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January 2018
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere Review!
Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier With MM Phono Stage
Delivering tonality, staging and harmonic correctness to your fave music.
Review By Ron Nagle

 

Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier With MM Phono Stage Review

 

  How do you tell the story of the Majestic integrated amplifier? Webster's Dictionary tells us the term Majestic denotes a quality of Majesty that encompasses the qualities of Stateliness and Grandeur. So let us investigate if those qualities reside in the sound it sings.

 

The Wells Audio Ethic
Owner Jeff Wells has more than four decades experience. As a high-end dealer and owner of Audible Arts, Since 2011, Jeff has been using his experience along with the talents of a few brilliant friends striving to develop the best audio equipment in the world.  Since the day Jeff started Wells Audio with $2600 worth of parts, this family business has grown steadily into a brand that is known for innovative designs, and a pursuit of the best sound.

 

The Amplifier
Just happens to be dressed like a West Point Plebe. That is its appearance is in the very distinctive West Point colors of gray and black. The amplifier design will be eminently suitable for any guys man cave. It measures 19" wide x 18.5" deep x 6.5" high. The manufactures base price is $3599. But if we include the optional phono amplifier the price goes up to $4399. Even housed within an all-aluminum enclosure it weighs in at 30 pounds. The rated power specification is 150 Watts per side With the exception of a round gold framed Volumeter it is without any additional bright work. This meter does exactly what the name implies; it displays the setting / level of the volume control. About that Volumeter, it is about 3.375" across and resides in the center of a 19" gray aluminum front panel. The power on/off switch is located on the bottom of the Majestic front panel just to the left side of the meter. The Volumeter will light up in white when the Majestic is in operation.

The meter is lit up in blue when the Majestic is in standby or in mute. When the Majestic is first turned on the integrated will come on in the standby mode and the Volumeter will be illuminated in blue. Pressing the standby button once on the remote will remove the integrated from standby and the meter will glow white. Pressing the mute button once again will put the Majestic in mute mode and the Volumeter will be illuminated in blue. Pressing the mute button once again will remove the Majestic from the mute mode and the meter will once again glow white. (Either way switched into the Muted condition or the Standby state the meter lights up blue). Directly to the left side of the meter is the volume control and remote control sensor. Flanking it on the right side is a 6 position source select switch. The positions that are numbered 1 to 5 are for unbalanced RCA line inputs. But the 6th source switch position is a XLR line input. Note: this XLR connection is wired internally as an unbalanced line source.

 

Rear Panel Input Connections
While facing the rear panel of the Majestic on the left side are the inputs. Reading from far left to right there are the XLR connections and then RCA inputs 2 to 5. These will be followed by a pair of fixed output RCA connections for subwoofers, headphone amplifiers, etc. The left channel connections are on the top row and the right channel connections are on the bottom row of connectors. To the right of the input connectors are two pairs of high quality five-way binding posts for output to the speakers. Left channels are on the top and right channel is on the bottom. On the far right of the back panel will be located the IEC connector for 120 Volt AC power. The Wells people provide a nice standard power cord, however. You can chose to connect your favorite (expensive) power cord to this connector to power the Majestic amplifier.

 

Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier With MM Phono Stage Review

 

Last be not least there is a nice black anodized hand held remote control milled out of a solid piece of aluminum. But this remote control only serves three functions. That involves four buttons, a Standby and a Mute button then two more buttons for up/down volume. You will find out that after a while the Majestic runs fairly uncomfortably warm but not hot enough to cause any damage. The reason is that the left and right side heatsinks are inside the chassis under the vent holes in the top cover. There was enough heat for me to call and ask the manufacturer about the amplifiers class of operation. I thought it might be running warm because it was biased in Class A. I was told the amplifier was classified as A/B but it ran in Class A for the first five Watts (in my case that is most of the time).

 

Cut To The Chase
What does it sound like? Well my very first right out of the card board box and not burned in preliminary impression was, "not much bass extension". The owner's manual tells me that this solid-state 150 Watts per channel amplifier would probably sound best after 200 or more hours of use. If you divide that number by 24 hours it works out to 8.3333 days. A bit much I should think, but let's see how this story unfolds. The first weekend of November I was at the Capital Audiofest 2017 in Rockville Maryland. At that show there was three separate Demo rooms powered by Jeff Wells Majestic Power Amplifiers. One in particular stands out. It was the Zu Audio loudspeakers demonstration. It was being conducted in the very large Eisenhower room. Zu Audio was showing two different pairs of large floor standing speakers. This demo was different because there was two separate Majestic amplifiers powering each of the two pairs of Zu speakers. In fact they were switching back and forth between these two speakers and the Majestic Integrated amplifiers. In this large room I heard a sound that was very detailed and dimensional. The demonstration clearly illustrated the differences between those two big speakers. But more importantly I left the Eisenhower / Zu Audio Demo room with a new mind set. It made me rethink the performance that I heard in my smaller 11'.8" by 23 foot room with my Aurum Cantus V30 speakers.

Aurum Cantus are two driver monitors on stands. They are highly accurate, equipped with ribbon tweeters they are fast and capable of revealing the smallest musical nuance. However they do not go much below 40 Hertz. To make a point let me go back to 1973 and my very first pair of quality loudspeakers. They were made by Acoustic Research, the model 2 AX. I remember to get them to produce decent bass I had to go past the 11 O'clock point on the volume control, they were power hungry suckers. Well getting back to my humble hangout I let the Majestic burn in a bit more by adding another hundred hours on them. And things changed for the better. Once again to get the bass balance I wanted I needed to crank up the Volumeter to 11 O'clock. (This must be the characteristics of a gradual resistive taper of the volume control). But even at this setting the sound is still not very loud, in my room; it gives me just enough of the low bass to lend a sense of drive and power. I'm not into very low bass it tends to drive my small room.

 

Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier With MM Phono Stage Review

 

Never Mentioned
Even though Wells Audio's Majestic has appeared in print elsewhere, up until now never has the full story of this amplifier been evaluated with the optional Moving Magnet (MM) phono stage. The vinyl evaluation that follows is the product of an Ortofon Silver 2M cartridge on a Grado Laboratory Tonearm mounted on my SOTA Sapphire table. My review sample with the optional Moving Magnet Phono Amplifier was hard wired to the number 2 RCA input. Unusually there was no provision made for a phono grounding lug on the rear chassis. The quick start instructions in the owner's manual cautions the user to never connect a line level source to the phono amplifier input as severe damage may occur. As received the number 2 RCA connection was not labeled as the phono amplifier input. This did add some confusion to my efforts to install the amplifier. There is a provision available for Moving Magnet phono cartridge capacitive loading. But it can be accessed only when the top of the amplifier cover is removed. That involves removing 14 counter sunk hex head screws. Supplied with the Majestic are two small additional Wima brand capacitors rated at 50 and 150 pico Farads. These are options provided by Wells Audio for swapping out the Moving Magnet 100 pF load capacitor that came with the amplifier.

As you may assume, the MM cartridge input resistive load is the standard 47kOhms. The manufacturer provides an interior photograph of the chassis showing the location of the cartridge loading capacitor. I did removed the top cover and I swapped all three cartridge loading capacitors. I listened by playing the same track of a reference recording for each of the three supplied loading capacitors. There was a slight but noticeable change in the overall tonal balance of the sound. The 150 pF capacitor increased the bass presence while the smaller 50 pF capacitor shifted the (apparent) frequency balance more to the higher frequencies. I decided to reinstall the factory 100 pF load that the amplifier came with. That is how I auditioned the Vinyl front end.

 

Words Don't Fail Me Now!
As our British cousins would say, I was "Gob Smacked" by the sound of vinyl. The Majestic phono stage generates an unusual tonal cohesiveness in the sound-space between my speakers. It was the most natural and balanced presentation I have ever heard from anything solid-state. Impossible to adequately convey that there is a sense that everything is just right and natural, but at the same time you are hearing things differently. The soundstaging between my speakers is now much deeper at the center and you get a sense that you are looking into the performance. Nothing dominates and everything just seems to flow like liquid. If Harry Person was still with us he would say the sound is "continuous". I'm afraid to say anything more, additional descriptive adjectives could only be repetitive. The harmonic structure is rich and subtle it speaks truth on a subliminal level, listen for a while it sounds like music. This is definitely something you will have to experience first person.

 

Wells Audio Majestic Integrated Amplifier With MM Phono Stage Review

 

The Coda
Did we hear the sounds of stateliness and grandeur? Err, well not very much, but in this instance those terms are not strictly sonic descriptions. However there was definitely a whole lot of good things going on. To cut to the conclusions this solid-state amplifier has the bearing staging and tonality of a hollow state tube amplifier. If you are into head banging sound and razor sharp transients please look elsewhere. So how the hell did Jeff Wells get so much tonality, staging and harmonic correctness from this collection of solid-state parts? In the brief meeting I had with Jeff Wells at the Capital Audiofest 2017 he related his design philosophy, and at the same time I believe he provided the answer to my question. Jeff Wells... "What I have done is hand select each and every internal component by the way it effects the sound. The end result is my idea of what music should sound like". Jeff Wells has managed to place his signature on a unique amplifier that has the power to draw you into the music.   Wonderful accomplishment!

Remember to enjoy the music and from yours truly, Semper Hi-Fi.

 

Reference System
Sources:
SOTA Sapphire turntable with Grado laboratory reference tone arm, Ortofon Silver MM cartridge.
Sony UHP-U1 Universal digital disc player. 
Music Hall upsampling DAC 25.3 with headphone amplifier, Yamaha WXC-5 Wi-Fi Blue tooth receiver. 
Reference Amplification: 
Sanders ESL power Amplifier
Speakers: 
Aurum Cantus V30M, Mark Daniels Omni Harmonizer tweeters.
Speaker Cables:
Kimber Kable 12tc 11ft. And a Kimber Kable 8TC 18" to tweeter speaker. 
Interconnect Cables:
Monster Reference 4 pairs, 2.5 meter, 1 meter and 1.5 meters, Nordost Red Dawn 
1meter, AudioQuest Cinnamon XLR 1 meter. 
Chord Silver Siren 1 meter, Homemade Teflon RCA 1 meter, Autobahn 0.5 meter digital
Power Conditioning: 
Wire World 10 gauge IEC line cord, Power Cords: Kaplan Cables 12 gauge IEC
Power conditioning:
Islatrol Industrial 20 Ampere AC line conditioner, Richard Gray 20 Ampere Sub Station
Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply, Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer,
APC Power Block, Triad 2 Ampere isolation transformer. 
Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply, Triad 2 Ampere isolation transformer.

 

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Solid-state stereo integrated amplifier with phono stage
Analog Inputs: Four pair RCA unbalanced, one pair XLRs unbalanced
Loudspeaker Outputs: One pair five-way binding posts per channel
Power Output: 150 Wpc at 8 Ohms, stereo 
Signal-to-Noise Ratio: -103dB, reference level full power output
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.02% at 1kHz
Gain: 30dB
Input Impedance: 50kOhms
Damping Factor: 200, reference 8 Ohms nominal
Operating Voltage: 120V, 230V, at 50 or 60 Hz
Dimensions: 17" x 5" x 16.5" (WxHxD)
Shipping Weight: 35 lbs.
Price: $3599, optional MM phono stage adds $800 ($4399)

 

Company Information
Wells Audio
106 Bascom Court
Campbell, CA 95008

Voice: (408) 376-0861
E-mail: jeff@wellsaudio.com 
Website: www.WellsAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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