So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?

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Porter

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 85
Hi everyone!

I'm on a mission to replace a very nice vintage solid state system (Audiolab 8000C, B&K ST-202) with a modern DAC+Amp equivalent, and I, like you, have discovered this whole Nuprime phenomenon. Hopefully some of you can set me straight, because I'm confused on some details.

I've read through the amp comparison chart several times, and read a bunch of threads comparing the different models, and I can't seem to wrap my head around the comparative pricing and performance of some of these. The topology examples, in particular, are throwing me for a loop. For example... the STA-9 has nice single-ended Class A input stage (SECAM) and a linear power supply, while the IDA-16 has a an op-amp input stage and a switching power supply, yet the IDA-16 is multiples of the price. Nuprime even says it in their sidebar, "Practically all the amp products on the market use Op Amp for preamp stage. Only a few very high end products use discrete transistors design. Discrete transistors design is costly and challenging to accomplish."

...Yet I can buy two STA-9s (each with discrete transistor input stage) and a DAC-9, for roughly the price of a single IDA-16. That's 180deg reversed from what I would expect... typically the reference designs are the ones with Class A input stages and linear power supplies, not the cheaper unit? I don't get it.


So with that conundrum in mind, I'm looking at a couple of different configurations and at a loss as to which would actually perform best. Ultimately I'm trying to achieve very high-quality 2-channel reproduction of multiple digital sources for both music and movies, with a focus on very high perceived detail, dynamics, and rich musicality at lower volumes. Playback will be into a set of vintage Polk SDA-2Bs at the moment, which are likely being replaced with floorstanding KEF, Tannoy, or Sonus Faber in the next year sometime.

Option 1: STA-9 + STA-9 + DAC-9 - 290Wx2 (dual mono), AKM Verita AK4490 DAC, FPGA ladder resistor volume, linear PS
Option 2: IDA-16 - 200Wx2 (stereo), ESS ES9018 DAC, FPGA ladder resistor volume, switching PS
Option 3: HD-AVA - 200Wx2 (stereo), ESS ES9018 DAC (USB only), Analog Devices DAC for everything else, no ladder resistor volume, switching PS

Option 3 gives me the basic amp of the IDA-16, but without the nice preamp stage, but with a ton of extra inputs and AV flexibility, at a lower cost than either of the first 2 options since they are being closed out. It's tempting, but I'm a bit wary of both the complexity of the unit, and what I can only assume are other compromises inherent in putting all of those things in one box.

What say you, Audio Circle? Can you give me any guidance?

Thanks!
Jason Porter


John Casler

Re: So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?
« Reply #1 on: 23 Oct 2017, 01:18 am »
Hi everyone!

I'm on a mission to replace a very nice vintage solid state system (Audiolab 8000C, B&K ST-202) with a modern DAC+Amp equivalent, and I, like you, have discovered this whole Nuprime phenomenon. Hopefully some of you can set me straight, because I'm confused on some details.

I've read through the amp comparison chart several times, and read a bunch of threads comparing the different models, and I can't seem to wrap my head around the comparative pricing and performance of some of these. The topology examples, in particular, are throwing me for a loop. For example... the STA-9 has nice single-ended Class A input stage (SECAM) and a linear power supply, while the IDA-16 has a an op-amp input stage and a switching power supply, yet the IDA-16 is multiples of the price. Nuprime even says it in their sidebar, "Practically all the amp products on the market use Op Amp for preamp stage. Only a few very high end products use discrete transistors design. Discrete transistors design is costly and challenging to accomplish."

...Yet I can buy two STA-9s (each with discrete transistor input stage) and a DAC-9, for roughly the price of a single IDA-16. That's 180deg reversed from what I would expect... typically the reference designs are the ones with Class A input stages and linear power supplies, not the cheaper unit? I don't get it.


So with that conundrum in mind, I'm looking at a couple of different configurations and at a loss as to which would actually perform best. Ultimately I'm trying to achieve very high-quality 2-channel reproduction of multiple digital sources for both music and movies, with a focus on very high perceived detail, dynamics, and rich musicality at lower volumes. Playback will be into a set of vintage Polk SDA-2Bs at the moment, which are likely being replaced with floorstanding KEF, Tannoy, or Sonus Faber in the next year sometime.

Option 1: STA-9 + STA-9 + DAC-9 - 290Wx2 (dual mono), AKM Verita AK4490 DAC, FPGA ladder resistor volume, linear PS
Option 2: IDA-16 - 200Wx2 (stereo), ESS ES9018 DAC, FPGA ladder resistor volume, switching PS
Option 3: HD-AVA - 200Wx2 (stereo), ESS ES9018 DAC (USB only), Analog Devices DAC for everything else, no ladder resistor volume, switching PS

Option 3 gives me the basic amp of the IDA-16, but without the nice preamp stage, but with a ton of extra inputs and AV flexibility, at a lower cost than either of the first 2 options since they are being closed out. It's tempting, but I'm a bit wary of both the complexity of the unit, and what I can only assume are other compromises inherent in putting all of those things in one box.

What say you, Audio Circle? Can you give me any guidance?

Thanks!
Jason Porter

Hi Porter, a lot to unpack there.

The best path, and the reason the amp comparison chart was created it to help you achieve the SOUND you want.  The technology details are what is causing you confusion.  The best thing to know, is if NuPRIME selected a topology, or technology for any specific amp or component it was for Performance/Price Optimization.

I might also suggest that the IDA-16 is MORE Similar to the DAC10 and ST-10, not the DAC-9 and the STA-9, so considering it seriously as a Integrated is certainly a GREAT idea.  It initially was priced much higher, ($2600 I think)  and was reduced somewhat for various reasons, to its present price.

There are few, if any compromises or short-cuts in the IDA-16. 

Then the HD-AVA is a significant bargain.  It is, to a degree, the IDA-16 with a Multi-Channel Processor thrown it.  That makes it operationally fun unit to work with, but is is not intended to have the latest HT processing.  Due to that fact, this is likely the best "price performance" model (as its price has also been reduced to reflect the aging Multi-channel Processing.  This however should not impact the 2 channel performance.

According to your "stated" goals, your best options, in order of recomendation are:

1) DAC-10 and ST-10, or pair of STA-9
2) IDA-16
3) DAC-9 and ST-10, or pair of STA-9
4) HD AVA


Porter

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 85
Re: So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?
« Reply #2 on: 23 Oct 2017, 02:13 am »
Hi John,

Thanks for your post! Super interesting. You had me until the order of recommendations. If the IDA-16 and the HD-AVA are the same sonically, how can they be 2nd and 4th on the list? What is the distinction that would put a DAC-9 and an amp ahead of the HD-AVA if they are otherwise equivalent? This is the stuff that has me confused about Nuprime, to be honest. Sorry to be dense, I just don't get the distinction that moves the HD-AVA down.

Thanks for the help on this! Very much appreciated.

Jason Porter

John Casler

Re: So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?
« Reply #3 on: 23 Oct 2017, 08:47 pm »
Hi John,

Thanks for your post! Super interesting. You had me until the order of recommendations. If the IDA-16 and the HD-AVA are the same sonically, how can they be 2nd and 4th on the list? What is the distinction that would put a DAC-9 and an amp ahead of the HD-AVA if they are otherwise equivalent? This is the stuff that has me confused about Nuprime, to be honest. Sorry to be dense, I just don't get the distinction that moves the HD-AVA down.

Thanks for the help on this! Very much appreciated.

Jason Porter

The IDA-16 is not "exactly" the same sonically and along with the bells and whistles come a few quirks, but if you want the bells and whistles, it moves it to the top of the heap.

They are difficult to "rate" since some of their differences are "system specific" such as the DAC-9 compared to the DAC-10, while in general, the more expensive component will likely be the better sounding, it will depend on use.

There is no subjective/objective formula to determine the rankings, as all will have areas and elements of appeal depending on system (especially speakers and listening preferences)




rustydoglim

Re: So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?
« Reply #4 on: 24 Oct 2017, 08:41 am »
The mistake you and other people made in looking at the chart is to figure out the BEST.  You want us to list according to Best, better, worst.  That's not how to use the chart. But thanks for your questions, we need to make the chart easier to use, and by answering your questions, I will add an example section to improve the guide.

We have been telling people to use the chart to select the sound you want.
Sure, the Reference 20 that cost $7600 a pair is probably the sound you want and the best. But it is on its own price range.
1) Figure out which sonic characteristic is important to you.  Usually there are only TWO types: very neutral or warmer sound.
2) Then the type of music (rock/pop versus classical/jazz/instrument versus vocal) you preferred (personally I like female vocal) and how often you watch movie versus listening to music.  From this you determine the dynamic and other characteristic on the chart.

Each column on the chart represents an important sound characteristic. Base on these factors you then determine the "best" amp or integrated.
For example, if you watch movies 70% of the time, and listen to rock/pop, then definitely go with MCH-K38 or STA-9.
But you mostly listen to vocal, classical then ST-10 or STA-6 or IDA-16.
For all around best and affordable, go with IDA-8 - can never go wrong, even high end audiophiles find this amp adequate for expensive speakers. If you out grow IDA-8, you can always use it for another room in the home or office.

HD-AVA was a mistake in trying to put too many things into a single box, and with AVP that is out of date (no apps, no streaming services built-in) so it is on clearance sale.

"I'm trying to achieve very high-quality 2-channel reproduction of multiple digital sources for both music and movies, with a focus on very high perceived detail, dynamics, and rich musicality at lower volumes. "

You mention "high perceived detail" so Resolution and High Freq extension must be on the top of the list. Texture is closely related to Resolution, but different, more about the harmonics. Is power important? If not, then ignore that column. Since you watch a lot of movies, Dynamic could be next.

So John's recommendation is spot on.  If you are looking for better value for money, instead of the DAC-10 and ST-10 combination, you can go with DAC-9 and STA-6 x 2.
Unless you like warmer sound, don't go with DAC-9 + STA-9 combination.  The new CDP-9 with STA-9 is another excellent choice.


EdRo

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 578
Re: So confused. STA-9(x2)/DAC-9 combo, vs IDA-16, vs HD-AVA?
« Reply #5 on: 24 Oct 2017, 11:26 am »
Is the IDA-16 going to be phased out?