Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...

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modwright

Following is a well expressed review and feedback about our Ambrose A30, custom built, 30W, SE, Artisan Made tube Mono Blocks:




Dan: Here is a long overdue update on my experience with the Ambrose A30's:

The hallmark of the Ambrose A30's sound is tonal accuracy, neutrality, and free flowing music that sounds natural. I have the tubed mono blocks in three integrated systems. This works because the A30's are adaptive and flexible, fitted for many roles.

In its simplest form, I have the mono blocks driving Harbeth M30 monitors.The source is a Modwright modified Sony HAP1es which moves through a Modwright 9.0 preamp by way of an Integra 70.6 home theater receiver. All wires are by Wywires. The room is 13 x 13 and well damped.

This two channel stereo system is perfect for acoustic music and classic rock. "Time in a Bottle" by Jim Croce was a song he wrote before the birth of his son. But the words and events (Croce's death at age 30) turned the song into something more expansive. The tone and timbre of his voice must be captured truthfully to fully convey his universal sentiments. The Ambrose A30 amps and the Harbeth M30 monitors do this more accurately than anything I have heard. The two guitars and the harpsichord provide a haunting backdrop.

"Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen" by Santana uses a soundstage flanked by percussion well defined in comparison to the soaring guitar solos. The fusion of rock and Latin music is both brilliant in scope and beautiful to hear. As my installer, Mark Wheeland of Bowman Electronics noted, "All I can say is it is one of the most inviting systems. It pulls you in, and you don't want to leave." The stereo only system does well with many kinds of music, including jazz, roots and classical recordings.

We expand to system II by adding the surround sound channels - PSB Imagine II speakers run in parallel for the center (an idea from Mark) and PSB mini-Alphas for the side and back. Also included are two fine sounding subwoofers, the REL Britannia B-3 and the PSB SubSeries 450. This allows us to listen to large scale music, including, of course, movie soundtracks.

Take, for example, Dave Grusin's score for "Three Days of the Condor."
The movie has as its theme, "Maybe there is another CIA, inside the CIA." Grusin's soundtrack is a score within a score - mysterious jazz, moody love themes, and 1970's rhythm and blues. Dave Grusin on the Rhodes provides a fitting background for Max Von Sydow's recitation of post-Watergate espionage for the benefit of a very puzzled Robert Redford.  The solo sax background when the lovers depart is another effective use of a minimal but emotional musical backdrop to the cinematic story.

The Ambrose A30's and Harbeth M30 combo do especially well with strings, both in large and small settings. In "Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble," we get exceptional sound from the stringed instruments, especially the Cello. There are two reasons for this, in my opinion. The Ambrose A30's fit the Harbeth M30's like a glove. This, in turn, gives freedom to the concept of the Harbeth speakers, which is to allow proper bracing and other techniques to allow the sound coming out of the speakers to mimic the sounds of instruments. This works as well on large-scale productions such as the DVD, "Diana Krall: Live in Paris." The synergy works at both extremes.

Finally, we move to system III: Dolby Atmos. This is the most important recent development for home theater sound, in my humble opinion. You add four speakers to the ceiling for the sole purpose of the special effects. I do not know how it works but it does. "John Wick," "Gravity," the "Hunger Games," "Hacksaw Ridge," and especially "Mad Max (Fury Road)" provide good examples of the kind of realism that this new technology can produce. What does the Modwright preamp - Ambrose A30's - Harbeth M30 combination add to the experience? Both clarity and calmness. Dialogue is natural, clear, and simply put, part of the movie. In other words, you find yourself watching the movie, and not the sum of its parts.

In conclusion, finding equipment that works together well in various iterations takes time. I started with the Harbeths and built around them with an eye toward synergy. I got lucky with the Ambrose A30 tube amps. I knew the Harbeths would be flexible. I was pleased to find the new amps by Dan Wright, Jack Elliano, Lou Hinkley and Dave Palka to be so remarkably utilitarian. That is not the impression most people have of tube amps. Talented designers and unique products can change those impressions. That is what the AmbroseA30's tubed mono blocks did for me.





« Last Edit: 19 Apr 2017, 11:00 pm by modwright »

cheech

Dan,  it was nice to see in the July/August edition of The Absolute Sound that Andre Jennings selected your Ambrose One and Ambrose A30 Monoblocks as Most Significant Electronics Under $15K at Axpona.

Individually and collaboratively with Lou Hinckley of Daedalus you deserve the recognition; both of you allow the rest of us to enjoy the music via your talents and craftmanship! Thanks!


modwright

Thank you! I really appreciate that! I am pleased to be working with people like Lou of Daedalus Audio and Alex of WyWires and show together, systems that allow others to enjoy music to the fullest.  It is a pleasure to be in the company of men who share my passion for audio and excellence.

Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.

cheech

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #3 on: 11 Jun 2017, 10:10 pm »
Dan, are you going to update your website to add these amps , specs and all?

Wig

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #4 on: 11 Jun 2017, 10:41 pm »
Dan,

Outstanding! Any Tube Integrated Amps in the future?

Wig

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #5 on: 12 Jun 2017, 04:14 pm »
It is certainly possible.  The most popular design would likely be a 40W-60W P-P design, with EL34 or KTxx series tubes.  Our current designs are Single Ended and use zero feedback.  There is a magic there, but the iron is big and expensive and a 30W integrated version of the A30's woudl be quite heavy!

Please tell me what options, power, and price range is of interest to all of you and I will see what we can do.

Thanks,

Dan

Wig

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #6 on: 13 Jun 2017, 02:49 am »
Dan,

My Acoustic Zen Crescendos are moderately efficient at 90 Dbl and were driven quite well with a previous 85 Watts PP/Vac 160i but I'm currently using a 48 Watt SET (100 lbs) with good results, so something similarly in wattage.  Single-ended and maybe KT88s, it seems to be the sweet-spot in power beam tetrode but the design will dictate the tube choice...

Thanks,
Ron

cheech

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #7 on: 14 Jun 2017, 12:22 am »
Dan,

Since you asked about price point I'll offer the following for what it is worth:

Aside from my main system being driven by MW LS100 & KWA100SE, I decided about 18 months ago to give a SET integrated a try with my Argos V2s and settled on a Line Magnetic 518IA 845 based amp (80lbs or so of iron). Wig mentioned he has a 48W SET, looking at his system page it is the Line Magnetic 508IA (100 lbs of iron). The  prices these amps retail for are $4500, & $5000, respectively; they are built in China and are outstanding in build quality as well as  in sound especially after tube rolling. I haven't heard Raven Audio amps (made in Texas I believe) but they seem to get very good feedback , most are push pull (prices listed on its website. Obviously there are a lot of Prima Luna fans out there so at the very least it would be your competition as well with moderate pricing.

Any how just my 2 cents for whatever you may consider

jriggy

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #8 on: 14 Jun 2017, 04:13 pm »
Dan,

Since you asked about price point I'll offer the following for what it is worth:

Aside from my main system being driven by MW LS100 & KWA100SE, I decided about 18 months ago to give a SET integrated a try with my Argos V2s and settled on a Line Magnetic 518IA 845 based amp (80lbs or so of iron). Wig mentioned he has a 48W SET, looking at his system page it is the Line Magnetic 508IA (100 lbs of iron). The  prices these amps retail for are $4500, & $5000, respectively; they are built in China and are outstanding in build quality as well as  in sound especially after tube rolling. I haven't heard Raven Audio amps (made in Texas I believe) but they seem to get very good feedback , most are push pull (prices listed on its website. Obviously there are a lot of Prima Luna fans out there so at the very least it would be your competition as well with moderate pricing.

Any how just my 2 cents for whatever you may consider

The Ambrose --and its matching preamp-- are custom artisan made pieces. That has to cost something... I believe the amps and price point you are suggesting would be lower down a product line. Like you say, maybe closer to the "100" series. What is being discussed here would be close to a "top tier" for MWI.

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #9 on: 14 Jun 2017, 11:13 pm »
Hi, to answer your question, while the Ambrose products ARE top tier and custom made, this product would be less costly.

The original 10W Ambrose was $10K
The A30, 30W Class A mono blocks are $15K/pr (+$ for exotic hardwood).
The 845 DS mono blocks were released as Cost No Object exotic concept pieces at $50K/pr.  They were 845, 32W/CH, pure Class A, SE.

I am now considering a 30W-50W integrated that would possibly be SE, but more likely P-P. The 845's used in the Line Magnetic 518iA output about 22W.  Judging by the size of output transformers, I am surprised at the specs, but only because I know how big the power and output transformers were, that were used in our 845DS monos.  Then again, we ran the plates at 1200V and drove them into hard Class A to get 32W of power.

The limitation for an integrated of course, is size and weight.  I LOVE the sound of our A30 SE monos.  These use, surprisingly enough, parallel EL34 pure pentodes, run in pure Class A, Single Ended (not P-P) with zero feedback.  These transformers are BIG and HEAVY! Each mono block weighs about 45 lb.  It MAY be feasible to do this in an integrated with a few design changes.  I would have to look at it.

In order to keep costs within reason, I would also simplify the aesthetics and instead of Billet AL and dove-tail joined domestic hardwoods, handcrafted and oil-finished, I would go with a more conventional steel enclosure.  The BEST SOUND would be 20W - 30W of pure Class A, using the same parallel EL34 circuit.  I would need to look hard at cost and finished weight of such a product. My guess is that it would be hard to do this with the same high quality, hand-wound transformers and parts quality as we use in the Ambrose products, and not be over $7500 min.  This is why I ask about pricing.

The other option is a P-P circuit, using EL34's or KTxx series tubes.  Here, 50W would be much easier attainable, at Class A, because the size of the P-P transformers is much smaller. I have ideas of how to design such an amp in ways that have never been done before and it could be exceptional.  I know that before designing the Ambrose series of amps in conjunction with Jack Elliano of Electraprint (credit to unique circuit topology and production of custom transformers to Jack), I listened to a number of exceptional P-P amps alongside the SE design that we took to market and I always came back to the SE design.

My quandary has always been this:

SETs sound great!  They don't produce much power however and this requires efficient speakers.
P-P amps have power, but don't typically sound as good as SET amps and also don't have the punch and power of SS designs.
SS designs have punch and power, but lack the refinement, sense of space and 'magic' that I hear from SET designs.

So, when I heard how good a 10W version of the initial 'Ambrose' amp sounded, I asked Jack about winding transformers for more power.  Well, we proved a way to achieve 20W and then 30W (after a hurdle was overcome in design).  At the 30W point, I felt that we had a Single Ended design with enough power to drive more than just horns and ultra-efficient conventional speakers or Lowther/full range drivers.

I have heard many great horn and Lowther/full range driver designs, but many leave me feeling that something is lacking in one respect or the other. I feel that a good amp should sound great AND be able to drive a reasonable range of speakers.

So, there it is.  I consider 20W to be a minimum, 30W even better.  This can be done with Single Ended designs, but the quality of the transformer is CRITICAL and core mass/size is going to be BIG!  P-P is the next option, but it has to pass the listening test for me and I have not proven my ideas here yet.

To sum up, I am looking at it.  Any tube integrated that we do, be it Single Ended or P-P would likely be $7500+, to satisfy the power and sonic needs that I want to pursue.  If it were to be finished and designed to the level of our Ambrose amps, the cost would be higher.

Please let me know your thoughts as this will tell me if I want to go down this road or not.

Thank you,

Dan Wright

cheech

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #10 on: 15 Jun 2017, 04:49 pm »
Not sure what you mean about the transformers in the Line Magnetic 518IA, they are why the amp weights 80 or so pounds and produce quality, robust  class a 22wpc. Check one out if you ever have the opportunity

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #11 on: 15 Jun 2017, 04:59 pm »
Pardon me, you are right, for that much weight, they must be adequately sized.  Looking at the image, I didn't see how they could be big enough, but core mass is core mass and that translates to the weight you describe.  I have no doubt that they sound great!

jriggy

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #12 on: 15 Jun 2017, 07:15 pm »
Great explanation and details above, Dan. Thank you for all that!
I think that price point and design (either design) would be a welcome niche filler in your lineup.
Now, if you guys could somehow add an "Ambrose option" to it, say, for as under $1k as possible, to add the custom black and Daedalus wood chassis, that would be sweet... If not for this unit, Im sure it will still look good and fit right in to the lineup.

Wig

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #13 on: 16 Jun 2017, 03:07 am »
Dan,

I know the design you come up with is going to be fabulous! I'm sure it will take some time so I'll have to start saving... Here's a picture of my LM 508IA 48 Watt SET.

Wig

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?action=gallery;area=browse;image=163994

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #14 on: 16 Jun 2017, 05:11 pm »
That is a great looking amp!

We could do a 300B integrated to produce at or about 30W. It would be heavy, because our monoblocks 845 DS concept pieces that we did were MONSTROUS. I believe each transformer was about 25lb!

I am looking at a number of different options.  The wood/AL billet enclosures are EXPENSIVE! I need to look at that and see if we offer that as an option, what the cost add would be.

Thanks,

Dan

dmyers

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 1
Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #15 on: 16 Jun 2017, 07:43 pm »
I am new to Audio Circle but I did write the letter to Dan Wright which started this thread. I own a pair of the Ambrose A30 SE mono blocks, and just wanted to say that the A30's will likely drive a broader range of speakers than one might presume.

I say this because the Harbeth Monitor 30s that I use have a sensitivity rating of 85, but they are "amplifier friendly" as far as load and impedance are concerned. Jeff Day wrote a review for 6moons.com which explores this issue for the Harbeths, including charts on impedance response (Electrical Z and Electrical Phase). This is all beyond me, but I shared the article with Dan before ordering the amps, and Dan concluded the speakers would be a good fit  for the A30s. It turns out they are a perfect fit.

I realize this is hard to predict for other speakers. But I hope you can give these special amps a listen. On his website, Dan says one of his goals is for people to "hear music on a level that transports them to another place and time." In memory of my Dad, I asked Dan to engrave on my Ambrose A30 amps the words, "Bix Lives." Both quotes express a similar sentiment. The Ambrose A30 tube mono blocks give these sentiments meaning.

dodgealum

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 81
Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #16 on: 24 Aug 2017, 02:37 pm »
Hey Dan:

Do you have plans to add the Ambrose A30 to your website complete with multiple angle photos and specs? Would love to see some "official" information and take a look at the back panel layout, finish, etc. Also, do/will you be offering tube cages for the A-30s? Finally, will you be attending CAF this year and, if so, will the A-30s make the trip?

Thanks!

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #17 on: 24 Aug 2017, 04:47 pm »
Actually yes, I have hi-rez professional photos, but have not had time to update the site.  It will be done very soon!

Thanks, for the polite reminder!

Dan

modwright

Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #18 on: 24 Aug 2017, 07:18 pm »
Galleries Updated!

http://www.modwright.com/gallery/albums.php

Product pages still in process.

dodgealum

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 81
Re: Ambrose A30 - A review and feedback from a happy customer...
« Reply #19 on: 25 Aug 2017, 01:59 pm »
Thanks, Dan--great shots (I'm not sure the A-30s could take a bad shot!). Where is the power switch located? Also, any chance of seeing/hearing these at CAF in November?