Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: ICE H2O Amplifier S-250 Amplifier (SS) by amandarae
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Model: S-250 Category: Amplifier (SS) Suggested Retail Price: $2500 Description: B&O based PWM Amp Manufacturer URL: ICE H2O Amplifier Model Picture: View
Review by amandarae ( A ) on February 23, 2005 at 00:47:54
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The ICE H2O S-250 landed in my system on the first week of January. Previously, I followed, read, and printed out all the info I can get regarding their existence. I learned from my manuscript that it takes 4 to 6 weeks to get one and it all depends if the maker is doing the “run” for that month. I called Henry Ho (designer of the amp) to inquire about the S-250. I ignored the trial or demo period (where a fully broken in amp can be demoed for a week, I think all you need to do is to pay for shipping) even though it was mentioned by one of the owner and confirmed by Henry. Even he (Henry) was surprised that I am ordering one as we spoke without ever hearing them and just relying on my research. Over the phone, one can cement an impression that this guy (Henry) is for real. Before hanging up during our conversation, he assured me of the support and warranty of the product. So I took the plunge or “leap of faith” so it seems (sometimes can be defined as stupidity depending who you ask) and secure my amp. I said to myself that if I am making a mistake (for buying something I never heard which is a no-no in the audio world) so be it. It is my money!
The ICE H2O S-250 comes in pure black aluminum casing weighing approximately 55 lbs. It has 2 sets of Cardas binding post per channel (true bi-wireable ready!) and Cardas RCA input terminals. It also comes with a Balance input where switching between the single ended and the former is thru a toggle switch located in between the two input junction (ala MTM) at the back of the unit. Also, it is equipped with a female IEC so as to say “insert your favorite power cord here”. The front is a brushed aluminum with S-250 and H20 inscribed at about the left and right corner of the faceplate. A blue LED (single) potrudes from the center. Nothing fancy, but its simplicity made it look better than my other amp (which I will mention later) for different reasons.
After making sure that all connections are fine (and double checked) I powered up my system. After a few seconds the relay clicked in. First thing I noticed is that the amp is so quiet and there is no thump (even faintly). If it is not for that and the glowing Blue LED at the front, you would think that the amp is “Off” even if I placed my ear very close to the case. I cranked up the volume of my preamp and listen closely for hum. Nada! So let’s get it on! I then put in Houston Person’s sentimental Journey to start the honeymoon period. Next is Patricia Barbers Café Blue, then Modern Cool, and then several CD’s from Mapleshade which I am very familiar of.
I was shocked! Right there and then I said to myself that I think I made a very costly mistake. The sound is fine. Just like that, “fine”. Nothing more nothing less! Not extraordinary, or special, and nothing impressive either. In fact the top-end sounded harsh to me. The vocals sound sterile, devoid of the warmth. The bass, although it’s decent, is “boomy” when I increased the volume. Have you had the feeling of being conned? Because that is exactly how I felt at the moment.
So I flip through the pages and saw my copy of Audiofanj’s review in Audiogon of the ICE H2O mono amps. Like he, his first impression is nothing to be excited about. As I flipped to the pages of my manuscript, I left the amp running (playing music) since according to my text he, Audiofanj, said that at about 30 minutes to an hour, there is a “discernable” change! After an hour, my first impression was still the same. I got conned!
So I left the house frustrated. Let it run I said to myself. If it burns, it burns!
I became busy at work and never had the time to log more hours to the amp after that. But when the first opportunity arises, I am ready. I run the amp continuous for three days using a Hagerman Fry Kleaner as source crank up to the max, with the amp connected to an old speaker of mine, in the garage! After that, I then connected it to my system again. This time, after one track from my CD source, I am smiling!
The changes that happened after three days are beyond explanation! The amp is now different! But still, the treble seems to be subdued. The bass on the other hand becomes tight and deep. Before this, my thought earlier was to call Henry so I can return the amp. This time, I have the impression that something great is about to happen. So I kept running the amp to log more hours on them.
I commenced my serious listening sessions after I have at least 300 hours logged in. The amp sound is nowhere near the sound when I had it during the first week. It now have enormous amount of detail, addictive mid range, very clear top end, and the best bass I heard (my Magnepans can do). With a damping factor of 1600, why not?
Most people agree that the strength of the Magnepan is in the vocals and the weakness in the bass. I thought I heard this strength when I had a CJ Premier 11A connected to it. With the H20, I can now be counted to the statistics except the “bass” part. The amp is so good with the Maggies. The “liquidity” I heard from them when using a tube amp is retained by the ICE H2O but with exceptional bass that comes with it. For me, this amp is the real deal! I am now hearing so many small details from both my sources (LP’s and CD’s) which enhanced the listening pleasure even more. People who have a reservation on how horn instruments seems not to sound right on the MG1.6QR until you modify the crossover of the speakers should hear this amp driving their maggies. My bone stock 1.6QR “are well endowed” in this particular region now and more.
Not to be blinded by the “honeymoon period” syndrome, I tried two speakers (FE167E MLTL and Bozak Rhapsody) to hear how they sound with this amp. Keeeeeeeper! I tube-rolled my preamp, change interconnects, change speaker cables, power cords, bought new cartridge, etc. Still, the amp kept on brilliantly holding its ground. Keeeeeper! For a few days, I loitered around Maggie dealers and insist on hearing the 1.6QR with several amps. Some amps I took home to compare with the H2O which I am grateful to the dealers in making it happen. Nothing gives the presentation I have in my system with the H2O driving them.
In retrospect, I can say that a new owner of this amp will hate the amp, in fact curse it with every opportunity you can, during the first day(s) hearing it. I maintain my sanity and was able to extend my patience because some owners who got the amp before me stresses that you have to let the amp settle before making a conclusion. For me, I can finally say that I am pleased with my investment. At present, as I logged more hours the amp gets better and better. I want to see/hear how much more (if there’s any) will it improved its already addictive nature in conveying music as I hit the 700-800 hour mark as one reviewer stated in his review. I am at peace with this amp. It rejuvenated my everyday passion and contributed a lot to my excitement every time I took home a new LP or CD. I strongly recommend to listen to this amp (the demo one so as to hear the real thing) if you are in the market for an amp.
My humble equipment:
Teres 255 with battery option, Shelter 901, OL Silver MKII with HiFi and VTF on the fly Mods
Jolida JD100A modified by Parts Connecion using Sylvania GB 5751
Fisher 100B Tuner using TFK and RCA tubes
Supratek Chenin Preamp with Tungsol VT-231 (linestage), Telefunken 6922 CCa and Sylvania GB 6C4 (phonostage), Mullard GZ 34 in the PSU and Sylvania 6F6G in the regulator position.
Speakers: Magnepan 1.6QR, Fostex based 167E MLTL, Bozak Rhapsody
DIY Interconnects, Acoustic Zen Satori Speaker Cables, Virtual Dynamics P2 power cords
DIY bass traps (6), and room Lens (2), fake Ficus trees
Starsound Audio Points in all equipments except H2O Amp (BDR # 4’s)
Amplifiers I compared to the H2O:
1.)Threshold Stasis S-500 MKII (still with me but will only used for breeding purposes not for everyday races)
2.) Odyssey Stratos Monoblocks (Sold to my friend)
3.) Krell KSA 150
4.) Music Reference RM-9
5.) Cary V12
6.) CJ Premier 11A
Product Weakness: So quiet, it does not hum, runs very cool, and consumes less energy . Product Strengths: The "answer" to me!
Associated Equipment for this Review: Amplifier: ICE H2O Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Supratek Chenin Sources (CDP/Turntable): Jolida JD100A Speakers: MG1.6QR Cables/Interconnects: DIY Music Used (Genre/Selections): jazz etc. Room Size (LxWxH): 20 x 25 x 9 Room Comments/Treatments: DIY Time Period/Length of Audition: two monts and counting Other (Power Conditioner etc.): P2 Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
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Topic - REVIEW: ICE H2O Amplifier S-250 Amplifier (SS) - amandarae 00:47:54 02/23/05 ( 5)
- digital amps seem to have a long break in - tonemaniac 12:33:35 02/23/05 ( 1)
- I was spared that by my buying a Spectron that had some - firstname.lastname@example.org 10:51:21 02/24/05 ( 0)
Where are the comparisons? - Socrates428 10:10:43 02/23/05 ( 2)