Muse Model 150 monoblock power amplifier Page 2
Through the Muse monoblocks, bass reproduction was exceptionally tight and well-defined. This is perhaps the 150s' most salient characteristic. Mid- and upper-bass frequencies approached the liquidity of tubes, while the extreme bottom was tight and punchy, a characteristic more commonly associated with solid-state electronics. Pitch was clearly defined, with each note distinct from others. Midbass had a warm, round fullness that was particularly pleasing. This was especially evident on John Pattituchi's acoustic bass on "So In Love" from the Chick Corea Akoustic Band CD (GRP GRD-9582). In addition, these amplifiers have exceptional LF dynamic impact. Bass transients were reproduced with depth and a fast attack, adding a certain "jump factor." Sustained low frequencies, like the pedal tones on Pictures at an Exhibition (Dorian DOR 90117), had weight and authority without a sense of strain. I find these characteristics important for musical satisfaction, provided the amplifier does everything else right.
The 150s had excellent spatial presentation, with a sense of air and depth. Female vocals became disembodied points between the speakers, distinct from other instruments. Instrumental outlines were well-defined, with a decided impression of front-to-rear perspective. The soundstage was very wide, creating the impression of the speakers disappearing into the music. Although the Muses did not match the VTL 225W DeLuxe monoblocks that I also review in this issue in soundstaging, they were vastly superior to the Silver Seven-ts.
Midrange was smooth and uncolored, without glare or graininess. The Muses did impart some veiling when compared with the VTL 225W monoblocks, however. In general, the presentation tended to be slightly forward rather than laid-back, giving an immediacy to music. The Muse monoblocks achieved a certain midrange liquidity and soundstage depth of tubes, but one would never mistake their detailed, somewhat etched treble performance for tubes.
One characteristic of the 150s that perplexed me was the sheer amount of detail, especially in the upper registers. I say perplexed because although I heard nuance and detail I had not heard before, I found this analytical presentation less musical on some recordings. Do I prefer a less accurate rendering, or do these amplifiers exaggerate detail? I don't know. At any rate, this ability to render extraordinarily fine detail gave the upper octaves a dry, etched, forward character that was not always pleasant. I must add that the high-frequency presentation was not accompanied by the hash and harshness I so disliked in the Silver Seven-ts. Instead, HF textures, although clean, tended to be hard rather than liquid. Music was presented like sharp, vivid colors in a clear crystal. Perhaps the rush I got from listening to my jazz recording through the Muse monoblocks was partially the result of this detailed character.
Overall, I found the Muse 150 monoblocks to be very enjoyable. They combined an excellent sense of spatial perspective, tight, well-controlled bass, and a very natural, liquid midrange. They did lack the ultimate transparency of the VTL 225Ws, especially in the midrange, but one must consider that the Muses are less than half the price of the 225Ws. Considering their performance/cost ratio, I find the Muse monoblocks a bargain.
The treble's analytical, detailed character may not be to everyone's liking, however. These amplifiers would probably not be a good combination with overly bright or forward speakers. Instead, they seem perfectly matched for, say, Apogees with their difficult-to-drive impedance, high current demands, and laid-back treble presentation. You would be wise to audition the Muse with your loudspeakers. I suspect that with a synergistic speaker, they would be stunning.
In addition, I was impressed by the solid construction of the 150s. They seem designed and built with a philosophy of overbuilding, rather than one of trying to get by with the minimum cost required to achieve a specified power output. The six output devices per rail, for example, are more than adequate to achieve the amplifier's rated power. Usually, a caveat about buying the first hi-fi product from a small company would accompany a review: Many first products from small companies have been notoriously unreliable. In light of Muse's nine-year track record where reliability is paramountbuilding professional amplifiersI have no reservations about recommending the 150.
The Muse monoblocks are very different from another amplifier I like quite a bit, the Music Reference RM-9 ($2450 with EL34s, $2750 with KT88s). The Muses lack the silky textures and treble liquidity of the RM-9, but have much greater dynamic impact, tighter bass, and extraordinarily more detail. In addition, the Muses would be better at driving difficult loads. The message: carefully match the amplifier with the loudspeaker.
Muse Electronics has a winner with the Model One Hundred Fifty monoblock, their first entry in the hi-fi arena, in my opinion. Considering its many sonic merits and reasonable price, I can give it a recommendation. Many successful companies have been launched with far less auspicious products.