Wanted more than what an all-in-one-box would provide.

– By SFDude, audiocircle.com

In this market of multiple choices, I wanted to build a system that was more than what an all-in-one-box would provide. I wasn’t looking for something that was a plug-and-play, download an app, and tie-me-down to a subscription model for streaming services system. (A Sonos system would have been fine for that.) I also didn’t want to spend $2K for each separate component, which would have been made up of an Amp, a Preamp and a DAC.

As I was researching for different components and manufacturers, NuPrime sort of stood out with the DAC-10 initially. This was a preamp and DSD DAC in one unit. I wouldn’t have to worry about separates as long as both the preamp and the DAC portions of this unit were top-notch. Reading reviews online, anecdotal feedback on forums and with the experience of the company that NuPrime was formed from (which is Nuforce), I didn’t have to worry so much about a new upstart that was looking to break into the market. There is a flexibility if I wanted to use just the preamp portion or the DAC portion of the DAC-10 which also appealed to me, should I be upgrading one or the other.

I then decided to go all-in with picking up a pair of STA-9 amplifiers due to the speakers I had chosen, as the recommendation from the speaker manufacturer was that digital amplification worked well with them. This was an easier point of entry due to the pricing of a pair of the NuPrime amps (each was $650 USD). You could say for the price of a single amp, I was getting a solid bargain in having a true pair of monoblock amps with enough power on-hand to drive any speaker well.

In the end, what I really wanted was something that didn’t date me and give an image of someone who is still hanging onto how audiophile components from the “golden” years look. Three NuPrime components had the same footprint of almost one full-sized audiophile component, with all the modern technology advancements of digital amplification and signal processing. They would look equally at home in Stereophile magazine pictures as they do in Dwell magazine photoshoots. And the gear would still sound pretty darn good regardless of their aesthetics.

Great, it looks nice and all. How does it all sound? Effortless. Nothing is really forced in the music. It sounds coherent, powerful but with a restraint that comes with the volume turned down. I have fleeting moments at home when I can crank the music and, when playing good source material, it is really dynamic and engaging. This isn’t the case with the bulk of my source material but for those rare special tracks which are recorded really well, my system lets it loose. For this amount of $$, the two STA-9 amps has enough ‘cojones’ to cajole your passiveness into toe-tapping movement. On really good source material.

On bad material, it is a combination of the speakers and gear that makes it feel flat overall, despite the loudness. I think most of digitally streamed sources, except for some rare tracks, are like that. I really need a transport/CD player and dig out my old library of stellar, goosebump inducing CDs to test this out further, though.

This still doesn’t beat the ability of the NuPrime gear to recreate that toe-tapping magic, though. And that’s what really matters at the end, isn’t it?