Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:19 pm

As promised, here are a few impressions of the rebuilt amp with the simplified power supply.
The simple power supplied amp, has a lower noise floor than the twin carb supplied amp I had before, but there's more to it than that and before you think I'm about to start on that "instruments emerging from an inky black silence" audiophile bullshit, you can rest easy. There's no such thing as inky black silence unless you live in the vacuum of space; no, what the ultra-low noise floor allows, is for you to better hear the silence behind whatever is going on in the recording.

Reverb tails or repeat echo effects decay naturally into the studio or venue space and can be heard to do so, even with louder instruments playing at the same time. Now when that happens, you get a far better sense of a human musical event happening between the speakers, which in turn, leads to greater involvement with the performance on the part of the listener, because the aural clues to the space, real or artificial are preserved intact.

This may sound somewhat abstract, but the ability of a piece of equipment to pull off this feat is paramount, if the sense of music happening in front of you is not to be compromised. I'm not talking about "detail" or any of that hi-fi nonsense; this is something else and once you are tuned into it, the absence of it becomes obvious. Now I've heard it, it has become a basic requirement for music reproduction. This NVA DIY build has that requirement nailed and not many amps I've heard have it down anywhere near as well.

So having had the basics laid down by the DIY NVA so convincingly, we can move on to the more concrete ablities of this piece of equipment. For example, solo piano is notoriously difficult for a piece of equipment to get to grips with due to the complexity of the overtones and harmonics the thing produces and the percussive nature of hammers on strings. The NVA preserves the harmonic structures of the instrument and the attack, sustain and decay, like nothing I've heard short of a top end SET amplifier. Hell, it makes my speakers sing like I've never heard them sing before.

You get piano, player, and hall, all interacting with each other to an extent that for all intents and purposes, the performer might as well be playing just for you. If, like me, you are trying to practice mindfulness and are only having limited success, the ability of this amp to take you into the centre of the performance will bring you right into "the Now" and keep you there with a disarming ease that is brilliant.

With groups of musicians, whether jazz ensembles, string quartets, full orchestras, choirs, rock groups or anything in between, you get the full picture of what is going on, and where. You can follow all of the instruments, all the time, hear the interactions on single take studio recordings and live performances and what's more, even to a non-musician like me, those interactions and harmonic relationships make sense, you hear not only the individual bits, but also how it fits together as a whole.
Those old Blue Note jazz records from the 50s and 60s seem to be lit from inside by some primal force.Lou Donaldson's Hammond driven sax workouts such as "Everything I do Gonna be Funky From Now On" are a case in point and hit the monkey bone right on.

On the soul front The Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" and "Law of the Land" ooze atmosphere and menace. Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" is complex and layered with bubbling bass synths, insistent hi-hats and funky brass stabs melding together into a funked up festival of sheer infectious joyfulness.

OK..now the superlatives are out of the way, you should be getting the general idea that I like this amp.....a lot.
The Doc's philosophy that all components get in the way of the music is an interesting one. Having heard for myself the effect of removing unnecessary components from the PSU, I think you absolutely have to take what he is saying, and has been saying for years, very seriously. The man is damned right and if that brands me as a "Dunn Disciple" in the eyes of the more mainstream hi-fi fora, then so be it. I don't give a monkey's, it's their loss and they are welcome to keep faffing with spikes, cable risers and magic fuses in their quest for something or other.

This is the first time I have ever reviewed a system and not mentioned bass, treble, midrange, detail, texture, speed, dynamics or slam; I didn't have to. Now that is quite interesting.
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:55 pm

For the arses at TAS, this is how to review with music, now do the same thing with fuses.

Alfi
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by Alfi » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:55 pm

With respect to quantifying the Doc's philosophy into your NVA build project and its "sound" a superbly articulated post Steve.

I have really enjoyed following both yours and Stu's projects and I wish I had your skills and knowledge in electronics. I've listened to music via a friends rebuilt Leak stereo 20 many years ago and I quite enjoyed the experience, this was during a period of owning Naim Olive amps. After this epiphany and not confident enough to move to valves, I sought to move away from the Naim thing via Avondale SS amps which were far superior to the Salisbury way - that served me well until I found NVA.

Making the move to NVA was the best thing I ever did regarding my hobby, specifically for the reasons you allude to in your report.

The Doc is to be saluted (Knighted really) for his knowledge and philosophy, despite all the abuse he's suffered for his beliefs for our satisfaction and enjoyment.


Thanks.

Alfi.
Heavily modified LP12, Sole VIII sub-chassis, "In Sole" advanced polymer suspension, Ai bearing, PU7, DV20X2, Norton Airpower clone. Technics SL110A, AT 1005, Denon DL301A. NVA Phono 2 MC (2 power supplies), NVA P50 SA, NVA A40 Mk1 power amps, custom birch ply Allison 6/NVA Cube 1 clones, NVA TIS mk2 , SSC, LS6.

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:45 pm

Yes,
I don't know what commercial NVA amplifier my 300VA 30-0-30 transformer powered DIY job would be equivalent to, but having used NVA amplification for around 18 months, the characteristics I set out above are certainly true of my A20 too; the DIY one just has more of them.

The SET revival of the late 90s was based on the same minimal component count philosophy. The saying among the pioneers of the revival was that if you took out a component and the amp still worked, then that was one component that shouldn't have been there in the first place. :lol:

Minimal componentry in SETs also shone a spotlight on the quality of each individual piece of the jigsaw, so that capacitor/resistor choices for example were/are important in the voicing of a project. The question you have to ask yourself with these components is: do you voice for the music, or do you voice for hi-fi?

Having now, become tuned in to the music reference criteria I can see with my own ongoing SET project that I have been voicing with hi-fi criteria rather than the music. You only have to put the two amps side by side in a comparison to realise this; it sticks out like a sore thumb.

When you have been set in a certain way of judging sound quality for nigh on 40 years, it comes as quite a shock to the system when you suddenly cotton on to the fact that you've been doing it wrong. My SET still *sounds* good , but it doesn't play music like the DIY NVA does; not by a long chalk.

The thing is, I can't blame expectation bias for the fact hat the NVA DIY amp beats my SET, because all I did with it was to build a power supply. The boards were already populated and all I did to that side of the equation was to solder in some output transistors and glue them down with heat conductive adhesive; IOW, not that much of myself was invested in the project compared to the SET.
Last edited by SteveTheShadow on Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Tue Apr 03, 2018 12:50 pm

The nearest comparison would be an A60. You have a bit bigger transformer.

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:35 pm

Niiiice! :dance:
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Thu Apr 05, 2018 5:25 pm

Made a nice little upgrade to the performance of the DIYNVA today, by subbing in a pair of 10,000uF, 80V, Supertech slit-foil electrolytics to replace the cheap 63V caps I had been using in the power supply.

https://www.hificollective.co.uk/compon ... itors.html

A bit more music is coming out of the speakers, even before the caps have fully burned in. The chief improvement is in the way low level backing instrumentation interacts harmonically. This gives a better relationship with the foreground instruments, leading to a better sense of "tune playing" as a whole.
The foundation of drums and bass underpinning the music is a little more solid and in command of the rhythm too.

Not bad value for £25 the pair, once p&p has been added in.
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:44 pm

For me a production cost increase of £20 for the benefit was not justified. I only tried the DNM split films way back.

Cheaper main caps and using bypasses was more cost effective.

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:50 pm

Yep,
In a production environment, as you say, the additional cost would not be justified, but as DIY'ers, we don't have that restriction fortunately.
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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SteveTheShadow
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Re: Another DIY SS Amplifier with NVA Boards

Unread post by SteveTheShadow » Thu Apr 05, 2018 7:07 pm

Mind you, we still need to be aware of possible overpriced bullshit parts
Just because one can fill a project with expensive components, doesn't mean one should.
DIY NVA amplification ( roughly equivalent to NVA A60) BTE Designs passive preamp, BTE Designs Lenco L75 turntable, Rega R200 arm, Goldring E3 cartridge, NVA Phono 1
Musical Fidelity M1 DAC, AppleTV4 with Apple Music subscription, ripped CDs streamed via WD MyCloud Home Duo NAS, with PLEX media server.
Speakers - Large sealed cabs, with Fane 12-250-TC 12" full range drivers.

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