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Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: click here

Source Digital: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE Remote Control
Preamplifier: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V3 Special Edition monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy System 8
Cables: Digital - Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; Analog Interconnects -Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; Cable Research Laboratory (CRL) Gold with Bocchino XLR and RCA; Cerious Technologies; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; MIT Giant Killer MPC; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon; Speaker cables - Cerious Technologies; MIT Giant Killer GK-1 loudspeaker cables; Power cords - Cerious Technologies AC; Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; PSC Gold Power MKII; Shunyata Research Diamondback
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen
Review component retail: $400 for new boards

Many a high-end company has claimed to offer protection from obsolescence,  promising their latest and greatest will never be outmoded or become redundant. The statement may go along the lines of “... we will be offering upgrades as technology moves forward, making our ‘George Jetson’ model component truly future-proof”. To some extent, this may be true in a number of cases. As technologies move on however, the original component’s base—or platform—usually is no longer able to support, or indeed be compatible with, the new technologies that make up the upgrade. So off on the merry equipment-go-round we go. Ouch.

One company that truly has lived up to this keep-it-current-always promise from a model representing the company’s nascent efforts all the way to its very latest flagship offerings is NuForce. I’ve owned NuForce’s original Reference 9 (and also reviewed their Reference 8 a few years ago) and marveled at the escalating performance when NuForce introduced the Special Edition version, then the V2 and now the V3.

Each upgrade was offered at a reasonable cost—chassis are retained, only partial innards changed and new fascia/s provided—and they netted clear and worthwhile functional and sonic improvements. NuForce’s company philosophy of offering ‘true’ upgrades to their core amplification components has translated into customer loyalty which sees few of their products on the second-hand markets.

And so it is with the latest V3 version.

Reference 18 slated to launch in late January 2010

Vaunting vicissitude
The V3 differs from the V2 in a number of areas which NuForce claims make significant differences. For starters, the V3 board reduces the amp’s output power to 175wpc RMS into 8 ohms down from the 190 watts of the V2 - inconsequential really. However, it increases 4-ohm output from 300 to 335wpc RMS. Gain is down from 26dB to 21dB, something of relevance to owners of high-gain preamps like me! If you were to assemble a list of 50 of the world’s best preamps, you’d find that a large majority are designed with medium to high gain. Unfortunately, to cater to systems driven from passive preamps or source direct, amplifier manufacturers have consistently upped gain. Mate these high-gain amps with equally high-gain preamps and you get higher levels of noise and very little room to move on the volume control. The V3’s lower gain structure makes it more compatible with high-quality preamps and capitalizes on potentially lower noise and more useful volume control range.

On the other hand, input impedance lowered from 47K to 22k Ω to perhaps make it a little harder to drive from passive controllers and high-output impedance preamplifiers of the valved sort. The quoted frequency response is a more than respectable 20Hz at -0.3dB to 120kHz at -3dB. AC voltage is globally compatible (84 to 264VAC). Other design and ideals differences are elaborated by NuForce’s Jason Lim: The improvement of V3 is mainly in the design of the control system. V2 was a major "clean up and adjustment" effort from V1. We dared not change the control system in V2 lest we end up with too many uncertainties.

V3 has major improvements in the feedback path and overall control to produce a more linear signal across a wider bandwidth (an astonishing 130kHz). Harmonic distortion and noise floor were significantly reduced by approximately 20dB. Note that V3 has lower gain. We think it is better since it can optimize the output of preamp or source. Also you can see that the FR of V3 goes all the way out to 150kHz. In our view, V3 is near perfection (we are perfectionists).