Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review

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gammajo

Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« on: 30 Jul 2014, 01:10 am »
Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amps Review





Equipment and Room:
Ayon CD5’s with 1980 NOS Reflector tubes (Transport, DAC and preamp combined). Nuforce Reference 9 V3SE mono amps (highly modded with on/off and fuse circuits removed, Furtech IEC, Mosaic boxes on top and mass-loaded with lead bags, isolated mechanically and electrically). Von Schweikert VR5 Anniversary MK2 speakers. All Master Built Signature Power cords, and biwire speaker cables. Masterbuilt Signature Ultra IC. Front wall, side walls and floor and windows treated for reflections. Room 38 by 22 feet.


Using live acoustic music and a grand piano in the same room with the system as reference, I finally had my system to a very nice place where all commented that it was clean, clear, revealing without harshness, and involving. All the mods to the 9's had improved them considerably over stock. It should be noted that I am blessed with very clean power. I am the only house on the outside transformer and the system is wired into a panel separate entirely from the main house. Prior to trying the new Ref 20, I had recently auditioned several amps in my system including the well respected Merrill Veritas, Hypheus Anvils, Chanel Island D500's and also the Hegel H30 in another system. I preferred my modded Ref 9's to all of them, so my 9's will be the basis of comparison. I really did not need the extra watts, as my speakers are sensitive but wanted to hear if the 20's might be beneficial in other areas while preserving the Nuforce magic.


After a longish wait for the first production models, mine finally arrived in an easy to open hinged wooden case with excellent deluxe foam packing, and soft cloth covers. I used an A-B-A-B comparison model, first playing the 9's, then the Ref 20's for a hundred hour break in, then back to the 9's and finally the 20's again. This took discipline because once I put in the 20's  I was reluctant to remove them because I was enjoying them so much. I used my reference tracks spanning orchestral, classical solo (particularly piano, organ, and violin), jazz, pop, and rock. The 20 break in period was not bad, the amps were more detailed out of the box with an improved sound stage. By the end of test the 20's became more relaxed, liquid, and airy. I tried Metallica and Led Zeppelin to make sure that the liquidity was not artificial and when the music was supposed to be driving and edgy – it was in spades. Yet lovely and liquid music was more so than I have ever heard on any system. Piano which is both liquid and percussive with wood, string, and felt-hammer timbre was spot on.

When I reinserted the 9's it was not like they were broken: they were still sounded wonderful, but the 20's dramatically deepened the soundstage and also allowed the instruments on the edges and background to sound more realistic with more bloom and air. The 20's also have incredible micro and macro detail and at the same time are more refined and relaxed without losing the punch. I listened to a Caverna Magica piece where there is a man and a woman very softly speaking in a cave while other more prominent sounds are occurring. With the 9's I finally figured that they were speaking French; with the 20's I could easily follow whole sentences. Bruce Springsteen and other signers who are fond of slurring or mumbling words, were much clearer and yet natural. The 20's bass was even better than the bass terrific 9's, having more satisfying weight, bloom, and differentiation. All vocals were improved in naturalness. Close-miked harmonica and female singers which could be grating at high volume with the 9's, were just clean and present with the 20's. Timbral density and attack/decay, as well as speed were improved. All these were little improvements over the 9's (except much improved soundstage) yet the overall presentation is shockingly better and more natural. The feeling of enjoyment is very close to the best vinyl rigs in density, richness, and naturalness but with the strengths of digital. When I open my eyes the sense of the singers and instrumentalists being in the room actually increases, speaking to a big increase in presence without any forwardness. It feels equivalent to an entire system upgrade! I would encourage an audition for people with revealing systems, and feel the Ref 20's are competitive with amps of reference quality regardless of price.


Rx8man

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 125
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #1 on: 31 Jul 2014, 10:14 pm »
Very nice Joe, I'm happy for you  :green:   I'll have to visit again for a new audition  :wink:

mv

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 86
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #2 on: 24 Sep 2014, 05:39 am »
So, did you keep the Reference 20's?
Did you upgrade their power cords?
What power conditioner did you use for them?

Have you compared them with the Devialet 200?

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #3 on: 24 Sep 2014, 01:42 pm »
I kept the Reference 20's gladly.  They continued to refine themselves after the review period and I am very pleased. I use Delphi Aerospace (distributed by Von Schweikert) Signature Reference Power cords on all my equipment. The chords are better than mpost power conditioners and can be run direct, however I run them through a PS Audio Quintet for easy on/off for the whole system, due top many thunderstorms in my area. I have not compared to Devialet.

mv

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 86
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #4 on: 25 Sep 2014, 02:06 am »
Can you possibly add new comments about the performance of the refined Ref-20's?

BTW, what source did you use for Caverna Magica?
Was that digital download, and if so where did you get it from?

Thank you!

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #5 on: 25 Sep 2014, 02:24 pm »
My source for Caverna Magica was a 1983 CBS/Sony CD #MK37827
I don't know what to add to my review except that with the highly critical and evaluative listening period over and the amps purchased, I have been listening to a wide variety of CDs, some of which I have not heard in a long time, and continue to be delighted at the music I am hearing. Of course this is whole system dependent, but with more hours on the amps I think they have become even more natural sounding resulting in the music having more liquidity, air, smoothness, dynamic punch and fully vanished edginess (more refinement). Even when I am reading outside the sweet spot or doing dishes in the next room, often the music captures my ear, and I grin at the satisfaction of hearing beautiful music.

To put this in perspective, before obtaining the amps I assumed that I would modify them immediately as I did the Ref 9's (eliminating fuse, on/off switch, changing IEC to top line Furtech and binding posts to top line Platinum WBT ($500 per set) to clean the circuit as much as possible. I also was feeling that my next step would be to add the very fast, amazing and expensive subwoofers from Von Schweikert (about $18,000 a pair). Since the Ref 20's have broken in I feel no impulse to either modify them, or add the subs. In fact I do not see any need at this time to further improve my system. So the Ref 20's have been great antidotes to audio restlessness.

mv

  • Jr. Member
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Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #6 on: 25 Sep 2014, 02:50 pm »
Wow! Thank you very much for the detailed update!

And you are not affiliated with NuForce/NuPrime, right? :-)

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #7 on: 25 Sep 2014, 03:04 pm »
Correct - no affiliation or special deal, except they allowed me to trade in my Ref 9's

john925

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 40
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #8 on: 25 Sep 2014, 04:37 pm »
Correct - no affiliation or special deal, except they allowed me to trade in my Ref 9's

What is the cost when trade in R9 V3 SE for the R20?

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #9 on: 25 Sep 2014, 06:34 pm »
John
I paid $7,600 for the Ref 20's which I think is still the price. At the time of purchase they were offering trade in at the company's generous policy of I think 65% of list for upgrades. I think this policy is somewhere on the old thread at A'circle - could not find it today on the Nuforce site. For the $5000 Ref 9V3Se's = $3,250. This may have changed now that there is Nuprime.  You might call John Casler
NuFORCE HIGH END Advisor

US Dealer Coordinator
CENTURY CITY Audio Video
310-446-0138
BIOFORCE.inc@Outlook.Com

to find out what he will do for you. He is good to deal with and seemed very invested in my happiness with the deal and product.
Joe

rustydoglim

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #10 on: 26 Sep 2014, 03:54 pm »
For those of you who bought from other dealers and if your dealer is no longer carrying NuPrime/NuForce, you can contact sales@heapaudio.com in the USA, or sales@nuprimeaudio.com for international customers who do not have distributor or dealer to handle your trade-in.

Jason (NuForce co-founder and now managing brands for NuPrime, Celsus Sound, Encore Design, and others)
By the way, I have created a NuPrime circle and we should move the NuPrime product discussion over there. The NuForce high-end products are now under NuPrime Audio.  Future high-end products will be called NuPrime, such as the NuPrime IDA-16. 

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #11 on: 26 Sep 2014, 04:08 pm »
Rusty - I am now confused - are the 20's a Nuforce or Nuprime product or both? Is was told it was a bridge product whatever that means. Mine say Nuforce on top - will they all say this?
If you want to copy my 20 review over to Nuprime, be my guest - I do not know how to do this.
Joe

rustydoglim

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #12 on: 26 Sep 2014, 04:25 pm »
Remember the IBM and Lenovo deal?  During the initial year(s), the existing IBM laptops were called IBM and later models are called Lenovo.  Same situation here. 
NuPrime Audio is a new and separate company from NuForce to focus on the high-end product line.  So existing NuForce Reference models will continue to be called NuForce Reference xxxxx, but they are owned by NuPrime. Obviously two brands can not co-exist, so new models will be called NuPrime.
Regardless of what they are called, they will be supported by NuPrime.  And they are still awesome no matter what they are called  :thumb:

NuForce is still great but the company decided that high-end audio is not where they want to focus on. Note that Ref 20 was developed AFTER the split and by NuPrime.   Since Ref 20 is part of the same evolutionary change within the famous NuForce Reference line, NuPrime decided to retain the same brand name, under the licensing of NuForce.  But for different product like IDA-16, it is under the NuPrime brand.

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #13 on: 26 Sep 2014, 06:11 pm »
Ok, Thanks. So it is different that Pioneer Elite or  Sony Es and will not be called Nuforce Nuprime, correct? Will Bob Smith still be the tech support? Will Nuprime still offer the generous upgrade paths and trade up allowances that Nuforce did?

rustydoglim

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #14 on: 26 Sep 2014, 06:23 pm »
Correct.  It is not NuPrime NuForce xxxx or the other way around.
For trade-in and upgrade, the program or offer will be made mainly be me, who is managing the brand.  So I will take the same approach as the way I manage the program in the past for NuForce, . I will have to look at the upgrade depending on model. Obviously the more changes there is, the more costly it will be to upgrade. But don't worry, we want to keep our customers happy.  So if we don't offer attractive upgrade program, they will move on to other brand.

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #15 on: 26 Sep 2014, 06:56 pm »
Ok Rusty - Thanks for the Clarification. I do not yet see a Nuprime Circle. Is it listed on audio circle now? Should my Ref 20 review be moved over there?

mv

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 86
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #16 on: 30 Sep 2014, 08:29 pm »
gammajo,

Have you auditioned the Acoustic Imagery Atsah mono amps?

Do you know how they compare with the Ref-20's?

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #17 on: 30 Sep 2014, 08:49 pm »
No, have not heard them

mv

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 86
Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #18 on: 4 Oct 2014, 09:04 pm »
gammajo,

BTW, why are your speakers at a 90-degree angle relative to the window behind, and
not pointed to the tip of the triangle where you sit on that sofa with the stool for stretching your legs?

Doesn't that negatively affect the sound?

gammajo

Re: Nuforce Reference 20 Mono Amp Review
« Reply #19 on: 5 Oct 2014, 12:57 am »
The Von Schweikert VR5's are designed with a tweeter that has great off axis response, allowing a wide sweet spot and speaker placement farther apart (allowing for a larger sound stage)and or facing straight ahead without loss of center image density and clarity and I prefer them with no toe in in my room.