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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Thu May 10, 2018 11:54 am


A20 love
by CycleCoach » Thu May 10, 2018 11:16 am

This is a review, well sort of.

It’s taken me quite a while to get my thoughts in order since I took the plunge and ordered a “starter pack” of P20/A20 and cables, and I’ll be honest I’ve spent a lot of the spare time in between listening to music rather than preparing to write this.

I need to rewind a bit. After an extended hi-fi free period (caused by kids and their destructive fingers, followed by their sporting aspirations which took up all my spare time,) I dragged my old stuff out to see what I had.

Basically I used to have the “old favorite” LP12 (Lingo, Ekos, Troika) with Naim NAC 32/5 NAP 135s and a pair of Isobariks. The speakers were U/S thanks to toddler tweeter pokage, so I found an old pair of Rogers LS4a in the loft to use instead.

The one thing I was determined about is that I didn’t want to go for analogue again. Why? Well for one thing there was a day when my brother visited with a portable mini-disc player and I fed it through the system (I had a spare input for a Walkman Pro) The compressed MP3 files sounded BETTER than the turntable. It was the beginning of the end for my analogue obsession. Add a couple of house moves into the mix and other things became more important.

I started listening to my laptop through a cheapo NAD amp and looking on t’internet for information. The first thing I noticed was that Hi-Fi isn’t such a big deal anymore, it seemed to be more centred on willy waving about expensive esoterica ownership. I started using the Naim amps again at this point.

Long story short, I happened on HFS and asked a couple of questions. Mostly the replies were surly to start with (I now know there is history – but I knew nothing of all that stuff then!)
In the end I was encouraged to try the A/P 20 starter set on a 30 day trial. Nothing to lose so why not? But how could it possibly sound better than my beloved Naim (which I had paid £4k+ on?)

And the conclusion?

The lil’ combo blew the Naim stuff away. Really. There was a clarity I had never experienced before. I was used to what I can only describe as a certain “graininess” to the sound, but this was absent. In the past I was constantly turning the volume up in a misguided attempt to hear through the mix – this was no longer necessary. I never felt that there was a shortcoming in the power stakes either – this went plenty loud enough for me. The sound wasn’t perfect though there was a tizz in the treble and plumminess to the sound which I blame squarely on the Rogers speakers with their BBC style crossovers and metal tweeters.

Longer term things have moved on quite a bit, I acquired a P50sa on eBay, along with a pair of Cube 1s and LS6 speaker cable from friends here on HFS, and this week some SSP Mk2 interconnects. On the front end I splurged the £4 to try the mysteriously wonderful Chinese DAC (now with matching power supply (details of this elsewhere,)) but for the time being the A20 is still the heart of the system.
On paper this should be a bit of a mismatch but it is a testament to the little amp that it more than holds its own in this system – I’m never thinking about it like I was about those crappy speakers, It just does its job. It does its job exceedingly well, and I have been able to hear the improvements of each change in the system clearly.

I wish I had taken the plunge earlier, but hesitated, even though NVA offers a 30 day no quibble return policy (I wanted to hear before buying I guess,) but now you can even trial the loan set of the world-beating little combo in your own home, so even that tiny hurdle is removed. I really couldn’t recommend this amp more highly.

Current System: Macbook Pro, Starting Point Systems DAC 3, NVA P50SA, NVA A20, NVA LS6, NVA Cube1

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Sun May 27, 2018 9:52 pm

A20x experience
Post by eagwok33 » Sun May 27, 2018 9:28 pm

Finally, here are some impressions of my new A20x amp. The A20x was at first supposed to replace the A30 according to the Doc’s info. In the meantime the Doc changed his mind as the A20x was apparently not an improvement over the A30 and the A20x will not be produced anymore. Anyway, as it is the first NVA amp I own, I will let you know what it did musically in my system.

Well, it is a neat looking little amp for only £326 (incl. shipping). One could judge the amp by size and price, but this would be a big mistake! Why? Because, this little amp performs surprisingly well, when connected to my high efficient (98dB) and easy to drive Haigner horn loudspeaker-system. (My experience with higher gain amps – various chip amps for example - on my horn system has not been so great so far).

I started my listening sessions with the A20x after about 24 hours of having the amp just powered on in my system. Paired with my DIY passive pre amp the A20x was fun from the start, with a lively and energetic way to play music. As the gain of this little amp is quite high, I could use just the 6 to 9 o’clock range of the volume pots of my preamp. Beyond that range the music played became so loud via my horns that I feared my nice neighbors, who live in the apartment above us, would no longer be our friends. ;)

I’d like to state that lately I changed the Alps Blue stereo potentiometer to Nick’s (lurcher300B) recommendation of the mono version of the Tocos Cosmos carbon track potentiometers. This has been a clear improvement to my ears and results in more foot tapping during listening sessions. :) So, a big thanks to Nick for his tip! :clap: (I use a pair of 20K log type ones for my DIY passive pre).

During the first two weeks in operation (I left the amp continuously on), the performance of the A20x improved noticeably. At the beginning, the sound of the amp was closed-in in the mid-range, especially when listening loud and the amp sounded more forward and in your face, in comparison to the amps I normally use in my system.

Just to let you know, where I’m coming from:
I listen mainly in the near field of these full-range horns, i.e. the distance is about 2.7m. I always have loved the sound of low-powered SET amps connected to my horns as there is a magic in the mids and treble of such amp designs to my ears, and an openness, speed and fluidity in the reproduction of music, which I truly love and admire. One can get easily addicted to that... 8-)

Transistor amps can be superb but are different in this area to my ears and normally not as magical. But as always, there is a trade off with most low-powered SET amps in my experience and this is the bass slam and the overall dynamic impact of the music, also when mated with efficient speakers. For example, when I'm listening to a great rock band – let’s say Led Zeppelin - at very loud levels with my 2A3 SET monos in my system, the slam and dynamic impact of the lower registers is kind of missing.
I have heard some low-powered SETs with massive output transformers and well executed low impedance power supplies made from experienced tube amp builders, which can deliver the slam in the lower registers and the overall dynamic of music, but such amps are rare and, honestly, at this stage, I’m not experienced enough to build them.

This said, my current reference amp is the M2 clone amp, a DIY project I have done with a friend of mine, who suggested building two of these amps, one for each of us. This M2 clone is based on a First Watt = Nelson Pass design and is a class-A transistor amp, with an auto-former as voltage gain stage and a push pull Mosfet output stage. This amp is rather low in gain (14dB) and fits well to high efficient speakers. My M2 clone amp is very fluid, balanced and musically pleasing (connects you well to all kind of music played). It is dynamic, has bass slam (no wonder, it has 2x 320VA transformers in the ps) and is very quiet in operation when connected to my horns. My SE tube amps still have the edge in sheer treble magic, but listening to music through my M2 clone with my NVA phono3 / BBPSU is so much fun, that I don’t care about the tube magic the M2 can’t do. :dance:

Back to the A20x – as the review is about this amp :)
Regarding musicality, drive and dynamic shadings of reproduced music, this little amp is a real positive surprise after it is run in. :) It is more forward and rough sounding than the M2 clone, but with its lively and fluid reproduction of music the A20x is a fantastic bargain for the money! On many recordings, instruments are reproduced with energy and verve and make me smile. The A20x has a more energetic way of reproducing music fed from vinyl or CD than the M2. And for this entry level amp, the bass performance is astounding! Of course, the M2 has more weight, authority and slam but the liveliness of the NVA amp’s sound results in a well tuned bass for sure. :)

If the recording is on the hotter side - as some of the brass sections on Blue Note Jazz records - this liveliness and energetic performance can be too much, though and the music reproduced over my horn ls-system in the near-field then becomes a bit too nervous and forward sounding, which makes it harder to follow the message of such music.

But hey, the amp has cost £300 (plus shipping) and has been designed as an entry level NVA amp. This said, the performance of the A20x is a bit of a miracle to me. :clap:

The only downside is a slight hum the amp produces connected to my high efficient horns, which you can hear from the listening seat in quiet passages of classical music for example or when no music is playing. (The hum increases somewhat with turning the volume up). It is not transformer buzzing as these small transformers are dead quiet in operation. It is a hum the amp produces also when connected to the speakers alone (but then lower in level), i.e. without the preamp (amp inputs shorted with cinch plugs). I assume this hum is audible, due to the amp being connected to high efficient speakers. In comparison to the A20x, my M2 clone amp is a lot quieter connected to the horn ls-system.

Taking into account, how much I invested in parts and chassis alone for my M2 clone amp - I would say roughly 3 times more than the price for the A20x – the money / performance return is by far smaller than the price difference! Ok, the M2 is the quieter, more musical and natural sounding amp plus has more heft in the bass department, but the A20x with its lively and energetic reproduction of music comes very close to this. The price / performance ratio of the A20x is definitely superb and a real challenge to beat!

A20x and P50sa:
Paired with the P50sa I bought recently from Derek (Klimangelis) all I said before about the A20x remains valid. On top of that, you get slightly more musicality as the synergy of the NVA combination comes through fully. :-) Richard choose the resistor values on the stepped attenuator of the P50sa very well as the high gain of the amp on my horns is a lot better under control with the stepped volume attenuator, than with my DIY passive pre with log potentiometers. What I mean, is the range of volume I listen with the P50sa is wider (from 6 to 12 o'clock in my system compared to 6 to 9 o'clock with my DIY passive pre). So, it is easier to set the volume for lower levels of music replay.

Still, the gain of the amp remains too high connected to my horn speaker-system. This means, the steps beyond 12 o'clock are for my taste too big to really enjoy the amp fully. One or max. two further volume steps result in most cases in a too loud music replay! :( So, beyond 12 o’clock, more and smaller resistor steps would be ideal for the A20x given my listening environment with high efficiency on the loudspeaker side. I’m sure for not so efficient speakers the gain of the A20x will be exactly right.

To sum up the musical performance of the A20x / P50sa combination:
The pre / amp combo shines in the mids and with its sweet treble reproduction. So, well recorded classical music and especially string music is a joy to listen too. :-) For example, some of the wonderful ASMF / Marriner / Argo recordings are a delight with this pairing. The liveliness and vividness of the reproduced music is a strong point of the A20x as it connects you well to most of the music played through the amp. On hotter recorded records, some Blue Note Jazz records as explained above or not so great recordings (for example Norah Jones – Broken from the LP “Not too Late”), the tendency to reproduce music a bit too nervous and forward sounding remains also true for the combination of P50sa /A20x (compared with P50sa / M2 clone).

So, what is my conclusion regarding the NVA A20x:

I learned that
• an amp doesn't have to be Class A to sound great 8-) This is good news especially for hot summer
days as the produced heat of Class A amps in summer is not so pleasant!
• never judge an amp’s performance by its size
• a minimalist design and expert knowledge of the designer plus his love for music are key
ingredients for a superb sounding amp :clap: and finally
• an amp doesn't have to cost a lot to connect you with your music 8-)

Enjoy your music,

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Wed May 30, 2018 11:02 pm

Re: TSCS Loan 2.5m
by Stemcor1990 » Wed May 30, 2018 10:51 pm

Time for the review.....

Firstly, they look like a top of the range product. A very elegant silver braid finish and a bit thicker than my LS6. There’s really not much else to say. Just plug them in and listen.

Listening is where it gets interesting. The cables are not a night-and-day change. I think that my system has become too sophisticated for any change to make a significant improvement. What the cables manage is to make recorded instruments sound a bit more like real ones. I’m currently having something of a telecaster fixation (I won’t bore you with the details) and have found myself listening to some status quo during their transition from psychedelia to boogie. The cables just make that telecaster sound that bit more realistic. To be honest, this applies to all instruments and for me that’s good enough.

Vocals are rather good as well. Listening to Billie Holiday as I’m typing this and you can hear her voice on the edge of falling apart on Lady in Satin. One of the things I have noticed is that a good system makes some singers sound worse as you can clearly hear how badly they are singing ! I’ll let Ms Holiday off on that one. However, it can become quite engaging and enhances the “performance”

So I’ll end by saying that I have taken advantage of Green Wednesday and ordered a pair. If you are considering an upgrade then a pair of TSCS are worth considering and might be a better purchase than a bigger amp.

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Sun Jun 03, 2018 5:33 pm

SSP,SSC, Chinese Dac and Allo Digione player
Post by Lordie82360now » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:22 am

NVA Super Sound Pipe, Super Sound Cord, Chinese Dac and Allo Digione player

I am not so sure I know my Kernal from my elbow (I know I don’t) but my recent purchases of an Allo Digione player, SSP, SSC and cheap Chinese Dac have rekindled my interest in this hi fi “hobby”.
Not since hearing my first system in the early seventies have I been taken aback by the musicality of the sound presented by these components.

I have had a frustrating time trying to settle on a musical streamer with an intuitive app for control from iPad or iPhone, preferably the former - with a larger scene for older eyes. I have been through a number of examples over the last two years, but I really think the Allo Digione with Volumio 2 is the one (Hurrah shouts my wife!)

The digital coaxial 50cm Super Sound Pipe from NVA has been a revelation since direct connection to most of the former streamers and my Quad Vena with built in Dac. It is smooth, articulate and with a lack of fatigue making listening to music a renewed pleasure. The former, mainly Atlas interconnects, didn’t tame a “tizzyness” in the treble, but the SSP ironed that out completely.

The addition of a cheap Chinese Dac advocated by Richard and a pair of 70cm Super Sound Cords again from NVA via Quarknosis on Hi Fi Subjectivist (Thanks Quark) while bypassing the Vena’s dac has taken things to another level. It’s hard to quantify, but it just sounds even better to my ears and that’s what counts in the grand scheme of things. How can that be?
The only trade off is I have to increase the volume control slightly higher to achieve an equivalent sound level pre Chinese dac insertion.

The inclusion of an Ifi Power Supply for the Digione player is the most recent development, but I haven’t had time as yet to evaluate whether it makes a further improvement. The original Allo power supply now is attached to the Chinese Dac.

The Allo Digione player is the easiest way of getting all that is good from the Raspberry PI 3 with the minimum of fiddling about and is plug and play - just what I needed.
Volumio 2 is also great being user friendly on my iPhone although it doesn’t work with my iPad mini, a first generation machine, so that will have to be replaced. Doh!
It’s a great bit of kit and hopefully its the end of my quest for a digital source. Perhaps an aluminium case is the next move?
The combination with the NVA interconnects is a winner!

One word of warning - If you are impatient (it was out of stock on Volumio’s European shipping option at the time) like me and you import it direct from India - Import duties and a Fedex admin fee on top of postage are steep!
Digital Source: Allo Digione player, volumio 2, cheap Chinese Dac, Raumfeld Connecter 2, Ipad mini, Audirvana on iMac.
Amplifier: Quad Vena combined amp/dac
Interconnects: NVA Soundpipe 2, NVA SSC and Supra optical.

Headphones: Soundmagic sp150
Speakers: Quad S1, modded Rega Kyte and NVA LS1.

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Sat Jun 23, 2018 10:24 pm

Nick Hayles
9:56 PM (23 minutes ago)

LS6 Review by annalogg

I am currently living in a one bedroom flat on a main road close to central London so the noise threshold is not that low. A lot of my hi-fi is in storage so I am mostly listening to MP3s from my laptop into a Channel Islands DAC via a wi-fi server. The amp is an AP80, interconnects are SSP2 and I was using LS5 to connect to Cube 1s. I recently replaced the LS5 with LS6 so here are my impressions.

I have lived with the LS5 for about 5 years and been really happy with the end result, A upgrade from Royd Apex to Cube 1s put a big smile on my face a few months back and I felt I was close to as good as it gets (for an MP3 based system). There were times when it seemed as if the performers were in my bedroom next door and someone had opened a window into the lounge. Then I chopped the LS5 for LS6.

No argument - the improvement was immediate and obvious. Difficult to explain without employing the usual cliches but I will try. Music is more involving - it sounds live - er. I find myself constantly picking out hidden nuances in vocal phrasing that didn't strike me before. Treble sounds ring out without being shrill.

Welcome to Acousticville is a live Janis Ian track from Hunger. Janis is now in the room performing a few feet in front of me. It's very much a story with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Although I could hear every word before I now seem to get a better sense of what the lyrics mean and how the story unfolds. There is so much more clarity. The song is no longer just a pleasant ramble. There is a solo guitar break at about 4:40 mins which lasts about 1 1/2 mins. It is one of the finest live acoustic guitar solos you will ever hear: it was always exceptional but the first time I heard it through the LS6 it really "raised the hairs" and literally set me shivering. I can sense and appreciate the strength in her fingers as she gives her Martin D18 a serious plucking.

So in conclusion, in my opinion LS6 is a well worthwhile improvement on LS5 and I can't wait to get my turntable set up again and listen to some real music.

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Unread post by evilC » Sun Jun 24, 2018 10:20 am

AP10H to JS with SA and double PSU
First of all, I am (was) not a big headphone user. I use Grado 325’s for late evening listening. This was using CD or DAC headphone outputs, which was OK but did not change my mind about preferring speakers over headphones.
My main music source is now computer based and my new DAC does not have a headphone output, so I bought an AP10H. What a revelation. Now this was what I had hoped headphone listening would be like. Detail, pace and timing to give greater insight into the music.

Then came the opportunity to acquire a JS with SA and double PSU. After several days running in and listening to it improving I noticed that I was listening for extended periods and was less worried about any discomfort wearing the headphones for so long.

Switching back to the AP10H I thought ‘This sounds very good, I could live with this’. Putting the JS in again I could hear the difference, and the best way I can describe it is ‘space’. Space around the instruments and between the notes, allowing you to follow very complex passages with ease. This allows you to better hear the character of the instruments, the acoustics of the venue and how the artist is performing. Bass is better defined (cleaner), and when the music gets loud the JS just goes with it, never losing any of the detail, clarity or space.

I performed this switching between AP10H and JS multiple times with the same result. The AP10H is a very good headphone amp, but the JS with SA and double PSU is a fabulous piece of kit and an upgrade I am very happy with. There are now times, especially with a new album, that I can’t wait to hear it through headphones.

Next new headphones…
…then BBPSU?! 😊

System: Win10 i7 Silent PC with JRiver 24. W4S 10th Anniv. DAC. A80. ES-14. TIS and LS6 cables.

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Sat Jul 07, 2018 12:20 pm

Lazmo email today - A100's

I know there is more to come when they have run in a little and the cables burn in but at the moment depth of bass and the clarity of everything is impressive i was listening to a jazz track on radio paradise this morning don't know the name it just grabbed my ear but i could hear the drummer move around his kit perfectly it actually was like he and the band where in the room with me pretty damn impressive doc . :grin:

First Impressions are great i Hope to have a few hours in front of them this evening .

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Unread post by Lordie82360now » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:04 pm

Curiosity and intrigue were the driving forces behind my loan request for the P20/A20 starter kit. Could the combination put my Quad Vena in the shade?
Unpacking the sleek black acrylic boxes made an impression as the minimalist appearance and compact size was just what I was looking for - a great addition to my Allo Digione in its new black aluminium case.

Wiring up was a doddle with the enclosed leads and “click” the NVA based system was switched on. A current favourite track “Living in the Past” played by Ian Anderson and the Carducci String Quartet was first up. I know this track well and although the volume had to be turned up higher than the Quad it was an immediate improvement in tempo, rhythm and detail. The differentiation between the stringed instruments was further forward in the sound stage than I was used too while IA’s flute wafted in and out the music. Magical - I am definitely not used to describing music and equipment in such a way!

Over the next few days I was glued to the hi fi playing all my favourites and I know it is a cliche but I was hearing things I had never really noticed before - going back and repeating to make sure! I dabbled with the combo driving my TV through one of Docs cheap Chinese dacs and a pair of Rega Kytes. The normal deep boom of TV orientated bass was controlled and without distortion which is a bonus. Some of the dialogue was clearer - unless the deep south drawl - and the footy was good.

Could I live without the convenience of my Quad with its remote, powered volume control, integrated dac and somewhat quirky looks. Well, in a nutshell, Yes I could, I control things anyway through my iPad and the improvement in sound was such that after two days of the loan I had pm’d the Doc to ask if I could keep the combo. As they were new the answer was in the affirmative and £300 later they were mine.

I did detect a slight hum via my speakers with no music playing, but on turning the volume control down to zero it was eliminated. Replacing the SC with SSC did the job and I can keep the A20 on at about 11 o clock with no hum at all. I always keep the power amp on.

So what now?

Pre and Power amp have been separated as far as I can with a pair of 70cm NVA SSC interconnects. The Digione is now connected via 50cm NVA digital SSP to the chinese dac and a 40cm pair of NVA SSC onwards to the P20. NVA LS1 speaker leads onwards to my Quad S1’s complete the job.

The result is great and I am pleased as punch.

As a bonus the Quad Vena has been sold for as much as I paid for it three years ago.

Happy days!
Digital Source: Allo Digione player, Volumio 2, AQ jitterbug, Teac PD-H300 mk3 CD player, Beresford Caiman SEG and Dorado psu enhancer, IPad 32gb, iPhone 6.
Amplifier: NVA P50sa and A20, Temple Audio Bantam.
Interconnects: NVA SSP Mk2, AQ cinnamon optical.
Headphones: AKG K92, AKG K451
Speakers: NVA Cubettes, Quad S1 and NVA LS1, LS2.

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:07 pm

Post by fisherman » Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:22 am

I have been using NVA interconnect for many years starting with Soundcord and ending up with the TIS, at the moment I am using an AP20 with headphone output and a SONY x555es as recommended by Richard and Sennheiser 650.

Every time you upgrade with NVA you seem to get quite a marked improvement particularly with SSC to SSP however nothing prepared me for the the shock of moving from SSP to TIS. SSP is a really excellent cable but TIS is just in a different class. Sound stage is massive, vocals are so real you could actually be in the same room. I wont go on about more detail or better bass and treble but just let me say that a veil has has been lifted that I was unaware of. Everything is just so natural and musical.

I have never been a great one for lyrics but that has changed as they seem to communicate so much better. I think really that is what this cable is all about, communication of the emotion that is in the music along with amazing clarity detail and smoothness.

By the way something no other review has mentioned is these things really boogie they have had me up and dancing quite a few times which at 70 is probably a bit unedifying but I cant help it.

Thanks Richard top man

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Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:18 pm

From Bigman80 posted at TAS forum.

I first became aware of NVA about 18 months ago. When the opportunity arose to hear the NVA Phono 2 at MCRU at the Hudderfield bakeoff last year, I listened. I liked what i heard. So much so, i felt it in my stomach. Fast forward 12 months and i was offered the chance to buy one of these units. So i did!

A few days passed and it arrived on the doorstep. A Head unit and two PSU's, recently purchased (May 2018) and then made available to me. So, as with all things, a visual inspection takes place. I am not happy! There is glue visible on the outside of the joints of the PSU. In places the cases aren't aligned as well as one would look for in a £800 Phonostage either. I call my friend and ask if he has had them apart. My thought was that it had been damaged and been repaired, but no, it came like this to him, as it did me. Visual discrepancies apart, i like the styling. Neat little black boxes, they look sleek and understated. Very good. Next up, i plug them in. All Good? Well, again, No. For me, the sound of a Transformers mechanical buzzing, is like the builder/creator saying to me " I don't install quality transformers because you wouldn't know any different". They'd be wrong. You see, good quality transformers don't buzz in their casework, cheap ones do and BOY do these buzz. Not going great so far but again, i think to myself, lets have a listen.

I plug everything in and switch everything back on. Straight away the NVA Phono 2 is completely unhappy in the rack. The BUZZING TRANSFORMERS appear to be affecting the head unit along with EVERYTHING around it. I moved the head and placed it in an upright position away from everything else and voila! No noise. Unconventional placement but at least we could listen noise free!

Top Tip: Get the head unit as far away as possible from anything with a transformer.

On to the listening...... One of my favorite tracks at the minute is on an album by Steve Miller. Trouble is, i forgot to critique the performance of the NVA2. I forgot because it engulfed me with enjoyment and musicality. It took me out of what i was thinking. I ended up listening to the whole side before realizing i hadn't written a word. Side Two, more of the same. I listened, foot tapping and rocking in my reclining chair. I decided i MUST pay attention and stop being distracted. On went "Lynyrd Synyrd – Simple Man" Nope, too busy playing air guitar and singing my head off. Whats going on?

I decided to swap to the Wizard DIY Phonostage and reset my brain. It was then when i realised what was going on. The NVA doesn't concern itself too much with revealing the absolute inner depths of the recording. But what it does play, it does so with ample enthusiasm. Its infectious and i am loving it. My reset to the Wizard has uncovered a slight issue though. I am convinced there is a tonal deviation. The NVA2's Mid range and Bass seems more prominent than i'm used to hearing. Almost like it had a little "bloom" to it. The Wizard has a deliberately accurate RIAA, regardless of whatever consequence that has on the music. I wanted it that way and still do. On to the Oscilloscope it went. Sure enough, there is a lift at 100HZ and the lift carried on into the bass frequencies. Whilst on the scope, i noticed something more surprising. There is ringing in the high frequencies. This was shown on the square wave (Pictures available) I was surprised by this, as solid state gear is usually very reliable in this area. Also, i cant imagine the Mid-Bass frequency lift is an accident either. I expect this was deliberate. To give the phonostage a bit more "umph", essentially being "voiced" by the creator. Luckily, it works because the NVA2 is a great sounding unit. But what about that ringing? Well, without getting someone with more knowledge than me to look at it, its unlikely i'll find out. The other issue (or non issue) is that the NVA2 is loaded at 470ohms as standard. In comparative listening tests, the NVA always had the edge until i discovered this. I loaded the Wizard at 470ohms and the differences between the two, in terms of musicality, became negligible.

On with the listening tests..... The more time i spent with the NVA, the more i appreciated what it did. It was capable of taking a less than stellar recording and making it easy to listen to, almost improving its quality. On the other hand, it would take a top recording and make it sound as good, but without "dumbing it down" which i didn't really understand. Surely the good recording should be even better? But it didn't work out like that. That said, EVERYTHING sounded good and i didnt feel it ever took anything away from the tracks i listened to. By this time i had spent some considerable hours listening to the NVA2, probably about 80-90hrs. I decided it was time to see what happened when i put the Wizard back in. It was now that i was ready to wite a conclusion of my time with the NVA.

My verdict:

The NVA is a very musical phonostage. Soundstage is nice and wide and has good depth. There is no hint of the solid State "Zing" of which most SS units suffer from. The high frequencies weren't as extended but it wasnt a problem and actually the the tonal spectrum was very good. The mids and bass integrated well but i always felt they were a little out of balance with the highs in terms of EQ. It might be described as a slightly darker presentation than i am used to, but again, it really didnt feel like it was a problem or hindrance. Music flows effortlessly from the NVA2 into a smooth stream of easy to listen to sound. In my opinion, It doesn't reach into the depths of the recording as well as some phonostages i've heard but they come at a higher price tag. The NVA doesn't really recreate the ambiance of the environment the recording was done in either, but again, to get that, you will spend more, Nor do you get the whole 9 yards of intricacy BUT, if you dont need it, then this phonostage really should be on your radar. It's got rhythm, pace, its agile and sweet and it gives a performance that makes the £500 i spent on it seem an absolute bargain. There is excellent definition, channel separation is as good as anything out there. The foot tapping it forced on me was infectious and if you are looking for something that gets you moving, then this is it! A real "good time" phonostage. Very enjoyable. I don't think for £500, there is anything close to it for sheer musicality.

There are a few Red flags though:

It's current retail price of £800, really makes me question the quality of materials i am getting for my money. I HATE mechanically buzzing transformers. Such a simple thing to do right and these were very noisy. Its acrylic cases scratch when you touch it with a duster and i am not overly chuffed that i had to rebuild and hack my IKEA unit just to get the head unit to behave. I couldn't go near it with my phone in my pocket as it went ape shit and threw out all sorts of speaker testing noises. I also had no idea how to connect the PSU's to the head amp. What do i do with the spare leads? Connect them together? Leave them unconnected with the exposed contacts just dangling in free space? Where is the instruction leaflet? A basic leaflet with the simplest information is all that's required and for £800, i don't thinks it's too much to ask. It would've saved me an hour waiting for my mate to let me know how to set it up without causing any damage. He tells me he waited two days for a response to this question. I am not sure where he asked mind you.

I am also sat here wondering why the PSU's have Male XLR connections (exposed contacts) and the Passive (until plugged in) head unit has female XLRs. I just dont understand why anyone would fit them this way around. Someone said that it's below the threshold for Safe Levels of DC Voltage but it measures at 80v across the two pins, which i doubt would be much fun to touch. I could be wrong on this and if so, fair enough. Personally i would want them the other way around.

At £500, the NVA2 is a steal and if you heed my warning over the XLRs, the placement of the head unit and are prepared to hack your IKEA furniture, then go for it. It's easy to ignore the buzzing transformers when you are getting this quality of sound for £500. I loved its energy and drive. A really great phonostage to listen to.

Is it a giant killer? Well, no. The AQVOX is a giant (£3K) and id take the AQVOX everyday if budget was no issue.

Would i buy one? Yes, i did at £500 but at £800, No. I wouldn't be happy with the build materials and the PITA head unit. I wouldn't be able to ignore the transformers buzzing and the scratch loving acrylic would drive me insane. For £800, i'd save a couple of quid and get the Croft RIAA R at £1000.

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