Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions

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James Romeyn

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #180 on: 10 May 2012, 04:15 am »
I picked up the amps tonight...in comparison to Paul's ASKA, I thought it sounded a little tighter in the bass, and slightly warmer in the mids. It definitely was not a night and day difference...

AKSA Naksa 100?  Very sorry I had to ship my borrowed Naksa 100 last week, immediately after which I received notice Ncores shipped.  For reader's info, Naksa 100 treble is among the best I've heard.     

lonewolfny42

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #182 on: 10 May 2012, 04:42 am »
Thanks wolf! 

Lifeforce 100 arrived prior to Naksa 100, yes?  No dates at AKSA website, and no Lifeforce price. 

lonewolfny42

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #183 on: 10 May 2012, 04:43 am »
Yes...

Watch for Occam's (Paul's) review....I'm sure he'll mention his build of the AKSA amp and if he's add anything extra.

It was an interesting day of listening... 8)

Barry_NJ

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #184 on: 10 May 2012, 12:05 pm »
Yes...

Watch for Occam's (Paul's) review....I'm sure he'll mention his build of the AKSA amp and if he's add anything extra.

It was an interesting day of listening... 8)

Looking forward to Paul's thoughts after his few days, and wondering if he feels differently than he did after the first couple of hours...

Looking forward to Martin's thoughts too.

What did you think of them Chris?

jtwrace

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #185 on: 10 May 2012, 06:33 pm »
Looking forward to Paul's thoughts after his few days
That's an understatement.   :hyper:

James Romeyn

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #186 on: 10 May 2012, 08:08 pm »
Mod just delete this if its wrong for this thread.

Some Ncore owner/endorser previously owned a huge list of incredible power amps.  One was Linn's Klimax Solo, which shares identical Chakra topology with my now sold Linn Majik 3100 (3x 100W @ 4 Ohms).  Chakra is unique and ingenious, best described as Quad's "current dumping" circuit but Linn employs pure analog chip where Quad has discreet circuitry (chips are generally more linear, with tighter tolerances than discreet circuits).  Chips pass very little current so Linn boost current with bipolar transistors at the output. 

The Majik was one of the best amps I'd heard.  It seemed to have all the best qualities of Atma-Sphere OTL but was more linear, had a deeper stage, lacked the tubes' slight noise and haze, and of course passes multiples more current.  I needed more juice and only cost prevented me from getting the 200W @ 4 Ohm "Akurate 3200" (3-ch about $5500). 

Ncore makes about double Akurate power.  If Ncore beats Akurate quality that is just flat out amazing. 
« Last Edit: 10 May 2012, 10:25 pm by James Romeyn »

Occam

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #187 on: 10 May 2012, 10:35 pm »
Barry, Al and Kevin arrived late Sunday afternoon. We listened briefly to the system, as set up which consisted of -

Source - E.A.R. Acute III CD player DAC with tubed, transformer output stage, for both single ended and balanced connections. As the EAR has its own remote motorized volume pot, my CAT preamp sat this out.It uses 2 Siemans PCC88 tubes with Herbies BlackBery Hal-o tube dampers and sits on a Sanus rack with 3 Stillpoints Aluminum OEM Feet between.

Amp - AKSA 100wpc Lifeforce power amp, bog standard, save for the addition of  Vishay MKP1837 .022uf Polypropolene caps [available from Mouser,Newark,Digikey,RS,Farnell...] bypassing very pedestrian Vishay MKT Polyester input capacitors. It sits on 3 Walker brass points on a mdf shelf, sitting on 3 original Stillpoints with 'top hats' sitting on another shelf on the Sanus stand.

Speakers - Marten Miles II,  2 1/2 way floorstanders. . All Accuton, carborundum cone drivers. IMO, far better than the subsequent, 2 way, less expensive to build, Miles III. Sitting on Aluminum cones sitting in the way cool Herbies cone/spike Decoupling Gliders. The Martens offer a wonderful, accurate, low distortion sound, with excellent sound staging and imaging, unless you muck them up..... which I did. When not 'mucked' up, they can be analytical or warm, depending upon what they are fed.

All cables  cords are my GS MkII
Power provided by a single line 20 amp dual duplex outlet line 8' from the breaker box, feeding my Alchemist power conditioner, with the EAR CD player fed from a dedicated low current Alchemist filter, and the power amp fed from the Alchemist's amp filter.

A breif comparison confirmed that the Ncores, unlike the Aksa Lifeforce were better served by plugging them directly into the power outlets, rather than fed via my conditioner's dedicated power amplifier series inductor, shunt capacitance filter.

Based on Sunday's listening session, I would agree with Barry's less than enthusiastic evaluation of either amp. It was a good system, but not great. For lack of a better word, in my son's vernacular - 'meh'
So I spent Monday futzing around with the system, making some observations -

1. The Ncore doesn't need external power conditioning as its got, circuit wise, a dedicated Audience aR1p hardwired in each of the power supplies. But looking at the green ferrite common mode choke, its obvious Hypex has implemented far more inductance, both common mode and leakage/differential, than anyone would rationally implement on a general purpose amplifier filter. But as this filter [no doubt primarily for minimizing conducted emi as well as conditioning] deals with known specific current draw characteristics it, IMO, does one heck of a job. Perhaps a lighter hand external conditioner, with less inductance and capacitance my be beneficial, but my standard amp filter was IMO, too much. I don't know if power conditioning regimes that rely upon the capture, training and ultimate subjugation of Maxwell's Daemons [Bybee geegaws] would or not provide benefits.

2. The Ncores still react positively to quality power cords and outlets. For example, the lack of subjective bass extension and solidity I noted on Sunday was largely addressed by plugging the Ncores into a custom produced JenaLabs cryoed Hubblell HBL5362 rather than the previous standard HBL5362.

3. I've really screwed up my Marten Miles II speakers..... :duh:
One of the speakers cabinets was significantly damaged in shipment. But some wood putty sealed the resulting cracks and they sounded glorious, but looked quite disheveled. So at some cost to me, I got brand new cabinets, complete with new crossovers. Not one, but two cabinets as they had none of the original mk II versions like mine, so they provided 2 of the last mkII cabinets. So the new cabinets have a newer version of Jorma internal wire, new crossovers, and upon swapping .... 
The sadistically buried crossovers couldn't be swapped with any expectation of positive results. Changing the Herbies Tube damper from the Supersonic-SS to the BlackBery Hal-O didn't help (enough). Optimization is always a dance between maximizing your potential upside, and minimizing ones potential downside. Sadly, I sometimes transpose the priority/weighting of those metrics.

I threw in the towel. On Tuesday Martin generously came over and we endeavored to swap the delicate, easily destroyed Accuton drivers, yet again. And when we powered up the Ncores, feeding new, old Martens we got excellent sound, with the soundstaging and imaging I'd so dearly missed.

Wednesday I spent the morning tweeking the system.  I put the Herbies Supersonic-SS tube dampers back in, replacing the more mellow BlackBery dampers. The subjective resolution and detail was there, without any perceived grit. Chris came over in the afternoon, and he listened to his eclectic smorgasbord of music.

When Martin came over to pick up the amps, we decided to make as even a comparison possible with the only change between the amps is that the Ncores used the supplied with the tour male XLR to female RCA adapters, fed by the same prototype single ended cables. The Ncores were plugged into my conditioner's pass-thru duplex with no series inductance. The Lifeforce amp was plugged into the conditioner's dedicated Power amplifier filter. I'd not heard the Aksa Lifeforce for 3 days.

So Martin, Chris and I compared the 2 systems where the only difference was that the Aksa Lifeforce was plugged into a power filter, and the Ncores were not.

My conclusion was that I couldn't tell the difference except -
1. The Ncore's bass was tighter. Not surprising given the power differences.
2. The Ncore is quieter

Other than that, nuth'n. That being said, I believe the Ncore could well be the best amp I've ever heard, and certainly the best I've ever heard in my system. I've heard some very fine amps in my system, and heretofore, I've never even heard a class-d amp I could live with, let alone consider buying. It is simply the cleanest slate I've heard (or not) in an amplifier. But I'll also admit that I consider the original VAC Rennaisance  30/30 if not one of the greatest, one of the most enjoyable amps ever.

Is the Ncore 400 truly a game changer? Yes, for those of us with the minimal skills necessary to plug the stuff together, put the right holes in a proper chassis, we get a wonderful amp the equal, or better than those we either can't or won't afford to purchase. And thank heaven for the charitable folks like Mike Galusha and Jtwrace, etc...who'll spend their time walking the less experienced and clever though this sometimes not so trivial task, in pm, on the phone and on these boards. If you impute a reasonable hourly rate to these charitable folks, I think its not such a bargain.
But in 2007 Hugh Dean was selling 2 assembled Lifeforce amplifier modules for $1,300. Admittedly, the chassis and power supply was more expensive, but I believe you could have built a Lifeforce 100 monoblocks (in a single chassis) for not all that much more than the present cost of assembling the same for Ncore 400s. And you would have had the enjoyment of using the amps for the last 5 years!

So, I've ordered 2 pair of Ncore400 amps and ps supplies. Why?

1. I have to have both balanced and single ended inputs on my amp to evaluate both kinds of interconnects. The only feasible way to do this on the Lifeforce would be to transformer input couple the amps. While I own a very fine pair of Jensen input transformers, they have their own sonic signature, and I don't want the sonic overlay of an additional set of signal transformers in the evaluation process.
2. To a lesser degree, more power and less noise. Presently, the Martens are not that demanding a load. In the future I may have a speaker needing more power and drive capability. I could even add 2 more Ncore400 amp modules and run balanced bridged.
3. My bit for the ecosystem. Kumbaya!

FWIW,
Paul


The Listening Menu -

Chris's own compilation from his many years of NY Rave. I know all the cuts and none of their names.
Martin's own compilation disc, same goes, I know all the music but none of the names except Grace Jones. Sorta like dub meets jazz meets regge meets techno.
My own evaluations must include Balkan Beat Box's 'Nu Med' album, specifically track 4- BBBeat, the glory and terror of a Turkish Jannisairy Military Marching Drum, Cymbal, bell and Oud band bearing down on you shouldn't be missed. IMO, the hardest thing to get right in a recording is the sound of multiple small bells and tambourines.
Track 10 - Delancy  A wonderful live recording, I've heard it live. Its got drive, dynamics, da funk....
I hear many live bands a year, mostly Eastern European and Middle Eastern, a plurality in a single weekend in Brooklyn every year. One of the strangest confluence of folk dancers and hipsters, ever.
Throw in Peggy Lee's 'Fever' and Ricky Lee Jones at her most coked up for beauty and pain.


poseidonsvoice

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #188 on: 10 May 2012, 11:10 pm »
Paul,

Wow, what a powerful, moving review. Not because you liked the Ncores...that in fact, for me, is beside the point. It is because of how thorough and honest you were, including the devilish details of the system. Kudos.

Interestingly enough, I have installed Jena Labs' Duplex outlets in my own equipment room last night... nice to know your thoughts on this.

Thanks again.

Anand.

jtwrace

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #189 on: 10 May 2012, 11:25 pm »
Paul,

What a fantastic and most importanly very thorough review. 

Sounds like you had an extremely busy 3 days.   :o

SlushPuppy

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #190 on: 10 May 2012, 11:25 pm »
Due to length I won't quote Paul's post, but nice review  :thumb:

Chris Adams

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #191 on: 10 May 2012, 11:27 pm »
Due to length I won't quote Paul's post, but nice review  :thumb:

+1 :dance:

cab

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #192 on: 10 May 2012, 11:31 pm »
Wow, another "I bought the review sample", it's a game changer review!

It would be very interesting to see a final tally when the tour is over of how many that heard the ncore bought modules subsequently themselves.....

jtwrace

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #193 on: 10 May 2012, 11:54 pm »
Quote
Anyone know if a Torus power conditioner would work with the NCores?


Sorry mr_bill I didn't mean to do that.

To answer your question, you would need to try it.  It will work the question is whether it would sound better or not. 

mgalusha

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #194 on: 11 May 2012, 12:59 am »
Nice words Paul, far better than I can do.

Quote
I threw in the towel. On Tuesday Martin generously came over and we endeavored to swap the delicate, easily destroyed Accuton drivers, yet again. And when we powered up the Ncores, feeding new, old Martens we got excellent sound, with the soundstaging and imaging I'd so dearly missed.

Glad to hear this, I know it was pissing you off.:-)

Mike

James Romeyn

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #195 on: 11 May 2012, 01:43 am »
Wow, another "I bought the review sample", it's a game changer review!

It would be very interesting to see a final tally when the tour is over of how many that heard the ncore bought modules subsequently themselves.....

At DIY I read up to about one month after the reviews appeared (approximately page 150, now over 300 pages).  I think I read all the AC reviews. 

Of an estimated 30 audiophiles who auditioned (all or most A-B against serious competition including a recording studio playing HR masters), IIRC only one did not purchase or express desire to purchase Ncore.


Tyson

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #196 on: 11 May 2012, 01:50 am »
I guess that would be me :)  I'm sticking w/my hotrodded VTA ST70 tube amps.

James Romeyn

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #197 on: 11 May 2012, 02:33 am »
I guess that would be me :)  I'm sticking w/my hotrodded VTA ST70 tube amps.

Dude, I want to hear that thing!  I'm on such a power kick since changing from tubes to the "dark side" (SS)  :lol: But the 30W OTL seemed to play loud enough, so maybe a 25-30W ST70 would work.     
 

bhakti

Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #198 on: 11 May 2012, 02:38 am »
funny how we react so favorably to an analytic review - when it is the exact opposite we really respond too.

Barry_NJ

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Re: Hypex NCore NC400 - USA Tour Listening Impressions
« Reply #199 on: 11 May 2012, 02:46 am »
Based on Sunday's listening session, I would agree with Barry's less than enthusiastic evaluation of either amp.

Paul, very nice review. I hope you don't think I was unimpressed with your system, I really do think it sounded quite good. Lots of dimension and space, key things I really like to hear in a system. Maybe a bit more forward than I prefer, but still a system I'd be happy to listen to at length at any time. Please feel free to invite me over to listen again, I'd be happy to fight the traffic and hunt for a parking spot ;) In my review/comments I was merely trying to contrast the differences I'd heard between the two amplifiers, and their effects on the systems I'd heard them in. As you noted, the differences weren't earth shattering, so I didn't get overly excited about it in my writing.