NCore vs. Ice -- single or separate cases

Hey guys,

I've recently gotten a bug that I can't shake. I went to sleep thinking about it last night.

I want to try out a class D amp.

I've narrowed my choices down to something based on either the NCore NC400 or the IcePower 125asx2.

If I went the way of the NC400, I'll be building them myself. If I went the way of the Ice, I may build it myself or just buy the assembled units. Either way, the NC400 builds will run about twice that of the Ice builds.

Is there anyone out there that can comment on which is better? If the answer is that the NC400 is better, is it worth twice the price?

My next question is whether I should build the mono units into separate boxes or a single box? In other words, is it better to use a longer interconnect with a short speaker cable or vice versa?

Depending on the Euro the Hypex NCore 400 kits maybe the least expensive introduction to switching amplifiers, depending you don't go nuts on case work.

Compared to buying used, nCore technology is quite new. Without actual experience with ICE kits I can't honestly say which is better. The only ICE examples that didn't sound horrible to me where highly modified such as Rowland and Bel Canto.

I should mention that I use nCores in my studio were there presentation is incredibly useful in monitoring mic placement. I use Carver tube amps in my main system.

Long cabling? How long is long?
GO FOR THE NCORE NC400!! You not be sorry!

There are many people who have both and feel the Ncore NC400 is more then worth the difference in price.

I understand you are trying to stay within a budget but I would recommend from my experience with an Ncore NC400 the following;

1)go mono blocks
2)USE a VERY good case and DO NOT go too small, leave yourself some room on the back so your cabling is not on top of each other, AND...
3)VERY good VIBRATION footers...(Stillpoints Ultra Mini in a three point config should do or a really good set of brass Audiopoints)
4)VERY good binding posts, XLR, and power inlet.
5)It is a true balanced amp so running a longer XLR cable is fine, within reason.

Other then the footers most of the above is NOT that much more then decent parts and is worth it on an amp of this quality in sound. Sound wise it will pay you back, assuming you have the system or are planning to have, that can take advantage of the sound.

Also it is designed to be an easy assembly.

Good luck.

I've looked into it more closely and as it turns out, there isn't much difference in price between the Ice and NCore builds, when considered watt for watt.

It seems that the consensus is that the NCore edges out the best of the available Ice units. It figures that I come across information that I couldn't find before AFTER I start this thread.

To date, I have never owned a brand new amplifier. Maybe it's time to treat myself and get into something nice.

To keep initial costs down, I'm just gonna start with two amp modules and a single power supply and stick them on a piece of sheet aluminum to get comfortable with the electronics, then I'll dust off the old mill and lathe and bang out a real enclosure later.
I have owned several ICE amps, including the Bel Canto S500 which uses two of the 125asx2 modules. That was the cleanest sounding amp I have ever owned; the proverbial straight wire with gain. Kind of left me cold I guess as I sold it after less than a year. Actually the reason I sold it was to try the Ref1000 monoblocs which didn't thrill me at all.
I have not heard the NCores but have read quite a few glowing testimonials here at AudioCi.rcle Be advised though, some of these folks are a bit over the top on their praise, IMHO.
Tony, GET TWO power supplies and then add the build as you want.

The REF1000s were much older than the REF500S and have been upgraded to REF1000M specs.

I still find the REF500M to be the best choice in the Bel Canto line up. The newer 3rd gen modules are better than the ASP1000 modules in the REF1000/1000Ms.

I find them best partnered with my ARC Reference 5SE preamp.
Agree with you Doggie. Actually, should've stated I had one of the many clones of the Ref1000M.
I preferred the amps using the cheaper 200ASC modules to the 1000ASP versions. No accounting for taste.
Hi Vicdamone,
I'm curious, why N core in your studio but Carver amplifiers at home?

Not to be pedantic but I don't believe it is a clone of the REF1000M but rather the 1000. The REF1000 was pretty much the ASP1000 with Bel Canto chassis, wiring and connectors.

The REF1000M included Bel Canto's own input buffer and power supply board, which IMHO raised the performance bar a fair bit. The REF500M used those same boards but with the third gen ASX modules.
Charles 1, my amplifier history begins with a pair of Marantz 8Bs then an MFA, a few solid state, and more than a few switching amplifiers.

I enjoyed the switching amplifiers ability to play loud without the congestion and fatigue associated with the solid state amps that I could afford. I also enjoyed their cost and transparency while living with their somewhat forward presentation and odd order distortion.

I sold my Nuforce pair, bought the nCore kits on the strength of forum chat. They proved to be an across the board improvement while still maintaining a switching amplifier presentation to a lesser degree.

During this time I putting together a better recording room. I had been searching for a powerful tube amp to drive my Eidolons without spending big money. I had settled on a pair of MFA M-200s but none surfaced in reasonable condition.

Enter the Carver VTA 180s. Powerful with difficult loads, easy on tubes, interesting circuit design, cool running, made in the US, and affordable. Growing up in the vacuum tube era returning to tubes was a no brainer for me while the nCores do their work in the studio.
To the OP, I'd suggest you go here

and maybe you can find someone in your area first before you spend the money.

Just a thought.
Thanks, I've read very positive comments about the new generation of the Carver tube amplifiers. It's a good and smart design that they are easy on the output tubes for extended lifespan.
I'm having quite a time trying to find a direct comparison between the ICE 125ASX2 and the Hypex NC400. There are many threads praising the performance of both, but none comparing the two.

From a purely financial perspective, it does look like getting into the ICE rig will be cheaper, to be blunt.

About $650 to get into an ICE dual mono based on the 125ASX2 and about twice that to get into a comparable NC400 amp.

Unfortunately, I don't think there's anyone near me that has one of either that I can listen to.
What speakers will you be using and whats your room like? Their load and quality could have some bearing on the suggestions given.

I have a very funky setup. My room is a 15'X24' rectangle. The speakers are on a short wall placed on shelves in an entertainment center. The shelves are essentially closed in boxes of about 13.5" tall, 23" wide and 19" deep.

The area to the left along the wall where the speakers are placed opens into a very short hallway which leads into the foyer and the area to the left of the wall opposite the speakers opens into the kitchen area, which again goes about 15'X20'. It's a lot of open space.

To say that finding speakers, that would fit into the shelves and provide a satisfactory listening experience, was difficult is a vast understatement. Just in the last 18 mos. to 2 years, I've gone through at least six pairs of speakers, to include: Paradigm Studio 10, B&W 685, System Audio SA505, some model of either Harbeth or Spendor (I don't remember which), and others.

What I've landed on that sounded the best in my system that were within my budget are the Silverline Minuets.

I really can't say if they are hard to drive, but right now, I'm driving them with my Aragon 2004, which is rated at a solid 100wpc at 8 ohms and 200wpc at 4 ohms. The amp doesn't seem to be having any problems. Silverline claims that the Minuets are rated up to 300w.

The main reason I'm looking for another amp is that I want to try a D class amp. I'm justifying this to myself for several reasons. The first is that due to the physical size of the amp, I have to put the amp on top of the entertainment center. Having over 40lbs looming over the den area makes me a bit nervous. It also requires that I use speakers cables about 13' long and interconnect cables equally as long.

I'm just figuring that getting into a class D amp will allow me to either get into a physically smaller 2 channel box or two boxes, each of which can be closer to its respective speaker. This will allow me to get rid of the 40lb sword hanging over my head and use shorter speaker and interconnect cables, which I'm guessing will improve the sound quality.

I'm looking at the ICEPower 125asx2 modules because many have had good things to say about them. They are also pretty cheap. The modules are about $250 each. What's really appealing about these modules is that they are totally self contained. Each has its own power supply. All I'd really need to do is throw it into an enclosure, which runs about $100 with all necessary connectors.

The NC400 modules, which everyone seems to be ranting about run just over $400 each and I'll need a power supply for module (to do it right), each of which runs about $250. I'll also need the enclosures, which run $75 each plus shipping.

Hence my dilemma. ICE power at $350 per channel on the outside versus NC400 at $800 per channel. If the NC400 is vastly superior to the ICE modules, then I don't mind paying the difference. On the other hand, if the NC400 will only be an incremental improvement (at twice the price), I could live with the ICE rig for a while.

Like I said, my setup is less than ideal to begin with, so if I can get into a good sounding rig at half the cost, I'm all for it.

I don't have a deep electronics background, so reading the specs tells me next to nothing, except that both modules seem to roll off on the highs at about 16K. This probably means nothing to me. I'm coming around 50 years old and after a lifetime of competitive shooting and riding off road mud bikes, the roll off at the upper end is probably something that I won't even notice.

So...I posted this thread with the hope that someone might be able to offer a direct comparison of the two. Thus far, I haven't had much luck.

Oh, and if it matters, I've even been considering getting an amp based on the 125asx2 from the guy that advertises here in the classifieds. I think his name is Ghent. He's selling mono blocks based on the 125asx2 for around $400 each, shipped. Any thoughts on this?
Tony, ICEpower modules are by now legacy parts that some very experienced amp designers are still able to use, together with a great deal of creative ingenuity, to implement amplifiers that make actual music... By themselves, ICEpower modules inside bare bone amp implementations have audible limitations... They lack subtlety, and do sound "matter of fact" to say the least... That is, if one wants to be kind. Hence the stereotypical stigmata -- only occasionally unjustified -- of the "class D sound"

Hypex Ncore modules are a totally different kettle of fish... Even utilized into very simple amplifier implementations, without custom circuitry for power supply regulation, fanciful input signal management, etc... they make absolutely wonderful and effortless music, with lots more power than the 125ASX2s.

Hence my recommendation is... If you are comfortable with the joys of DIY... Source a couple of NC400 modules with their matching power supplies, some quality connectors and good wires/solder, perhaps a pair of reasonably looking enclosures.... And get yourself some magnificent sound.

Could you do even better than Ncore NC400? ... Of course.... NC1200 commercial amps are bound to sound even better.... Merrill Veritas, Acoustic Imagery ATSAH, Mola-Mola, but.... Their price ranges from $9K to $15K.

Saluti, G.
I purchased one of Ghent's amps a couple years ago. No complaint for the price and he was easy to deal with. But I would concur with G's "matter of fact" assessment of the modules used in bare box. No comparison to the Bel Canto Ref500 amp with the modules.
Guidocorona and Timrhu,

Thank you for your comments. Although I do have the issues above that I'd like to deal with, it sounds like trading my Aragon 2004 for a 125axs2 build is going to be a step backwards in sound quality.

I suppose that if I go class D, the NC400 build will be the way to go. That does, of course, leave me with another dilemma. For the price of building the NC400 amps, I could get one heck of a nice conventional amp.

I hate to keep harping on cost, but discretionary funds are limited right now.
Tony, what is your target budget? Guido
Amplifiers based on NC400 modules are very, very good. I don't mean good for $2000, I mean good for $5000.

I don't know what your priorities are, but if the most pertinent question is whether they're worth the money, the answer is yes. In fact, they are a bargain for the money.

If you want to save on the build, get two modules, two power supplies, and a single chassis built for dual mono. Put both modules and supplies in the same chassis and that should cut down the cost.
I can only echo what Wilsynet has said.... A statement in the general form "Ncore is very good for a class D amp" represents a total misrepresentation of Ncore performance.... Ncore tecnology delivers great music in the absolute, to any lover of good sound who is able to overcome obsolete "class consciousness".
OK, so if I understand what you guys are saying, you're saying that the NC400 (just thrown into a box) competes favorably against other high quality amplifiers. Not just other class D amps. Is that correct?

So, if I was to trade my Aragon 2004 for an NC400 build, it should be a step forward.

Believe me, I have no problems with class consciousness. I just want nice sounding music and don't care how I get there.

As for my budget, I can get the NC400s. I just didn't want to spend the money if I didn't need too. I'm more of a bang for the buck kind of guy. I like NAD and Emotiva, if that gives you an idea.

I've just grown tired of dealing with my system as it is. This amp I have is around 30 years old. I just want to get something that is state of the art and fits more comfortably into my system, so that I can rest easy for a while.

Thanks, guys.
Oh, last question. Why is it necessary to use two power supplies? My research indicates that one provides more than enough power for two NC400s.

I'm asking because if two power supplies are necessary, I'm going to go ahead and put them into separate cases. The cases are under $100 and a drop in the bucket at this point.
If you check the link I gave in my first response you may find a used amp for sale. Over the past few months I have seen 3 or 4 come up for sale at what looked to be a little less than the cost of parts. Gotta be quick though, as they go fast.
Tony, my own direct experience is with Ncore NC1200-based amps.... They are musical instruments... rather than "not bad for a class D".

By the way, my very first high-end amp was an Aragon 4004 during 1984 or so... Unless one thrives with nostalgia, most circuits today, including Ncore of course, would leave the brave old thing buried in the dust. G.
Tony, if you decide to use one single power supply, you better check with Hypex before you do.... Last thing you want to do is to damage both modules in one fell swoop.... Mr. Putzeys designed the power supplies to serve one module each. G.
Single SMPS with (2) NC400 modules is fine but it will depend on what speakers. So, with that, what are the specs of your speakers, room size and usual SPL that you play at?
Hi Tony, where do you live? I have a pair of NC400 amps that I am not using...
You want both power supplies. One of the key aspects of a good amplifier is a robust power supply, and having independent power supplies is a good thing indeed.

How does it compare to NAD? Compared to a 325BEE (or whatever designation they're using today), it isn't even close. The NAD masters series would compare more favorably if their M51 DAC is anything to go by.

Would be good to know what you're using as a preamp.
The pre amp I'm using is an NAD C162.
What sources are you using?

I think the preamp is going to hold you back. If you only have digital sources, something like the NAD C390DD would be a better overall buy for you.

Or if you already have great sources or analog sources, a second hand integrated at $2000 would be a better bet than a the NC400 paired with the C162. Unless of course you're planning to change out the C162 at some point.

A very good indeed integrated that can be had used for around $2000 is the LFD MK3 or MK4.

I've run my NC400 direct to amp from the NAD M51 (excellent) and also with the Coincident Statement Linestage (even more excellent).

Anyway, my opinion only. Take it for what you will.
Tony, clearly your budget seems to be driving your choice for a new amplifier. I would only suggest whatever you choose give it 200 hours or more before you do any critical listening.

Don't sell your current amplifier just in case things don't work out for you.
Tony, I strongly suggest you look into getting a passive preamp. You can acquire a very good one (again, very good at an elevated price point, not just very good for the money) for under $400 and the nCore or the Wyred4Sound amps for instance will mate well with them. Brands to look at are Luminous Axiom, lightspeed attenuator or Goldpoint. They will function at a far, far superior level to your NAD. Keep in mind that nCore's are really designed to be used with balanced (XLR) inputs.
Agree. Assuming the sources (and amplifier) have appropriate impedance and voltage numbers, a passive can deliver state the art sound quality at a modest price.

Having said that, I think the dollars are adding up and the total price may now be beyond the original budget.

Yeah, it's complicated.

But bang for your buck, I think an integrated would be really appropriate here. An LFD Zero MK3 is available right now for $1800 asking on Audiogon, and it is a superb piece of equipment. It isn't quite as good as the NC400, but it's awfully close, and will blow away what the OP currently has.
Nsirkin, I'm in the New Orleans area.

My speakers are a pair of Silverline Minuet Supreme Pluses. They aren't hard to push, but they can take a lot of power.

I pulled out the old SPL meter the other night while I was listening and it looks like I'm in the 80 - 90 db range, with an occasional jump in the 95+db range. There are just some passages that I really like.

I really don't want to go with a passive. I want remote control and really don't want to rope myself into something that is finicky about what it wants to play with.

I've being thinking about getting into something like an Aragon 28K or something like that.

I'm just going to go ahead order the parts for the NC400 build/s and see what happens. I've been doing more reading and it appears that just plopping the 125asx2 modules into a box isn't going to get me what I want.

I just really hope that the NC400s sound at least as good as my Aragon 2004 does.
Tony, if you do a great build of the NC400 you will be extremely happy with the sound you will get from NC400 for the money.

Good luck

PS Make sure you allow some time for break in. Also keep them on all the time except every three to four weeks turn them off for several hours then back on till the next time. Pull the power cord to do this if you do not have a main off switch.
Hey Hifial, what is the reasoning behind the occasional power off?
Nsirkin, this is for pretty much all amps, etc.

You want the caps (etc) to fully discharge and then fully recharge on a regular basses so they stay optimal. It will provide the best long term performance for all your equipment and the best possible sound.
I may sell my Wyred4Sound STI-500 integrated soon, for whoever is interested......