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My Hypex Class D vs Holton SS Amp Experience


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My apologies for the length of this, but I have attempted to cobble together a comparison between Hypex Class D and Holton SS power amplifiers for anyone who may be considering switching from one to the other, as there seems to be very little information on how they compare. You may find my experience useful or just another load of opinions. (Summary of sorts at bottom)

 

HYPEX nCore NC122MP

 

Having used multiple class D Hypex NC122MPs stereo amplifiers with RCA to XLR interconnects for three years. The Auralic Mini source fed the preamp via Aurealis interconnects and the Hypex used Aurealis Litz cables. I was in love with the sound. Performance was clean, dynamic with an absolutely silent background and very enjoyable. Not cold and harsh as I had expected from a class D amp but an analogue type of sound.

 

The Hypex is a compact, light and very inexpensive piece of equipment considering the degree of performance available.

 

Over time, a niggling feeling made me wonder if it was lacking the sparkle and solid bass I had experienced with my OTL Son of Beast valve amp and DIY Holton nxV200 I had owned previously.

 

I noticed that I was experimenting more with interconnects, speaker cables and speaker position to try and emulate the sound I knew before, but the magic didn’t seem to be there.

 

I blamed my choice of speakers which have all been um, well ‘different’? Previously I ran some VAF DC-X Gen 4s which had great bass but sometimes harsh treble, that made Celine Dion painful at times.

 

Speakers used with the HypexNC122MPs included bi-amped ESL mini panel bass hybrids via an active crossover, NEAT Acoustics IOTA Alphas and NEAT Acoustics Momentum SX3i with an integrated isobaric loaded sub woofer, which is relatively unknown in Australia and has been discontinued. Audition NEAT Acoustics speakers and you could be in for a surprise.

 

I found my Hypex powered system very enjoyable and it took me 3 years to question whether it was deficient in some areas as I didn’t have another amplifier to use for comparison.

 

HYPEX BENEFITS: Low price, excellent performance for the money but I found they prefer sensitive speakers.

 

HOLTON nxV201PS kit (warning…long story)

 

After several months of curiosity followed by research I ordered the last pair of Holton nxV201PS kits. This full stereo mono block build cost less than $1800 with dual 300vA toroidal transformers, ETI connectors, heavy duty enclosure and Aurealis litz cables.

 

Once my amp was built and a few minor hitches sorted, it was power up time. The first switch on always makes me nervous because of some past DIY valve amp builds. The expectation of a bang and smoke was etched into my subconscious at the age of 16 when I built valve amps, soldering them with a plumbers iron heated on mum's stove.

 

Powering up for the first time was a surprisingly tactile event. I pressed the momentary power button and a confidence inspiring click from protection relays rang out, followed by a flashing display of green LEDs while the system check took place.

 

The blue halo light on the power switch stopped flashing but I didn’t hear any hiss, buzz, hum, crackle or noise coming from the speakers no matter how closely I listened. Just absolute black silence.

 

Maybe something is wrong. After waiting a while I felt the chassis and heatsink. The amp was stone cold but my previous Holton used to get warm very quickly.

 

I didn’t want to bother Anthony Holton again so I plucked up the courage to connect Spotify, hit go and WHAMMO !

 

The track I selected was almost unrecognisable. Where did all the extra instruments come from?

 

The music was so full, coherent and entertaining immediately. It just sounded right.

 

Now there were two backup singers way in the background instead of one. The sound of cymbals seemed to have a physical shape as the sizzle continued into the distance. The piano had more harmonics than I heard with the Hypex. The low and middle harmonics danced off each other as they slowly faded away into the distant background.

 

This sounded like real music with a soul not just the clean reproduction of music that I had been enjoying before.

 

I pulled up a track by YELLO and waited for a big ‘doof doof’ and was greeted by big tight solid, textured musical bass. Voices didn't have that slight edge any more they just sounded like real voices (with well engineered recordings).

 

In comparison with the Holton, the Hypex sounded like the dynamics had been compressed and the bass was woolier without the same solid weight. Treble was there but some finer detail seemed to be lacking. Perhaps a pair of bass and treble heavy speakers might be a more suitable partner with the Hypex?

 

The Hypex always had impressive imaging but the Holton has a lot more but instrument placement and sounds more precise with more believable front to back perspective.

 

Speaker placement didn’t seem as critical with the Holton and some nasty bass nodes in my room are less noticeable, which surprised me.

 

After a four hour session enjoying a David Gilmour concert at a decent level, the Holton was still cold. The Hypex gets very warm in a short period of time, even when idling.

 

The Hypex has a low price/performance ratio but my Holton provides a performance/enjoyment level way beyond the $1800 it cost to build. It’s a keeper for me and makes me wonder why I sold my first one.

 

MY BIASED OPINION

 

Check out a Holton Precision amplifier if you want a good value, musical, high quality Aussie amplifier that performs superbly, stays cool and doesn’t leave you wondering if there is something better out there.

 

If you have a tight budget buy a Hypex nCore powered amplifier and pair it with a StereoCoffee LDR preamp to get started on a low cost, enjoyable audio journey. Note: I haven’t heard the Purify iteration.

 

Cheers, Rob

 

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Edited by robmid
Additional interconnect details for Hypex
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Nice write up.

 

Does he do a multi channel amp kit? Say 8 channels or more? Nothing mentioned on the website and I've never wanted to hassle him about it as I'm not currently in the market.

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Nice review and very topical for many of us. Interested in your comment re the Hypex possibly 'favouring' sensitive speakers. I would have thought they had plenty of power on tap? 

 

Anyway, another +1 for Holton amps it seems :thumb:

Edited by lemarquis
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1 hour ago, robmid said:

which had great bass but sometimes harsh treble, that made Celine Dion painful at times

Isn't she painful at all times?

 

 

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The 122 are very lightweight class D amps. Do not attribute lack of power, punch, or dynamics to them being class D. They're only rated at 75W into 8 ohms.

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5 hours ago, Peter the Greek said:

Nice write up.

 

Does he do a multi channel amp kit? Say 8 channels or more? Nothing mentioned on the website and I've never wanted to hassle him about it as I'm not currently in the market.

I know he has built multi channel amps in the past but I understand Anthony is going to slowly phase out many of the DIY modules if you were considering doing it yourself.

Cheers, Rob

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3 hours ago, Ittaku said:

The 122 are very lightweight class D amps. Do not attribute lack of power, punch, or dynamics to them being class D. They're only rated at 75W into 8 ohms.

What I should have said was that at reasonably high levels with my 87dB 6 ohm Neats, the 122 sounded as like it was struggling a bit. I have tried the Neats with a 252 and it was fine which is why I think more sensitive speakers would be a better fit.

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Interesting comparison.

It doesn't surprise me the Holton performs more favourably than the NC122MP. 

 

The MP modules are a definite step down from say the Hypex NC400 or even Purifi 1ET400a amplifiers which would be 'more' comparable in price to the Holton kit.

 

Ready made, no DIY: 

https://holtonprecisionaudio.com/collections/class-ab-power-amplifiers/products/holton-one-zero-one-power-amplifier

 

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On 05/02/2021 at 11:15 AM, Peter the Greek said:

 

Edited by Bunno77
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That's perfect for a 3way active build. 

How old do you suspect this would be?

 

Seems to be similar to this old add:

 

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3 hours ago, Grizaudio said:

That's perfect for a 3way active build. 

How old do you suspect this would be?

 

Seems to be similar to this old add:

 

Looking at the power management /relay protection board this could have been built about 5 years ago.

Cheers, Rob

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On 05/02/2021 at 2:15 AM, Peter the Greek said:

Nice write up.

 

Does he do a multi channel amp kit? Say 8 channels or more? Nothing mentioned on the website and I've never wanted to hassle him about it as I'm not currently in the market.

 

This is the latest version of a multichannel solution using Holton modules. One 4 channel amp is only 224 mm large, so with 2 amps beside eachother, the 8 channel solution stays within 45 cm. The channels are monoclocks, but they share a 2 KVA toroid . On this prototype, the modules deliver 150 W/channel in 8 Ohm with rails at 62 VDC. The build allows to place the toroid and power controller far away from the input/output.

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Edited by Avoxon
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26 minutes ago, Avoxon said:

 

This is the latest version of a multichannel solution using Holton modules. One 4 channel amp is only 224 mm large, so with 2 amps beside eachother, the 8 channel solution stays within 45 cm. The channels are monoclocks, but they share a 2 KVA toroid . On this prototype, the modules deliver 150 W/channel in 8 Ohm with rails at 62 VDC. The build allows to place the toroid and power controller far away from the input/output.

 

Superb! mind if I ask the all up cost?

 

Having multiple Toroid was my concern - space, cost, heat etc.....I say that like I know what I'm talking about. I've NFI

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9 minutes ago, Peter the Greek said:

 

Superb! mind if I ask the all up cost?

 

Having multiple Toroid was my concern - space, cost, heat etc.....I say that like I know what I'm talking about. I've NFI

Thank you Peter. It goes beyond 10k Euro for 1 pair....

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1 minute ago, Avoxon said:

Thank you Peter. It goes beyond 10k Euro for 1 pair....

it would be indeed not very practical to deal with a 70 kg behemoth just for the sake of having 8 separated channels. Splitting the 8 channels in 2 cases, resulting in 2 x 29 kg amps makes them more "human" and also easier to position

 

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55 minutes ago, Avoxon said:

 

This is the latest version of a multichannel solution using Holton modules. One 4 channel amp is only 224 mm large, so with 2 amps beside eachother, the 8 channel solution stays within 45 cm. The channels are monoclocks, but they share a 2 KVA toroid . On this prototype, the modules deliver 150 W/channel in 8 Ohm with rails at 62 VDC. The build allows to place the toroid and power controller far away from the input/output.

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Is this DIY? or end to end by Holton?

 

 

 

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3 minutes ago, Grizaudio said:

 

Is this DIY? or end to end by Holton?

 

 

 

case designed and assembled in Switzerland with modules produced by Anthony for this multichannel solution. And I am sure that Anthony could also build it end to end ?

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28 minutes ago, Avoxon said:

case designed and assembled in Switzerland with modules produced by Anthony for this multichannel solution. And I am sure that Anthony could also build it end to end ?

 

Do you have a link to the manufacturer?

 

 

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2 minutes ago, Grizaudio said:

I'm confused that's Holton. 

I meant the chassis? 

Swissholton manufactures the chassis

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3 hours ago, Avoxon said:

 

This is the latest version of a multichannel solution using Holton modules. One 4 channel amp is only 224 mm large, so with 2 amps beside eachother, the 8 channel solution stays within 45 cm. The channels are monoclocks, but they share a 2 KVA toroid . On this prototype, the modules deliver 150 W/channel in 8 Ohm with rails at 62 VDC. The build allows to place the toroid and power controller far away from the input/output.

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That build is in a class of its own. What a great example of craftsmanship and masterly design from Anthony and yourself.

 

Has the amp module been integrated with the power supply or are they individual boards?

 

The cleverly hidden speaker protection modules look more compact too.

 

The power management module certainly keeps the construction neat.

 

I can't begin to imagine how incredible it must sound.

 

Cheers, Rob

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16 minutes ago, robmid said:

 

That build is in a class of its own. What a great example of craftsmanship and masterly design from Anthony and yourself.

 

Has the amp module been integrated with the power supply or are they individual boards?

 

The cleverly hidden speaker protection modules look more compact too.

 

The power management module certainly keeps the construction neat.

 

I can't begin to imagine how incredible it must sound.

 

Cheers, Rob

Many thanks, Rob

Each module has its own power supply (56 mF per module) and an on board speaker protection. The sound is similar to the One-Zero-Zero amp proposed by Anthony (also on pair of Exicons per channel), with some improvements. As a 4/8 channel solution, quite impressive indeed.

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10 hours ago, Grizaudio said:

The build quality is amazing. 

I thought this was DIY. lol. 

Anthony does nice work. 

 

Yes, Anthony is a "grand Monsieur"

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 05/02/2021 at 10:54 AM, robmid said:

HOLTON nxV201PS kit (warning…long story)

 

After several months of curiosity followed by research I ordered the last pair of Holton nxV201PS kits. This full stereo mono block build cost less than $1800 with dual 300vA toroidal transformers, ETI connectors, heavy duty enclosure and Aurealis litz cables.

I'm I misunderstanding?

 

Or was the Holton used with Aurealis Litz speaker cables and the Hypex not?

 

It's confusing as the cables are listed with the Holton and not the Hypex.

 

Asking this as some of the same attributes are mentioned by people using the Aurealis Litz.

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Hi Ian.

 

I just noticed your post. 

 

The Hypex and Holton used the same Aurealis interconnects. I used them with the Hypex about six months before I moved to my Holton.

 

Cheers, Rob

Edited by robmid
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4 minutes ago, robmid said:

Hi Ian.

 

I just noticed your post. 

 

The Hypex and Hilton used the same Aurealis interconnects. I used them with the Hypex about six months before I moved to my Holton.

 

Cheers, Rob

Cool!

 

Thanks for clearing that up for me :thumb:

 

@robmid what were the speaker cables used with both?

Edited by muon*
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5 minutes ago, muon* said:

Cool!

 

Thanks for clearing that up for me :thumb:

 

@robmid what were the speaker cables used with both?

Both amps used Aurealis litz 201 speaker cables.

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