Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300 power amplifier Page 3

Yeah, but how does it sound?
Despite their miserable measurements, low power, and apparent instability, the KR Enterprise VT8000s that I reviewed in November were a tough act to follow. I know, that sounds like "despite being dead, he's in pretty good shape." But I compared the two amps before and after the KRs figuratively fell off the test bench. The KRs are like an old brandy, while the Musical Fidelity is like an expensive, fiery tequila---clear and pure, with a rich kick. Choose your enlightenment.

I spent almost two months alone with the Nu-Vista 300. I don't care if you get a bunch of tubes and just sit on them---I firmly believe that to truly enjoy recorded music at home, to create the sensation of "live," you need tubes somewhere in the circuit. Otherwise, you get a "pristine" dryness not found in live music. I've sat before 100% solid-state systems comprising the finest stuff---Krell, Mark Levinson, Ayre, whatever---and I can admire, but I cannot touch. To my ears, pure solid-state systems are either too fast and dry or too soft and rolled-off.

With Nuvistors in the driver's seat and bipolars in the engine compartment, the Nu-Vista 300 struck a fantastic balance between speed, power, and quiet on one hand, and richness and liquidity on the other. Bass was extremely tight and well controlled, but not overly damped or too percussive at the expense of harmonics. The highs were crystalline and detailed without being too sharp or etched, though lovers of mellow might want some rounding to the spires. Not me. The Nu-Vista 300 has the most natural portrayal of high-frequency transients of any solid-state amp I've heard...but of course, the 300 is not a solid-state amp. It's a hybrid.

Right in the middle was where I found the amp to be slightly lean compared to an all-tube design, or one with a tubed output like the KRs---or compared to live music, for that matter. The 300 didn't have a great deal of bloom, though it easily avoided sounding dry. So is the bloom of a tube amp an additive distortion? Maybe. But what if adding bloom makes music sound more real? What if the Nu-Vista 300's superb, liquid, yet detailed overall balance---better than any other solid-state amp I've heard---is also an "additive distortion" caused by the tubes in the input stage? So what?

I don't know how you'd answer that question, but if you refuse to buy a tube amp because of the heat, the potential hassles with tube replacement, and the rest, what's the difference? No matter what, you're not buying. Well, with the Nu-Vista 300, here's a chance to get a healthy part of the tube thing but without any of the hassles.

Of course, driving a 92dB-sensitive loudspeaker like the Amati Homage with well over 300W might seem like overkill, but it's always better to have too much power than too little. What kills drivers is clipping, not power. If my Amatis can handle the Nu-Vista 300, so can your speakers.

I listened to hundreds of hours of LPs and CDs before sitting down to write these comments, and throughout those sessions I found the Nu-Vista 300 to be a consistently enjoyable, exciting, and utterly natural-sounding amplifier. It was nimble and well controlled, like the Mark Levinson No.335 I auditioned in my review of the Ayre V-1. Also like the No.335, the Nu-Vista controlled sibilants, reproducing them like cool running water---never getting hashy, yet never leaving me with the sensation that it was doing so by glossing over transients. But, unlike the Levinson, the MF's control wasn't accompanied by coolness. Despite its high power and claimed ultra-low noise and distortion, the Nu-Vista is said to be a low-feedback design.

Most solid-state amplifiers I've heard just can't get a grip on the music, can't deliver timbres and textures---or the sense of airy, physical space---the way tubes can. The Ayre V-1 aimed to satisfy in that regard, and did an admirable job of creating a "tubelike sense of space," though there was a price to pay in terms of bass control and focus. The Nu-Vista 300 didn't quite match the Ayre's performance in this area, but it was reasonably close, with superb overall focus and clarity. Plus, it offered lithe bass performance and overall rhythmic surety. And it was soooo quiet, laying the details right out in space where my ears could grab them and run.

The Nu-Vista's dynamic presentation was outstanding, sounding equally open and effortless at both high and low SPLs. Hardly surprising, given the power potential. And the amp's spatial presentation was quite fine, with well-focused images set against a jet-black background. I've heard more airy presentations from amplifiers with greater midrange plushness, but front-to-back layering was impressive, and soundstage width and depth left little to be desired.

Musical Fidelity
15-17 Fulton Road
Wembley, Middlesex HA9 0TF
England, UK
(44) 0181-900-2866