After reviewing Dan Wright's terrific-sounding KWI 200 Integrated amp, I wanted to review one of his single-chassis power amps using my reference preamp, the Concert Fidelity CF-080, and to compare its performance to my excellent Pass Labs XA60.5 mono-block amps. Since I have historically been a fan of MOSFET transistor-based solid state amps, finding them to be much more musical-sounding to my ears than bipolar transistor designs, Dan and I agreed that the KWA 100SE, which retails for $4,295, would be a better choice for me than his reference KWA 150SE because the KWA 100SE is his MOSFET transistor design.
• Find a pair of Bookshelf Speakers
or Floorstanding Speakers
for the amp to drive.
The KWA 100SE's dimensions are five-and-a-half inches tall by 17 inches wide and 17 inches deep. The KWA 100SE weighs 47 pounds. The KWA 100SE can produce 100 watts into eight ohms and 200 watts into four ohms. The main power switch is located on the rear panel of the KWA 100SE. There is also a toggle switch for grounding or floating the chassis to prevent any feedback, RCA/XLR inputs, and very high-quality speaker posts and finally the ICE power inlet. On the bottom left side, there is an on/standby switch. On the front panel of the KWA 100SE is an engraved ModWright logo, which is backlit in blue when the amp is on. Finally, the top plate has slots for ventilation and another large backlit MW logo in the middle. All of this leads to a very handsome-looking amp indeed.
My very first selection to see what the KWA 100SE would do in the areas of timbres and tonality was alto saxophonist Paul Desmond's rendition of "Angel Eyes" from his classic album "Glad to be Unhappy" (RCA Victor Gold Series). The rest of the players on this album are the jazz greats Jim Hall on guitar, Gene Wright on bass, and finally, Connie Kay on drums. This recording, if an amp is up to the task, can send a chill down one's back, because it captures the silky smoothness and tartness of Desmond's unique tone on his alto sax. The KWA 100SE was able to reproduce these qualities in a grainless, effortless and natural way. If I did not know that the KWA 100SE was a solid state design, I would have concluded that I was listening to a great tube-based amp because of how it handled this music's tonality.
I moved on to Conrad Herwig's live recording of Miles Davis's song "Solar" from his CD "Sketches of Spain Y Mas: The Latin Side of Miles Davis" (HN Records). Herwig is on trombone with other brass players, along with a totally dynamic Latin percussion section. The KWA 100SE produced a soundstage that was big and airy, along with precise layering and locations of the band members on this stage. The macro-dynamics and power of this cut was clearly being passed on by the KWA 100SE.
One of my favorite guitarists is John Scofield. On his album "Piety Street" (Emarcy), which is his take on New Orleans' brand of soul music mixed with straight-ahead blues and group vocals, the song "Something Got a Hold on Me" is a good test of an amp's ability to let the high frequencies of Scofield's guitar's high notes and the cymbal work of his drummer, Shannon Powell, to be heard with all the little details and air intact. The KWA 100SE showed that it had the ability to handle these minute details with great extension and clarity.Read about the high points and low points of the ModWright KWA 100SE on Page 2.