NINTRONICS NEW SHOWROOM CELEBRATED WITH HIGH-END DEMO
StereoNET was amongst only a select few of the hi-fi press at Nintronic's open day preview held at their new showrooms in Welwyn Garden City. Here we enjoyed a fantastic main system comprising of Nagra, SME, YG Acoustics and Siltech. However, the second system was not to be sniffed at either, as this featured, YBA, Marten and Naim.
Nintronics is a family run business based in Hertfordshire. Like all good blooming business stories, it starts with selling equipment from a bedroom before moving to a slightly seedy lock-up in Watford. Fast-forward some years and the first unit was taken in a business park in Welwyn Garden City. Now, that unit has been handed over to warehousing, and a new two-level unit with ample parking is part of the Nintronics empire.
It is that new unit which was the cause for celebration this weekend with its official public opening being marked on Saturday, January 19th. However, we of the audio press were invited along on the preceding Thursday to sample what would be on offer.
The tour of the new premises unveiled a light and airy environment with plenty of space to display equipment. Sensibly, the bulkier kit stays downstairs, so here you will find the more hefty amplifiers and hernia-inducing speakers.
Upstairs, however, are the more portable objects. Here you will find those floor-standing speakers that lend themselves more to be carried around, as well as stand-mounts and centre-channel speakers, headphones, and more compact amps and desktop audio components.
There are glass-topped display cases ready to take more items, the likes of Chord Electronics' Toby and Hugo can already be found in residence.
Dominating one end of the upstairs floor is a sumptuously comfortable corner sofa. Sitting here you are faced with Avantgarde Acoustics' hi-tech Zero loudspeakers.
Additionally, on this floor, there is also a home cinema demo room - Oh, and a rather swish foosball table.
The home cinema room was currently home to a rack of Cyrus and a pair of Kef Reference 3 floor-standers. The Cyrus was usurped for the Chord Electronics M scaler, TT2, and TToby ahead of Saturday's event.
Moving back downstairs to the second ground floor room you I was greeted by a compact system demonstrating that you don't need racks of equipment to get good hi-fi reproduction. In this room, you have just a pair of YBA components (YBA Passion Pre550A Preamplifier, YBA Passion A650 Power Amp) and Naim source going into Marten Miles 5 floor-standing speakers.
As I made myself comfortable Public Service Broadcasting's 'The Other Side' was playing. I have to say, through this rig, I was getting goosebumps as I was drawn further into the piece. The sense of relief I felt when Control was back in touch with the orbiter required me to take a few moments before I continued on my way.
The actual system used for the public opening included an SME model 10 turntable fitted with a 309 tonearm and Ortofon 2M black cartridge.
Onto the main event, and what a feast for the ears and eyes this proved to be.
FOMO CES 2019
The main room was kitted out for those of us who had a distinct case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) concerning what appeared at CES. Thanks to some nifty teamwork between Nintronics and high-end distributors, Padood, three hallowed names of hi-fi were brought together; namely, Nagra, SME and YG Acoustics.
Nagra (meaning 'recorder' or 'will record' in Polish) is a brand that needs little introduction. The legends of broadcast audio recording have a new digital to analogue converter out that was launched at CES. The new HD DAC X was joined by Nagra HD AMP mono amplifiers, a Nagra CD powered by a Nagra Classic PSU and, rounding things off, was a Nagra HD PREAMP. The DAC and pre-amplifier were, of course, powered by the brand's HD supercapacitor power sources.
Taking care of the analogue source was SME's new Synergy turntable. There is a link here between the deck and the rest of what we had in front of us, too. If you recall, Synergy's in-built phono stage is a Nagra unit. Another link to the rest of the system is that the Synergy's tonearm cable is by Crystal Cable, stablemates of Siltech who provided all the interconnects, power and speaker cable for this incredible audio banquet.
We heard the SME Synergy played at the Windsor Hi-Fi Show and it sounded remarkable through the Nagra set-up.
Now, it is time to chat about those impressive speakers provided by YG Acoustics. These, believe it or not, are the 'junior' versions of the brand's Sonja XV.
Sonja XV Jr. is an ultra-high-end midsize-to-large floorstanding speaker system and is available in several layouts with 2 or 4 towers/shorter assemblies. The interlocking modular sections allow the Sonja XV to be configurable to suit a variety of situations. What we saw was, in essence, the XV without the bottom-most woofers on each array. We are told that the Jr was a custom order, but proved so popular by those with smaller rooms / lower ceilings that YG Acoustics now features it in their line-up.
The Sonja XV Jr certainly didn't appear to miss those extra four modules in today's demonstration that followed introductions by Matthieu Latour, Marketing Director of Nagra, Kerry St. James, Sales Director at YG Acoustics and Padood's Technical Support Manager, Chris Rees.
Starting at the top of the Quadraspire Reference rack we find the SME Synergy turntable. The turntable was launched at last year's Munich High-End and was introduced to us on the day by Chris. The deck features a magnesium tonearm, moving coil cartridge and that built-in phono stage. The included speed control is continually monitoring the RPMs to ensure you are always getting the correct spinnage for your vinyl.
Whether in a concert hall or a studio, Nagra is the ultimate yardstick for professional sound recordists. With Nagra CD players, you can enjoy this sound, reproduced with perfect integrity, on your system in the comfort of your home. Nagra CD players apply a range of solutions aimed at preventing any deterioration in the signal, all the way from reading the data on the disc to final output from the unit.
Particular in-depth analysis and adaptation have been implemented to solve problems of synchronisation drift (jitter) which typically affects even the best devices, and the results obtained are spectacular. An equally rigorous approach is applied to the construction of circuits, the choice of components and production tolerances.
The front-loading mechanism is designed using aviation technology giving excellent stability to the transport and remarkable reliability. The playback module is mounted securely in the CD drawer and makes use of custom-designed elements to ensure perfect protection from vibration, generated by the CD itself or from external acoustic waves. The performance offered by this precision drive means that the CD is read with perfect reliability. The digital signal path is entirely treated at the 44.1kHz frequency avoiding the possibility of introducing parasitic interference through up-sampling techniques.
The brushed aluminium case and the gold plated encapsulation for the digital-to-analogue converters ensure that there is no interference of the audio signal from radiation, and thus guarantees signal purity.
The Nagra range of CD players uses an external 12 V power supply, in this case, the Classic PSU; a safeguard from pollution from large transformers and high voltages.
Nagra HD DAC X
The HD DAC X is designed to convert a digital signal to analogue with total integrity, without introducing the slightest impurity or colouration to the original sound.
The circuits of the Nagra HD DAC X uses DSD 2X (Direct Stream Digital 128), developed in association with Andreas Koch, the pioneering engineer of the DSD format. They run at the highest resolution available today, 128 times that of a standard CD and twice that of SACD.
The analogue section is also the object of a superlative approach. Thanks to the quality of the signal supplied from the digital conversion circuits, the traditional steep slope filters have been eliminated. The upshot of this is the preservation of transients and harmonics; thus the music presents an exceptionally natural sound. Some of the critical design elements include Ultra high-performance drivers, hand-wound transformers, and a tube-driven output stage.
There are 25 precision ultra-low-noise internal power supplies that drive the unit, giving each element its own independent and pure supply source. The Nagra HD DAC X converter uses TWO stand-alone external power supplies, one for the digital section and the other for the analogue, keeping the two parts isolated. Naturally, you can pair the HD DAC X up with the Nagra MPS multiple supply units and allow it to reach its ultimate performance.
The HD DAC X is equipped with extensive connection possibilities, allowing integration in all types of domestic and professional systems. It is particularly suited to computer environments thanks to its audio USB input, through which it receives signals up to the DSD 128 format from a PC or MAC.
Nagra HD PREAMP
Almost 20 years after the release of the mythical preamplifier Nagra PL-P in 1998, Nagra has released one of the most ambitious projects in its history, the HD PREAMP.
The Nagra R&D Department, which consists of ten skilled, specialist audio engineers, worked on this project for the past three years with the goal of creating the most revealing and engaging preamplifier in the world. Sparing no expense, the engineers developed electronics, mechanics, and power supply as well as addressing thermal and vibration issues. Naturally, each stage of the design included extensive listening sessions. The result is an outstanding product regarding appearance, specification and performance.
The volume control is a patent-pending technology that allows perfect level-matching with a much more transparent sound compared to potentiometers and switch resistors because there is no attenuation of the input signal. All you have here is an automatic selection of a tap on the Nagra custom output transformer.
The newly developed SuperCapacitor power supply combines the very low noise of a battery with the high current capability of the best linear power supplies.
The audio engineers created a super vibration free stand to lower the microphonic resonances to a new level.
The HDPREAMP has the best specifications ever achieved by any tube preamplifier, more than 160 dB of signal to noise and 5 Hz to 200kHz frequency response with complete phase integrity. The impedance input is 50 kOhm, and the output impedance is as low as 0.2 Ohm so you can drive any amplifier on the market.
The HD PREAMP can reproduce music with a natural impression, with full spectrum bandwidth and extreme stability. It also produces a precise 3D holographic soundstage.
Nagra HD AMP
The HD AMP is here because customers needed more power to accommodate demanding speakers in their vast rooms.
Early in the development stage, Nagra realised that they could push the limits of what was possible if they allowed themselves a larger chassis. The tower monoblock Nagra HD AMP is the result.
Central to the power supply is a 1600 VA transformer. Following Nagra’s tradition, following the transformer are multiple diode stages and a very complex dual PI filter. The reasoning is that this design enables the amplifier voltage rails to be extremely stable. Also, impulse signals are not able to pollute the HD AMP's current draw, allowing the rest of the set-up to perform at its best. The dual Pi filter acts as a protective shield between the HD AMP and the mains.
Each Nagra HD AMP unit features a bank of 264 mF custom-made Mundorf condensers. Nagra chose those particular items after many hours on the test bench and numerous critical listening sessions.
The Nagra HD AMP audio amplification stage is relatively simple in its conception; this is in part what makes it so transparent and direct. The driver stage features many decoupling capacitors and has a very low output impedance to make the most of the power MOSFETs that follow.
Like all its famous predecessors in Nagra range, the HD AMP uses MOSFET, field effect transistors. Chosen because they are the closest thing to a valve triode, you can definitely feel its sonic character: direct, fast and musical. The HD AMP has precisely matched clusters of MOSFET, to ensure the purest reproduction.
Of course, the Nagra HD AMP is fitted with the traditional Nagra Modulometer on the front panel, showing the output power.
The amplifier features balanced and unbalanced inputs and an IN/OUT trigger function.
YG Acoustics Sonja XV Jr.
The Sonja XV Jr. is a slightly smaller version of the company’s two-tower Sonja XV. Don't be fooled into expecting anything less from this smaller sibling though. The Jr is scaled down rather than trickle-down regarding price and parts. That scaling down in size only. The Sonja XV Jr. is identical to the original except that it has one less bass module per tower (across the four towers).
The look and feel are quintessentially YG, although we were treated to rarely seen metal-finished milled aluminium towers, instead of the usual black enclosures.
YG Acoustics designs and engineers everything in-house and, as Kerry St. James stated,
Come and visit us and you'll see a machine shop. A very oily, noisy machine shop.
All the drivers are manufactured in-house, which in this case means one ForgeCore tweeter, two BilletCore mids, three BilletCore mid/woofers, and two BilletCore woofers. All the drivers are milled from aircraft-grade, solid-core aluminium.
Silk dome tweeter with support
The tweeter has special patented support to make it extremely stiff without adding additional weight. The unique airframe support may only weigh 30 milligrams, but it supports critical sections and represents the most complex mechanical invention YG Acoustics have developed to date. The soft silk dome is treated with epoxy and is glued within that BilletCore-milled light aluminium airframe so that it can hold 120,000 times its own weight without deforming.
The entire system sounded fantastic in the Nintronics main demonstration room. Effortless and exquisitely fluid-sounding, the four towers sang as one. There was excellent sonic placement; especially when Kerry selected to play an operatic piece. The section had conversational singers positioned across the stage. Amazingly, the system produced enough realism that we found ourselves turning our heads towards where the voices seemed to come from.
Dynamics were explosive when required and treated with delicate subtlety at other points.
It was definitely an experience that made the journey worthwhile. Additionally, it was also an experience that made my credit card give out an audible, plaintive whimper.
All of us at StereoNET wish Nintronics every success for the future. It's wonderful to see a bricks 'n' mortar hi-fi shop doing so well.
For more information about the store, head to Nintronics.
StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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