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Exceedingly Good Value; NORD NC500DM MkII Stereo Power Amplifier

Class D gear is often bashed for being a little bright sounding with treble and maybe not as smooth as Class A and AB amplifiers. Possibly the polar opposite to another type of Class D gear then. You’d surely have to categorise that type as smooth, rich and warm.

Apparently this brightness is hard to get right in this type of amp. I have only basic interest as to why – the proof is always in the eating and we should make our minds up this way!

Nord has been going a while and is the brain-child of Colin North. On the website Colin has the NC500DM MkII described as Class D with a Class A sound. On a forum I noted lots of people were departing from Cyrus Audio amps and going for these Amplifiers instead. So more than a snowball in hell’s chance that I might contact Colin being a Cyrus user myself.

It’s described as using ‘Two Hypex (Electronics) NC500 amp modules with two SMPS1200 power supplies, one for each channel and identical to the Bel Canto Ref 600M’ but outperforming it for half the price. Bolder claims than Brexit driving BoJo at the moment?

By the DM in its name, it is a true ‘Dual Mono’ design which means that each left and right channel is discrete from one another. The opposite being a stereo power amp. In the final part of the chain, different ‘op amps’ can be specced, having a bearing on the final sound. I was given a model which has the Sonic Imagery 990Enh variety, apparently balanced performers for this model.

When you look at the prices of the Hypex power modules that go into these amps, factor in the rest of the gubbins inside, and a lovely Japanese case to boot – we have what appears great value. On the face of it, quite a simple proposition. Bolt everything in and off you go.

My computer has a huge great big power supply, like some amps, and using it in the summer it heats my room up to inferno proportions. But take my word for it that class D amps are a great energy inefficiency busting agitator. Greenpeace would love them.

That’s all we need to say really on technicalities, in order to explain specified options. We should point out that for the money, Class D does tend to be pretty hefty power wise. So buying it expecting more control than Kim Jong-Un, isn’t unreasonable. But don’t go trying to test this in an audiophile way, just yet, by reaching for Yello’s ‘Oh Yeah’ as used in Ferris Bueller’s day off. A few things to say first…

You can also add Nord’s easy stream board into the NC500DM MkII, which I understand has just been released and is only wi-fi-able. It looks like a Raspberry Pi type computer based streamer. Unusual that you put a streamer in a power amp, but I digress.

Due to design considerations, RCA inputs are a cost option as the base model is fitted with XLR balanced inputs only. You can also add 3.5mm trigger inputs to allow the amp to turn on when you power up your pre amp, useful if your pre amp has these outputs of course.

The case isn’t some cheap metal sheet affair but utilises solid aluminium sides all around. It looks very well made too. There is a glowing blue power light at the front which is disabled or dimmed by a rear switch. I hate it when you spend money and get a bent sheet case with a stick on milled front plate. It costs a bit more but I think luxury is appreciated in such a priced product.

I like the idea of direct buying from manufacturers as it cuts out the middle men dealers and makes the products so much more competitive. Nord do this. Also don’t reviewers have the finger on the pulse of what’s hot too. Lets be frank, lots of dealer purchases are transactional. Many independent dealers don’t really add much value…. just come into my ‘living room’ and you can choose based on what you like the sound of in my limited range, which won’t always be most competitive. I’ll sit back, let you decide, offer a bad discount and take many hundreds or thousands on your purchase in my dealer margin. Yeah right!….slightly old fashioned in an internet world and hardly a glowing beacon of value added sincerity in a climate where consumers spending this sort of money expect more and the best performing gear. I know I do.

Because of this direct selling model, Colin offers a service of claiming back import taxes. Contact him for more details. You get a 14 day money back guarantee on amp purchases, as you’d expect.

XLR Connections & Front LED Controls, Panel for Trigger Controls (option)

Class D sound?

I’m not normally critical of products where, as a reviewer, I have to be fair and look for positives. Especially as tastes differ. However where products are comparable to others at significantly less money, then it needs calling out. Also too, where I would foresee more people than not, sharing my opinion. Otherwise if reviews don’t help readers, well what’s the point?

This Nord is one such amp and it’s not usual for me to overtly wax lyrical on products, for fear of loosing credibility. However I’ll say straight away that with this power amp, like Tyson Fury, it punches well above its weight.

To start with it is noticeably cleaner than my Class AB Cyrus Mono X200 signature power amps using it with my Cyrus DAC XP Signature preamp, by its overall presentation with midrange and upper frequencies. It is a relatively slight change though.

Quality Speaker Terminals

It’s important to say that this Nord is maybe not quite as balanced as the Cyrus monoblocks IN MY SYSTEM with the Cyrus preamp, but the differences are relatively marginal and if anything I put this down to the slightly edgy Cyrus pre amp.

So yes, I’m aware the Cyrus pre isn’t as neutral as it could be, but with a more neutrally refined pre-amp like the Bryston BP17 cubed I tried a while back, I’d expect this power amp to work extreme wonders. With a more tonally rich tube pre amp like the AVM PA 5.2, too. This is because this Nord does very much reflect the pre amp source. Something I found out myself trying the more rounded M2Tech Young MkIII pre/dac and also chatting to another Nord user online with similar experiences (incidentally a new Nord Facebook forum is being set up)

Drawn in Inkscape

This fed into my early impressions that this Nord doesn’t really depart too much from the sound I am used too – ie Cyrus. Now that might sound like a pretty vacuous thing to say with pre-amplification directing sonic traits, but of course power amps can impart their own character.

So doesn’t this mean then that the adage that Class D is sometimes bright, is erroneous. Possibly it could suggest that the system is perhaps not as balanced as it could be, if this view is held. So on this score, if you are happy with what your preamplifier is doing, it’s doubtful you’ll have any concerns with this power amp.

It has power and guts over my Cyrus mono amps. Also in talking about it generally. This equates to exquisite dynamics, control, and depth, which is just, well, …. superb. Low and extended bass too. It’s a detail excavator behemoth with lots of micro details in music not previously discernible. It has it over the Cyrus amps in these areas. It’s too excavating detail at a rate like JCB’s should be scooping plastics up from rubbish tips in far eastern countries.

It is incredibly powerful and as long as you don’t use it anywhere near max output, it will be fine on most speakers. It certainly loves my PMC’s which have always appreciated power. I’ve been trying the Nord NC500DM MkII with some mini Ophidian Minimo speakers and will soon move it to a desk installation with these baby monitors.

We could wax lyrical more with specificity to sound quality traits, but as this is partly a function of the power and control this amp has, I won’t… Suffice to say though, it does have great fluidity.

Check out my full film review here.

I had my doubts of the claim about Class D with Class A sound, since my experiences with some  Class D amps have been one of edgy and sharp detail. So I thought, oh no here we go… not more egged up HiFi salesmanship. Well at less than half the price of my Cyrus Mono X200 Signatures, and achieving better dynamic, bass and detail performance, I can see with the above in mind, how the claims about the Bell Canto’s could be true.

The reason is that this Nord NC500DM MkII offers absolutely incredible performance and value for money for what it is doing sonically. It isn’t going to be like some ultra smooth Class A integrated from the likes of Sugden or Accuphase. However that type of sound departs from neutral anyway. With the right balanced pre amp, this Nord won’t do that – it’s balanced. So I’d put it more in these terms which agrees both with the manufacturer view of its balance, and those too of the needs of lots of customers, as to achieving neutrality.

So if you had to come up with a powerful, detailed and clean sound with loads of the qualities you probably need, at this price you must be joking it’s possible? Well you’d be wrong if you thought that. Consider before making your next amp purchase, what is possible in audiophile HiFi where the dealer isn’t in the picture. In some ways and to be fair, I wish the very best adding value dealers did sell Nord gear. Just from the point that more people could come across this brand. That said, price probably wouldn’t be as competitive.

With this in mind and throwing a curve ball, please consider Nord amplifiers next time you upgrade. You certainly will NOT regret it and I wish I had tried before now!

If ever an amp should win an award for best value for money then this is it. Maybe reviewer awards should only be given in such ways! The Nord NC500DM MkII more than achieves the 13th Note and is extremely recommended!!!

Test System

A fair selection of different kit;

PMC twenty5 23 speakers, Innuos Zenith Mark 2 source/server, Cyrus DAC XP Signature pre amp with connected Cyrus PSX-R power supply, Cyrus Mono X200 Signature power amps, ISOL-8 Integra power conditioner connected to mains with ISOL-8 IsoLink Ultra power cable, Chord Qutest DAC with matching MCRU linear power supply, Chord Signature tuned Aray XLR interconnects. Tellurium Black 2 speaker wire.

I also used Ophidian Minimo speakers and an M2Tech Young MkIII as a different pre/DAC, to the Cyrus pre/Dac  and the Chord Qutest DAC.

Specifications

  • Two Hypex NCore NC500 Modules (Stereo)
  • Two Hypex SMPS1200A700 Power Supply (Stereo)
  • Input Buffer REV D Boards Choice of Sparko’s SS2590 or Sonic Imagery 990Enh Op Amps. Rev D will also accept previous 8 pin Sparko’s and Sonic Imagery OP Amps.
  • Stereo True Dual Mono Design 
  • SNR 135dB
  • Distortion: THD+N – – 0.001 % 20Hz
  • Frequency Response: 0 – 50k Hz +0/-3dB
  • Low Distortion: THD+N – – 0.001 % 20Hz
  • Input Sensitivity 8ohm 2.52Vrms 10.24dBu
  • High Current Output Capable of driving 2ohms (for the Most Demanding of Speakers) ; 550W 2ohm, 700W 4ohm, 400W 8ohm
  • Frequency Response: 0 – 50k Hz +0/-3dB
  • XLR Balanced Inputs (RCA an option)
  • Case Dimensions :  W 430mm D 331mm H 70mm (With Feet and Binding Posts W 430mm D 375mm H 83mm)
  • Black or silver case
  • 2 Years Warranty

Price

£1,679 (black or silver case)
12v trigger (option) – £50
Sonic Imagery 990enh Op Amp (option) – £45

Manufacturer Details

Nord Acoustics Ltd
Kensington Villa, 1 Selkirk Street, Cheltenham
Gloucestershire, GL52 2HY
Tel : +44 (0) 1242 650559
Email : [email protected]
Website : https://www.nordacoustics.co.uk

Written by Simon Price

I'm an AUDIO-LOVER who likes sharing experiences of faithfully reproduced audio in a CREDIBLE way. I am primarily interested in products; their looks, functionality and features, and most importantly how they sound! My reviews are not overly technical and I don't use pretentious language, as I believe great audio is non exclusive and is to be enjoyed by all! It's all about the music!

Punching above: M2Tech Young MkIII DAC/preamplifier

Mini Matters: Ophidian Minimo Desktop / Bookshelf Speakers