Review: Lepai LP-2020A+ NSMT modified Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Budget esoterica review magazine
March 2014 issue

The mechanic's special gets turbocharged

Last month i reviewed the stock Lepai LP-2020A+ T-amp and today i will be reviewing the modified version that is sold by NSMT loudspeakers. Because the modified version has a slightly different look to it, i would like to give you a short description. The modified Lepai kicks it up a couple of notches with a much better look and also an increase in sound quality that is definitely commensurate with the price increase and then some. Gone is the ugly metal cabinet and it has been replaced by a Baltic birch cabinet that looks like it was built by Amish craftsmen. The cheesy spring-lock connectors have been tossed aside by beefy golden speaker binding posts. Now we have a very attractive mini amp that you can show off to all your audiophile friends. I am not sure what modifications took place inside the amp , but the builder popped the hood and miraculously turbo-charged the engine.

I am going to use the stock Lepai amp as a baseline so that you know what the increase in performance is. The easiest way to do this is to compare the reference cd's that i used in last month's review.

Listening to Lee Morgan's cd titled "the gigolo", on track number five i noticed smoother and more natural horns. The horns were also fuller sounding and more musical. The sound stage is more open, coherence is improved and there is a livelier sound. Along with greater stability i noticed that the sound is weightier and more dynamic and i also noticed more details.

On the very best of badfinger , track number one has a cleaner and clearer sound. Better dynamics once again are apparent along with more extended , weightier and cleaner highs. Bass is punchier and there is more body to the sound. The sound is also more natural and organic.

I noticed similar improvements while listening to Ana Caram
"bossa Nova", on the chesky label. Track number four has greater stability and improved pace and timing as well as improved refinement. Vocals seem more accurate and emotionally involving. The sound stage is more spread out. The sound is smoother and transparency is slightly improved. The sound is a little thicker and everything seems a little more neutral. Less muddiness was also noted.

The Eva Cassidy song on the Acoustic mood cd had greater resolution. The vocals are clearer , cleaner and purer with more air around the vocals. The vocals are fuller and more fluid and the mid-range almost seems illuminated. It was a little easier to see the "window" into the recording. To check for details , see if you can hear the cough after "fields of gold", approximately three minutes and 46 seconds into the song. This particular cd has a somewhat sublime sound to it that makes for a very interesting listen.

Improvements in sound over the stock Lepai amp:

improved clarity
better drive and control
mid-range is more robust
improved stability
improved detail
more organic sounding
clearer/smoother mid-range and better flow
more voluminous
reduced muddiness
more refined
improved separation
thicker sound
improved dynamic shift++ / better dynamics++
sound stage is more three dimensional and expanded
larger image/more body
cleaner sound
increased resolution
not as dark sounding
better purity
less dry sounding
improved pace and timing
excellent musicality
vibrant tonal colors
improved presence
conveys reediness on saxophone
better center image fill

The Lepai LP-2020A+ NSMT modified amp sells for around $135 with the upgraded power supply. The stock Lepai LP-2020A+ amp sells for around $20. The difference is like going from a Honda to a Lamborghini. The modified Lepai amp has its place in the world of audiophilia and i believe will become a future t-amp classic. Recommended.

Associated gear
Denon DVD-1920
Madisound vifa studio speakers
Jefferson memorial t-amp stand
virtue audio nirvana ic
WL moonshine speaker cable
atacama speaker stands

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