Results 1 to 11 of 11
  1. #1
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722

    Review of Musical Fidelity KW500 Integrated Amp

    BACKGROUND: I've had the Musical Fidelity KW500 for a couple weeks now. I've been playing it exclusively through a pair of Magnepan 1.6QRs. (I'm awaiting delivery on a pair of 3.6/Rs, and bought this amp specifically for that reason.) The speakers are bi-wired through a set of Speltz magwire "anticables." The amp has four speaker terminals on each side specifically for bi-wiring, so I decided to just take advantage of them and not worry about the minor addition in cost and whether this really improves the sound noticeably.

    The signal source is a Benchmark DAC1, fed by a Slimdevices Squeezebox 2 run digitally through a Behringer DEQ2496 equalizer for room correction. About 95% of my music collection is ripped in FLAC, and it's heavily weighted towards electronica (but NOT techno), with a healthy dose of modern rock, punk, jazz, funk, classical, and a little bit of everything else under the sun.

    My room is about 15' x 20' with wood floors, an area rug, and a fair amount of furniture. I tend to listen at fairly high volumes most of the time, thanks to a cool wife and neighbors.

    THE UNIT: The specs on this amp are found here:

    http://www.musicalfidelity.com/products/kw/kw500.html#

    In summary, it's a hybrid integrated amp with about 500wpc at 8 ohms. The preamp is tube driven with military-spec tubes that are supposed to last a lifetime.

    The amp is constructed in two pieces: The power section has its own separate housing, and it connects to the main unit via three umbilical-type cords (one for the preamp, and two for each side of the power amp). Together, both sections weigh 100 pounds!

    The fit and finish on this equipment is simply unsurpassed. I've owned Musical Fidelity gear before, and I've certainly found it to be well-constructed, but this thing is just ridiculous. I'm not kidding; it is built like a *****ing tank*. I understand most of MF's stuff is manufactured in Asia now, but this line is still built in Britain. I believe it. This thing could have survived a few dozen Nazi air-raids and then some.

    The volume knob on the front of the main unit is about 3.5" in diameter, and turning it feels like rotating the dial on a 500-pound Acme safe. Each section has two large, black handles(?) on either side of the front that don't really work as handles, so I don't know what purpose they serve, other than to make it look tough. (Maybe you can rack-mount it somehow, but it's hard to imagine, quite frankly.)

    The appearance won't win any beauty pageants, unless they're held in East Germany ca. 1970, but I don't mind it personally. The only semi-attractive parts are the lit-up feet on each unit. They start out red when you power up, turning to amber after 6-7 seconds, and then to electric blue after warming up a half hour or so. They're kind of gimmicky, and I personally can't tell any difference in sound between the amber stage and the blue stage, but I'm sure some people will take special satisfaction in know their music is playing at the right color.

    SOUND QUALITY: In my opinion, and in my setup, the sound quality is absolutely astounding. This amp will clearly not be to everyone's tastes. It is *extremely* aggressive with dynamics and transients. Many listeners will undoubtedly prefer a more laid-back, smoother, more "musical" sound. But personally, I have never heard anything so attention-grabbing and realistic sounding. This is music that grabs you by the ears, and forces you to listen. And I love it!

    The tone is perfectly neutral and crystal clear. Initially, it seemed too bright at times, but I was able to work with speaker placement to ensure it didn't become unpleasant with mid-treble-heavy music like horn sections, etc. I suspect I was simply getting some badly placed reflections off the walls, furniture, etc. Now it sounds absolutely perfect.

    The level of detail from this combination of amp and speakers is like nothing I've heard. I constantly find myself doing double-takes when a certain sound seems "right there" in front of me with an uncanny degree of realism. The soundstage is wonderfully wide and deep, despite the fact that I'm unable to position the speakers optimally because of how the room is laid out.

    The bass is the best part. It is extraordinarily rich, utterly satisfying and downright earth-shaking given the limits of these speakers. Standing between the speakers at loud volume, I can feel the floorboards flexing beneath my feet. People had told me not to expect more bass out of a more powerful amp. I expected them to be right, but now I've concluded that they are simply wrong. This thing actually makes my 1.6QRs punch like a welterweight. They sound distinctly un-Maggie-like in this department. They aren't quite like JBLs, but for the first time, I can really feel the bass substantially, like I could never feel it with other amps driving these speakers.

    Before this amp, I'd been driving the 1.6QRs with a Pathos Logos with 220wpc @ 4 ohms. I thought for sure that was plenty of power, but now I don't think so. I've heard many people say Maggies need loads of power to sound their best, and for my tastes, they're absolutely right. Some folks say you can drive Maggies with a few high-quality watts from a tube amp, and if what you want is a pleasant, musical smoothness at low volumes, then that's fine for you. But if you want serious dynamics and attention-grabbing realism at loud volumes, you really need serious power.

    In my opinion, the combination of powerful dynamics, rich detail, and strong bass is what makes the sound of this setup so intriguing and enjoyable. I simply cannot wait to hear how this thing sounds with the new 3.6/Rs after some break-in time. I think it's going to be a real treat.

    CRITICISMS: Not that it matters to me, but this contraption is massive. I'd be worried if I was putting it on anything less-than-extremely-sturdy. Also some people will think the remote is too flimsy for something this expensive; I don't care myself. At times, the sound could be too bright if you don't take care to position your speakers or treat your room properly. The only design change I'd really like to see: The addition of a pair of balanced XLR inputs. I just can't imagine why an amp of this caliber doesn't have them already.
    Last edited by Mike Anderson; 11-16-2006 at 10:10 PM.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  2. #2
    nerd ericl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    908
    Nice Review Mike! I'd love to hear it.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722
    Quote Originally Posted by ericl
    Nice Review Mike! I'd love to hear it.
    Thanks. And consider yourself as having a standing invite. I should get the 3.6/Rs any day now... Yep, any day...
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  4. #4
    nerd ericl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    Posts
    908
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson
    Thanks. And consider yourself as having a standing invite. I should get the 3.6/Rs any day now... Yep, any day...
    That would be sweet! I'll bring the drinks, maybe some toys.. It would be fun to try my Scott Nixon USB Tube DAC and/or Rega Apollo (review sample) on that system if you're into it.

    I checked out some photos of your amp. How do you move it?? I also saw MF has an all in one system in their KW line, including one of those massive integrated amps, a CDP, DAC, Phono, and Tuner in one box. Intriguing..

    Keep me posted, let's plan something.

    -eric

  5. #5
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722
    Absolutely. I'll drop you a PM when the 3.6s are here.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    Location
    London, Ontario
    Posts
    8,127

    Some nice piece, Mike

    Congradulations! A wonderful amp and no doubt it will make a killer combo with the Maggie 3.6's.

    I wish I had the wherewithall to go for the 3.6's. I'd go for them too if I did. Then, like you, I would reconsider my 140 watt/ch @4 ohm Monarchys.

    However I'm not sure I conclude that 500 wt/ch was necessary. I don't listen loud -- very rarely above an average of 72-73 dB -- to boot my favorite genre is chamber music.

    My other reservation would be about going back to an integrated. Not long ago I was using a Bel Canto eVo2i: the major the reason I sold it was that it didn't have an effective processor loop (or tape loop that worked that way). Also, I wanted to try a different sound, (like the Monarchys), and separates would make swap easier.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722
    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    the major the reason I sold it was that it didn't have an effective processor loop (or tape loop that worked that way).
    Ah - well that's one benefit of digital. I do all the processing purely in the digital domain, before the signal even gets to the preamp.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  8. #8
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Posts
    3,275
    Maybe I missed it....... If not, then tell us about the 3.6R. Please?

  9. #9
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722
    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Maybe I missed it....... If not, then tell us about the 3.6R. Please?
    I'm going to write something soon. I've had them for a month now, been breaking them in and doing various tweaking. It's taken some time to smooth it out, but in the last week or so they've been sounding absolutely glorious. It seems like the bass only now just opened up.

    I'll try to post a review by this weekend.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  10. #10
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Posts
    3,275
    That's awesome, and no hurry cuz we just wanna hear your real opinion. We'll be looking forward to it, and congrats to you Mike.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    SF Bay Area, CA
    Posts
    722
    Here you go, by popular demand!

    Review of the Magnepan 3.6Rs
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •