Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review

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Gopher


Before moving to seperates, I spent about a full year with a Melody AN211 integrated amplifier driving my Zu Definiton 2 speakers with significant upgrades and to be honest, I was pretty happy with the combination.  A few extra dollars and a lot of insanity however, drove me to contact Hugh Nguyen, Melody distributor, regarding an upgrade to the Pure Black seperates.  After a couple days of email then a couple weeks of waiting for more inventory to arrive, the deal was done and I had the very gorgeous preamp and monos in my home.

It should be noted that the burn in period associated with these units was substantial and there were times I questioned whether I made the right move going to seperates as, at least initially, my integrated seemed to have sounded better with my associated equipment and room.  Patience paid off, however, and what I’ve been rewarded with has been well worth the wait.

The first and most obvious ways in which my presentation changed is that of scale.  My system previously stretched to fill the room with sound but with the Pure Black trio in place my room is fully pressurized with a stage expanding beyond the walls.  This has never been a sonic priority of mine, but once you’ve lived with it, it would be hard to do without.

More impressive and important than the stage width is depth—the ability to present a holographic portrayal of the recorded event.  This is something I’ve struggled with which the Melody duo has really helped bring together.  The ability to close my eyes and picture where everything is located on a set, not only from side to side, but staggered front to back is really special and contributes greatly to the illusion of REAL music.

Tonal balance was another area in which I saw a change in the move to the seperates.  Where the AN211 was a tight and concise machine, capable of great midrange presence and palpability, the seperates brought with them even more tonal beauty.  The balance is on the warm side of neutral but it exists in this realm without being syrupy or obscuring detail.

In terms of the lit from within presentation small bottle SET is known for, this Melody gear is right there.  I’ve owned several other SETs including other 845, 211 and 2a3 amplification and I can say without reservation that the midrange presence I get between my Zu speakers and Melody stack is up there with the finest.  Listening to simple, vocal driven stuff like Michael J. Sheehy or Kelly Joe Phelps their voices are just projected into the room in a really awesome and uncanny way.  It is easy to close your eyes and just become immersed…  the presence really is unbelievable.  With the Melody pieces in a well matched system, Vampire Weekend’s Hanna Hunt is just plain spooky.

As far as the bass performance goes, nothing about my systems presentation would indicate you are listening to SET.  It is deep, taught and flat out explosive in its delivery.  Listening to synthesized tracks like on James Blakes’s self title album, I’m faced with the type of bass you *feel* in your chest.  This is a blessing and a curse as my system shares a wall with the master bedroom and my wife’s morning starts much earlier than mine.

The treble is sweet and non-fatiguing.  There is plenty of detail presented on top and the preamp/amp combo is very well balanced with appropriate tubing.  Things got a little hairy when using Create Audio/Synergy Hifi 6sn7s in my preamp, but this is more a testament to the Melody’s ability to be a chameleon to the tubes you select then a fault of the unit.  With Ken-Rad Black Glass VT-231s and a Shuguang 274B (preferred series) in the preamp things are *very* well balanced.

Finally, more importantly than all the audiophile adjectives—my system nails emotion.  It was capable of conveying emotion previously, but was really voiced more towards the excitement end—now it seems to be able to cover both on demand.  In my opinion this is what it is about—who cares about resolution, extension,  etc., when the rig is too analytical to keep your interest?  In the case of the Melody gear, they really nail micro-dynamics, which I understand to be the more subtle swings like vocal inflections which really contain the performer’s emotional state these small swings and nuance are what really makes the performance for me… that is not to say the Melody fails to nail macro-dynamics… on the contrary it is EXTEREMELY competent in that regard.  My rig has tremendous jump factor and really catches the excitement of music…  not only that, it has been extremely competent for 2.0 channel home theater, though with my speakers 2.8 might be more accurate…

In sum, the Melody Pure Black twins are a very special combination.  If your speaker efficiency is greater then 89db and your budget allows, they should definitely be on your list.   More so then a bunch of adjectives, they convey the essence of music.  Prior to these seperates I owned AN211 immediately preceeded by a MK88—Melody really does it for me and I urge you to give them a shot…   They will probably do it for you too.

Associated Equipment:
Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
Zu Definition mk2 speakers w/ Dominance drivers and Clarity CapMR supertweeter network
LampizatOr “Big Six” DAC
LampizatOr TranspOrt
Pi Uberbuss
Wywires signal cables throughout
Triode Wire Lab, HiDiamond Power 3 and Swisscables Reference PCs throughout.


Gopher

Thanks, JLM.

Just as a point of information, the amps reviewed by Dagogo are the PM845s not the M845s.  The PM845 is a parallel SET which some say dilutes the SET magic (pSET in general, not Melody specifically).  I have not heard them, so I cannot speak.

jimdgoulding

I'm speechless for you, Gopher.  Wow.

jriggy

Thanks Fred! I have been patiently waiting to read something from you for a while! A good 'real world' review too.


shahed

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Thanks for the excellent review Fred! Are you familiar with the Melody AN300B integrated? There's a rave review by Terry London in home theater magazine. But I'm not sure how suitable 300B based tubes are for rock music.

As for your pure black Preamp and M845 monos - how suitable are they for rock music? As rock is what I mostly listen to. How much the dynamics and bass suffers for the SET midrange and top beauty - if at all?

ted_b

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Thanks for the excellent review Fred! Are you familiar with the Melody AN300B integrated? There's a rave review by Terry London in home theater magazine. But I'm not sure how suitable 300B based tubes are for rock music.

As for your pure black Preamp and M845 monos - how suitable are they for rock music? As rock is what I mostly listen to. How much the dynamics and bass suffers for the SET midrange and top beauty - if at all?

Terry is my dear friend (i.e we talk almost daily).  He is gaga over the Melody AN300B and it replaced a pair of Pass monoblocks and a Concert Fidelity CF-080 preamp..almost $30k worth of stuff.!!   I've heard the AN300B seevral times on his wonderful Lawrence Cellos and was mightily impressed.

Due to his relationship with Hugh I had Hugh send me the PM845s to try either as simple monoblocks or to biamp with my Modwright KWA-150's (Melody on top, of course).  They no way had enough oomph for my power-hungry SP Tech Revs, and although were fine in biamp mode I gotta think the push-pull PM version is NOTHING like Fred's M (i.e SET) version he speaks so nicely of (great review Fred!).  I ended up staying with the MWs only. 

By the way, Hugh and his Angel City Audio are great to deal with.

roscoeiii

Terry is my dear friend (i.e we talk almost daily).  He is gaga over the Melody AN300B and it replaced a pair of Pass monoblocks and a Concert Fidelity CF-080 preamp..almost $30k worth of stuff.!!   I've heard the AN300B seevral times on his wonderful Lawrence Cellos and was mightily impressed.

Due to his relationship with Hugh I had Hugh send me the PM845s to try either as simple monoblocks or to biamp with my Modwright KWA-150's (Melody on top, of course).  They no way had enough oomph for my power-hungry SP Tech Revs, and although were fine in biamp mode I gotta think the push-pull PM version is NOTHING like Fred's M (i.e SET) version he speaks so nicely of (great review Fred!).  I ended up staying with the MWs only. 

By the way, Hugh and his Angel City Audio are great to deal with.

Yep, those SP Tech speakers are mighty power hungry, I'd agree.

roscoeiii

Great stuff Fred,

I also use James Blake's self-titled LP as a bass test/torture track. And if the 845s pass that test, wow. Though, for folks that aren't familiar with your speakers, it should be noted that the Defs have a built in powered subwoofer and are mighty efficient, so in other systems there could potentially be some bass rolloff. But it seems that the bass here is an improvement over the Melody gear you are replacing? Or at least just as good? and where does the speaker crossover to the powered sub?

Man, I gotta get out there to hear this new system of yours.


shahed

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Terry is my dear friend (i.e we talk almost daily).  He is gaga over the Melody AN300B and it replaced a pair of Pass monoblocks and a Concert Fidelity CF-080 preamp..almost $30k worth of stuff.!!   I've heard the AN300B seevral times on his wonderful Lawrence Cellos and was mightily impressed.

Due to his relationship with Hugh I had Hugh send me the PM845s to try either as simple monoblocks or to biamp with my Modwright KWA-150's (Melody on top, of course).  They no way had enough oomph for my power-hungry SP Tech Revs, and although were fine in biamp mode I gotta think the push-pull PM version is NOTHING like Fred's M (i.e SET) version he speaks so nicely of (great review Fred!).  I ended up staying with the MWs only. 

By the way, Hugh and his Angel City Audio are great to deal with.

Ted, Thanks for posting the impression. Did you get to hear any alternate/indie rock music with the AN300B at Terry's place? If yes, how did you like it?

ted_b

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #10 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:30 pm »
Ted, Thanks for posting the impression. Did you get to hear any alternate/indie rock music with the AN300B at Terry's place? If yes, how did you like it?

If you knew Terry we would all be having a great laugh.  :)  He is a wonderful person, a great reviewer....but...his MASSIVE cd collection is 99.99% jazz (with the remainder a good Mercury Living Presence box set).  Most knowledgeable jazz guy I ever knew.

I am gonna go see him in about ten days.  This reminds me to bring Beck-Sea Change and maybe Radiohead-Kid A or something.

Gopher

Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #11 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:33 pm »
Shahed,

Melody gear can definitely rock!  Nothing soft or romantic about it--its tone dense, open and dynamic stuff.  There is a reason I've had Melody gear at the heart of three systems in a row.  :)

I can also say with certainty there was an incredible synergy between my LampizatOr Level 4 and the AN211 I previously had...  I'm sure that would carry over to the AN300B which I've heard some believe is BETTER then the 211 SET. 


ted_b

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #12 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:38 pm »
Fred,
Terry has both inhouse now (the 300B he owns, the 211 he is reviewing).  He loves them both, says he enjoys going to the 211 on some days..but gun to his head it's the 300B that he cherishes most. 

Gopher

Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #13 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:40 pm »
That is consistent with what I heard from someone else on Audio Asylum whose screen name escapes me.

One point I should have made in my review--Don't judge Melody gear with stock tubes.  The stock tube compliments suck and the gear is capable of a lot more.

shahed

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #14 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:42 pm »
If you knew Terry we would all be having a great laugh.  :)  He is a wonderful person, a great reviewer....but...his MASSIVE cd collection is 99.99% jazz (with the remainder a good Mercury Living Presence box set).  Most knowledgeable jazz guy I ever knew.

I am gonna go see him in about ten days.  This reminds me to bring Beck-Sea Change and maybe Radiohead-Kid A or something.

Ted, Please carry the 'Kid A' album with you and play these three tracks: 'Idioteque', 'The National Anthem' and 'Morning Bell'. This is all I need to know to gauge a systems's aplomb on the rock music ( at least the metrics that I care about). So glad that you've mentioned 'Kid A'.  :D

ted_b

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #15 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:47 pm »
Yes, it is one of my alltime faves, and a nice alt-rock test disc, regardless of compression.  I'm 59 and turned on my sons to all the 60's-70's musical gems, but gotta hand it to my oldest son...he turned me on to Radiohead (seen them twice, including Bonnaroo with him).  I call it a fair trade.  :)

ted_b

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #16 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:49 pm »
That is consistent with what I heard from someone else on Audio Asylum whose screen name escapes me.

One point I should have made in my review--Don't judge Melody gear with stock tubes.  The stock tube compliments suck and the gear is capable of a lot more.

Teajay (Terry) points that out...as the 211 can roll very cheaply!  The 300B?  Not so much!  :)  He has the full Sophia Monty!

Hugh

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #17 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:51 pm »
Thank you guys for all of your compliments.

You made my day. :)

Hugh

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #18 on: 13 Aug 2013, 06:53 pm »
Ted,

Try to come to RMAF this year.

We'll have the big MN845 (150W Class A) and bring your music too Sir.

shahed

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Re: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
« Reply #19 on: 13 Aug 2013, 07:22 pm »
Yes, it is one of my alltime faves, and a nice alt-rock test disc, regardless of compression.  I'm 59 and turned on my sons to all the 60's-70's musical gems, but gotta hand it to my oldest son...he turned me on to Radiohead (seen them twice, including Bonnaroo with him).  I call it a fair trade.  :)

Some off-topic ramblings:

  Ted, I've to say your son has excellent taste in music. I'm 31 and spent majority of my teenage and college days listening to classic rock. My 'Radiohead' love affair began about 7/8 years ago. I think my roots of listening classic rock helped me to appreciate the modern good music over time. I've had discovered numerous wonderful new artist (Avant-garde/indie/EDM ) since then. Radiohead was THE major turn around in my taste in music and broke all preconceived notion I had about music. I've also found new love for electronic music because of Thom Yorke. Seen them live twice including the 'NYC Roseland Ballroom" appearance in 2011 - one of the most memorable day in my life. Going to see Thom Yorkes super group 'Atoms for Piece' at Barclays Center this September. I've the Radiohead bear logo tattooed  on my arm.

Anyway, please do update the thread once you get to hear some Radiohead on Melody gear. I've heard some lavish praise of Melody gears. Would love to hear other peoples opinion on them - specifically for rock music.