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Nord NC500 Monoblock Power Amplifiers

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ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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Blacksabbath25 said:
steve_1979 said:
That Accuphase is a gorgeous looking amplifier. Bet it weighs a ton.
nice to talk about proper hifi and not cables anyway ... how much are the Accuphase amplifiers ? Comparison between the nord mono block
Overpriced in the UK :p

New in Japan, around 540,000 yen, so around 4234 pounds at current exchange rates. I see a second hand retailer has it for about 432,000 yen (3385 pounds) :p

Still not cheap compared to the Nord.
 

iQ Speakers

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Feb 24, 2013
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Cheers Mac, glad you liked it and thanks for taking the trouble. We are working on a case hewed from a solid billet of space grade aluminium, well aluminium any way. Probably add around £1000 to £1200 to the price. Oh and on another note I won a Chord Array power cable £600 in a charity raffle. I await its arrival with bated breath lets hope it reaches the wall!
 

ngibbs

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Jun 12, 2010
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Has anyone used the power amp with its matching Nord pre amp? I recently bought the Nord One Up and I'm curious. The power amp is great obviously: it replaced 2 x Cyrus X powers which I loved but this clearly has more detail, clarity and ooompf. A whole different ball game. It drives my speakers and makes them sound as never before (makes me think what a smart fella I was to buy a pair of ATM SCM 11s). The stereo imaging, as many have already said, is superb and it's hard to believe that a power amp could make such a difference (well, not that hard to believe in fact: I was surprised at the audible difference between Cyrus Mono Xs and 2 x X Powers - I much prefered the latter). But there are times I love the Nord, and am wowed by it, and other times I only like it. Maybe it's still breaking in (I've only had it a week), maybe I'm not used to the extra bass and detail that it draws out of my speakers and maybe I miss that Cyrus sound of the 2 x X Powers, but a few of my favourite moments on my favoruite discs now sound different. Some of the magic has gone at these particular moments, while other albums shine as never before. I like the amp, obviously, but I'm still getting used to it. Anyway, what's people's verdict on the pre-amp?
 

nevalti

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Mar 30, 2016
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KLH007 said:
How about some new owners with the SI994 input boards chime in on how the NC500 sounds. Maybe some owners who have changed to the 994 from Sparkos/Burson, let us know the changes. Come on, stop listening for 5 minutes and post. LOL
My comments are based upon using a Benchmark DAC2 and PMC OB1i speakers in a 20’ x 13’ room. Before the Nords I was mainly using a Bryston 4B SST (£3,000 ish) and sometimes an AVC KT88 triode connected valve amp (£1,400 and superb for the price).

I bought my pair of Nord 500MB Ups fitted initially with the Burston Op Amps. They were pretty good at low level detail but in comparison with both my amps they were dull and lifeless. I told Colin I wanted to send them back but fortunately he persuaded me to try the Sparkos Op Amps.

The Sparkos solved most of the problems instantly and I was now hearing superb ‘music’. They instantly made the Nords sound better than the Bryston 4B SST in all but ultimate dynamics. The dynamics of the Sparkos were vastly better than the valve amp but noticeably less capable of imaging and portraying the effortless detail, timbre, air and realism that (only?) a valve amp can give. BUT they gave a slightly warm, musical sound and they delivered more than adequate dynamics. The Nords were now a delight to listen to.

When the Nord rev C board came out I tried them with the Sparkos and it made an obvious difference. It improved the imaging slightly and very slightly improved timbre etc. It is still not up to valve standards in those areas but the Rev C boards were a very worthwhile improvement. I relaxed into listening to the music rather than the hifi, loving what I was listening to. Curiosity eventually got the better of me and I ordered the Sonic Imagery 994 Op Amps.

With the name ‘Sonic Imagery’ I expected them to be good at ‘imaging’. They are slightly better in that regard than the Sparkos but not dramatically so. Fine detail, venue acoustics and timbre are slightly improved but that may simply be due to their mid-forward character (see below).

The SI 994 bass is noticeably reduced from the Sparkos and gone is that slight Sparkos warmth. It doesn’t sound sterile but it doesn’t always sound musical either. Listening to a simple recording such as Carol Kid’s Autumn in New York or Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing is an absolute delight. The SI 994s treat voices extremely well and simple recordings are reproduced brilliantly. But, and it is a big BUT for me, I fear that the extra voice clarity is being provided partly by emphasising the mid frequencies. If I get hold of a meter to test that belief, I will report my findings here.

If you listen to more complicated music, sadly it is less than impressive. Orchestral music is diminished in scale and grandeur although you can of course hear the middle frequency instruments better than usual. The problem is that orchestras really don’t sound like that. They have been made to sound artificial, much as from a glorified transistor radio, and there is little of the sense of the realism that I am used to hearing with the Sparkos and with other systems I own too.

Well produced ‘pop’ such as Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms is again made to sound very odd. The middle frequency emphasis makes many tracks sound frenetic rather than musical. ‘The Man’s too Strong’ is always a good test as those mid track ‘crescendos’ can sound a complete mess. My main system usually makes a good job of that track but not with the SI 994s. The ‘noisy bit’ was just made too noisy and virtually overwhelmed the strummed guitar which continues quietly through the 'noise'.

I will try them for a while longer to see if they change with more use but I currently think that I will be plugging the Sparkos back in.

If you only play simple music and/or if your system is bottom heavy, these MAY be just what you need.
 

Pedro2

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2010
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Hi Nevalti,

Find your post very interesting. Currently, I own a Nord 500 Up with SI op amps but I'm intrigued by the possibility of preferring a different 'flavour' from the Nord using an alternative op amp. I also read a recent review in Hi Fi Pig where the reviewer stated that he preferred the Sparkos to the SI.

I'm quite prepared to shell out on the Sparkos op amps but I'm not sure about the DIY fitting. Colin emailed me to say that the intructions came in the box but I've obviously 'put them somewhere safe' (i.e lost!). Think I'll give him a ring soon and explore. Is it an easy task to change them or would you recommend a return to Colin for fitting? (not too keen on being without music for several days!).

Thanks.
 

nevalti

New member
Mar 30, 2016
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Changing op amps is very easy, I can do it in about 5 minutes now but my first swap took me 15 minutes - which was mainly trepidation. If you are even moderately 'mechanically minded' you should not have a problem.

The op amps have two rows of pins which simply need to be pushed into a socket. The biggest problem is working out which way round it should go. There is a groove on one side of the base and there SHOUD be a matching groove on the side of the op amp but my Sparkos didn't have one. Colin can obviously advise on orientation and I did have to phone him re the Sparkos.

There is a lead In the way which makes access difficult for my fat fingers but that simply unplugs and can easily be plugged in afterwards.

Dangers? If recently turned off, there may be a residual charge in some capacitors so do avoid touching them. Conversely, you also want to avoid introducing static yourself so best to discharge yourself by touching something earthed. It may be over-kill but I use a very slightly damp towel to protect my table and to avoid any static build up. One last point, when you unscrew the top plate, the nuts below are free to slide along a groove - which is irrritating. They are not fully captive but will stay in place so long as you don't move the amp. So, before you start, place the amp in a comfortable working position with the front of the amp to your left. That is the position you will need it in to acccess the op amp.
 

nevalti

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Mar 30, 2016
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Pedro2 said:
......I'm quite prepared to shell out on the Sparkos op amps but I'm not sure about the DIY fitting.........
It just occurred to me Pedro2 - if you are anywhere near Romsey I would be happy to help and, if you are quick, I may even be persuaded to lend you my Sparkos for a week or two.
 

wilro15

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Jan 19, 2012
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I agree with your take on things, Nevalti. I have the dual-mono version of the Nord One Up NC500 and have both Sparkos and SonicImagery opamps. I find Sparkos gives me a slightly richer, warmer more organic sound. The SI994 sound slightly more detailed, cleaner but not as inviting. They are only minor differences and are not always immediately noticeable; its only when you settle down and "focus" on your listening that you pick up the subtle differences.

I think the reason why I prefer Sparkos is due to having a Linn streamer and the IPL speakers with ribbon tweeters which are both very revealing (but not bright) already. The SI994 gives just a bit too much of the revealing / detailed kind of sound, the Sparkos seems to balance it out nicely.
 

Pedro2

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2010
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Hi Nevalti,

Thanks for the advice, information and kind offer to come over and test the Sparkos (or even borrow them!). Unfortunately, I'm over 4 hours drive from your 'neck of the woods' as we live in the Peak District. Never mind. PLease let me know if you're out travelling this way.

I'll bear in mind your advice on swapping the op amps as I'm quite sure that I'll give it a go in the next few months.

Wilro15,

I too own a Linn streamer (Akurate DSM) and the Nord is driving a pair of ATC SCM11s. The combination, while clear and revealing tends towards slightly clinical at times and I believe that this could be tipped in a warmer direction by a change in the Nord's 'flavour'. I'll only find out by trying it out, however.

Finally, the thought of joining a fraternity of next gen 'tube rollers' sounds interesting!
 

nevalti

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Mar 30, 2016
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Pedro2 said:
.........I too own a Linn streamer ..........
Ah, two of you to ask about Linn Streamers, if no one minds me briefly straying off topic.

I have been VERY reluctant to go for Linn, or Naim, as I am very happy with my Benchmark DAC2 which is still the best DAC I have heard. With Linn I presume one is paying mainly for a nice box and the built-in DAC - which I don't need. In the absence of any other easily available bitperfect streamers (until the Musaic MPL became available last week) I have been using an old Squeezebox Touch which is not very user friendly but is at least able to stream hi-res and it is bit-perfect; unlike Sonos which can't and isn't, despite their claims.

Are there any advantages of using a Linn streamer other than it having a good DAC?

Extra info: I have just bought a Musaic MPL, which obviously sounds identical to the Squeezebox, and is more user friendly but their app is not really sorted yet. Shows great promise and I'm sure it will replace the old Squeezebox when Musaic get a few app bugs sorted.
 

Pedro2

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Nov 29, 2010
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I love the ease of use and functionality with the Linn DSM as well as it's excellent sound quality. It doesn't require a laptop, PC etc to be running except for streaming off a NAS if you want to (we tend to stream from Spotify or internet radio most of the time these days). It also has several HDMI inputs that allow for other kit to be played (TV, DVD etc) using a video bypass. It has built in functionality for Tidal and Qobuz but not Spotify. This latter feature (or lack of) means that I have an Amazon TV stick plugged into an HDMI slot in order to use Spotify Connect. This fix works well but is still annoying and there are folks on the Linn forum who complain about it regularly.

Finally, Linn introduced a feature called Space a couple of years back that allows you to input your speakers and room dimensions etc into a configuration set up; this then adjusts the sound to avoid any bad room node acoustics. It's v clever and comes free with the kit. Upgrades to firmware and software are by download and occur regularly. There are many good points to Linn streamers (and they sound v good) but they have one downside..... they're ***** expensive! Having said that, they hold their price on the second hand market and you can pick up some good used kit (I bought an Akurate DSM recently at under half the new price).
 

Paulq

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Dec 2, 2007
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nevalti said:
Ah, two of you to ask about Linn Streamers.
3 actually *biggrin*

Pedro's post pretty much nails it. The up front cost is high but the returns in terms of quality and longevity are are equally so.

Personally I don't think there's too much I'd rather have instead of a Linn streamer (and I have tried a few!).
 

nevalti

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Mar 30, 2016
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Thank you gentlemen. I must get around to auditioning one. I am currently playing through a Musaic MPL which is very good but the app is frustrating as it will only accept a single track into a queue rather than a whole album or folder.

By the way, I have already removed the SI 994s OpAmps from my Nords and have gone back to the Sparkos. I can relax again now. The Sparkos suit my system/room/whatever far better but I seem to be in a minority.
 

Pedro2

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2010
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Sounds like you're still enjoying the Linn, Nord, Kudos combo!

I'm just ordered a set of Sparkos op amps from Colin to see if they can 'warm up' the Linn/ATC mix a touch. Will let you know what they sound like when I've summoned up enough courage to weild the screwdriver!. Not sure that I want to risk a (more than) Silent Night over Christmas, though.

Nevalti, much as I like their streamers, I'm not sure that I'd shell out on a Linn if it was just down to good control apps. If there is a Linn dealer nearby, however, it would be worth taking your present kit round to compare. I used to own a SBT (and Duet before that) feeding an Audio GD DAC (very good piece of kit built like a tank) but the Linn sounded better, so think that Linn sound must be more than just an excellent DAC.
 

Paulq

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Dec 2, 2007
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Pedro2 said:
Sounds like you're still enjoying the Linn, Nord, Kudos combo!

I'm just ordered a set of Sparkos op amps from Colin to see if they can 'warm up' the Linn/ATC mix a touch. Will let you know what they sound like when I've summoned up enough courage to weild the screwdriver!. Not sure that I want to risk a (more than) Silent Night over Christmas, though.
Going well Pedro thanks and still very much enjoying it. Am contemplating the speaker element myself as, much as I love the Kudos, I'd like something with just a tad more low end but finding something that doesn't lose the Kudos' extraordinary detail is challenging. I have a set of ProAc D20r to demo in a couple of weeks so I'll let you know how that goes.

Good luck with the change of amp - curious to know how you find the Sparkos.
 

ngibbs

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Jun 12, 2010
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wilro15 said:
I agree with your take on things, Nevalti. I have the dual-mono version of the Nord One Up NC500 and have both Sparkos and SonicImagery opamps. I find Sparkos gives me a slightly richer, warmer more organic sound. The SI994 sound slightly more detailed, cleaner but not as inviting. They are only minor differences and are not always immediately noticeable; its only when you settle down and "focus" on your listening that you pick up the subtle differences.

I think the reason why I prefer Sparkos is due to having a Linn streamer and the IPL speakers with ribbon tweeters which are both very revealing (but not bright) already. The SI994 gives just a bit too much of the revealing / detailed kind of sound, the Sparkos seems to balance it out nicely.
Your comments on the Sparkos v Sonic Imagery debate are interesting. What's your experience with the Pre-amp? You're clearly a fan as you've kept it. How would you describe it?
 

Pedro2

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Nov 29, 2010
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Question for the Linnie/Nordies out there. Have you set the volume attenuation in Konfig to anything other than 0db? I notice that -12db is the default but mine has been set to 0db which means that anything above 60 on the volume setting is ear splittingly loud (no distortion mind!!!!). Have any of you tried listening with different settings? Thanks
 

iQ Speakers

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Feb 24, 2013
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Interesting thet some of you prefer the Sparkos, I'll bear it in mind re the descriptions on the web, if any of you can either ring me or email re the comparative that would help. So here is a sneak shot from our new SE case pro photo shoot these images are not finished article but look OK

 

Pedro2

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2010
42
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18,540
Pedro2 said:
Question for the Linnie/Nordies out there. Have you set the volume attenuation in Konfig to anything other than 0db? I notice that -12db is the default but mine has been set to 0db which means that anything above 60 on the volume setting is ear splittingly loud (no distortion mind!!!!). Have any of you tried listening with different settings? Thanks
Paul,

Interesting post on the Linn DS forum about this feature. It only affects Akurate streamers as they use a mix of digital and analogue volume control and the aim is to operate close to 80. With my speakers and attenuation set to 0db, I would lift the roof playing at 80! I've now dropped it to -24db and will spend the next couple of weeks listening. Also got the Sparkos on their way. V keen to hear the flavour! All the best.
 

Paulq

Well-known member
Dec 2, 2007
311
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Pedro2 said:
Paul,

Interesting post on the Linn DS forum about this feature. It only affects Akurate streamers as they use a mix of digital and analogue volume control and the aim is to operate close to 80. With my speakers and attenuation set to 0db, I would lift the roof playing at 80! I've now dropped it to -24db and will spend the next couple of weeks listening. Also got the Sparkos on their way. V keen to hear the flavour! All the best.
Hi Pedro

I am a bit out of touch with the Linn forum of late as have been away a lot but I'll look that up. I'm with you though - I don't have to crank the ADSM too much before it becomes too loud so maybe I'll have a squiz at Konfig next week and see where mine is set to. It's likely to be 0db I reckon..

Interestingly, (and probably in ine with your explanation of the volume technology) the MDSM I still have takes much more 'persuading', even hooked up to the Nord, to reach similar volume levels. The MDSM at 70 on the volume dial is equivalent to around 50 on the ADSM.

Good luck with the Sparkos - drop me a line and let me know what you think. If they are good I may give Colin a call......

All the best.

Paul
 

Pedro2

Well-known member
Nov 29, 2010
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Just fitted the Sparkos op amps to my Nord. Will now spend some time comparing with the Sonic Imagery that they replaced. Breathed a sigh of relief when these worked successfully as they are the second set from Colin. I can vouch for the fact that if you insert them the wrong way round, you will fry them instantly! This time, I accessed lots of photos of them installed as well as carefully reading Colin's instructions.

First impressions are favourable and immediately I am aware of a fuller, richer and slightly deeper presentation. It's not massive (as in sounds like a comlpletely different amp) but almost like subtle tone controls. I think that they might suit my system better than the SIs as the ATCs plus Linn Akurate cannot be described as warm! More impressions in a couple of weeks although with both op amps, the Nord is just amazing.
 

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