Following my recent opportunity to review the Modwright LS36.5DM and KWA150SE I was so taken with the performance of the KWA150SE power amplifier that I wanted to explore the possibility of moving from valve to solid state power amplification and was keen to hear the smaller, more affordable KWA100SE in my own system. Jack at BD Audio kindly offered to let me have his demo amp for evaluation and suggested I also take a listen to its stable mate the LS100 valve preamplifier which came fitted with the optional phono board.
The KWA100SE is a MOSFET design that outputs 2 x 100W into 8 ohms and features both line and balanced inputs.
Initially I chose to audition the KWA100SE with my Audio Note M3 Phono. I have been very happy with the M3 however pairing with the Modwright power, good as it was, didn’t give me that wow factor I was hoping for – not at a level that would force me to discard my Art power amp. There was nothing major to criticise but a certain symmetry was missing, things were just a little too polite.
So lets see how things fare with the LS100.
The LS100 is an extremely flexible preamplifier. With a generous 5 inputs (1 x XLR, 4 x RCA), Tape In/Out, HT bypass, 2 x RCA outs plus 1 x XLR out, headphone out plus remote control. In addition to all that there is the option to purchase either a DAC or phono board and as some additional icing on the cake the phono board can handle both MM and MC carts with just a quick valve change. Impressive.
So after installing the LS100 I gave it 30mins or so to warm up and sat down for a listen. From the first note I sat there smiling like a Cheshire cat. Beautiful rich textured music flowed from my Zingalis and enveloped the room. I really wasn’t expecting such a transformation. I’ve been on a mission over the last couple of years towards a system that has many of the qualities on display here. Don’t go expecting a lesser version of the LS36.5 its a different beast altogether. The LS36.5 is very much the articulate, highly resolving reference preamp whereas the LS100 has a mellower signature with some added warmth that many will enjoy, myself included. The presentation is exceptionally smooth yet it doesn’t give up any vitally of the performance and herein lies the major strength of this combination. It’s such a wonderfully natural listen. Rock music really benefits here. ‘Breaking Point’ from Bullet for my Valentine’s ‘Temper Temper’ LP thunders along with gusto and moving to a more acoustic but no less vibrant ‘Paper and Fire’ from John Mellencamp’s ‘Lonesome Jubilee’ LP keeps the raw energy intact. The sound is no less impressive with the mellow sounds on the Hoff Ensemble’s ‘Quiet Winter Night’ or jazz in the form 0f Trichotomy’s ‘Fact Finding Mission’. This pre/power combination are clearly true stable mates and it is hard to imagine a reason for using one without the other.
I did not have the opportunity to hear the optional DAC but the phono module at an additional £680 is excellent value. Running my IO1 and Tim de Paravicini step up into the LS100 the phono section performs at a substantially higher level than its price point implies.
To be honest every time I sit down to expand on this review I just drift off and listen to more music. What more can I say. I am hugely impressed by both of these products so much so that I have ordered both units for my own system. I really can’t recommend them highly enough.
LS100 Preamplifier £2795 (additional DAC module £1275. Phono module £680)
KWA100SE Power amplifier £3450
Discuss the review here