As a long time user of Linn and Naim equipment (a "Flat Earther" if you will), I purchased a pair of Norh's Le Amp monoblock power amps, intending to use them in a second system. At almost the same time I bought an Audible Illusions Modulus 3 pre-amp (tube or valve to the UK folks). Guess what, the Modulus 3 and Le Amps have replaced my Nain NAC 72/HiCap/NAP 250, which are now all on sale on eBay. Over $5000 worth of first class Naim gear replaced by $1000 worth of nOrh and Audible Illusions. Does it blow the Naim stuff away? No it doesn't, but it sure as heck sounds just as good with my Naim CD5 and Castle Howard speakers. A true bargain. No if's, no but's just sheer value.
This review is for the Norn LeAmps, Greatest product I have ever used. Been in this hobby since 1978, have owned literally dozens of amps...these amps do everything perfectly. No overblown bass, no tin, no midrange bloom..just nirvana...smooth, adds no flavor at all, well maybe a touch of sugar, but I swear, what great sugar it is.
First off, I have been in the hobby since 1978, and laid off for several years due to having four children..so am I an audiophile? I dont know...I do love recorded and live music a great deal. Having said that.. here goes.. This review is for the Norh LeAmps..all the BS aside, these are remarkable in every way. I have owned literally dozens of amps, but these are the most uncolored I have ever heard...no bloom, no tin, bias isnt set to the point of no return. Absolutly damn near perfect. For the money these jewels put 90% of the other brands to shame..no joke..Every time I put on the tunes...nirvana...smooth, articulate, no overblown anything..just music...
Unpacked my Multiamp about a week ago and have about 10 hours of listenng time in. It replaces a Bryston 4B-ST. I have enjoyed my Bryston and was hesitant to order the Multiamp site unseen, however, I have had occasional dealings with Mr Barnes as I am the proud owner of several of his wood drum speakers ( the 5.1 and the 6.5's) and I have found his description of his products capabilities to be right on. So when he told me his Multiamp should be "much better" then the Bryston (this from a customer who had had both) I took the plunge. I am not disappointed! Right out of the box the Multiamp had better soundstaging and imaging then the Bryston, and the Bryston was prety good in its own right..The Multiamp isn't even properly broken in yet! I am even more impressed with what it does for my HDCD collection. What to my ear were subtle musical differences betwwen HDCD recordings and regular recording now jump right out at me. What a pleasure to be enjoing all my CD's again. Eventually I would like to take advantage of the Multiamps capabilities by getting a second one and utilizing its built in X-overs, but for now I will simply enjoy the beautiful music it makes. I will write a follow up after I have over 100 hours on it. Anybody want a used Bryston?
Equipment Theta Data Basic II CD tranport Dodson 263 DAC Thorens 320 MkIII TT Audio by Van Alstine Pas 4i hybrid pre Audiomagic interconnects PowerWedge 113 conditioner
After living with the nOrh multiamp for several weeks, I wanted to set down my thoughts on the amp while using it in a standard stereo application. I say "standard stereo application" because the multiamp is rather unique in that it incorporates a 24db electronic crossover internally and can be used to bypass the passive crossover network in a speaker between the woofer and a tweeter. But you need 2 multiamps in order to do this. I have 2 multiamps, but 1 was damaged in transit, and nOrh is sending me a replacement. For now I have been using a single multiamp in stereo configuration with my Bryston B60 used as a preamp, an Acurus ACD-11 as a transport, MSB Link III as the D/A converter, a pair of nOrh subs, and a pair of nOrh 7.0's for my main speakers. Cabling is Pure Silver Sound through out the whole system - PSS Quartets for interconnects, and PSS Octets for speaker wire.
As you can tell, I have purchased items from nOrh before, in fact it was the quality of the amp in the nOrh subs that convinced me to give the multiamps a try - the sub amp was far beyond anything I had ever even seen before, let alone owned before. Plus the ability to use a phase correct electronic crossover was very appealing, as was the $900 price tag for each amp.
So, the amps show up at my doorstep (shipped separately, they arrive at different times) & they are very well packed - encased in foam, boxed, then the box is put inside a very stong crate. Regardless, one of the amps is damaged by RPS. When I hook the first one up, I get a very loud humming/buzzing noise from the amp through my speakers. nOrh sends me a replacement audio board with new output devices attached, I have a local tech replace it, still no go. So, rather than have me dicker around with more techs fiddling with the innards trying to isolate the problem, they are just sending me a brand new amp - how is that for service? That is one of the main reasons that nOrh continues to get my business.
Anyway, the 2nd amp arrives, I hook it up and everything works fine. I put on a disc and prepared myself to be blown away. I wasn't. The sound was so different from any other amp I had heard that I really didn't know how to get a handle on what I was hearing. On the one hand I was dissapointed because the overall sound was a bit thinner than I had anticipated it would be. On the other hand, it was obvious that it was much more transparent than my Bryston's amp section. I figured I needed to let it "burn in" for a while before making any firm conclusions. Now, I don't know if burn in is an actual physical phenomenom that takes place in the amp, or if it is one of those psycho-acoustic phenomena where the listener simply acclimates to the new sound. All I can say is that the sound I was hearing from the amp did change as I played it more and more. At first the soundstage seemed to stay lumped toward the speakers themselves, which is odd since the 7.0's are about as non-boxy sounding as a dynamic speaker could ever hope to be. Also, vocals, particularly female vocals, sounded a bit thin and distant, violins sounded a bit steely, etc. . . After about a week the soundstage started to expand quite a bit, both laterally and front to back. But the thin sound remained. Finally, after 2 weeks of almost constant usage, the midrange started fleshing out quite a bit and music just became much more inviting (it was a rough 2 weeks, let me tell you - I second guessed my purchase many times).
So, now after a month of ownership, I have to say that the amp, like the speakers I bought previously from nOrh, is pretty close to my ideal for stereo reproduction - almost dead on neutral, with just a hint of warmth to make my CD's sound a bit more enticing. Soundstage is pretty amazing too - I have only heard 1 amp that threw a better one, the ARC 100.2. One thing I want to comment on is the nOrh claim that this is a "fast" amp. I am not exactly sure what they mean by fast, but if they mean mean resolution, then their claim is 100% accurate. This is by far the most transparent amp I have ever heard. And transients are just incredible - they snap out with such authority, that many times it is literally startling. Michael Barnes, the owner of nOrh, says it sounds like an SET on steroids. Maybe, but I have never heard an SET, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of that statement. I CAN say, however, that I now hear things on my music collection that I have never heard before on ANY other system, regardless of cost (and I have listened to some pretty darn expensive gear).
But, there is a price for the absolute clarity of the amp - your source components must be very good, or they will be quite exposed. In my case, the Bryston preamp section is quite good (and I have the new nOrh ACA preamp on order, which should be even better), but the real weakness of my system is my MSB DAC. It is a stock unit, very little modification to it. I have 2 choices, either get a completely new DAC, or go in for some heavy duty aftermarket mods to the MSB. I am going the 2nd route. The main place the MSB falls down is a graininess in the upper mids/lower highs (just where it is the most irritating), and I am told that the mods will smooth that out entirely. It is funny, but I never heard this with the bryston amp in the circuit. But, it is just like going from a standard NTSC television to an HDTV - feed a less than perfect signal to the NTSC, and its inherent softness or lack of resolution will help to cover the problems with the source. But with an HDTV, you have so much more resolution that the source material had better be up to snuff or you will see it very clearly, and it is quite annoying. Now, if you like the (overly) lush presentation of most tubed amps, the multiamp is probably not for you. To me, most tube amps sound a bit blowsy (not all, and not all of them to the same degree - the ARC 100.2 is excellent in most regards - the Cary, Conrad Johnson, and BAT amps I have heard all sound a bit stodgy and earthbound, at least to my ears anyway). But if you tend to like the higher end SS amps, but find yourself unhappy with their weaknesses (can be grainy, thin, lack ultimate resolution, not getting the mids right, tipped up top end, etc. . .), the multiamp may be for you. Personally I can't wait to get in the next multiamp & give it a good listen in "active" mode. Should be interesting. . . . .
If I had to use one word to describe the sound of the multiamp, it would be "pure".