Numerous people within the industry whose hearing I trust have recently regaled me with the same story - and this without knowing that identical reports were coming in synchronously via unconnected sources. The short of this tantalizing scuttlebutt? That Bang & Olufsen's new 1000ASP ICEpower module is the world's perfect amplifier. The word is that no alterations are required, just a simple shake & stir procedure of packaging it in a nice enclosure with the requisite connectors. Even the power supply is integral to the board. What's more, unlike earlier ICEpower implementations, short-circuit and thermal protection are now part of the OEM package. With 600/1000w into 8/4 ohms for this most potent of the current three ASP boards, we're talking drive-anything power while the physical size for this wonder is all of 234 x 150 x 60mm [above].

Okay, let's rephrase this juicy tidbit for effect. If these sources are correct, there now is a high-power, high-performance "digital" amplifier module on the OEM market that's perfect as is and -- unlike for example the well-publicized mods that Bel Canto Design felt were mandatory for their eVo line to get the Tripath Digital Power Processing modules up to HighEnd snuff -- a turnkey solution for any manufacturer desirous of repackaging it. Actually, the operative term is plug'n'play. Though my personal sources don't include Jeff Rowland, the fact that he has embraced ICEpower in a big way speaks loudly too and adds HighEnd cred. Also, the people who are whispering into my ears are other manufacturers including speaker makers, not end users - experienced professionals who know the market and recognize a superior solution when they see one.

Martin Logan's new speaker includes ICEpower for its self-powered bass section. B&W's new subwoofer uses it. So does Samsung's new THX Ultra2 receiver and Jeff Rowland's new Concerto integrated. Ditto for Denmark's Acoustic Reality triangular amps [right]. I remember interviewing BCD's John Stronczer years ago when word leaked that he was about to leapfrog from vacuum tube technology to Tripath. In his unprepossessing way, he predicted that in 5 years' time, the market would have transitioned to Class-D derivative amplifier architectures as the high-efficiency cost-effective solution of choice. Those five years have past and so-called digital amplifiers (a misnomer really) are here in force and becoming more and more dominant. Forget HighEnd audio for a moment and consider that Sony, Denon, Sharp and Yamaha each market their own variants on the basic recipe. The sheer number of Class D-powered devices these conglomerates sell dwarfs what HighEnd audio sells in inefficient Class A or Class A/B designs. Now add something as pesky as the li'l $29 Sonic Impact T amp we've reviewed in these pages and which continues to shock experienced 'philes who don't ask it to drive speakers its 5 watts are inappropriate for. Class D definitely is here to stay. That includes the new Halcro range of Class D amplifiers.

Jeff Rowland's move to ICEpower merely signals a trend we're bound to see develop shortly - the appearance of this particular technology in more products marketed specifically at the HighEnd customer. If the word on the street is correct, it's pretty much unavoidable. The current generation of stock ASP boards is said to be audibly superior to the very best commercial Tripath or competing implementations. The next incarnation of ICEpower will sport even lower noise and distortion figures. All of the -- very advanced -- engineering has already been done here. Just license the technology and you're in business on the product side of things. What is less clear? Whether one or two high-profile HighEnd manufacturers will step forward and incorporate ICEpower in truly cost-effective packages that reflect an honest relationship to the low raw cost of the modules. While Jeff Rowland's recipe of audio jewelry, input transformers and -- on his truly upscale models -- overkill add-on power supplies is one way to fulfill traditional HighEnd expectations, the implied superiority of the stock 1000ASP ICEpower module also opens the doors for some enterprising manufacturer to keep things simple and truly affordable. Bona fide high-end performance for the masses?

My sources believe that ICEpower indeed does make this promise, loud and clear. The real question seems to be whether the market will react in the good old-fashioned ways (slap on ridiculous margins, fabricate whiz-bang mystique and tons of gold-plated glitz) or whether someone will play fair with the customers. Expect upcoming reviews of ICEpower-fitted amplifiers in these pages to follow up on the rumors about "the perfect amplifier" from the land of Hamlet. Perhaps 6moons will have to bestow a new fair-pricing award on one of these forthcoming contenders? Here's to hoping for that happy day. Cheers.
ICEpower website