Melos SHA-1 headphone amplifier Page 5

The first thing that struck me about the Melos's preamp performance was the utter clarity, the clear sense of ease throughout the entire frequency range. I know it sounds like I'm not being that critical, but the Melos just doesn't seem to have any problems that you can point to and say, "Ah-HA! There's a weak spot!" Instead, I found myself listening to record after record, CD after CD, saying "Ah-HA! Now, what was I trying to listen for again? Aw nuts, I wanna hear '1983: A Merman I Should Turn To Be' float through the room one more time!"

As for the minute differences I heard between the Melos and my buffered preamp when driving headphones, the differences were swamped by room noise, speaker overhang, amplifier coloration, etc. when I compared them as preamps in my system. The only time I ever noticed anything significantly different between the two units was when I played Bob Harley's acoustic guitar track off Stereophile's Test CD 2, and the low-frequency WHUMP (door slam? David Manley kicking a Krell?) coming from way offstage at exactly 19 seconds into the track came across as slightly less powerful via the Melos than with my preamp.

In short, the Melos KICKS ASS! It does nothing to alter the ambient soundfield in any way when compared to a direct hookup of the Theta DS Pro Basic II feeding the Muse subwoofer and VTL 225s; whatever soundstage depth is coming out of your source, the Melos will pass it along unscathed. Bob's guitar track reproduced as vividly as ever, with the walls of the Manley studio very obvious in their placement and size. Even Muddy Waters and the twentysomething Buddy Guy on Muddy's Folk Singer (Chess/MCA LP CH-9261) sounded properly fleshed-out, their acoustic guitars ringing through the old Chess studio with a sense of palpability that surprises me every time I play it.

It's only got two inputs. There's no tape loop. And your friends won't take you seriously as an audiophile anymore if you start using a $995 headphone amplifier for a preamp, especially one whose designer told me that its line-level preamp capability was just "thrown in" as an extra.

Why the Melos SHA-1 works so well as a preamp I don't know. Maybe the very fact that it's such a simple circuit has something to do with it. In fact, George Bischoff considers the sound of the SHA-1 as a preamp to be only as good as his lowest-priced preamp, the $1195 MA110/B line stage; God only knows what Melos's real preamps sound like; if I get my way some time soon, I'll let you know (footnote 5).

In the meantime, if you can make do with only two inputs and the need to screw around with cables when you wanna make tapes for your car, I can't recommend the Melos SHA-1 highly enough. It's as good or better than any preamp I've heard at any price. Is it a Class A contender? I and I think so; what about you, JA-mon rastafaree?

And if you own the Grado headphones, or any other high-quality dynamic set, you simply have no choice but to get the Melos SHA-1 to complete the loop. If you want to hear everything that the Grados are capable of and everything that's lurking down there near the noise floor, the Melos SHA-1 is the only way to go; the closest thing yet to sticking your interconnects straight into your ears.

Footnote 5: I'll also ask Him what lengths of TARA's new RSC speaker cable He uses, and whether or not thou needst to bi-wire.—Corey Greenberg
111 South Valley View Blvd. Suite A-217
Las Vegas, NV 89102
(702) 248-6745