D-SONIC SOA Class-D Core Amps. The best Class-D ?

Owner/Designer Dean Deacon of D-Sonic in Houston in recent months dropped using the B&O ICE amps which he now only uses in the surround channels of his multi-channel home theater amps. He now uses a new Class-D amp in all of his Magnum2 mono and two channel amps which he states is the most technically advanced Class-D amp on the market, called the SOA Class-D core amps. The recent review in 6Moons of his new M2-1500M amp concludes its the closest that Class-D has ever come to tube amps in the upper mid-range and high frequencies.
Anyone bought or heard recently the D-Sonic M2-1500M or the M2-600M? What are your opinions?
Ooops..its Dennis Deacon, not Dean Deacon with D-Sonic..must be the New year hangover...
As a long time fan of class D, I am delighted to hear that class D is evolving with new underlying technology. I hope that eventually, some of my favorite manufacturers, like Bel Canto and Rowland, will also adopt it. Guido
Have not heard but do not doubt that high end Class D technology is not fully mature despite being highly competitive currently and that newer CLass D amp designs will only get even better over time.

I do think that sound of better tube amps I have heard (like VAC and ARC) and SS amps tends to converge pretty close to "the ultimate sound", so I do not in particular care too much about one technologies sound versus another, although SS amps that "sound like tube amps" specifically are not very common. I have a pair of TAD 125 hibachi monoblocks also that I run in my second system that is as good as I have heard in regards to a SS amp "sounding like a tube amp". Of course I run a DAC with a tube output section there also so that helps.
Hypex NCore based amplifiers have been getting a lot of press recently.

I have a pair of NC400 based monoblocks and they compare favorably to the best SET and OTL amplifiers that I've owned. It has been 6 months and I continue to be satisfied.
Hi Wilsynet, what is the brand and specs of your NC-400 amp? Which OTL and SET amps does it replace? What are the merits of the NCore amp vs your previous OTL and SET amps?

Thank you, Guido

The NC400 modules are available for DIYers only. It's a fairly easy assembly and costs about $1800 total for all parts, including chassis, binding posts, wire, electronics, power supply etc. for two monoblocks.

What you do is buy the NC400 amplifier module and power supply modules from Hypex, and search for some DIY assembly threads on AudioCircle.com and diyaudio.com. Or you can pay someone to assemble them for you -- there are a few builders out there I could put you in touch with.

The NC1200 is available commercially, but those amplifiers are much more expensive.

There are only a handful of OTL amp makers out there and I've owned two different OTLs from two different manufacturers, so you could probably guess who they are. I've also owned or auditioned SET 45 and 300B, and 421A, based amplifiers, some by very well known names from both the US and Japan.

The NC400 is smooth, relaxed, grainless, and neutral. It doesn't have the presence of a 45, but it has more control. It isn't quite as fast as the best OTLs (when paired with the right speakers) but its pretty close.

I'd say its every bit as good as these other very good amplifiers, but it has its own character, and that character is not a bad thing. I'm sure not everyone will think so, but here's one person who thinks they're pretty darn good.

Sometimes I hear people say so and so sounds like SET. Okay, what SET, could you be more specific? When it comes to the Hypex NC400, I'll say you won't have something that sounds like SET, but you'll have something that sounds every bit as good, whose character is very very neutral, but also is totally relaxed, effortless and fatigue free. And at 400 watts, will drive most speakers easily and with slam and authority. Oh and they run cool to the touch with minimum power draw.

Do you miss the big tone of the 6SN7, the drive of a 12AX7, or perhaps the clarity and speed of the 6H30? There are many tube preamps that will pair splendidly with the high 100Kohm input impedance of the NC400.

I've run the NC400 direct from my NAD M51. Good if you like straight up solid state, but its missing the right kind of tube magic.

So far I've paired the NC400 with an Atma-sphere MP-3 and its pretty terrific, as good as anything else I've heard. Next up is an ARC LS26.

> I've also owned or auditioned SET 45 and 300B,
> and 421A, based amplifiers, some by very well
> known names from both the US and Japan.

For completeness, I forgot to mention a Japanese 2A3.
I'm getting confused.

Are the new D-Sonics using a proprietary design from bottom up or using some other base Class D amp now other than Icepower?
Mapman..Yes..the D-Sonic amp is a newer technology..the SOA
Core amp which is a proprietary design from the bottom up. Nothing to do with B&O. Not an ICE Amp. Dennis explains it all in detail in last September's issue of 6Moons. It is Class D, but a new design. D-Sonic is the first to use these amps.
Who designed and makes teh SOA Core amp? I get the impression D-sonic uses it but acquires it externally, like Icepower before.

Google search turns up no info outside D-sonic, 6 moons and this thread on SOA Class D Core amps.
WHATS ON THE HORIZON FOR CLASS D IN 2013...put your seatbelts on...
The new New Clear NC1000L amps from Sean Brady in Phoenix
have come out in recent months using the same amp as the Bel Canto REF1000M's, but New Clear has under the hood two
Lundahl transformers from Sweden and other mods. Just got reviewed in Tone Magazine. Got an email last week from Jeff
Dorgay telling me its the best Class D amp he has ever heard and reviewed. Just got the Tone Award for best new amp of the year. From Bel Canto...this is the sizzler..John
Stronczer has had in the works for two years a new ICE amp
hybrid..Its using the same B&O amp he has in his REF1000M
amp but with this major difference which is a break through. An original D.C. high power supply that feeds the ICE amp directly. No pulse width modulation. The switching module has been removed. First of its kind. An Ice amp with
no switching device. Will be released in late Spring. The new Mola-Mola M1's coming out in June from Hypex, The rise
of New Clear from Arizona, The new SOA core amp from
D-Sonic, and the new Bel Canto hybrid, will make 2013 the best year ever for Class D. Exciting stuff!
Mapman..I mentioned to you several days ago all the info is
available..again..go to the D-Sonic website ans click the
Products tab at the top of the page..then click on the 6Moons picture on the left and it opens up the complete review of the D-Sonic M2-1500M amp from September..it also
interviews Dennis Deacon who explains in full the new
SOA Core amp he uses. It is manufactured from an outside source he will not reveal.
After digging around..it appears that D-Sonic is using the
Albetec Class-D amps from Scandinavia, which are manufactured in China. They are often compared to Hypex.
Also..Marten Audio of Sweden uses Albetec Class D amps in their mono blocks. Their amps for class D weigh over 100 pounds each due to their very large power supplies and transformers.
"They are often compared to Hypex."

Compared where?

A Google search on Albetec amplifiers turns up nothing I can see. Would like to read more.
Correct spelling is Abletec..comapared to Hypex in DIY forums and threads in Europe..check out the Abletec website. Needs to be updated.
Mapman..the scoop on Abletec..Design Engineer Patrik Bostrom, CTO of Abletec A/S, designed a new technology for
Class D which is a loop linearization technology called AMS,(Adaptive Modulation Servo) which is superior to PWM,
(Pulse Width Modulation)which has been the standard in Class D for years.
Just got a reply back from Dennis Deacon with D-Sonic..sent
him a letter this morning to confirm he is using the Abletec amps. His answer.." I do not discuss the topologies
used in my amplifiers"...He wouldn't confirm or deny..
The only other company I know of that is using their own
in house Class-D topology is Henry Ho with H2o Audio. Abletec does provide bulk manufacturing for DIY or High End
Companies..so more than likely the Audiophile in a thread I
read last night who stated that Dennis confirmed to him in
late 2011 that he switched to Abletec from B&O is more than likely accurate...
Well, i suppose everyone will say their product is better than the
competition. Whether in fact better or just different, a nice product on
Its more than that Mapman..as Dennis Deacon explained it..
there are inherent proplems wirh pulse modulation type Class D amps regarding linearity and feed back in the upper bands that compromise music quality which is why alternative modulating designs have popped up in recent years resulting in Class D getting closer than ever to pure
Class A performance. Give it another two years. After all,
Solid state in terms of Pre-Amps has finally surpassed tube performance such as the Robert Koda Takumi K-10 Preamp
which will bury any tube Preamp on planet earth. Within the next three years, Class D solid state amps will surpass
tube amps as well.
Subjectivity is a wonderful thing. There are traits within both solid state and tube preamps that may never quite match such as harmonic structure. The preference for one or the other is a mater of personal taste.

Consider that, with all the shortcomings of tubes, a great deal of time is spent on designing components to sound like tubes. The day may come but until then if you like the sound of tubes there really is no substitute.
Hmmm...what makes Tube Preamps so special? The bottom line..Tube Preamps exalt at creating an exotic, ultra smooth, seductive, full, three dimensional "FLOATING MIDRANGE", that solid state has yet to achieve until now.
Audio Design Engineer Robert Koch, who specializes in exotic tube design amplification, invented a first time circuit topology called the ITC circuit, known as Inverted
Transconductance Coupling, which eliminates for the first time in a solid state design distortion way below measurable levels, which is one of the several reasons why
Robert's Takumi K-10 solid state Preamp will equal in full
the midrange and treble qualities exclusive to the worlds
finest tube Preamps on the market. Getting off subject. Want to stay focused on Class D topology.
It's the way tubes distort not their lack of distortion. Regardless of how unmeasurable a solid state devise is, generally its characteristic is still odd order.

It's the same with switching or processing amps. Were class D is about to become superior is in the realm of digital playback. A digital source and something like the Devialet were there is much less conversion taking place and the absence of cabling lowering the chances of jitter.

Most linear solid state amplification has a tendency to get congested and more fatiguing as demand increases which is why they build massively powerful amps. The very first thing I noticed with my first switching amp was it seemed to maintain stability right up to its threshold which was way more power than I would ever use.

Since I use tube amplification in my predominately analog system the last thing I want is the switching amps powering my studio monitors to sound like tubes.
Oh..so you want your tube amps to sound like tubes..but you
don't want an analog Class D solid state amp to sound like
tubes..Hmmmm..my..just about any tube fanatic on the planet
would put their tube amp in storage or sell it if a solid state Class D amp
reached a level of full tube quality.
There would be no turning back.
In conversation, Theta Digital told me they're close to releasing a Class D Mono Amp housed in the Expression chasis.
"there are inherent proplems wirh pulse modulation type Class D amps regarding linearity and feed back in the upper bands that compromise music quality"

Maybe. I am not expert enough to say. I believe Class D amps can get even better than current certainly in that the technology is not fully mature. Then there is always theory versus realization which are not equivalent. Not everything newer is necessarily better. DD would seem to be the only source of info so far. Truths become apparent over time with greater exposure. We'll see. I would like to learn more though and find the d-sonics an even more interesting product now than before. Many already consider even current generation Class D amps to be reference quality and competitive there (I would agree based on experience to date) though I am of the opinion that no technology is perfect or certainly equivalent. The subjective descriptions of teh sound of these amps versus current better Icepower designs so far indicate differences in sound for sure, which is not surprising. Lots that goes into what is "better" and what individuals prefer. Too early in the game to know for sure with D-sonic I would say though again a most interesting and competitive product at this early stage.
THis would be an interesting trial application for Steve at Empirical Audio's affordable reclocker gadget. That should help assure being in a good place from a jitter perspective I would expect. HE offers a free trial period. I would be interested to know if it helps.

Synchro Mesh
Raks..The Theta Class D mono block you speak of is their
Prometheus amp which uses the new Hypex 1200 amp. Cost for the pair is $12K...
Unless D-sonic amps today are VERY MUCH improved from 3 years ago, otherwise, his 2-ch class-D amps are (very) disappointed for critical listening.
Nasaman...you obviously have not read through this thread to discover that three years ago D-Sonic was only using the B&O ICE amps in their two channel and mono amps and have switched to the Abletec amps from Sweden in 2011. Read the review from last September in 6Moons on the new D-Sonic M2-1500M mono block amp. Very positive. You can access the review on the D-Sonic website.
It is worth considering that the sound of an amp is the product of the entire execution: design (or topology) ranging from the basic to the complex and exotic, choice of active and passive components, boards, dyelectrics, soldering ranging from handmade point-to-point to computer-assisted surface mount, as well as final construction/assembly.

That's why no amp models ever sound alike, and often do not cost alike, even when they are based on the same core technology, be it 6550 tubes or ICEpower 1000 ASP power conversion modules.

Concerning amps based on the new Abletec power conversion modules, it will be fascinating to listen to what is achieved by a variety of designers and manufacturers, who will inevitably apply their unique ingenuity, design philosophy, and market / pricepoint targeting to their particular amplifier creations.

Saluti, Guido
Spoke to Rich today, who runs the Abletec branch office in New Jersey, he's currently at CES. He confirmed that indeed D-Sonic is using Abletec amps. He also mentioned that Parasound is premiering at CES a four channel amp using Abletec Class D modules. The amp is the ZM-Quattro. A four channel amp that puts out 90 watts per channel.
The thing with D-sonic is they are merely packaging stock Class D component amps, both Icepower and now abletec. They appear to have upgraded the components they use to do so these days compared to prior when IcePower only, at least as described for the abletec. DDs background as he describes seems in line with that. HE is not an amp designer so not likely to add circuitry to whatver component amp board they use, Ice, abletec or otherwise. Stock icepower is clearly inferior to enhanced versions from BC, Wyred and others with beefed up power supplies and input boards to make tube amp friendly. Stock icepower is not tube amp friendly for example at 10K input impedance. abletec input impedance is closer to that of Wyred for example now as I read ie somewhat less than 60K ohms, that is a clear advantage over stock Icepower. There may be others based on new technology used.

So be careful comparing stock Icepower to enhanced versions to other perhaps newer Class D designs. Each has significant differences. M-sonic alone using stock Icepower amps is not a good indicator of what IcePower can do.

I did a lot of research prior to springing on BC ref1000m amps, including d-sonic. The devil is in the details. New d-sonic amps are interesting as noted. I would expect them to outperform stock icepower in some cases like with tube pre-amps. Harder to call at present for other cases. Time will tell.
Looks like TEAC is using Abletec as well in their new line:

The other two components aren't too shabby either. Who would have thought?

All the best,
Some of my favorite amps from over the years came from norway... TANDBERG.
With all due respect, the OP asked if anyone had bought or heard a couple of amps in the D-Sonic SOA line. I have been following this thread and so far it appears that the only firsthand experience - with another highly touted amp - came from Wilsynet regarding the Hypex NCore based modules. He goes on to discuss personal amplifier experiences / comparisons; and that provides a credible point of reference.

So what's the point? Not to jump in the middle of a p---ing contest, but to say that my experience has been that unless one has the opportunity to hear a piece of gear and determine how that product meets their particular tastes ... everything else is pure conjecture and opinion.

I have spoken with a number of audio company owners and amp designers; and there was not one who did not think that his product was better than anything else at or near the same price point. In fact they almost always cited higher priced equipment that theirs outperformed and/or replaced. I respect that. There were also a few who put the product in my hands to try out ... some costing a few thousand dollars. Some of it got sent back. That's the nature of the audio hobby.

Higher end specialty audio is basically one of the last remaining "cottage" industries. It's generally a one-person show. A number of companies started within the last few years are doing quite well now. The free trial is what they invariably have in common.

So am I alone here? Has anyone else read the glowing reviews, followed the latest industry news, gotten caught up in the hype and buzz of a particular product or design only to be less than satisfied when you got it installed in your own system?

Perhaps D-Sonic should sponsor a "tour" the way a number of companies do when they want to introduce something new. That would be one path to determine how well it really compares to other amp designs in general and to Class-D in particular. Or they could drop the "restocking" fee so that folks could post real listening impressions here and elsewhere. IMHO that would be more useful.

Audiozen, I'm not challenging your exuberance for your D-Sonic, any other class D amplifier, or your anticipation of what they might become. I'm on my fourth switching amplifier myself.

Yes, I want my tube amps to sound like tube amps yet there are some tube designs that are voiced to extremes that do not appeal to me. No, I don't want my studio monitors rolled off at the extremes or embellished at any point in between which is why I'm thrilled with the truly proprietary design nCores.

Currently there is a fundamental difference in distortion characteristics between tube and solid state, weather it be linear, switching, hybrid, or using DSP modeling, as I mentioned earlier. I'm somewhat pessimistic that this will ever be overcome. On the other hand if it is then I agree, the maintenance of a tube amplifier will become an important factor for many tube users to switch to what many consider the class D'ark side. I will be one of the first to do so.
Whats the point?..Stratehed..check your tickets..I think you got on the wrong Airplane..the main focus of this thread is to highlight the engineering advancements in Class-D topology during the past several years such as in house designed switching devices from Abletec, Nuforce, Audio Research, Philips/Hypex, and how these variations of pulse modulation methods have improved the sonics of
Class D amps compared to the more traditional PWM amps that have been around for years. The biggest Class D brute on the market is the Marten M-Amps from Sweden using Abletec amps. They have massive power supplies and very large transformers, weigh a 100 pounds each, run cool and cost a whopping $40K a pair. I dig as deep as possible speaking to engineers from a variety of companies, but the most reliable source to get the most honest and accurate assessment of these products is not from the magazines, but from the many Audiophiles who purchase these products and give their evaluations on many forums and threads on sites in Europe, Asia, and the States that are just as well respected as Audiogon. I communicate on these sites daily as well as other Gon members to get a much broader picture of the current landscape of high end audio. I predict that the most talked about and exciting Class D product of the year will be the new Theta Prometheus Class D amp which has been delayed but should be available shortly. It was sad to see Ice H2O go out of business because Henry Ho's Class D amps with major upgrades with his large transformers and large capacitor banks were very promising.
Got an email from Dennis Deacon with D-Sonic today acknowledging my talk with Abletec that he's using Abletec amps. He evaluated and listened to Class D amps from different companies including Hypex and found the Abletec amps superior.
Ahem. Audiozen, just want to set the record straight and that is H2O AUDIO has been and still is around...Alive and kicking :-). H2O have never went out of business. Not sure where you read that but I just want to set the record straight. And thank you for the praises. While I still have all of your attention :-) I'm willing to send a stereo H2O amp with all the latest and greatest tweak for a tour if anyone or a group of you is interested. Thanks
Thanks for the correction H2o..I read on a forum from 2010 that Henry went belly up. Tried to go to the IceH2o site and it was off line. Called the east coast phone number at the 804 area code for H2o and was disconnected. What is the current website address? No current site comes up on Google...the on going site address in the past was IceH2oaudio.com..nothing there..
Just being logical..phone number is disconnected and website is offline..what is one to think?..

The Website has been running fine for awhile now. It used to have a few problems but that had been corrected. I just google it and it came up fine. The 804 area code is when I was still in virginia. The current website has my current contact info. oh BTW, the H2O is still the best class D but of course LOL! Just kidding there :-).