When NAD originally
announced their M22 amplifier with nCore heart, there were ripples. After all, Bruno Putzeys’ then top class D power module, NC1200, was only available in ±€10’000/pr monos from various brands including his own. Meanwhile the far more affordable circular NC400 board was reserved exclusively for DIYers even though certain individuals circumvented that regulation and went commercial with stock boards and stock SMPS in plain or even fancy casings.

With NAD’s M22 getting €3’000—reviewed here by our colleagues at fairaudio.de, hence only in German—something in the nCore scheme had shifted. Rather than break into the DIY piggy bank, NAD had taken advantage of a new board called NC500. What is viewed as some (or the) most advanced class D tech for home hifi had just trickled down and with it, more within reach. The latest dent in this development are Bel Canto Design’s new REF600 monos, so named because of their 4Ω power rating. Quoting from my own news announcement, "enCore the 2nd is Bel Canto Design following up on their very expensive NC1200-based Black system reviewed by us here. Enter their REF600 monos [$4'500/pr] which combine nCore's NC500 module with an NC1200/700 switch-mode power supply, 27/33dB gain switch, XLR/RCA inputs and 300/600W into 8/4Ω. There is a high input impedance of 200KΩ/XLR, peak output current of 27A and John Stronczer's custom fully balanced input/driver stage that provides very low output impedance to the class D Hypex power module."

The REF600 twins replace the REF500 monos which had kept the faith with B&O's ICEpower, a modular D-class solution from Denmark which John Stronczer had adopted past his early experiments with Tripath - which themselves were preceded by a valve-based integrated model. Calling the newbs the best amps they've ever made, Black excluded, Bel Canto's move to nCore can't avoid suggesting that ICEpower has been overtaken. Which could be the current case; until the Danes issue ICEpower Gen4. Meanwhile Anaview and Pascal also from Europe's cold white north are making their own inroads. Competition is heating up even without Red Bull's caffeinated fizz. And for the consumer, that's a good thing. As key players in this sector up the ante to force each other to upstage the other and gain market share, we're presented with more choices. Trickle-down means more pow for the penny. Surveying the current high-end scene having adopted some form of class D, we're well past trickle. If not yet a flood, it's certainly a good stream with plenty of pressure. I for one can't wait to clap ears on a pair of REF600.