The audiophile community’s initial
response was not favorable towards digital amplification. As various problems
were addressed and solved, acceptance has grown begrudgingly. The Reference
9V2 SE represents the latest iteration from NuForce that purports to address
any remaining issues that one might have with digital amplification. My
colleague, Henry Wilkenson, reviewed their Reference
8.5 monoblocks and was quite impressed. After much discussion with
Henry and hearing the “buzz” about their amps, I decided to
investigate their latest effort, the Reference 9V2-SE. I contacted Jason
Lim, CEO at, NuForce and he was kind enough to send me four monoblocks.
Why four? My Wasatch Acoustics Musina speakers are two way designs that
require bi-amplification, requiring two monoblocks per speaker (NuForce
doesn’t make a stereo version).
I’d like to write a few words about
their technology and design. NuForce calls their amplifier an “Analog
Switching Amplifier TM”. Now, I’m not an engineer, but according
to their manual, it works on the principle that an audio signal modulates
a power oscillator and is then reconstructed with the use of a filtering
system. Apparently, the benefits derived from this methodology include
extremely wide bandwidth (20Hz to 50kHz flat and extend to 90kHz), virtually,
no phase shift in the audible frequency range and an extremely high damping
factor. All this results in an incredibly quiet and distortion free amplifier.
RMS Power output is 190 watts/monoblock at 8 ohms and peak power is 325
watts (20msec hold time) and at 4 ohms, the numbers are 300 watts RMS
and 650 Peak, respectively. This is all coming from an amplifier weighing
in at a miniscule 8.5 pounds. For a more in depth technical description,
see their website, www.NuForce.com.
The units came in a metallic copper red
finish that I found very attractive and worked in concert with the cherry
wood cabinet in which they were housed. They also come in black and silver.
The rear panel has the usual on/off switch (wish all mfrs would put these
on the front) with an IEC socket for a power cord and a toggle switch
for choosing single ended or balanced operation. WBT NextGen RCA sockets
are used along with Eichman cable pod binding posts for your speaker cables.
This review was performed using Acoustic Zen’s Absolute balanced
I installed the 9V2-SE’s in place
of my two Innersound iPower 330 stereo amplifiers. All four NuForce amps
were less than the size of one of one of my Innersounds and weighed less,
too. Of course, this arrangement requires two more power cords. Talk about
saving shelf space. Now that’s all very nice but how did they make
the system sound? Has NuForce digital amplification come of age?
burned in the units for about 150-200 hours of continuous music using
the provided power cords and then started some serious listening and evaluating.
My first response was amazement. These amps were dead quiet. No grain.
No hash. Just dead quiet. When music poured forth, it was so palpable.
The sound staging abilities these amps exhibited was dramatic. The separation
of instruments in the recorded venue added to clarifying the complexities
of the music. Musical passages of complex instrumentation unraveled themselves
into musically more understandable sections, as if I was at the live performance.
This was revelatory. The spatial aspects in all recordings were more clearly
evident than anything I’ve ever experienced in my system.
The cliché most often used to
describe improvements in the beneficial effects that equipment can produce
is the sweeping away of layers of fog obscuring the view. My analogy would
be the change from analogue TV to seeing 1080p Hi Definition for the first
time -- a staggering improvement. Images had a sense of realism and solidity
with great definition removing layers of artificiality bringing us closer
to the real event. This is exactly what the NuForce amps did.
The 9V2 SE’s exhibited a delicacy
and nuance that engaged the listener without the edging characteristics
that hyper detailed solid state can have. Images were full bodied and
developed. Inner detail further revealed previously hidden textures that
added realism to the listening experience.
When it comes to musical timbres, words
like neutrality and accuracy come to mind. These words are often associated
with coldness or sterility which would place the 9V2 SE on the opposite
side of “musical”. Here is where these amps truly shine. There
is nothing cold or analytical here. The presentation is closer to reality
than any amp I’ve had and for me and for me that defines, “musical”.
Dynamics and delicacy don’t often
go hand in hand, but with these amps, no problem. First there is the speed
and explosiveness these amps exhibit. The music often calls for dramatic
and explosive impact as in Pictures at an Exhibition. The ability
to start and stop and respond with instant energy is wonderfully evident
with these amps. At the same time, during the quiet passages, delicacy
and refinement manifested itself in many ways. Listening to flutes and
triangle strikes floating effortlessly in space was tactile. Those subtle
sounds that orchestral members make while performing were evident. Those
creaking sounds, chair movements, page turnings, breath intakes were all
there in an organic lifelike way that added to the music’s performance.
Up to this point, there seemed to be
only one weakness that I could perceive -- a reticence in the area of
bass performance as compared to the Innersound amps. The bass was tuneful,
with superior inner detail and texture and equal extension, but lacked
the fullness and slam that I’d grown used to with the Innersound
amps. As I indicated in the opening of the review, I was using the supplied
power cords to make my evaluation of the NuForce amps, but I was using
my reference, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute power cord on the Innersound
amps. Read my August 29, 2005 review
for a full description of the Absolute power cord’s characteristics.
It was time to move my reference power cords onto the NuForce and see
what effect they would have. After all, we know that power cords can have
a major effect on equipment performance, and when one is evaluating equipment
performance, it’s imperative to minimize the number of variables
to understand their contribution. Using the same power cords would reflect
My immediate impression was one of awe.
The NuForce amps went from excellent to ‘absolute reference’
quality (pun intended). Any reservations I had about these amps completely
disappeared. The bass response was now more full bodied and had the slam
I had grown used to with an increase of inner detail. Images, in general,
were even more three dimensional and dynamics were improved as well. All
of the prior observations I had made about these amps were augmented by
these power cords. Spatial cues, inner detail, vocal textures, and I could
go on and on. Suffice it to say these power cords with these amps were
magical. If only I could afford more of those Absolutes. Now, spending
the same amount for power cords as your amplifiers seems crazy insane
but say what you will, it’s all about the sound. The Innersound
stereo amp started at $5k and increased to $6k. The NuForces are $5k for
a pair of monoblocks, so amp costs are comparable. The problem is I need
four power cords, not two. There’s the rub. I’ll be searching
for cheaper alternatives, though I fear it will be well nigh impossible.
NuForce has to be congratulated for achieving
reference quality amplification that can compete with the ‘mega
monsters’ out there at a far more real world price. Add the Acoustic
Zen Absolute power cords, or equivalent, and you have amplification that
places you in rarified air. If one is going for state of the art amplification
and we’re talking $20k a pair and higher, you still need high quality
power cords to achieve the best result. In comparison, the NuForce 9V2-SE
is a downright steal. You’ll save a fortune so you can afford those
power cords and a Caribbean vacation with the wife and kids. too.
About half way through the review I received
a new SACD/CD player, the Marantz SA-7S1. I don’t want to give away
too much now, but the better your sources and ancillary equipment you
throw at these amps the more they shine. As such, the NuForce amps will
take place of pride in my system and become my new reference amplifiers.
Thank you, Jason Lim.
[It is with great pleasure that we
award The Audiophilia
Star Component Award to theNuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition
Monoblock Power Amplifiers. Congratulations! - Ed]
p.s. I’m hearing from my colleague,
Henry Wilkenson, who’s reviewing their preamp, some very interesting
comments. Stay tuned.
Reference Recordings RR-96CD Rachmaninoff:
Symphonic Dances Oue/Minnesota Orchestra
Amplifiers: A pair of Innersound iPower
330’s, 4-NuForce 9V2 SE’s monoblocks
Manufactured by NuForce, Inc.
356 South Abbott Ave
Price: US$5000.00 (pair)