Given reports that adding another power supply to the Phono 2 would reap rewards, I took advantage of the Docs Black Friday deal and ordered one.
I’ve had it for approximately a week now and put a goodly number of albums under my Denon DL310II stylus, so what can I report?
Well truth be told, everything everyone has said about adding it is true. In the Black Friday offer it was a steal, Doc won’t be doing that again!
Since adding it in to my system there appears to be more NVA - a greater naturalness and sweetness to the performance, more “air” or space between instruments & performers, extra width, depth and height to the soundstage and certainly a wider tonal & dynamic range - additional realism then.
The listener will hear more detail and information, what you previously thought was being masked, something partially hiding in the background is actually there now, clear as a bell! Jackson Browne’s “Stay” from the Running on empty album for example, where he quickly runs his finger along and up the keyboard. I could hear detail of individual notes here prior to adding the extra PS, but now the clarity of this quick run up the keyboard is breathtaking; as is the rest of my music.
The BBPSU must be bloody fantastic- if only I had the room and readies for that.
I can't remember how I found NVA. I have been an internet-hound from the beginning and I was truly surprised, that I had never visited this forum before, but one fine day by chance I ended up here. And then of course I went to the NVA site - and I liked what I saw. I like one man businesses and the internet should have provided many more of them - instead of the walled gardens and the concentration of the conglomerates, that we now have.
The Starter Set was of course a logical place to start. (And calling it that was a wonderful piece of home garden marketing on a par with the wonderful suggestion to Sony that they should use "From those wonderful people who gave us Pearl Harbour" - it would work today - but this was for their introduction to America many many years ago - and they said no.
Perhaps I should explain, that I am no beginner myself. I have loved music all my life, and caught the hifi virus over 30 years ago. I have always thought that the amplifier is the heart of the system. Yes, the speakers have to be right for your ears and your room (they have the decisive say), and when you find the right ones - don't ever give up on them, because then you will wander round lost in the hifi jungle (as I have done). But amplifiers have come and gone - last time I counted there have been over 30 - stretching over the whole financial spectrum - though never as inexpensive as the P20/A20+wires set.
Let's start with the wires. I liked them immediately. Simple no nonsense wires. They (both the interconnect and the speaker cable) did not look nor feel cheap and they sounded just fine - something to have and forget about. Perfect in other words. I actually thought the interconnect (NVA sound cord) was quite sexy and would have bought one more, if Black Friday hadn't turned up.
The P20 is a fine little box. The knobs have a nice feel to them and it just looks right in my set-up. I like the look of the black acrylic - quite distinguished (and yes I do also listen through my eyes). Passive pre-amplifiers are often accused of killing the dynamics (and I have had two before, which did exactly that) - but there is none of that here with the P20. Loud and clear - just passing the message along. And that message is then taken up by another quite small box- the A20. Again a wonderful visual design and minimalistic, which I like. I am convinced that someone has done a lot of thinking about design here - and the Apple crowd don't do it any better. My speakers don't go under 6 ohms, so the A20's 25 watts are easily sufficient - and I no longer listen at head-banging levels. The amplifier doesn't really get very warm - just nice to the touch - and I let it run 24/7.
Sound- you ask?
I want to write - A Clear and Present Danger - but the last word is wrong. But Clear & Present are right. My own terminology for this is "Monitor-Sound" - but I am far from sure that I am using the term correctly. What I mean is: If i was at a concert I would much rather be in the control room than the concert hall - as I want to hear a reduction in sound level and complexity - this reduces the cognitive load on my old brain and increases the enjoyment of my music.
I like clarity. I hate distortion. And this small NVA package lives up to these two demands. In spades.
And the price? That is just ridiculous. But of course there is a meaning to this madness. Who can stay with the starter set, when even better things are to be had?
There's the rub.
System 1 Lenco G88 t/t in custom plinth/Audiomods arm/Shure M97xE cartridge/Bantam One Integrated amp/Ruark Talisman 2 speakers and QLN Cubic3 speakers
System 2 Lenco G99 t/t in custom plinth/Audiomods arm/Audio Note IQ3 cartridge/Truth preamp/ Trancendent 300B monos/Klipschorns
I had to switch out the Transcendent amps for the Bantam when one of them broke down.
In system 1 the sound was crystal clear, open, dynamic and very, very musical. It all sounded very well balanced, no hint of grain or distortion anywhere. Only problem I had was some grounding buzz which was low level and not too obtrusive but never the less there.
I switched to my regular phono stage the Decware Zp3 for comparison. There was not a lot of difference apart from the ZP3 having no grounding issues.Bearing,
in mind the ZP3 is about £870 plus import duty and vat against £300 for the Phono 1. Remarkable to say the least!
In system 2 everything I heard in system1 was there but with much more dynamism and resolution. Which of course you would expect. The phono 1 was unfortunately buzzing wildly in this system to the point of being unlistenable. The ZP3 was fine.
This was a shame as the phono 1 was sounding fantastic.Bass full and tight, massive sound stage and very fast in presentation but also very, very musical.
What happened next was I received a NVA BMU which I bought as part of Richard's Black Friday deals.
Plugged it in and it tripped the electrics, reset and everything was fine.
Guess what.....the grounding buzz disappeared and a slight swishing sound I had always had in the system but got used to disappeared too! The BMU stepped things up another notch.....more dynamics, fuller bass, sweeter sound. This only lasted a short time as one of my amps packed up.....shit!
I then had to revert to the Bantam One after that but this is a very capable amp and underrated. This is a combination I could live with too. Everything sounds wonderful just lacking a little bit in resolution and sound stage.
Music I played included Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, Nova, L.A. Express,Miles Davis, Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Zakir Hussain,
Ella Fitgerald and others I can't remember off the top of my head.
So, in conclusion I think the phono 1 is a massive bargain at the price. Am I going to buy one? No....because I will be buying a phono 2 with extra psu. Imagine what that could do? I most likely will be trying some interconnects too I am that impressed with the NVA gear.
Thanks Richard for the loan, it's opened my eyes and ears. Oh and I really like the understated but elegant box it comes in!
Now a brief mention of the P20/A20 starter kit. Well this is a remarkable bargain at £300 and can't be beaten at the price point.
Sounded really nice in system 1 but with the grounding issue as described before. I wasn't able to use the BMU in this situation but assume it would have had the same effect it had in system 2. This is again a very musical set up (can't think of a better word)
I wasn't able to use this set up in sytem 2's location as the cables wouldn't have been long enough.
System 1 is in a cabin I am fortunate to have access to system 2 is in the house.
Sorry for the long post hope it hasn't bored you too much.
post by eagwok33 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 6:26 pm
David Whistance recently reported very accurately and competently about his experience with the TSCS vs. LS6. To give another perspective, here are my thoughts about these cables:
A little bit over a year ago, I purchased a pair of NVA LS6 loudspeaker cables via Richard’s ebay store. The LS6 in my system, connecting my DIY SE tube amps or DIY First Watt M2 clone with my 3-way horn ls system definitely shines; there is a plus in musicality, energy transfer of acoustic and electrically amplified instruments, more liveliness, room ambience and resolution in comparison to my long-term favorite ls cable, the Kimber 4TC. The Kimber in comparison sounds accurate but a lot drier and less musical as well as less energetic.
Now, the TSCS pair I ordered in November 2017 via the HFS forum (and which Richard made and sent to me the week before X-Mas) are definitely something special. Right from the start, I realized that the TSCS delivers more of everything in my system in comparison to the excellent and musical LS6. The strong point of the LS6 in my system definitely is the mid-range. The mid-range is slightly on the warmer side compared to the not burned-in TSCS, and this warmth makes music reproduction in my near field listening to my 3-way horn system especially pleasing. It’s like you are “bathing” in pure mid-range joy with the LS6!
From the start, the TSCS conveyed a more transparent reproduction of music, with more detail plus more stage width and depth, which in my system - to my ears - is the result of its exceptional resolution and fine detail in the treble region. In this area, the TSCS is definitely exceptional!
At the start, the TSCS in comparison to the LS6 felt more unforgiving to recorded material. So, records which are cut and recorded a tad hotter, like some of the “brass oriented” Blue Note Jazz LPs of the end 50s / early 60s, sounded more authentic than I was used to with my horn ls system. But clearly, a real-life brass section listened to in a near field environment sounds amazingly powerful. An indication that the brass sections in these legendary Blue Note recordings are rendered truthfully by the TSCS!
(On my New Orleans trip some years ago, I walked twice with a Second Line, so had the brass-section near-field live experience -> this was unforgettable regarding the dynamics of music, especially brass instruments, in real life! )
After now three weeks with listening one to four hours a day, I can report that the TSCS has improved further (the listening for the last two weeks has been without my NVA phono 2 as it is currently being converted by Richard to the MC version; so, the only NVA product in my current chain is the ls cables). The TSCS is by all means a fantastic ls cable.
To my ears, it is definitely a big improvement over the excellent LS6. The TSCS is the best ls cable I have heard in my system - of that I’m certain. You get more real life from your LPs and CDs played through your system with the TSCS in the chain. Acoustic instruments are portrayed with this natural ambience, which makes listening to music so captivating. And the biggest improvement the TSCS brings to the party I call “atmosphere” of the music reproduced. The musicians seem to be with you in the room and live recordings sound more alive (e.g. LP, Ryan Adams - Live at Carnegie Hall). There is a “breathing” of/between the musical notes played (I can’t describe it better), which is kind of “spooky real” -> this is so cool!
For example, to listen to piano music with this cable is just magical and pure joy (e.g. Beethoven piano concert No. 5 - “Emporer” Concerto, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Wiener Symphoniker / Guilini, DG 2531 385, Live Recording).
To sum up:
For the money, the LS6 is a bargain and a tip for every music lover who wants to improve the musical qualities of his system. And it doesn’t have to be an NVA system.
The TSCS though is definitely a further improvement. Is it worth roughly 2.5 times the price? For me a clear yes, as the improvement is noticeable – you only need to listen to a good piano recording (see above) with a system with high resolution and compare both cables then you will understand the difference between the superb valued LS6 and the amazing TSCS. As I want to listen to my preferred music as lifelike as possible, for me the TSCS is a logical upgrade, no doubt! In the so-called “high end audio world of diminishing returns” the TSCS is an exceptional and truly musical performer – a real keeper!
For everyone, who seriously is into audio and has a resolving system, the TSCS and its musical qualities are a must have. Period! So, consider exploring it for yourself.
by dwhistance » Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:52 pm
With the Phono 2 with its extra power supply now on the way back to the Doc its time for my “review”, I'm sorry it is so long. The review was essentially done in two parts the reason for which will become apparent.
To start with my setup was: Garrard 401 turntable with Graham 2.2 tonearm and Ortofon Kontrapunkt cartridge playing into either the NVA Phono 2 (with both power supplies) or my Dynavector P75 (in “enhancer” current drive mode), modified Quad 34 preamp, Threshold S200 power amp driving Reference 3A Episode BE loudspeakers. Cables were Graham IC70 between tonearm and phono-pre, Hovland between phono and preamp, SC between pre and power and then the loaner TSCS to the speakers. As my aural memory isn’t that reliable I switched between the two phono stages regularly (keeping both powered up) so that it was easy to compare one with the other.
I used a broad selection of music including classical stalwarts; Sibelius - Finlandia, Prokofiev - Lieutenant Kije, Elgar - Cello Concerto, jazz; Ben Webster – Blue Light, Kenny Drew Trio – Morning, Miles Davis – Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck – Take Five, and pop; Ricky Lee Jones – Girl at her Volcano, Dire Straits – Dire Straits, The Neville Brothers – Yellow Moon, Paul Simon – Graceland, John Lee Hooker – The Healer, Eric Clapton – Unplugged.
My initial feeling was somewhat non-committal in that whilst the Phono 2 was clearly a competent phono stage it wasn’t exceptional and certainly wasn’t what I was expecting from the very many positive reviews on HFS. Whilst it undoubtedly had better bass and treble than the P75 and therefore gave a much more convincing soundstage with well recorded albums it sounded somewhat lacklustre with some of the more complex music, particularly the classical pieces and the Neville Brothers. The latter also seemed a bit “slow”, so much so that I didn’t even try Paul Simon’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” with its complex rhythms.
At this stage, in my system, I preferred the P75 overall. I was therefore ready to return the Phono 2 together with the TSCS which was needed for a demo. However as luck would have it I messed up the courier booking for the TSCS and phoned the Doc to apologise. He was relaxed about the courier but straight away asked how I was enjoying the Phono 2. Slightly embarrassed I explained my thoughts. Knowing that I use a non-NVA system Doc asked about my preamp and suggested that a “passive” might lead to better results. Now it just happens that I had a P50SA sitting unused in a box in my workshop so, as there wasn’t anyone waiting for the Phono 2, we agreed that I would hang on to it over the weekend so that I could try it with the passive pre.
Now the system was essentially the same as before but with the Quad 34 replaced by the P50SA. I also changed the Hovland interconnect for SSP. Also the TSCS were no longer in the system having being returned to the Doc and were replaced by my regular LS6. However despite the loss of the TSCS the Phono 2 was now a totally different beast and well worthy of the praise that has been lavished on it on HFS. The soundstage was huge with magnificent bass. I heard details in tracks I know well that I have never heard before despite my having owned a number of expensive, very well reviewed, turntables and phono stages in the past. Listening to The Neville Brothers Yellow Moon it was as if I was seeing/hearing all of them in the studio. The Sibelius and Prokofiev were also now fantastic – full orchestras in the room with me. I even played Rhythm of the Saints which was great, as good as I have ever heard it! My only gripe is that I could have done with a bit more gain as I was right at the end stop on the volume control on occasions. I don’t know whether this is something that the Doc can change, I suspect it may be?
So to conclude after changing out the preamp for a “passive” I really loved the Phono 2 and will have to add it to my list of future purchases, albeit after the TSCS which I still think of as magical. Clearly the P50SA, being much more transparent than the Quad allowed the Phono 2 to show its true colours. However I won't be using it in my system as my listening seat is slightly off centre and the single volume control on the P50SA cannot help correct for this. The P90SA can though. I just wish the Doc would make both the Phono 2/3 and indeed the P90SA in a finish other than black acrylic, if he did I would buy them both straight away. I do understand the benefits of the acrylic and the NVA boxes undoubtedly look smart, however they have a very different aesthetic to everything else in our living room which makes them much harder to purchase than the sound quality alone would suggest.
I meant to say one more thing in my "review" above - the Phono 2 reminded me why for years I regarded CD and even SACD as a secondary source to vinyl, the sense of air and space combined with the feeling you can almost reach out and touch the performers provided by a good vinyl system is in my opinion still beyond what can be achieved by a similarly priced digital one. It is no doubt the result of the many resonances inherent in vinyl replay and as such a "colouration" but it is incredibly enjoyable nevertheless!
by southall-1998 » Sun Jan 21, 2018 12:37 am
I've been using Sound Cord Interconnect cables, on my humble headphone listening rig. (Since 2014)
As for their sound. At first, I found the Sound Cord slightly lean and brightly lit. But not in any intimidating way! After listening for a while. I came to the realisation that they sound decent, and can equal cables costing £150-200. For beer money your getting a decent cable, that gives you a good ''live'' raw sound.
I also like Sound Cords. For their fit and forget style. No silly thrills happening here, just simple average Joe!
by Hemmo1969 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:24 pm
Looking to upgrade my 'analogue side' interconnect sometime in the near future so thought I'd take Doc up on his kind 70cm TIS 'Loan offer'.
Listened to a few albums whilst warming the system up to listening temp (ouch audiophile bollocks spoke already but for crucial comparison between my old cable (Mark Grant GH1500HD) and the very smart looking NVA 70cm TIS connector, I chose the rather fantastic Laura Marling - Semper Femina (released October 2017) Vinyl LP. In particular the first three tracks…. Soothing / The Valley / Wild Fire.
The TIS doesn't take long to show it's differences between my usual cable, there's a sense of the music being slightly louder (I check the volume) but I'm certain I haven't messed with the volume? (I haven't) But on the second and then third track I can hear that its certain elements of the track(s) that are easier to perceive. Vocals are a little more forward in the presentation, not overpowering or bright just better, I can hear the lyrics with more clarity (ever had that "Ohh that's what she's been Singing" moment) one or two words really pop out as new to me.
Musically there's little different in its overall presentation than my usual Mark Grant but I'm finding with more listening that the rhythm track (background) is also easier to pick up and follow. Violins or acoustic guitar….. the pluck of a double bass also comes in with a sharper front edge (Transient?) which I like.
Altogether a more focused listen, I do like being able to see 'behind' the singer to instruments being played and the extra information in the vocals is quite welcome. I may well measure up and buy a short run between Phone amp and my P50sa Pre.
My impression was that the BMU tightened the sound up and it became a little more forceful. However there was a slight hardness that made for less relaxed listening. Gains in precision accompanied by a slight loss in soundstage and nuance. Some fine detail (harmonics) and musicality was lost. Tighter bass but less nuanced. Removing the BMU sound felt more relaxed and the more open and nuanced bass notes returned. Maybe a little more sloppy sound but more to my taste. The tighter harder presentation certainly wiped out some of the gains in CD sound afforded by the Beresford DAC making it more 'digital'. Maybe something did not agree with my amps which have exceptionally low output impedance? Maybe faults elsewhere being revealed? Anyway at this point I think without the need to sort mains issues my money will be better spent elsewhere, probably on cable upgrades. As the Doc says it is suck it and see with this piece of kit.
I will add that the BMU is extremely heavy and large. However the black perspex is very attractive so this will look far better than alternative products on the market while blending in with other equipment, especially NVA.
Post by Simon Hickie » Wed Feb 07, 2018 4:24 pm
NVA BMU REVIEW
During the loan period, the BMU was used in two different valve based systems. System 1 was my system with an Icon Audio EL34 based amp, modded Allison Six speakers and Raspberry Pi with Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC. System 2 included a Trafomatic 300B based amp, Impulse Audio Lali horn speakers and a Jolida DAC.
A range of test material was used on both systems with the emphasis on well recorded albums. In short, the BMU made a clear difference on both systems with a number of obvious benefits.
The bass and midrange gained extra weight in both cases giving the sound a greater sense of solidity but without the negative connotations associated with this such as wooliness, boom or bloat. In other words, the bass and midrange was still appropriate to the music being played.
The music also seemed to come from a blacker background in the sense that the leading edge of the transients was more evident rather than being a little submerged in the rest of the mix.
The overwhelming impression was that instruments and voices sounded more natural and unforced. This was particularly evident on the Kari Bremnes track ‘Birds’ where the string bass sounded particularly authentic.
Turning to some classical material, I felt that on Saint Saens organ symphony the strings sounded more ‘string like’ and the big tune in the fourth movement carried more weight and sparkle than without the BMU in situ.
The impact on sound stage was less easy to identify. The Allison Sixes project a soundstage well above the line of the speakers anyway and it’s also quite recording dependent. The Impulse Lali based system also puts out a soundstage that’s well above and behind the speakers with little sense of listening to a less well set up point and squirt system. Overall, I’d say that this was the area where the BMU had least impact, although in my case I’d say the soundstage still rose a foot or so further with some (not all) vocals higher still.
With the BMU taken out of the system, the sound seems ‘flatter’ with reduced dynamics, less weight, sparkle and separation. Put simply, the BMU makes music more ‘musical’, unforced and natural.
So in summary, would I buy one? In my case, this is a little moot. There are currently significant pressures on the household budget thanks to more work than we had hoped on the new property. I’m also rejigging my camera kit with much buying and selling of bodies and lenses. They say that the true cost of something is the alternative that you forego. The cost of the BMU nearly buys me a wide angle zoom for architecture photography. I suspect, however, that next December when the evenings are long I might wish that I’d gone for the BMU instead of the lens.
Post by SteveTheShadow » Wed Jan 31, 2018 12:14 am
I bought an NVA A20/P20 starter set six months ago and was gobsmacked at the sound quality and it did sterling service in my system for a couple of months until the itch to go valves again became too much to resist and I built myself a low power single-ended triode amplifier.
Now the thing is, I am in love with the single ended triode sound, love the simplicity of these devices and the sheer musicality of the sounds they produce. I had modded and modded and improved the SET and was going to rehouse the whole shebang in another, better, case and properly incorporate all the mods I had done to it. To facilitate this I reintroduced the NVA A20 into the system so that I could work on the SET and still have nice sounds in the living room, whilst I was doing it.
What I was totally unprepared for was the sheer brilliance of the sound that came out of my speakers. Now to put this all into context, I had built a pair of my own semi-omni speaker designs, that whilst sounding very good indeed, were just a little bit "safe" sounding and though quite neutral, were tending towards blandness. I subsequently improved them, by increasing the tweeter output relative to the main driver, so that the sound became much more "live" and better balanced top to bottom.
I had done all of this, using the SET as the testing amp and the SET had been voiced with reference to the original sound of the NVA A20. What I hadn't done at the time, was test the speakers with the NVA itself. I had just used the SET and was thoroughly enjoying the clarity, dynamics and believability of the presentation especially as it was only putting out 4Wpc.
So, now that the NVA A20 had been reintroduced to the system, what was I to make of things? Well it was quite an eye-opener, to be perfectly honest. Clarity, dynamics, believability, musicality and sheer midrange magic were there in spades and the top end was just gorgeous; clear, detailed and without a trace of hardness or nastiness.
Now all this NVA excellence revealed by the improved speakers has put me in an awkward position. The music is so good, and the A20 is so easy to live with that I am yet again, for the umpteenth time, questioning myself as to whether I want to press on with the valves. I could spend a fortune on exotic output transformers and boutique components, but that would be hard to justify, when the NVA amp sounds so blinking fantastic.
I'm now retired and am sort of putting together a "final" system to take me into my dotage and I am seriously questioning the need to spend vast sums, when for far less money and messing about I could move up the NVA range of electronics and just concentrate on playing with my speaker systems.