The tour bus made a stop at my place last night!
Randy (RKlein) brought over the tour NCore's for a listen (I will be shipping them to the next tour member, Paul, on Monday). This will be a brief first impression before i get another night or two of serious listening in. In the meantime, Randy will be posting his thoughts as well (spoiler alert: he bought his own pair and they arrived in pieces on Thurs).
Now, my listening test is somewhat relevant for a couple of reasons, the greatest of which is that my SP Tech Revelation MR-I Mark 4's are not only very revealing, but they pose quite a load for these single monoblocks. Although on paper they are 88db and an average 4-5 ohm load, most SP tech owners will tell you that all of Bob's designs love power. When i had Spectrons the transformation from stereo to monolocks was revelatory. Even my McCormick DNA-500's seemed, at times, to need a little oomph. My current amps, the wonderful Modwright KWA-150 monoblocks, don't seem to need anything except the proper break-in and warm-up. And at 650w/ch into 4 ohms I was worried the single monoblock configuration of the NCores (400w 4 ohm) might be a little light, although I can't honestly tell you what "not quite enough power" sounds like, except for obvious clipping under extreme circumstances.
So Randy, Rob (questfortone) and I sat down to listen to several tracks via the Modwright before we made the transition. Source is a Hynes-powered Auraliti PK90USB Linux music server, SOtM USB card, Meitner MA-1 DSD-capable DAC, into an original Bent TAP S&B TVC preamp. Source material was a mix of DSD native, 24/96 hirez and some redbook. I am currently running my Furutech Evo II cables as RCA (my other pre, the Concert Fidelity CF-080 is single ended only) so I used TomS's nice XLR adapters.
Randy is classically trained so we started with pure DSD recorded piano (Mari Kodama, Pentatone) and then some large orchestra Shostakovich in DSD (Cleve Orchestra, Telarc). I think Randy was impressed (he needs to respond in his own words) cuz he turned around to me from the listening chair and said, with a little emotion, (paraphrased) "send the NCores on to the next guy, why the f--- would you change anything!!"
Well, change we did. All three of us were quite concerned that the demo was going to be too much for the Ncores. I mean, c'mon! I removed the Audience AR1-P passive wall conditioner/outlets since all of you recommend "straight into the wall" for these midgets, so that's what we did.
The first impression is "hmmm, there is something different here, but not sure what it is...but regardless, these things are amazingly keeping up". Not a WOW thing, more like a gentle surprise. However, as we traversed through various cuts we became more and more impressed. To me, on first blush, it's as if I moved back several rows in the concert hall, but am also getting a likely more timbre-accurate sound. Better? Not really, just different. The Modwright's are much more technicolor and fifth row center, with balls and more balls. The Ncore's are fifteenth row center (or maybe back a little further; I will know more in a day or so), with the subsequent slightly narrower but deeper soundstage, and less technicolor but maybe slightly more shading and ability to discern light medium brown from very light medium brown. Frequency extremes have not been compromised either. I suspect a little less midbass, but that's sometimes a very good thing. Sara K's Waterfall occasional very low 25-30hz synth bass note shakes the room, possibly even more than the MW's.
I am a dynamics guy and an imaging freak. Neither aspect has been necessarily compromised, but yet I still need to settle in to this. My standard is the fifth row, so this is going to take a little getting used to, but even later in the evening the new seats seemed much more comfortable to me already. Stay tuned.
OH...and they really never ran out of gas.
I am still firmly convinced they might, and that if I owned them they would be bridged mono, but who cares right now! They are making nice music.