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Melody MK88 32W KT88 Integrated Tube Amplifier Review


Sound in General

Out of the box, with almost no burn in time, the MK88 definitely was in need of some more. After about two weeks of on and off listening, the bass perked up and the highs shed most over their overly piercing highs. Like a teenager who finally gets over the squeaky voice of puberty, the MK88’s highs mellowed out. Since I don’t have a secondary listening room, while the MK88 broke in I strayed away from music with horns or sharp vocals.

Once broken in, and even once the high end mellowed out, the MK88 isn’t a kick back and relaxed amplifier. With the MK88 driving a set of linear speakers, the music makes you pay attention. Even at very low volumes, you know the level you sheepishly drop the music to after your mom would pound on the door, ‘keep it down or I’m going to tell your father’. The MK88 might be turned down, but it still wants to be the center of attention. This is great for those in need of a clear and engaging amplifier that will mostly be played at lower volumes levels. Than again, if you really like to rock…

With a very lively high end I would have preferred a deeper low end. But even though the lows of the MK88 don’t bloom or seem to reach as deep as the PrimaLuna or Mystere, the trade off is an exceedingly clean and clear bass. I would have loved to have heard the MK88 driving my old muddy low end Monitor Audio RS6 floorstanders. The MK88 might have made me reconsider keeping them. Please don’t misunderstand me. The MK88 is not thin or lacking in the nether regions, it is detailed and clean.

With Specific Tunes

I try not to give specific examples of how certain CDs or records sound on equipment. I find that 95% of the time when I read someone else’s review and they have cited a specific artist, I have no idea who the hell that person is. What I’d really like is for you to be able to finish this review with the general knowledge that this amplifier would probably sound a certain way if matched with X equipment. But let me help to clarify the sound of the MK88 by citing one specific example and explaining why.

On Jeff Buckley’s album Grace, he signs a soulfully bittersweet version of “Hallelujah.” Buckley’s version is him, his guitar, amplifier and a room. And I was hesitant at first to play this song on the MK88. I was fearful the amplifier would be too brash and rocking to handle the soft and emotionally wrenching version of the song. Thankfully I was wrong. The MK88 handled Buckley’s sorrow and grace with respect and the musicality it deserved. Which gets to my point, the detail from this amplifier is fantastic, especially in the low end. While I have played this simple cut on SS and Tube in the $2000-3000 range before, none of them presented the detail to the point the MK88 did. I know this is a simple tune but the point isn’t to test how dynamic the amplifier is, or how well it separates parts of an orchestra, the point is to see how emotional a revealing it is. How much detail from room echoes, from his voice, from the guitar amplifier can you hear? How natural do they sound? How solid and realistic are they? How clearly can you hear his fingers on the fret board? Can you tell he is playing on a vintage Stratocaster with a spring reverb amplifier, or do these simple but important cues get brushed over? The complexity in the song is in quickness of the transients and sustaining of the echoes and the emotion in Buckley’s voice. To bring this song to life an amp has to have the ability to float soft sounds solidity and reveal very subtle details which bring me from my listening room into the performance. The MK88 did this song great justice.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not fooled by thinking an amplifier is great because it can play simpler music well. And amp also has to do Wager, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi well. For the younger generation, what does NIN, Skinny Puppy, Download or Merzbow sound like? Or how about… oh wait, see, I bet I just lost half you readers with that last band…
As far as other important aspects of an amplifier’s performance go, staging, transparency, dynamics, are concerned, the MK88 does a very good job of all these. Mirco and macro dynamics are on par with any amplifier I’ve heard in this price range. Staging is both open or closed depending on the recording. With complex music the amp did a fine job teasing out the subtle queues that help to separate this and that part of an orchestra.

Conclusion

The Melody MK88 offers a fantastic amount of detail and mid to high end dynamics. It processes the musicality of tubes and the cleanness of solid state. It can offer the same level of excitement a night out with the boys will bring but it can also hold you tenderly and pull at the strings in the heart. I highly recommend giving this amplifier a demo.


www.angelcityaudio.com

Specifications:

Vacuum Tubes KT88 x 4, 6SN7 x 4, 6AK5 x 2
Power Output 32W+32W Class A
Frequency Response 20Hz – 30KHz
Input Impedance 100kΩ
Output Impedance 4Ω, 8Ω
Line Input Sensitivity 380mV
Signal to Noise Ratio ≥ 88dB
THD at Rated Power 1%
Dimensions 17” x 8.5” x 15” (W x H x D)
Net Weight 62 lbs.

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