In-you-face joyful personality of Monarchy-33 DAC is a matter of taste - it fits mine. Sound is very MUSICAL and involving, still. A piece of audio equipment should not be necessary dull, non-detailed and lean to be considered musical - and fine sounding DAC should not necessary be an upsampler. Piggyback upgrade with I/V resistor trim IS A KILLER! Line amp is so scary clean and neutral than a sad true of indifferent solid state gear down the signal flaw could be revealed with no remorse! Has anyone tried to use it with a tube amp? Would love to get a feedback.
This product will blow your socks off. It's that good. Before I purchased Monarchy products, I was being lured back into the 'all tube', elitist world of audio. This product brought me back home to solid state.
With the Monarchy line of products and various cables you can mix and match to obtain of variety of musical flavorings. These provide not mere tone differences, as many doubters claim, but subtle sonic nuances. With these products you become the sonic master, the cables, pre-amp and amp your pallete.
Martin Logan Ascents Monarchy SE-100 delux monoblocks (Class A) Monarchy Model 33 DAC/pre-amp Marantz CD63se (transport only) Van den Hul D102 III hybrid interconnect, 2m XLR, between the pre-amp and the amps Van del Hul revelation speaker cable (biwired) XLO digital co-ax between the 63se and the Model 33
This is the first high-end system I've put together. The pre-amp has been the last piece of the puzzle; I bought all the other items first.
I listen to female voices; Sarah MacLachlan, Tori Amos, Tanita Tikaram. I also like some heavier stuff - Faith No More, NIN - and some more conventional stuff, Peter Gabriel, Dire Straits.
Until yesterday I was trialling this unit but I'm now satisfied enough to buy it.
The CD63se is acting as a transport only so the sound I'm hearing from the speakers is that of the 33's analogue output. Previously, I had been trialling the Model 10A which is basically a 33 without the DAC, and so I had the analogue output of the CD63se going into the 10A and then coming out again...the 10A helped to ameilorate the over-warmness of the CD63se which was good. However, the 33 on its own to me is better.
The sound I'm getting seems to me to be a faithful reproduction of what's on the CD; you can't hear a tone or colour from the 33 being introduced but at the same time the pre-amp maintains the authority of the music - sudden bursts of music come out properly, without sounding strained or weak (which was exhibited when using a passive pre-amp on the CD63se analogue output).
The passive units I'd used managed the first part of this trick (no tone) but failed on the second part - when the music picks up, the passive's output doesn't.
I can't say much more about the sound I'm hearing except that it draws me to listen; it's beautiful. Of course, that's a product of the whole system - but the pre-amp is an integral part of that system and the other pre-amps I tried in the same system produced a sound which to me was signficiantly less enjoyable that what I'm hearing now.
The other two active pre-amps I've tried, a Classe five and the Musical Fidelity AC3R both fail compared to the 33. The five (2.2k UKP new) loses detail and the AC3R (1k UKP new) is very coloured (the 10A beats the AC3R in my opinion - and they're the same price). You would do well to listen to similar units before the 33; you need to know what's bad before you can realise what's good.
Specificationwise, the 33 is excellent. Balanced, unbalanced and TOSLink digital input. Three sets of analogue unbalanced input. XLR and RCA output. (I use the XLR output, since the SE-100s have XLR in). The analogue output is Class A, as well - useful to me, since my monoblocks are also Class A.
The 33 combined with the monoblocks gives me an atypical cabling layout. I have a digital link from the tranport to the 33, so that's only one cable and it's not going to shape the colour of the music like an analogue signal. The 33 has a pair of XLR cables (balanced, so good for the longer distances) going to the monoblocks. The monoblocks are immediately behind and facing the opposite way to the speakers, so there is a *very* short run of biwired speaker cable between the amp and the speaker.
I'm very happy with this; my cabling runs are minimzed and where I do have length in the cables I'm running over a balanced cable.
I'm also very happy with that I've upgraded the DAC on the CD63se, which was something I wanted to do, and that I've only got one analogue output stage before the pre-amps, instead of two.
Value rating - well, it's expensive in the UK because of VAT/import duty. However, you think - you're getting a strong DAC and an excellent output stage. In the US it's only 1400 dollars which I think is a *steal*.
Overall? Superb quality for a low price and I like it enough to spend my money on one. Gotta be a five!
After communicating with Mr. C.C. Poon through email (his prompt replies and helpful advice before and after my purchase of his products were examplary of what a good customer service should be like), I finally purchased the DAC M33 and a DIP 24/96 from his HK distributor. The DAC and DIP improved the sound of CDs in just about every aspect of sound reproduction re. my Rega Planet alone. Really no contest. With the M33 (no DIP) the difference was already very clear: better transparency and detail, improved transients, more realistic timbre of instruments and voice, much better dynamics, more bass extension. While before I could hear that something was present 'down there', I could not hear clearly distinguishable bass lines. This changed when the M33 was in the system, with the Rega used as transport. The improvement in the reproduction of low frequency sounds was a real surprise, since I wrongly thought that the lack of precision and extension at low frequencies was due to the fact that my speakers (Sonus Faber Concerto) are bass-shy and that their placement in my room was less than ideal. Another improvement was better localization of sounds. When I introduced the DIP things got even better: bass sounds had even sharper attack and better defined pitch, instrument localization improved, but especially transients became more realistic. With the DIP, I can hear the noise of the bow on the string of violins and the puff of air in flute sounds; never happened before, not even with the M33. Brief, I am very enthusiastic about the improvement in sound quality brought by this purchase.
My other system components: Copland CS 8 integrated amp Rega Planet CDP as transport Wireworld Orbit Speaker cables Wireworld Oasis interconnect DIY digital interconnects (one using coax and the other using DH Labs BL-1cables)
I've meant to get around to writing this for awhule, and the new Audio Electronics just ran an article on the piggy-back chip Monarchy tweak. My M33 has it, so I thought I'd add my 2 cents. I decided some months ago to try the Monarchy SE 100 delux class A monoblocs. Since I was running an Acurus DIA 100 MK.II (a one box with a passive 'pre' into a high gain stage), I obviously need a pre to go with it. Mr. Poon, the owner of Monarchy suggested I get the M33 instead of his line-level pre, promising that the DAC section would outshine my Link 2. I figured, what the heck, the price differential was sufficiently small that it seemed worth the chance. I was a little apprehensive about running analogue sources through a line level in the same box as a DAC, but , again, I figured i'd go for it. I soon added the piggy-back tweak...imagine, a factory-installed tweak. The AE article I mentioned explains the rationale. Improves noise and dynamic range, a 3db per doubling improvement. And all 4chips are top-grade BurrBrown PCM 63 PK, a self-trimming resistor ladder chip that I understand to be highly-regarded. But those are technical observations. The real question is,how's the sound? I have a modest Parasound CDP 1000 player/transport. It feeds a Monarchy DIP. The first one I got improved the sound out of my old Link in a huge way, so I added a second. In my present set-up, the M33 is fed the twice-reclocked signal via 2m of AES/EBU. The thing that struck me about the M33 with digital sources was how undigital it sounded. I enjoy analogue through a Rega 25. There is something about the solidity and realism of sound that hasnt been reassembled. But I find that the M33 draws digital very near vinyl (with some CD's besting some vinyl), not because of some euponic manipulation of the sound to eliminate digital problems, but by overcoming the digital nasties. Steely strings, artificial cymbals, sibilant voices, flattened sound stages, harsh horns, mooshed together instruments...all gone. It struck me that the M33 sorted out all of the seperate elements in the music, not in isolation, but preserving their interrelationship within the music. Two jazz horns, in close proximity on the stage retain their seperate identities, Brass has a sweet tone, but without softening their bite. Orchestral works are layered on a huge stage. Clear highs, solid bass without bloat. Hall reverb, image depth, yeah, it sounds more like a live venue. If it seems like I'm repeating audiophile reviewer cliches, prehaps I am because that is the language I'm familiar with. But all those phrases accurately describe the 33. Oh, and as a line-level handling the analogue input, I can hear no adverse effects from the physical proximity of the digital electronics. Instead, I hear nothing in the way of the sound, just the ability to change volume levels. I've heard a number of DAC-du-jours, and a variety of one boxes that run from the ridiculous to the sublime in price. Recognizing that some of them were in unfamiliar system contexts, I cannot say that i have personally heard the M33 bested on Red Book reproduction. Indeed, I just moved up a rung on the Magnepan speaker hierarchy, and the M33 had what it took to raise the goose-bump level..it was up to the task of delivering something near the current best in CD reproduction. Five stars. P.S.Like my DIPs and Amps, build quality that puts others to shame at anything near their price-points.