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2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Ming Da MC386-BSE – Integrated Valve Amp Review
Is this another review of an amazing value integrated from Ming Da? Does it have a snappy name, like “MC386-BSE”? Is James in the pocket of the dealer here or what? Yes, yes, and well a little bit, as Jack of BD Audio does take an advert with us. However, the reason I am reviewing a second Ming Da integrated this month is becuase Jack was most perturbed to hear that although I loved the sound of the MC368-B902 as you can reead by clicking the linky, he was somewhat purturbed to hear that I wasn’t massively impressed by the bass performance of the entry level model. Don’t get me wrong, it was good, but it did other things better. Now Jack felt a gauntlet had been laid down, so he sent me the big boy, and said “try this”. So I did.
Ming Da’s KT90 valve amplifier has power. 70Watts of power. And it can swing. It does dynamics. For a long time Solid state head like me, this is what i like. It does a lot more of what I like about solid state amps, while retaining a lot of what I like about valve amps. There is a trade off, but it’s small and really I would be nit picking at this price point (£2kish).
What does it sound like:
Fast. Clean. Warm voices. Tight Bass. Pleasing. Good.
End of review.
ok, ok…It has two modes, Triode or Ultra linear. A switch on the side allows you to flick between them, and there is a difference. I liked the ultra linear mode, but at a recent get together at my house, 9 out of 10 Wammers that expressed a preference liked the Triode mode better. This came as little surprise to me, they are all beardy valve heads, with sandles and pipes.. :-), I jest, they are experienced audiophiles that don’t beleieve in “perceived wisdom” don’t care much for measuremnts (beyond the essential “will it work”?) and tend to listen and ask themselves one simple question “am I enjoying this?”. They all enjoyed the amp, and I did too.
Certainly it filled in any minor gaps in what it’s baby brother could do. But it did a lot more besides. It was able to swing much harder and presented huge dynamics with tracks from the Chemical Brothers, Bach, Faure, Led Zepelin and Orbital. Whatever I threw at it, there was a point during the listening that I had to grin. It offered something above and beyond what was expected of it. Listening sessions went on and on, until Mrs JamPal gently called me to bed (banged on floor shouting “TURN IT DOWN” :-) ).
In ultra linear mode, it’s a little dry in the mid range (but only compared to itself in triode mode), however, what you lose in mid range warmth is made up for in speed and agility. It’s fast, music zips a long, this is not a “pipe n slippers” valve amp in linear mode it can really rock, with tight bass and fast drum sections wonderfully observed…. Then at the flick of a switch, in Triode mode, put your favourite female vocalist on and sit back and let sweet sweet sounds wash over you. It becomes more liquid, you get more warmth, and yes, it’s not quite so quick, but what an option to have. Set your amp to match your selection of music – on the fly! That switch on the side is what all valve amps need. Brilliant!
I’ve heard a few valve amps in my room but the only time I’ve been more impressed has been at much higher price points. There are valid alternatives out there of course, from the likes of Puresound, Icon Audio etc. But if you have £2k to spend, this needs to be on your “must audition” list.
Discuss the review here
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