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Guidance Please: ICE-Powered Class D Amps? Suggestions for Pre-Amps Also Sought.


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Just curious whether anyone here has experience w/ these amps--specifically amps using the ICE modules made by B&O. After a lengthy hiatus from audio-related things, I've been spending the past few months re-familiarizing myself w/ things. I have a rather simple, decidedly mid-fi setup now, but I plan to begin upgrading in earnest the next few months. I've just ordered an Apple TV to use as my primary music transport; I plan to buy a PS Audio Digital Link III (perhaps stage III modded by Cullen Circuits) to use as a DAC, and on Chris' recommendation, I will be looking at the PS Audio Digital Lens once it's released.

 

I currently have a Cambridge Audio Azur 540R V2 receiver... It's "o.k.", don't get me wrong, but I'd like to move to separates. I'll also be looking at pre-amps, and even though I've been urged to look at a tube pre, I think I'll stick to SS for now. I have zero experience w/ tubes, and I don't feel like going through the learning curve to properly setup & maintain a tube component. That, and I'm not entirely certain I like the distortion that tube aficionados seem to love . I would also prefer a pre w/ some sort of bass management b/c I want to use a sub in my 2.0 setup (I don't care about multi-channel audio; maybe I will someday, but I'll worry about that then). Guess I'm not much of an audiophile, huh?

 

And yes, I am also planning to address room treatment!!

 

My budget is uncertain, meaning it's malleable. For the amp & pre, I'd like to keep it below $3K--I'll have enough tied-up in the Apple TV/DAC/Re-clocker. My speaker budget will be higher (~$5K), but I have a good handle on that front...

 

Any suggestions, whether it be impartial or not is welcome to me...

 

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For whatever it's worth I haven't heard a worthwhile Class D amp and I sell two of them, both based on the ICE design. They are small and run cool. I have a brand that has a traditional A/B offering, and the Class D at substantially more money. The less expensive amp is bigger, runs hotter and sounds better. I have heard three designs and was unimpressed by all of them. One of my favorite high end manufacturers has discontinued their Class D offering. Great for subs but I really don't like them for mids and upper frequencies. Just my subjective opinion but I know a lot of knowledgable people in the industry who feel the same way.

 

For the record, although I think your comment about tubes is not without merit, it is also not universally true. The most natural sounding musical preamp I have ever heard is a tube design. It is not euphonic and does not have high levels of distortion. It doesn't sound like a tube piece, nor solid state. It sounds like music, which is the whole point I suppose. In fairness, it is also not cheap. Tube power amplifers do tend to require more care and feeding than preamps.

 

I believe that bass management on a 2 channel system is best done with a sub that has a lot of flexibility. If the main speakers can handle a full range signal, I prefer to run them that way and bring the sub in below them, without any high pass circuitry in the signal path of the full range speakers. Again, just my opinion, but I have done a lot of them.

 

Good luck in your quest.

 

Rick

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Hey cubbie5150 - Sorry I can't offer anything to you about ICE powered class D amps. I think Rick is a really good source of information though. Note: He owns his own high end store and has listened to a lot of really nice stuff. I do have one suggestion though. I recommend going to a high end shop and listening to some really nice tube gear. If you have an Audio Research dealer around I highly recommend listening to their stuff. I do understand that you don't want to buy tubed stuff for a few different reasons, but I think you'd be surprised at the sound of a very well implemented tubed system. I used to be a solid state only guy and the first time I listened to tubes I was so-so on them. Then I went to a high end dealer and listened to an Audio Research / Wilson Audio system and I was hooked. Just some food for thought. Plus, this is just another excuse to go listen to some music on great sounding gear. You can't beat that!

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thanks Rick & Chris.... I especially like the insight, Re: Class D amps. I've read conflicting things about them & TBH, I am drawn to them b/c of smaller form factor & less heat. BUT, sound quality is most important, so I will re-examine what I want to do. I'll be looking at good ol' Class A/B amps too, and I'll up my budget if needed. What do you think of Class H amps, in general? Can you suggest particular brands/models to look at in the $1,500 - $2,000 range? I also appreciate the advice regarding bass management, or more accurately, how best to implement it. I see what you mean, and I think I'll get off my fixation on that feature. My current main speakers are Monitor Audio RS6, so I think they are capable enough at running full range. Like I said, I do plan to upgrade speakers too, though the RS6 are a very good product given the price (~$1,100 retail); a pretty decent bargain, IMO.

 

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If you are adventurous, you could assemble your own amp from Coldamp modules or Tripath modules (Class T). What I have heard about these amps is that they are pretty neutral in general. I guess it will come down to auditioning such amps in your own setup.

 

Best - MM

 

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I built two mono amps with Hypex UCD180HG. (There is an older UCD180 version) Very well regarded in the diy community, but complete amps are available from diycable.com in the US. I had previously upgraded from a classe integrated to a chipamp and then to the Hypex amp. Classe to chipamp was a small improvement, chipamp to class D was a big improvement in my systems, especially in the bass.

 

People seem to like the higher power UCD400HG module

 

I have also built a PGA2320 based preamp and a Wolfson 8740 based DAC. It turns out that there is a company -mglaudiolabs.com that builds an integrated with DAC with the same components, but I have no experience with that company.

 

 

 

www.hifiduino.wordpress.com

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I know someone in my club has the Bel Canto Referene Monoblocks that have the "Ice" modules and he LOVES the Sound.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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