Modwright Instruments LS 100 Preamp and KWA 100SE Amplifier

by admin on December 13, 2011 · 13 comments

in Amplifiers, Preamplifiers, Stars

by Andy Fawcett

“All roads are long that lead towards one’s heart’s desire.” Joseph Conrad

I’m tempted to state that Modwright burst onto the High End scene in 2009 unannounced, with the release of their KWA150 amplifier … but it isn’t quite true. A well-established modifier of OEM equipment – typically involving gear leaving the factory in Amboy, Washington, with more tubes than it had entered – Dan Wright also offered a range of plainly dressed but high value preamp and phono stage designs, all of them tube-based, which had garnered some very positive attention. When it came time for Modwright to release their first power amplifier, the shock of the KWA150’s arrival was two-fold; cosmetically and sonically it represented a bold assault on a market sector long the province of hallowed names like Krell, Audio Research and Mark Levinson … and it didn’t use any tubes at all!

The company pulled a similar surprise with the KWA100 amplifier that followed in 2010; two-thirds the size and rated power, and half the price, this was not a downscaled version of the KWA150 but an entirely new design, based around the tube lover’s favourite solid state device – MOSFETs. Buyers have all but ignored this model, though, in favour of the Special Edition variant, which offers a compelling range of enhancements and parts upgrades for a surprisingly modest upcharge. It’s possible to buy the base model and upgrade it later without financial penalty, but given the enthusiastic reception for the Special Edition (along with reports that its performance is uncomfortably close to the 150’s!), red-blooded audiophiles have chosen not to wait.

The LS100 is an example of a product that, not so many years ago, looked to be as dead as vinyl LPs – the full-featured, active line stage. Built into the same case as the matching power amplifier, it is an all-new design that traces its evolutionary roots back through the company’s SWL9.0 range of preamplifiers, and uses a pair of 6SN7 output tubes with a single 5AR4 rectifier. Offering full remote control of input switching and volume, and a high quality headphone output, the LS100 also has space for either an optional onboard tube phono stage or soon-to-be-released DAC module. Vinyl is no longer my main source but it remains the best sound I can make, so I asked for the phono board to be included.

In Use

These really are handsome beasts – photos do not do them justice! My preferred black finish sported impeccable anodising, with lettering picked out in the silver base; combined with the flawlessly machined, non-resonant aluminium casework and backlit company logo, it makes a statement that is eyecatching and elegant but also reasonably discrete. Even the hairshirt enthusiast can pardon such frippery when form follows function and, despite both units kicking out a reasonable amount of heat, their well ventilated cases allow for relatively cool running. The need to remove twenty screws before the preamp’s lid can be lifted for tube insertion is made less onerous by the opportunity to savour a view of its internals; component and construction quality is extremely high throughout, earning effusive praise from a technician friend. Five year warranties confirm the company’s faith in their handiwork.

The tubes provided – a Sovtek rectifier and TungSol 6SN7s – are decent quality current production and matched at the factory, their conservative biasing predicting a long operating life. Note that only half of each double-triode 6SN7 is used; I put up with an audible channel imbalance for several weeks before thinking to reverse their positions, at which point the stereo image snapped into focus and singers returned to stage centre.

The LS100’s dimensions are reminiscent of the classic Audio Research preamps, and it is a very marginal fit in my rack. Its height is mandated by an oversized, vertically-mounted transformer at the front, though this provides plenty of room for rolling in alternative tubes and, by spreading the rear panel socketry across almost the entire chassis width, acres of space for oversized cables. Strangely, the Tiffany-style RCA sockets appeared to be fractionally undersized, in that my (non-locking) interconnects made an acceptable but less than snug fit.

Modwright LS 100 internals.

Modwright LS 100 internals.

The LS100 is generously equipped with five pairs of line-level inputs and three pairs of outputs (one of each via XLR sockets), plus a tape monitor loop, Home Theatre Bypass and remote trigger outputs. Despite operating as a single-ended device, the XLR input does allow you to connect a balanced source component with your existing XLR-terminated cables, while utilising the XLR output achieves a pseudo-balanced connection to the KWA100. Beyond that, there is much more evidence of clever thinking. The balance pot can be switched out of circuit to eliminate sonic degradation, this controllable from the remote though the balance level itself is not (nor, in fairness, does it need to be). Buffering the output from the signal tubes has also allowed a very high quality headphone output to be provided, again without compromising ultimate 2-channel performance.

The small, lightweight plastic remote control is intuitively laid out and replicates all switching functions (except the HTBP); while the company now sells a more luxurious metal option for $200, I appreciated the stock item’s ability to sit almost unnoticed in the hand, ready for when a dab or two of volume was required. The motorised analogue ALPS pot traverses its full travel in 45 discrete steps, an improvement on the 30 steps of early production models. With normal CD listening around the 11 o’clock mark in my system, those extra steps provide a good range of useable volume and decent control at lower levels, though one owner of very sensitive speakers that I spoke to found otherwise. I do feel that the trend towards higher sensitivity, tube-friendly speakers really mandates hi/lo switchable gain levels on modern preamps.

Modwright LS 100 rear panel

Modwright LS 100 rear panel

Identically-dimensioned but, predictably, substantially heavier than the preamp at around 45lbs, the KWA100SE’s clean-cut profile is achieved by using internal heatsinks, though bolting the aluminium casework directly to them effectively harnesses the entire chassis for dispersing heat. While the speaker terminals are the plastic-covered type which prevent firm tightening, they thankfully omit the shrouds for spade connectors that prove so irritating. Both balanced and single-ended inputs are offered, along with a convenient ground lift switch, though there is no remote triggering to match the LS100’s. With a cut-out rocker on the rear panel, power switching is controlled by an electronic switch on the left front underside, which keeps the front fascia unblemished.

The amp’s Special Edition upgrades include a slew of high grade resistors and the company’s proprietary capacitors (also used extensively in the preamp), a doubling of reservoir capacitance to 180,000 microfarads and the use of five pairs of output devices per channel instead of three. Surprisingly, Modwright does not specify increased power output as a result of all this, quoting the same 100W into 8 ohms and 200W into 4 ohms as the base model … though figures recently published on the company’s website (in the ‘Product Comparisons’ section) do acknowledge an increase in measured power to 130W, a 20W advantage over the base model.

Other specifications which have previously been elusive appear in this section also, such as input sensitivity (a little lower than average at 1.5V) and power consumption. The amp incorporates multiple levels of protection circuitry, which I managed to trip once by powering the preamp up when the KWA100SE was already running … but it only required 10 seconds to reset itself and all was well.

Both units mute their outputs on power-up, allowing a stable operating condition to be reached gradually, but behave in a quite different fashion. The LS100 winds its volume down to zero and sits demurely for some 30 seconds, while the KWA100SE flashes its lights furiously for a full minute before settling down. It’s all harmless fun, like the power amp’s blue internal lighting which does very little when the amp is in a rack, but otherwise looks cool and presumably casts ghostly shadows on your ceiling! At least it is switchable, unlike the illuminated company logo, though I doubt its soft glow could ever cause annoyance. I did have an issue with the LS100’s front panel input selection LEDs, finding them ferociously bright when it was placed directly at eye level, but fine when viewed from an angle. The lack of a marked scale on the volume pot also made it difficult to precisely replicate volume settings during A/B testing of peripherals, but that’s probably just me picking nits!

Sound Quality

This evaluation has stretched over the better part of a year, so I feel like I’ve really got to know the amps inside-out. Why so long? Well, after four months I was ready to publish, until a belated trial of the LS100’s headphone output revealed that it wasn’t working. Traced to a one-off fault in an early production sample, Dan Wright had made some changes to the phono stage in the interim and decided to send over a new unit. As it transpired, there had been some subtle changes to the line stage too which resulted in worthwhile improvement; unless indicated otherwise, all specifics in this review refer to the newer sample. I’d also changed my speaker cable which, in the normal course of events, wouldn’t merit a mention … but in this case, forced me to tear up several months’ worth of listening notes and start again! Add the very extended burn-in periods into the mix, and the months soon fly by.

Modwright KWA 100SE rear panel.

Ah yes – burn-in. The company quotes around 400 hours for their impressive looking polypropylene capacitors to cure, with the phono stage requiring even longer. Thanks to my indispensible Granite Audio Phono Burn-In CD, that involved little more than leaving the disc playing through the phono stage every night for several weeks; as I don’t have a second system, there was no way to avoid monitoring progress.

Both components sounded from brand new the way most electronics do – foggy and bandwidth-limited – but with them both burning in together all I can really say is that there definitely were improvements out to and beyond the 400 hour mark; including a memorable interlude when they adopted a syrupy ‘vintage’ tube sound that, for all its inaccuracy, was a lot of fun!

It also took very little time to establish that the LS100 is sensitive to its power cord, though that is not in itself, of course, anything unusual. To get running quickly, I had grabbed a $2 generic cord and thought no more about it … but was troubled by an unsettling phasiness to the sound that disappeared when a decent cord was substituted. Significant improvements were apparent when an even better lead (a prototype model, not commercially available) was tried some time later, so this is an area that’s ripe for investigation by owners.

When the replacement LS100 arrived, installing it proved just how radically the first unit’s performance had improved with extended use – no amount of burn-in scepticism can withstand this simple demonstration! In time, the newer model showed itself to have significantly greater grip and control, its presentation faster, more precise and dynamic. With a known objective to aim at the second time around, it can confidently state that it took 550 hours of running for the preamp to really hit its straps, and a (carefully logged) 750 hours for harmonic structures to be fully resolved. Hopefully, owners will appreciate the warning, but don’t let it stop you from savouring the LS100’s sound in the interim; while I had to wait for the full banquet, some tasty morsels were on offer right from the get-go.

What impressed me most was the timbral fidelity, naturally recorded acoustic instruments being rendered with extreme realism. My own particular bugbear is with the reproduction of acoustic guitar, as virtually no audio system I’ve heard (and the most expensive can be among the worst!) seems to be able to get it right – typically sounding bloated, hard and exaggerated compared to real life. The Modwrights struck me as demonstrably the finest, most accurate purveyors of acoustic guitar I’ve ever experienced, and were no less successful with other instruments or with human voice, whose openness and lack of thickening or chestiness exposed the weakness of my own preamp in this regard.

In other respects, I felt that the LS100 typified the ‘modern tube sound’ that has emerged during the current tube renaissance; characterised by a solid-state level of technical competence and relative ‘accuracy’, with the more fleshed-out and palpable sound of tubes. It is a subject that polarises opinions, yet I have tended to occupy the neutral middle ground – harbouring a fondness for tube sound while believing that the finest solid state designs can be every bit as musical. I haven’t completely abandoned that position, but the ability of tubes to inject a little extra warmth and texture into a sound that appears tonally authentic is an addictive trait that will always be difficult for solid state to emulate. On the flip side, they typically also produce increased noise; I could detect a very subdued level of hiss and hum with the volume turned well up and my ear hard against the speaker, but certainly nothing that was of any practical significance.

My abject hatred of brightness in reproduced sound is on the record, so I was delighted with the amp’s smooth, extended top end and excellent reproduction of high harmonics, lending its sound a subliminal beauty that made listening a pure pleasure. Soundstaging is another great strength of the Modwright combo, not just in its sheer dimensions but also the very organic, ‘liquid’ sense of continuity to the presentation. There has always been a tendency for audiophiles to mistake flat, sharply-delineated images on a ‘black’ background as high-fidelity … studio recordings can sound like that but live music never does, and nor did the Modwrights when reproducing it.

In terms of its functionality, operation and sonics, a key word for the LS100 is ‘versatile’. I don’t need a lot of what it can do right now, but do like the fact that whatever direction I choose to head off in down the track, the amp can likely accommodate it. After years of constantly leaping out of the listening chair and bounding across the room to adjust volume, all in the name of ‘purism’, remote control was a godsend and the ALPS volume pot is a much more transparent device than the ones they were making a few years back. Sonically, the amps were extremely unfussy, being equally happy with any and all genres of music and very tolerant of poorer recordings. I prize this quality highly, as many of us subconsciously shape our listening choices around our system’s deficiencies, yet I was able to explore my CD racks without inhibition! The Modwrights’ broad electrical compatibility also allowed them to play happily with other components, though inevitably they were at their best in combination.

Modwright KWA 100SE internals.

I have said little to this point of the KWA100SE, and that’s down to the fact that it did exactly what any top-flight amplifier should – drew no attention to itself whatsoever! Yes, it did take several weeks of use to gain full control over its bass, confirming that the 400 hour burn-in guideline applies equally here.

Perhaps due to the effectiveness of its cooling, it also benefitted from warm-up time, achieving maximum performance after being powered up for an hour or so. Its sound is suffused with the mild warmth familiar from good MOSFET designs, a quality that virtually all listeners find endearing, though fortunately with no perceptible trace of the ‘MOSFET mist’ that can accompany it. Beyond this, I was never really aware of the amp ‘working’ and it is difficult to pin any specific character on it – whenever I thought I had, that trait would prove to have emanated from elsewhere in the system.

When used in combination, the original LS100 and KWA100SE had shown a noticeable bass excess that neither demonstrated in isolation; fortunately, it was largely ameliorated in the second sample of the LS100, and cured completely by a cable swap. Otherwise, the KWA100SE sounded tight, dynamic, transparent, spacious and coherent at all volume levels and never came close to running out of steam into the awkward load presented by my speakers, such that its modest 100W power rating seems essentially irrelevant to its real-world capabilities.

The strongest testimony to the amplifer’s virtues was, ultimately, the magnificent sound that poured from my loudspeakers! If the LS100 won me over to the tube side of the argument in pre-amp terms, the KWA100SE only reinforced my prejudice against high-output tube power amps; for all of their heat emission, potential unreliability and the cost of periodic tube replacement, the warm, inviting, sublimely musical and utterly trouble-free KWA100SE really makes you wonder why you’d bother (though our Audio Research owning editor is bound to disagree)!

The Antipodes Factor

Usually, I evaluate only one product at a time to ensure that any audible changes are isolated to that single cause. Due to the overrun with the Modwrights, a set of Antipodes Audio Komako speaker cables arrived at the mid-point of my testing … which wouldn’t merit comment if they hadn’t so completely (and, in some respects, so inexplicably) transformed every aspect of the amplifiers’ performance. For instance – when using my original speaker cables (a fine, easily recommendable mid-market model) I had been troubled with a lack of transparency in the LS100 relative to my own preamp … yet, once the speaker cable was swapped and the comparison repeated, that finding reversed and the Modwright now demonstrated a withering and much superior transparency. The mild bass excess previously apparent from the amps in combination was also banished completely.

I was already using the Komako interconnects, whose profound synergy with the Modwrights’ sound is undeniable. With the addition of the speaker cable, in every respect – dynamics, resolution, soundstaging, bass impact and control, coherence and pacing – the Modwright combo was elevated from merely fine performers in their price range, to contenders in the genuine super league.

The Antipodes cables uniquely pursue the goal of complete phase and time-domain accuracy, so it is quite possible that inherently fine phase coherence in the Modwright gear is at the root of this astonishing transformation. In so far as a reviewer endeavours to provide a system context within which the components under evaluation can strut their stuff, then I have arguably only heard the Modwrights at their best; yet it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge that, if you want to replicate the results I achieved (and, believe me, you do!), I have heard no other cables – even at several multiples of the price – that will get you even close.

Phono Stage

Dwelling on generalities for a moment, the economic and practical argument in favour of an onboard phono stage is compelling. You save shelf space, the cost of an extra power cord and set of interconnects, reduce the number of breaks in the signal chain and, by removing the need for a case and power supply, get much the same circuitry for a fraction of the cost of a standalone unit.

The LS100’s optional, retrofittable phono card is derived from (and claimed to surpass) the old SWP 9.0SE phono stage, a well-reviewed $3K device. It comes densely packed with very high quality, all discrete components, including several of the company’s own capacitors, and is constructed with obvious care and attention to detail. Its two twin-triode tubes (a 12AU7 and 12AX7) are mounted amidships, current production being supplied with JJ brand tubes, while early samples like mine were the beneficiaries of Dan’s remaining personal stock of JAN NOS tubes.

The board is permanently powered while the LS100 is operating, but anticipated tube life is so long that this is of no concern, and it does mean that your phono input is always primed for action. Board-mounted dip switches provide loadings of 50, 100, 500, 1K or 47Kohm, with the option of 100pf of capacitance. The need to open the amp up to get at them is really the only compromise, relative to outboard devices offering external access.

Total available gain, including the line stage, is 70dB which could prove insufficient for the very lowest output MC cartridges, and the possibility of offering optional step-up transformers for additional gain was under investigation at one point. Unusually, there is no switch to select between MM and MC; the headroom is sufficient to handle both and, while you’d imagine that this might result in excessive gain when using a MM cartridge, it wasn’t something I could test. High-gain tubed phono stages are notorious for their noise and, with the volume set to my typically high listening level, hiss and hum were audible when immediately proximate to a speaker, but not at all from the listening chair.

The phono stage sounded competent but unremarkable from brand new; listening at weekly intervals to monitor progress showed clear and continuing gains as the hours accumulated, so owners ignore this at their peril. With the benefit of 500+ hours of optimised burn-in, courtesy of my Granite Audio disc, the original sample offered a disarming sense of infinite resolution, along with immensely precise soundstaging and a startling dynamic capability – I remember playing Michael Hedges’ “Rickover’s Dream” and thinking that those string slaps on his acoustic guitar were probably the most dynamic thing I’d ever heard come out of a loudspeaker!

The overall purity of its sound, particularly the sparkling high harmonics, lent an ephemeral sense of delicacy and beauty that was utterly beguiling with all acoustic music, while the gloriously expressive ‘plumminess’ of its low frequencies reminded me why many enthuse about analogue bass. It was very kind to what little surface noise there is on my pampered vinyl and – one of the acid tests for a phono stage – proved effortlessly capable of focussing a huge localised transient without the soundstage collapsing. Against all of these positives were only a couple of negatives; a sense of politeness or restraint, detected in a lack of drive which undermined the physicality of rock music, and gain that was always adequate for my 0.4mV moving coil cartridge but suggested that lower output or less sensitive speakers could soon have made the situation marginal.

Dan Wright must have heard things much the same. His updated phono stage showed very little visible sign of modification, but immediately demonstrated a worthwhile increase in gain and an obviously punchier, more robust sound. That gave rock music a much-needed kick in the pants, and was a more artful compromise overall, extending the same sense of even-handed consistency across all musical genres that the line stage has.

In virtually every other respect, the second phono stage equalled or surpassed the first; in technical parameters like coherence, rhythmic drive, control, treble ‘bite’, bass ‘slam’ and image specificity it was clearly ahead. All that was missing was the almost indefinable sense of shimmering beauty which had so enriched the listening experience; I continued the phono stage burn-in out to almost 650 hours without finding it, and it only eventually arrived as the final step of line stage burn-in, at which point I accepted the updated phono board as an unmitigated improvement over its immediate predecessor.

To this juncture, I had felt no compunction to experiment with cartridge loading; the board’s default 100 ohm / zero capacitance setting is manufacturer-specified for my cartridge and, by common consent, optimal for the majority of MC designs. Removing and re-inserting twenty screws to lift the LS100’s lid can also get old quite quickly! Dan had tipped me off that some MC users prefer running the board at its ‘wide-open’ 47K MM setting so, despite the difficulty of rapid A/B comparison and precise volume matching, I gave it a try … and heard some things I really liked! A very smooth, well-integrated sound with bags of presence, dynamics and detail resolution was, for me, ultimately derailed by a rolled-off treble and lack of image depth. I returned to the 100 ohm loading with just a hint of regret; I’m sure it’s an experiment I’ll repeat somewhere down the track.

I had initially intended to get hold of a dedicated $1000 phono stage to provide a point of comparison, but couldn’t – which was for the best, as that is clearly not the territory the Modwright phono card occupies. If you use vinyl as a primary source you may have special requirements for multiple inputs, or a strong preference for easily-selectable loading options that justifies major expenditure on a standalone phono stage; for all other LS100 owners, an outlay of $800 will score you a top grade tube device that sounds spectacular and, I believe, competes strongly with outboard units in the $3K bracket … just as its heritage would lead you to expect.

Headphone Output

Where headphones are concerned, I have remained resolutely a child of the ‘70s; a time before widespread music on the move, when a headphone socket was like the mark of Cain for any amplifier with true audiophile pretensions! While still immune to the appeal of MP3 players, I’ve increasingly recognised that the ability to enjoy high quality music at unsociable hours would enrich my life. In the LS100, Modwright have provided a no-compromise headphone solution that pipes a buffered feed straight from the output tubes without affecting the integrity of its main stereo function … and that seemed like a cue to dive into the unfamiliar world of ‘cans’.

It was with some amusement that I discovered headphone aficionados are even more incapable of agreeing on anything than their stereo counterparts, which didn’t make the task of choosing a pair any easier! As one who has always intensely disliked the sensation of having sound beamed forcibly into the ears, the AKG K702 soon emerged as a model reputed to offer spacious, out-of-head imaging; when a friend offered an unused pair for sale very cheaply, deal done.

Needless to say, as a headphone ‘virgin’ I can offer no enlightenment on the relative merits of the LS100’s headphone capability. I’m encouraged, though, by reports that it is fully competitive with dedicated headphone amplifiers carrying an equivalent price tag to the LS100 itself. In one sense that’s not surprising – take away the LS100’s extra inputs and switching, and the two devices would be quite similar – but it does confirm just how effectively the facility has been engineered. There was certainly plenty of gain for the notoriously hard-to-drive AKGs. Coming in with low expectations, the revelation for me is that headphone listening really can be enjoyable! The promise of highly detailed, smooth and tonally balanced sound without listening fatigue is realised, even if the claim of “out-of-head imaging” seems somewhat overstated.

Conclusion

After writing at such length on the Modwright LS100 preamp, it is discouraging to have to acknowledge that the ability to roll the tubes (with Dan Wright’s blessing) makes most of my findings provisional! Shocked by some of the inflated prices and fetishism surrounding NOS tubes, it was an area I’d intended to stay clear of. However, the online forums are abuzz with opinion and, like most enthusiasts, the lure of opening the hood and having a tinker proved too much for me. Though it’s still early days, there’s no doubt that substantial extra performance is available for a relatively modest outlay – in clear breach of the law of diminishing returns that usually applies at this level. Still, let’s leave all that for another time. At a retail price of US$3495, the LS100 offers a compelling blend of features, functionality, good looks, superb engineering and fabulous sound; adding the optional US$800 phono stage or upcoming DAC board (projected cost $1000) increases the value quotient still further.

The KWA100SE is the polar opposite, a box with a power switch that just does its thing and makes no fuss about it. It is almost a cliché to suggest that the perfect power amplifier would combine the grip and control of a megawatt solid state beast with the delicacy and musicality of a 300B tube amp but, if that’s your feeling too, do seek out an audition – I can’t think of another high power, solid state amp I’ve encountered for anywhere close to its US$4295 price that so artfully approximates this ideal. It may be coincidence, but I like to think that Modwright’s recent introduction of a ‘Special Edition’ modification package for the KWA150 is, in part, a response to the challenge raised by its sibling.

New amplifiers have been on my radar for several years now, but I’ve never quite been able to find what I’m looking for. Comparative listening is only a part of the story, for an amplifier’s ability to offer its owner long-term satisfaction isn’t determined by whether it is 2% more transparent or minutely more extended than a competitor. If that were true, we would instantly stop enjoying our systems the moment a fractionally superior product emerged! Instead, it is a combination of practical ergonomics, attractive cosmetics, high perceived value and a sound both technically meritorious and appealing to the ear, such that doing nothing more than sitting and listening to music is the most compelling option of all the many draws on our limited leisure time. In every one of these respects, the Modwright amplifiers are absolute winners … and I should know, I bought them! The cost is not small, but the LS100’s flexibility makes their value proposition very high, while their sound is close to the finest I have heard at any price.

[We are proud to award the Modwright Instruments LS 100 Preamp and KWA 100SE Amplifier Audiophilia Star Component Awards. Congratulations! - Ed]

Modwright Instruments LS 100 Preamp and KWA 100SE Amplifier

Manufactured by ModWright Instruments, Inc.
21919 NE 399th Street
Amboy, WA 98601

Contact Phone: +1 360.247.6688

email
website

Source of review sample: Distributor loan

Price:
LS 100 Preamplifier US$3495 ($4295 w/phono).
KWA 100SE Amplifier US$4295

Equipment

Analogue: Linn LP12, Lingo PS, Ittok LVII, Audio Technica OC30
Digital: Audia Flight CD Three
Amplification: Custom-built AC Magnum dual mono P200 pre & power
Speakers: Acoustat Spectra 1100 hybrid electrostatics
Headphones: AKG K702
Cables: Antipodes Audio Komako interconnects and speaker cable / MAC Burly, HC & Digital power cords
Accessories: Sound Mechanics Performance isolation platforms (on each source component), Target & Sound Organisation stands, Herbie’s Audio Labs isolation products, Caig ProGold, Belkin PF40 power conditioner, Granite Audio Phono Burn-in CD

Manufacturer’s Comment

I want to thank Andy Fawcett - reviewer, and Audiophilia, for such a thorough and heartfelt review of our LS 100 preamp and KWA 100SE amplifier. The thoroughness of the review in terms of technical information as well as reviewer’s listening impressions are very well received by the team of hard working U.S. craftsman at ModWright Instruments. Andy tapped into the heart of what audio is about….enjoyment of music! That is what we strive to provide for our customers…

Sincerely,

Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc (MWI)

{ 1 trackback }

NEW ModWright KWA100SE and LS100 review - AudioAficionado.org
12.15.11 at 3:26 pm

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

admin 12.13.11 at 7:27 pm

Now, that’s what I call a FULL review!

Great job, Andy. Thanks, a

Martin Appel 12.16.11 at 7:17 am

I concur. I’ll check them out at CES.
I also am having similar and wonderful results with the ANTIPODES cables in my system. They do take a long time to burn in and they seem to continue to improve.

Andy Fawcett 12.17.11 at 4:43 pm

Thanks for taking the trouble to wade through it all, guys. The new DAC board for the LS100 is set for a CES unveiling, I believe. Will you be filing a show report, Marty?

admin 12.17.11 at 10:00 pm

Andy, if you have a moment, please post up a shot of the phono stage in the Comments. Thanks.

Cheers, a

Martin Appel 12.18.11 at 5:42 am

Yes, Henry, Mike and yours truly will be producing a report.

admin 12.19.11 at 2:28 pm

Phono stage

Andy Fawcett 12.20.11 at 10:12 pm

I should just add that it’s the earlier version of the phono stage you see here - the later one (from mid-2011) dispenses with the tube cover. None of the photos I took of that came out so well, unfortunately.

John 12.22.11 at 5:50 pm

Hello Andy,

I enjoyed your review, so much so that I actually purchased an LS100, albeit, used. My question is: if someone owns an early version of the LS100, is it possible to have the updates/mods that would make it the equivelant of the current rendition?
thanks,
John

John 12.22.11 at 5:51 pm

Hello Andy,

I enjoyed your review, so much so that I actually purchased an LS100, albeit, used. My question is: if someone owns an early version of the LS100, is it possible to have the updates/mods that would make it the equivalent of the current rendition?
thanks,
John

Andy Fawcett 12.23.11 at 4:32 am

Thanks for those kind words, John, and I hope the LS100 brings you much pleasure. I felt it important for prospective owners (and later purchasers on the used market) to highlight differences between the two samples of the LS100. It is inevitable that companies will find ways to improve their product and manufacturing processes after an item has gone into production; some defer making any changes until an official ‘Mark II’ version, while others integrate improvements so that, at any point in time, the product they sell is the very best they can make. There are arguments both ways, but I’m convinced that customers are best served by the latter approach.

The short answer to your question is that I’ve no idea! However, there were certainly some changes to the layout of the main PCB, and I doubt it would be practical or economical to replace that. Replacement of the volume pot MAY be a simpler matter, but whether that improves sonics or just gives you more steps I don’t know. Try dropping Dan a line; you’ll find few more helpful and approachable.

John 12.23.11 at 11:09 am

Thanks, Andy and will do!

Glen 12.15.12 at 12:52 pm

Thanks for the review. MW products are not readily available in my area. I will keep them on my radar as my next upgrade draws near. Certainly many factors go into my choice of gear. These would seem to hit the marks in many ways for myself. I will welcome the chance to audition them in the future.

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