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Modified Lepai Amplifier: Concept and reviews

NSMT Modified Lepai amplifier PFO best of best award

The NSMT Modified Lepai Amplifier

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Even stock, this Tripath TA2020 Class-T amplifier is impressive because of its robust bass and engaging soundstage. Moreover it is one of the few T-amps that has bass and treble controls. Stock, it may be less "audiophile" (less laid back, less tube like) than some T-amps, but its good bass performance and tone controls make it a more engaging and more listen-able amplifier, especially for intimate situations and low level listening. At the same time, it is robust enough to drive just about any loudspeaker very loud. It is rated at 20 watt per channel into 4 ohms, about 15 watts per channel into 8 ohms.

We have modified the amplifier to improve its bass performance, to improve the definition of its soundstage, improve its dynamic punch, and to improve its high frequency detail and its musicality. And we have enhanced its looks and usability with a gorgeous, retro, health friendly and eco-friendly, Baltic white birch plywood cabinet.

Moreover, our Master Sourcs loudspeaker cables, which can be terminated with optional gold plated banana plugs on both ends, is an additional mod to further enhance the bass and imaging performance our Lepai Mod.

We have tested our modified T amplifier with a wide range of speakers against some highly regarded amplifiers, many, many times its price. Our conclusion? If you feed our Modified amp a quality signal, especially through a DAC, it is an amazing amplifier.

Excerpts from Positive Feedback's first review of the NSMT-Lepai Amp by Francisco Duran

 "...a great surprise, an amplifier no bigger than my fist, hooked up to my Tonian floorstanders, churning out music and sounds commensurate with an amplifier many times its size and price. I love it! Deep, wide, soundstages, and solid image placements were easily reproduced with this modified chip amplifier."

"Many movies were played through this amp.  On the great western, The Undefeated starring Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman, I had the amp hooked to my Ascend Acoustics. In several of the scenes with thunder, my son and I heard taut, deep, fast dynamics, and low-end reproduction. .. We heard dialogue that was crisp and clean and intelligible for a two-way system. Again, we heard a nice spread on the soundstage. The rain scene sounded as if the rain was falling in my listening room. The bass fiddles at the end of the movie didn't exactly shake the walls, but they sounded very solid and satisfying."

How does the NSMT-Lepai compare to Francisco Duran's highly modded Marantz PM15S1 Reference amp?

"If this all sounds too good to be true, let's put this into perspective. First off, let's start with my Marantz PM15S1 Reference amp modified by the Upgrade Company. When I put it back in my system, immediately noticeable was the smoother, more authoritative way it reproduced music. It has a noticeable grip, if you will, on the music. Details are easily fleshed out, as is the scale of the music, especially on big, orchestral recordings. In its defense, the modified Lepai sounded a bit more exciting, with a slightly hotter (but not bright) presentation than the smooth and big Marantz. To even compete with the Marantz is quite a feat. This little NSMT Lepai amp just kept coming across as very fun to listen to. I feel this to be a great strength for any amplifier, much less than one that costs less than a hundred dollars."

How does the NSMT-Lepai compare to the Topping  TP20MK2?

"Installing my regular desktop amp, the Topping TP20MK2, in the "big rig" was also fun. ...First to suffer from the comparison was the bass. Although still surprising for this class of amp, the Topping displayed slightly less taut bass, with a slightly diffused character. The Topping was also slightly warmer with a roll-off in the top end. I noticed the midrange and upper-end dynamics to be slightly blunted and thicker. This sounds like I am describing the sound of an inexpensive tube amp. Yes, the Topping does lean in that direction. Easy to listen to and forgiving, with enough detail and bass to keep things interesting. Switching back to the NSMP Lepai we get a very clean and extended top end, taut extended bass, crisper and cleaner upper mids, and treble. Although not as warm as the Topping it makes up for it by having quick micro-dynamics, taut bass, and a more true timber. Instrument separation on the Trucks CD especially on "Lookout 31" sounded very good."

What is the effect of the Custom Power Supply?

With the custom power supply: "Bass definition and clarity, along with tonality and dynamics, were much improved. But the biggest improvement was the soundstage width and depth. It opened up considerably. Stage depth, width, and image placement was on a whole other level ... Images went from somewhat flat to having space around them. Images had more of a pinpoint placement. The soundstage was wider, taller, and deeper. Bass took on better definition. It was hard to believe." 

Positive Feedback ISSUE 66, March/April 2013, reviewed by Francisco Duran


Excerpts from Positive Feedback's second review of the latest NSMT-Lepai Amp with 3.5 AMP power supply by Francisco Duran

When NSMT tells you on their website that "We have modified the amplifier to improve its bass performance, to improve the definition of its soundstage, improve its dynamic punch, and to improve its high frequency detail and its musicality", you better believe it.

The new amp sounded louder with the same volume. 

The biggest difference in the systems I listened to these amps through was in the dynamics and bass.

As good as this modified Lepai amplifier is, Mr. Erol Ricketts, head honcho for NSMT Loudspeakers found a way to make it better.  He upgraded the power supply. This amplifier is offered with a basic power supply, a NSMT modded 12v, 2amp P/S which is what my unit came with, a Deluxe power supply, 12V, 3.5A P/S with filter, beefed up P/S, built in/on filter, longer power cord, and the new 5 amp the power supply which is the latest and greatest one you can get.  I am going off the website so if I missed anything I accept corrections quite easy. I was sent a new amplifier with the 3.5 amp P/S and sporting the new 5-way binding posts. There is even a version [latest] with rounded corners on the amplifier cabinet. Mine has the sharp edges. But don't worry about cut fingers, these corners are made of wood.

Another area of improvement was in the way the soundstage was presented. That is to say on most recordings that are recorded with a realistic or natural spaciousness, sounded more open and dimensional. The improvement in bass, dynamics and soundstage elevated this amps performance quite surprisingly. I didn't think the performance of the original could be surpassed. But listening side by side the differences were easily noticeable. The old amp with the smaller power supply has nice clean taut bass but just does not have the impact of the bigger P/S. Even with the bass boost cranked I didn't get the bass performance that the new P/S has. I will say that I did hear the same clear midrange and clean highs with the older amp. And inner detail sounded just as good.

If you want the best bass and soundstage that this amp can muster go for the 3.5 power supply. In fact I don't really know why the smaller power supplies are offered after hearing the 3.5. Really the price is insignificant for the performance you get. Do I have to repeat the same old "most people pay more for some interconnects" taunt here?

Positive Feedback ISSUE 69, September/October 2013, reviewed by Francisco Duran 

"The Lepai LP-2020A+ NSMT modified amp sells for around $135 with the upgraded power supply. The stock Lepai LP-2020A+ amp sells for around $20. The difference is like going from a Honda to a Lamborghini. The modified Lepai amp has its place in the world of audiophilia and i believe will become a future t-amp classic. Recommended." 
(Honda6, Audiogon) 

"Bluetooth is implemented very nicely." Customer comment



" impressions are those of a 62 year old who has been in the audio thing for over 25 years. In addition, most of my equipment has been tubes which is what I prefer. I am not going to get into a comparison of tube versus solid state.

I have owned or auditioned several T amps and typically have one around for extended listening sessions so as not to burn up tubes.

To begin, it has to be the coolest looking T amp out there. The cabinet is first rate and gives it a sort of retro look with the blue dial light on the volume control.

What impressed me the most was the bass. There was a solid bass foundation to the music in addition to the typical bass notes. I never had to increase the volume over the 9 position and listened for extended periods with no fatigue.

At your suggestion, I then hitched it up to the Windjammers in my 11x11 listening room. Based on their sensitivity, I was not expecting much. Boy was I surprised as this combination sounded even better. In both systems, I used Eva Cassidy's Songbird CD. What was even more impressive was that I did not have to go above the 9 o'clock position to get a very satisfying musical experience. It's like the darn amp is on steroids and performs well beyond it's 12 wpc rating. The same results of detail, texture, bass and most importantly musicality were there with the Windjammers also.

For the money, this is one heck of an amp that can be the foundation of a very inexpensive musical system. I forgot to mention that I used the speaker cable provided with the amp and hookup was very easy to do.

Art Veves

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