NORMA Revo-IPA140 audiophile 140w Integrated amp w USB-DAC & MM/MC Phono - black

NA 25 IA REV140B
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 7,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 14,250.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 6,755.00 (incl. GST)
Norma Audio

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

Special

The Norma Revo IPA-140 integrated amplifier represents a definitive choice for amplification. Its high power (140W/8Ohm) and the ability to drive the most demanding speakers, make it an extremely versatile amp. 

Versatility is enhanced by the ability to customise the input / output connections and to insert optional Phono MM / MC board and/or an optional USB DAC. 

The elegant and sophisticated style is perfectly in tune with its sound personality. Power, dynamics, speed and transparency are combined to create outstanding musicality and a total absence of listening fatigue. The inside workings show that the technical refinement follows the same philosophy. 

The Revo IPA-140 uses a proprietary circuitry, regulated high-speed power, low noise and is built with a careful selection of the best materials available.

HiFi+ REVIEW INSIGHT:
How this manifests in music is fairly easy to spot; you end up listening ‘through’ the recording more. Not in an analytical way, more in a ‘that was really good, let’s play another!’ The Jessye Norman album led to Delius (I don’t quite know how) and then to Britten, which strangely led to the Hilliard Ensemble, which led to early music and so on. Meanwhile, Laura Marling led (naturally) to Joni Mitchell, which led to James Taylor, Donnie Hathaway and then all points soulful, then rocky tinged with some deep dub reggae for no particular reason. In other words, the amp is exciting, fast and honest enough to make you stalk your music collection for more fun tracks. That comes through a combination of quicksilver speed when needed, effortless dynamic range and a natural tonality; all the things any solid-state amplifier is supposed to be able to do, but few genuinely achieve.‘Grace’ has come to imply something aloof and elegant but in a distant way. That is not the IPA-140’s interpretation of the word. It’s more timeless, Audrey Hepburn grace than some haughty ice-maiden grace. This is exceptionally transparent. Nevertheless, this is not going to be the everyman amplifier. There are those who want an amplifier that enlivens or even brightens the sound, and those who equate ‘accuracy’ with cold, laboratory conditions and those who think rhythm should be laid on with a trowel. It gives excellent rhythm when needed, in fact, it just doesn’t seem to draw everything into 4/4 time.
Instead that grace gives this amplifier a confidence and a poise that not only makes it very alluring, but to improve upon that that refinement without trade-off takes a lot of care, and a lot of cash. If you like what the Revo IPA-140 does and want more of the same, you’ll need to spend insurrection-funding doses of money to get there. If that summons up images of ‘punching above its weight’… the so be it. This is an amplifier that I could see people using with loudspeakers costing £20k (NZ$25,000/pr) or more without it showing itself up. Which is how it always used to be. The optional USB arrived mid-way through the listening session, and it’s a corker too. It is an ideal match for the amp, exceptionally clean, detailed and BS-free....... Alan Sircom - HiFi+ 

6MOONS REVIEW Conclusion. 
As one expects with hifi kit that's from a house with a history in measurement gear and thus unlike nearly all loudspeakers, these Norma components didn't showcase any arbitrary or artistic deviations from basic response neutrality. But that didn't mean they lacked individuality. What they shared with their domestic mates at Sonus faber during Franco Serblin's reign was a focus on chewy tone density. With that came a preference for a moist, slightly dark, thick and gutsy presentation. Here particularly the amp exhibited a wall-of-amplified-sound. The IPA-140 thus reminded me of a mid-hall seat in a reverberant-rich venue - exactly where one might favour sitting when following operatic voices which happen to be confessed favourites of designer Enrico Rossi. The IPA-140's specs also predict brilliant current delivery into challenging speakers of the sort I don't possess on principle but which under the populist power-is-cheap mentality become more common. Here one is usually predestined to muscle amps or better yet monaural versions. The potent Norma combines two of the latter with an active preamp stock and even throws an optional USB DAC in to get heavy on practicality but light on box clutter. With highly configurable socketry for the amp, embedded menu options and one convertible i/o port for the player, understatedly elegant cosmetics from the pen of Livio Cucuzza, black or silver finishes with blue or red lights, materially dense topologies and a combined remote, the perhaps greatest surprise once we backtrack to what it buys with Italian labour and a dealer network is the European pricing. Whilst despite clear longevity Norma still isn't as well known as brands with more and far louder advertising, the material evidence of these components speaks persuasively to top-shelf manufacturing and clear design maturity. Distributors keen on discovering worthwhile brands not yet promoted in their markets might want to take a really close look at Enrico Rossi and his Norma catalogue. So should shoppers who favour meat over sinew, mass over adrenaline, relaxation over energy and advanced treble refinement over maximal illumination and separation….. Srajan Ebaen - 6MOONS

NOTE - Optional plug-in MM/MC Phono and an optional plug-in USB-DAC are included in this unit

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Features

- Extreme low noise, high speed schematic topology and wide band  ( >2 MHz ).
- High current MOS-FET power device (150 A output peak current).
- 12 power device for a total rated 1.500 W power handling capability.
- Separate power supply for Gain, Driver and Output stage.
- High speed and  low noise regulated power supply for gain and driver stage.
- High filtering capacity  (70.000 uF) with numerous (24) low impedance capacitors.
- 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, 2 x 400 VA.
- Input configurable as Direct Inputs, for Home Theater use
- Outputs configurable as Pre Out, Active or Passive, for use with Power Amp and/or with Active Subwoofer
XLR balaced input
- Remote control of all functions with NORMA RC-4 remote control.
- Two-speed volume control (Fine and Fast).
- Possibility of set the PHONO board inside, by 2 mono board for Left & Right channel.
- High quality phono stage, for MM and MC pick-up
- Protection for DC signal sensitive speakers.
- Inputs selection by relay with GOLD/PALLADIUM contacts.
- RCA solid core gold plated plug connector for any signal connections.
- Stand-by mode switches off the microprocessor one the command is executed, so as to annul any interference towards analogue signal.N
- Optional plug-in MM/MC Phono and an optional plug-in USB-DAC are included in this unit

Specifications

Inputs: 4 RCA, 1 XLR Balanced, optional Phono, 1 USB DAC optional
Input impedance: 47Kohm (not selected input) / 10 Kohm (selected input)
Input Configuration: Phono MM/MC, Line, Direct AV, Balanced
Output Signal: Passive Pre Out , Active Pre Out, Tape out, Subwoofer out
Output Impedance (Pre-Out): 200 ohm
Output Power: 1 Binding Post pairs, accept 4mm banana plugs and fork
Frequency Response: 0 Hz – 1.8 MHz (-3dB, non filtered)
Output Power: 140 W RMS / 8 Ohm – 280 W RMS / 4 Ohm (each channel)
Gain: 34 dB
Configuration: Dual Mono
Circulation: Solid state,
Power devices: MosFet, 3 pairs for each channel
Output current available: 36 A continuous, 150 A peak (per channel)
Ability to filter: 72.000 uF, 12 electrical capacitor for each channel
Electric transformers: 2 toroidal special audio use, 400 VA per channel
Supply: 230 V AC / 50 Hz, (100V AC or 115 VAC / 50-60Hz in some country)
Dimensions (HxWxD): 110 x 430 x 365 mm, (excluding feet, knob and rear jacks)
Weight: 25 Kg
Note: Stereo Integrated Amplifier fully remote controlled
Note: optional plu-in USB-DAC & MM/MC Phono are included in this unit.

Reviews

This is an amplifier that I could see people using with loudspeakers costing £20k (NZ$25,000/pr) or more without it showing itself up.
Alan Sircom

SUMMARY: I’ll end where I began. Norma deserves to be better known. There are no bargains in audio, but this is an amplifier that can go up against amps costing NZ$20,000 - NZ$30,000+ despite costing the right side of NZ$12,000 in its all-up top-spec guise. The hi-fi market can be fickle, but the IPA-140 has some real staying power. I think for many, to try it will be to love it.

REVIEW: There are a lot of audio products at all prices out there. Some of them, let’s be honest, don’t deserve their place in the audiophile pantheon but hold on by some minor miracle. At the other extreme, there are excellent products that should receive far better recognition that they get. Norma is distinctly in the latter camp; this Italian manufacturer builds them right, as evidenced by the Revo IPA-140 integrated amplifier.

Norma designer Enrico Rossi is based in Cremona and the city’s significant connection with music and musical instrument design has clearly rubbed off. He believes the reproduction of the human voice – especially the human voice in song – is so difficult that it is a window on the quality of a system, and as a result the voice is used extensively in listening tests on Norma products. This ethos could result in something ethereal and meaningless, were it not for Opal – Norma’s parent company – and its thorough grounding in test equipment. This gave Rossi the opportunity to develop the Norma project over a six-year period in the 1990s, prior to launching the first products.

The company’s Revo IPA-140 is a modern-day result of this painstaking design brief. It’s a 140W per channel, fully dual mono integrated amplifier, using a sextet of MOSFETs on each side, giving the amplifier a potential burst power of 1.5kW. And it really is truly dual mono – if you go for the specified phono stage option, it comes as two boards, one for each channel. Aside from the plug and the optional USB digital input (it’s hard to split a single USB connector into two and still have it work), the amp is essentially two monoblocks sharing a common front panel, sitting in a non-magnetic, solid aluminium chassis. Norma has gone with a high-bandwidth design (>2MHz) and has built it to last with elements like sealed and very long-lasting gold/palladium relays for source switching.

It’s a fairly minimalist looking amplifier with only chromed volume knob and a set of LEDs highlighting which source is used as the only concessions toward frivolity.

The result of this powerfully built design is an amplifier of rare refinement and subtlety. Yes, it can do power and brute force with the best of them, but it’s more grown up than that. It’s not by accident the company bringing this amplifier into the UK is the same one that distributes ELAC loudspeakers and Vertere cables. ELAC are great loudspeakers, but they do not suffer amplifier fools gladly and anything sounding the least bit hard or brash or edgy will be exposed for all its ‘glory’. Prospective ELAC owners and dealers need to have an off-the-peg amplifier solution for their needs… and this is it. But that’s only scratching the surface.

The other common partner in Europe is Avalon loudspeakers, and these loudspeakers demand a slightly different set of criteria – a sense of the mailed fist in the velvet glove, of well-rounded effortless and yet controlled power. It also needs to be fast; perhaps not quite DarTZeel fast or Constellation fast, but neither should it be ponderous. Fortunately the IPA 140 acquits itself well on all accounts.

Harking back to that voice-first ethos, I stuck on a couple of vocal works, through a Naim UnitiServe into a Wadia 121 DAC. Jessye Norman (seemed appropriate, given how close ‘Norman’ is to the company name) singing Richard Strauss’ four last songs (Philips) with her dramatic soprano voice cutting through the air, and – by way of stark contrast – Laura Marling’s neo-Joni Mitchell tones on Once I Was an Eagle. In both cases, it was surprising how articulate and ‘there’ the voice was, centre stage and surprisingly dynamic. OK, you expect powerful dynamics from Jessye Norman (she’s a walking pair of lungs and vocal chords), but what’s surprising is just how that effortless dynamics works with Laura Marling’s voice, making it more real and making her sound at once fragile and confident. I’ve heard other amplifiers do this vocal projection as well as the Norma, but few can do anything near as well as this – with the same balance of performance – for the money.

That balance can perhaps be best summed up in three words, ‘grace, space and pace’. That’s a rare combination in today’s world though, and the result is one of those designs that pushes the envelope and challenges the accredited masters of the art, many of which come with price tags that would make a 18th Century Maharaja blush.

The combination of these two main differentiators (refinement and speed) give the IPA-140 a rare talent; a kind of old-fashioned, brand-new sound. That sounds like a contradiction until you hear it. The stark, etched top-end that undermines many good amplifiers is held at bay; not all amplifiers sound that way, but the tendency now is to overcompensate and make an amp that wafts and drifts its way through music. The Revo IPA-140 manages to walk the line between the two, with a sound quality that’s every bit as exciting and engaging as you’d want, but with the sort of naturalistic presentation we all crave. As a result, this amp goes with far more than just the aforementioned Avalon and ELAC loudspeaker designs.

How this manifests in music is fairly easy to spot; you end up listening ‘through’ the recording more. Not in an analytical way, more in a ‘that was really good, let’s play another!’ The Jessye Norman album led to Delius (I don’t quite know how) and then to Britten, which strangely led to the Hilliard Ensemble, which led to early music and so on. Meanwhile, Laura Marling led (naturally) to Joni Mitchell, which led to James Taylor, Donnie Hathaway and then all points soulful, then rocky tinged with some deep dub reggae for no particular reason. In other words, the amp is exciting, fast and honest enough to make you stalk your music collection for more fun tracks. That comes through a combination of quicksilver speed when needed, effortless dynamic range and a natural tonality; all the things any solid-state amplifier is supposed to be able to do, but few genuinely achieve.

‘Grace’ has come to imply something aloof and elegant but in a distant way. That is not the IPA-140’s interpretation of the word. It’s more timeless, Audrey Hepburn grace than some haughty ice-maiden grace. This is exceptionally transparent. Nevertheless, this is not going to be the everyman amplifier. There are those who want an amplifier that enlivens or even brightens the sound, and those who equate ‘accuracy’ with cold, laboratory conditions and those who think rhythm should be laid on with a trowel. It gives excellent rhythm when needed, in fact, it just doesn’t seem to draw everything into 4/4 time.

Instead that grace gives this amplifier a confidence and a poise that not only makes it very alluring, but to improve upon that that refinement without trade-off takes a lot of care, and a lot of cash. If you like what the Revo IPA-140 does and want more of the same, you’ll need to spend insurrection-funding doses of money to get there. If that summons up images of ‘punching above its weight’… the so be it. This is an amplifier that I could see people using with loudspeakers costing £20k (NZ$25,000/pr) or more without it showing itself up. Which is how it always used to be. The optional USB arrived mid-way through the listening session, and it’s a corker too. It is an ideal match for the amp, exceptionally clean, detailed and BS-free.

There is one caveat, of sorts. The XLR input is there almost for vestigial means. Norma doesn’t strongly recommend the ‘balanced’ pathway and it is best left alone. And, while it’s not really a criticism of the design, it’s extremely well built on a multi-layer PCB design with the case acting as almost a monocoque, The downside – from an engineer’s position – is any potential upgrades require more than just the usual ‘undo a few grub screws’ disassembly; it’s more ‘you have an egg-cup filled with Torx bolts, just to gain internal access’ kind of build. The more I think of it, that’s not much of a downside, because it shows just how seriously Norma takes the phrase ‘well-built’. 

I’ll end where I began. Norma deserves to be better known. There are no bargains in audio, but this is an amplifier that can go up against amps costinNZ$20,000 - NZ$30,000+ despite costing the right side of NZ$12,000 in its all-up top-spec guise. The hi-fi market can be fickle, but the IPA-140 has some real staying power. I think for many, to try it will be to love it.

The IPA-140 was incredibly quiet and transparent, revealing wealths of fine detail, we were so startled by the background sounds of birds & bees, which sounded spookily realistic....a wide, deep soundstage, with a reverberant echo & natural sounding decay
Uday Reddy

CONCLUSION: What’s not to like about Norma Audio’s Revo IPA-140?, if I were buying, I’d opt for the metal remote. But, really -- gorgeous Italian design coupled with solid engineering and world-class sound? An internal DAC option to boot? If I were in the market for a one-box integrated-DAC, here is where I’d start. Don’t need the DAC? No matter. Buy the Revo IPA-140 without DAC.You won’t regret it.

REVIEW: In the late 1970s and early ’80s, when I was a teenager, integrated amps and stereo receivers were the jack-of-all-trades components. Both had multiple inputs, receivers had tuners, and virtually all had moving-coil and moving-magnet phono stages as standard equipment. While some integrated amps still come with phono stages, they’re usually added-cost options, and for the most part they’re disappearing. Increasing, however, is the availability of built-in DACs for streaming music files from a USB-tethered server. As music servers become more popular, expect this option to be more commonly available on integrated amps. For those looking for a one-box integrated-DAC, this kind of feature will be quite attractive. To my knowledge, Bryston Ltd. fired the first shot with their B100 SST (now replaced by the B135 SST2); now, other companies are rushing to fill the void.

To that list add Norma Audio, of Cremona, Italy, a city noted for its famous composers and makers of outstanding stringed instruments. While new to me, Norma has been in business since 1987, and is known for producing high-quality amplification and digital products. Norma was bought by Opal Electronics in 1991; after a seven-year interval for R&D, the company was relaunched in 1997, with the Revo line added a few years later.

Design

Norma Audio’s design brief for the Revo IPA-140 integrated-DAC ($8600 USD) is reflected in the philosophy of its chief designer and engineer, Enrico Rossi, whose love of song led him on the difficult quest to perfect the reproduction of the human voice. To Rossi’s way of thinking, the perception of sonic quality depends on being able to perceive specific sonic traits that are affected by the absence of distortion and grain. To achieve this, Rossi believes, there must be a lack of playback artifice, which can be achieved by minimizing degradation of the audio signal through the circuit.

Rossi believes that simpler circuits are not necessarily better than more complex circuits; the circuits he designs for Norma Audio components are very elaborate, and their bandwidth must greatly exceed the audioband in order to improve the circuits’ overall speed and to instantaneously supply sufficient current.

To that end, the IPA-140 has a low-noise, high-speed output topology comprising high-current MOSFETs. A solid-state, dual-mono design claimed to output 140Wpc into 8 ohms or 280Wpc into 4 ohms, with a frequency response of 0.1Hz-2MHz and a slew rate of 175, the IPA-140 compares favorably with considerably more expensive amps from Soulution or darTZeel.

Norma Revo IPA-140

There must be a law that decrees that everything made in Italy must at least look beautiful, and the Revo IPA-140 doesn’t disappoint. The pictures on Norma’s website don’t do justice to it -- to be truly appreciated, the IPA-140 must be seen in person. With a thick faceplate and a case that sleekly tapers to the rear, the IPA-140 looks like nothing else on the market. The Revo measures 17”W x 5”H x 17”D and weighs, despite its slim lines, a hefty 55 pounds.

Machined into the center of the front panel is a sculpted concave well, at its center a volume-control knob of highly polished chrome. If you’re fastidious enough that fingerprints on your smartphone drive you nuts, use the supplied remote control -- or gloves.

To either side of the volume control is a smaller well, the one on the left for the IR receiver, the one on the right for rousing the IPA-140 out of standby and selecting one of the six inputs, each represented by a blue LED, in a row to the button’s right. The top panel has 12 ventilation slots in two columns of six each. Toward the Revo’s rear, its smoothly tapered sides are lined with heatsinks.

Arrayed across the upper half of the rear panel, four pairs of single-ended inputs flank the sole, centrally located balanced input and the USB input (the USB option costs $1000). Just below these are the IEC socket and master power switch, flanked by shrouded five-way binding posts of high-quality plastic.

Accompanying the Revo is Norma’s standard plastic remote control, capable of operating the IPA-140 and other components in the Norma product line. I’m no snob when it comes to plastic remotes, and this one was light and particularly well shaped, with scalloped sides that comfortably fit my palm. However, its volume-control buttons are indistinct in feel -- I almost always overshot the volume I wanted, and got more “Turn that down!”s from the wife than with any other component I’ve ever had. An optional metal remote is available, with volume buttons that look to be much better; I’d recommend paying the extra money for that reason alone.

At two years for parts and labor, the warranty seems stingy -- but the IPA-140 is built like a tank, and Jim Ricketts of TMH Audio, Norma Audio’s US distributor, assured me that Norma has a US-based authorized technician available to perform any required service with total support from the factory, and that Norma’s components are anyway extremely reliable.

Setup

The IPA-140 was a breeze to install. After unboxing it and plunking it down on my stand, I plugged it in with the supplied Neutral Cable Fascino power cord. While Jim Ricketts had recommended that I use input 4 -- it has the shortest signal path -- I used input 5, as that’s the Revo’s only balanced input. After linking everything together, I powered up the IPA-140 and, using the standby button, selected input 5. When listening via the Revo’s internal DAC, I replaced my Cardas Clear USB cable and used the supplied Neutral Cable Passion USB cable, again using the standby button to select the USB input. Throughout the entire review period, the IPA-140 worked like a charm. Despite extended listening sessions, often at high volume levels, the IPA-140 never got more than warm to the touch.

Sound

Directly connected to my Meitner MA-1 DAC ($7000), the Revo IPA-140 proved amenable to whatever music I fed it. It played at high SPLs for long periods with ease, liquidity, and no sense of strain. Some amps clearly favor acoustic over amplified music. Not so the IPA-140 -- it was an all-rounder for all genres, but seemed to particularly relish amplified music. I listened to a lot of rock’n’roll and jazz fusion during its stay in my system. Crisp and articulate, with punchy bass and clean highs, the IPA-140’s sound was muscular, but with a delicate touch. In a previous review I’d mentioned the band Tia Carrera, an instrumental rock power trio/jam band, which had been getting plenty of rotation at my place. Well, add to that the Hedvig Mollestad Trio, fronted by the Norwegian guitarist and rounded out with a drummer and a double bassist. Sounding much like an instrumental hybrid of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and a jazz-fusion guitar trio, this band truly rocks. I’ve had both of Mollestad’s albums in near constant play since discovering her earlier this year. In “Gun and the E-Kid,” from her Shoot! (16-bit/44.1kHz AIFF, Rune Grammofon), Mollestad’s crunchy rhythm and sinewy leads, coupled with the stomping rhythm section, sounded positively primeval through the IPA-140. But despite the heaviness of the track, there was no muddling of the sound, and the abrupt changes in direction were expertly relayed.

Norma Revo IPA-140

The IPA-140 was incredibly quiet and transparent, revealing wealths of fine detail. My friend Preet, a huge Beatles fan, recently brought over his DVD-Audio edition of Love to rip to my server. Afterward, while listening to “Because” (24/96 AIFF, Apple), we burst out laughing because we were so startled by the background sounds of birds and bees, which sounded spookily realistic. This track also highlighted the IPA-140’s ability to throw a wide, deep soundstage, with a reverberant echo and natural-sounding decay.

The IPA-140’s transparency and soundstaging ability were also a great match for acoustic music, especially jazz, focusing on the primary players while still letting the supporting players shine. Although his Blue Note Records debut was released in 2008, another recent discovery for me is the very talented young jazz pianist Aaron Parks, whom I first heard in a documentary spotlighting up-and-coming jazz musicians unafraid of pushing the music in new directions. In “Travelers,” from Invisible Cinema (16/44.1 AIFF, Blue Note), it’s easy to get carried away by Parks’s incredible technique and finesse, but the beauty of the IPA-140 is that background instruments were not pushed aside, but unobtrusively enhanced. The intricacy of Eric Harland’s drum fills and the interplay of his snare and hi-hat were highlighted in a way that complemented Parks’s playing rather than competing for my attention.

Norma Revo IPA-140

After listening extensively with the MA-1 serving as the DAC, I disconnected the Meitner, plugged the USB cable directly into the IPA-140, and selected the Revo’s USB input. Once I’d confirmed that the Revo’s DAC was recognized in Audio Midi on my Mac Mini, I began to play the same tracks again to assess the Revo DAC’s sound. Not too shabby, I thought. Though not in any way equal to the sound quality of the MA-1, it was nonetheless quite credible. The treble was crisp and clear, with no edge, and the soundstaging was again excellent, if perhaps a bit more constricted than the MA-1’s. The one obvious difference was that bass was less taut and somewhat indistinct, though hardly in a manner that would be offensive. If I were interested in a one-box integrated-DAC, this would probably not be a deal breaker. Likely, my purchasing decision would depend on whatever tradeoffs competing products had.

Compared solely on the basis of its performance as an integrated amplifier, the Norma Revo IPA-140 was fully competitive with my Jeff Rowland Design Group Concentra ($5600 when available). While the Concentra sounded slightly warmer and the IPA-140 ever so slightly drier, the differences weren’t big enough to be decisive. Dynamically, the Norma was obviously much better, with noticeably better transient response and ease. While the Norma’s bass through its internal DAC suffered somewhat in comparison to the Meitner MA-1, when freed of its DAC the Revo IPA-140’s bass was noticeably tauter and more fully fleshed out than the Concentra’s. But to put all of this in perspective: I was comparing the Norma’s $1000 DAC option to a standalone DAC that costs seven times as much.

Conclusion

What’s not to like about Norma Audio’s Revo IPA-140?, if I were buying, I’d opt for the metal remote. But, really -- gorgeous Italian design coupled with solid engineering and world-class sound? An internal DAC option to boot? If I were in the market for a one-box integrated-DAC, here is where I’d start. Don’t need the DAC? No matter. Buy the Revo IPA-140 without DAC.You won’t regret it.

. . . Uday Reddy

Norma Audio IPA-140 is by far the best integrated amplifier I've heard in my time as a reviewer! It is fully at par with the reference set in the listening room, which usually puts far more expensive amplifiers to the wall.
Mikkel Gige

CONCLUSION: Norma Audio IPA-140 is by far the best integrated amplifier I've heard in my time as a reviewer! It is fully at par with the reference set in the listening room, which usually puts far more expensive amplifiers to the wall. And so does IPA-140! In particular, the preamplifier part impresses particularly as it is also on par with the reference in the listening room. Usually this is the weak point of integrated amplifiers. And at the same time, it is just as beautifully constructed both exterior and interior. I almost want to call the Norma Audio hi-fi industry's answer to Pagani Automobili. Nothing is left to the case, and even the underside of the cabinet has the same high finish as the top plate. I don't remember having looked at any product before. That's why Norma Audio IPA-140 is named "Editors Choice" for its completely uncompromising design and sound. This is a feast for both eyes and ears.

REVIEW: Norma Audio is based in the city of Cremona, in the middle of northern Italy, which has also been home to many instrument builders and classical composers over the centuries. The location is random, but that's not the dedication to the music. And in the time before Norma Audio, the people behind, spent many years researching, to come to a conclusion on what, the correct and correct sound is. It has not become a final result, but rather an overview of how electronics affect the result. It is not a series of absolutes, but rather a guide to how to achieve the best result.

Well, I dare already reveal that this is really delicious, no matter what angle it is considered (or heard) from. It is so Italian that even the best Haut Couture houses could not have done better. The design is 100% completed both exterior and interior. The cabinet is a textbook and tour de force in how, nothing is left to chance. It provides a harmony and discretion that does not disturb one's field of vision, leaving all concentration to the hearing and the music.

The front, top and bottom are made of delicious solid, forged aluminum that is milled in its final shape. The front is several centimeters thick, and sneaks backwards both at the top and bottom, and meets in a perfect transition with the rest of the scoop. At the same time, the 5 mm thick sheets for the top and bottom are rounded on the sides, so that they narrow to the back. Likewise, the trailing edge is rounded, thus concealing both cooling profiles and plugs in a very elegant way. Pininfarina couldn't have done better if it had been a Ferrari… this is the epitome of Italian design when it is in the very best class… even the bottom of the cabinet is beautiful!

And inside it is no trace different, the design is deliberate, and I can draw parallels to brands like both Gryphon with their mirrored layout, and Spectral Audio with their appearance inside. One thing is that the layout of the IPA-140 is simple and definitely contains only what it needs. But one senses the conscious design here as well. The power supply consists of two 400VA ring core transformers stored under a casing at the front of the cabinet. It has two features, partly shielding, but it also looks nice. But if you remove the scoop, it still looks pretty! And even if you don't see it, the wires from the transformers are also nicely wrapped.

However, removing the scoop over the transformers also opens up the internal layout of the IPA-140. For a floor below the sound circuits, there is an arsenal of 72,000µf charging lights, which fill the rest of the bottom of the cabinet. They are ferrari red, and just to emphasize this, Norma Audio has obviously chosen to use red diodes, which amplify the effect of the red interior when it should be. Not something you see in everyday use, but you know it! It is simply so accomplished here. Nothing is left to chance!

Another detail is the printed circuit boards ... they are 2 mm thick and made of fiberglass! This is definitely the best solution, but also an expensive solution. And this is just what you see in very expensive amplifiers. As is the component quality of the very best drawer, and it is possible to extend IPA-140 with modules for both vinyl and digital playback in the same uncompromising design layout. The supplied amplifier had USB and RIAA module inserted.

It all tops off with a large, delicious - and chrome-plated volume knob that could have sat inside a Pagani sports car. There is nothing - nothing! - postponing the export of this amplifier. It's the most beautiful I've ever seen, at almost any price!

listening impressions

Norma Audio IPA-140 has a gentle nature, and plays at least as beautiful as it looks. The sound is classic Italian: straightforward and natural sound, with a musical touch. Not hot, not woolly, just musical. And in that way, it leans on the sound of both CD player, record player, preamplifier and speakers in the listening room. Only the mono steps have a more direct / "German" sound.

The bass is both precise and tight, but also round and nuanced, and with many facets. All the details from a bass string pass through, and a large drum stands out clearly and accurately with its 3-in-1 sound, where you hear the beats, the fur and the air moving. And at the other end is met by a treble rendering, which is just there, and does not do its being. It is expansive and airy, and the pelvis is sharply cut the sound image, without any "tst" noise.


"... even the bottom of the cabinet is beautiful!"

During Norma Audio's research on finding the context for the right sound, particular attention was paid to human voices. The argument is that if they sound right, then the other thing usually also notices. And it can be heard with the IPA-140, for both bass and treble are perfectly noticeable.

But so does the midrange area! There's so much hole through here, and voices sound almost too natural ... even if it's not possible. But you don't expect that from hi-fi equipment. There is a fantastic presence and people appear very clearly positioned, almost cut into the soundscape, with plenty of air around them, so the 3D feel is top notch. And of course it also affects the positions of instruments and choirs, which are at the same level. Everything just sounds right here and nothing is wrong, and we are on the same level as the reference amplifier set in the listening room!

But there are differences, though neither better nor inferior, it's just different. And it is especially on the soundscape that has moved further back than I am used to. For a start, the sound picture may therefore be narrower, but this is not the case at all. The focus is just different here, because everything is still placed right in the soundscape, just further back. I can already reveal that it is the preamplifier part that is the one responsible, but that does not change that this is the best preamplifier part I have ever experienced in an integrated amplifier! It is possible to change some of the inputs to both fixed input and variable output, and this was of course tested. But in addition, the technical aspects of the music via IPA-140 are at full height with the reference amplifier set.

The included Riaa modules are also really good, but they can't really compare with the separate Vincent Riaa. The sound is just right, and completely similar to what the rest of the amplifier gives off. But there is not quite the same focus, and then the sound image is moved forward towards the listener again ?! The locations are not quite as accurate and the sound picture "smudges" a bit.

The USB module should have a slap on the shoulder first. Well, it does not install itself, but with the included CD-ROM, the USB module installs itself and also activates itself immediately, and again when a USB cable is connected to the computer. I almost can't get my arms down ... that's how it should be !!! Almost 100% plug and play.

In terms of sound, the experience is very similar to the Riaa modules, and sonically it is really good, and completely similar to the sound of the McIntosh MCD-500, with super presence on the voices, and with no hint of harshness or the like, which is actually better than the Audiophilleo 2. But on the The technical aspects are the same as with the Riaa modules. The sound is moved closer and is also "smeared" a bit compared to CD sound.

The IPA-140 is an unbalanced design, but there are still a few XLR connectors on the back, because some markets "require" this. The signal is converted via a small circuit inside the other side. In terms of sound, the difference is not big. But again, the soundscape is moved closer and the sound gets a bit artificial.

And then, as mentioned, IPA-140 can be configured on some of the inputs for variable output or fixed input, as well as configured with Riaa module. This means that there are some jumpers in the signal path, and therefore only the unbalanced input 4 has direct contact with the amplifier. This is the input of the primary signal source.

IPA-140 was also tested as a pure power stage with direct input, and it was here that it was revealed that the preamplifier part is really good, but also responsible for the "Italian" sound, and that the sound image is moved further back. But it also emphasizes that this is the best preamp part I have ever experienced in an integrated amplifier, as well as being fully at par with the reference in the listening room.

But it also made it clear that the power stage is really good, albeit more direct in its sound, and in fact Vincent gives the mono stages nervous twists. There is even a slight tendency for some details to appear a little bit clearer with direct input to the power part of IPA-140. Norma Audio is one of very few manufacturers that gives detailed specifications about their amplifiers, and this gives a picture of some very powerful power steps capable of delivering some oats and keeping the speakers in check.


"... red diodes which enhance the effect of the red interior ..."

conclusion

Norma Audio IPA-140 is by far the best integrated amplifier I've heard in my time as a reviewer! It is fully at par with the reference set in the listening room, which usually puts far more expensive amplifiers to the wall. And so does IPA-140! In particular, the preamplifier part impresses particularly as it is also on par with the reference in the listening room. Usually this is the weak point of integrated amplifiers.

And at the same time, it is just as beautifully constructed both exterior and interior. I almost want to call the Norma Audio hi-fi industry's answer to Pagani Automobili. Nothing is left to the case, and even the underside of the cabinet has the same high finish as the top plate. I don't remember having looked at any product before.

That's why conclusion

Norma Audio IPA-140 is by far the best integrated amplifier I've heard in my time as a reviewer! It is fully at par with the reference set in the listening room, which usually puts far more expensive amplifiers to the wall. And so does IPA-140! In particular, the preamplifier part impresses particularly as it is also on par with the reference in the listening room. Usually this is the weak point of integrated amplifiers.

And at the same time, it is just as beautifully constructed both exterior and interior. I almost want to call the Norma Audio hi-fi industry's answer to Pagani Automobili. Nothing is left to the case, and even the underside of the cabinet has the same high finish as the top plate. I don't remember having looked at any product before.

That's why Norma Audio IPA-140 is named "Editors Choice" for its completely uncompromising design and sound. This is a feast for both eyes and ears.

The Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 has earned a place in the list of my absolute favorite amps, a device that definitely deserves a much higher level of awareness.
Jörg Dames

SUMMARY: When listening to a test, pair it with neutral to slightly warm, bass-strong speakers.

The Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 Audio is characterized by ...

  • an exemplary "fine-pixel" gait, as it were very precise and silky gait.
  • tonal neutrality.
  • an excellent middle range: voices sound transparent, balanced, colored.
  • an exceptionally airy, finely dynamic, transparent tweeter bar of any artificial hardness / sharpening. A real icing on the cake for sound connoisseurs.
  • best location sharpness and - also promoted by a special sound (color) purity - plasticity.
  • good rough dynamics.
  • a precise, but not exactly powerful bass range - at the very bottom, the Italians "buzzes" a little less than some other transistor amplifiers in its performance class.
  • a really excellent build quality and a variety of connection options, DAC and Phono are optional. Unfortunately, the source selection on the device is a bit cumbersome with the help of a single button, by means of which you have to "click through".

REVIEW: Norma - well, a “typically Italian” probably doesn't come to mind when you read or hear this brand name. Rather the scrawny shopping list of the last weekend shopping or the smelly special offers at the cheese counter. But stop! Noun is not always omen. Because if one of the devices from Norma Audio from the Italian town of Cremona cannot be said to be, then - at least according to my previous experience - there is something profane or mainstream about them.

The Norma HS-DA4, tested six months ago and resembling any cliché of Italian design and resembling a laboratory measuring device, set almost standards in terms of timbres and unassuming naturalness in terms of its D / A converter qualities. And the Norma Revo IPA-140 integrated amplifier, which is currently on the verge of feeling good, does go through as an eye-pleasing design piece, but nonetheless also has tonal characteristics that I have of transistor amplifiers - especially in this price range - so far not in this one Goodness heard.

But let's do it - let's not go too far at this point, but rather grab the Norma Revo IPA-140 in order to inspect it physically and technically.

First of all: The Italian is - although a matt instead of a glossy volume control would come much better - is really a fancy, I think! The trapezoidal shape and the rounded edge of the extremely accurately processed aluminum housing on the back and on the sides make a difference. And even the cooling fins become design elements in combination with the protruding housing cover / base. Why hide them for cosmetic reasons and make the heat dissipation unnecessarily inefficient and component-wearing? The Revo IPA-140, which is kept in class-AB, only gets a little more than lukewarm in operation - 50w Idle power consumption is then considered to be comparatively frugal for such an amplifier car.


The front of the Norma Revo IPA 140 looks nice and tidy - the source is selected using a single button, which is a little cumbersome to "click through"

Because backwards the IPA-140 gets to the point: 2x 140 watts / 8ohms should be enough to animate the diaphragms of less efficient speaers to more jerky twitches. And that is also controlled: The damping factor is consistently in low-oxygen high regions, at 1 kHz around 8 ohms, a value of 650 is declared! And the specified peak current of 150 amps per channel is already a decent electron pound. This is made possible not least by the two 440 VA toroidial transformers, which have a total screening capacity o 144,000 μFflanked and fire the Norma REVO IPA-140, which is kept in double mono, channel-separated. Yes, the Italian is exceptionally elegant on the outside, but beyond his appearance, which at first glance appears distinctive, is nevertheless a - Scusa! - real power sow…


The REVO IPA 140 offers four RCA high-level inputs (optional: three plus phono for an additional 220 euros) and an XLR input. A DAC card with USB input is also optionally available (580 euros)

On the output side, the Norma REVO IPA 140 holds a total of six pairs of selected Modfets as working bees: According to Norma chief developer Enrico Rossi, Mosfets can achieve a finer, less "grainy" sound image. In addition, parallel operation is not a problem, due to meticulous selection, additional resistances on the source-side circuit strings of the Mosfets can be dispensed with, and the driver stages can generally be designed more efficiently.


 

The Revo IPA-140 uses three pairs of Mosfets per channel as output transistors

If you take a look at the specs of the Norma Revo IPA 140, the bandwidth declared there catches your eye - the Italians can fidget with up to 2 MHz! To avoid misunderstandings: This is not about the pure transmission width, which would be more than 100 times oversized for signals from CDs, records, etc., as well as our hearing, but among other things, that an amplifier - if required - very fast or steep-sided can also react to the finest signal changes. For the accurate functioning of negative feedbac loops it’s also helpful. However, the distortion-minimizing effect of such a concept is offset, among other things, by the risk of increasing problems with RF interference. Enrico Rossi often attests that broadband amplifiers have a "grainy and dry sound". Therefore, "they worked hard on this aspect in order to achieve a natural and not technically effective sound reproduction".

So let's take Signore Rossi at his word and finally balance the REVO IPA-140 in the rack ...


 The multi-level circuit board interior goes through as above-average "substantial" and has a very high quality

"Harmonize the sands of time, recognize the sign, qualify the winds of change, justify the mind ..." are the introductory, evocative words in the sung "Vocopolis" of the English neo-classical combo In the Nursery (album: Praxis) , A very atmospheric track that at first only from

In the Nurseryexpansive synth surfaces, deep as well as sedate bass figures and especially the voice of Mrs. Dolores Marguerite C. Captured in terms of recording quality, the many S- but also F-sounds of the first stanza are nevertheless regularly heard quite clearly. If not, it can be assumed that a hi-fi component tends to round off in the high range or to poor resolution. And if the whole thing drifts into too hissy, annoying, you can conclude that the high tone is overemphasized or too dirty / hard.

Well, let's just start this sound description with a superlative: Because the way the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 Audio handles such types of tasks is one of the best things that I've been able to get into the rack regardless of price range! Exceptionally neatly exposed and pronounced, such critical sounds about the Italian seem so delicate and airy-loose that I am pretty much off my socks due to the balancing act of precision / resolution and elegance / musicality.

Of course, this character trait does not stop at the representation of sibilants, but generally benefits - logo - high-frequency events: strings, such as heard on Rachel's album Handwriting (tip for friends of acoustic, experimental, but still catchy music), also have an effect smooth and airy like rich and distinctive textured. The transparency, audibility and fine dynamics of hi-hat / cymbals (various rock albums) deserve top marks as well as the absence of artificial hardness or silveriness.

But it also gets the tonally very balanced mids - clear, never independent of the well-being of the highs anyway - whether ethereal female voices like Dolores Marguerite C or - quasi marking the other tonal end - dark, grumpy male voices like in “Sorrows “From The National (Album: High Violet). Or - in between - the somewhat throaty, as nutty, striking as peculiarly soothing vocals in "Perfect Design" by the nationalthe French electrician Résistance (album: 8). Or the distorted, nervous industrial vocals in Skinny Puppy's "Wornin`" (album: Weapon). I can only hold on:

On the one hand, there is a perfect balance between warmth and openness as well as excellent speech intelligibility - even subtle subtleties in the voice textures are precisely exposed. On the other hand, I have never been served the mid-high by any amplifier (with the exception of those who "trick" and round off or darken something above) more smoothly, less hardness, less stress. And I really mean that across all price ranges. That's a little 

resistancebow - okay, we don't want to look too submissive - worth at least a respectful folding in of the earlobes.

Yes, the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 plays as a boring compulsory exercise in the mid / high range, righteously neutral and resolves as a freestyle really unbelievably "fine-pixel" and artifact-free - my high-precision, more than double cost preamp / power amplifier combination from radio MTX and Audionet AMPdoes not lack details either, but presents them more coarse, edgier, as refined with less final finishing touches. The fact that the Italian is at the same time very fast or finely dynamic can then almost be seen as something that is necessary or logical for his subtlety. And if the term "fine" appears in this paragraph for the fifth time, it is only an expression of the fact that it inevitably becomes one of the main keywords when dealing with the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 in terms of sound intensively ...

The space of our test subject is also at a high level and does not have to hide itself from my amplifier combination reinforced with monos - which should be an advantage in terms of channel separation per se. The opposite is almost the case. While both solutions do an absolutely flawless high-end job in terms of location accuracy, the display of the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 seems almost even more vivid: the described, exceptionally high sound (color) purity and fine pixelation makes it an even more differentiated, clearly defined one Image suggests the physique of individual instruments and voices.

In this context, another special feature of our test subject is worth mentioning: The Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 illusions a stage design that spontaneously somehow “feels” wider than I am used to from other devices. For example, while my radio / Audionet station wagon is building a stage that comes closer to the listener, especially in the center, and slopes slightly towards the side of the speakers (exaggerated like a triangle tip), the stage of the Italian steps in Center not quite as far forward, but maintains this distance across the entire width. Well, a bit strange to describe and obviously also a matter of taste: while I'm in this

russian circlesFor example, after a few A / B comparisons, colleague Michael Bruß preferred my Italian suit as a little more offensive and turning on.

In terms of depth and bass pressure, however, the tide turns again, and I am almost glad that the Italian would otherwise completely overturn my price / performance ideas of amplifiers. Yes, downstairs I also have my former Fonel Emotion, for example- which, however, cannot keep up with the Norma when it comes to the fine silky resolution and the sound purity - even more powerful in memory: This becomes clear, for example, with the "1777" (album: Memorial) by the Canadian post-rock / metal formation Russian Circles : The song is recruited from heavy-weight hymnic guitar sound, sometimes powerfully deep bass surfaces as well as clear and stoically pointed tom and bass drum envelopes. And especially in the latter case, it is striking that our test subject already reaches a decent depth, but some other amplifier boasters with three-digit output power dig further south: The Italian does not tickle the last bit of mass or deep blackness from bass events. Apart from the mass aspect,

 

Last but not least, I also switched on the integrated DAC (optionally available for 580 euros) or attached it via USB to my laptop reinforced with JRiver. Sure, the described sound character is basically preserved compared to my external converter Electrocompaniet ECD2 the level of high-frequency resolution is nevertheless noticeably reduced - good to hear, for example, in the Rida pool in Ataxia's "Dust" (album: Automatic Writing), which is captured in a fine, airy manner, and which appears somewhat blunt and coarser thanks to the integrated DAC. In addition, the spatiality appears somewhat undifferentiated and the sound image loses its color strength slightly. In view of the 580 euros required, the price / performance ratio is basically still okay, but I would personally prefer more valuable DAC solutions in combination with such an officially high-end sounding amplifier. At least if "digital" is one of the preferred hearing aids - but to be sprinkled from time to time by computer or streamer, the DAC card is sufficient.

Let's put it briefly and succinctly: With regard to the often critical balance between precision and fine dynamics on the one hand and suppleness, freedom from hardness and faithfulness to timbres on the other hand, the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 Audio is one of the best, which - regardless of the price range - got into the rack so far in terms of reinforcement. Point. In terms of space and plasticity, the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 actually leaves nothing to be desired.

The Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 is first and foremost a “fine one”, but when it comes to the less delicate tasks, it has no fear of getting your fingers dirty , very low frequencies a little more reserved - the Italian is not a deep bass pump. "Thank God", I almost think so, because as a hi-fi writer with a healthy footing, an uninterrupted round of merits would otherwise be almost too much of a good thing - especially in this ambitious, but by no means ultimate price range. But no matter: Either way, the Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 has earned a place in the list of my absolute favorite amps, a device that definitely deserves a much higher level of awareness.

When listening to a test, pair it with neutral to slightly warm, bass-strong speakers.

The Norma Audio REVO IPA-140 Audio is characterized by ...

  • an exemplary "fine-pixel" gait, as it were very precise and silky gait.
  • tonal neutrality.
  • an excellent middle range: voices sound transparent, balanced, colored.
  • an exceptionally airy, finely dynamic, transparent tweeter bar of any artificial hardness / sharpening. A real icing on the cake for sound connoisseurs.
  • best location sharpness and - also promoted by a special sound (color) purity - plasticity.
  • good rough dynamics.
  • a precise, but not exactly powerful bass range - at the very bottom, the Italians "buzzes" a little less than some other transistor amplifiers in its performance class.
  • a really excellent build quality and a variety of connection options, DAC and Phono are optional. Unfortunately, the source selection on the device is a bit cumbersome with the help of a single button, by means of which you have to "click through".
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.

Videos

Norma Audio Revo IPA-140

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