Solid-State Power Amp Adventures

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by purr1n, Jan 24, 2017.

  1. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Likes Received:
    461
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Couldn't agree more. Vidar is an insane value. Can't say enough good things about it, and having a hard time finding anything, even used, near its price that I prefer.

    Yep this is what I'm hoping with this amp. All the other class A/B Amps I've compared to Vidar sounded very similar, just not as good.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  2. Greg121986

    Greg121986 Acquaintance

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    77
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I've had a Nuforce STA200 on my stereo for several days and I must chime in to say that I am extremely impressed with this thing.
    • Focal Electra 1028 Be2
    • Wireworld Cabling
    • Holo Audio Spring KTE L3 and Singxer SU-1
    • PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell Pre-Amp/DAC
    • Nuforce STA200 power amp
    As others have stated, I can confirm that there are some nuances to this amp that are not ideal. It is very high gain so you get some electrical noise. It also has a mid-bass bump that I would characterize as not-neutral and not reference. However, it is a JOY to listen to!

    Despite the typical "hiss" when you stick your ear right up to the tweeter, this amp really delivers great articulation, separation, and the bass is very tight and powerful. I think these elements are present in spades due to the high sensitivity of my speakers, but the amp is a really great match. If I had paid its original retail, I would have been pretty annoyed by the hissing. At its current stock wipeout price of $500 this thing is a major steal. The power output of the Vidar does not appeal to me since my speakers are high sensitivity. I rarely approach 80dB on the speakers and they're rated at 90.5dB @ 1W. I'd be interested to pit these two amps against one another, but I am skeptical that the Vidar would deliver anything more.

    Can anyone confirm if the Vidar has any audible noise from higher sensitivity speakers? Does this change if they are run in mono configuration, thus fully balanced? I actually had one on order but the reports of transformer hum were a 100% no go for me so I cancelled. There was also an unreasonably long lead time. I do want to replace the STA200 with something that will alleviate its minor shortcomings, but for the time being I am pretty stoked with this little thing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  3. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,158
    Dislikes Received:
    15
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    IIRC, there was an early adoter that had transformer hum in high sensitivity speakers...but that's it. I believe it was Freya that more people had hum issues with.
     
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  4. Metro

    Metro Almost "Made"

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Likes Received:
    147
    Dislikes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    San Francisco
    The crossover point is always a tradeoff. A higher crossover can provide some benefit as you describe, but allowing a sub to play into higher frequencies can mess up the sound. If your equipment has selectable crossover points, you should experiment and see what works best in your setup.
     
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  5. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Likes Received:
    461
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Agree with @msommers, I believe it was Freya most people had issues matching with very high sensitivity speakers, and this was because of the tubes. Unless you have a ground loop (which some have said Vidar may be a bit sensitive to) you shouldn't have any issues with Vidar since I assume the Stellar preamp would be silent. Also, your speakers are high-ish sensitivity, but not super high like some others that had issues. Also Focal may overrate their sensitivity a bit (like many manufacturers). Both sets of Focals I've tried were not as sensitive as specced. Either way you shouldn't have any issue.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  6. Wfojas

    Wfojas Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    833
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    CA
    Well, if you are looking at it that way, look for an Mccormack .5 or better yet, one modified by SMC Audio. That will blow both out of the water (complementary downstream components needed, though).
     
    rlow likes this.
  7. bixby

    bixby Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,069
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    WOW, that is a pretty bold statement. I trust you have heard the Vidar and Belles in your system?

    While I have not owned the Belles and Vidar, I did own a DNA .5 Deluxe which had a few tweaks over the standard model Steve was selling at the time. I enjoyed it immensely for many years. I did not have an opportunity to hear one of his mods after he stopped selling the DNA .5, must be really good.

    I have since found a few amps I enjoy quite a bit more than my now departed DNA, but at the time it was and still is a very nice amp.
     
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  8. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Likes Received:
    461
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Yep I have been on the watch for a DNA, although hadn't really paid much attention to the SMC modded version, I will do so. Unfortunately they don't appear to come up on the used market very much in Canada that I've noticed in the last year or 2 at least.

    Care to share which ones?
     
    direstraitsfan98 likes this.
  9. bixby

    bixby Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,069
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    @rlow

    Certainly, the Rogue Audio M-120 MonoBlocks were really nice aside from a bit of transformer hum and the Bel Canto EVO2 and EVO4 both were marvelous. Some folks still prefer these Tripath based models to the ICE based successors for sound quality.

    I still use the EVO 4 with my single drivers even though they do not need the dual differential 300 wpc, so I run 2 of the 4 channels, I think it is rated at 120wpc.

    Another oldie that was just a notch or so below the DNA was the Onkyo M-505 back in the late 70s.

    How did the Belles fare in your listening tests, just curious?
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2018
    rlow and direstraitsfan98 like this.
  10. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Likes Received:
    461
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Unfortunately work took over too much of my time this week (typical, back from holidays) and have had very little time to listen. However I've managed an hour or so, and so far I'm liking what I hear. Definitely a fairly large difference in presentation from other SS class A/B amps I've heard in the last couple years. More relaxed, but at the same time, very powerful and detailed sounding. And a large soundstage, which I love.

    More detailed listening impressions, and comparing to Vidar, to come. Hopefully I'll get some decent time in this weekend.

    Oh and thanks for the tips on the other amps, more research to do. I have been interested in the Rogue stuff for a while now. Those monoblocks look solid!
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2018
    PTS, direstraitsfan98 and yotacowboy like this.
  11. direstraitsfan98

    direstraitsfan98 D2Girls v2.0

    Joined:
    May 11, 2018
    Likes Received:
    140
    Dislikes Received:
    13
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Canada
    I've thrown out this recommendation before but the Anthem 225i is something to consider. I used to own it and it drove my KEF LS50 with supreme authority. I couldn't imagine a better amp to use with the KEF's. It's a integrated amp (no DAC) so you wouldn't really need a preamp. Heroic build quality too, it weighs 47lb.
     
    k4rstar likes this.
  12. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

    Friend
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2016
    Likes Received:
    1,158
    Dislikes Received:
    15
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Calgary, Alberta
    Two posts up....
     
  13. Ntbm3

    Ntbm3 Rando

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2018
    Likes Received:
    8
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Cbus
    I bit and picked up an STA200 recently... the amp was so interesting to me with the Goldmund lineage, the price made it an easy decision. I had been considering the Vidar for a long time but never pulled the trigger... I just did ot need the power as well. This is my first step into a real 2 ch. set up. I have been stealing my headphone gear to see what is possible with my modest set up.

    Tossed it into my not so ideal home theater/2ch. setup.
    - B&W 684 S2
    - DH Labs air matrix cabling
    - Gungnir D/S (Fed by Sonos connect)
    - Marantz 6xx ..something Receiver, as Pre amp
    - Nuforce STA200

    Observations:
    - This amp is nicely made! Nice looking finish, jacks, binding posts ect... sucker is heavy for it's size.
    - No hum/noise out of the speakers, the B&W are not efficient.
    - It's output is louder than my '120 watt per channel' receiver. I had to correct it to balance it with 7.1 set up.
    - Sound: Going from a Marantz class D this amp is wonderful! Clear improvement in separation and overall clarity. It is a pleasure to listen too. Look forward to breaking it in a bit and enjoying more.

    Next step is move my Saga into to my set up and bypass the Marantz when I get a chunk of listening time. Also have a my Gungnir out for multibit upgrade!
     
    yotacowboy, Greg121986 and bengo like this.
  14. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Likes Received:
    461
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Nova Scotia, Canada
    Comparison review: Belles Reference 150A v2 vs. Schiit Vidar

    I hope this review is not overblown. I’ve done my best attempt to be comprehensive but as concise as I can. I put a lot of additional details (in case you’re interested) behind a spoiler link at the bottom.


    Background:

    Schiit Vidar has been my reference amp for about a year now (~2 days after it was launched). I’ve been trying to find something that might “beat it” within a reasonable price range of what I paid for Vidar. I’ve compared it to 3 other integrated amps, and one other power amp before this, with Vidar coming out on top. I generally prefer to buy used to avoid $ losses, so I’ve been exploring used amps under $1400-1700 CAD (Vidar cost me about $1150 CAD all-in). A few weeks ago I managed to find a used Belles Reference 150A v2 in that range, so here we are.

    Chain is: Tidal/NAS -> SotM SMS-200Ultra -> Gumby1 (Gen 5) -> Schiit Saga -> Schiit Vidar / Belles 150A v2 -> Dynaudio Special Forty / ATC SCM19 v2

    Music preferences: Rock/Alternative, Jazz, Modern Folk (none of that James Taylor shite)

    TL;DR

    Both are excellent sounding amps. There’s no clear “winner” at this time for me, mainly a difference in presentation, and tradeoffs on the various attributes of sound quality. I’ll need to spend a bit more time with them, matching them with my two sets of speakers to make a final decision. Considering the price differences (new retail) between them, this speaks pretty highly of Vidar (the Belles is 3x-4x more new retail).

    Notable differences

    The Belles has an outstandingly wide and deep soundstage, with a slightly laid back and less forward presentation that’s leaner tonally than Vidar. It has an airier and more extended top end, and more bottom end slam. It’s also better at letting you hear the recording space than any other amp I’ve heard. However it’s a bit grainier in the mids/vocals and slightly harsher/noisier especially on less than ideal recordings.

    Vidar has crazy clarity and blackground, with excellent instrument separation and a more forward presentation that almost puts the instruments/vocalist in the room with you (especially with a mid-forward tube in Saga, like Sylvania VT-231). It also has slightly more body/warmth and smoothness in the mids/vocals, but a bit of a crispier treble and a smaller soundstage in comparison.

    System synergy and presentation preferences are the keys factors in the choice here.

    With the ATC SMC19s

    Vidar is not as good a match with the ATCs since they are already crazy fast and a bit more brutally transparent and forward in the treble. Soundstage on the ATCs is also not their strong suit, so they need help there. The Belles is a great match with the ATCs because the treble is sweeter, airier and less etched than Vidar, and has a much wider soundstage, which the ATCs really need. The ATCs are super dynamic and engaging, but can go a bit too far matched with forward/fast solid-state electronics. The Belles’s slightly laid-back nature brings a nice balance to the ATCs. Vidar is simply more fatiguing to listen to on the ATCs, and likely one of the reasons why I went searching for an alternative to the ATCs, and picked up the Dynaudio Special Fortys. If I only owned the ATCs, I would likely end up preferring the Belles.

    With the Dynaudio Special Fortys:

    With the Dynaudios however, this reverses - Vidar is a better match with the Dynaudios than the Belles I think. The Dynaudios in general are more laid-back sounding that the ATCs, with a sweeter, more forgiving treble and a nice expansive soundstage. Although the soundstage gets even more huge with the Belles on the Dyns, it also sounds softer and slightly fuzzier, and not as engaging. I feel like I need to turn the volume up louder than usual with the Belles to get it to grab me on the Dyns. Vidar seems clearer, smoother and stronger on the Dyns, and not fatiguing at all – the Dynaudios tame any edginess in the treble from Vidar, and really present vocals beautifully and naturally, with perfect tone and body. Instruments and vocals sound more real with Vidar on the Dynaudios than with the Belles.

    Test setup: Each amp was connected to Saga with the same interconnect brand, model and length (SE RCAs, since Saga) and the same brand/model of power cord on each as well, plugged into the same power center. A/B tests were done by swapping speaker cables (bananas) on the back of the amps which took about 10-15 seconds to swap. No blind A/B/X testing (at least not yet). I did quick swaps of shorter passages + longer swaps of partial/full tracks. About 10 hours total comparing so far.


    Sound characteristics/attributes of each amp:

    Soundstage – Belles has a very large, wide, deep soundstage. Call it a soundscape. It sounds expansive and ethereal. Vidar is decently wide and deep but not like the Belles. Vidar is maybe slightly taller however. With the Belles, performers present further back in row 8 vs. row 2 with Vidar. With the Belles you hear more of the space of the recording. Cowboy Junkies Trinity Sessions is sublime with the Belles - I feel like I'm there in the church. I can imagine the Belles would be exceptional with great classical recordings because of this (although I don’t listen to much classical, I likely will at some point just to validate my assumption).

    Overall tonality – both very neutral. Belles is slightly leaner compared to Vidar which has very slight bit of warmth in comparison, but not much difference here. Which one is more accurate tonally is a tough call, but I think Vidar sounds a bit more true I think, but this may just be my tonal preference.

    Bass – Belles has slightly more rounded bass notes, however also slightly less mid bass than Vidar. The Belles goes deeper and stronger on the very low end with a fair bit more slam and impact coming from the lowest octaves – possibly the best I’ve ever heard in my home. Vidar’s bass is more punchy, quick and crisper with slightly more mid-bass. Vidar has very good low bass slam, just not as good as the Belles which is excellent (could I go without a sub with the Belles?)

    Mids – Belles is slightly leaner and a bit grainier compared to Vidar. Also, vocals are definitely more recessed in the mix compared to the rest of the instruments. Vidar is slightly warmer and smoother, and vocals are more up front in the mix and slightly more intelligible - vocals are on a similar plane as instruments. Vocals have a bit more body/weight on Vidar, and this combined with the lack of grain makes voices sound a bit more real.

    Treble – Belles is slightly sweeter and more airy with nice sparkle. Vidar a bit more crispy and slightly etched but still pretty good. Symbols and hihats sound great on both, but I think I generally prefer the Belles here.

    Attack/Speed - Belles a bit slower with transients, not as quick sounding, but not by a ton. Because of that however, it sounds more laid back than Vidar. Vidar has more pop and quickness and sounds tighter. Acoustic guitar strums and plucks sounds gentler on the Belles and not as immediate and real as Vidar. Piano sounds better on Vidar as well with more impact from each note. Belles is less fatiguing and easier to listen to as background music, where Vidar is more punchy and pushy and demands your attention.

    Decay – Belles has longer decay, more reverb, more recording space echos. Vidar is no slouch in this area either, but just not nearly as good as the Belles.

    Resolution/detail – seems about equal. You may have to listen a bit more with Belles due to the more laid back staging and slower attack, but everything is there that’s there on the Belles.

    Instrument/vocal separation - Vidar excels here. Really well separated instruments and vocals. Everything has a defined space and doesn’t blend together where it’s not intended. Belles is a bit more of a wall of sound with instruments more attached together as a whole – not in a bad way though where instruments/vocals get mashed together and lost in the mix, just not as much distinct space and blackness between performers as Vidar. Still pretty easy to pick out individual instruments with the Belles however.

    Blackground/noise – Belles has a bit more greyish background and in some cases sounds slightly fuzzier than Vidar. Vidar has an ultra black background and everything is super clean/clear. With piano on Vidar, each note is cleaner and more distinct. The Belles is slightly more grainy/fuzzy in complex loud passages with lots of electric instruments and percussion going on.

    Imaging – Fairly equal. Vidar initially sounds like it has more precise imaging because of it’s forward nature and better instrument separation, but pay a bit of attention with the Belles and it shows pretty solid instrument placement within the soundstage.

    My plan was to offload the ATCs at some point since my preferences had clearly moved to the Dynaudios with my current setup. However I may need to put that on hold for a bit to see how the combo of the Belles + ATCs compares to the Dynaudios + Vidar. I’ll spend some more quality time dedicated to listening to the Belles for a while as well just to ensure I’m not being biased by the fact that I’ve been listening to the Vidar for the better part of a year and may prefer its overall sound signature simply because I’ve become accustomed to it.
     
    yotacowboy, alubis, msommers and 10 others like this.

Share This Page