This is the point on the list when your expecting a review of the NVA Phono 2. Dissapointingly due to a million other things going on I've done nothing more than verify it powers on. So that ones going to have to be revisted
Its also about time I put fingers to keyboard and reported on the NVA AP10P. And that I can do.
I bought this as part of my bedroom Headphone rig, so first a bit of background. I still run Squeezebox server for streaming and had Logitech Squeezebox radios. I'm still amazed how big the sound on these is from such a small utility box, and if I were listening over the speakers I probably wouldn't have changed it. However in the interest of not waking up on the sofa at 3 in the morning I decided to move my late night listening to the bed.
That meant headphones so as not to disturb the wife.
I started with my portable Bose QC15 hooked up to the squeezebox radio and quickly decided it was all a bit flat. Knowing the BOSE aren't the most musical headphones (i bought them mainly for their abilities on a plane) I purchased a decent pair of Denon closed back headphones, this helped. However the limitations of the radio used this way soon became evident.
Replacing the front end was an easy choice as I simply dropped a Raspberry PI 3 and official touchscreen into the equation, using a Hifiberry DAC+ and Picoreplayer Squeezebox front end. Powering it all was one of Docs reccomeded chinese linear PSUs.
However an amp was needed. Hence my first chance to try some NVA amplification.
The AP10H would be the obvious place to start but with the paltry difference in price between the H and the P it seemed a no brainer. Doc confirmed that the only differences are the speaker outputs on the P so one was duly ordered.
Day 1 I hooked this up using some Cambridge Audio cables I had lying around and off we go.
I found putting together words about the AP10P actually rather hard as its not what it does but what it doesn't do. The bass increased and became far taughter but I think that's more down to how poor the SB Radio headphone out is than how good the NVA is.
The best way I can see to describe it is open, coherent, unforced. I guess this is why everyone says NVA amps are musical. And I guess thats true, you sort of stop listening to the amp and listen to the music.
I kind of forgot about what its sounded like for quite a while, and then one day I realised it was starting to sound a little flat. A few weeks and couldn't quite decide why but it defiantly felt less enjoyable. It then occurred to me that I'd stolen the interconnects to use in a back to back comparison on my office rig to equalise the variables. Temporarily replacing them with a pair of those freebies that you get with most things.
Since that left me needing additional interconnects I figured why not order some NVA. A set of Super Sound Cords were duly ordered. I've only had them in the system for a day or so but the flatness seems to have gone.
Conclusion the AP10P is more sensitive to interconnects than I had expected.
Well the volume Pot occasionally does not increase both channels equally. I'm not sure if thats an issue or they all do that, but turning the knob down and then up again usually fixes it.
Worth mentioning is kit spacing. I've been chasing intermittent wireless drop outs on the PI for months, sometimes its so bad the music is unlistenable. I'd initially put this down to crappy wifi implementation on the PI3 however in a moment of inspiration remembered why Doc doesn't like racks, I had been sitting the PI on top of the AP10P. Could the non metal casework of the Amp be allowing the amp to interfere with the PI?
Temporary solution stick a box of tissues between them to add an inch or two of seperation to test it. Boom perfect wifi ever since.
New message from: philip2935 (1,308Red Star)
Thought I'd send you a photo of the NVA BMU unit purchased from you. It has rejuvenated my old Quad 909 and Artera Play and fitted into my Quad racking system perfectly. A significant improvement in sound quality for a modest outlay. All my old CD's have come out and am hearing things not heard before. Thanks for the fast delivery. I look forward to many years of use.
Hi all, I’m about 5 weeks into ownership of a P20 & A20 pre power combo.
Initial switch on was the first time in many many years/purchases that I actually felt a difference- yes felt as I smiled straight away- my ears were being treated to space within the sound stage, the music was clear, engaging and the level of detail in the subtitles was amazing.
I usually listen to vinyl sources, where most of my purchases have been- 3 turntables & counting, but have now found digital sources so much more pleasurable to listen too instead of just being background filler.- so much I’ve rescued my Meridian 203 CD player from the loft and set up Home WiFi for music only to serve an Apple box from pc/iPod then via an older Beresford TC-7510 to the P20. I’ve never given digital sources much attention so NVA has opened up a new medium to enjoy Thanks
I have added another A20 to biamp and better cable/interconnects, currently awaiting a P50 to arrive to ease biamping and then I will demo some cubes or a BMU.
It’s the first time that if anyone asked me to recommend a ‘hifi for them’ i can confidently say NVA- it’s where the music is
Digital Sources- Sony CDP770 & Apple Box3 to Beresford TC7510, iPhone 4s to music only WiFi
Amplification-NVA P50 & 2x A20
Speakers-Diy Cubes; Mid/bass- LS5; Tweeter- Ls1
Testing Mini BMU
The best compliment I can give is when I listen to Spotify through my system . There is a section called ' discover ' where Spotify selects music and artists based on what I already listen to . I used to go through the suggested artists and music based on whether I liked it or not and usually discounted most of what I heard . With the P20 / A20 in the system it's the other way round , most of the artists and music sound very good indeed and I save much more of what is suggested .
I have a few test tracks which I've used over the years such as Roxy Music's Avalon . It now sounds so much more relaxed and listenable since I started using the NVA amps . I now tend to listen to the full album now rather than the odd track here and there . I'm listening to Avalon as I write this , with much foot tapping and nodding of head Never sounded so good in the 30 odd years I've owned it .
Everything I play seems to sound so organic and I've never played so much music in years . The wife caught me dancing round the room a cuple of weeks ago . I only do it now when she's out
The Doc introduced the P20 AND A20 as a starter system , well it certainly doesn't sound like a starter system and at the price it's such good value for money . Before the year is out I will be taking advantage of NVA's upgrade scheme and will be purchasing some A40 monoblocks for even more musical satisfaction .
Unfortunately I wasn't able to listen to the P20 /A20 combo with NVA interconnects as I bought them both separately and I'm saving my cash for the A40s . I do however , have LS3 which a friend loaned me . Maybe get some Soundcords after the purchase of the A40 s if the upgrade bug doesn't strike again first
Unread post by eagwok33 » Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:57 pm
Finally, here are my impressions of listening to music with the NVA A80 MkI amps, which I purchased from Richard this summer:
The A80 MkI monos look very elegant in their black MkI acrylic cases and are definitely quiet, when connected to my 98dB efficient horn ls system. That is a big plus! In comparison, the NVA A20x in my system – as previously reported - produces a constant although low-level buzz, which can distract a bit from the musical enjoyment this little amp is capable of. During the day it is hardly noticeable, in the evenings though, when the noise level from the street and surroundings gets lower, the low-level buzz influences my musical enjoyment of the A20x.
A80 vs. A20x:
The A80 monos are overall in a different league with regard to their ability to reproduce recorded music. To my ears they are a marked step-up from the A20x in my enjoyment of my vinyl and CD collection. The A20x sounds more forward and nervous in my system in comparison and although very lively can’t connect me emotionally as much to the music played as the A80s do, when played at modest and higher volume levels (I come to this below). To be fair, when you consider the price difference (£1100 difference compared to a MkII pair), the - no longer made - A20x is definitely a very fine and entertaining amp and imo a big positive surprise for the money!
Back to the A80 monos: They present the music more effortless and with enjoyable rhythm and flow, which can trigger foot-tapping. (If you like African music and its rhythms, the LP of “Youssou NDour – Cheikh Lô Né La Thiass” will most likely cause it)
It is fun to listen to various kinds of music with the A80s in the system and just enjoy the music and the energetic performance of these amps. I often find myself listening to music louder than normal, as these amps shine in my system with the volume cranked up more. You know the kind of thing, when you start playing air-guitar listening to an awesome guitar solo (Jeff Beck – Brush with the Blues from the CD “Who Else!” for example)
Due to this quality, I listen to more Rock, Reggae and African music as well as drum and guitar solos with modest and higher volume levels lately and enjoy the driving rhythms of this music. The amps also have a great way in portraying the reproduced music in my room, with a more wide than deep presentation. Well recorded acoustic instruments sound natural with a kind of 3D feel to them. Voices are – when the recording quality is at least decent – presented very clear and the text of songs is easy to follow. One way for me to tell if an amplifier has a special quality, is its ability to involve me in listening when sitting in an adjoining room (for example working on the computer) with the door to my music room closed. With the A80 monos in my system, reproduced music is enjoyable and has energy, also when I’m not directly in the room!
Interestingly, and I assume due to the high-efficient partnering speakers, the A80 monos perform less impressive, when I listen at lower to low volume levels, for example later at night (preamp used with the A80s is my NVA P50sa). Then the music played has less contrast, less “color”, is a bit “harsher” sounding and does not grab me emotionally as much as when the same songs are played with modest or higher volume through my system. It feels as if the amps are playing a bit out of their “comfort zone”, when the attenuation on the P50sa is used too much. Keep in mind, these amps have not been designed in the first place to be the perfect partner for a 98dB efficient full range horn ls-system. (Will be interesting what Richard has to say in this regard). After having them for some weeks now, powered up 24/7, the amps improved noticeably at the late night volume setting and are now very enjoyable during such listening sessions.
That said, for the ultimate low-level music enjoyment with my horn ls-system and in my room, I prefer the magic of my flea-powered SE 2A3 tube monos and of my solid state DIY First Watt M2 amp. Of these two, it is the M2 which speaks to my soul more when played at listening levels the A80 monos love. Reproduced music has – to my ears – more “intimacy” and “fullness.” I feel more connected to the music and touched by it, with my M2 clone amp in the system than with the excellent NVA monos. The M2 makes me hum more with the songs I love (Marc Cohn, “Ghost Train” from his debut LP for example). The differences are small, but noticeable, when you listen for a longer time with either amp in the system.
M2 and A80 monos have their own signatures. The A80 monos are a bit “cleaner” sounding, and acoustic instruments sound a bit dryer and less colorful compared to the M2. The verve and energy of music are portrayed excellently with the monos. The M2 reproduces music with more air around the instruments, which completely lets the speakers disappear, when you listen with your eyes closed. To put it differently, with the M2, I feel more relaxed enjoying my music.
Keep in mind, however, that most of the Nelson Pass designed First Watt amps cost in the range of $3,000 to $4,000 new. The A80 monos (a pair of the latest MkII version costs £1,400) are wonderful amplifiers with plenty of musical enjoyment factor, and they represent superb value for the money. I assume the more so when mated to less (standard) efficient loudspeakers.
Clearly, this does not come as a surprise to you here in this forum, as many of you experienced the musical qualities of NVA products long before I did.
Paired with my horn ls system, the M2 is more versatile as it works great with active preamps and passive ones like the NVA P50sa. The monos really shine partnered with a passive pre (in my case P50sa) as this is what they primarily were designed for. Going this way, you will save plenty of cash for buying more music on vinyl or CD or investing more in a computer-based music system. A nice extra bonus!
Thanks to Richard for producing such fine amplifiers for real down-to-earth prices.
Considering what I paid for this used pair (of the A80 MkI version), I am very happy with these amps. Besides, they are great amps for the summer time as they run pretty cool compared to what I’m used to. Most important though, they reproduce music in a great way and I tend to play them – apologies to my neighbors - loud!
System - 1210 with Audiomods Series V Micrometer arm and Cartridgeman Music Maker Classic, Lounge LCR iii Phono stage
- SSP Mk2 - P50SA - TIS Mk1 - A80's Mk1 - LS5 - Larsen Model 4 speakers
Apart from the SSP and arm everything has been bought pre-owned with the TIS arriving this morning. Support from Doc when it's been needed has been exemplary, so hats off.
LP's cranked today:
American Nightmare - self titled (2018)
Bars - Introducing (2005)
Snuff - Said (1989)
Jets to Brazil - Orange Rhyming Dictionary (1998)
Descendents - I don't wanna grow up (1985)This album is pretty much perfect with Tony Lombardo's bass playing just driving it along
Naked Raygun - Understand? (1989)
In my room today playing these LPs everything was just so cohesive, it all just gelled, vocals that in the past were difficult to decipher were clear, bass lines flowed and the whole band turned out to just knock their songs out of the park. Even where the production is dated - looking at you Descendents - everything just popped.
I'm looking forward to plowing through more stuff
I bought a P20 preamp last year to use with my AVI DM5 active speakers. These are in my bedroom and I have an AV system in the living room using AVI Neutron 3s as the main speakers. I've been perfectly happy with everything and never planned to buy anything else, especially some passive speakers!
To be honest I've never liked the look of the Cubes but then noticed the new acrylic Cubettes. I kept wondering what they would be like but thought it would just be too much hassle to try some. I then saw the speaker weekend sale announcement. I resisted it until about 9pm Sunday evening then thought what the hell. Unfortunately I couldn't log into paypal with my phone (don't have a computer at home) so thought that was it.
However, when I got into work the next day I checked ebay and for some reason the sale had not ended so I placed the order.
Last Wednesday afternoon a large and heavy box arrived at work. The speakers were extremely well packed and protected. As I no longer drive I had to carry each speaker home on the bus separately in a smaller box, one on Thursday and one on Friday.
When I got home on Friday I thought I'd quickly replace the Neutron 3s with the Cubettes. I simply put them on the AV unit with just a thin cork coaster underneath for protection. The AV unit is also in front of a large 8ft wide window with a low cill so I was not expecting much.
Well, I pressed play and basically sat in my chair in disbelief. The sound was clear and full plus there was bass! As they were connected to my AV system I watched the TV with them on, something I rarely do as I find speech usually sounds a bit thin through the Neutron 3s. With the Cubettes everything sounded so natural.
The Cubettes were on all weekend with a mixture of TV and CD and I still can't believe how good they are. What amazed me was how they sounded so clear yet without making me wince on certain CDs. I've tried various CDs including drum & bass from LTJ Bukem and Adam F to Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush with some Marcus Miller and Status Quo in between. Every time I pressed play I just sat in my chair smiling.
I've yet to try the Cubettes in the bedroom system in comparison to my DM5s and this has given me a bit of a dilemma. I want to try them in the bedroom system as they would be on stands with their backs close to a wall but as the Cubettes sound so good where they are I'm now wondering whether to leave them there, even though their position I guess is not ideal. One thing I did notice was the cabinets vibrate and this could be felt through the TV unit which is an extremely heavy design. As an experiment I've ordered some thick oak plinths to put them on and I'm thinking of adding a layer of cork top and bottom to see if that makes a difference.
I've yet to re-calibrate my AV amp with the Cubettes although I have a feeling they might cause the amp's Audyssey software a problem, plus I'm not sure if they will work with a subwoofer. Thing is, I'm wondering whether to ditch the AV system as I don't really use it that much if I'm honest.
Anyway, still plenty of things to try and to say I'm happy with my Cubettes would be an understatement. If anyone is wondering what these 'Cube things' are like maybe give the Cubettes a go, you might be in for a big surprise.
The sale was too good an opportunity to miss with the trade in and thirty day return option. The Cube 3s are not lacking in bass, especially with the addition of TSCS, but the Cube 1s have taken things to a completely different level, especially with good recordings.
All was not right to begin with as the additional bass was over powering. Moving the speakers further from the wall, which I did not want to do, improved things to some extent but something was not right and it was more fundamental than the settling in process. It took a little while to deduce that the problem stemmed from the Qutest DAC. When I upgraded to TSCS, after the settling in period, it was necessary to change the filter setting to warm for the best balanced sound. This is not the case with the Cube 1s. I changed the filter setting back to the neutral one I had used for the Cube 3s with LS6 and what a transformation! Everything was suddenly in place, the bass was extended and well defined no longer dominating the rest of the music. The sound improved when I moved the speakers close to the wall, in the same position as the Cube 3s were, but toed in slightly more. With the tv stand pulled out a few inches they do not look more conspicuous.
I expected the more extended bass and greater sense of impact to come into its own with head banging music and was not disappointed. The bass drum on the title track of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell album had a level of excitement I had not experienced since seeing my friend’s AC/DC cover band performing it. I played Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality album, where Tony Iomi down tunes his guitar. With the Cube 1s Geezer Butler’s underlying bass lines are now totally distinct, increasing the musical enjoyment. Throughout the Rush albums on 24 Bit the interplay between Geddy Lee’s wide ranging bass notes and the guitar of Alex Lifeson is more clear.
The Cube 1s really shine with Prog, notably Steve Wilson remixes. I have played a number of Yes albums and am fully appreciating the talent of Chris Squire, Heart of the Sunrise being something of a revelation. Jethro Tull’s Aqualung also delivers more than before, the depth and impact of the bass really hitting home on Locomotive Breath.
Throughout the bass drum is being reproduced with a level of impact and clarity I have not experienced at home before, especially on the better recordings. Pink Floyd’s Run like hell has risen to another level, propelled by Nick Mason’s foot. The additional bass extension removes blurs between the bass drum and bass guitar which used to be apparent on many recordings. Elvis Costello’s Pump it up being a prime example.
This extral bass depth and definition is not only confined to digital. It was very noticeable on early Barclay James Harvest vinyl compilation. Had I played vinyl earlier I would have been aware of the inappropriate setting on the DAC and saved a lot of head scratching.
The benefits are also apparent through on the tv. An example is a sense of realism watching horse racing when the microphone is close to the rails. It pounding hoof beats remind me of when I am stood by the rails at a course.
The additional bass weight is apparent when well away from the speakers, which are facing ninety degrees away, in the oblong shaped room. We are appreciating the semi omnidirectional approach even more now we have a games table at the opposite end of the room.
A rock concert does not compare with a decent domestic hifi system in terms of finesse and clarity of music reproduction. What it does provide is a sense of impact and excitement. The Cube 1s go some way to bridging this gap, bar the visuals, in the home. What is most important for me is that they work close to the wall which shows it is all about the design and not the size of the mid/bass cone. I am very pleased with the upgrade and enjoying music as never before.
And northwest of Pegasus
Flew into the light of Deneb
Sailed across the Milky Way
NVA BMU, Sonore microRendu/McRU PS, AQ J-bug, Wirewold Ultraviolet, Chord Qutest, NVA P90SA, NVA A80sMk2, NVA Cube 1s, NVA TSCS, NVA TIS mk2. Rega Planar 3, Denon DL-110, NVA Phono 1, NVA SSP Mk2, Grado SR 325e, headphones, Chord Mojo.
Arcam Miniblink Bluetooth DAC, Marantz pm 5004, Wharfdale Diamond 121, NVA LS2.
Out and about
Oppo PM3, Audioquest Dragonfly Red.