Reading about, and listening to music are quite different things and the subject of some great on-going conversations I’ve been having with my clients. You’ll be well aware that I try to best articulate what I hear with new audio components – turning it into a readable and informative summary so you can make the choice as to wether a particular item or component may be just what you are after, or something that you really didn’t know you needed (but do…)
The latest missive deals with the new flagship models from NuPrime – the Evolution One Mono Power Amplifiers. This has been one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to write – not because of any problems but because the NuPrimes have proved to be so far ahead of anything else I’ve ever dealt with.We’ve walked you through the intricacies of cables with Keith Eichmann’s continually improving KLEI range, looked at and listened to new speaker models from Monitor Audio that do some wonderful things in both terms of value for money and absolute performance. The last few years have been a journey exploring just how transparent it is possible to make existing systems sound and improving upon what we’ve already found to be good.
Around 6 weeks ago two pairs of the first batch of nine NuPrime Evolution power amplifiers touched down in New Zealand and things have never been quite the same since.
When trying to work out what any new product does, we’ll compare it to a benchmark that we have established – either in reality as a back to back comparison, or with a remembered and familiar level of performance. Being ‘better’ can be subtle or obvious with plenty of shades in between. And often there will be some areas of superiority, but at the same time we can identify others in which a product might fall short.
You might think that I have an especially well trained ear and it is true that I spend more time than most in critical listening. Yet the feedback we get from clients is proving to be remarkably consistent and it never fails to surprise me when people like you come back to me with the most wonderful little one liners that somehow say more than I can in several pages.
‘My God john i have put on the jumpers and zero2s this thing is projecting everywhere, only been on for 90mins haven’t used gPower 3 yet wow from Malcolm’
So I’d like to think that you both have a trust in what I say and even more importantly what you end up hearing for yourself. Given the days of rocking into your local specialist audio dealer are effectively over, there is a clear need for this level of trust.
The question of value for money also needs to be addressed. Those who know me understand I’m a bit of a greenie and struggle with the contradictions involved in running a business when all I want is for everyone to enjoying hearing music as much as I do. So if we can find something that sounds great and costs very little, I’ll devote just as much time and effort exploring what it does and how it came to be – the new little D-Stream amplifier being a case in point.
Yet there is also a case to be made for advancing the state of the art and sometimes you just can’t do this without throwing some serious money at the problem. That alone isn’t enough as the mass market proves with a plethora of big name products which sound very ordinary at best.
NuPrime have a neat little tagline – beyond ordinary – which is apt when applied to their entry level products. But they also have a heritage in reference level models which most people don’t know about. The obviously have some talented designers which is an essential to make any progress but the real kicker is their unique approach to amplifier design – we’ve gone past the point of being able to assign what they do a neat label such as Class D – it really is a bundle of technologies that they have made their own.
The new Evolution Ones are the ultimate combination of all these and I was always expecting something worthwhile and a bit special. But special doesn’t even begin to describe what we’ve got: Every day I listen I’m more impressed, – not just in the technical accomplishment these amplifiers represent but in the magnitude of improvement that they have delivered to all the music I listen to. I’ll admit that I’m struggling to quantify this and describe it in terms that are not just emotional. They are convincingly better than any amplifier I have ever heard and then some.
And it seems to get better every day – in part this is due to the run in process of not just the amplifiers but also other components and cables within the system which is in a state of flux as I explore different combinations. Yet I think that I’m also having to adjust to a new way of listening. With every single song or album I’ve played, there have been new threads, insights and textures. Even from one week to the next. And depending on the quality of recording these improvements are far from subtle – some albums do feel like completely new recordings. Even records from my youth which have been played literally hundreds of times since have been renewed in a way that I’m still trying to get a handle on.
Part of writing any review is trying to identify something that is unique to a product – with the Evolutions Ones, there are seemingly contradictory qualities – massive power allied with the most delicate subtlety, freedom from noise with an ability to transmit the finest detail. A sweeping frequency range from the deepest bass to an airy and immediate treble with an overall tonality that somehow manages to be neither clinical nor artificially warm – just compellingly listenable.
But back to the original question – can we quantify these qualities? There are specifications – and if you dig into our review and NuPrime’s own numbers we can make a linkage to some qualities. But can we directly attribute a specific property such as preceived detail to a number? I suggest we can but you have to know which specification and have a the means to both measure this and test it. This goes well beyond the simplistic blind AB test as we have become aware of the daunting number of variables involved and the fact there are interactions between them.
Given the differences that people just like you are able to hear with cables, the scope for improvement with an amplifier is vastly greater – there are many more components in the signal path and the design is massively complex by comparison. Considering this, we can see that the different approach taken by NuPrime is able to yeild a great and significant improvement.
Read the comments on the Evolution Ones in this post – do you think that these constitute a statistically and scientifically valid basis on which judge these amplifiers? What weight do you place on an expert opinion and do you think these are?
Yes – I’m asking for your feedback.
I’ve had to really stretch to buy these amplifiers in – it’s been nerve wracking as there have been no pre-production samples, no other reviews (other than previous reference level models). But six weeks down the track, every last little doubt I might have had has been eliminated. We won’t pretend for a moment that any amplifier system that goes for well into five figures is going find their way into every household. But as a music enthusiast, are you interested in what is possible?
So who should be seriously looking at the Nuprimes? Anyone with one of the big 3 New Zealand brands – Plinius, Perreaux and Pure Audio – I know these better than most, and the Nuprime Evolutions aren’t just price competitive – they are vastly better in all regards (and for reasons that we go into, will match with almost any preamplifier). Likewise any of the heavyweight imported brands of amplifier.
Quad owners – there are few more loyal to a brand and with good reason. Everything you love about Quad is there but with a raft of qualities that only come from true innovation. (which is why you got Quad in the first place) And if you have any of the newer electrostatics, the control and dimensionality the Evolutions bring to the party will make you fall in love with your speakers all over again. Shahinian speakers are one of the few that have proved to be a challenge for Nuprime’s ST-10. The new Evolutions address all issues of loading, power and control then go on to produce a vast soundstage that allows the omni-directional design to take full flight. And Sonus faber? Well I’ve never heard my Cremona Auditor Ms sound so good and am holding out for the new big Sonettos so we can really unleash.
As you can see, the arrival of these new amplifiers are a significant event which changes the audio landscape. Are you ready?