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September 2011
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere!
Music Culture Technology MC 801 Power Amplifier And MC 601 Preamplifier
Designed by Wolfgang Meletzky to high-end standards as grand marvels.
Review By Anthony Nicosia

 

Company Background Information
Wolfgang Meletzky and three associates founded Music Culture Technology just six short years ago in 2005. Visiting the Music Culture Technology United States website you will see they make amplifiers, preamplifiers, CD players and loudspeakers out of their manufacturing plant. Both amplifier and preamplifier for review today are from their Elegance Line of products. MC products are available for direct purchase in the United States through VSO Marketing where they offer an in home trial period for potential owners to experience MC gear within the confines of their own home. All products come with a two year warranty (see manufacturer for details), with fully supported service here in the United States through their distributor VSO Marketing. Seeing that the company's Mission Statement was, "to bring exceptional sound to affordably priced components" I was eager to hear the MC 801 amplifier and MC 601 preamplifier. If these products can fulfill such lofty ideals they would of course be worthy of my high praise indeed. As a footnote, the 801 and 601were already broken-in prior to me receiving them, making my job just a tad less time consuming.

 

MC 801 Power Amplifier's Physical Inspection
MC 801 Power AmplifierEnough background talk it was now time to inspect the product and afterwards sit down in my favorite chair to listen to some of my favorite musical pieces. First up for inspection was the MC801. This 120-watt amplifier, at eight ohms/185-watts at four ohms, stands only 5.7 inches tall yet 18" wide and 16" deep. Distributing that weight as such gave it the feeling of a much heavier and sturdier component than its thirty-two pound weight would indicate. As for appearance, the front plate with the glossy black finish looked fantastic. Of course if you prefer there is also an attractive silver coated version as well. The front panel is simply elegant adorned with only a power on/sleep mode button and some led lights. When lit up the blue LED's indicate the power amplifier is on while yellow LED's signal it being in sleep mode. While in sleep mode the 801 consumes only four-watts of power, making my wife who watches things like that just a little bit happier. If you prefer leaving it completely off then just reach around to the back of the amplifier where you will find a switch. Speaking of the back panel there are inputs for RCA or XLR connectors as well as a pair of terminals for left and right loudspeaker connections. There is of course a fuse holder, as well as an IEC connector to use with the factory supplied power cord or as I would suspect one of your own choosing. I went with the later and a Cardas power cord was used for this review.

The factory supplied feet were round and tall having a good sized diameter about them with a soft spongy material on the bottom. Not bad at all for standard feet and I felt no urge to change them out even though there was plenty of aftermarket feet at my house. My Audio Research amplifier has twenty screws to hold the top cover in place and it was a joy to discover that the 801 could be "uncovered" with the removal of only six. For serious safety concerns most people would probably not want to tinker around there anyway. Of course with me a peek inside is always mandatory. Once there you can see that it is divided into five main areas each separated by a good deal of real estate. Behind the front face plate there is a simple circuit board for the display and on/sleep mode button. There is also a section on the other side of the IEC socket connector located in the center of the amplifier up against the rear panel where the power enters and then moves on with wires to the left and rights channels as well as the power transformer. The circuit boards for left and right channels are found as far on the opposite sides of the amplifier as they could be.

The 801's key switching contacts are made of mono-crystalline (OFC/OCC) with gold-plated finishing. They claim to use a symmetrical grounding system and the shortest signal path possible to minimize interference and delay. Taking a moment to inspect the overall layout gave me the sense this was a much uncluttered design with all wiring tucked safely away from any fumbling fingers. Add this to the large power transformer located near the front panel and in towards the center of the 801 pretty much wraps it up. All five sections divided by lots of wide open space, simple but very effective as we shall soon see.

 

Music With The MC 801
Moving from my Audio Research VT50 tube amplifier with its forty-five watts per channel (eight ohms) and switching to the 801 with 120 watts (eight ohms) of solid state power brought with it certain preconceived notions. The expectations were that there would be better control of the lower frequencies with some sacrifice of three-dimensional depth. Much to my surprise and delight the former occurred but not the later. "Snow in New York" found on the Stone Rose CD[2L 48] is really such a beautiful piece of music. Here the 801 laid out a generously wide and deep soundstage rivaling truly good tube amplifiers. There was magic to the music with plenty of front to back depth within the soundscape. Throughout the many songs recorded on this CD individual piano keys rang out with correct truth of timbre giving each note, clarity, focus and a proper sense of timing while the decaying of individual notes had me begging for more. To create the illusion of a real piano is difficult, yet the 801 allowed it to sound both vibrant and energetic. It drew me into performances with a seductive manner leaving me satisfied on so many levels. At times being so engrossed in the music it was actually quite difficult to take proper notes as stopping to analyze the 801 seemed somewhat inappropriate and almost rude to the quality of the event taking place. To say the least the 801 touched me with its "liveliness" and overall tonal qualities.

It was time now to move on to another recording from 2L, The Nordic Sound [2L-RR1-SABD], where the choral arrangement from "Consortium Vocale" gave off a realistic sense of being inside the cathedral to experience the original event. Open, spacious and magnificent are words that best describe the way it sounded as the 801 from Music Culture Technology helped me explore the music. The layering of the choir was distinct and exact painting a picture of height, depth and width, while adding just the right amount of recording hall reverberation. When listening to the duet between male and female vocalists on "Kristiansand Symfoniorkester/Solistkoret" each performer was seen neatly situated in a separate distinct space. It should also be mentioned that the percussion section of the orchestra was also truly magnificent. During certain passages the 801 flexed its muscles showing me how capable my Von Schweikert VR-35 loudspeakers were in their ability to take things deep, sounding thunderous and expansive. Yet on quitter passages, whether with string or horn instruments, this amplifier from Germany was equally adept at showing off its gentler side.

Turning to a CD favorite of mine YO-YO MA & Friends [Sony Classical 88697-24414-2] on the opening song "Dona Nobis Pacem (Give us Peace)" the sound of the cello was divine. The 801 allowed for a warm soothing feeling rather than shrill or hollow. The cello sounded vibrant and powerful, being full of great character and pleasing to hear, allowing music to come alive with a realistic presentation of timbre. The tone of the cello has always mesmerized me but now I felt even more drawn into the music as each familiar piece was rekindled with a new spirit bringing new imagery to old recordings. Vocals have a way of making a person stop to take note, which comes perhaps from the social aspect of us loving communication within the species. Either way to hear James Taylor's rendition of the George Harrison tune "Here Comes the Sun" was a delight. The small inflections revealed within his voice helped stamp his unique mark upon the song. The 801 was able to isolate and bring out even small details of the music allowing for it to be experienced with new more invigorating shades to the performance. It was not overly analytical but rather balanced the intricate details and the total underlying spirit of the event.

Searching through my collection of CD's to find the Diana Princess of Wales Tribute [Sony C2K 69012] I felt compelled to listen to Michael Jackson's "Gone to Soon". One thing for sure his voice has an incredible tonal quality that this song seems to bring out. Most people hearing this never recognize it as a Michael Jackson piece as this was not his trademark style of singing. The 801 takes you on this songs sentimental journey allowing you to hear his magnificent voice performing in an up close and personal way. This was not only a quiet amplifier but it avoided the pitfalls of overheating as well, never getting hot and always staying cool to the touch. The 801 provides you with plenty of good clean power, enough to drive most loudspeakers, RCA as well as XLR inputs and an elegant looking front face plate. There will be more on the 801 later as for now let us move forward to its "partner" the MC 601 preamplifier.

 

MC 601 Preamplifier's Physical Inspection
MC 601 PreamplifierLike its companion the MC 801, the MC 601 also comes with a beautiful matching black glossy front faceplate which is sure to catch the eye of your friends. Again a silver plated finish is also an option. Glancing at the 601's front panel, from left to right, there is the normal power on/off button as well as input selector buttons for two CD players, a tuner and an auxiliary input (which I used for my phono stage). Located in the center of the face place is a good sized digital display to inform you of the functions. Beneath the display are volume control buttons for manual adjustment when the remote is not desired. Using this manual override helps extends battery life and as we know green is good. To the right of the display is the function buttons one of which controls panel brightness. This was a desired feature for me as sometimes a manufacturer uses a display that is too bright which at times, after a very hard day, can be quite annoying. As for the remote, I like the solid heavy feel of it. There was nothing flimsy or cheap about this remote and it was comfortable sitting in my hands when in use. As for the feet underneath the unit, they reminded me of those on the 801 but slightly different as it need not support as much weight. The 601 being similar in outward size to the 801 standing a little shorter at about 4.675" inches tall, 18" wide and 16" deep also needed only six screws to hold the top plate in place.

Finding your way to the rear of the unit there are RCA/XLR inputs and outputs. With ample RCA inputs there was just one XLR input. For me this was plenty as my turntable uses RCA cables and only my CD player had the balanced output option, which was used for this review. There is an IEC power cord, a ground connector and a fuse holder on the back panel. Again I shelved the stock factory supplied power cord for an aftermarket one as I suspect many end users might when buying preamplifiers in this price range. Lifting off the top cover (again for safety concerns most people will never venture inside the unit) there is a layout similar in simplicity to the 801 amplifier.

While I do not like repeating myself often it must be said that the 601 has these similarities with the 801. They both use key switching contacts made of mono-crystalline (OFC/OCC) with gold-plated finishing. The 601 like the 801 uses a symmetrical grounding system and the shortest signal path possible in an effort to minimize both interference and delay. Behind the front face plate is a circuit board for the display and function buttons. Where the MC 601 differs from many others I have seen is that the circuit boards are raised up considerable suspended between the top cover and the bottom platform. Looking underneath as best I could there were a few wires hidden from view making for a very clean organized appearance when looking down from the top. Overall there was about one third useable space available for qualified technicians to perform any necessary repairs if need be. For the next part of the review, out came the 801 power amplifier and the Audio Research VT50 tube amplifier was placed back into its normal position within my review system along with the 601 preamplifier.

 

Songs Through The MC 601
To listen to music after the 601 was inserted into my system it became evidently clear it was closely related to the 801. I hesitate to say Music Culture Technology products have a house sound, but for sure music played through the 601immeadiatly had that similar clarity I found when using the 801. When Andrea Bocelli sings, my wife and I stop to listen. With the 601 the Verdi DVD Audio CD [Philips B0001292-19] recorded with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Aubin Mehta, sounded simply enchanting. On "Di quella pira Il trovatore" the power and clarity of this opera is difficult to realistically reproduce yet the 601did surprisingly well. Vocals sounded uncongested and free from restraint even at high volume. As for the soundscape it was vast and reminiscent of tube components. When reproducing large orchestral passages the 601 had no trouble separating vocal content or individual sections of string and percussion. To characterize its sound as smooth in no way means to say it was the opposite of detailed but rather less cluttered, without coloration and truer to the original source. Music flowed forth with great passion not sounding artificial but rather organic in nature.

Wondering how it would do on rock and roll music Queens Greatest Hits CD [Hollywood Records 2061-62465-2] was selected. Here on "We Will Rock You" the sound of that large group of people clapping to the music was realistic. The 601 had the singers clearly planted in front while the audience remained appropriately in the background. Like the 801 amplifier, the soundscape tended to sound delightfully a little larger than had been expected. Roger Taylor's drum breaks on "Fat Bottom Girls" was wonderful, letting you hear all the little intricacies of this drum performance. The same could be said for the opening guitar chords of "You're My Best Friend". Reproducing those deep low drum sounds on Janis Ian's "All Road to the River" from the CD Breaking Silence [Morgan Creek 2959-20023-2] proved no problem as the 601 never missed a beat (excuse the pun). The sound of the bass guitar on the opening of "Guess You Had To Be There" was tight and powerful, very close to what it might sound like played in my living room live. Music passed music through the 601 with great realism and clarity. The many intricate performances found on this CD played right into the strengths of the 601. Music sounded intimate as if sitting in the fifth row.

On "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)" from We Get Requests [LIM Records B002HTWYZ6] we find Oscar Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on Double-bass and Ed Thigpen on drums. To have all three of these masterful musicians playing together on one CD is a thrill enhanced further when played back through the 601. A little history first on this memorable CD, Oscar Peterson was a Grammy Awards winning Canadian jazz pianist known the world over. Ray Brown played Double-bass with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and more. As for Ed Thigpen he was a world renowned drummer playing with the Billy Taylor trio and Ella Fitzgerald. While it is difficult to describe the sound of instruments, once you hear their magic nothing else need be said. The 601 gave me the feeling that a three-dimensional image of Oscar Peterson on piano was right there before me. The ability to reproduce the lightening quick attack of piano notes was amazing. As for the triangle playing softly in the background, courtesy of Ed Thigpen, it had a very clear high pitched solid sound to it. Drums came alive with details and when closing my eyes could be perceived as if in the corner of my room playing just for me. Let us not forget Ray Brown on double-bass with that full bodied mellow sound capping off this fine musical event. All three musicians were correctly situated on the soundscape with relation to left and right placement with just the right amount of depth thrown in.

This is a good sounding preamplifier with RCA/XLR inputs and outputs, a sturdy remote control with ample of functions, an attractive front display, plus enough inputs to satisfy most of us. If that is not enough there are several kinds of phono modules available for your record collection (moving magnet, moving coil and one that has both moving magnet and moving coil). The thought of placing both the 801 and 601 together in my review system has been nagging at me since the UPS driver first dropped off these two packages. This now seemed the appropriate time to pair them together for my final listening comparisons.

 

The MC 801 and MC 601 Together As They Were Meant To Be
With the electrifying Aaron Nevels singing "nobody plays the fool" on the promotional CD A gift of love from Mercedes-Benz [MC-97821-230] these MC products displayed much that was good about them. This New Orleans tenor knocks it out of the park here with the help of the 801/601 combination. There was plenty of clarity, depth and spaciousness yielding a lifelike quality to the performance. That glorious voice which is unique to Aaron Neville filled the space between both loudspeakers with a purity one would find hard to challenge. Using both amplifier and preamplifier together was starting to make me understand just how good these components actually are. On Elton John's "Your Song" vocals were real and quite stunning while the piano had an organic tonal quality and a life-sized sense of depth. If you like playing your music loud the MC components will not disappoint as the event felt richer and deeper with each increase in volume. It was not that it ever sounded poor at lower volumes, au contraire, it is just fine for that late night evening session designed not to wake the family.

For duets and female vocals give "Girl from Ipanema" with Al Jarreau and Oleta Adams a listen. Having heard him at an outdoor concert in Berkeley California, a long, long while ago, it was easy to remember what there was to like about him. The MC products did well to represent this duets sultry combination of vocals making me feel a bit younger than I had a right to, ah to be able to turn back the clock. Now for something a little different let's take the vinyl recording of Bo Diddley In The Spotlight [MCA Chess Records CH 9264] for a spin on my turntable. Since the review sample did not have the optional phono stage everything was run through its auxiliary port from my Whest phono device. The lyrics on "Story of Bo Diddley" was fun and the music exciting featuring Bo Diddley on vocals/guitar with Otis Spann on piano. Once again things were quite intimate feeling as if one was sitting in a small club at a weekend late night showing. If you really want to get up to dance though try listening to "Scuttle Bug", same musicians but with an unknown bass player thrown in. This was all music and did they jam, oh yes. The pianos ivory keys "singing" a duet with Bo Diddley's guitar was masterful as the attack of notes were not lost on this expressive combination from MC.

It was nice to stumble across a vinyl version of the classic "Thick as a Brick" on The Best of Jethro Tull [1975 Chrysalis FV 41078]. It was at a concert in the Fillmore East December 6th 1969 that I heard them for the first of two separate occasions. That particular day they performed as the backup band for Blood Sweat and Tears (they also opened for Jimi Hendrix among others during those early years) but the status of being a backup group quickly disappeared as people quickly grew to love their music. Ian Anderson shows his many talents doing vocal, flute, guitar, saxophone and mandolin. The opening flute piece swiftly grabbed my attention with its truth of timbre and vocals that were astonishingly clear as well as powerful. This combination of electronics provided a platform for which Jethro Tull could be heard at its best. "Leaving On A Jet Plane" on Peter Paul and Mary's [Warner Brothers BSK 3105] (Ten) Years Together is also a personal favorite album of mine. This trio of folk singers exhibited proper individual soundscape placement as well as good vocal tonal qualities. Here again the emotional content of singers shown through uniting listener with performance.

Finally we come to, "Puff the Magic Dragon", a true classic. Hearing it played back on quality equipment gave the song that magical quality it deserved. The 801 amplifier and 601 preamplifier combined the richness and depth of tube magic with the majestic power of solid state audio gear without using tubes or a hybrid design. How it did so baffled me but surely it must be found in the engineering. Being a lover of music the bottom line was what it did for me and less how it did it. Preferring to leave the technical design to the engineering experts at Music Culture Technology it was easy for me to sit back and just enjoy the music. With the 601 and 801 everybody wins as both vinyl and CD playback camps were the better when inserted into my home audio system.

 

In Summation
Audio playback versus live music is like looking into a lake to see a treasure chest resting below at the bottom of the water. Sometimes the water is cloudy and obstructs your view yet other times remaining quite clear, but there will always be something between you and the treasure. That is just the way it is. My search is to find a body of water so clear the treasure chest would look as if standing beside me with nothing between us. Impossible, of course, as the water is always in the way but the search goes on nevertheless. Obviously my analogy with water relates to the mechanical aspects of our audio gear and as long as music is passing through wires, capacitors, circuit boards, etc. things will change. With the MC 801 and MC 601 I found the changes to be quite pleasant and the water very clear. What really surprised me was that it did so in exchange for such a modest sum of expense. At $3495 apiece there is no hesitation on my part to highly recommend either or both to friends and audiophiles looking to see that treasure chest just a little more clearly. Designed by Wolfgang Meletzky and by high-end standards a "steal" at this price, what are you waiting for? You can buy either and be happy or better yet get both!

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet from the short wall slopping upwards to reach a height of thirteen feet in the middle than returning to eight feet at the opposite end. The hardwood floor is partially covered by a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the loudspeakers, placed dead center between but not under the listener or the audio system. The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker giving access to the hallway while the other is behind the listener's position opening to a formal dining area. There are three floor standing acoustical panels one in each corner behind the loudspeakers and another in front of the fireplace with numerous Auralex Studiofoam panels placed around the room. All the audio equipment is located in a Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position. Power conditioners are all located on the hardwood floor behind and to the left of the audio rack with the exception of the Audience Ar2p-T0 which is plugged directly into the socket behind the rack.

 

Review Equipment
Von Schweikert VR-35 Export Deluxe Loudspeakers
Aesthetix Saturn Calypso Tube Preamplifier
Audio Research VT50 Stereo Tube Amplifier
OPPO Digital BDP-95 Universal player
Oracle Delphi MK 1 Turntable, Grace 707 Tone arm with custom made interconnects
Audio-Technica Prestige AT33PTG Moving Coil Cartridge
Whest PhonoStage .20+MsU.20 Power Supply
VPI 16.5 Record Cleaning Machine
Audience aR2p-T0 power conditioner
PS Audio UPC 200 Power Conditioner
PS Audio Power Port Receptacle  
Loudspeaker Cables: Cardas Golden Presence (2 pairs for bi-wiring)

Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA cables (phono stage to preamplifier, Acoustic Revive XLR Balanced cables from preamplifier to amplifier, Monarchy Audio XLR DAB-1 Balanced cables from CD player to preamplifier

Power Cords: Cardas Cross, Cardas Golden, Mr. Cable "The Musician" and Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack.

 

 

Specifications
MC801 Amplifier
Peak Pulse Power: 500W
Rated Power: 2 x 120 W (8 Ohm), 2 x 185 W (4 Ohm)
Output Voltage max.: 35 V peak
Output current max.: 20 A peak
Input Impedance: 10 kOhm (RCA), 10 kOhm (XLR)
Input Sensitivity: 1,5V, 185 W, 4-ohm
S/N ratio unweighted: 111 dB
S/N ratio A-weighted: 115 dB
Frequency Response Mono/Stereo: DC to 130 kHz
Distortion: <0.006%, 4 Ohm, 1 kHz, 50 W
Damping Factor: 300 (4 Ohm)
Weight: 32 lbs
Dimensions: 18 x 5.7 x 16 (WxDxH in inches)
Warranty: Two years parts and labor included
Price: $3495

 

MC601 Preamplifier
Inputs: XLR (1x), CD (2x), high level (2x), processor (1x), Option (1x) 
Outputs: RCA (2x), Balanced (1x) 
Frequency Range: CD - DC to 600 kHz, High Level - DC to 600 kHz
Output level: 1Veff - 10Veff max.
Output Impedance: 100 Ohm
Noise Distortion @ 1 kHz, 2V: <0,0007%
Input Sensitivity: High level - 315mV
Signal to Noise: CD - 98/101 dB, 1V/25W, High Level - 105/108 dB, 1V/25W
Maximum loading level: 10 Veff
Input Impedance: CD - 10 kOhm, High Level - 50 kOhm, processor - 10 kOhm
Channel separation: High level - 100 dB
Weight: 24 lbs.
Dimensions: 18 x 5.7 x 16 (WxHxD in inches)
Warranty: Two years parts and labor included
Price: $3495

 

Company Information
Music Culture Technology GmbH
Reuchlinstr. 10-11
10553 Berlin
Germany

Voice: +49-152-28 967 567
Fax: +49-30-484 98 35 50
E-mail: Contact@music-culture.com
Website: www.music-culture.com/germany

 

United States of America Distributor
VSO Marketing, LLC
Fairfield Industrial Campus
16 Passaic Avenue. Unit #6
Fairfield, NJ 07004, USA

Voice: (973) 808-4108
Fax : (973) 808-1055
E-mail: moltz@vsomarketing.com
Internet: www.music-culture.us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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