NuPrime MCX-2 amplifier @totallywired

Skin in the Game

Having just pumped out an in-depth 5500 word review that’s taken a good two months of listening, writing and editing, it’s quite a relief to finally hit ‘send’. Our typical client tends to hold on to a component or system for 20 to 30 years and often they will really stretch financially to make it happen, so it’s important that you have as much information as possible.

Jason Lim from Nuprime recently posted a forum link on the review of the MCX-2 we’ve published. This was one of the replies….

‘Really nice, as always. Still, I’ll insist that it wouldn’t hurt to read such glowing reviews from someone that is not going to directly benefit from selling the thing he just praised.  Would give it a more objective weight to it.

Rafa.’

Rafa does have a point, an excellent one in fact. It’s no secret that NuPrime is one of the brands we sell and I’m enthusiastic about it. Like you, I’d also love to see other reviews popping up rather than working in what sometimes seems like an information vacuum. So I thought this was a good time to fill you in on some of the bigger picture of both what’s involved in my write ups, but also why you don’t see many others.

The Value of In-Depth Analysis

Having just pumped out an in-depth 5500 word review that’s taken a good two months of listening, writing and editing, it’s quite a relief to finally hit ‘send’. Our typical client tends to hold on to a component or system for 20 to 30 years and often they will really stretch financially to make it happen, so it’s important that you have as much information as possible. The reality of specialist audio is that, for the great majority of buyers, you’re not going to be able to listen before purchase and many different aspects will be factored in to any choice. Short reviews just don’t do justice to most audio products.

So we take the time and ask a lot more questions than a reviewer might for a 1500 word article in a magazine.

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The MCX-2 is one of the few NuPrime amplifiers that run slightly warm – cats will always work this out…

The Question of Motivation

I’ve got skin in the game but would suggest this gives us more objective weight rather than less when looking at the validity of opinions expressed. 

NuPrime has occasionally given us better pricing for demonstration models we hold in stock, but when we buy from NuPrime it’s cash up front and the pricing I get is no different from any other dealer – if anything we pay more because of our remote location and comparatively low volumes – and there’s always an element of risk, especially with new models.

So when I write about NuPrime it’s as an owner – I’ve got a set of Evolution Ones that are resident here within our analogue system and previously had a DAC10/ST10 combination and the IDA-16. This in turn replaced a rather beautiful Italian made Audio Analogue which was the end point of 3 successive models from this range. And before that a succession of New Zealand made amplifiers. Add to this many years as both a Quad and Linn dealer plus reseller of many other brands.

These reviews don’t just happen – when the MCX series was released, I looked at it and couldn’t see how it would fit into our range – NuPrime had set the MCX series up as sub- brand, NuPrimeX with it’s own website and the intention of setting up separate distribution channels aimed at the AV and gaming markets. At the same time I was fully occupied with the new Evolution DAC, ST10M mono amps and big Monitor Audio Gold 300s so the idea of a cheaper and assumedly lesser product meant we just left the MCX on the back burner. It was only a referred enquiry from a New Zealand client that prompted me to look further and get some in.

It’s A Time Thing

There are a few really good reviews if you go hunting – often these will be by committed enthusiasts who have obvious financial means and the time to indulge their interests – here’s a link to an example about the ST-10. But to expect such a reviewer to devote as much time to a multitude of models from the same manufacturer is clearly not going to happen.

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The Monitor Audio Studios – the MCX-2 is the best match we’ve found for these.

I really do worry sometimes if I get my conclusions right, so getting away from NuPrime , let’s for instance, look at something we’ve done on speakers. With the Monitor Audio Studios in March last year, we had the first review out as I’d been given a pre-release set but afterwards HiFi News put out a much shorter and less than enthusiastic review. There was another local write up but again, this was a lot shorter and not exactly inspiring. Then Alan Sircom produced this much more thorough review that did find the same qualities and enlarged on some points I’d missed. But what really got me was feedback from a couple of people that auditioned the Studios themselves – you can see their comments at the end of our page. I think this example shows that by and large you can see we are on the right track, and can trust what you are reading.

The Process

On the face of it, the MCX-2 is nothing special – a US$1250 stereo power amplifier. It won’t do anything unless connected to a preamp and is too specialised and costly to be considered entry level yet is a long way from high end. Outside of the power rating MCX-2 was lower in many specifications that the tried and trusted ST10. Even on the AudioCircle Nuprime forum it has sparked little interest. So it’s not like there is going to be a queue of independent reviewers clamouring for a unit.

The similarly priced NuPrime ST-10 certainly did get a good number of reviews when launched, but at that stage it was served as an introduction to the NuPrime brand. The MCX is right in the middle of an ever expanding portfolio of models so it quite possibly seen as less newsworthy.

One thing all reviews struggle with is quantifying differences – specifications, both stated and tested have to be tied back to what we actually hear and there are many qualities in audio that don’t lend themselves to being measured. Then there’s a question of how much of a difference is heard – is it subtle or obvious? By working through a number of qualities – dynamics, detail, sound-staging and bass as examples we can build up a picture as to whether something is ‘better’.

If we put all the differences together we can then quantify the relative performance by linking it back to other known components. With the MCX-2 I’ve established that it’s derived from, and a marked step up from the MCH-K38. Previously I’d found that this model was better than the ST-10 (with some qualifications). So it’s an inescapable conclusion that the MCX-2 is significantly better than the ST10 (stereo).

There have been plenty of times I’ve been underwhelmed with new components – sometimes they even fail at the outset and I’m simply not going to write about these. In the past I have written about problems we’ve had, but the blow-back from this via both manufactures and owners has made me wary. Essentially if we don’t have it there are good reasons, but I prefer to keep these to myself. *

Questioning Everything

Back to the MCX-2. From the outset it sounded very good, but also markedly different from any other NuPrime models. This really threw me. If it’s obviously different does that mean the that the other NuPrime models are lacking in some way? Or is the MCX-2 flawed? Or is it possible that the divergent approach sheds new light on a better way to build amplifiers?

As we often do, it was initially connected into a system that we hoped was appropriate given the the information we had so there were some preconceptions. Then we start swopping things around, trying to both find favourable combinations and also to better define the character and qualities.

On top of this we have become very conscious of the changes in sound as a component warms up – as does the system it is connected to. Likewise the differences between analogue and digital front ends, and a range of different music genres. I’m also looking for obvious faults – noises that simply should not be there, incompatibilities with cables or speakers, and what happens when we push things past reasonable limits.

This all takes a lot of time and an array of other components. And starts to tell you why it’s getting hard to find independent reviews.

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What does the ‘X’ stand for – your thoughts?

The Importance of Understanding the big picture.

I wrote about the MCX-2 as a process to better understand what it was doing. While Rafa’s comment might imply that I’ve put the MCX-2 in an overly favourable light you should note that I also outlined the compromises – the lower switching speed and higher noise than the ST-10, the fairly ordinary casework and connections.

I’ve also detailed the differences in power supplies with the SMPS unit within the MCX-2 being a potential source of noise and likewise the suggestion that it might not be a good match with high sensitivity speakers or near field listing setups because of this and the high gain factors.

These aren’t reasons to write a component off –  rather it all feeds into the subtleties of system matching.

The Delight in Discovery

And I’m really questioning the whole idea of accuracy – does the MCX-2 alter the sound in a way that deviates from the norm? And is this a good thing or bad?

Yet for all that I really do like it and have been listening to the MCX-2 primarily for my own enjoyment over the last few weeks. If anything I’ve understated how good I think it is and am just counting down the days till I can legitimise ordering in the MCX-1 monos. These will provide a better perspective and I want to explore the interplay of high power with quality – in the past this often had a real downside but everything I hear suggests NuPrime is playing by different rules.

So there is more to come with the MCX series – I think that even NuPrime have under-estimated what they have achieved with them, and I am looking forward to sharing with you what we find.

Dialogue is a good thing

One thing you can do with me, that’s not possible with most reviewers, is to ask questions – there will always be things we don’t cover in a write up. So feel free to either DM me or leave a comment at the bottom of this article – I will get back to you. 

Ngā Mihi – John Ransley at Totally Wired.

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