What's wrong? Nuforce/Capri no better than Sunfire


Preface: this is regarding 2 channel analogue SQ.
OK. I know it's very early in the comparison process, and I've "only" critically listened for 2-3 hours. But whereas listening to speakers has shown clear differences (to a point), and the move up the B&W ladder from 9NTs to N803s was SIGNIFICANT, I'm at a loss on the amp/preamp. The jump from my old $4k Pioneer flagship HT rcvr to the Sunfire TGA5200 was very significant. Less significant but noticeable was the jump from the Pio as preamp to the Sunfire TGP5 as pre. I then read a lot about how a good 2 channel pre would crush an HT pre/pro. So I got the Jeff Rowland Capri. Have listened for quite some time and struggled mightily to justify the Capri, but I just don't hear ANY major improvement. Maybe some VERY subtle things, but I can't even be sure of that. I also read that a good 2 channel amp would crush a multi-channel amp. So I just picked up the Nuforce ref 9SEv2, and I've gone back and forth with the TGA5200, unscientifically, but again, I don't hear any major difference, whether through the Capri or the Sunfire TGP5. Am I just missing "golden ears" and reached the audio equivalent of the Peter Principal" (rising to my level of incompetence)? Is the Sunfire stuff just that good? Is the old claim that all good amps/preamps should sound similar true? It just strikes me as odd that so many people on these audio boards hear huge differences and I don't. What's wrong?
jeffkad
Don't fret. If you can't hear a difference, then there's no reason to keep the more
expensive gear. Be happy with the Sunfire components and sell the other stuff.
I thought you said you were going to give it try! The Nuforce haven't even warmed up yet....

John
John:

I'm not running to sell them yet, lol! I am going to keep them around for a while. But I've got to tell you, I'm kind of stunned that nothing dramatic is happening here, so figured I'd reach out to the agon community to get some opinions. Regarding warming up: I've left them on all night, and I will leave them on 24/7 as I do with all my components, and I've had them running music almost continuously since around 10am this morning (it's 4pm now). Don't think warmup is the issue. They're used, and I'm sure you broke them in thoroughly, so it's not a break-in issue either. Look, this may simply be a matter of my room or my ears making it not happen for me. But I've gotta ask, how long do I give it? Tvad, as usual, may be right. (PS-John, maybe you want to let me try those Brystons, lol!!!)
My experience has been that the only way to INITIALLY "home-in" on the differences between reasonably accurate electronics, in an efficient manner, is to listen to high quality audiophile-caliber recordings with which you are very familiar. Preferably recordings of unamplified instruments and/or human voice, recorded in a good hall, recorded with a minimal number of microphones, and minimal post-processing.

Once your consciousness has identified and homed in on the differences, it will then be more readily possible to hear those differences on a much wider range of material. You will then, and only then, be in a position to decide if they really matter to you, or are worth the extra cost.

As we all know, some people claim that all amplifiers sound the same, within their power capabilities. And at the other extreme, some people claim "huge" differences can result from reversing the orientation of an amplifier's ac line fuse. For 99.9% of us, I think it is safe to say that the truth lies somewhere in between those extremes, and will depend on the listener's hearing, the listener's sense of what is important in music reproduction, the other components in the system, the room, the type of music being listened to, and the quality of the recordings being listened to.

I suggest following the initial approach I described above, if you are not already, and resisting the temptation to judge until you have done so.

Regards,
-- Al
TVAD gave you real good advice....
.
....yeah, I agree with what TVAD said....

Hey, it is what it is. If the less expensive item sounds better than the pricier one with more snob appeal, then so be it. Trust your ears. I've been down that road before where a lesser priced item held its own against a pricier item. Sell the pricier item, take the money and run.
.
You'd be amazed at how good Sunfires can sound. I run two Signature 600s (one channel through each) and use Marigo Ultra 5 power cords with them to filter out the RF. They are contenders at a very low price used.
I have a sunfire ultimate receiver used in tandem with a VAC Avatar Super w HT pass through. My own experience has been, and this may be a tubes vs. SS thing, is that the VAC is significantly better with both my previous VSA-4JR and my current Devore Silverbacks (more pronounced) than the Sunfire. I am not sure if my receiver is comparable to your seperates. I don't think the gap is as big with HT probably because the listening is less critical.
I was just discussing this with John B, aka jb8312, and I believe that (in addition to room condition) it's very likely that people have different levels of ability to hear/perceive differences in sound via electronics and speakers. Some can't hear the difference between a $500 recvr and a 10k amp, others can hear it clearly, but maybe can't make out the diff btwn a 3k amp and a 10k amp. I may be in the latter camp. I am not one to discount everyone else's sensibilities by concluding that there is no difference simply because I can't hear it. Way too many people CAN hear it. It may be that I've reached my discernable threshhold. I'm continuing to listen, and I may go to some dealers and listen to higher end stuff to see what I can and can't hear.
Wish I had your ears it would have saved me a gazillion dollars.
Markwatkiss: HA, that's funny. The good news is things sound really really good right now. I have the cash to make it better, but it hasn't happened so far. I haven't given up, I still want that "AH HA" or OMG moment, but I think I've got to get out there and listen to some more stuff to get a frame of reference. Maybe I need to spend more money for better gear, or maybe I need to reallocate to gear that DOES make a difference. I clearly hear the difference between better speakers when compared to each other, although I've listened to Quads and Wilson Sophias on their own and didn't have that OMG, gotta have it moment. I did have that moment years ago when I heard B&W 802s. Perhaps on the amp/preamp side, I need to try tubes, or real power monsters (big Bryston or big Mac). Maybe I need electronics that tickle my own personal differentiators: maybe I don't care for tight, clean sound and prefer a more euphonic sound. I do like visceral bass and euphonics, airiness, room filling sound.
Markwatkiss: HA, that's funny. The good news is things sound really really good right now. I have the cash to make it better, but it hasn't happened so far. I haven't given up, I still want that "AH HA" or OMG moment, but I think I've got to get out there and listen to some more stuff to get a frame of reference. Maybe I need to spend more money for better gear, or maybe I need to reallocate to gear that DOES make a difference for MY ears. I clearly hear the difference between better speakers when compared to each other, although I've listened to Quads and Wilson Sophias on their own and didn't have that OMG, gotta have it moment. I did have that moment years ago when I heard B&W 802s. Perhaps on the amp/preamp side, I need to try tubes, or real power monsters (big Bryston or big Mac). Maybe I need electronics that tickle my own personal differentiators: maybe I don't care for tight, clean sound and prefer a more euphonic sound. I do like visceral bass and euphonics, airiness, room filling sound.
well, there's nothing wrong with jeffkad's ears, sunfires are very good. in fact, i have had all the components you talk about and have kept the sunfires and no longer have the others. the flexibility of the tgp5 is great.

to me, they're all good components and preferring sunfires (or at least finding them equivalent) to the nuforce/capris is basically like preferring an audi to a bmw - same quality level.

now, if you'd preferred, say, an old sony receiver, i'd be puzzled...
On behalf of Guidocorona :-) let me ask ... have you run the capri in for at least 500 hours ?

Try out something like the Ayre AX-7e integrated. I have tried lots of expensive gear, and the Ayre remains one of my favorites.
The simple answer is - if you don't hear it, then it isn't there.
When I was selling audio equipment back in the third century, I realized that people were more apt to notice what you take away than what you add. When you remove the other pieces and reinsert your Sunfire, you will either miss them or know that you don't need them. That's the real test.

There is no absolute sound any more than there is an absolute shirt. What you like is right no matter what Mr. Blackwell thinks.
Agree with Macro. Makes no difference what any reviewer, poster, or friend hears.

Buy and own what pleases you.

Generally speaking audiophiles are far too concerned about what others think.

IMO
Have you tried a good tube preamp? I've found that tube preamps can generally bring the music alive, and this is not to suggest that the best SS preamps are incapable of capturing the essence of the music, but in my experience - just not in the same way.
Macrojack had hit it right on the head. This is pretty much the same method I use when I decide whether I like a component or not. The one thing I try to do with the new component is leave it in the system for a couple of weeks and listen every day to get very familiar with the sound of that component. I do not analyze the sound during this period, but try to enjoy the music. Many times the differences are subtle between well designed and built products. Some of these differences will be important to you and others will not, or maybe you won't even notice them. As Macro states above, when you put the Sunfire back into the system after the couple of weeks, you will know if you have to have the new stuff or not.
Csmgolf and Macro: I will be keeping both pieces in my system for the next few weeks. However, to macro's point, I have been switching in and out with the Sunfire pieces and the Nuforce and Capri, both together as a unit and individually, all combinations. Listening to short cuts to hear for differences in timbre, detail, etc, as well as complete songs and sets of songs, then switching and replaying. Really no difference at all, and certainly not the dramatic difference I was hoping to hear from not only much more expensive but also exceptionally well reviewed gear that supposedly played above it's price to boot(guidocorona, where are you?). To be honest, my wife actually heard and preferred a slight difference with the Capri vs the Sunfire pre/pro, using the Nuforce amp. But again, she thought the sound was very close and loved the sound either way. Where's my dramatic upgrade, LOL???
You have not yet revealed how many hours of running time you have on the Capri and the NuForce.These pieces are like fine wine they take time.
Both were purchased used, so I'm assuming (I know, a big assumption) that both were broken in already. I'm pretty sure the Nuforce was, as I bought it from a reviewer. I'm pretty sure, but not certain, that the Capri had been run in pretty good too. However, I'm sure I'm gonna get attacked by some now, but I just don't buy the 1000 hours of break-in stuff. To me, that very well may be when you've heard something long enough that you've become acclimated to it's sound, and now that's your new reference for good sound. It just drives me crazy when a reviewer or poster says a piece of equipment, a speaker, or a cable sounded like crap out of the box and 3000 hours later, it was like a revelation!!! Flame away, but I don't buy it. Regardless, I believe it's pretty much irrelevant as respects my Capri and Nuforce.
For what it's worth, I have heard a difference in electronics before. I was at Harvey Sound in NY, and I listened to a nice pair of Vienna Acoustics spkrs, first with NAD M3, then with McIntosh MA6500. NAD wasOK but dull, while Mac had lively, toe tapping, draw-you-into-music sound. And, as I said in my initial post, the difference between my Pioneer vx49tsx $4,000 "flagship" receiver and the Sunfire amp was startling. THAT was an "AH HA" moment. Maybe there are no AH HA moments between good components above a certain threshold? I just don't believe that, and I just can't understand why I can't hear ANY difference. Anybody live in NYC/LI area and want to swap stuff?
No attack about break in time,just curious,no other reason.
My experience has taught me that the NuForce 9SE V2 amps really like tube preamps.
My experience has taught me that the NuForce 9SE V2 amps really like tube preamps.
Yoby (Threads | Answers)
Please explain.
Hi Tvad: I orginally paired the NuForce 9SE's with a Counterpoint HC818 preamp. This was a very nice improvement over the Counterpoint Solid 1 amp I was using. After 6 months , I had the NuForces's upgraded to the V2 version. Major improvement. After a month or so, a friend of mine loaned me his Cary SPL 98 for a week. The improvement in presentation was more lifelike (but the bass response wasn't so great). I then, after a couple of months, bought a deHavilland Mercury II preamp here on Audiogon. This is where I am to this day. I had the output coupling caps upgraded to Mundorf Silver/Oil ones. Thanks for asking. Jeff
Yoby, I realize I incorrectly read your post. I thought your wrote, "NuForce 9SE V2 amps [are] really like tube amps", hence my question.

Thanks for your explanation.
Your welcome.
The NuForces really do need a tubed pre IMO. I'm using a Cary SLP-98 and really, enjoy this combo.

Prior was an ARC LS26 which was also very good but I prefer the additional tube character the Cary brings.
Jim/Yoby:I asked in my previous post if anyone in NYC/LI area wanted to swap. A fellow agoner who lives here on Long Island emailed me(he's interested in hearing the Nuforce and the Capri) and he has the Dodd tube preamp, so maybe I'll get the chance to listen to the Nuforce with a tube pre. Maybe this is simply a case of system synergy. I read Yoby's response on the changes he's heard with the Nuforce and I wonder why I don't hear those things when swapping in and out the Nuforce and/or the Capri vs the Sunfire stuff.
I continue to do comparisons. I just compared a VERY well recorded song by Wynton Marsalis, cut #2, "you and me" from "The Magic Hour" CD. Unbelievably well recorded. Sound is amazing. Hand claps, his horn, big bass, drums, rims, cymbals, piano, etc. While the hand claps perhaps sounded more natural (smoother) on the Capri/Nuf combo, overall, the Sunfire combo actually sounded slightly BETTER. Better placement of instruments, more air, more lively sound. I can clearly hear the plucking of the bass, while on the C/N combo, the plucking gets a little lost and muted. It just sounds more REAL. I can't explain why. You can't imagine how much I want to believe the C/N is better, but so far it just isn't happening. And so it goes...
Jeffkad, you appear to be torturing yourself with this exercise.

You like the sound of the Sunfire gear. All is good.

Let it go, bud.
Some reputations are earned. Others are not. Rowland is viewed on Audiogon as an important and exclusive brand. Sunfire is not. Is either reputation deserved? Maybe not.
Just to satisfy your curiosity,and mine,audition the NuForce with the Dodd pre amp.
Tvad, actually, you've got it wrong bud. I'm not tortured at all, just surprised. If you've been following along, I consistently say that I'm loving the sound, whichever combo is playing it. I'm just sharing my experience. And, I haven't listened to and enjoyed this much music in a long time, so it really is all good. OK, Pal? Now, aside from that little repartee, you often give good advice. Fact is, your advice long ago in a previous thread was that you didn't think the Nuforce would be a big deal since, spec wise, it didn't compete with the Sunfire, which could double down at 4/2ohms. The B&W's impedance can dip to 2-3 ohms, so the talents of the Nuforce may not be readily apparent or significant compared to the sunfire. You may have been correct all along. But thats why I'm sharing, just as I find other's experiences helpful.

Markwatkiss, I will definitely try the Dodd if and when I swap with me fellow Long Islander. I'm also curious whether the Nuforce/Capri will make a difference in his system.
I have been following all along, and frankly you're repeated description of not
being able to discern differences in gear comes across as frustration
bordering on torture. At least it reads that way to me.

Clearly, I have a barrier comprehending the positive nature of your journey.

No problem. I appreciate the clarification.

PS...sometimes differences aren't heard because we don't know what to
listen for. Once we're educated about what to hear, and after we've heard
what we've been taught to hear, then subsequent differences among
components become more obvious. At least this has been my learning
experience.

Differences that once were "inaudible" suddenly become more
pronounced, and in some listeners result in those "jaw dropping", A-Ha!
moments. Audiophiles' "Wow!" differences are often laypersons' "Huh?"
differences...if that makes any sense.

Have fun!
"Clearly, I have a barrier comprehending the positive nature of your journey."

LOL. Tvad, that's pretty funny! We're cool. (Can a 51 yr old still use language like that?)

I think that the torture aspect may be more the reader's own, as anyone reading is likely an audio enthusiast who probably cringes at the thought that such good equipment renders little or no difference. Yes, I'll admit it was initially frustrating, but I rationalize and get over these things quickly, especially since, and I repeat, the music sounds great. So, I don't mind continuing the adventure as it's actually enjoyable, and I still hold out hope that maybe there's an AHHA moment still to come, alas maybe with other equipment.

Your point regarding "knowing what to listen for" is an interesting one, and one that was brought up by a reviewer friend of mine. Perhaps I need that education, but what bothers me about that is, why do I need to "learn" to notice what I "should" be noticing? I can't help but wonder why it isn't more obvious. Do I really have to work THAT hard to "learn" the difference? Is there no gear that makes it obvious? I can't believe that all the posters here on agon had to learn how to hear. Just my opinion.
why do I need to "learn" to notice what I
"should" be noticing? I can't help but wonder why it isn't more
obvious.
Jeffkad (Threads | Answers)

IMO, differences are often not obvious, and it takes someone listening along
with you to point out the differences. Once you hear and recognize them,
then future observations become easier and more pronounced.

However, many posters here discerned differences on their own and right
away, but I'll bet listening with someone more experienced along the way
highlighted other more subtle aspects that became more important as the
listener moved up the equipment food chain.

BTW, there's a certain benefit to enjoying what you have and not hearing
obvious differences among components. I guarantee you once you start
hearing subtleties, your bank account is going to shrink. Careful what you
wish for.
... the differences. Once you hear and recognize them,
then future observations become easier and more pronounced.

Exactly. That's what I was trying to express in my earlier post in this thread, coupled with the fact that the better the quality of the source material that is used, the easier and faster the process will be.

Regards,
-- Al
Tvad. Amen to that. I can't believe I'm already at >$20k retail value (thank god for agon), and that's not including the capri and nuforce. Maybe my kids will be able to go to college after all, lol.
... the better the quality of the source material that is used, the easier and faster the process will be.

Regards,
-- Al
Almarg (Answers)

Unquestionably true.

Acoustic instruments (string bass, piano, trumpet, sax, etc) and voices. Simply recorded with limited processing.
Al, Tvad: I think that is exactly what happened with that Wynton Marsalis cut I mentioned earlier today. That was the first time I heard a real difference. As I said in that post though, the difference was in favor of the Sunfire pair, not the supposedly better and more expensive JRDG Capri/Nuforce pair. That's the confusing part.
...the difference was in favor of the Sunfire pair, not
the supposedly better and more expensive JRDG Capri/Nuforce pair. That's
the confusing part.
Jeffkad (Threads | Answers)

You're confusion is self induced, aided by outside influences.

You like the Sunfire pairing. You say it sounds more real. That's the goal.

What's best is what YOU think is best. Trust yourself.

Or, if you're determined to get to the root cause of why you don't hear what
you believe you should hear, then seek someone with more experience than
yourself who will sit with you and train you how to listen. It's very difficult to
learn it from a book or by reading these posts, although it seems from your
posts that you're listening for the right cues.
Your point regarding "knowing what to listen for" is an interesting one, and one that was brought up by a reviewer friend of mine. Perhaps I need that education, but what bothers me about that is, why do I need to "learn" to notice what I "should" be noticing? I can't help but wonder why it isn't more obvious. Do I really have to work THAT hard to "learn" the difference? Is there no gear that makes it obvious? I can't believe that all the posters here on agon had to learn how to hear. Just my opinion.
Jeffkad (Threads | Answers)
I've been following this thread, and it's morphed into something broader and of more interest (to me at least) then the original question, although it hinted at it. The above comment by the OP I 100% relate to, and Tvad's response I'm learning more and more is true. I'm fairly new to this hobby, and it frustrates me that differences are almost always MUCH subtler then one would reasonably expect them to be, esp with the amount of money things cost and the adjectives you read from reviewers. And judging from the OP's comment, and my own common sense, I'm not alone. I don't have any experienced audiophiles around me -- I'm braving this on my own and have the dwindling funds to prove it -- so how would I learn the 'art of listening'? Not to take away from this thread, but another question that has to be asked is, every audiophile was once a beginner with "green" ears -- once you realized that most differences between components was pretty small, what pressed you to continue on and not think that this hobby was just a bunch of hype? This is an honest question out of curiosity, please don't read into it or take offense (or become disrespectful) in your answer.

BTW, cheers to all of you experienced and apparently intelligent and wise posters. I learn something new from these forums every day. To that end, it's been very rewarding.
Simple things to consider...

Does the music sound live? Not hyped up, but live? Each instrument cnd person clearly defined? Does the image have three dimensionality...does it have depth as well as width?

Can you discern the strings vibrating on a stand-up bass, or are the notes mushy?

Sometimes a new component or cable is introduced into a system, and things seem louder even though the volume control is at the same setting. Generally, this is because of a lower noise floor. As a result, the music starts to sound more "live". This is a good thing, and it's an earmark of a better component. Better components have better power supplies, and as these components are introduced, the noise floor continues to drop.
Tholt: The differences between great components and mediocre components are not subtle. If the difference is subtle, the component is not worth the money. There is something else that will provide a real difference (and probably for less money).

Don't buy in to the view that only a "wise, experienced audiophile" can hear the differences between components. Such words are spoken by people who have paid too much for gear that they don't even know is inferior. Many of the revered names in audio don't deserve the reputation they have.

If the difference is important and worth paying for, your wife or girlfriend will be able to hear it immediately. Using her as the reference point will save you a lot of money.

OTOH, deferring to the views of people on this board will usually cost you a lot of money, while providing you little or no benefit.

If the difference is not immediately clear, the component is not worth the money.
If the difference is not immediately clear, the component
is not worth the money.
Jimjoyce25 (Threads | Answers)

Jim, I absolutely agree.
I have to agree with Jim. I really struggle with the concept of having to learn how to hear , and needing long periods of time to begin to hear subtle differences. Yes, some things like fatigue set in over time, but by and large, if the differences are so subtle that they are not "reasonably" readily apparent (a mild concession to time), then you have to question the value of that particular piece of equipment IN YOUR SYSTEM.

Although this will probably create more debate, let me clarify my point on learning to hear. This means, to me, trying to learn to hear beyond the obvious things that will stand out as an immediate change, ie, clarity, detail, accuracy of voice/timbre, pin point imaging, bass depth, overall fullness/leaness of sound. Then there are the more emotional aspects, like being "drawn into the music", or the "musicality" or the "toe tapping" experience. To Jim's point, I was looking for any of these things to jump out at me so I could decide which of these pieces made the music sound better TO ME, albeit with the expectation that the exceptionally well regarded, well reviewed, more costly, dedicated-to-2 channel pieces would clearly show improvement. That they haven't is surprising, and to be honest, disappointing. However, and Tvad and I are square on this now, it is not torture, and it has not discouraged me. I'm getting great sound now, and I'm going to continue to try to improve the sound quality, while enjoying what I have. I may be at a point where I can't hear improvements even if they are subjectively there. It could be my ears, my room, or my system synergy. The exploration will go on to try to determine this. I do believe that everyone is different, and some are just THAT much more sensitive to frequencies, to acoustics, to change, than others. And that sensitivity may have thresholds or plateaus beyond which they are no longer sensitive, or maybe even more sensitive. If you don't get frustrated, cajoled or bullied along the way, the process is actually fun, as long as the bottom line is consistent: THE MUSIC SOUNDS GOOD.
Jeffkad, I truly hope I haven't bullied you, although I admit cajoling you a little.

I do believe based on your shared exprience here that the Sunfire equipment seems to be a good match for you.

Since you've expressed some desire to understand why you aren't hearing what you believe you should be hearing, I have offered some suggestions. If my suggestions have in any way come across as elitist or preachy, then I apologize for not communicating the ideas more effectively. Sometimes, it's difficult to have a discussion on a written page rather than face to face. Meanings are sometimes misconstrued.

Have fun.
Jim, thanks for your input. IME, improvements have been more subtle then not. For the many upgrades and tweaks I've been through, I can count on one hand what I would call both immediate and significant upgrades. I guess it depends also on what your ideas of subtle or significant are with this hobby, though I think we can all agree in a general sense.

My experience has prob been repeated many times before -- each new/better piece brings a small improvement, over time the sum is greater then the whole was before. Certainly my stereo now is significantly better then when I started. Tvad, thanks for your insights.