Nytech CPA132/CPS102/CPA401

NytechNytech was launched by Richard Hay way back in the early nineteen seventies; a man who served his audio apprenticeship with the highly esteemed Arthur Radford and Arthur Bailey at Radford Electronics. His company made respected, mid-market equipment for around fifteen years, after which time circumstances conspired to end the operation. But more recently, through a strange combination of circumstances, the company’s DNA found itself revived in Heed products, and just now yet more of it has surfaced.

Phil Balaam was Nytech’s original test engineer, and worked closely with Hay, learning every aspect of the company’s fine-sounding designs. When the company ceased trading in 1989 he duly went off to BBC Wales to become a senior engineer, and left his hi-fi life behind. Twenty five years later and he is back with a range of new Nytech products, the first batch of which are the preamplifier and mono block power amplifiers here. It’s likely that an electronic crossover, DAC, phono stage and Raspberry Pi-based music streamer will follow, all in the same lovely small, bamboo-adorned boxes.

Phil is keen to point out that while these are new, clean-sheet designs, they do contain Nytech DNA in the know-how that Richard Hay personally taught him over his years working at the original company. Everything from the basic circuit topology and physical layout to the power supply type and quality, to the selection of the passive components themselves, all owe a debt of gratitude to Phil’s gifted mentor. The new Nytech was started with the blessing of both Richard Hay himself, before he sadly passed away recently, and his son Robert. Keen to recreate the company’s philosophy of ‘value for money hi-fi’, he’s very suspicious of high end hi-fi. And he’s a real proponent of openness, and so will be publishing the circuit diagrams of his new electronics, and even the source code that controls the preamp so people can modify the products to suit themselves.

The new £1,972 Nytech Audio system features four separate components – the CP132 control centre/preamplifier (£676), CPS102 power supply (£300) and two CPA401 monoblock power amplifiers (£498 each). Instead of doing an all-in-one integrated amplifier, he’s chosen mini-separates because of the sonic benefits of splitting the component parts up, and also the flexibility. Active loudspeakers are another passion of Phil’s – as you might expect with his professional broadcast background. This means there will be an electronic crossover coming fairly soon, and meanwhile he has partnered with Ingo and Klaus of Nero Audio from Germany, which is relaunching the classic British ARC loudspeaker brand, which was famous for its excellent active speakers designed to partner with Nytech electronics.

The new Nytech Audio is based in Ystrad Mynach in South Wales, and Phil is proud to manufacture there. He has sourced as many of his components, suppliers and subcontractors as he can locally. Even the company that provides the beautiful bamboo end cheeks is just over the Bristol Channel in Somerset – the excellent furniture maker Quadraspire. The cases are pressed steel, finished in crackle black (a la MGB dashboards), and it’s fair to see it’s nothing elaborate, but the metalwork is still done to a good standard and the superb woodwork is a lovely touch. Further plaudits go for the absence of blue LEDs; there isn’t a single one to be found. Instead, when the kit has stabilised the power LEDs glow a reassuring shade of classic Nytech green!

The circuits are very different to the originals, but the philosophy applied to choosing the components, layout and earth paths for example, “are pure Richard Hay”, says Phil Balaam. The preamplifier is an active design and uses all-discrete components in the audio section, apart from the volume control which is a digitally controlled audio law attenuator. It also uses a microcontroller which can be programmed very simply (it was intended for educational use), so the display can be customised by dealers or indeed customers themselves. The source code and information on how to do this will be freely available on the website. The power amp is based around a Texas Instruments audio integrated circuit, “one of the best I’ve ever heard”, says Phil. It puts out a claimed 40W RMS per channel into 8 ohms and twice that into 4, and careful attention is given to construction techniques to ensure longevity.

Nytechs were always loved for their easy, rhythmic sound that mixed a warmish, smooth tonality with lots of speed, dynamic accenting and energy. It made for a very pleasant combination, especially back in the days when Naim amplifiers were forward, in-your-face and tonally very explicit. The new CPA132/CPS102/CPA401 combination is best described as offering the traditional sound in a more modern setting, retaining the classic products’ ‘warm side of neutral’ tonal balance, but edging slightly closer to neutral.

The new Nytech combo’s midband is open and explicit, offering up an outstandingly wide and deep soundstage. Where the Creek integrated is nicely spacious, the Nytech goes further and pushes way out beyond the physical boundaries of the speakers, and hangs the elements of the mix in space much more assertively. The recorded acoustic opens up like picture book, and you find yourself easily able to focus on individual strands of the music. Perhaps it’s down to the the physically separate dual mono design, but this combo simply sounds far more spacious than is expected at this price. It shows the fine clarity of the amplifier, as it lets the listener dig right down into the mix.

This doesn’t come by virtue of a bright, overly explicit tonality though. It’s rare to hear great amplifiers able to sound apparently open and detailed, yet not tonally forward – and the Nytech combo is one of them. Everything is held in perfect proportion, the soundstage is vast, and the different instruments in the mix are clearly resolved with excellent timbre for an amp of this price. I love the way the Nytech system accurately tracks the musicians’ dynamic accenting – the sound is never flat or disinterested. This was an interesting contrast, because often you find detailed, open amplifiers are rather analytical; usually the enthusiastic, bubbly performers do less well in the clarity stakes.

For something rated at a mere 40W per channel, this combo doesn’t half go loud gracefully. Treble is always clean and crisp, with a good deal of atmosphere. It is more incisive than most amplifiers at the price, and I found piano particularly convincing here, with sparkling harmonics accurately rendered. The CPA132/CPS102/CPA401 isn’t perfect of course; pitch this against a really good £4,000 amplifier and you’ll find its sound to be a little less gutsy than it previously seemed, and there’s a slight opaqueness to the midband that you wouldn’t get from a truly high end design, as if a thin veil is present. Despite its pleasing tonality, you can also still discern a slight sense of brittleness in absolute terms; but of course this goes for most mere mortal amplification, and the Nytech combo is by no means the worst offender here.

Straight out of nowhere comes this characterful preamp, power supply and monoblock power amp combination, offering really strong sound for around £2,000. Visually it’s a quirky and charming little package, and the sound continues this theme, proving immensely likeable and offering a taste of the high end but very much at mid-fi prices. And that, lest we forget, is precisely what the original Nytech did all those years ago.

One comment

  1. Excellent 🙂 I still own, love and use my CA252 which I bought instead of a Mission Cyrus One

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