Amplifier to replace Powernode 2

My first entry to streaming audio was with a Bluesound Powernode 2 about 2 years ago. I was very impressed, both with the sound quality and user interface. It was a big step up from my old Pioneer A400/CD player combo. In fact, the whole experience rekindled my interest in ‘hifi’ and since then I have become a Roon convert (Rock on a NUC 7i3), started feeding the Powernode with a Chord Mojo, built my own set of single driver transmission line speakers, and most recently added an Allo Usbridge. Each of these steps have provided worthwhile improvements in sound quality.

Since I started using Roon and the Mojo I have simply been using the powernode as an amplifier via its 3.5 mm jack analogue input and I have started to wonder whether the next upgrade would be to move to a better quality amp. I have been impressed with the D class amp in the powernode (Hypex based I understand), so am drawn to a quality D class to replace it. Initial thoughts were the Allo Volt+ D which has quite a few fans on various forums, but then I stumbled across the Audiophonics pa-s125nc which seems to be a largely unmodified implementation of the Hypex NC122mp for a little more money than the Volt+ D. The Hypex NC amps seem to attract a lot of positive reviews for their transparency which is what I am after.

I intend to feed the Mojo signal direct into the amp without a preamp, which I understand should work OK, and then use the Mojo volume controls, or Roon DSP volume as a remote option.

I guess my question is whether anyone has experience of either of these amps, or have alternatives they might suggest.

I’ve been using a pair of power amplifiers (one to drive each speaker) based on Hypex NC122MP for a couple of years now. Very impressed with the sound quality and ease with which they drive the speakers. I also have a Bluesound Powernode 2 and the Hypex amps are definitely an improvement. The Audiophonics amp using the Hypex would look to be good value for money when compared to alternatives which (probably) use the same boards but cost significantly more.

Thanks Mike. Very useful to have a view from someone with experience of both amps.

Take a look at the NuPrime line of amps. I have the IDA-8 integrated and use it with Allo USBridge and I love it. It’s a hybrid AD class amp, best of both worlds.

The NuPrime amps look interesting, thanks for the suggestion. However, I read that for the IDA-8 the analogue input is converted to digital only then to be converted back to analogue so any benefits of using an external DAC will be removed. Not clear why this is done, but presumably so that DSP functions can be carried out. I really like the sound of my Chord Mojo so this is not the way forward for me. I cannot find any information on whether the smaller (60 W) IDA-6 also does this, but may contact NuPrime to find out as the A+D design of these amps is quite appealing.

Why don’t you try the DAC inside IDA-8, you may be pleasantly surprised.
There is no DSP inside IDA-8, but volume control is handled in the DAC, the output of which is handled directly to the power amp, that’s why analog is converted to digital.

This post explains better:

I use the analog inputs of the IDA-8 for vinyl and the sound character is preserved. It sounds amazing. Darko did some tests with the analog inputs of KEF’s LS50Wireless using higher end DACs and found that the sound character of those DACs was preserved.

I decided to go with the Audiophonics PA-S125nc. It arrived yesterday and I thought I would post my initial impressions. Firstly, it is small and has an unusual long thin form factor. Solidly constructed and not unattractive. One of the reviews on the Audiophonics site mentions a slight physical hum from the amplifier, but the one I have is silent.

My setup is now: Roon Rock (NUC 7i3)>USBridge>Chord Mojo>Audiophonics PA-S125nc>Mark Audio Pluvia 11 single full range drivers in ‘Pencil’ mass-loaded transition line cabinets

I have only listened to it for a couple of hours, but I am impressed with its clarity, sound staging and dynamics. A clear step up from the Powernode2. Perhaps the most striking difference is the clarity at low volume when small details can still be clearly heard. As an example of things I am now hearing, I have never noticed before that there is the sound of light rain falling during the introduction of Talk Talk’s Rainbow track on Spirit of Eden. With the Powernode this can be heard but it is little more than ambient background ‘noise’. For volume control I have used both Roon DSP Volume with the Mojo set to line level output, and Roon fixed volume with control via the Mojo and cannot distinguish any differences.

So far I am very happy with the change and look forward to further exploring my collection. Will be selling the Powernode2 in due course.

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Another comment on the improvement vs the Powernode. One of my favourite test tracks for stereo imaging is Pink Floyd’s Granchester Meadows on their Ummagumma album. This has a skylark circling overhead and with each upgrade to my system it has become more and more clearly ‘up in the sky’. With the new amp this is eerily realistic - it is genuinely way above your head when sitting 3 meters in front of the speakers!

Glad you like the Audiophonics amp.

Sounds like our systems have a similar design philosophy - revealing and neutral DAC, neutral amp and full-range speakers. I use Benchmark DAC3, Amps with same Hypex modules and Jordan Eikona speakers.

I find the end of Grantchester meadows - where there’s the sound of a fly being swatted - is also good test of whether a system can create the illusion of 3D. Another track that I shows this well is ‘Once I wished Upon a Tree’ (Trilok Gurtu).