I want to thank D. Myers for a further review, upon adding the Ambrose One to his system, along with the A30 Mono Blocks!
I have the great good fortune of owning Dan Wright's premium tube system, the Ambrose One preamplifier and the Ambrose A30 tube monoblock amps. These are the most natural sounding music machines I have ever heard.
I have as sources Modwright's Oppo 105d Bluray player, Dan's modified Sony Hap-Z1es high resolution music server, and a Rega turntable with a Denon 103 cartridge. So I have bought into the Modwright house sound: Elegance, Simplicity, Truth. My speakers are the original Harbeth 30 Monitors. They speak the same language.
How do you produce natural sounding music from machines? I do not know but I expect it is harder than we might think. I do have a metaphor for it, but I am not sure it works. Here goes:
Think first of a four-way intersection with a stop sign on each street. Now think of a time-lapse photo being taken from overhead. This is the way musical notes might look, with sound completed by a lot of fits and starts as cars make their way through the intersection. Now think of a round-a-bout where cars yield to the left but go on when the traffic allows. Round-a-bouts are to me organic; they take on a life of their own based on the rhythm and flow of the cars. Now think of a time-lapse photo being taken overhead. This is the way musical notes would look from an organic flow of traffic, with smooth endings and beginnings and a naturalness that belies the subject matter of the photo. This is my metaphor for the free-flowing, natural sound of the Ambrose One preamplifier and the Ambrose A30 monoblocks (the Ambrose Music System).
How does this music system sound in practice? Take a classic singer-songwriter album like Chris Jones' Roadhouses and Automobiles as an example. Jones' voice is unique: booming, raspy, original and genuine. This befits the folk musician and blues player who happened to write songs. (Jones died from cancer in 2005.) He wrote about personal loss and the travails of touring, the cigarette industry and its struggles with the truth, sanctuary laws, and drinking. The title track is a bittersweet confessional of an artist who sacrifices so much for his art.
The album is well recorded. With the Ambrose One preamp, strings from Jones' handmade Gallagher guitars fill the room from both speakers. Acoustic energy is accurately placed in the soundstage, often pulsating as both rhythm and melody. As reviewer Jules Coleman likes to say, audio equipment should get out of the way of the music. The Ambrose One does this righteously. Guitar tones and textures are rich in color. Jones' style in the instrumental pieces show broad influences: The Last Fallen Leaf - Classical Spanish guitar; Fender Bender - bluegrass by way of Bela Fleck; and Jolanda's Wedding March - Chet Atkins (in my mind anyway). He is an extraordinary guitar player, and the album's craftsmanship is honored by the Ambrose Music System's tube sound and natural presentation.
The Ambrose One and A30s also do well with recorded live music (witness Dave Brubeck at Carnegie Hall with Joe Morello's insane drum solo). So too are their reproduction of female voices as the Carpenters' Singles collection prove. The tone and timbre of Karen Carpenter's exquisite voice is transforming because it is truthful, natural and powerful.
The Ambrose One preamp, and the Ambrose A30 monoblocks it is paired with, are special kinds of audio products. The emphasis on pure, natural presentations may seem quaint, but my guess is that this is the most difficult thing to pull off in reproducing recorded music. Dan Wright has succeeded in achieving this elusive sound. -D. Myers, 6.18.18