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A new generation amp (V2 to V3) is always better than the SE upgrade within the same generation.BUT, comparing 8.5V3 versus Ref 9V2SE also involve the power supply and the different and bigger power supply in the Ref 9 affects the dynamic besides providing more head rooms.
Comparison of the Reference 9 V2 to the Reference 9 V2 SEThe only negative I heard in the Reference 9 V2 was a slight but nagging limitation in emotional response. I found it harder to sing along with the 9 V2 than with the 9 SE. The midrange lacked inflection when it mattered most. For instance, when all hell breaks loose around Rubén Blades, he sounds a tad too relaxed. The man is raging against the machine. He needs more oomph. Could it be a matter of missing amplitude?Ah-ha -- now I remembered why I ordered the V2 upgrade boards in the first place. Harnessing the V2 to the 9 SE’s overkill capacitor bank should give me the dynamic capability I think the new amplifier lacks to a tiny degree. Let us see if, for once, I was right.One of my prized possessions is Joan Manuel Serrat’s Sombras de la China [Ariola 74321-614.792]. This 1998 release by the Catalán singer-songwriter, recorded in Barcelona and mastered in Paris, has it all: poetry, performance, and audiophile sound. The V2 rendered the poetry with riveting clarity enhanced by room-filling accompaniment. But the new amp erred by turning Serrat into a smooth crooner. The V2 SE is more truthful. It reveals the rasp of the poet’s light baritone voice. According to a friend who has heard Serrat in concert, the V2 SE’s lighter sound is more accurate. Meanwhile, the SE’s perspective at least equal that of the V2, but to my ear, the drama is higher. There’s nothing like proper dynamics. The V2 SE was the easy winner.Another great test disc is the Grammy-winning Tiempos [Sony 83184], by the aforementioned Panamanian political scientist and salsa singer extraordinaire, Rubén Blades. I especially like this disc because the backing group is Costa Rica’s Editus, a unique three-musician blend led by violinist Ronald Ramirez. Social commentary and haunting violin, keyboard, and percussion playing distinguish this album, along with the sounds of motorcycles, helicopters, and machine guns. The V2 captured the details, but the V2 SE interpreted the cues. For instance, the V2 sent the helicopters back and forth; the V2 SE had them circle the soundstage, passing in front of as well as behind the speakers. On "Sicarios," a story of hired assassins, the V2’s suave manner masked the message with lilting vocals and catchy percussion. The V2 SE’s higher contrast revealed the lyrics’ chilling ironies. On this system, and for the first time, I realized that the song can strike terror. I could go on, but to me, the evidence is clear. The 9 V2 SE is a livelier, more compelling version of the wondrous V2. It combines the mature harmonic grace of the new board with the youthful snap of the SE’s bespoke capacitor bank.Nevertheless, I hesitate to categorically recommend the V2 SE over the V2. With the Audio Research CD7’s analog-like signal, the V2 SE was nigh perfect. With less capable CD players (all others?), the V2 SE might sound a tad cool in the lower midrange. The V2 was warmer to my ears. With electrostatic speakers or those with a truly flat frequency response, the V2 might be the better choice. It fleshed out the parts we tend to think are missing in "flat" sound. With aggressive loudspeakers or high-strung CD players, its edgeless flow might provide a perfect match.My taste and system requirements favor the Reference 9 V2 SE’s more emphatic presence. I’ve gone ahead and installed V2 boards in all eight Reference 9 SE monoblocks -- happily, they all sound alike. Nevertheless, I also plan to keep the Reference 9 V2 as is. It displays a new capability, a breakthrough sound in "digital" amplification that is warm and seductive. To arrive at V2 performance is no easy task. I salute the NuForce team for having taken the hard road to originality. The NuForce Reference 9 V2 deserves to be heard by everyone, especially the competition.…Jim Saxon
Thank you for replying, Jason. I think I'll invest in the Stereo 8.5V3 then..UPDATE: Tuesday last week placed my order for a Stereo 8.5V3 in black, and am now eagerly awaiting its arival. Since my existing poweramp is IcePower-based, anyone who has converted from IcePower(say, Bel Canto) to NuForce(preferably later editions; V2/V3) are welcomed to share their experience in this regard.
My first digital amp experience was with the Bel Canto Ref 1K MKI. I loved it initially due to the thick and meaty midrange. Over the course of my 6+ month ownership, I encountered its weakness and let it go. For me and in my system, they were lacking in its ability to reproduce extended highs faithfully, a shallow soundstage, too syrupy and thick, lack speed and excitement as well as inarticulate bass. Then, I bought the MCH3SE-C7 (V2) and never looked back. Got everything I was looking for plus 5 more extra channels for my HT.Hope this helps,Kenobi
It'll be interesting to see whether I'll notice the much talked about "collaps" of the sound that so many have reported happening at around 100 hours or so, until the V3 boards regains their strength and are said to settle in no earlier than from 150 hours and beyond.
Last Sunday my Stereo 8.5V3 had approx 100 hours of music in it, and I found the sound had turned into being somewhat muffled and constrained, the soundstage lacking in size and a shortage of air and decay as well. Rather dull, actually. Yesterday midnight (at about 125 hours) clarity and precision had improved notably, and today the soundstage seems to have expanded. It's as if a thin veil is about to disappear, and everything is being tightened up (contrasted perhaps by the bigger soundstage), including the lower frequencies.
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