Meridian Widens Their Color Palette

meridian prIf you’ve always admired Meridian HiFi products, but wanted more than the standard black and silver, their new Meridian Select service is for you. With so many furniture finishes available today, their new palette of colors allows you the ultimate in customization. Utilizing the K5 selection of the RAL color system, (the most popular system in Europe today) there are now 210 metallic and non metallic colors to choose from. The system is a result of Meridian responding to their customers wishes for a broader range of product color options to integrate with their interiors.

The Meridian Select service is available on the DSP 8000, DSP 7200, DSP 7200HC, DSP 5200, DSP 5200HC speakers and all 800 series electronics. There is a 20% additional charge for the customization and it includes a small plaque featuring the customers name alongside the signatures of Meridian’s founders, Bob Stuart and Allen Boothroyd.

Contact your local Meridian dealer to get the full details of the program, including color charts.

U2 in Chicago

Who says bigger isn’t better? Certainly not U2. Parked at the North end of Soldier Field, the band’s colossal 90-foot tall, 170-ton, four-legged stage—a monstrosity dubbed “The Claw” that resembles an invading aircraft from “War of the Worlds,” takes four days to build, and another two-plus days to dismantle—made it immediately clear that even before Sunday’s show began, the Irish icons intend for their current 360 Tour to transcend that of mere performance. As the group did in the early 90s with its pioneering Zoo TV tour and again later that decade with the enjoyable albeit flawed PopMart spectacle, U2 is returning to making its live appearances significant events at which music is just one aspect of the production. What else to expect from an ensemble whose ubiquitous frontman declared, sans irony, “We’re reapplying for the job of the best band in the world” in 2002?

As far as innovative designs are concerned—and the band can claim several—the 360 Tour deserves high marks. A cutting-edge cylindrical video screen weighing 54 tons opens and expands, rises and falls, much like a giant two-way curtain would at a ritzy opera house. And just like the play-to-all angles perspectives offered by the stage, the one-million-piece visual contraption provided the sold-out crowd close-up views no matter where they happened to be sitting. Referred to by lead singer Bono as “space junk” and a “spaceship,” the hulking structure—capped by a giant light tower/antennae that itself is crowned by what might be the world’s brightest disco ball—threatened to engulf the music. At times, this miniature city of blinding lights and echoing sound did just that.

While more successful than PopMart, U2’s latest venture lacks the delicate (and admittedly complex) balance between art, showmanship, creativity, intimacy, fun, sincerity, and song that made the multimedia-based ZooTV the best arena tour in history. Not that the shortcomings owed to a deficiency of ambition or willingness. On the second of a two-night stand that opened the band’s North American jaunt, U2 stepped out of its comfort zone by eschewing the stale greatest-hits approach that bogged down its two prior tours. Instead, the band put a premium on pushing recent fare. Seven of the 23 songs that the quartet played came from this year’s No Line on the Horizon album, including the show-opening “Breathe” and show-closing “Moment of Surrender,” each serving their purpose with near-perfect results. Having already traversed Europe this past summer, U2’s members also have all of their moves down. Bono utilized the wrap-around runway as both a jogging track and church pulpit, and guitarist The Edge and bassist Adam Clayton frequently stepped across mobile bridges to ensure that no side felt ignored.

chicago11_640Of course, it was difficult to miss any action given the enormous screen and its continual projections of Bono’s continuous posing, preening, and prancing. Displaying a knack for drama that any award-winning thespian would envy, the charismatic vocalist carefully matched messianic hand gestures and facial expressions with the music’s breaks and choruses. If not for occasional traces of self-knowing humor (his flippant kissing of video cameras, sardonic smiles, and cock-of-the-walk gait), the pomp and circumstance would’ve come perilously close to unintentional parody and self-aggrandizing arrogance.

Yet aside from an inspired conga-themed rendition of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” and dizzying run through “Vertigo”—the tune’s namesake sensations reinforced by fast-spinning images of real-time footage broadcast on the video screen—U2 often prized seriousness above entertainment. Rather than do all the talking, the band spread its trademark political and social messages via a video plea from Archbishop Desmond Tutu and a solidarity march of concertgoers that wore paper masks to honor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader under house arrest. Orchestrated during “Walk On,” the latter demonstration had the contrived feel of a Super Bowl halftime stunt. By contrast, the connection made between pro-Iranian democracy activists and the still-potent “Sunday Bloody Sunday” registered with truer conviction. As did “Ultra Violet (Light My Way),” which witnessed Bono emerge in a jacket outfitted with light-emitting diodes before he swung from an illuminated, wheel-shaped microphone suspended from the top of the stage’s metal canopy. The demonstration functioned as a prime example of how, when used subtly, technology doesn’t need to overload the senses in order to effectively convey meaningful points.

edgelarry_640Alas, U2’s pacing, sequencing, and all-things-to-everyone concerns torpedoed what could have been great but which settled for being a cut above average. While Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. put on a rhythmic clinic, and the always-dependable Edge made the myriad treble-rich guitar melodies, effects, and orchestrations seem effortless, there was no salvaging tedious numbers such as “Your Blue Room” and “Unknown Caller,” tunes whose atmospheric qualities are better experienced on record. Cover snippets—The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah,” The Police’s “King of Pain”—tacked on to the end of songs derailed momentum and didn’t always fit with their mates. And while the scale of the stage was partially accountable—there’s certain risk involved in building a set so massive that it considerably shrinks the members’ physical proportions even for those watching from premium seats—the band’s collective energy remained lukewarm until towards the end of the 130-minute extravaganza.

An initial encore featuring the soulful “One” and uplifting “Where the Streets Have No Name” turned the outdoor stadium into a cozy slow-dance ballroom and mass-karaoke rally, respectively. Devoid of pretense and proselytizing, such bonding moments continue to define U2 and enduring appeal of its highlight performances, where the lines between artist and fan, lyrics and personal experience, and the spiritual and secular are erased, at least momentarily.


2.No Line On The Horizon
3.Get On Your Boots
5.Beautiful Day / King Of Pain (snippet) / Blackbird (snippet)
6.I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
8.Your Blue Room
9.Unknown Caller
10.Until the End of the World
11.Stay (Faraway, So Close!)
12.The Unforgettable Fire
13.City Of Blinding Lights
15.I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight / I Want To Take You Higher (snippet)
16.Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (snippet)
18.Walk On

Encore 1:

19.One / Amazing Grace (snippet)
20.Where The Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet)

Encore 2:

21. Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender

Rita-340 Integrated Amplifier

web RITA FrontIf you like tube amplifiers that hanker back to the glory days of audio with a big, beefy chassis and huge output transformers, the Grant Fidelity Rita-340 is for you. It’s so robustly built that even the careless handling of the UPS guys couldn’t stop it! The substantial crate arrived, looking like it had been dropped off the top of my garage roof, but after I dusted off the Rita and fired it up it worked perfectly and it has worked flawlessly for the past six months. I think this should settle any build questions you might have about this amplifier; anything that can survive that kind of abuse should be fine in everyday use.

The Rita-340 has a substantial footprint, reminding me a lot of the Audio Research D-79 and D-150 that I used to own in the 80s, so make sure you have enough shelf space. It measures 15.5” wide, 10” tall and is 19” deep, weighing about 115 pounds. Perhaps the bottom shelf on your rack may be the best.

The silver faceplate is massive and it features control buttons on the front with a pair of transparent power meters that feature deep blue lights that let you see the tubes glowing inside. The Rita 340 is also available in all black if you prefer that look. If you subscribe to the “deep listening” crowd that needs all the lights out to get in your audio trance, you can switch the lighting off on the back panel. I loved the contrast of the blue panel and the rich warm glow of the tubes. However, I did find the power meters relatively useless. With no markings to show what they really are indicating, and the small, thin florescent orange pointers, they are virtually impossible to read from more than a few feet away. If I made the style decisions, I’d just leave the see through front panel without the meters.


Keep in mind that this is an integrated amplifier, so the size isn’t so imposing when you realize it’s taking up two spaces. There are four high level RCA inputs and one XLR input, should you have a component with balanced outputs to integrate with your system. I took advantage of this to use my Luxman D7 combination player, which features balanced outputs.

The test system consisted of the Luxman player, my Sound HiFi modded Technics SL-1200 with SME 309 arm, Sumiko Blackbird cartridge and Audio Research PH3SE phono stage. All cabling was the latest Furutech Ref III (speaker and interconnects), with Shunyata Python CX power cords and a Shunyata V-Ray power conditioner.

While most of my listening was done with my Harbeth Monitor 40.1’s, I did try quite a few different speakers during the listening period. The Rita wouldn’t really push my MartinLogan CLX’s or Magnepan 1.6’s (nor did I expect it to…), but it did a great job with all the more traditional dynamic speakers I used it with. Excellent results were achieved with the Zu Essence, Verity Audio Sarastro II’s and the Gamut S-7, as well as a number of mini monitors that have passed through for review.

web RITA RearThere are two sets of speaker outputs on the rear panel, and while the amplifier is rated to drive speakers from 4-8 ohms, with a tap for 4 and 8 ohms and a common ground. The speakers I tried had varying impedance and I did not notice any issues driving anything.

Overall the Rita-340 is very easy to use, the only quirky thing I found during the review period was the relatively slow ramp up of the volume control, but I’d rather have it go too slow than too fast, which has been the case on a few preamplifiers I’ve used lately. Fortunately, the stylish remote does have a mute button, so it’s all good.

The basics

The good news is that none of this affects the amplifiers performance, which is excellent. After a brief burn in period of about 50 hours, Rita was in full song. Featuring a pair of EL34’s driven by a 6SN7 and 6SL7 in each channel, tube rollers will be in heaven. I was very pleased with the stock tubes, but swapping the 6SN7’s for a pair of Sylvanias’ I had on hand relaxed the overall presentation, but if you are a tube roller, I’m sure you have your own secret combination. For those wanting to take the amplifiers’ performance a bit further without a lot of experimentation, you can purchase Shuguang Treasure “Black Bottle” 6SN7’s for about $300 a pair and their EL34 tubes for about the same price. Click here to see their variations on the theme:

If you purchase a set from Grant Fidelity at the same time you pick up your amplifier, they will give you 25% off. And thanks to Grant Fidelity’s excellent customer service, if you aren’t quite ready to swap tubes, as a Rita owner, they will still extend the discount later, when you are ready to make the change. Very cool.

If you are new to tube rolling, I’d highly suggest just trying the 6SN7’s. NOS variations of these tubes are indestructible and you can actually change the tonality of the amplifier quite a bit, allowing you to fine tune the sound to your room, taste and speakers. NOS EL34’s may prove too spendy, reaching as much as $300 or more each.

While still on the subject of tubes, the Rita-340 features fixed bias on the output tubes, so you will not have to monitor or adjust bias. This will require purchasing a matched quad of output tubes when retubing, which usually adds 10-20% more to the cost, but because the Rita is run so conservatively, I anticipate tube life to be very long, much like my McIntosh MC275.

If this all sounds like too much work, just fire up the Rita and dig the glorious sound.

Big amplifier, big sound

The Rita is an excellent blend between current and old school design. It has the midrange delicacy that drives most people to a tube amplifier in the first place, yet has the extension at both ends of the frequency scale to sound modern. But being an EL34 design, it does possess more warmth than a KT88 design. If you prefer a punchier version, try their Rita-880, which uses KT88 tubes and is only slightly more expensive at $4,200. The 340 was a perfect fit for me, as the EL34 is one of my favorite tubes, and I’ve used quite a few variations on the theme over the years.

I was most impressed with the quality of the bass and control that the Rita possessed. When used with the $42,000 Verity Sarastro II’s that go solidly down to 25hz, it was no problem getting some serious bass grunt with some resolution. Playing my favorite Pink Floyd and Genesis tracks revealed that the Rita could shake the walls quite nicely, but switching to some acoustic bass showed off the more articulate side of the amplifier.

Listening to “Her Room” on Anja Garbarek’s Smiling and Waving allowed me to cross the acoustic bass and female vocal requirements off the list handily. This record is a great demo, because it starts with some great plucky bass lines and weaves a great sonic texture of trippy environmental effects with Ms. Garbarek’s ethereal voice.

As I mentioned earlier, this amplifier does an excellent job of adding a touch of tubiness without becoming slow and syrupy, but make no mistake; this is a tube amplifier that adds a slight bit of body to the sound. But isn’t that why you buy a tube amplifier in the first place? Listening to some of Henry Rollins’ spoken word discs was outright scary! It sounded like Henry was right in the room screaming at me through the Harbeths. Johnny Cash’s “Delia” from American Recordings and various tracks from Tom Waits Mule Variation were equally haunting.

The presentation never got cloudy, when listening to relatively complex music either. Orchestral music had a very nice sense of spaciousness and placement. The Rita threw a very big and wide soundstage, with a lot of front to back depth as well. While 35 watts can only go so far, the Rita gave its all, even on less efficient speakers and to its credit, clips very softly. 86 db speakers should be no problem if you don’t need to achieve concert hall levels and anything above 90 db sensitivity will let you rock the house.

But there’s just something special about listening to 60’s and 70’s rock on a great tube amplifier like the Rita. That extra body just makes those Marshall amplifiers come alive in your living room. Thanks to the airy presentation, I also enjoyed my favorite grunge records from the 80’s and early 90’s too. Sonic Youth’s “My Friend Goo”, from Goo is a relatively flat recording, but the Rita did an excellent job of unraveling the texture within. Soundgarden was just as much fun to blast as Led Zeppelin and I was always surprised at just how dynamic the Rita made good live recordings sound.

This sense of dynamics really came in handy when listening to some of Naim Records’ latest 24/96 recordings. “Dolphyus Morphyus”, the sixth track on Empirical’s Out and In, has some great sax solos that will push an amplifier to its limits to keep up. The Rita-340 did a great job and never felt strained in the least, so if you are adding high res files to your music collection, you will have no problems here.


Regardless of your musical taste, the Rita is an excellent amplifier that was always involving and most of all, a lot of fun to listen to. As an integrated, you save on rack space and the fact that you will only have to upgrade one power cord (if you are so inclined) and will not need to agonize over interconnects between amplifier and preamplifier. Not to mention the resulting synergy that comes from having it all in one box.

If you have wanted to get back into tubes or are thinking about trying it for the first time, the Rita-340 should provide years of musical enjoyment thanks to its robust construction and gentle use of its power tubes. The folks at Grant Fidelity have an excellent reputation for customer service, so they can help you with tube rolling and other system questions. We are very happy to give the Rita 340 one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2009.

Manufacturers Information

The Grant Fidelity Rita – 340 Reference Integrated Tube Amplifier

MSRP: $3,500


Analog Source: Sound HiFi Modded SL-1200 with Sumiko Blackbird and Audio Research PH3SE

Digital Sources: Luxman Du-7 Combination player, Sooloos Music Server with Neko Audio D-100 DAC

Speakers: GamuT S-7, Harbeth Monitor 40.1, Verity Audio Sarastro II, ZU Essence

Cable: Shunyata Aurora interconnects, Shunyata Orion speaker cable, Shunyata Python CX power cords

Accessories: Shunyata V-Ray power conditioner, Shunyata Dark Field Cable Elevators, GIK sound panels, Furutech DeMag

Todd Rundgren performs on “Live From Daryl’s House” today

Legendary performers Daryl Hall and Todd Rundgren perform together on “Live From Daryl’s House” in the current episode.

If you haven’t taken the time to catch the show, it’s produced by Daryl Hall in the studio behind his house. It’s not your
ordinary house, the studio looks like a sound stage from MTV Unplugged and has featured a wide variety of artists from the legendary
Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek of the Doors, to newcomer Mutlu.

But Hall’s relationship with Rundgren goes back to childhood and seeing these guys perform together in this kind of atmosphere
makes you wish these two legends would do a mini tour together.

All of the episodes are available, so if you’re tuning in for the first time, enjoy and check out the rest!

Marantz 8B project…

I’ve been looking for one of these for years now!

The legendary Marantz 8B was one of the best sounding amplifiers of the 60’s and I
am anxious to start probing around to see what it can do. More copy to follow.

CEDIA 2009: Burmester steals the show!

As always, there was a lot of excitement to be found at the 2009 CEDIA expo in Atlanta.

Even though CEDIA is considered by most to be an AV and multichannel show, the 2
channel vendors were out in full force. But the most exciting thing I experienced at the
show was the Burmester audio system for the new Porsche Panamera.

The Burmester sound system has to be the audio bargain of the 21st century.
Burmester had a gorgeous blue metallic test sample of the Panamera on hand for everyone
to sample and it was effortless, no matter what music was being played. With a total system
output of 1000 watts, you can rock to your hearts content in the Panamera.

The system is a $5,690 upgrade in the standard and 4S model Panamera and only
a $3,990 upgrade in the Turbo model.

We also had the opportunity for a second helping of the Panamera later Friday evening
at Audio, Automation & Theater, in Atlanta. In collaboration with Porsche Cars North
America and Burmester, they brought another test car to their event (along with a few other
choice cars from their fleet) for their customers to audition. This is a dealer that knows
how to do it right, so watch for a feature on AA&T in our December issue.

Burmester has promised a test car, so that we can have a full review as soon as the Panamera
becomes available, but if you are in the process of ordering one, the Burmester system
is a MUST. As much as I love the sound of a Porsche engine revving through it’s range, this
mobile stereo system could easily make me forget about the engine!

Now you can take the enjoyment of your Burmester system on the road. Here’s to Burmester’s
success and my hopes that they will soon engineer a system for the 911 and Boxster!

And Just When You Couldn’t Get More Beatles…

Picked up my Beatles’ Mono box tonight as my local record shop was closing and as part of the deal, got one of the rare 7″ singles of their Seattle interview in 1964.

While poorly recorded, it’s a fun look back into the history of the Fab Four. The interview is typical Beatles, with the press asking stupid questions, “do you ever get tired of performing?”, “are you disappointed with the low concert turnout here in Seattle?”, etc, etc.

But the guys handle it with typical aplomb, and make fun of the interviewers in such great form, that they don’t even know they are being messed with. If you can find one of these, it’s definitely worth a spin.

Moscode 402au

The question of whether to power your HiFi system with tubes or transistors has plagued audiophiles for years, with each camp having valid reasons why which is better, but in the end we love what we respond to most strongly; measurements and specs be damned. Up until I found peace and happiness with an all solid-state system from Burmester, I’ve always enjoyed the combination of a tube preamplifier and solid-state power amplifier for years. It started in 1981 when I mated my Threshold 400A power amplifier to a Conrad Johnson PV-2a.TA web - moscode front

However, to flash forward, hybrid power amplifiers that usually combine a tube driver stage with a solid-state output stage have always been somewhat rare but usually very special products indeed. One of the most special is the Moscode 402AU that we have here for review. Moscode designer George Kaye doesn’t have just any hybrid; he was the first to develop a tube input/MOSFET output stage amplifier, the legendary New York Audio Labs Moscode 300. It was a great amp for the day, but was ultimately limited by the generic quality of parts used at the time that are upgradeable today. As designer George Kaye said, “That was my state of the art at the time. It took 20 more years to refine the Moscode to todays level.”

Today, the 402AU is not hampered by the “cloudiness” that used to plague MOSFET amplifiers of all kinds. The circuitry is up to date and this amplifier features a big, beefy power supply to go along with some other innovative features. This $6,495 power amplifier puts out a very healthy 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms in a dual mono design. As you remove it from its shipping carton, you can feel the quality inside.

Popping the top panel reveals a massive power supply, gold plated circuit boards, (hence the AU in the model designation) and careful attention to detail everywhere you look. It’s obvious that a lot of care was taken in building these amplifiers.

Available in brushed silver, or a black anodized finish (the color of my test sample), the 402 AU has a clear, etched glass front plate with the Moscode logo that glows soft blue along with the four driver tubes, right up there where you can see the glow. Pushing the center mounted power switch on the front panel starts the blue glow blinking for about two minutes until the amplifier is ready to operate, with the outputs staying muted.

Though it sounds good right from startup, once broken in the Moscode takes about 45 minutes to open up all the way, but it’s worth the wait! And for those of you that need to listen in absolute darkness, you can shut the front panel lights off, but I think it’s way too cool to do so…

Straightforward setup

The rear panel is basic and to the point, with Cardas RCA jacks and Edison Price speaker binding posts. Hats off to George Kaye for including these high quality binding posts that accommodate spade or banana ends, instead of those dreadful plastic coated binding posts that many manufacturers are going to. Hooking up my reference Shunyata Stratos SP speaker cables (that are a bit on the bulky side) was a snap.

During the initial 100 hours I spent on burning the 402AU in, I used the supplied, basic power cord to get a baseline read on the sound. Once that was established, I switched to a Shunyata Anaconda cord that powers everything else in my system, so I could make a valid comparison to other components in my system. While it certainly will perform well with the stock power cord, I highly suggest a premium power cord with any high current, high power amplifier to get 100% of what it is capable of. For the review period, the Moscode had a dedicated 20amp line all to itself.

While the Moscode has a pair of single ended RCA inputs, I had excellent success with both single ended and balanced (with XLR adaptors) preamplifiers. I made it a point to use the Moscode with everything from my vintage Audio Research SP-9 all the way up to the Burmester 011. It worked well in every situation I auditioned it and was not particularly swayed by different choices of interconnects either. It had enough resolution that I could easily tell the differences between whatever cable I was using, but nothing in my arsenal from Shunyata, Cardas, Furutech or the others wouldn’t work. The Moscode gets high points for being a great chameleon and not having any system synergy issues.

I had the same luck with speakers. As is customary here, I like to try any power amplifier in question with at least five or six speakers that vary greatly in efficiency as well as difficulty to drive. My Magnepan 1.6’s and MartinLogan CLX’s are both very revealing speakers at their respective price points, yet can be somewhat difficult to mate with an amplifier. Again, the Moscode did a great job with both speakers and would be an amplifier I would suggest wholeheartedly should you own either of these speakers. Having just finished two issues almost completely full of speaker reviews, I went beyond the normal call of duty and probably auditioned the Moscode with about 20 different speakers.

It’s safe to say that this is an amplifier you can live with for a very long time and should not have to trade in if your taste in speakers should change down the road. And if you need more juice, you can operate the amplifier in BiAmp mode, which parallels the inputs for two channels of equal power, one for the highs and one for the lows, however I had no trouble driving my reference speakers with just one amplifier.Tone Web-Moscode rear

Glorious sound

When I earned my living as a commercial photographer and had to go to numerous press checks, when my work was being printed, the age-old argument over “correct color” and “pleasing color” always came up. I have always preferred the printed page to be slightly shifted towards the red, warmer side than the blue, colder side and I like audio the same way. Sure, if we can achieve that perfect balance, that would be ideal, but I’ll take a slight dose of tonal richness over sterility any day of the week.

However, it’s tough to just get that ever so slight drop of “tubiness” into the mixture without spoiling it and coming up with a sound that is colored, gooey and rolled off. It only takes a few percent of magenta or cyan to ruin yellow and here Kaye has succeeded brilliantly. Everything I listened to during the review period had the slightest bit of tonal richness that I enjoyed tremendously. Drum heads sounded very life-like and stringed instruments had a realism that is rarely heard in an amplifier at this price point.

Where a tube power amplifier usually goes too far for my taste, (especially at this price point) and ends up getting a little whumpy in the bass department, the Moscode keeps it tight. Probably has a little bit to do with George Kaye being a bass player… Acoustic instruments had an extra dose of palpability thanks in part to the tubes up front. It’s hard to get around em. And the female vocal lovers in the group will really love this amp too. This is one that lets you get lost in the performance.

Two things really stood out with the Moscode. It’s ability to throw an incredibly deep soundstage and the amount of low-level detail it possessed. I spent a lot of time listening with the Harbeth Monitor 40.1’s and these speakers will not reveal front to back detail with a mediocre amplifier. When listening to the latest MoFi CD release of Beck’s Sea Change, I had stuff spinning all over the room as if I had a pair of surround speakers. Very cool.

Live recordings are always fun to listen for hall ambience to place the players in a distinct acoustic space and my favorite test record of late is Classic Records’ remaster of Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall. If you’ve had the pleasure to listen to this on a great system, you know how big this record sounds. But another favorite of mine is Jacqui Naylor’s’ Birdland: Yoshi’s East/West. You can hear the depth in the audience on this one. When the people are clapping and clinking their glasses, you can hear the depth in how close or far away from the stage as well. A lesser amp just puts the claps up on the same plane with the stage. Just another day as a HiFi nerd, but something that jumped right out at me when listening to the Moscode.

All this talk about detail and tonality is somewhat meaningless without grunt. Grunt is the fourth dimension in my book. The Moscode possesses a lot of grunt without giving up finesse and that’s what makes it such a special amp. Whether you are listening to a full symphony or blazing guitars loud, the Moscode doesn’t lose its fine-grained ability to pluck the details out of the mix. This amplifier passes the ultimate test – after about 20 minutes you are under it’s spell and you’ll find yourself wanting to just keep spinning whatever kind of discs are in your collection. Unless you have very inefficient speakers, I can’t imagine needing more than one of these amplifiers.

One last trick

For those of you that can’t leave well enough alone, the front panel of the Moscode flips down and exposes the tubes. The 402AU comes from the factory with a pair of 6H30 tubes in the V101 and 201 positions and a pair of 6GU7’s in the V102 and 202 positions. As long as you replace them in identical pairs, you can tube roll to your hearts content. I must warn you though, if you lean the least bit towards adult ADD, this could be the ball of catnip that keeps you from enjoying the music, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. While I did not do a ton of tube rolling (because I really liked the sound straight from the factory) I did swap the factory 6H30’s for a pair of NOS 6H30’s that used to reside in one of my BAT preamplifiers and this is definitely a worthwhile upgrade. The 6H30 tube is very powerful and robust but can be slightly harsh. The older versions of this tube have all the power and less grain. A good pair of these will set you back about $4-500, but they do take the Moscode to an even higher level of inner detail without any harshness.TA web - moscode tubes

Interestingly, you can use 6922/6DJ8 tubes in all four positions, but you can only use the 6H30’s in the inside two sockets. This added flexibility assures that you should be able to get tubes for the 402AU no matter where you are.

33 1/3 days to make up your mind

Another part of the Moscode’s secret charm is that it’s sold factory direct. If this amplifier were sold through the traditional dealer network, it would probably cost about 33 1/3 % more. Though I normally am on the side of the traditional retail channel, smaller manufacturers selling direct evens out the playing field and allows them to be more competitive. Best of all, you have 33 1/3 days to return it (in the condition you received it of course) should it not be for you, but I’m guessing this is one you’d have a hard time to walk away from. Don’t have them send you one if you aren’t ready to write the check. George Kaye did mention that they have started selling the 402AU through select dealers, and the pricing will stay the same.

If you need a high-powered amplifier that sounds wonderful and is not the least bit fussy, I can’t suggest a better choice than the Moscode 402AU. I love this amp and purchased the review sample for permanent duty as a reference component here in the TONE studio. I’ve heard many an audiophile and audio critic discuss where the “point of diminishing returns truly is” and this is and amplifier that you will have to spend quite a bit more money to get this combination of power, resolution and musicality.

Manufacturers Information

74 Cotton Mill Hill, Suite A124
Brattleboro, VT 05301


Preamplifiers C-J ACT2/series 2, Burmester 011, ARC SP-9 and SP-17, Nagra PLL, Red Wine Audio Isabella, BAT VK-32SE, McIntosh MC2300

Digital Sources Naim CD555, Wadia 781SE, Sooloos Music Server

Analog Sources Spiral Groove SG-2 w/Triplanar and Dynavector XV-1s, Nagra VPS phono stage with VFS platform

Speakers MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan 1.6, Harbeth Monitor 40.1, Verity Audio Sarastro II, GamuT S-7, Zu Audio Essence

Cable Shunyata Anaconda power cords, Shunyata Stratos SP speaker cables, Shunyata Aurora interconnects

Power Running Springs Jaco and Dmitri Power conditioners

TONEAudio Magazine Issue 23


Old School: Love Those LED’s, The SAE2200
By Jerold O’Brien

Simon Drake Talks About Naim’s Music Label: Embracing Past and Future Technologies
By Jeff Dorgay

Budget Gear: The Rotel RA-1520 Integrated and RCD-1520 CD Player
By Mark Marcontonio

Dealers That Mean Business: We Visit Nuts About HiFi
By Jeff Dorgay

A Visit To Rega: Roy Gandy’s Model of Efficiency
By Jeff Dorgay

Tone Style

An Afternoon with the Focal Grande Utopia EM

The B&W Panorama

The Olympus E-P1
DSLR Performance, Compact Size

TomTom For The iPhone

The Sound of the Future Radio
WiFi Is Here, By Ben Fong-Torres

Red Eye’s Remote Control System for your iPod

Little City Coffee

Phish Promo Pint Glass


Live Music: The TONEStaff Covers The Montreux Jazz Festival,
Sunn O))) and Coldplay

TONEAudio Obscurities
Favorite recordings from the vault
By The TONEAudio Staff and Audio Industry Friends

Current Releases:
Fresh Releases in the Pop/Rock World
By the TONE Staff

Audiophile Pressings Presented by Music Direct
Beck, Boz Scaggs, Rickie Lee Jones, The Cars and more.


Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound 5

Naim Uniti

Nagra LB Recorder

Sennheiser HD800 Phones

Snell K7 Speakers

DCS Paganini Digital Playback System


PrimaLuna’s Dialog 7’s: Can We Talk?
By Hood McTiernan

A Year With The MartinLogan Spire
Long Term Test
By Jeff Dorgay

The Harbeth Monitor 40.1’s
By Jeff Dorgay

The BelCanto REF 500 Monoblock Amplifiers
By Lawrence Devoe

By Jeff Dorgay

Oppo’s BCP-83 Universal Player
By Rich Kent

The Marantz SA-K1 Pearl SACD Player
By Jerold O’Brien

Top of the SACD Food Chain: The Wadia 781i
By Jeff Dorgay

Trends TA 10.2 Amplifier
By Jeff Dorgay

Paradigm and HK Classics