AUDIOPHILE March 1994

NVA
INTEGRATED
STATEMENT

Although the NVA Integrated Statement may be regarded as an expensive integrated amplifier, it gets the qualified approval of three reviewers with widely varying musical tastes

I might be a sucker for anything hi-fi that isn't an anonymous black box. NVA's Integrated Statement is certainly not anonymous, or self-effacing. With its soundpipes looped up in the air connecting it to my ESL63s, it looked more like a benign alien from a fifties sci-fi movie, but it wasn't long before it's sound confirmed that it definitely belongs to the nineties.

In short, it was vivid, fast, forceful, revealing and had the quickest, deepest bass of any integrated in existance. On rock music, Jamiroquai or Mary Chapin Carpenter shot out of the speakers like projectiles, the recordings like the audio equivalent of full stage lighting, a spot-light on each performer, the whole clearly outlined on stage. The DACon suited the Integrated Statement better than the Counterpoint DA-10 converter I also used, which allowed the amplifier to strip a recording too bare while showing up a degree of brightness and hardness in the midrange, notably on Mary Chapin Carpenter's voice and something of a jangliness on Passionate Kiss.

"It was vivid, fast, forceful,
revealing and had the
quickest, deepest bass of any
integrated in existance"

The DACon with its own psu produced a warmer, `bigger' presence region, which was particularly effective on Scofield's What We Do, with its tremendously alive guitar pyrotechnics and virtuoso speed merchant drumming. On Dylan's Bootleg Recordings, the `live' atmosphere was infectious.

Equally, orchestral music quickened the heart-beat, but lacked something in terms of finesse and subtle dynamic shading - again more noticeable (or distracting) using the Counterpoint than the DACon. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition on Collins was stubbornly revaled as technically second-rate, though as a performance other equipment has made it much more involving. Two recordings of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 reversed my usual preference: Michelangeli, live on DGG, was technically dazzling and well to the fore, while the partnering orchestra, in something of another world, barely implinged. By contrast, the ECO and Barenboim sounded slower.

Fiddly SMA connectors fit screw terminals

Switching to other amplification (admittedly twice as costly) suggested this was because the better recorded orchestra on the EMI recording had a wider dynamic range and far more instrumental colour and detail which the NVA wasn't quite fleshing out. Yes the ECO was clearly located with breath and depth within the ambience of the Henry Wood Hall, the true reproduction of which is a rare event.

Back to electronics and the DACon, though, and Björk's Human Behaviour sounded bugger and less synthetic, those bounding drum strokes shivering the household timbers. The DACon drove Gloria Estefan's Mi Tierra at a good tilt though the Statement, but without disguising some of its inadequacies with its up-beat zip. The Tijuana Brass trumpets had a distinctly sampled aire and the equally artifical snare drums - tight and amazingly fast though they were - stayed irritatingly fake.

Reservations aside and bearing in mind they confirm that the synergy between NVA components is not something to be taken lightly, I never pulled the mains plug until the NVA had to go to the photographic studio. (There isn't a power switch on the amp which, along with the separate left/right volume controls normally make me wince.) It's certainly a strong statement and maybe I'm a sucker for them as well. -- Eric Braithwaite


Initially I had the Statement when it was absolutely new; designer Richard Dunn warned that a lengthy run-in period was needed, so I left it running for several days to get it fully warmed up. However, even this may not have been sufficient.

From new the amp may need to be used for several weeks before it sounds at its very best. Early impressions were mixed; the amp clearly gave a very open sound that was neutral and controlled but almost to a fault. It was pleasant but utimately rather bland and colourless, lacking both presence and personality.

Some weeks later I had the amp again and this time it sounded far more impressive, having been extensively used in the meantime. It was still very neutral and open, but now there was a degree of flexibility and fine detail that hadn't been apparent before. Not that a fully run-in Statement sounds like a technicolour spectacular; it's still slightly understated if anything. But its excellent resolution and ability to differentiate between make it very engaging and involving to listen to.

Richard Dunn also brought along an NVA DACon and this made a significant difference to the way the amp performed. In many ways the Statement is a blank canvas; it doesn't add false excitement or colour to the music and as a result needs high-resolution source material. It is capable of sounding lively and full-blooded if partnered with good ancillary equipment, but won't spice-up things up on its own account.

I was especially impressed by its smooth neutrality and openness, coupled with drive and effortless dynamics. It's a very truthfull amplifier; as you listen to it you feel it reproduces the music without noticeable losses of information. There's something very `right' about the sound too; tonally it is very well-balanced and natural, yet it's able to reveal subtleties just as good amplifier should.

"I certainly regard it as
one of the most
transparent amplifiers
I've ever heard"

Sonically the Statement is a very beguiling amplifier to listen to. It has a way of drawing you into the music, making sense of rhythmic complexities and changes of phrasing and dynamics. The treble is exceptionally clean and open, there being very little tonal hardness or edge. On a purely practical level I don't find the Statement particularly nice to use. The twin volume pots take a bit of getting used to and the lack of calibration makes it tricky to set left/right channel balance unless you do it by ear. I don't like the absence of mains on/off switch, but you're suppose to leave the amp plugged in and powered up at all times. Yet, practical considerations aside, I'd be more than willing to put up with all the Statement's foibles on account of its outstanding sound. Its engaging yet smooth effortless musical presentation is hard to live without once experienced. I certainly regard it among the most transparent amplifiers I've ever heard. This isn't an amp for power freaks or headbangers but those wanting something capable of high resolution and outstanding subtlety and fine detail with doubtless be impressed as I was. -- Jimmy Hughes


It says it all, really. The Integrated Statement. The baby of NVA's startling range of chromium plated electronics weighs in at over a grand - a lot for an integrated. I suspect that elsewhere in this review Jimmy Hughes will put the case for that pile of oriental products costing a quarter of the price. But I'm going to assert that the TIS is really a more user friendly alternative to the sometimes startligly expensive integrated valve amps we've seen lately.

It's certainly not for everyone, but you can't argue that NVA has once again come up with an amp that sucks you into the music and gives you more than just a taste of the musical characteristics and abilities of the TSS/TDS pre/power combination.

Dual mono construction requires
L and R channel volume controls

There are two rules with NVA amps. Leave them switched on permanently and keep away from Litz-type and high-capacitance cables. The first means that you'll get the level of musical finesse you'll have to search very hard for elsewhere; the second ensures the continued longetivity of the amp!

I used my usual Arcam Delta 170/NVA dual power supply DACon and Michell Gyrodec/dual power supply Phono2 as sources and either Impulse H6 loudspeakers or the new Ruark Equinoxes, priced at around £1300 and £1750 respectively. Even with the averagely sensitive Equinoxes, the TIS easily achievied ear splitting volumes in my listening room. Having run right up against the end stops without falling prey to tweeter shredding clipping.

The TIS's tonal richness,vibrancy and low-level subtleties make piano recordings a dream.

"The TIS's tonal richness,
vibrancy and low-level
subtleties make piano
recordings a dream"
transparent amplifiers
I've ever heard"

It scavenged low-level detail from Tethered Moon's Triangle, making sense of music that some amplifiers reduce to aimless meanderings. Wilson's rendition of Van Morrision's Tupelo Honey from Blue Light 'Til Dawn. It's an amp that likes vocalists and luxurious recordings like Donald Fagan's Kamakiriad and unravelled and presented neutrally and believably. Overall, I really appreciated the TIS's control and surefootedness.

There is a bit of bad news, though. If your music collection's full up with fast tempo rave music or frenetic thrashy rock, you'll probably hate the TIS. I had notable failures with the Spin Doctors' Pocket Full of Kryptonite and some of Rage Against the Machine. The stuff just dragged rhythmically, draining the music of its excitement - but then so does this kind of music on 80 per cent of the amplifiers I've heard.

So, to sum up. The TIS is a refined, sweet-sounding amplifier in a rather special suit of clothes. It strong suits are in the kind of subtle timing required for jazz rather than the grosser kind needed for some rock material. I particularly liked it's ability to set up a believable space around musicians and I'm reminded that NVA knows more about reproducing subtle dynamics than anyone you care to name.

If you;ve really got your eyes on a pair of TDSs, NVA's trade-in scheme will allow you the full retail price of your TIS (or any NVA equipment) against more expensive equipment. -- Dave Wiley


ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION

Three hi-fi reviewers can usually be expected to make somewhat contrary judgements of hi-fi. Not necessarily because they listen to equipment or music in a different way, but because they value aspects of performance differently.

Look at the systems Eric Brithwaite, Jimmy Hughes and Dave Wiley run and only a fool would expect them to have the same sense of priorities. Quad ESL63 electrostatics, Impulse H1s, H6s and Ruark Equinoxes are a contrasting mix and so is the range of music favoured by each reviewer. Dave Wiley's passion for modern jazz, Jimmy Hughes' for classical and Eric Braithwaite's for an eclectic mixture make a wideranging spread. So the concensus that these three reviewers have arrived at on the NVA Integrated Statement is really rather remarkable.

What are the common themes? On the positive side, the amp clearly delivers a clean, involving and rhythmically controlled sound. `Vivid and fast' according to Eric Braithwaite, the NVA Integrated Statement `makes sense of rhythmic complexities and phrase changes' according to Jimmy Hughes, while Dave Wiley identifies the control and surefootedness of this integrated amplifier. This amounts to an unambiguous thumbs up to the amplifier's ability to take a firm grip on the timing of music so that it isn't reproduced as a jumbled but tonally smooth and velvery mess.

Jimmy Hughes' reservations concern the time the amp takes to warm up - weeks rather than hours - and its fiddly control ergonomics. Eric Braithwaite harbours doubts about the NVA's `stripped bare' sound, occasional lack of finesse and instrumental colour, while Dave Wiley focused on the lack of sheer excitement using the amp for thrash rock.

Despite these different individual reservations the common thread running through the three reviewer's assessments is the observation that this amplifier takes control of the singal capturing both delicate detail and rhythm with impressive conviction. Ideally suited for use with other NVA electronics, the amp gives a taste of NVA's TSS/TDS control/power amp.

An expensive integrated amplifier, then, not an enormous powerhouse, and better suited to high sensitivity speakers than the more demanding Quad ESL63s.