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V is for volatile                          

Pat O’Brien from Australian distributor WAR Audio promptly sent me the two upgrade boards*. I was chomping at the bit to make it all happen. The upgrade is an easy ten-minute soldering maneuver for any experienced tekkie but since I live around the corner from one of Sydney’s best, I thought to not skimp and approach the man himself (thanks Eddie). I’m talking jewel-like soldering points. And he’s an audiophile to boot. Double whammy.


* The conversion from V2 to V3 includes a replacement face plate of the same flat style as the original but with the V3 designation affixed. The new bulky faceted fascias shown on the previous page rely on a different chassis mounting and thus can't be retro-fitted to an original enclosure - Ed.

Needless to say, the short trip back home was fraught with high levels of audiophile anxiety and a serious case of schizophrenia - lead foot on the accelerator, feather foot on the brakes. Questions ran through my head as I connected the amps to the system. Would the new boards be better? Could they really improve what already was an outstanding pair of amps? Would I need to redress the balance of my system?

After an about 3 to  4-hour session, I was glad to hear some improvements in bass, soundstage depth and tonal finesse. Generally, the sound was smoother. But really, the difference wasn’t substantial. In fact, a few days after I clocked about 30 hours, I asked my audio buddy Richard to bring his yet-to-be-upgraded V2s over in case my ears were in sonic upgrade denial. What’s more, I not only trust Richard’s ears but our sonic tastes spring from a common kitchen.

Sure enough, his V2s were a little coarser and perhaps offered less stage depth but those differences weren’t night and day. More like dusk and dawn really - very subtle. Oh well. Over the next few days, I ran a tuner into the NuForce P9 preamplifier and let ‘er rip to just over 100 hours. Done, right? Wrong. Worse in fact, it all turned to shit. Whatever I played became a mush of undefined bass, a compressed and bright midrange and over-prominent highs. How could this be? Surely NuForce wouldn’t go backwards? Had the upgrade turned the amps into über-revealing monsters that brutally exposed upstream weaknesses I’d never heard before? Mild panic set in. "Pat, we have a problem…"

Time to investigate. Cables were changed, components substituted, phone calls made while other ‘ears’ opined. Reports from around the country—which mirrored subsequent opinions from audio forums around the world—were strangely contradictory. Some owners were staggered by significant audio improvements off the bat. Others were subject to a roller coaster ride that resembled my own head-spinning experience. The more information I gathered, the more a common thread began to appear throughout. Time. 150 hours to be precise.