I forgot to mention Wyred 4 Sound, although I'm not sure which IcePower modules they use. I hear nothing but good things though.
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PS Audio’s implementation of proprietary input and output stages coupled to ICE Power modules are state of the art and fully demonstrate what this class of amplification is capable of. I was a devoted tuboholic and recently migrated to their monoblocks. All the sonic wonders of tubes without the dynamics limitations are there.
OP: what kinda budget for a class D integrated amp (“affordable” isn’t defined)? For $4k, you can have this puppy: a GaN-based Technics network/integrated amp that includes a GaN FET driver stage:
A review is available at this link:
"I'm Willing to go back to separates if I have to, just it would be nice to have the choice without it being a huge compromise."
Understood. But it's also a matter of how long you're willing to wait, correct? As you know, there's definitely advantages to both. I consider the flexibility to upgrade either pre or amp at any time especially useful at this point in class D amp technology's development. The use of very fast switching GaN FETs in class D amps allows significant reductions in transistor dead-time which directly results in significant reductions in distortion levels and according to many initial reviews, significant improvements in subjective sound quality.
The use of GaN FETs in class D amps has already begun but thus far has been limited to use in only the relatively higher priced amps. At about $3 each, these GaN FETs are not expensive in absolute terms but only in relative terms when compared to the cost of silicon based MOSFETs that have been typically used in class D amps.
Even if class D amp makers and assemblers weren't easily able to pass on the costs of $3 GaN FETs to consumers, I believe the competitive advantage gained by using these new FETs would still provide sufficient incentive for most to utilize them in their more affordably priced class D amps rather quickly.
I also believe the current shortage you noticed in the number of currently available class D integrated amps may be related to the new GaN FETs since numerous amp makers may have scrapped plans for introducing integrated class D amp models using traditional MOSFETs and decided instead to redesign them using the superior GaN FETs, which would cause delays and result in an apparent shortage.
Of course, the above is admittedly all suppositions on my part based on my current likely limited knowledge and definitely limited logical reasoning capacity. I welcome the commencement of punching holes in my suppositions and reasoning by all members and readers.
In the highly unlikely case there are no holes to be punched, however, I would suggest you have 3 reasonable options:
1. Wait for an integrated class D amp using the new GaN FETs that meets your performance and budget requirements to be available.
2. Switch back to separates and wait for a class D amp using the new GaN FETs that meets your performance and budget requirements to be available.
3. Switch back to separates, buy a good used class D amp using the current MOSFETs and update to a new or used class D amp using the new GaN FETs that meets your performance and budget requirements at a future time of your choosing.
I think option 3 may be an especially attractive option if you're willing to wait until there are more affordable class D amps available using the new GaN FETs since there'll probably be a glut of good class D amps using the inferior MOSFETs on the used market at bargain prices. I'm fairly certain you could buy my excellent sounding D-Sonic M3-600-M class D monos in like-new condition at a bargain price if you're willing to wait.
You're kidding, right? That rambling diatribe against your straw man there was parody, wasn't it? The fact class D amps are first and foremost CHEAP is obvious. Actually look at one. Class D amps are guided by the "good enough" philosophy that favores adding complexity in order to mitigate expense elsewhere. If the complexity costs less than the means to achieve the goal best but does it good enough, you add complexity. The Schiit Ragnarok is a great little integrated that actually produces respectable measurements and sounds good for a very affordable price. As long as components like that exist, why does anybody want or need to get any cheaper? Need more power? Add a Schiit Vidar or two and sleep well at night knowing your first watt or two isn't colored by a lot of switching noise.
In Europe much more so it more main stream. I have the Very good Gato Audio 400s integrated amp from Denmark , a work of art in design and function.
they take the Danish Pascal pro amp modules and modify them as well as the analog input and putput stages , with a good Integrated Burr Brown dac for $6500:it beats a lot of$10k seperate combo
units. Jeff Roland also uses the same modules , Mark Levenson
as well as Merrill audio in the US make very good upper end digital audio equipment .
Let's start with a reasonable an logical stake in the ground and work from there. Class D isn't budget equipment. It has yet to gain that level of quality performance. At best, It could help a subwoofer move air as long as the low-pass frequency is below 50hz or so. Otherwise, inexpensive tube-ss hybrids such as the little monoprice units outperform Class D in the higher frequencies. In theory, Class D should perform about as well as early CD players. In practice, they are not there, yet though they do exhibit many of the audible problems of early CD.
But I'll keep an open mind. I'm perfectly willing to listen to other rational criticisms of Class D.
Don't you mean digital amplifiers? Lyngdorf makes the best digital amps and integrateds and you get the enormous benefit of room correction. Stop thinking of digital as Class D. There is more than one way to do digital amplification and the ones about which you are referring to are much less quality sound and build. Bel Canto though is a serious competitor though you will have to pony up thousands more. Frankly, "class-D" is much more a pro audio product than a consumer music product. Very different end goals and speaker mating.
I would pass on Class D right now because it's in that vibrant adolescent stage of technology advancement, which generally means that progress happens quickly and previous versions of the technology depreciate alarmingly. Personal computers and mobile phones went through the same phase. The good news is that such technologies quickly reach the overkill stage and the depreciation curve begins to flatten out as the new versions are only incrementally better.
why so few, if any affordable/budget Class D INTs around?
I asked a similar question on amps in general, of someone who's far more into the stream of things than I at the time, and he said, more or less, "if you are building something for sale, and the process is essentially amounting to the approximate same amount of time to build, would you prefer to build a thing you can sell for $5K, or something you can sell for $50K instead?.
i found this notion interesting but it had to hinge upon one important fact, the higher costing unit had to have the same or greater degree of profit ratio, .
I'm not sure this is an 'absolute' in audio.
but... if a $5K item yields 20% profit, and so does a $50K device you gotta choose which street you want to live on... the one with $1K but maybe with more sales, or the one with $10k but maybe fewer sales over the same period.
this is where trends sueprceed ordinary business blueprints.
the primary diff in higher end audio is element of 'emmotion'. emmotion and of course, ego and fear.
high end audio has put a bug in every audio nuts ear that buzzes saying the more you spened the better things get! everytime!
the line drawn where price no longer equates to performance often gets murky or even forgotten when we consider audio products, or there is no tangible way to compare A with B appropriately, then ego or fear and certainly one's wallet fuels the bargaining process.
if a budget gets expanded, it will come from ego or fear in the mind of the buyer. the seller already knows what they gotta get.
popularity too garners demand but I think with custom built hand made cottage industry at its finest products, it comes down to profit vs effort and investment.
it could be too, its simply cheaper to build non class D INTs at the moment.
or no 'pressing' demand is at hand for Class D INT amps.
it seems too, that more and more upscale INTs are being built with discrete or old school topologies, T+A; 'Ypsalon'; Master; VAC; Hegel; Luxman; etc.
as said, there are some out there already if one looks long enough. PSA, Rowland, etc..
Well I am looking up to 2k used and I’m class agnostic. I’m putting together a system from scratch around the speakers I’ve wanted for awhile now, C7es3’s. I do have a Job Integrated which works very well with the Harbeths but I want to have an upgrade path and options. The Job only allows you to use the internal DAC even the RCA’s go through it (older version). I’ll be selling it as soon as I find its successor. Right now I’m borrowing a used Parasound HINT from a local dealer and I have to say it sounds pretty fantastic with the Harbies even using the internal DAC. I will probably borrow the Heed Elixir as a possible bubget option. They do carry Primare as well but the I25/I35 are over my budget right now, although I think they sound fantastic and have NONE of the high frequency issues mentioned above to my ears, so I may try the Primare I32. I am also thinking of trying the Wyred 4 Sound STI-500 and the Clones 25IRH. Like I said, class agnostic. Just want to find the magic combo in my range. Any input or other ideas is appreciated.
As far as separates, Nord and Odyssey are on my radar, possibly Parasound again.
Recently I just bought NAD M22 V2 power amp, it’s based on Hypex NCore module, my first impression it sound very detailed and HD, don’t have any filter or roll off, both treble and bass, speakers being driven is a pair of Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary, I have owned some amps like Topping TP60, NAD 3020i, Marantz PM6005, Marantz HD-AMP1, Yamaha A-S801, TEAC AX-501, and Class D Audio SDS-470C with upgraded power supply. My source is FLAC files being channeled into a DAC/preamp Fostex HP-A3. Frankly, I’m disappointed how NAD M22 V2 sound like, compare to my favorite Class D Audio SDS 470C, it’s a bit more details and bassy than I want, while the SDS-470C sound sweet and bass just tight and right, I feel magic when I hear the sound, I guess some kind of filters here did work best for my ears to listen to, some people describe the SDS power amp sound as "tubelike", whatever, so far I still haven't found any amp that beat it, seriously? Having said that, I think I will keep the NAD M22 V2 until I find another better matching speakers perhaps like Dynaudio Contour 20 or the new Dynaudio Evoke series?
What worries me is down the road , these Hypex and ICE type modules will be no longer available for repairs like in the early Audio Research digital amps.
Yes even now many techs will not try to repair them down to component level, as they are very congested with smd (miniscule) parts, and the pcb's (printed circuit board) itself can be two three or even 4 layer designed which make it impossible to trace a fault.
Many techs I know now, just say throw the whole module out and put a new one in, if it's still available!!, if not the amp becomes junk.
OP, yes the Nord’s were good at their price point under £2k. I understand the revised boards have further improved them but feel that they would still fall behind some of the better class D (and A/B) amps that we tested, but to be fair those other amps are more expensive.
With regard to IcePower 1200AS based amps, we haven’t tried at this time. Our audio friend who conducted a comprehensive test of class D may have but they weren’t mentioned as a Best Buy to me.
As mentioned before don’t get overexcited about GaN, there are better existing class D amps. Perhaps things might change in the future?
Coming back to integrated class D amplifiers Nuprime might be worth checking out, although we haven’t had personal experience.
I have a class D Rogue Pharaoh integrated hybrid. Have had it for about 4 years now and still very much enjoy it's sound. It has bested every class A/B amp I have owned and not by a narrow margin. The only things I have done to this amp is put Mullard NOS tubes in the pre section and added a quality power cord.
Well, so far the Parasound HINT is my benchmark (with the C7es3) by which all others will be judged:
After trying the Heed Elixir for a longer listen with a friend, it’s not a keeper at all. Parasound blows it away. Case in point, listening to Radiohead, All I need. Towards the end when things start getting dense with the organ and bells sounds etc, with the Parasound I was able to hear every distinct sound including hearing exactly what was being played on the bells, imaged high and to the right. Through the Heed I had to strain to hear the same thing as it was all smeared. Also the tone of voices and instruments was much more natural and 3 dimensional with the Parasound and more detail. So, as expected, a blowout win for the HINT. Not unexpected for the price but I had higher hopes for the Heed after reviews.
So, I repeat - if there's a class D integrated that is on the same level or better than the HINT for near the same price let me know and I will see if I can try it.
The Rogue uses Hypex UcD 400 modules. Yes, I know, older class D technology. But the Rogue has a tubed pre section and actually sounds quite good. Using Mullard NOS 12au7 tubes seem to make this amp a lot sweeter sounding than the stock JJ tubes. I'm going out on a limb here, but I tend to think Rogue will be coming out with a new integrated with Newer Hypex modules or maybe the New ICE modules? Time will tell.
I understand how some having been exposed to cheap class D amps would react like they do. But, they failed find out about the excellent ones. I find that with a great class D amp in certain respects tubes will not be missed. There is one company that does not buy modules from Hypex nor ICE. They pioneered their own design and use them in their own amps. For an integrated amp? NuPrime makes several integrated amps. Links to reviews within the review.https://audiorevelation.com/products/nuprime-ida-8-integrated-amplifier
I own two different of their amps. Some people here would hush up if they heard what they can do. These are not cheap class D circuits. And, they have pioneered their own designs.
Lyngdorf has some excellent products that fit this description. They really aren't class D architecture, but are true digital integrated amps. I tested these against many competitors in my system before deciding on Lyngdorf as the winner. All others were separates. Including much more expensive Valve and SS systems.
I have not heard the I32 yet, however I have heard the I25 and I35 In 2 separate systems that are not my own. The I35 is at the same shop as the HINT but in a different system. I’m very familiar with the HINT at this point and I find it to be commendably transparent and neutral to warmish. It lends a certain body and weight to instruments and voices that Can work great in Many systems.
The Primare amps strike me as even more neutral with stunning clarity. They are very truthful amps with very good bass response. So my take is that the Primare is more revealing so if your source is great you will get great results. The HINT seems a bit more forgiving. All 3 are great amps in my estimation. I’m still considering the I32 but I haven’t moved on anything yet.