ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer

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virtue

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ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« on: 22 Jan 2010, 06:46 am »
Guys,

You will notice that the ICEBlock is no longer available in standard trim.  Why?  Frankly, it's a commodity unit and as you probably noticed in my original posts on the product, I just couldn't get excited about it.  ICEPower is an amazing technology but it can be bought from many people for what we were charging or slightly less.  Sure, we're a nice company to work with... but let's face it; the only products that really sell well are unique and special and our original ICEBlock really wasn't.

So what's different now?

What's the number #1 problem with ICEPower amps?  The recessed midrange.  Owners of "bright" speakers don't mind - owners of Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1s love them!  But many customers who love our rich midrange find ICEPower overly ascetic, a bit cold.

How do you solve this problem?  Name a technology that can roll off highs and lows and plumps up the midrange?  Tubes?  Who makes the best tube pre-amp in the market today?  Gary Dodd.

So I called Gary.  "Gary, they're really good but nobody's buying our ICEPower amps.  I can discount them to the lowest ASP-500 commodity amp price or do something unique and awesome.  Can you help?"  Gary promised to look into it.  That was three months ago.

What we have now folks is "holy crap" good. 

Imagine the indefatigable power and the killer low end of ICEPower, warmed up with the rich (but not mushy) midrange.  Input impedence is raised to 100k ohms which is easier for some pre-amps to drive.  Inside each ICEBlock is a tuned version of Gary's tube input buffer, offered in stock form with one JJ 12AX7 pre-amplifier tube per unit (that may change). 

Suffice it to say that this is a match made in heaven.  With Gary's secret sauce under the covers (he pots every module, don't ask what's inside), we just may have the best sounding high-power mooblocks ever made and certainly for the money.

In addition to Gary's tube magic, these amps are fully loaded.  They feature T-Copper RCA jacks (center pins), T-Copper Propeller Posts, custom gold-plated XLR jacks, Sonicaps, and cryo-treated Auric hookup wire on the speaker outputs.  Also, they are hand-assembled and tested in the USA.

I sent Gary 4 pairs of the stock amps today for him to upgrade.  He'll ship out the first 4 pairs himself. 

Here's the new product link:

http://store.virtueaudio.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=VRTU%2DMA%2DIBM5001%2DPBF%2D1







I can't wait to hear Danny Richie's listening impressions on these bad boys.

Ant

persisting1

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #1 on: 22 Jan 2010, 12:21 pm »
Virtue Audio + Gary Dodd = OMG  :drool:

And this all happened in three months?  Impressive on more than one level. 

Congrats

Xcalibur

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #2 on: 23 Jan 2010, 10:46 am »
Wow..... amazing idea Seth.  This is why I love Virtue Audio so much.  You guys take something established (tripath, iceblock) and turn it into something that is entirely reborn and worth getting excited about all over again.

The tube stage offers some fascinating opportunities to tweak the sound of this amp to the user's taste through tube rolling as well.  No shortage of NOS 12AX7's (or their compatible substitutes) out there afterall, though they are getting more expensive by the day it seems.

On an unrelated note I had been contemplating saving up to try out a pair of Sierra-1's later this year, but hearing you describe them as bright pretty much takes them off the table here and now.  I've had my fill of bright sounding gear.

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #3 on: 25 Jan 2010, 12:09 am »





Here's a cool photo of an ICEBlock system from one of our "legacy" (no tube) customers.  He loves the things.

cynan

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #4 on: 26 Jan 2010, 04:41 am »
On an unrelated note I had been contemplating saving up to try out a pair of Sierra-1's later this year, but hearing you describe them as bright pretty much takes them off the table here and now.  I've had my fill of bright sounding gear.

I would not call the Sierra-1s bright. Some do say that they are a bit lean in the midrange, but they balance out the highs with a very strong lower end (for a bookshelf). I have a set of Sierra's myself and find them to be nicely balanced and entirely non-fatiguing. Normally I find overly bright equipment fatiguing due to accentuation of the higher frequencies.

Anyway, I would totally give the Sierras a listen if you've had your heart set on it - preferably on your own gear. That is the only way to truly judge a loudspeaker.

dvenardos

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #5 on: 26 Jan 2010, 05:27 am »
I haven't heard them, but the measurements on the Sierra 1 are very flat and I have heard good things about them.

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #6 on: 26 Jan 2010, 05:49 am »
I did not mean to insinuate that the Sierras are anything less than phenomenal speakers.  We were uniformly impressed with the Sierras at RMAF.  In fact, Michael thought they were one of the best bookshelf speakers he's ever heard, particularly in the mid-bass. 

David Fabrikant is one of the most talented designers in the business and we've been in touch.  He auditioned the TWO last year and found it a good listen, but even with the 130w PSU, found it lacking compared with the ASP500 based amps.   

A number of highly critical listeners in our room at RMAF considered the Sierras brighter than others we had on audition.  Those observations and the uncanny fit between the Sierras and the ICEPower amps evoked my commentary.  Please take it with a grain of salt and let it in no way dissuade you from buying Sierras.  It's simply phenomenal what they can do.  And they're tiny!

cynan

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #7 on: 26 Jan 2010, 05:00 pm »
Well, I'm certainly not about to insinuate that I have anywhere near the auditioning experience as most of the people that attend RMAF regularly. I guess I would personally classigy the Sierras as being quite neutral - neither bright, nor particularly warm, but I digress.

And that's just great! Now I have to spend $2,500 on a set of your monoblocks (the price is for the pair, as I recall) to get the most out of my Sierras? Is that what you're telling me?  :wink:

I wonder what Mr. Fabrikant would have thought about the TWO (or the M901, for that matter) with one of those 300W linear supplies - It seems that, since the Sierras aren't especially sensitive the extra noise over the batteries might be negligible. I guess I'm going to have to get one and find out myself...

underdog64

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #8 on: 26 Jan 2010, 05:49 pm »
To Virtue Audio-can you say what the dimensions are of the ICEblocks in inches are?

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #9 on: 26 Jan 2010, 07:37 pm »
H 3.8” x W 10.6” (no columns)  11.2”  (with columns) x D 9.2”  weight is 15 lbs

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #10 on: 26 Jan 2010, 07:39 pm »
The standard ASP500 ICEBlock is no longer available so that we have maximum stock for Gary's mods.  If you want an ASP500 in a box, which is what David Fabrikant really likes, D-Sonic has it for a great price.  They're good people.

Xcalibur

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #11 on: 27 Jan 2010, 10:03 pm »
Haha.  Okay, Sierras back on the table.  Thanks for the feedback guys.  A bit lean in the upper mids would be perfect for me actually, since my hearing is sensitive there.  I'm moving to a tube amp for my K701 headphones to try and make them listenable for just this reason.

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #12 on: 28 Jan 2010, 01:47 am »
I got a call from Danny Richie today.  Gary took the tube buffered ICEBlocks down there for a little test run.  With one of the JJ tube sets that Gary brought down Danny says it absolutely smokes.  Apparently it's even better with Gary's battery powered tube buffer in front of it - double buffered.  Gary says that the parts to build out the rest of the inventory are just 2 weeks away... so we should start seeing them out in the world pretty soon.  We just may build a Dodd buffer/pre in the Sensation chasis with 3 inputs and the remote.  Would anyone buy such a thing (no gain, no noise, just the buffer)?

What a great way to end a Wednesday. 

Danny Richie

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #13 on: 28 Jan 2010, 03:48 am »
I just have to say that I was really surprised by these.

Typically the big power house, digital style, amps are always tough to listen to for me. Sharp, harsh, edgy, bright, and fatiguing is typical, and I can't stand anything like that at all. And I just haven't heard any that I like.

The smaller Tripath based stuff like the T-amps and Virtue amps have been the only ones to really do it for me, especially on batteries. They tend to be very transparent and sound like whatever front end is feeding them. The little Virtue amps in particular have been great. But let's face it, they aren't enough power for some applications. So I think these new ICEBlocks really fill a hole in the market.

These things had a really smooth sound to them and a nice vocal region. They were not too in your face or anything. They weren't overly lush or rolled off either. Just a nice tonal balance with a ton of drive and really big balls. Swapping the tubes to various models, and a lot of tubes will work with these, will allow the end user to make them sound like anything they want. We found one JJ that sounded great, top to bottom, and did not cost too much either. The rare, and way more expensive, Telefunken tubes, had slightly better spacial cues but overall nearly the same in all other regards to the JJ's. So I think these JJ's are going to be the ticket.

I was powering the ICEBlocks with an Electra Cable, B-7, power cable, to an Uber Buss, to another Electra Cable, B-7, power cable, to a Dodd Audio balanced power supply, to another Electra Cable, B-7, power cable to each amp. So they were feed a good clean low noise signal. So any switching noise that I might hear would have to be coming from the amps themselves. I hate the noise of switching power supplies and I almost always pick up on that stuff right away. Then after some extended listening time it makes me feel beat up. Funny thing though. These things were nearly dead quiet, even on the 97db sensitivity Super-V's. No noise! No switching noise. No fatigue. Nothing..... hmmmmm. They were a pleasure to listen to.

The Dodd Audio, battery powered, tube buffer, really matched well with these too. The combination must have made a perfect impedance match between them.

I give them two thumbs up.  :thumb: :thumb:

buzzy

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #14 on: 31 Jan 2010, 07:56 pm »
This amp is a great idea.  A powerful amp for people who like the euphonic distortions of tubes.

So sell is as such, with no need for B.S. like this:
What's the number #1 problem with ICEPower amps?  The recessed midrange.  Owners of "bright" speakers don't mind - owners of Ascend Acoustics Sierra-1s love them!  But many customers who love our rich midrange find ICEPower overly ascetic, a bit cold.

PSB Guy

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #15 on: 31 Jan 2010, 09:40 pm »
How do you solve this problem?  Name a technology that can roll off highs and lows and plumps up the midrange?  Tubes?  Who makes the best tube pre-amp in the market today?  Gary Dodd.

Isn't that what was said here? What am I missing? :scratch:

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #16 on: 1 Feb 2010, 08:29 am »
Point well taken, Buzzy!  I've learned my lesson.  In matters of taste, one makes judgement calls at ones peril.  It's a good lesson for me to have learned and I'm taking it to heart.  Can we move on?

I like your description a lot and maybe next time I'll ask you for editorial help!

Again, thanks for your feedback.  All feedback is good feedback!

JohnR

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #17 on: 1 Feb 2010, 08:57 am »
Um. Yeah, the old "tube lovers just like distortion" thing is pretty worn out, and frankly is a bit of a turn-off.

virtue

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Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #18 on: 1 Feb 2010, 09:13 am »
In case you were wondering, I do love the sound of tubes and the aesthetic aspect.   If it wasn't for my ASL Explorer 805s, Virtue would not exist.

Early on, I visited Joseph Lau at Antique Sound Labs in China to explore building a tube amp for us.   never figured out how to do it economically (mainly because of weight and self-service issues) but I did come up with some cool looks for Joseph, which he seems to have ignored ;-)

Check out this concept for making his Hurricane amp look the part!





Turns out that I was a bit naive.  You can't just arrange tube willy-nilly wherever you want in the box.  Too bad.

One day we'll do something really tubey that will be sexy as all heck.

JohnR

Re: ICEBlock relaunched with Dodd Audio Tube Buffer
« Reply #19 on: 1 Feb 2010, 09:26 am »
Dare I ask... what does the coffee cup do... :lol: