This isn't the first time we've tried one of these inexpensive little British amplifiers. The last time was in issue No. 51. It was the AP50, and if we had heard it in a blind test we would have guessed that it cost deep into four figures. And we would have been wrong. Three figures, even in Canada.
NVA is the creation of Richard Dunn, who either doesn't know how a commercial product is supposed to be made, or he doesn't care. Commercial products are supposed to be bulletproof, so that they can survive downright abuse by technical psychopaths. That's not the case here. Dunn is frank about the fact that his amp will blow if you accidentally short the speaker cables. Indeed it will blow if you use high capacitance cables, or even if you attempt to biwire your speakers. And if that happens the warranty is toast along with the amp. Overload protection? That consists of you checking periodically to see the amp isn't getting too hot, and lowering the volume if it is.
If all that hasn't sent you scooting for one of the other reviews in this issue, read on. Dunn says he could have used the usual means of protecting his output circuit, but at a price. That price would be in reduced musicality. He leaves you the responsibility of treating his product as it must be treated, and he promises you'll be rewarded for your care by what you hear.
Certainly we were delighted with the AP50, which we had received as a kit. (Albert, who had never touched a soldering iron before, assembled it. Unlike some other kits, which are designed with engineers in mind, NVA kits require few tools and as little as four hours of work. And the distributor will fix it inexpensively if you fail.)
But the AP10 is something else. For one thing it has low power, a mere 14 or 15 watts per channel (we've seen both claims, but our unit didn't meet either one). For another, it has only two controls: an on-off switch at the rear and a volume control at the front. Oh, and there's a headphone jack. In fact another version, the AP10H, is for headphones only.
Like the other models, the AP10 is built into a box that is a mix of acrylic and MDF, designed to protect the circuits from vibration. The distributor, Peak Audio, included a length of NVA's own speaker cable, but we used our own Wireworld Eclipse. And no, it didn't blow the amp.
Our first impulse was to try the AP10 with our Omega system, with its very high efficiency (91 dB) speakers. They require biwiring, however, and that's a no-no, so we settled for the less efficient speakers in our Alpha system. We put the AP10 through the same four discs as the other amps in this series, coddling it somewhat because of its low power. More than we needed to, it turned out...