31 August, 2015

Review: Micromega IA-60 Integrated Amp; CD-10, Part II

Click pic to enlarge.

Review: Micromega IA-60 Integrated Amp; Micromega CD-10, Part II
Review: Naim Nait 3
Yin vs Yang

Note (3/3/16): Micromega CD-10, Part III, vs Sparkler S306 has been published.

After acquiring the ridiculously good Micromega CD-10, it took some time to hunt down its companion IA-60. The result was so surprisingly satisfying that I decided (for my limited purpose and time) to further simplify my reference system in my "new" home, eliminating tubes (Western Electric 124, which shall go back to my old house). Also, just by chance and impulse I got a Naim Nait 3 (I have used the Nait 2 before).

My review of Micromega CD-10, Part I was brief, so I copied it below so you don't have to go back.

Micromega CD-10 (official link; you should read the technical details). Here I welcome yet another member of Micromega into my family. Launched quite a long time ago (I commend Micromega for not changing models often), it has been well reviewed (I particularly like HiFi World and the ever-reliable Alvin Gold in techradar; for comparison of the whole CD line, read HiFi+ or in Chinese only u-audio).

The CD-10 (as do the CD-20, 30) uses the ever-reliable AD1853 chip, in contrast to the Cirrus Logic chip used in products meant for CAS (see my reviews of the fantastic MyDAC, Part I, Part II). The amazing thing is, the sound is like deja-vu: very much alike! And that is all to the good.

The CD-10 runs surprisingly warm for a CD player, even in standby.

Sound Just like the MyDAC, the CD-10 delivered all the important things in music, the venue, the tactile quality, the timing. See further Sonic Comments below.

Micromega IA-60 (official link of comprehensive technical details)
Micromega's amplification has never gotten as much attention as their digital products, and that is a shame. Many years ago, I owned a Tempo 1 and it was an excellent sounding thing (my friend icefox thinks so too). Unlike the CD-10, the IA-60 was only reviewed in tandem with the CD-10 (witchdoctor, and in Chinese only u-audio).

The IA-60 is rather warm even in standby. In operation it can can get pretty hot. While your hand can stay on, it is still definitely warmer than usual. Adequate ventilation is a must.

Sound As you would expect from Micromega, just like the CD-10, the IA-60 delivered all the important things in music, the venue, the tactile quality, the timing. The reviewers cited above are pretty spot on when they noted its reasonable driving power and somewhat light bass quality. My Yamaha NS-1000 is demanding but the IA-60 delivered just enough control and drive to let the musical finesse come through. If my memory does not fail me, this generation of amplifiers is better than previous ones (like my Tempo 1), more airy, more shimmer on top, and more grunt. See further Sonic Comments below.


Naim Nait 3
Naim's earliest integrated amps, the Nait 1 and Nait 2, are arguably their most iconic products, and with good reasons. For my assessment of Nait 2, read my Integrated Amp Guide (incidentally one of the most-read articles in my Blog). For the Nait 3, surprisingly one can still find a few reviews on the internet: TONEaudio (the 3R is essentially the 3 with remote) and soundstage (reviewed in tandem with the CD3.5).

Among vintage afficionados and even many Naim old-timers, it is often the older the better. Many, including myself, like the old shoe box look; but I also like the look of the 3 series (so much better than current Naim). The Nait 3 commands a lower second-hand price than its predecessors. This is partly also due to the absence of a phono section (though many buyers now don't use it). The Nait 3 has more power than the 1 and 2, and beside the DIN inputs sports a single RCA input as a concession to modern conveniences (Nait 1 and 2 are DIN only). Since I previously had the 2, I was more than curious about the 3.

Sound Using the Micromega CD-10 as source, via the RCA input, the Nait 3 immediately took control of the Yamaha and never let go. While its control was superior to the Micromega, for a while I was not at all sure which I preferred. The story is intriguing. See further Sonic Comments below.

System:
CD: Micromega CD-10
Amp: Micromega IA-60 or Naim Nait 3
Loudspeakers: Yamaha NS-1000
RCA Interconnects: Canare L-3C2VS and Mogami 2549
RCA to DIN Interconnects: Mogami 2534 and Gotham GAC-4/1 and Gotham GAC-2

Mahler: Symphony No.6Sonic Comments
  • Micromega CD-10 This is a beauty. Whether driving my Brook 7/WE124, the Micromega IA-60 or Naim Nait 3, it delivered prisitine digital, with SOUL. Use with confidence in any system (even a Naim one).
  • Micromega CD-10 + IA-60 Given the sterling quality of the CD-10, I'd not just put the performance of the CD-10 + IA-60 down to "synergy" only. The IA-60 is outstanding on its own - its agility and finesse serves up all types of music with great panache, and is class-leading. Miraculously, initially, its rhythm and pace trounces that of the Nait 3 (but see below)! Soundstage is deep and there is plenty of air. When it comes to driving power, I am satisfied by its performance with my Yamaha NS-1000, by no means the easiest speaker to deal with and an unlikely partner. Even in the big Mahler, when one wishes for a bit more power, a good sense of scale is preserved and the music has inexorable momentum. The IA-60's speed and accurate leading edge portrayal more than compensates for its limited power. Those with smaller or more efficient speakers will get even more out of the IA-60, but given the extended treble bright speakers should be avoided.
  • Micromega CD-10 + Naim Nait 3 RCA Input For convenience, this is what I used at first. Although the sound was more forward, it had more composure than the Micromega IA-60; on the other hand, the perspective seemed flatter and not as lively; the Mahler did not have a sense of threat, of struggle. DIN Input I borrowed a Naim RCA to DIN interconnect (old style; Chord made) and was immediately served a more dramatic sound. However, like before (when I had the Nait 2) I did not like this cable's roughness and lack of refinement. I decided to DIY some RCA to DIN interconnects with Mogami 2534, Gotham GAC-2 and GAC-4. It took some time to source the archaic DIN connectors, not something the usual electronic store has. My efforts were amply rewarded: the sound through the DIN inputs was superior to the RCA input - better dynamics, leading edge and scale; and Naim's inimitable rhythm and pace is back. Finally I had recaptured the unique feeling I had with my old Nait 2 (previous description). This puts the Nait 3 just a little ahead of the Micromega IA-60 in overall terms, though the latter still has a faster transient and more overt excitement.
  • Yamaha NS-1000  They continue to amaze me. Even in totally unfavorable arrangement, against the wall they deliver very good depth, and a properly scaled soundstage, without which the spirit of a Mahler symphony cannot be rendered. This very good recording was totally satisfying.
  • Yin vs Yang In a way, this is yin vs yang. The Naim is a little more masculine, more in reserve, in control, but the Micromega beguiles with its mellifluousness.
Conclusions
  • Micromega CD-10 As with most Micromega digital products, this is a winner.
  • Micromega IA-60 or Naim Nait 3 Despite so many years apart, both serve the music very well. Best buy's.
  • Yamaha NS-1000 What can I say! You don't get better speakers than these even at 10 to 100 times the price. Yes, you heard me.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does the CD-10 compare in regards to the NOS Sparkler S303 that you have in reference system? Is the Micromega better for complex/orchestral music while the S303 is better suited for rock/jazz enthusiasts?

One particular aspect that I take care when choosing a CD player is transport noise -- how is the CD-10 in this regard? Does the slim line drawer make a lot of noise when spinning and does it rattle when opening or is it relatively quiet and smooth in action? Have you heard the higher end models such as the CD-20 & CD-30?

Anonymous said...

How would you rate the CD-10 in comparison to the NOS Sparkler S303 player you have in your reference system? Can you give me some info on the transport noise & drawer action? I mean is the transport unduly noisy when it spins up and does the transport drawer open/close smoothly? I believe there is a setting which allows the user to determine the speed at which the drawer opens/closes -- have you used this feature?

doctorjohn said...

I'd say your guess regarding Micromega vs Sparkler is in many ways close to the truth. Sparkler is overtly exciting, certainly good for jazz and less so for complex works. Micromega is more well rounded, and is equally good with classicals and jazz, sounding less up-tempo but more subtle in the latter.

The drawer is very smooth in action. I can hear some noise while it is reading the disc, but I am not aware of any noise when the disc is playing.

doctorjohn said...

I believe there is such a setting, which I have not used.

Anonymous said...

Seems like others had beat me to the same questions! As a S303 user, I have been listening to mainly jazz/pop than classical. Classical music through S303 is good, but jazz/pop is anything but boring !

I can actually hear clearly how and what the singer is singing, the attenuation of insturments and the synergy etc... amazing!

with my 47 GC, the combo is nothing but breathtakingly true

cheers,
Eric

doctorjohn said...

The 47 GC is indeed a fabulous little amp. Clumsy, but great.

Anonymous said...

What do think about the difference between Nait 1/3 to 47 GC? I think both units has superb dynamics but 47 has a clear edge on imaging and soundstage. That said, still got a Nait1 gathering dust at home...haha

Eric

doctorjohn said...

I have yet to get my Gaincard into my living room. :-( As of now, it is serving my desktop. Sacrilege! But it will happen, I promise, soon.