Saturday 11 January 2020

MEASUREMENTS: Hypex nCore NC252MP Amplifier (+ Subjective opinions around objective testing, and CES2020)

Alright, you knew this was coming from the post last week with assembly details for this amp.

As discussed, this is an easily assembled single-board OEM Class D stereo amplifier rated at 150Wrms into 8Ω, 250W into 4Ω, and 180W into 2Ω. The enclosure comes from Ghent Audio. The amplifier is based on the Hypex nCore "phase shift controlled self-oscillating loop" design.

Let's run this box through my usual MOAR testbench as previously described and see what kind of data we get. In general for these tests, the signal path for measurements looks like this:
RME ADI-2 Pro FS AKM DAC (signal generator) --> XLR --> Douk/Nobsound NS-05P passive attenuator --> XLR --> Hypex NC252MP amplifier --> Test leads --> BNC unbalanced input of Linear Audio Autoranger MK II --> Balanced TRS/XLR --> RME ADI-2 Pro ADC --> USB --> Surface Pro 3 laptop
I'll also have some oscilloscope measurements where the test leads will be directed towards the oscilloscope instead of Autoranger and RME ADI-2 Pro.

Unless stated otherwise, all tests here were done with both channels driven. To reduce mains hum and lower the noise level, other than the amplifier itself, the rest of the measurement chain listed above was powered with lithium battery packs.

All cables were of the "generic" variety including some Cable Matters XLR cables, a few feet of Amazon Basics 14G speaker zip cords connecting amplifier to load, and 16G IEC AC power cord.

I. Basic Amplifier Characteristics

Amplifier Voltage Gain was measured as +25.84dB for my unit. This is consistent with the datasheet listing voltage gain typically +25.5dB (25-26dB range).

Amplifier Damping into 4Ω load is high:

Impressive! We're looking at an average of 340x, with high damping consistently across the audible spectrum. Above a damping factor of 100, measurement precision becomes very important so I had to perform a few readings and average things out to get that graph above. To have an even more accurate look at the output impedance, check out page 13 of the data sheet. Remember that we don't necessarily need very high values (something like >50x average would be great) but the stronger the damping factor, the more "load invariant" the amplifier becomes and we can show this when we look at the frequency response of an actual reactive speaker load:

As you can see, a speaker with complex impedance curve like the Sony smoothed out completely with this amplifier! Compare this to the equivalent graph from the Yeeco TI TPA3116 amp to see the difference low vs. high damping factor makes.

Note that there is a little bit of high frequency roll-off at 20kHz; I'm seeing about -0.9dB with the 4Ω load. The official NC252MP datasheet is showing around -0.7dB at 20kHz.

Phase Response along with the frequency response into 4Ω resistive load:

-15° at 20kHz; nothing to be concerned about.

Since this is a stereo amplifier, let's check to see if the 2 channels have the same output level (Channel Balance) and frequency response:

Very good channel balance. Essentially perfect overlay of levels where human ears are most sensitive (400Hz - 5kHz) and an insignificant 0.1dB difference by 20kHz. (Note: I made sure to use the same output from the signal generator to ensure the only variable was the amplifier channel being measured.)

II. Single-Tone Harmonic Distortion and Noise

To start, let's look at the Harmonic Distortion vs. Frequency at various output power levels into 4Ω - 2V/1W, 10V/25W, and 20V/100W. These graphs were created with Room EQ Wizard's "Stepped Sine" function:

Very nice and in fact I think rather impressive for <US$750. Notice that at 1W, the grey THD+N measurement is already better than -90dB across the audible spectrum. As you can see, the harmonics and noise remain low and well controlled across all frequencies. THD+N is down to -100dB by 100W output.

The cascade of harmonics at 1W has the 2nd order predominating. By 25W, we're seeing a rise of the 3rd order harmonic to around the same level as the 2nd order and by 100W, the 3rd order harmonic has taken over as the strongest component.

We can see this change in predominance of the 3rd order harmonic with select THD(+N) graphs of a 1kHz signal from 16mW to 250W output:

You can compare this panel with the Emotiva XPA-1L measurements previously to see how this Class D device stacks up with a more "classic" Class AB amplifier. By the time we hit >20V output, the 3rd order harmonic rises above the 2nd (as you can see in the 28.3V tracing). The Emotiva XPA-1L amp is more powerful which is why by 250W, we can see the Hypex here (rated as 250W into 4Ω) show a bit of strain with increased noise floor, odd-order harmonics starting to rise, and the THD+N rising to -75dB. Consider however that this amplifier is rated to 250W into 4Ω, we're still looking at below 0.02% THD+N - not bad at all!

I know there's quite a gap between 10W and 200W in the graphs above. For brevity sake, let's just say there were no issues and harmonic distortion was very low.

Just a couple more THD+N plots for completeness:

This is the 5W into 4Ω output graph showing an average SINAD of more than 95dB. Notice that my build here did not have as much 60Hz hum as Amir's measurements of the IOM NCore Pro PWR Amp. The right channel had a little more hum than the left, but had lower 2nd order harmonic.

And this is what clipping looks like with this amp when we push it to slightly >280W:

Notice the exacerbation of odd order harmonics as the signal starts to clip. THD+N rises to -47dB (0.45%) by this point.

Since we're measuring a 2-channel stereo device, my simple Crosstalk procedure using 0dBFS 300Hz and 4kHz tones playing simultaneously at 2V output in either right or left channels resulted in an average of -78dB seeping through to the other channel. This is getting close to the limit of the crosstalk through the passive preamp I'm using. The result is significantly better than the Onkyo TX-NR1009 receiver previously measured which scored -69dB. (Again, for some context, good turntable playback with a phono cartridge is something like -30dB, and likely lower than that if one were to use the same procedure I'm doing if such a test LP existed.)

This then brings us to the important THD(+N) vs. Output Voltage curve - left channel measured, both channels driven:

0.1%/-60dB THD+N is hit at just over 32V; 32.7V to be more precise or just above 267W into 4Ω. Impressive continuous output that performs as promised.

III. Multi-Tone Testing: Intermodulation Distortion and Triple-Tone TD+N

Alright, so THD+N is looking good with a single tone... Now what about the multitone tests and intermodulation distortions?

As with previous amplifier measurements, here's the panel of SMPTE, CCIF/ITU-R, and "Linkwitz" 2-tone intermodulation signals at 2V and 10V into 4Ω:

A busy set of graphs for those who want to peek into the fine details. The bottom line is that this is looking very good again. The total calculated IMD values are for the most part at least -10dB superior to my Emotiva XPA-1L monoblocks! The only one that did not surpass the Emotiva interestingly was the 2V CCIF/ITU-R where "d2L" and the ultrasonic "d2H" components were just a little higher. (Note that in my CCIF measurements, I've included the ultrasonic "d2H" component at 39kHz into the calculation for completeness even though this would not be audible.)

Next, we have the synthetic TIM ("Transient InterModulation") signal consisting of a 1kHz square wave with 12kHz sine at 192kHz samplerate (96kHz bandwidth), measured at 2V, 10V, 15V and 20V output:

As you can see, this amplifier was essentially perfect at the 2V and 10V output levels. However, by 15V and 20V we are seeing the development of distortion down below -80dB from the 1kHz peak along with probably some power-related low-level noise. Interesting finding and perhaps a useful data point for future comparisons. The idea is that this test signal might be an indicator of slew-rate limitation when the amplifier is reproducing rapid transients. Considering that we're still seeing just distortion below -80dB from the peak with a 20Vrms continuous output of this very challenging synthetic signal, I find it hard to believe one should have any worries with real musical transients.

Let's now have a look at the Triple-Tone Distortion and Noise measurement used in my AMOAR rating system, here's the TD+N at 2V into 4Ω for both channels:

An identical TD+N reading of -91.9dB (let's just round it down to -91dB so as not to overstate anything) for both channels at 2V is excellent - again, both channels are driven simultaneously. Remember that I use this value as a "summary" distortion score. This result is better than the Emotiva XPA-1L's -81dB and Onkyo TX-NR1009's -73dB; blowing away the inexpensive Yeeco amp with the TI TPA3116 Class D chip's result of -52dB.

For completeness, here's the left channel triple-tone TD+N at 10V where the distortion is still very low and with low noise:

IV. Square Wave and Wideband Noise

Up to this point, we're overall looking at very impressive results! However, remember that there is something about Class D "switching" amplifiers that we need to keep in mind. Because of the oscillating architecture, without a filter, one can detect potentially large amounts of "switching noise". This is why measurements of Class D amps are recommended to be done with a strong low-pass filter in place. The Audio Precision measurements Hypex publishes in their data sheet for the nCore NC252MP are done with the AES17 20kHz low-pass filter in place which is a "brick wall" design providing about -60dB attenuation by 24kHz! BTW, it's because of the use of this kind of steep filtering, instead of 19 & 20kHz CCIF/ITU-R intermodulation tones, they use 18.5 & 19.5kHz.

As you can see, I am using no such thing other than the RME ADC's filter which is certainly good enough to demonstrate excellent performance already. However, once we connect this amplifier to an oscilloscope where the bandwidth is much higher than the ADC, we start seeing the very high frequency switching noise show up:

Wow. Will ya look at those 1kHz "square" waves? ;-)

The digital scope used above is just an inexpensive one with 100kHz bandwidth at best. It's showing us that without any form of filtering, there are significant amounts of high frequency "stuff" in the output... Let's now put the amplifier signal to my Rigol DS1104Z with an even higher bandwidth of up to 100MHz, stop the square wave playback, and let's see what the switching noise looks like in the background:

"Zoomed" in, what we see is a 340-350mV, 410-430kHz oscillation coming out of the two channels (with no signal being amplified). 400+kHz is obviously ultrasonic so even if reproduced to a high level, we wouldn't be able to hear it unless it resulted in distortions in the audible frequencies; obviously no loudspeaker is designed to reproduce 400+kHz!

We can see from the FFT above that indeed, the noise is confined to ~420kHz while playing the dual 5kHz/93kHz tones. This is similar to Audio Science Review's measurement although I'm not seeing any significant 840kHz harmonic.

Although 350mV is a pretty high level, remember that because of the high frequency nature of it, it will naturally be filtered out by inductance in one's audio system. To demonstrate this, I looked in my parts box and found a couple tiny 10μH inductors. Placing this in series with my 4Ω power resistor, we create a simple passive first order RL low-pass filter with calculated -3dB point at 63.7kHz. Tapping the signal after the inductor in the left channel only, this is what happens to that 350mV noise:

The high frequency noise level drops by about -19dB to ~40mV (yellow Vrms reading). 10μH is a very small amount of inductance in concert with a low 4Ω resistance. Most tweeter voice coils have inductance and resistance values higher than this (and that's not even mentioning the effect of one's crossover or the contribution from the various feet of speaker cabling in an actual sound system).

With the small 10μH inductors in place on both channels:

Here's a repeat of the "non-aliasing" 24/384 1kHz, 2V square wave with high-frequency noise now significantly attenuated:

Voilà... Much cleaner square waves, more like what your speakers will be trying to reproduce (if you tried to do such a silly thing as play square waves!).

The bottom line is that while it would be preferable to not have the high frequency noise there at all, it's simply a fact of life with Class D amplifiers. However, due to this being way up at 400+kHz, even relatively low levels of inductance in your loudspeakers would effectively filter it out.

V. Impressions and Conclusions

Here's the summary AMOAR Score graphic I usually end off with for each detailed amplifier test done:

IMO, this is not just "good", it's a great amplifier. Other than the fact that my Emotiva XPA-1L monoblocks are more powerful, within its limits, in every one of the major parameters, this little <6-pound Class D amplifier surpasses the Emotiva's performance.

The <1dB 20kHz frequency response roll-off is not significant IMO. This amp can control speakers with an iron grip thanks to its very low output impedance and high damping factor providing a load-invariant frequency response; not just at lower frequencies but across the whole 20Hz-20kHz audible range. With a triple-tone distortion factor better than -90dB, this amplifier is "clean", producing very low audio frequency noise, harmonic and intermodulation distortions at the important ~1W level (and beyond of course). Furthermore, the Hypex is able to reach the rated 250W into a 4Ω resistive load with <0.02% (-75dB) THD+N with a few watts to spare before hitting my usual "hi-fi" threshold of 0.1%. Unless you have a large room paired with low-sensitivity speakers, I think this amount of clean power will easily suffice.

Remember, compared to Class A or AB devices, these Class D amps are extremely efficient up to 90+%. In my daily use, this amp runs cool and I rarely see it drawing >25W at normal playback levels compared to routinely >100W each when I run my Emotiva monoblocks! There should be some savings on the electric bill if you play lots of music over time :-).

If there is one "anomaly" to be aware of objectively, it would of course be the switching noise up at 400+kHz. It's just what Class D devices do and we see these relatively high levels of ultrasonic noise with higher-end Class D Hypex amps like the NC500 as well without low-pass filtering. In time we'll likely see the switching frequency be pushed even higher up - for example, the Sigma Acoustics Vivace "GaNTube" I mentioned at RMAF 2019 is advertised with a 768kHz switching frequency. While higher frequency noise would be filtered out even more easily, I don't believe there's any evidence to suggest that noise around 400kHz isn't already completely innocuous.

[Have a look at this Exogal ION PowerDAC whitepaper. It's said to operate at 100kHz and supposedly different from standard Class D PWM... Curious whether there is switching noise at 100kHz. If so, it seems that reviewers aren't noticing (here, and here for example) with words like "strong sound quality", "no spurious sounds", "perfectly silent operationally" and even "legendary". The Hypex NC252MP clearly performs objectively superior compared to these ION PowerDAC measurements which showed poor performance IMO - too bad no spectral analysis done out to 100+kHz to show switching noise level.]

In summary then, for less than US$500 (typically <US$800 retail), this simple self-assembled Hypex nCore NC252MP amplifier performed very well and lived up to my expectations both objectively and subjectively. This amplifier has more than enough resolution for hi-res digital playback; the question is whether the rest of your audio chain can maintain the fidelity. For sure, one can spend more money and achieve even lower noise level and lower distortions (yeah, I know, the Benchmark AHB2, Hypex NC400, NC500, and Purifi amps are all awesome - anyone got level-controlled blind test results to show audible differences?!). If 150W into 8Ω, 250W into 4Ω, and even 180W into 2Ω is all the stereo power you need (you might want to see here for a quick check), it's going to be very hard to justify the "need" for something of even higher fidelity.

What I'm excited by is the idea of ongoing refinement, even better power efficiency, smaller physical footprint, and of course even lower prices in the days ahead as technology marches forward and provides value to those seeking high fidelity audio. Progress does not look or sound like 100-pound solid state behemoths or anachronistic tube-jobs costing 4+ figures, IMO. Rather, this amplifier is a nice example of high-fidelity in the real world of the 21st Century - potentially unassuming devices that can provide beautifully clean, "clinical", and some might even call "sterile", empty, sonic canvases upon which the "colors", noise, "grunge", and harmonics of your music arises from with ease.

Let's throw down the gauntlet with this little Hypex amp. For less than US$800, are there any challengers that can surpass this level of objective performance with the same amount of output power?


On subjective opinions formed while obtaining objective results...

I just wanted to add a comment at the end here about the process of making measurements. I don't know if this is the experience of others out there, but what I have noticed is that when measuring high quality gear, the subjective "feel" of the measuring process itself is better. I notice less unanticipated challenges and one is less likely to be surprised by what one finds or need to double check the set-up because of odd results. I think this is especially the case when I'm doing this with hobbyist components and software rather than any kind of automated professional measurement gear ;-).

For example, when I was testing the inexpensive Yeeco amp a few months back, I found that I had to fiddle around with placement of the device because it was picking up hum from a nearby lamp. Little things like the volume knob didn't smoothly control output and it was difficult at times to hit output levels precisely. When the device got warmer, sometimes little momentary anomalies will show up on the scope but unreproducible and hard to comment on in the write-up.

These things that I experience in the measurement process beyond what I hear I think provides a deeper appreciation of the engineered quality of the devices being tested. It's an experience which I think purely subjective reviewers would unfortunately not be able to speak of. A subjective reviewer would also not experience the same type of surprise when expectations are high but quickly dashed when objective results clearly show subpar performance especially when at best the sonic effect is subtle and one has to specifically listen for them once tipped off by the measurements. I felt this disappointment a few years ago when testing the well built and expensive Vitus Audio SS-010 yet it performed worse than my much less expensive Emotiva amp (the superiority of the Emotiva was audible). Likewise, more recently on the DAC side, the Dragonfly Cobalt was surprisingly uninspiring with sonic anomalies subtle and requiring careful listening comparisons with the cleaner sounding Dragonfly Red.

I guess this is all to say that I would encourage audiophiles to consider trying their hand at measurements if possible. The process itself can be enlightening and will allow for exploration of your own perceptual limits. The integration of subjective experience and objective knowledge I believe allows one to be more insightful when there is a need to address inconsistencies between build quality, actual sonic fidelity, and the hype that accompanies products.

[I would say in general, integrating both subjective experiences and objective knowledge is crucial for gaining wisdom through all of life - and doing so for the audiophile hobby is but a logical application of this principle...]

Having said this, the little Hypex amplifier in this enclosure was actually a joy to measure. Results came smoothly, and I was quite positively impressed by the objective performance. I was already expecting the switching noise. There were no weird hums, no strange distortions, no heat issues, no safety shutdowns.


This first week of January historically has been somewhat interesting for audiophiles due to CES announcements. Based on what I see, CES 2020 looks very tepid for audio gear. I wonder if the audiophile press even showed up in Las Vegas for a report of what was announced (other than echoing a few company press releases). The most interesting audio product seems to be the latest Nuraloop Bluetooth headphone that measures one's otoacoustic emissions (OAE) for sound optimization (I assume they're using some kind of transient-evoked OAE response). Hmmm, interesting idea and worth seeing if this function catches on over time!

Also, lossy codec development continues with Bluetooth LE Audio where they've improved perceptual quality with lower bitrates and power output. Must be approaching modern MP3 and AAC levels of quality at the same bitrate. Plus the multi-stream sharing feature should be great when you're on a flight and want to share audio with family members (watching a movie on your tablet for example). Also there's the introduction of the LC3plus protocol for "beyond perceptual transparency" at 500kbps; a lossy "high resolution" audio codec at bitrates about 1.5x typical 320kbps MP3 these days. This will be good for wireless sound quality though for "perfectionist audiophiles" this is obviously not on the level of true lossless high resolution.

In the next week, there might be more interesting stuff from the NAMM 2020 tradeshow where we should see some good pro-level audio gear announcements.

As I put the finishing touches on this post, I'm listening to the excellent Alexandre Desplat Little Women (2019, DR10) soundtrack. Looking forward to catching the movie with my wife and daughter soon.

Gonna be busy with some work, a Windows 10 reinstall here to freshen things up, a ton of E-mails to respond to and some non-audio projects I want to try over the next couple weeks.

Hope you're all enjoying the music...

[PDF Version for download / printing.]


  1. Thanks for all the hard work doing all those measurements, Arch! At some point I was considering buying Benchmark AHB2 but I need a lot of channels due to active crossovers and buying several Benches would be costly. Looks like you have found a better option!

    In general, I would say that doing measurements yourself helps you to find out things about your equipment you would otherwise miss. I can compare that to photography that helps one to notice things in the surrounding world that otherwise would be left unnoticed.

    It's also interesting sometimes to discover engineering tricks in a good equipment. When I was measuring QSC SPA4-100 4 channel amp, I found that 2nd and 4th output channels are driven via the "-" wire in the inverted phase. For the speaker it's the same thing as being driven via the "+" wire in the original phase (used on 1st and 3rd channels) because speakers are differential devices. However, this trick allowed QSC engineers to avoid having a switch for bridged mode--one simply connects a speaker to "+" wire of the 1st channel and to the "-" wire of the 2nd channel. I wasn't paying attention to this fact prior to doing measurements, and it was a lot of fun to discover this.

    1. Hi Mikhail,
      Cool finding with the QSC device... Exactly, there are insights we're only made aware of with testing unless documented of course in a good manual!

      Yeah, I think a couple of these 2-channel Hypex modules, maybe a single channel NC250MP to match for center channel would be great for a 5.1 home theater.

      And for active crossover folks, one could get a 3-channel NC252MP + NC100HF unit which would add an extra level of flexibility... I assume one could even tie the NC252MP in BTL mode for more powerful single channel bass/midrange duties, and NC100HF for the tweeter, paired with a good powered sub.

      Maybe one of these days I'm get into the active crossovers.

    2. Amazing article. I have a similar setup, so i was surprised to find this. I have Paradigm signature s6 v1 (bought used ) as well as emotiva basx a-300, which is below the emotiva you have.

      Is the nc252 good enough to let you totally replave the emotiva monoblocks?
      I was thinking of purifi or the nc400 but if this is better than the monos which are better than the basx then maybe they are enough.
      Your input is greatly appreciated.

  2. Did you purchase the album, or is there some way to measure the DR of a streamed source?

    The internet DB only shows the Thomas Newman, 1994 version (DR 11).

    Speaking of sound tracks, I've been on an organ kick for the last ~year, and came across this oneOrgelmusikken Fra Deusynlige. It starts and finishes with the most amazing renditions of Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

    Speaking of organ music (heh), anyone know the story of the Yellow/Orange/Blue/Green Edition albums?

    I've stumbled onto a few great organ (and choral) works in there. At first I thought they were an Amazon Music thing that they produced themselves kind of like a movie original, but then I noticed TIdal has them too. And yet at Amazon, they are only available as MP3's. The weird thing is there are dozens of albums in each color in what seems like a random order. And searching on " Edition" gets all kinds of false hits. I'm not sure how to sample them all. Or if I've missed any colors.

    Anyway, folks, be sure to checkout Orgelmusikken. Very powerful... subjectively and objectively (bass extension). :)

    1. Hi Allan,
      This is the DR from the HDtracks released in 24/48; I assume the CD would be similar. Sadly, here in Canada, still no Qobuz of Amazon, and I personally cannot support Tidal for various reasons. Not sure if these services provide DR measurements of if Roon might be able to get a reading...

      Thanks for the Orgelmusikken recommendation!

  3. Have been reading your blog offline as printed copy for years, Archimago, but today I could not print latest post?! After setting up print parameters, I check the document properties and several times now it shows as 0 (zero) bytes.
    Has anything changed at your end?

    1. Hey BigGuy,
      Don't know what happened... Maybe Blogger/Google changed something in their theme code?

      Anyhow, I've attached a link to the PDF for you and anyone who wants a copy of the article... That should print fine.

    2. Me neither, Archimago! Thanks for the link to the article.

    3. Hey BigGuy,
      Let me know if this ends up being a Safari / MacOS Catalina issue as we discussed over E-mail...

  4. I use Quad 2805 electrostats as my speakers. Traditionally electrostats can be hard to drive. Do you have any idea whether there may be issues using one of these Hypex amplifiers with them?

    1. The problem with amps driving electrostatic speakers, given a competent design to begin with, is usually because they have a Boucherot cell (often incorrectly called a Zobel network) on the output which interacts with the speakers' reactive impedance. The network is almost universally designed to improve stability with conventional speaker loads, and ESLs are typically outside the range of expected loads.

      Quality class D amps (like this one, I'm assuming) do have an output filter which is designed to greatly reduce the ultrasonic components of the switching stage. Depending on where the pole of the filter is located, it could also interact with the ESL input transformer; I wouldn't expect the result to be any worse than with a good analog amp, but it totally depends on what precautions the designer took to ensure stability with reactive loads.

      Lacking a schematic I guess we'd have to wait for someone to try it and report back. :-(

    2. Thanks for the nore Greg,
      Yeah, I don't know since I don't have an electrostat to try out.

      Would be a good one to ask Hypex or maybe one of the amp builders as a potential customer.

      I'd certainly be interested in the answer you get!

  5. Great measurements and write up Archimago. It really is amazing the amount of clean power that can be generated by small class D amplifiers. Back in the late 70s I bought a Kenwood Integrated amplifier (KA-9100) that had two ginormous iron core transformers and delivered 90 watts per channel. It weighed nearly 40 pounds. I have been researching class D amplifiers as a possible replacement for my 1987 Yamaha receiver as a means to save space on my credenza that it shares with my bookshelf speakers. I don't need nearly as much power as the NC252MP but I found the Hypex Ncore NC122MP on Ebay with 125 watts per channel into 4 ohms for $215. It fits into the same Ghent case kit. Intriguing, but I have more to consider as my Yamaha has a variable loudness and tone controls that I am reluctant to give up.
    I do enjoy the hunt though.

    1. Hey Joe,
      Yeah, would love to hear back if you jumped for one of these Class D amps how it works out!

      There's certainly something to be said about the convenience of tone/loudness controls. I wonder if there might be a good, inexpensive pre-amp out there?

      Maybe a Chi-Fi analogue pre-amp with multiple inputs, quiet output, tone control, remote for convenience. Even better if has balanced operation, say <$300? Anyone seen such a thing?

    2. This might do:
      or this:

    3. I'm also going for a NC122MP XLR assembled amp for 400€ and a passive preamp. I'm not needing as much power for 10-100W 6 ohm rated bookshelves, although there's a NC252MP XLR for 500€. I guess performance for low volumes is about the same, maybe better as I'll be using with geater efficiency. Very interesting blog, thanks for letting us know. I liked the Sabaj A20d dac analysys aswell.

  6. Hey Archimago,
    I have not come across a <$300 analog preamp with those features, but Yamaha does have the WXC-50 ($350) that includes DSP with what they are calling Volume-adaptive EQ as well as High-Mid-Low tone controls. Of course this then leads to the audiophile debate with many contending that digital EQ sucks, while the defenders of DSP argue that analog controls introduce their own levels of phase anomalies and harmonic colorations. I've always been satisfied with my analog controls, but then I don't consider myself particularly critical when I listen to music. I bet I would be just as satisfied with digital controls.

    1. Thanks Joe,
      Will keep an eye out on a device like this...

  7. Hi all
    If you're interested in the very reasonably priced Audiophonics NC252 assemblage, the balanced version is delayed until mid-February, as I found out _after_ ordering and having my CC charged.
    Not the best practice. I'm used to sellers charging for goods once shipped. I'll update when received.
    BTW (OT), here's another 'proof' of cable differences being audible:
    Not a single measurement or even specious formula to justify this one.
    Best to all seekers of audio truth

    1. That sucks Phil,
      Please keep us updated on how the ordering is coming along. I typically don't like this practice either. If I'm going to be on a waitlist, I don't mind putting a small deposit down but not the whole thing.

      Yeesh. Cable articles. I'll have a couple articles coming up discussing cables and measurements. "Velocity of propagation" - hmmm... Aren't we looking at something like 65% to 90% the speed of light?! We're talking something like 5ns/m. What is the propagation speed of neurons from inner ear to brain stem again?

    2. The Audiophonics XLR version is back in stock and shipping in 24 hours (says here:
      CAD is pretty low right now: it comes to about 670CAD with shipping. I expect to pay 13% HST on the unit so it looks like a very good deal.

    3. Sounds good Phil,
      Hope it arrives soon and you enjoy the product!

      Yeah, unfortunately the CAD not great and lower compared to prior to COVID. At least it's better than a month ago...

    4. Apologies if I post twice, I think I exited prematurely before.
      It arrive in 7 days (slight delay in customs) and HST was $89, so the whole bill was about 750CAD (which has recovered a bit since I ordered - of course.)
      Well made, unbelievably light, dead quiet, runs on 110/240 automatically, cool after an afternoon's standards. Sounds as good as anything I've heard here.
      Will share some measurements at some point (although my setup is not as resolving as yours.)
      Only question remaining is reliability but I'm not expecting any problems with the Hypex module. And the build inspires confidence (unless you just have to have 90 pound class A monsters.)
      Thanks for the initial post about the NC252MPs...

  8. If anyone's looking on Ebay right now, this listing has 2 of these amp modules available for US$300 each:!98111!US!-1

  9. Hi Archimago,

    If you liked this class D amp and it measures good, does it mean that you'll replace your Emotiva mono blocks with it?

    1. Hi fgk,
      For now I still have the Emotivas here at home. Still using the nCores mainly... Will either sell off or give it to some family later!

  10. A quick question - in this Hypex amp review you state: "this amp can control speakers with an iron grip thanks to its very low output impedance and high damping factor". I have some PSB Imagine B bookshelve speakers that are back ported, and because of listening room constraints I have to place them close to a wall, with the result that the bass can be boomy and loose at certain frequencies. However, when trying this amp, I beleive the bass is now tighter and better controlled. So can an amp like this with such a high damping factor actually help control and mitigate bass resonances from ported speakers with less than optimal placement? Thanks

    1. Hi Favmusic,
      Yes, you could be hearing a difference from the high damping factor (compared to your previous amp). Remember that for bass (woofers) particularly with higher mass, the damping factor will help control the driver better and "tighter" in how it starts and stops. Electrically this looks like a better frequency response with the Sony bookshelf, and mechanically it will have that "tighter" effect during playback.

      Generally, you'll still need to control the bass if putting the speakers too close to a wall of course. You could plug up the bass reflex port if needed so long as frequency response still reasonably accurate of course; I'd take a measurement mic and check...

  11. Hi archimago great articles on this amp. Ive never been tempted to go class d before but id happily buy these solely based on your review if my rotel RB1080 died. I was selling hifi in the 90s and one issue i thought class d had was once you got to rated power output limit that was it. While class a and ab had headroom for transient power beyond rated rms for short periods with dynamic music. But i cannot find any evidence of this now. Am i mistaken? Does class d have headroom beyond rated rms for music peaks?

    1. I have a March Audio p252 with this ncore inside. These things have tons of energy ready for musical peaks. Owned a Cambridge Audio integrated and a Peachtree Audio amp before this one. I can't imagine an amplifier that does much better than these (at least without going over a 5K budget).

    2. Yup. I agree with Kirk...

      The Hypex is little David that can take on many Goliaths. The power this thing can put out with the high quality I suspect will satisfy many many audiophiles! A great deal...

  12. Amazing article.
    Can not find nc252 modules for sale anywhere only assembled, will buy most probably from audiophonics or nord
    Still you spoke of doing a speaker with these modules but they already have plate amplifiers from hypex with dsp complete ready for you to program and run, the thing is you can not get a 2 channel plate amp and use it for stereo it has to be used for one channel and the dsp is for splitting it like crossover
    I have a similar setup, so i was surprised to find this. I have Paradigm signature s6 v1 (bought used ) as well as emotiva basx a-300, which is below the emotiva you have.

    Is the nc252 good enough to let you totally replave the emotiva monoblocks?
    I was thinking of purifi or the nc400 but if this is better than the monos which are better than the basx then maybe they are enough.
    Your input is greatly appreciated.

    1. Hey Egyptian,
      Yeah, not easy to find these modules pre-assembled in products. They were meant as OEM for companies; all I can say is to keep an eye out on E-bay and elsewhere.

      Yes, they are certainly capable of replacing my monoblocks.

    2. There are much cheaper and better ...

    3. Interesting Myckola,
      Wondering is there an English site for this product to look into?

    4. Только на русском к сожалению.

  13. How do you find the Nobsound passive attenuator works for this amp? I'm using it myself set at about 1-2oclock to allow my DAC(smsl m200, which puts out 5.5V) to have a more usable volume control range. But I'm wondering if it would be better to get an active pre to have a lower output impedance. I read somewhere that hypex recommends sources with 50ohms.

    1. Hi Nick,
      Hmmm, I haven't spent much time actually listening with the Nobsound attached since normally I use the Emotiva XPS-1. When I did have it on the test-bench with XLR attached and shortly afterwards, I did have a listen and it seemed alright plus the measurements did not appear impaired.

      Is it sounding good to you?

  14. where did you get the parts for this? did you put it together yourself? i'm thinking of pairing the pre-built audiophonics version with the elac dbr62s. what DAC and pre-amp would you recommend i add to this? i'm a beginner audiophile and this is my first setup.

    1. Hi kltah,
      I bought the enclosure through the link above from Ghent Audio. The amplifier module I found on eBay back in late 2019.

      I see that eBay currently has a listing with 10 of the NC252MP modules for $300 each:

      Haven't checked over the years but they come up for sale as OEM parts once awhile...

    2. Hi kltah.
      I'm at the same spot. I have an old Sansui Au517, Ifi zen Dac and polk audio rt55i (I'm from Brazil, and stuff are hard to find and the price is too high). But I intend on changing everything and go for my second setup.
      I was thinking about the Gustard x16 as preamp, n252 and elac dbr62. I don't know if it would work, impedance and all.
      How did you solve your problem? Did you buy them?
      Archimago, thank you so much for your time and effort. It really helps people all around the world. Thank you.

  15. you got this bit right.

    " Progress does not look or sound like"...... "100-pound solid state behemoths or anachronistic tube-jobs costing 4+ figures, IMO. Rather, this amplifier is a nice example of high-fidelity in the real world of the 21st Century - potentially unassuming devices that can provide beautifully clean, "clinical", and some might even call "sterile"........

    Sadly your 21st century marvel sound horrible, even worse on digital music.
    Your so called "anachronistic tube-job", in fact can sound truly wonderful, which is why so many people who actually work in the industry have gone back to them, including single ended triodes.(SET).

    The main reason I would not ever want a class D amp? Because they sound dreadful.

  16. Thanks for this test and the previous kit info. Helped me decide to be sensible and go for this model (from audiophonics) rather than paying out at least double for a Purify for an improvement I probably wouldn't hear. Previously had a UCD250 based amp (Niles Si 2150). Home A/B listening test gives the Ncore a cleaner treble and clearer overall image. More 'grip' on the sound. Though the UCD slight 'smoosh' actually suits some tracks better. I'm still massively curious to hear a Purify of course... but that'll have to wait! Running with a Denon x3700 and modified Linn 109s.