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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Hypex Electronics UcD180 Amplifier (SS) by maxlorenz

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REVIEW: Hypex Electronics UcD180 Amplifier (SS)

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Model: UcD180
Category: Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $60EU
Description: Class D amplifier module
Manufacturer URL: Hypex Electronics
Model Picture: View

Review by maxlorenz ( A ) on March 20, 2005 at 20:01:10
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for the UcD180

By the time you read this I will probably be dead.

Why? Because I got the DIY fever and I'm a beginner with no formal electronics studies. Why this prelude? Because DIY is so rewarding that it's worth the risk.

First I will compare my Monarchy SE100deluxe Class A monoblocks with my DIY amp (stereo mode) based on Hypex' UcD180 Class D amplifier modules. Secondly I will share my impressions with pasive biamping with these amps. Finally I will talk about my first "active speakers" system.

The comparison is not scientific at all! I warn you, because I had to use different sources due to hum with my DIY amp, and different speaker cables because my reference ones are too short for my DIY amp.

*Monarchy Audio's SE100 monoblocks (source: NAD C542-> DIP upsampler 48/96-> M-Audio superDAC-> Transformer based volume control with Stevens@Billington's Tx102MKIII; speakers are Tannoy Definition 500)
I have reviewed the Monarchy SE100deluxe previously. This are my first HiEnd amps. I mantain my review's impressions but now augmented because I upgraded cables to PS Audio's Statement IC and Biwire speaker cable (1m each; on Sale!). The Statement-Monarchy team give a robust, warm, round and controled presentation, with detail in all the spectrum. Low bass has more reach and expansion and midbass is very punchy. Highs seem softer and sweeter than with my previous cables (Silversonic's BL-1 and Q10). One may think that there's a tube hidden inside the cables :)
I recently got interested in jazz from the 50/60ties, like Verve's Master Editions (20 and 24 bit reissues). These kind of music sound just great in my system with the Monarchies. I got to dance hearing Mingus.
The strong points of these monoblocks are:
* the spacial capabilities: they "image" wonderfully, with good player separation and ample soundstage. One can track the sound going from left to right and rear to front, for example. I don't know how to explain this, sorry.
* voices sound very realistic and communicative, maybe because of Class A functioning.

I think these amps don't like silver or silver/copper wires. I remember a recent review from a rather snobbish reviewer that starts like "I usually review $+20K amps..." and so on. He uses only one type (silver) of cables! Pardon me but one should try different type of cables before judging. Or $+20K amps sound the same no matter the wire?

*Hypex UcD180 ("Ultimate Class D")based power amp:
(source is NAD C542-> TVC-> UcD-> Tannoy D500)
The UcD180 based amp (my first DIY active project) is a four channel (to feed two active fullrange speakers) wich are capable (if well implemented) of outputing 100W/8ohm and 180W/4ohm (hence the name) in Class D with, with almost negligible output impedance. My setup, with one 300VA Plitron toroidal transformer and 22000uF *2 of BHC Power Suply capacitance should give me around 70Wpc (4 channel) and full output in stereo. I forgot to mention that UcD modules are +/-92% efficient! At 60 euro each, they are a real bargain and I couldn't resist to jump into the "active speaker" way and prouve what it is said about it. The instructions given by hypex.nl are few and very clear. The modules have shortcircuit and overvoltage protection and are very resistant because I shurelly did many wrong things while bulding the amps and they survived! They are designed for balanced signal operation so I had to make special unbalanced to balanced ICs. With these and low gauge cooper Jamo speaker wire I connected to my Tannoy D500 speakers.

What strikes the most about the sound of these Class D amps is the easy and effortless, natural sound. The drive with immense authority my speakers with never a hint of congestion or confusion, even on loud orchestra passages. They seem to never get out of steam. The soundstage is very open and deep. Bass is phenomenal. Monarchy's bass is tuneful, fast and controled but UcD's simply throw it at you without sweating at all, giving a firm base for the sound, plenty of low armonics. Midrange is open and detailed, with enough "wood" in strings (as I like) and enough "bronze" on metal winds instruments. It reproduces the textures of the instruments quite naturally. You need a time to adapt to the highs. First you hear like "less HF extension", but then you realize that HF is very natural (without HF distortion) and that there's just "enough" (like Rolls Royce engine's power). Very good HF from CD! All this with equillibrium: no frequency overpowers the others in artificial way. Voices are very natural sounding (I think I put to may "natural" here).

Now, they do not "image" like the Monarchy's and Monarchy's "tone" is more beautiful all around and his sound is more "solid". Can I blame the other components? Don't know. I have to build some UcD monoblocks to compare. I can say for now that the Monarchy's will appeal more to audiophiles, with his "tube sounding + SS bass" presentation, and UcD amps those more prone to "live" sounding, powerful amps.

I next tried "pasive biamping" my Tannoy's using the option provided by the SE100 of using the unused input as output to feed other amps. Now I used a mixture of cables that can account to some extent in audible differences between putting the UcD's on LF and Monarchy's on HF and vice-versa. With both options it was like transforming the Tannoy's into big, big speakers. Wow! What a grip and authority. More detail is heard and no congestion at all. I liked more Monarchy's on woofers and UcD's on tweeters. It is advised that you use the same amp when biamping to avoid incongruences, though.

Lastly, I put the 4 channel UcD amp in my, probably the cheapest, active system: cheap, slightly moded Sony DVD (US$120); Behringer active analog crossover (US$ 110); Paradigm M3 for mid+HF (US$200) and DIY woofers (72 cm*50 cm*38 cm, prism shape) using Eminence Kappa 15A (US$75 each) and spared wood from my new audio room (6.7m*4.9m*2.7m). My new room "sounds" great and probably is in part responsible for the good sound I'm getting. I was able to use the input atenuator from the crossover and get rid of preamp. It gives me acceptable sound pressure from classical music but it's to loud for pop/jazz/salsa music (except for parties!).

The sound from this active system is too good to be true! (considering the low quality DVDp) Talk about dinamics! Every CD sounds like if it were recorded live, with huge soundstage and instruments appearing in real life size. It maintains its easyness and absence of congestion/confusion wich allows to hear the distincts instruments and details in loud passages. It does so remaining a "soft" performer. It is specially good with large scale synphonic music, with potent double-basses and percusion, but it also renders chamber music in an enthusiastic manner. Midbass is rrrumbling.
Best of all, I spent +/-US$600 on this DIY amp, with high quality parts and I have lots of room to improuve: tweak the speakers and active crossover; add an external DAC; improuve transport and cables...

Both, the Monarchy and the UcD amp are very satisfying musical amps. If you prefer to buy your gear, the Monarchy is a bargain if you consider Class A functioning, sound and power output. If you are a skilled DIYer, the Hypex amp will make your dreams come true. They make also a UcD400 with 200W/8ohm and 400W/4ohm. A pair is flying home ;)

I recommend those who haven't heard and active speaker system to try one. I'm shure you will be surprised like I was.

(There are long threads at DIYaudio.com concerning Hypex' UcD modules)

Product Weakness: Has to build power supply and box + do connections (as every DIY project)
Product Strengths: Price/performance invincible! Great Fullrange Sound!

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Moanrchy Audio SE100deluxe amp
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): TVC with Stevens&Billington's TX102 MKIII.
Sources (CDP/Turntable): NAD C542-> Monarchy DIP upsampler-> M-Audio superdac 2496
Speakers: Tannoy Definition D500
Cables/Interconnects: DH labs BL-1 as digital cable; PS Audio Statement RCA IC; PS Audio Satetement biwire; Jamo copper speaker cable; DIY "microphone" IC.
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical; Bebop; Swing; Cool
Room Comments/Treatments: DIY bass traps
Time Period/Length of Audition: 2 months
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Hypex Electronics UcD180 Amplifier (SS) - maxlorenz 20:01:10 03/20/05 ( 3)