1. Time for some upgrades in server hardware and software to enhance security and take AK to the next level. Please contribute what you can to sales@audiokarma.org at PayPal.com - Thanks from the AK Team
    Dismiss Notice

Musical Paradise MP501 comprehensive review

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by canuckaudiog, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. canuckaudiog

    canuckaudiog On a quest for high fidelity

    Messages:
    7,802
    Location:
    Edmonton, AB
    All right guys, here is my comprehensive review of the Musical Paradise MP501.

    I've had the amplifier now for a couple of weeks, and have spent long hours listening to it and I feel I am now prepared to write up a proper review of this amplifier. Before I begin, let's start out with what gear I am using with the amplifier:

    Loudspeakers: IMF RSPM Mk IV
    Source: Philips CD-160 and Windows 7 Netbook connected to a Musical Paradise MP-D1
    Amplifier: Musical Paradise MP501

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I decided to buy the MP501 about a month and a bit ago when Garry brought one over to try out in my system. At the time I didn't have the money nor was I sure if I wanted one, but Garry said he'd be willing to try it out anyways. I'm glad he did, in that short 30 minute listening session I had decided to buy one most definitely. Being very happy with my MP301 MK3, I knew I didn't want to change gears. I just needed more power, and heck if I could get a sonic upgrade at the same time why not? After hearing the MP501, I knew this was the way to go.

    A couple of weeks go by, and I managed to sell off some extra gear and get the cash for the MP501. I hadn't planned on getting it so early, but sometimes it just works out that way. At this point, the local audio gathering organized by Jac of Revival Audio is coming up and I tell Garry that I am ready to buy one. He tells me he will have one ready for me at the show. The show comes and goes, and I go home with an MP501.

    The first thing I want to say about the MP501 is its sheer size and weight. The website is very deceiving, this sucker is big. Not only that it weighs 29kg, which is about 65 pounds. It's heavy enough that I got my wife to help me move the amplifier to position properly in my listening set-up, which ultimately I ended up using a spare shelf from my audio stand and just putting it on the floor. I've always wanted to do that anyways, and it gives it better ventilation. Anyway, so after some grunt work the amplifier is in place and ready to go. I hook up my source, the Musical Paradise MP-D1 with the PC and Philips CD-160, plug in my speakers and fire it up.

    Having a bit of experience with the sound of the amplifier before, it didn't surprise me what came out. But, now I can play with it and try out more types of music and see how it really performs in every aspect.

    Over the last two weeks, I've thrown at it just about every style of music I listen to. Blues, jazz, big band jazz, orchestra, classical, pop, dance, rock and roll, hard rock, metal, disco, reggae, alternative rock, punk, etc. Here's what I found with some music in particular that I made note of:

    One of my favourite artists to listen to for sheer detail and dynamics is the Doobie Brothers. What A Fool Believes is really enjoyable to listen to on tubes due to the lovely airiness, transience and dynamics it has in the song. On the MP501 it sounded exactly as I remembered it, but with more accuracy, a huge sound stage, tons of detail, and ultimately it was extremely musical. I found myself tapping my foot without even realizing it and getting lost right into the song. The bass is full, notes sound juicy with excellent attack, pacing and rhythm. Everything came together and balanced beautifully. Vocals were quite natural sounding with good timbre and I found overall the entire presentation was excellent.

    Another of my favourite artists to listen to, in this case because I've listened to them so many times on different set-ups, is Diana Krall. Probably my favourite album of hers would have to be A Night In Paris. It's well recorded and the performance is really passionate. There was no exception here in the performance, it came through beautifully and true to its being. The sound stage was quite large, instruments sounded very natural and you could really feel the pluck in every string and every note. I could feel when the player was plucking the string harder or softer, it was very evident and you could feel it. Diana's voice came through clear and sounded full. The whole performance was impeccable, I haven't found myself visualizing a performance as well as I did when I listened to it with the MP501. One song in particular, The Look of Love had me jamming in my chair to the beat and really getting into the percussion. I completely forgot I was listening to a stereo and found myself listening to it like it was live in front of me, not a reproduction of this performance. Wow I thought to myself, I've never been able to come that close to a live recording before.

    Next, I have a McIntosh reference test CD that was given to my in my electronics sales days. I've kept it because I've used it so many times to demonstrate systems and I'm very familiar with how it sounds. Not only that, there are a ton of great recordings on it that can really show off the bottom end of a system if it's capable of it. Unfortunately I don't have any details like which recording is which. The track I use all the time is track number 8, which is a recording which has a lovely saxophone lead in it, as well as an excellent string section. It doesn't have lots of bottom end, but it's very good for showing off the midrange. With the MP501, strings sounded very emotional and clear. Like the Diana Krall experience, I found myself again being lost into the recording and imagining myself being there listening to it live. The saxophone was very full and fat, with again very good timbre. This saxophone sounds exactly like a saxophone should i thought to myself while listening to it. I've had the pleasure of playing in bands in high school, and I'm pretty familiar with how instruments should sound as I have heard them live. In this case, I could not detect any flaw in how any of the instruments sounded. They were as natural as could be, and you could really feel the amount of passion and energy in the person playing them.

    Having played a lot of natural music, I decided it was time for a change in gears and go for something a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I popped in my Donna Summer 20th Millenium Collection CD, and played McArthur Park. This track is full of emotion, albeit a little shallow in a lyrical sense. The song is very dynamic and can really show the performance of tube amplifiers with great airy qualities. Not only that, the timing and pace of the song is also very important to how you connect to it. Well, I am again astonished at the performance of the MP501. The bass rhythm is really groovy, pulling you into the song with ease, and there's excellent attack and slam in the bass drum. It isn't overbearing, loose or overpowering, it's well balanced and sounds like it belongs in the song. The pace is kept well and the amplifier doesn't sound too quick or too slow, just right. The presentation is rich, delicate and musical. Unfortunately the vocals didn't come through as well as I would have liked, but then again the vocals are overmixed (in my opinion) on most of Donna Summer's tracks.

    Overall, the musical character of the MP501 is uplifting, light, transparent, airy, accurate and full bodied. Its oversized output transformers really do the power it has justice because you get more slam with the MP501 over the MP301 MK3. If I had to really equate the two, I would say the MP501 is the MP301 all grown up. It has all the great qualities of the MP301, then takes them and puts them on steroids.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that the IMF speakers that I have are very picky about their source. They are extremely transparent transducers and reveal the flaws in anything hooked up to it. I've tried a few different receivers and amplifiers hooked up to them and so far the MP501 is by far the best of them all. It matches extremely well, the two units are very transparent and allow the recordings to come through in their truest sense. For me that is what I am after because I like to hear recordings as though they are being played live in front of me, and with the MP501 I have been able to achieve that. Never before have I been able to get lost right into the recording right to the point where I actually forget I am listening to a set of speakers hooked up to an amplifier. No, this is music, just pure music the way it should be!

    Also, I should also mention that I did end up swapping out the stock Shuguang 6J8P driver tubes with some NOS RCA 6SJ7's. The Shuguang's sounded pretty good, but the RCA 6SJ7's opened up the amplifier even more and added another level of detail to the amplifier. So if you are thinking about buying an MP501, I would think about changing out the driver tubes as well as you will get another boost in its fidelity quality. It already has the KT120 tubes which are only made by one person, so those are the best they can be and quite frankly the KT120's are solid power tubes to begin with. Audio Research's Reference 150 tube amplifier uses them if that says anything (and that's a $15k amp!).

    In summary, the MP501 is worth every single penny. It's not often you get to find such a great piece of gear that's so well made and sounds this good. Especially the fact that it uses the KT120 tube, which is a favourite among many tube enthusiasts, and the MP501 is designed here in Canada. It just doesn't get much better then that. If you're happy with the MP301 and you want to take it to the next level, you will jump a couple of levels with the MP501. If you're just looking for an excellent tube amplifier that brings you nothing but enjoyment, the MP501 will fit the bill. The MP501 has been an excellent addition to my stereo and it will not be going anywhere anytime soon.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  2. roadkingrich

    roadkingrich New Member

    Messages:
    11
    What kind of SPL can I expect from this unit? I'm new to tubes but do like the sound and shear volume I get from a 400 watt SS amp. Does 55 watts produce concert hall levels or do I need to be looking for even more power?
     
  3. PAGS

    PAGS AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,143
    Location:
    North of Philly
    Canuck,

    Thanks for the great review. I've had my eye on this amp for some time. It's definitely on the wish list.

    Now if I could only get my Tekton Lores to ship...
     
  4. rogerfederer

    rogerfederer AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,416
    Location:
    Northern VA
    thank for the great review

    i'm still loving my mp 301 mk3!
     
  5. big_tom

    big_tom New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Gatineau, QC
    Anybody else have this amp? I am possibly looking at this amp as an upgrade even though I have no idea what it sounds like and |i have not really been exposed to tubes either, any further comments would be helpful
     
  6. DuffyD

    DuffyD New Member

    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    I have it.

    I like it a lot. It sounds great. I have absolutely no complaints. I don't have a lot of experience with different amps so unfortunately I can't provide any comparative assessment.

    I picked the amp because I was looking to drive a new pair of Magnepan MMG's. I wanted to try a tube amp and I knew I needed some decent power to drive the MMGs as they a a bit power hungry at 86 dB efficiency. So, this fit the bill for me as it had a bit more power with the KT-120's and it fit my budget. And I was purchasing it from a fellow Canadian, although it is made in China. I didn't have to deal with border issues, etc.

    I have no problem recommending it. I think it offers great value.

    I bought it in December 2012. Also, I was sufficiently impressed to purchase the Musical Paradise DAC as well. Happy with that too.

    There is no manual with it. But it is a basic simple SET amp, so there is no complexity here really. Whenever I had a question, i just e-mailed Garry, who "is" Musical Paradise, and he answered promptly. Can't beat that.

    As a final note, I just acquired a pair of Vintage Tannoy Ardens. The MMGs sounded best on jazz and acoustic type of music. But I like good old rock n roll and the MMGs couldn't put out the bass I desired and were a little shy in how loud the MP-501 could drive them. The MP-501 drives the Ardens to 95 dB without breaking a sweat.
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  7. big_tom

    big_tom New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Gatineau, QC
    I am glad to hear somebody else likes it, sometimes if there is nothing to complain about people don't post on forums (I am guilty of this) I would be using the amp in a small room roughly 10 x 11 to drive a pair of Tetra Manhatan 305's
    http://tetraspeakers.com/high_end_speakers_pages/305.aspx

    They have a 89db 8 ohm load so I am sure the power requirement needed for this speaker will be met easily. I am looking at tubes cause I am now finding as I get older I find some heavy guitar music with lots of feedback and reverb annoys the hell out me and I want to tame this. at the moment I am using Emotiva UPA-1 amps and they are very nice for what they sold for but I am now finding them a little hot on the top end since getting the tetra's at Christmas time.

    This amp looks like it is very solid and well assembled and that is another reason I am draw to it
     
  8. juno

    juno Super Member

    Messages:
    1,032
    Location:
    Pembroke Pines, FL
    I am thinking about buying this as well, but really can't find much in the way of reviews either.

    Thanks for the comments!
     
  9. Erick89

    Erick89 New Member

    Messages:
    32
    I'm thinking of buying 2 of these and running them as a monoblock. Would they perform better given there's 1 of them for each speaker?
    I also like the idea as I can focus on other components and come back with a second for discrete channel amplification later.
     
  10. DuffyD

    DuffyD New Member

    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    I spoke with Garry about a year ago, and if I recall correctly, this was doable. However, just call him direct and he'll tell you straight up.
     
  11. WobblySam

    WobblySam Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    585
    Location:
    Middle of NC
    I've had mine for about 7 months. I have around 700 hours on it and it's still going strong. Buying it was a bit of a gamble for me also. I had bought the MP-301 earlier in the year and was impressed by its sound, both as a headphone amp and as an integrated amp. Build quality is quite good and reliability doesn't seem like an issue anymore.

    I'm driving a pair of PSB Stratus Minis - about 15 years old - 4 Ohm and low sensitivity. I'm amazed at how well the amp drives them. I know some 8 Ohm speakers with a little better sensitivity would be a better fit (B&W CM502), but I'm just enjoying the sound for now.

    One note - if you're looking for a "fat or tubby" tube sound, this is not the amp for it. It's an accurate, well-balanced amp. For a tubby sound, maybe a Yaqin 10 or 13 might be what you're looking for.

    I have no reservations, based on my experience, recommending the MP-501. I'm a solid state guy - my main system is bi-amped into a pair of PSB Stratus Gold towers. I don't expect the same impact or dynamics from the MP-501. It's a totally different listening experience and I've come to enjoy it quite a bit.
    The key with the 501 with its Class A, no feedback topology is knowing when to turn the volume down.

    And you can get a set of RCA or GE NOS 6SJ7 tubes pretty cheap. The KT120s seem to be going up in price though. Even with the recent price increase, the 501 is still a bargain (to me anyway). So, go ahead and take the plunge
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  12. big_tom

    big_tom New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Gatineau, QC
    Did you get the upgraded tubes or did you just stick with the stock tubes.
     
  13. WobblySam

    WobblySam Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    585
    Location:
    Middle of NC
    I got it with the stock tubes. I eventually got 4 GE 6SJ7s from Ron Sheldon at Cryoset. These are not "hot" audiophile tubes, so they are not real expensive. Ron matched them for me and sent them for me to try - he didn't know a lot about the tubes either. Later, I corresponded with Brent Jessee about some RCA tubes. He matched a quad of 1959 RCA 6SJ7s for me.

    In both cases, around $60 will get you a set of NOS tubes.

    I ran the Chinese tubes for about 80 hours, the GEs for 450 hours and I'm currently checking out the RCAs - about 180 hours. I really don't have any complaints about the Chinese tubes. They seemed a bit leaner than the GEs, but I only had about 80 hours on them. I'll swap them back in after I get about 400 hours on the RCA tubes. I figure, based on my age, these 3 sets will probably last my lifetime (lol).

    In any event, I think you will be happy with the 501 if you decide to go that route. If you get one like mine, you'll probably forget about any other system you might have for a few months - I did.
     
  14. big_tom

    big_tom New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Gatineau, QC
    Good to know that the stock tubes work well enough to start out with and that it is good enough to make you forget about other systems. I too was a PSB man also I had the stratus silver for about 10 years I also have the imagine bookshelf for my ht.
    I will be buying in the next few months as I am in the process of cleaning out a room to set up my system. I appreciate all you opinions
     
  15. RH67

    RH67 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    526
    Any other reviews of this amp, the new version? How does it compare to other amps in the same class and price range?
     
  16. vinchanity

    vinchanity New Member

    Messages:
    2
    I noticed you have the kef ls50s. Can the mp501s drive the ls50s to your liking? And how does it compare to prrimare i30?
     

     

    Please register to disable this ad.

  17. crouse

    crouse Poorly known member Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,391
    Location:
    Jackson, Ms.
    Can this amp be used as a power amp with a separate pre-amp?
     
  18. rogerfederer

    rogerfederer AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,416
    Location:
    Northern VA
    it doesn't have separate inputs to bypass the preamp section, but you can run outputs from another preamp into the inputs on the MP (i did this w/ mine)
     
  19. skriefal

    skriefal AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,483
    Location:
    SLC, Utah
    You can do that with pretty much any integrated amp. But you'll be running through two pre-amp gain sections, which will raise the noise floor.
     
  20. DuffyD

    DuffyD New Member

    Messages:
    15
    Location:
    Toronto, ON
    There is a switch on the amp to bypass the preamp section.

    I run my digital source through the integrated side of the MP-501. When I play vinyl, I bypass the internal preamp and use a vintage Apt Holman II preamp as it has a phono stage. (No phono stage on the MP-501).

    I also tried the Apt Holman pre on my digital side as well and I preferred the sound of the MP-501 pre vs. the Apt Holman by the way.
     

Share This Page