Music Reference RM-200 power amplifier Page 4

Changes
As the RM-200 came set up for them, I did most of my listening with the Chinese KT88s—or, as Modjeski described them to me in an e-mail, "the much-maligned KT88s." I also used my reference Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway II interconnect and Magic Woofer speaker cable, as well as Synergistic Research's ultra-detailed Designer's Reference Coupler AC cord. Before trying the more expensive 6550s, I experimented with some cables.

I need to digress for a minute. Recently, a press liaison for a mainstream speaker manufacturer paid a visit, bringing with him a new $1500/pair full-range speaker to hear in my listening room. When I told him I wanted to change an AC cable, he scoffed, especially since it would be plugged into the PS Audio P600 (which I used during the review because it always makes things sound better). But he went along, humoring me. After the switch, it was obvious to me that there was more detail, air, high-frequency extension, and greater stage width.

"So, did you hear anything?"

"You know," he said with great hesitation, "I could swear it sounds brighter, with more air, and the soundstage appears wider, but I could be imagining it."

"Well, we both imagined the same thing independently," I shot back. He may not be convinced, but he's certainly thinking about it!

Switching to the JPS Labs Kaptovator AC cord tightened up the RM-200's bass slightly at the expense of a bit of top-end extension, speed, and detail: a worthwhile tradeoff. I then substituted the Discovery Essence speaker cable and interconnect and gained back the speed and detail without giving up much of anything else. These were subtle changes, but the result was an improved foundation and a slight gain in speed and transparency on top, with not much taken off the cushy midrange.

Roger Modjeski told me that the big problem with the Chinese KT88s is quality control. He carefully selects the ones he sells. Substituting 6550s adds $200 to the RM-200's price, and I don't recommend it. I found the 6550s hardened the sound and added an unwanted glare to the upper mids, robbing the presentation of a great deal of its harmonic and textural magic.

Conclusions
Of the four power amplifiers I've reviewed in the past half year, the RM-200 is my favorite. I admired its conservative looks and seemingly bulletproof design. It may not have been as dramatic- or big-sounding as the Kora Cosmos, or as weighty and tightly wound on bottom as the Hovland Sapphire, but it sang sweetly and with great delicacy while still managing to grip the signal with enough authority to do justice to every kind of music. Its spatial presentation and overall transparency were exemplary, and on a par with my reference Nu-Vista 300, which excels in those areas. It was especially adept at layering 3D images in three-dimensional space without spotlighting or tacking on artificial "edge definition." In addition, the RM-200 costs a very reasonable $3450.

The RM-200 may or may not meet its rated power specification, but in my system it delivered the dynamic goods at both ends of the scale. If it can manage 100Wpc from two pairs of KT88s, that would be a pleasant surprise—as would overall positive test-bench results! Whether or not its power is sufficient to your needs I can't say, but I'm mighty tempted to own the RM-200 as a secondary reference. It's a real sleeper at a real-world price.

COMPANY INFO
Music Reference
PO Box 40807
Santa Barbara, CA 93140
(805) 687-2236
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