There are some audio brands that arguably get more coverage than they deserve. There are others that deserve more coverage than they get. Norma is in the second group. It consistently turns in an excellent performance at sensible prices, is loved by almost anyone who hears any product in the line, and both the Norma name and products like the Revo IPA-140 integrated amplifier deserve greater recognition.
I can understand why the company flies below the radar, too. Norma has that charming, but ultimately self-defeating habit of hiding its light under a bushel. And the Revo IPA-140 is a perfect example of just why this is the case. The Revo IPA-140 is substantially changed from the model that shares the same name, chassis, 140W power output, very wide bandwidth amplifier design, number of inputs of the model Hi-Fi+ tested in Issue 104. Other companies would have bleated on about these revisions, possibly rebranding this as a new model, calling it the ‘Mk IIxe’ or ‘Special Edition’ or ‘GTi version’ in the process. Other companies would have maybe changed the front panel or gone with some other cosmetic change to herald the developments under the skin. Norma doesn’t do that because the company and its head honcho Enrico Rossi despise the notion of obsolescence, planned or otherwise. Meaning that if you bought a Revo IPA-140 five years ago, your product isn’t valueless… and you still get a really good sounding amplifier, even if newer Revo IPA-140s sound even better.
The Revo IPA-140 is very much a dual mono pre-power design, split along the centreline. The upper section is essentially a preamplifier, on its own isolating sled. Below is a MOSFET-based power amplifier, once again spread across two power amplifier stages. The main transformers are to the front of the amplifier, and that chrome centre dial and blue LED channel indicator make for a minimalist, but elegant, appearance.
There is an optional phono stage, which takes up one of the four RCA line inputs on the back panel. This is a very flexible MM/MC stage, although the flexibility does involve some on-PCB fiddling with DIP switches (if your cartridge’s loading is well outside the norm, you might even need some additional dealer-fit firepower). A DAC with lone USB input is also available; this uses an AKM4391 DAC chip and supports digital audio to 24-bit/192kHz PCM precision. DSD and MQA are both MIA. However, Norma also rolls its own analogue filter and output stage of the DAC to bring it into musical alignment with the other parts of the design. Unlike the phono stage, this DAC sits central to the rear panel and doesn’t take up one of the inputs. As both are modules that sit atop the main preamp circuit, theoretically they could be retrofitted… but I suspect most will opt for their choices at the point of purchase.
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