Sold direct from the dealer, NewClear’s formidable Class D NC1000L power amp is reviewed by Paul Rigby
Available on import-only, direct from the manufacturer and offering 500W into 8 Ohms, the cool-running NC1000L exists because Taiwanese amp outfit, Murano…doesn’t. US retailer, Audio Video Choices (AVC), sold many Murano power amps before that company’s untimely demise. So much so that AVC decided to recreate and improve upon the original under the guise of NewClear.
Arriving within a simple, heavy gauge, steel chassis, chosen for its rigidity and mass (the amp weighs in at almost 12kg and spans 355x380x85mm) plus an aluminium faceplate, the metalwork costs have been minimised to focus more on the internals. On the rear, alongside the speaker connectors, are sets of RCA and XLR inputs for each channel plus a rocker power switch and mains connector.
“Inside, we use two B&O ICEpower 1000ASP modules: one for each channel, sharing only the power cord. The largest and one of the earliest modules made within the series, initially designed for Pro audio use, it’s very powerful and tough,” confirmed NewClear boss, Sean Brady.
Some ICEpower implementers drop a module into a steel box and sell it ‘as is’. NewClear wanted to properly implement the technology, “Typically, you will find a buffer stage in front of an ICE module to raise the input impedance, which is relatively low and not friendly for a range of valve pre-amps. The buffer offers a balanced circuit too. They do the job, technically, but they don’t change the sound of the amp. We use a transformer for that input buffer role. It eliminates ground loops and also strips distortion from the incoming signal. Other changes include heavy gauge, internal silver-plated copper and Teflon cables. We also cryogenically treat our cables.”
Our own tests did throw up a selection of issues that I broached with Brady. On the subject of those ‘live’ speaker terminals? “The connectors are the common shrouded type that meet European standards so no-one can get shocked,” said Brady. As for the voltage gain? “The pre amp requires a little bit more advancement in the volume control but only a couple of extra clicks. We don’t recommend a passive pre amp, however.” I required gain to be increased from my standard ‘loud’ setting of ‘64’ to ‘72’ on my Aesthetic Calypso valve pre.
I connected the NewClear with a Black Rhodium Cratos (£125) mains cable and played Julie Cruise’s ‘Falling’ on vinyl via my Quad ESL-57, One Thing modified, electrostatics (the NewClear drove them without a problem). Bass background was admirably dark while lower frequencies were confident and detailed. The introductory, lower midrange whispering Cruise vocal was clear and easily distinguished. A touch of upper mid aggression did encroach upon the broad soundstage, however, that proved to be exacting during vocal and guitar crescendos.
Switching to the 45rpm version of Ernestine Anderson’s ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon’, the double bass proved heavy and powerful, dominating the mix. Piano was lively and vivacious although rather shouty within the high upper mids. That said, piano had swing and bounce: this was one pianist who was having serious fun. Treble was relatively clear although not extended.
Changing the mains cable to a more expensive Tellurium Q Black (£800), upper mids proved far more articulate and informative with a further reduction in distortion. Piano exhibited upper mid control with enhanced instrumental separation while vocals were relaxed and calm, exuding control. I recommend this cable for use with the NewClear, although this reduces the amp’s value for money.
Turning to rock-based Anekdoten and, not surprisingly, this was where the NewClear shone. Sporting a quality Densen B-475 CD source, the NewClear threw itself into the music with gusto while the dynamically driven upper mids relaxed into the fast pace.
Swopping the Quads for a pair of unpowered, bookshelf Spendor S3/5R2s, the rock output proved to be just as enjoyable. The dominating lower frequencies provided a largely smooth output that exuded a vibrant energy.
The NewClear NC1000L is arguably the best incarnation of the ICEpower modular design yet. Its thoughtful implementation provides a perfect niche solution for those who enjoy high-energy music or bass-significant output.
NEWCLEAR NC1000L POWER AMPLIFIER
Price: $2,600 plus $100 P&P
Tel: 001 602 265 1628