NORMA Revo-CDP1 audiophile CD player

NA 06 CD REVCDP1
NZ$ 7,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
Norma Audio

NORMA AUDIO’s target is to utilise Technique, Science & Art to create products that reflect NORMA “musical reproduction”.

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NORMA's mission   has always been to preserve, in reproduction, all the qualities of the signal of origin, with the lowest contamination that the state of the art technology can offer. In words this is a common goal for many manufacturers, but it is enough to listen to the reproduction offered by any NORMA electronics  , to realise that, as in this case, this statement is never translated into reality.

Apparently contradictory listening parameters blend together in the ambitious goal of achieving the ultimate REALITY of the sound structure.

Disarming transparency and detail, they are combined with a surprising musicality. Dynamics and speed of sound coexist with a great delicacy and fluidity of emission. Total absence of grain and listening fatigue. Very extensive reconstruction of the ambience in the three dimensions, combined with perfect focusing and stability of the sound sources. This is the sound that  NORMA  expresses in its philosophy and in all its products. An "Ancient" but extremely modern sound as a synthesis of all the listening parameters. 

For years  NORMA studies solutions to be able to offer the same quality, even in digital sources. It is common experience, in fact, that the sound of digital sources is often (if not always) of poor quality and inferior to the best analog sources. It was therefore created the common opinion that the fault is attributable to the CD standard (16 bit 44.100 kHz). But this is not completely true. While, on the one hand, high definition sources (SACD DVD-AUDIO) are potentially superior to the CD, on the other hand, the real reason for the bad sound is consistent with how CD players are made in practice. The NORMA CD player  is the fruit of twenty years of experience in the production of analog audio products at the highest levels. Everything is designed to extract, respect and reproduce the information that actually exists on the CD.

Listening to a NORMA CD Player will   surprise you with how you will hear the CDs you think you know to play. First of all, at the same time, the typical hardness of digital sound is absent but at the same time you can find much more information, and much more dynamic. All this without listening effort but, on the contrary, with a feeling of neutrality and lack of surprising artificiality.

But perhaps, even more spectacular, is the reproduction of the sound scene; 

The NORMA CD Player  he does not reconstruct his artificial sound image but re-proposes the sensation of the original ambience of the place where the CD was recorded. Whoever had the chance to listen to a NORMA CD Player   has always come to the conclusion that, finally, a heavy curtain has been thrown open on the music; now it's like being in the front row with all the expressive palette available !!!

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Features

- TEAC CD Player Mechanics, with 5 seconds read buffer of

- Two PCM 24 Bit Digital to Analogue converter.

- Digital filter x8 oversampling with user selectable roll-off filter (Sharp & Slow).

- Proprietary IV architecture conversion.

- Audio analogue output stage based with full discrete devices amplifier.

- Extreme low noise, high resolution and high speed schematic topology.

- Wide band (> 2 MHz).

- RCA and Balanced output connection.

- Separate power supply for Digital and Analogue Output stages.

- High filtering capacity with numerous low impedance capacitors.

- 13 Powers supply regulators.

- Full aluminium non-magnetic frame.

- Toroidal power transformer specially designed for audio applications, low dispersion flow. low mechanical noise, high permeability magnetic core with consequent low output impedance.

- Remote control of all functions with NORMA remote control (Philips RC-5 Standard code).

Specifications

Connections : RCA output line, XLR Balanced

Outputs Voltage : 3.0 V RMS (+10 dBV) RCA (at 0 dB), 6.0 V RMS (+16 dBV) XLR (at 0 dB)

Output Impedance : 200 ohm

System Frequency Response : 0 , 0 to 22KHz +/- 0.3 dB (limited from standard CD)

Analogue Output Filter : 0.0 to 180 kHz +/- 3 dB

Analogue StageFrequency Response : 0.0 to 2MHz +/- 3 dB

Configuration : Solid state

Oversampling : DF 1706 8 x Digital Filter

Oversampling Filter : User selectable by Jumper inside from: Sharp & Slow Roll-off filter response.

D / A Converter : PCM 1704 Multibit 24 Bit D / A converter

I / V Conversion: I / V Conversion by proprietary topology with discrete component

Output Stage : Proprietary topology with discrete component, high linearity & low noise

Supply : 230V AC / 50Hz, (100V AC or 115VAC / 50-60Hz in some country)

Dimensions ( HxWxD) : 75 x 430 x 350 mm

Weight : 10 Kg

Notes : Integrated CD Player with full remote control

Reviews

Here are in any case very beautiful devices that know how to take advantage of our silver patties (CDs).

SUMMARY: The sound recording here is illuminated by the presence of the instruments and the ability of the sound recording to add a lot of material and density to the recording, which is quite unusual for a CD player at this price level. In a simple way, it is possible here to say that everything is there, in a naturally credible way so as not to have to ask the least question about the correctness of the restitution brought by these readers....... If you want good, reliable and efficient players to perform (sorry for the pun intended) your CD collection, listening is really essential. You will most certainly be won over.

REVIEW: A large part of our work consists of listening to and choosing devices that we assess on their relevance and their musical quality / price / reliability / resale capacity for the client.

We also strive to find the ideal marriage between the devices to obtain sets with impeccable musicality. It can often take a long time to discover a device of interest. A lot of listening for ultimately few chosen. And it sometimes happens by the greatest of chances, that listening is not surprising. 

Over the past two years, we have listened to over twenty CD players. To date, only three readers have been referenced.
Today, we are going to present one of them to you, because it is precisely in this section that we call “happy discovery”.

When we received the NORMA REVO DS-1, we had in principle to test its integrated DAC, and not especially that of the CD player. The very dynamic importer of NORMA in France, did not have the immediate possibility of entrusting us with another device. Our curiosity and impatience being the strongest, we obviously agreed. Of course, in addition to its DAC, our curiosity did not wait long before we throw an attentive ear to the reader himself. And there it was a whole other story…

Three hours of heating for a brand new device out of its box seemed to us to be able to show us what it was capable of doing. The DAC of this device is in itself talented for its price but, one of our silver pancakes in the front drawer and presto, we started listening to PUCCINI's orchestral works by Riccardo CHAILLY. A minute later, we looked at each other and realized that we had come across something promising. 

What sound, what image and what sound perspective! A very convincing respect for timbres, a remarkable balance in bandwidth, precision combined with high class sound delicacy, material, rigor, subtlety and transparency as we like. Yes, all of that. And in order or disorder, it comes down to the same thing: high class! And when the price is put in relation, one becomes all the more attentive. 

So of course, very quickly, the importer gave us his NORMA REVO CDP-1BR which does not have a built-in DAC, only to find that the reading mechanics were strictly the same, like his sound signature of course.

These NORMA players allow themselves to listen to the album “ Organ Music Before Bach ” - in CD format - to be better than the same song in file scanned in high definition read by a streamer of the same price category. We then say that we must have an ear problem. This listening is repeated up to 4 times.

The conclusion is clear. 
These NORMA CD players give off an extra life and naturalness which makes the music seem less cold, more warm than the digitized file.

In " Comme Parlait Zarathoustra " by Lorin Maazel or even " Tableaux d'une exposition " by Moussorgsky by James Levine, we come to the same conclusion about the superiority of the CD format. It is ample and majestic. The organ unfolds in space in a coherent way, with a lot of material and energy. The superimposition of the orchestral sound plans is particularly credible. And what a dynamic! NORMA offers us exciting music that sends you beneficial sound waves.

In Christian McBride's "Conversations", the artist's double bass is very present and the natural resonance of the instrument is well embodied. The REVOs are capable of reproducing the low frequencies with a total absence of blurring. It is not runny or heavy. The bass sounds are well structured and structured. They provide a rather surprising listening comfort in this price range.

The same is true with "The eye" by YELLO. The percussions are here brilliantly rendered and a definition quite remarkable. It goes down very low, without overload. It hits as it should and it's a real pleasure to listen. But it is in the mediums that the REVO bring listening comfort with great mastery. Human voices are distilled there with a great nuance of timbre, all with a definition combined with a delicacy that goes very far.

On Julia LEZHNEVA's album, the extraordinary singer allows us to appreciate her vocal range and her mastery of the Mozart repertoire at its fair value.

In the same way, listening to "Live in Montreux" by Rachelle FERRELL allows us to enjoy the artist's very extensive vocal performances - to say the least - in the most demonstrative way. is.

But where the REVOs stand out compared to other devices is that everything is returned with great restraint and subtlety. Everything is there: dynamic, speed, generous sound. But nothing will hit or tire your ears: accuracy and tonal balance, smooth reading, profusion and details of the recordings but no exuberance that would distort the sound message.

It is even more possible to touch these qualities with your ears, listening to "The Chicago Sessions" by Clark TERRY. The superlative sound recording of this HDCD also finds its corollary: listening certainly full of punch but which can be aggressive in the long run with a CD player which is not up to par. It is true that there is a lot to transcribe on this album which has a feeling of life and spontaneity that we do not find so often in the recordings. The dynamic side of the album can often take precedence over the subtlety of the definition.

The REVOs do not fall into this trap here and deliver us an airy and exciting music which does honor to the qualities of this recording. These CD players are just as comfortable on symphonic recordings. In "Orchestra! »From Sirba Octet, the sound scene is reproduced in a very broad way and such that we could be given the opportunity to listen to it in real life. It sings, it lives and brings us exciting moments as we like them. But it is on symphonic formations still spacious that the REVO show the extent of their talent.

In Anton Bruckner's symphony No. 6 by Simone Young, the orchestra is well rendered and the ambitus which follow one another in tutti, unfold in large and deep dimensions. The brass and percussion instruments are not only correctly positioned, but appear particularly credible in terms of the dimensions they assume within the orchestra.

We always find this irreproachable sound presentation with the symphony No. 10 by Dmitri Chostakovitch by Mariss Jansons.

The sound recording here is illuminated by the presence of the instruments and the ability of the sound recording to add a lot of material and density to the recording, which is quite unusual for a CD player at this price level. In a simple way, it is possible here to say that everything is there, in a naturally credible way so as not to have to ask the least question about the correctness of the restitution brought by these readers. For all self-respecting CD players, however, it remains an essential step to subject them to. We are very keen on a simultaneous comparison with vinyl recordings.

Why such a whim?
It's very simple. We are trying to find out if a reader is capable of providing a sound reproduction that ignores the cuts provided by digital processing. Yes, still this barrier between digital and analog perception… Our test is immutable. We have the original recording of Oscar Petersen Trio's “We get requests” and compare it to our CD version. Then comes the turn of the 4th symphony of Bruckner by Sir Georg Solti, to finish with the album "Communiqué" by Dire Straits.

The REVOs get away with it once again.
So certainly, one of our referenced CD players is even closer to analog playback. But the REVOs are just behind. We can blame them for a little extra shine compared to the vinyl recording, or even a brio, a more accentuated shine. But nothing unacceptable or excessive in any case.

Mediums with listening to voices are particularly comparable to listening to vinyl. The bass is a little more punchy, but it does not affect the quality of the sound image on the contrary. Treble can appear with a more accentuated sound perspective, but the increased definition of REVO is probably the cause. Here are in any case very beautiful devices that know how to take advantage of our silver patties.

For those who plan to acquire a DAC at the same time as a CD player, you could build up a beautiful, very musical ensemble for their REVO DS-1.

The REVO CDP-1BR as a single player is certainly not the most economical of CD players on the market, but for its price it often offers much more than the competition. If you want good, reliable and efficient players to perform (sorry for the pun intended) your CD collection, listening is really essential. You will most certainly be won over.

The symphonic sound is sophisticated and pervasive, one that does not leave a sense of lack: very confident, stable, hurry-free, well paced, disciplined, orderly in tone, not artificial in colour, free from all deposition , the display is neutral & clear

SUMMARY: Looking around the world, it seems that other magazines have recently begun to discover the Norm, as if Enrico Rossi's many years of design had finally come to fruition. We are also delighted to be joining the ranks of the manufacturer, not deciding what to impress, the uncompromising build of the devices, or their lackluster, authentic, dynamic-sounding sound that radiates from them that their creator has invested a lot of energy and knowledge his goal is to have a craving for them, well he has reached it.

Norma Revo-CDP1 Ref, Revo-IPA140

 

In the course of our magazine's many years of existence, many of the great handsets of many Italian manufacturers have turned our hands, never concealing how close their lifeblood is to us, and it is strange that our absolute leading year in Cremona, the hometown of Stradivari, Monteverdi first. To mitigate this serious shortcoming, we introduce two electronics from the Lombardy manufacturer's workshop this time.

Revo-CDP1 Ref.

Last September, we got to know an amplifier from Opal Electronics' fleet specialist, so let's start with the CD player, the standard model for Norma, which travels exclusively in digital sources. Of course, the basic adjective is not meant to be a technical standard, it just means that this time we are dealing with a functionally old-fashioned model. There is something reminiscent of the exterior, but the massive cast gives it an impeccably elegant, almost light look that may have been brought out of the enclosing column shape. Thick, bottom-to-bottom coarse-grained, finer-textured aluminum panels, refined arches and rounded aluminum panels were bolted together, the one-and-a-half-thick front panel got a gushingly symmetrical device, and the tightly-knit, well-worked, tight-fitting The huge red-smeared, seven-segment, 2x4 character display can be interpreted as a real gag, you don't even have to turn your heart off, but it's definitely not worth reading, even as you say goodbye to your neighbor as you say goodbye to a loose byte. The TEAC drive above is worthy of appreciation, as conventional CD mechanics are not standard on such environments. It is a pity that it is not very ready to load the disc, it does not hesitate to change lanes, and maybe the 5 second read buffer does, but as if you say it with a moaning quick search, do not let it go, let it play in peace. From there, the optically shielded depth of the non-magnetized housing provides the signal to the 8x over-sampled Texas Instruments DF1706 digital filter, and we are happy to have two ringing modes, and regret to do so with the help of a jumper inside "no user serviceable parts inside"). The DA conversion is done by two TI PCM1704 chips, with high linearity, low noise discrete circuitry, of course, in the power-to-voltage conversion, and the output range, which they provide in the 0 Hz to 2 MHz transmission range (which of course however, the standard is limited to 22 kHz) but is no longer so self-explanatory.

rate cdp-1r silver red m solata

The back panel may be blaming the lack of digital outputs, but with all the exemplary RCAs, we also get symmetrical XLR analog audio connectors. The power supply unit is positioned as far away from them as possible, leading the mains current to a low-noise, high-permeability toroidal transformer designed specifically for audio applications, so that the separate, carefully controlled power supply of digital and analog circuits can be properly served.

Revo-IPA140

The player is not a diet, but with its integrated amplifier's dimensions and weight, which is an ultimate authority in matte black, the chiller that holds most of the recessed side panels promises plenty of performance. Its controls are no different from its smaller sibling, so it's easy to use, the stand-by switch also serves as an input selector, and the motor-driven rotary knob provides gentle volume control, although it can be smeared with a glossy surface, let's use it instead. However, this is not the alluring touch, of course, for quite another reason. In commercial environments, it could be called an ergonomically shaped palm-sliding device, spoiled with two different speeds for volume control, but electronics deserve a much more companion than many overtone plastic buttons, including a handful of useless buttons. No panic, there is one, only the cool aluminum block Revo RC-43 will be a separate item on the bill. But back to the point, the ultra-low-noise, high-speed, high-bandwidth 140 watts brought by 2x6 pieces of MOSFET output at a constant load of 1,500 watts for a total load of 1,500 watts per channel. The eye-catching dual mono system also extends to power supply, relying on two 400 VA toroidal transformers, a total filter capacity of 70,000 µF and power supplies separate in stages.

revo ipa-140 --- 0

From the back, the device is almost like two monoblocks joined together, the quality of the connectors, due to the parent company's instrumentation interest, is beyond dispute, such as when something is built on eternity. And even without special features, we get four additional RCAs beside the fixed line symmetrical XLR input, which also receive line-level signals by default, but the first can become a phono by installing an optional RIAA module, the second can be set to constant or barely controlled signal level. output (such as an active subwoofer), and the third as a direct, unregulated input connected to a home theater system.

The symphonic sound is sophisticated and pervasive, one that does not leave a sense of lack: very confident, stable, hurry-free, well paced, disciplined, orderly in tone, not artificial in colour, free from all deposition , the display is neutral and clear. At the same time, it is extremely revealing, the resolution is brilliant, the stunning backdrop of background information that accompanies the music is not missed by the most insignificant jerking or snapping. And of course, the system does not forgive the nature of the recording and its errors, it objectively reports on microphone noise, tape noise, and dynamic correction. But, of course, even more about its beauties, the dynamics are built up with the dynamics in the main, without the slightest exertion, there is no question of the multiplication of the required power reserve, there is no situation when the band runs out. Together with each other, they are out-of-class instruments, and the violin concerto is a solid hand, once lightly airy, and at times its fleshy soloist gets the deep lead. Of course, the creation of space is also very good, but there is only so much that can and should be taken into consideration that the extensive, realistic stage is almost self-evident. The sound of the vocals is at least as strongly represented by the electronics of Norma, the stunning organ of Andrea Bocelli, penetrating, uncompromising, heartfelt, impeccably intense, captivated by the performance, crystal clear and open to the depths of the music. With dramatic sincerity, our singer drops out of his voice, not only does he sparkle his lyricism, but somehow even the gentler melodies are tempered by sophistication.

The minimalist line-up of Master Loussier's trio appears in an unrivaled clarity in the hands of Italian instruments; these basically soulless, power-destroying metal chests make us believe that it would not be a more immediate experience if we could listen to the concert by elbows in our heads, our viscera fluttering over the strings of the double bass, the silky trombone sweeps his ear, almost too beautiful to be true. But go ahead, and Deep Purple will thoroughly drive the listener out of their idyllic state, though not bad, systematic crushing is not a downgraded experience, especially as the sophistication, rhythm section sophistication of a jazz concert, solo guitar and the role of the organ is not behind the singing. Certainly not a dirty-mouthed crayfish will come out of the speakers in the end, but this culturally concrete stance fits the band even better.

norm-23-940x353

Looking around the world, it seems that other magazines have recently begun to discover the Norm, as if Enrico Rossi's many years of design had finally come to fruition. We are also delighted to be joining the ranks of the manufacturer, not deciding what to impress, the uncompromising build of the devices, or their lackluster, authentic, dynamic-sounding sound that radiates from them that their creator has invested a lot of energy and knowledge his goal is to have a craving for them, well he has reached it.

MORMA'S ENRICO TALKS ABOUT HIS UNIQUE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

The problem with audio is proof. Or rather its absence. One can't prove superior sound. Try. Play someone a system you've spent ten years comparing and meticulously refining. You're convinced of its quality. But if that person doesn't like it, nothing will convince them. There's no proof that your system is better than theirs. This drives engineers batty. If they design the fastest race car, get the best driver and have just a bit of luck, they win the race. Posting the best time proves that their car was fastest. Zero ambiguity. But hifi is full of it. Ambiguity. And the other stuff.

Naturally marketeers don't capitulate so easily. They exploit our human desire for proof and certainty with snazzy figures. With hifi amps that used to be power. More was better. Eventually that got ridiculous. Who really believed they needed 2 kilowatts? Then the game became a bit subtler. Now it was about total harmonic distortion or IMD. The more zeros behind the decimal point the better. Once that game was up—people soon realized they couldn't hear the difference between 0.0001% and 0.000075% THD—marketeers aimed for the still empty space in front of the decimal point. Hello sampling rates. At press time we already had three D/A converters—Antelope Audio Zodiac Platinum, Gryphon Kalliope, exasound e20—which could do DSD 256 at 11.28MHz. No such software exists. Yet. No matter. It's basic psychology. Higher numbers win.

Jim Ricketts of TMH Audio applies this type of proof again to the pre-decimal space but now amplifiers. He focuses on their slew rate and bandwidth. His comparison table lists Soulution's 710 and 720 models and the darTZeel CTH-8550. At 100kHz the first Swiss amp gets clobbered by the second Swiss which offers 1MHz. That one gets hammered by the Norma with 2MHz.

It also annihilates the darTZeel's 88V/μs slew rate with 175V/μs. Soulution's isn't available. Norma for office! What does slew rate sound like? It's all very suggestive, no explanations required. Like that 2MHz is just an octave over 1MHz. Or that human hearing cuts off at 20kHz. Two bands below. Why would you want such excessive bandwidth? Never mind. The biggest numbers win. Welcome to hifi marketing 101. Flip a page in Jim's book and you get to the equally Italian Alef brand. That weighs in with 6MHz bandwidth. "Think Soulution but executed at a much higher level!" That's how he puts it with a capitalized emphasis. Naturally Alef didn't make it on his Norma comparison chart as this might steal sales from himself. Plus Alef's 180μs slew rates—just five more than Norma—could raise uncomfortable questions when this type of math finally hits its limits. Are we dazzled yet?

Enrico believes there is proof. But you need educated ears. 

It took seven years and a concentrated R&D project started in 1991 to quantify how hifi gear compromises signal purity. Enrico's company Provision began manufacturing Norma gear in 1997 but had already built measurement equipment to have him well familiar with the necessary tools: Living and being headquartered in Cremona influenced me. Our city is steeped in music and musical instruments. Think Monteverdi, Ponchielli, Giuseppe Verdi, the master violins of Stradivarius, Amati and Guarneri. They left a great legacy to our school of violin making and the university's music faculty. I fondly remember student competitions to insure the few free subscriptions our school provided for concerts at the Teatro Ponchielli. The human voice and song are one of my greatest passions. Listened to attentively, the correct reproduction of the human voice is one of the most difficult tasks. If the recording quality allows, the micro/macro dynamics of a beautiful voice are incredible as are the richness of detail, expressive nuances and delivery refinement. And unlike other musical instruments the human voice is known to all. This enables immediate comparison. It's why I often use the human voice in the development of Provision gear.

Beyond material aspects it's important to understand a product's design philosophy. Over the years folks hearing Norma products asked what our secret was. As direct expressions of our perception and thinking, we though them simple and devoid of secrets. But over time we concluded that as often happens, what's really important isn't obvious to outsiders. What's the secret to the Stradivarius sound? After exploring all possible combinations of wood, ageing and lacquer, we still don't know. Perhaps the real secret was the designer's sensitivity, taste and love which intuitively or strategically guided very specific choices. In the absence of such intense desire, none of the available materials and processes would have ended up being shaped as they were.

Playback electronics influence the sound even more than what's generally believed. Here we distinguish between sonic appearance and quality. Elements of appearance ease our perception. Its parameters include tonal balance, soundstage articulation and certain dynamic aspects as long as deviations remain tolerable rather than become irreparable compromise. Sonic appearance is what strikes and impresses a listener at first. Aside from creating something like an imprint, it then loses importance little by little. With ongoing listening more important parameters reveal themselves mostly related to the actual structure of the sound we perceive. This no longer is about basic ingredients but how they were treated and combined. With fruit it'd be the degree of ripeness and flavour. With a person it'd be character and intelligence, not height, weight, race and gender.

This gets us to quality which also gives pleasure but is neither short-term nor a coincident mechanism that connects with an emotional memory of a previously pleasurable experience. Sound quality is a kind of long-term love that arises with a more intimate discovery of sophisticated features. Perception of sonic appearance is instinctive. Perception of quality is learnt and depends on being able to perceive specific traits, then assign values to them. Here we deal with the absence of distortion and grain, with the quality of speed, micro/macro dynamics, spatial relationships within the soundstage. More so than any other parameter, the one we're particularly concerned with is lack of playback artifice. We accept that whenever an audio signal passes a circuit, it exits degraded compared to how it entered. The very best audio gear can hope for is to commit the least possible degradation. Without an ability to capture and assign values to specific quality aspects, there can be no deeply fulfilling design work. Consider a wine novice. The best initial impression might come from a glass of fresh sparkling lambrusco. Only with deepened exposure and refinement of the palate does the true universe of wine open up. One cannot truly love that which one doesn't know.

The art of sound reproduction is no exception. It relies on a more profound understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Here one arrives at a more fundamental level than superficial instinctual sonic beauty. The easiest way is to alter the sound to make it more pleasant yet one cannot fix something faulty by adding another fault. Two faults don't make one right. The interpretative approach is also limited and not universal. Soft focus works well in a wedding photo but gets annoying in a landscape. Altering one parameter to improve it invariably affects other parameters in unpredictable ways. More is lost than gained. Subjective gains in appearance can thus mean a loss of quality.

The elements of audio electronics which influence sound span circuit type/topology, parts quality, mechanical engineering, power supply and more all of it interdependent. It's imperative to have the broadest possible understanding to properly gauge how particular choices interact. To design a winning Formula 1 car everything must be perfectly integrated and of the highest quality, from the engine to the chassis, suspension, tires, driver, pit team and more. During our 7-year R&D project we attempted to investigate the totality of factors influencing hifi sound and how they interrelate. Starting with circuit topology, we saw that minimalism itself guarantees no good overall performance. Returning to the F1 car, a single-cylinder engine won't lead to victory. Our Norma circuits are thus very elaborate. Another important aspect is dynamic delivery. Whilst it's often considered sufficient to have bandwidth that only slightly exceeds the audible spectrum of 20Hz-20kHz, in our opinion bandwidth must be far greater. This relates directly to overall circuit speed and its ability to supply instantaneous current.

Returning to the automotive industry, one might calculate a certain drag coefficient and the power required to maintain it at 130km/hr, say 25KW. Based on the audio bandwidth example, one might conclude that a 40KW motor is sufficient to guarantee a good driving experience. Now imagine a car with a 200KW engine driving at the same 130km/h. It will respond better to acceleration and give us more pleasure and performance. Compared to the speed changes of driving, the scope of music's dynamic gradations has a crest factor of 1:100 which is a power scale of 1:10.000. From that follows that bandwidth, speed and current can never be too high. To be fair, frequent solutions to bandwidth increases come at the cost of sonic naturalness. At Norma we have worked very hard to combine these seemingly irreconcilable aspects.

Just as the best F1 car won't perform without high-octane gasoline so the best circuits rely on adequate power. For this reason all our power supplies are extremely refined and account for power-grid isolation, DC, very low residual noise and very low output impedance all the way up into the ultrasonic range. Continuing our F1 parallel experience teaches us how important materials and parts are. How often have we seen an F1 car at the edge of the runway with its engine smoking? Some sophisticated tech solutions cannot be implemented without the proper parts. Certain parts are vital to realise certain circuit topologies whilst signal-path components can have a very marked influence on the sound. Unfortunately the best parts are nearly always difficult to source and very expensive. One example are seemingly trivial resistors. In certain strategic locations our resistors are about 1.000 x more expensive than already excellent 1% metal-film parts. The same is true for semiconductor batches of 1000 where each is measured, graded, selected and matched for each unit's left and right channel. Our mechanics are carefully engineered and free from ferromagnetic elements except for the power transformers.

With our SC-2 preamplifier the external power supply contains a first stage of stabilisation followed by further voltage filtration in the main unit by means of independent l/r-channel circuits. The volume control which so often is a bottle neck is a programmable analog digital attenuation scheme which optimises attenuation accuracy, channel balance and resolution with minimal signal impact. Steps are 0.5dB from 0 to -127.5dB with ±0.01dB accuracy. The switches are electromechanical relays to overcome limitations of solid-state switches, CMOS DACs, solid-state potentiometers and such. In addition all our preamps operate either active or passive. In passive mode the signal is tapped right behind the volume control and sent directly to the outputs to bypass the active gain stage. This can be triggered by remote.

Back to sound, timbre is almost exclusively a function of the speaker/room interaction. In our opinion alleged electronic influences on timbre are side effects of limited bandwidth or a typical transistor issue of graininess which suggests excess treble. Bass is very dependent on a power amp's power supply. In our products we aim for absolute frequency linearity across the widest possible bandwidth without narrow-band colorations which would alter the ratio of frequencies. Transparency is an absence of blur and haze. This makes statements like 'this sound is too transparent' idiotic. Just like vision can never be too sharp so sound can never be too transparent. What people really mean by excess transparency is that they hear issues being unmasked elsewhere. Real transparency as we understand it isn't a function of treble emphasis but must start at 0Hz. With Norma electronics, shortcoming elsewhere in the system will be exposed.

Dynamics, speed and modulation are three facets of dynamic behavior which must track the continuously variable music signal whilst applying gain. Here the power amp's job is hardest because besides amplifying voltage, it must also deliver current to the speaker and absorb kicked-back electromotive forces. Failures on those counts change the wave form to become distortion. Success relies on bandwidth, speed and ultra-fast delivery of very high currents. Under dynamic conditions our Norma electronics behave like a fine 12-cylinder engine: powerful, flexible, responsive, fast, perfectly torque balanced and capable of also running at very low RPM to reproduce both minuscule changes and large voltage swings.

Soundstaging is primarily a function of a precisely symmetrical speaker setup to exploit the arrival-time difference between let and right ear for a virtual recreation of what the microphones captured. Apart from extreme channel imbalances, electronics are more or less excused from responsibilities in soundstaging. Which gets me to the first watt, a concept virtually unknown in Italy at the time. I was introduced to it at an Athens show with our Greek importer who showed our electronics and low-power tubes plus a classic American dynamic speaker and a well-known high-efficiency variant. When we arrived the latter were set up with the valve gear. As a gesture of welcome the importer offered to switch to our Norma electronics with the American dynamic speakers. Being curious we asked to hear the highly efficient speakers on our gear which the importer was reluctant to do expecting detrimental results for both his products. But he did anyway and as a result that combination played for the duration of the show offering one of the best sounds we've heard. This first-watt phenomenon is a classic Achilles heel for transistor electronics which during very small power demands exhibit parasitic phenomena like inherent background noise, grain, crossover distortion and such. After this experience we examined the subject at length and conducted numerous comparisons to insure excellent performance on this count. Our Norma amplifiers are thus equally suitable for very high-efficiency and very low-impedance challenging loads.

Grain is related to the physical mechanism whereby current flows through a semiconductor. This gives rise to a separation of the conduction current into discrete charges. To simplify, consider closing down a running water tap until a very thin stream of water stops running continuously but transforms into individual drops. Something similar happens to the electrical charges in semiconductors. This includes a component of parasitic noise generated by a similar process. It translates into an audible but hard-to-define quality which is perhaps best described as the discomfort of a pinching shoe. It explains listener fatigue or feedback of the sound being too accurate. The truth is the opposite. The sound is too coarse in both texture and background noise. Here Norma electronics are truly extraordinary by offering a fineness of grain almost unique.

Artificiality is the least technical aspect but for us the by far most important. We've always pursued the creation of audio electronics which sound the least artificial. If we created two parallel events—one live, one playback—beyond matching all parameters as ideally as possible, what would most differentiate them is this artifice. Its reduction or lack is what generates ongoing listening pleasure over long sessions and many years. It's perhaps for this reason that once people have heard Norma gear, it's very difficult to listen to anything else.

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