier Bruno Putzey’s amp, the ncore. Did you miss this?

Some Q&A With Designer / Owner Mark O’Brien
What Hypex module are you using in the Pharaoh II? Are the toroidal transformers different?

We use the new OEM version of the N-Core module

So how was I wrong?

It also uses a tube front end, which will degrade the performance of the ncore. Some like that tube distortion- seems you are one of them.

The ncore and purifi were, as I said, designed by the same person, the purifi being a later, improved design with slightly better performance.

So, how do you like the purifi?

Maybe you missed the part in my post where I stated:

I screen products by their objective performance and if this data isn’t forthcoming, they are ignored. Those that publish and meet certain requirements are auditioned.

"are auditioned" means "listened to"...

 

No, I missed nothing. You said clearly that you use specs to screen components and if they don’t meet your requirements they are ignored. That, by definition, means you use specs to screen for and dictate anything you’ll audition, which also means you won’t listen to or audition anything that violates your arbitrary objective requirements rather than letting your ears being the final arbiter. Face it — you are an ASR disciple trying to pose as an audiophile. By all means buy the NAD. I’m sure you and your measurements will be very happy together. Sad.

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@soix

 

 

We all screen/filter our purchases, be it by cost, class, power, etc. because we can’t listen to every product on the market. Objective performance is just one possible filter, though it also is a logical choice because measurements say a lot about how an amp will perform with one’s speakers, to some extent how it might sound based on its distortion spectra and distortion behavior.

Screening products on such a basis is rational, efficient, and in my experience, a meaningful and useful exercise. I want an amp that has enough power, adds as little as technically possible to the input signal, doesn’t change character with load, and will function without issue with my speaker’s impedence. Of course, once I am comfortable that it meets my objective needs, I listen and base my decision on that. So, yes, my ears are exactly the final arbiter...Sure, I could take your advice and ignore the specs, just audition willy nilly, find out the hard way that the amp won’t meet my objective needs, and waste a lot of time and money. Now that would surely be sad. No thanks.

@jerryg123

 

 

I said your amp uses the ncore. You said no, it’s new and improved. The text you added says it uses the ncore.  Sorry, I don’t follow.

By the way, the UCD was also designed by the same person who designed the ncore and purifi. Each iteration was an improvement. Glad to hear you are a Putzeys fan.

Last time I listened to and auditioned to a NAD was 20 years ago. Along with Emotiva and Rotel. I bought Rotel back then. Maybe they turned it around nowadays. I don’t know. I moved on. Enjoy 

probably safe to say that NAD has moved on too in the last 20 years. It would sure seem so based on the review linked above.

Review from Gene? 😂😂. Not for me. Sorry. It’s OK, we are all free to have our idols. Do you own the M23?

@thyname

 

 

How does posting a video link mean he's my idol?  No, I have heard it but do not own it.

@thyname 

 

 

I am between amps at the moment, shopping for 6 channels for an active 3 way system. I have owned a lot of amps over the years.

I have an NAD C298 with NAD's Purify implementation and think it's great. I really can't tell it apart from my Luxman M900U, but as someone else posted: "I don't have bat ears" applies to me as well.

I have an NAD C298 with NAD's Purify implementation and think it's great. I really can't tell it apart from my Luxman M900U, but as someone else posted: "I don't have bat ears" applies to me as well.

@kuribo - Since you have heard the M23 what insights on its sound do you have, and how specifically does its sound coincide with the test results that you are impressed with?

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Hey @kuribo, D.B. You really have a great opportunity to show off your technical prowess and your electrical engineering expertise, by designing and building your own 6 channel amplifier. You can use your precious Bruno’s Purfi modules.

Bet you miss that old B&O system.

I am between amps at the moment, shopping for 6 channels for an active 3 way system. I have owned a lot of amps over the years.

I’ve heard the m33 twice at the same dealer in very informal demos. First time was horrible. Something was off. Either not working right or That device has powerful digital processing capabilities that can be used or abused.

Second time……more like it! Sounded good much as expected.

Moral of the story: One sample of anything does not necessarily tell the story.

There is no way a popular amp from a established reputable company that measures that good does a bad job. Whether one likes the sound or not is a different story. Another amp I would like to hear.  Any amp has to be paired with the right speakers to deliver the goods.  What the “goods” are is a very personal thing.  
 

It’s valid to listen to something and say you didn’t like what you heard but that alone does not make it “junk”.    There are lots of fine wines and cigars that some people dislike immensely  

 

 

 

Well I have had 3 and all stunk….junk.

Do have an old NAD 3020 that sounds good, not great use it at the fish camp at the Port. 

@mapman 

 

 

It’s valid to listen to something and say you didn’t like what you heard but that alone does not make it “junk”.

 

One needs to consider the source, as it were, and discount accordingly.

 

We all screen/filter our purchases, be it by cost, class, power, etc. because we can’t listen to every product on the market. Objective performance is just one possible filter

Correct, but most of us use objective performance as only one filter among many rather than using it as THE ABSOLUTE first filter.  Then, we’re also able to glean that if the vast majority of reviewers and customers say that something exhibits the sound qualities we’re looking for it’s also worth exploring even if it might not ace everything on our spec sheet wishes.  It’s just not that black and white in audio despite how much you might like it to be because there are lots of gray areas and intangibles that measurements don’t capture but that your ears might, and you’re completely closing yourself to many promising products just because they don’t hit a number on your wishlist.  As much as audio is a science it’s also an art, and the art is how the equipment ultimately matches with our tastes and unique hearing abilities that IMO cannot all be measured but must be experienced.  If you close yourself off to options because of numbers you may very well miss the art, which can make all the difference.  To me, use numbers but not exclusively — that’s how I do it.