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For: fast and revealing, simplicity of design will appeal to purists
Against: casework is improving but still doesn't look glamorous
Verdict: passive pre-amps can sound flat in comparison to conventional amps but the NVA sparkles. Rigorous in its search for detail, it sounds highly musical and involving. A very fresh and invigorating performance.
The NVA is, like the Moth, a power amp controlled by a passive pre-amp. This minamilist design (sole facilities are an input selector and volume control on the pre-amp and an on/off switch on the power amp) goes to great lengths to maximise quality. The designer has even rejected using screws in the casework - the alloy panels are glued together.
The amp accepts line-level sources like CD and tuner, but can be used with a separate phono stage, of which NVA makes two models. We've tried the Phono2, and found it excellent.
NVA can also supply speaker and interconnect cable specifically designed for use with its amplifiers. There's a good argument for using these in any NVA system - the power amps are not protected and fancy speaker cables can upset their operation. A set of Sound Pipe interconnects was supplied with the amp. These copper pipes, despite their inflexibility, work well in this system.
Without sounding hard, bright or clinical, the NVA peels away anything that obscures the music. Individual instruments and voices stand out clearly, even in the busiest of rock music mixes.
The NVA is a great information-retriever. Unlike many detailed amplifiers, its presentation is lucid and coherent, and it allows music to gel and flow. Timing is very well-judged, but the most obvious strength is with vocals, which have a truly lifelike and expressive character.
The amps clarity and speed lends itself to portraying complex orchestral music. Subtle tempo changes emerge readily, tonal colour and instrumental timbre is explicit, and dynamic variations are exposed candidly. The NVA makes classical music as exciting as rock and jazz, bringing out its character and emotive and dramatic qualities in a spirited fashion.
Source: WHAT HI-FI (May 1993)