EAR/Yoshino M100A monoblock power amplifier Page 4

In due course, the report came back from Mr. Meinwald: "Jonathan, the amps were victims of excessive handling." Oh, the bad jokes that beckon! Rowan Atkinson muzzled! Meinwald gamely ticked off the lurid details: "Well, these were the first production pair, and they'd been all over Germany, then back to the UK. There converted to 110V operation and shipped to me in California. I took them to and from Las Vegas CES, then, following a short break, it was off to New York for Home Entertainment 2001 in May, where they worked flawlessly."

The plan had been to schlep them from HE2001 down to the Tens, aka the Sculls, aka the Murphys—as in Law. That final leg did it. The amplifiers broke—not enough to kill them, but enough to restrict their maximum power except under very limited conditions.

Back in Blighty, TdP examined the amplifiers and discovered cold solder joints. TdP attempted to explain, putting real English into it, "This was partly due to handling, but was also due to the work that had been done after their assembly at the factory." There was no "ahem" in the note, but there might as well have been.

Sonic Youth
Oh no! They're back! And all the meters worked, even though the amplifiers still ran pretty hot—just not as hot as before. Once I'd resumed listening, the first thing that trapped me—welded me to my listening chair—was the M100As' immediate intimacy, engendered by their extreme transparency and speed, with an unencumbered, unvarnished sense of musical reproduction. I had no sense that the dynamics were being restricted, as they had been before. There was headroom to spare.

I put on my thinking cap and Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington (Roulette 5 22445547 2), sat down, and listened at highish volume to the opening of "Mood Indigo." Armstrong's trumpet was front and center; the M100As got him so right. (Get it wrong here and this recording really rates a Bronx Cheer!)

About a minute in there's a clarinet solo by Barney Bigard that sounded so sweet and lovely it pulled my heartstrings. The entirety of the music was perfectly formed, the acoustic bass walking the line, Duke sketchin' at the piano, and then the voice—Louis, the Man, emerging from deep center stage. All the hairs on my body stood straight up. (It looked kinda freaky, I tells ya.) I hope I can be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Armstrong was singing to me. The midrange was luscious enough to give a conservative rabbi a heart attack.

In the next track, the sublime "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," one of the lyrics is "And you'll never hear from me!" The tonal color, the spaciousness, the air, the clean but not quite velvety midrange, the image separation, the extension—all were truly world-class.

One of my favorite old LPs is the Ray Bryant Trio's All Blues (Pablo 2310 820), especially "Billie's Bounce." It's a softer sound than the Armstrong/Ellington disc, and the M100As cut it like a hot butter knife in an unvarnished, no-mess-jes'-the-facts-ma'am reproduction that served this slightly old and syrupy Pablo very well. Enchanting on LP, the piano tone was as good as it gets via the M100As, the spatial sense even greater than digital's. What a treat. Still, while this recording is sweeter and softer up top, the amps didn't sound sweet. They just sounded like music.

Back to digital. Don't miss Count Basie Encounters Oscar Peterson, Satch, and Josh (Pablo OJCD-959-2)—or, for that matter, Oscar Peterson and Count Basie, Satch, and Josh...Again (Pablo OJCD-960-2). At 4:11 into track 1 of Again, when John Heard begins his bass solo, the man walks—no, he dances with his bass! Listen to how it comes across on your rig. It should have you dancin' all by yourself, no matter who's watching. While the soundstage is wide as all get-out, there's no terribly deep bass—an element of the recording and a slight lack in the M100A itself, down deep where the Linn Klimax and Krell FPB 350MCs are kings.

Nevertheless, the sound of the bass was taut and controlled. I got a strong sense of the fundamentals down below, with their harmonics intact. But the fundamentals seemed to form a faster, thinner teardrop of harmonics behind them, so to speak. And because the harmonics were there, "hidden" by the the fundamental, wrapping around it very fast, the M100As didn't sound dry at all, but very fast. At least, that's what I think was goin' on.

The effect was similar up top. Cymbals were a perfect example: they sounded fast, and tingly on the above recordings, and nothing like splashy noise—pure, metallic, fast, shimmery, and full of life. And the midrange never drew attention to itself in undue manner.

The M100A's sound was very much like that of the Cary CAD-1610-SE (reviewed in the December 2000 issue)—another single-ended (but tubed) monoblock whose measurements gave John Atkinson fits. In the case of the Cary, I had the lush-sounding Audio Research Reference 2 preamplifier on hand, which worked well at getting rid of the somewhat astringent sound the Carys produced with other preamps. In this case, the Conrad-Johnson 17LS proved a synergistic match with the Paravicini amplifier.

The second sample suffered from none of the dynamic-range problems that had afflicted the first. Yes, the M100A's dynamics were very good, but not the most slammin' I've heard in the bass. But man, these amplifiers did space, separation, air, and sense of place like no other I'd ever heard.

You want refinement? You want music? You want the EAR M100As.