by Martin Appel
I have been a very satisfied owner of Nuforce 9V2-SE amplifiers for over a year and now Nuforce was offering an upgrade to this highly touted amplifier to the level of their new 9V3-SE amplifier. What were the changes and purported improvements and how long would they take and cost? Did I want to take the chance to change something I was extremely happy with? Audiophiles all experience that quest for something new and better and I’m no different. I didn’t need much coaxing before I contacted Jason Lim at NuForce and asked him what this was all about. Since I was going on a 12 day vacation to Spain I wondered if the upgrade could be finished and waiting for me when I returned. After all I couldn’t be without music. He graciously arranged for this to happen and sure enough when I got home there they were.
According to the promotional literature, the improvements would be increased soundstage depth and coherence, a smoother, more palpable midrange, even better bass performance, and sweeter highs, without loss of extension. Generally, the amps would have a more natural, organic sound. Who wouldn’t want all these qualities? Being a little skeptical and being familiar with the hyperbole used in the industry, and having reviewed the 9V2-SE (April 2008) and raved about it, I approached this review with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. On one hand, Nuforce has achieved a reputation for innovation and exceeding expectations, and on the other hand my skeptical radar was on full active mode. Show me.
Since this was an upgrade, the casework remained the same except for the lettering on the faceplate indicating the 9V3-SE designation. Too bad they couldn’t also provide the new faceplate. A new 9V3-SE has a cooler-looking, faceted faceplate with the same blue light and I have been assured that the ‘upgrade’ and the ‘new’ have the identical performance.
It has been my experience, with NuForce amps, that burn-in time can take up to 300 hours, and I approached the upgraded amp the same way. I started playing FM radio 24 hours a day and occasionally throwing on a record or CD to check progress. After about two and a half weeks of this, the amps seemed ready for some serious listening.
My first impressions were very favorable. The more I listened the more I appreciated the updated version of these amps. It is not often that advertising copy is accurate but in this case it was. The stated goals, as mentioned earlier, seemed to be achieved and the 9V3-SE is one excellent amplifier and clearly moves ahead of the 9V2-SE in all but one area– power output. The “2” has 190 watts RMS at 8 ohms per monoblock. The “3” has 15 watts less and weighs in at 175 watts RMS at 8 ohms. At 4 ohms, however, the “3” is rated at 335 watts and the “2” at 300 watts. The peak power figures are the same for both, 325 watts (20 msec hold time) at 8ohms. For a complete breakdown of power ratings and the reasoning behind the design changes see the FAQ List on the website, www.Nuforce.com. The slightly reduced gain of the V3-SE resulted in a few more clicks on my preamplifier’s volume control. In my system, this was not significant. I would love to see a 3 or 400watt (RMS at 8 ohms) monoblock from Nuforce.
The following email from Jason Lim further clarified gain vs power output:
‘The V3 and V2 gain difference is 21 vs. 26dB. In most cases, it means you turn up the volume control by 5 steps increment. We believe that the V3’s 21dB gain allows the system gain to provide better dynamic at lowest overall distortion (most preamp operates optimally when output is higher than 1V).” In plain English, the gain affects how an amplifier “multiplies” the input signal into output signal and has nothing to do with the power handling. As an illustration: 1V ==> Gain of 30 times (Amp A)==> 30V output 2V ==> Gain of 15 times (Amp B) ==> 30V output. In both cases, Amp A and Amp B achieve the same output power. But Amp A with higher gain requires less input from the preamp than Amp B. As long as the preamp can be adjusted, a lower gain (but not too low) allows the preamp’s volume to turn up (therefore optimize the performance of the preamp) which is a good thing’.
What did this upgrade accomplish? The amps produced even more there, there. In other words, a more complete rendering of the recording was achieved. Images had greater solidity and three-dimensionality. The soundstage exhibited an increase in depth and was more defined. It appeared that instruments were more easily identified with a greater degree of accuracy and separation. The sound took another step closer to the real event. Not bad. On ‘Study in Brown’, on a cut titled George’s Dilemma, Max Roach’s opening cymbal strikes were startling in their immediacy and clarity. With the ‘3’s, the cymbal sounded even fuller and more metal-like with all that shimmer and vibrancy that can trick you into believing it was live. Then, Clifford Brown’s trumpet made its entrance exploding with vitality, substance and inner detail that said, brass, baby, brass. Clifford was right there. This mono recording is truly superb and the ‘3’s played this record better than ever before in Chez Appel.
Voices gained in smoothness and solidity while retaining or exceeding all the textures of the ‘2’s. With the ‘3’s in the system, Napua Davoy’s rich voice never sounded quite this good and true. On her latest CD, ‘All I Want’, the cut, The Lessons of Spain, was presented most intimately. These amps captured all the shadings and textures of her voice so well, that it reached inside and left you emotionally spent. Ms Davoy was palpably real in my listening room.
Speaking of bass performance, one has to hear Ray Brown on, TELARC, ‘Some of My Best Friends Are….The Piano Players.’ Everything you wanted to know and hear about upright bass playing was clearly present here. The fingering, the instrument’s wood body and timbral accuracy, the weight of the instrument and its spatial envelope were never this fully expressed in my listening room. This upgrade was worth every penny.
I spent many hours going through my records and CDs discovering, hidden surprises that these amps brought to light. Jason Lim, and his design team at Nuforce, must be congratulated for their efforts in further elevating a much acclaimed amplifier to an even higher level. Class D amplification via Nuforce, has without question reached true reference status.
When I reviewed the 9V2-SE’s I had given them an Audiophilia Star Component Award and now that Star is even brighter.
Nevertheless, the amp is designed on a platform that enables future upgrading and the designers at Nuforce don’t rest on their laurels. Maybe in a few years I’ll be writing about a 9V4-SE. Stay tuned and keep listening.
[It is with great pleasure that we award The Audiophilia Star Component Award to the Nuforce 9 V3 Monoblock Power Amplifiers Special Edition Upgrade. Congratulations! - Ed]
BSK 3266 1978 Warner Bros. Records-DIRE STRAITS
25264-1 Warner Bros. Records – DIRE STRAITS-BROTHER IN ARM
S TRIP JAZZ TLP-5530 BROWN/ROACH INC.-STUDY IN BROWN (mono)
CS 8192 Columbia- Dave Brubeck Quartet / TIME OUT MQ 30443
Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Bernstein / NY Philharmonic (SQ Quadraphonic) LSC-2471-200 gram
CLASSIC RECORDS reissue-RCA LIVING STEREO, RHAPSODIES with Stokowski and RCA Victor Symphony
Napua Davoy-ALL I WANT, www.napuadavoy.com
Amplifiers: 4-Nuforce 9V2 SE’s monoblocks upgraded to 9V3-SE Status
Speakers: Wasatch Acoustics MUSINA (out of production)
Preamplifier: Marantz SC-7S2
Phono Preamplifier: AQVOX 2 Ci, PS AUDIO GCPH
CD source: Marantz SA-7S1
Analogue source: Avid Volvere / RB300 arm. Cartridge: Shelter 7000
Speaker cables: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute, Wasatch’s Ultama Power Cords: LessLoss DFPC Signature, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute.
Interconnects: Acoustic Zen’s Absolute(xlr)
Accessories: Herbie’s Audio Lab Tenderfeet, Black Diamond Racing Cones, Soundcare products, Acme Audio Labs wall outlets.
Surge Protection: Brick Wall 2R and 8R Surge Protectors
Power Conditioning: PS AUDIO Power Plant Premier
Processor: DEQX PDC-2.6P upgraded
The Nuforce 9 V3 Monoblock Power Amplifiers Special Edition Upgrade
Manufactured by Nuforce, Inc.
382 South Abbott Ave, Milpitas, CA 95035
Primary phone: +1-408-890-6840
Skype Id: nuforce-sales
Price: 9V2-SE to the 9V3-SE upgraded is $400USD per monoblock. A new pair of 9V3-SE’s is $5,000USD. The 9V2-SE’s are no longer being produced.