Mola Mola Makua and Kartugas or Preamp and Merrill Veritas?



     I've decided to hopefully upgrade my class D based system by investing in one of these preamp/amp solutions and I'm requesting a healthy dose of wise advise from the plethora of sage A'gon members, please.
     My budget is up to $15K, my inclination is to buy high-end class D amps based on the high quality Hypex NCore 1200 power modules and I plan to purchase used.  The problem is I've never personally listened to any of these amps and I'm relying only on the very positive reviews I've read, hence my request for advice.  Here are descriptions of the current self-identified 2 options I'm considering:


Option 1:  A pre-owned Mola Mola pair of Kaluga mono-blocks and Makua preamp.  I find this option attractive because the preamp was designed to match well with the mono-block amps both performance wise and cosmetically.  The downside, however, is that this matching of preamp and amps somewhat negates the benefits of using separates in the first place.  As an example, I've identified two sellers with Makuas and Kalugas in very good condition but they both want to sell their preamp/amps as three component sets for between $14-15K rather than individually.  

Option 2: A pre-owned pair of Merrill Audio Veritas mono-blocks and a suitable high quality preamp.  I know I can buy a pair in very good condition for about $5K because Merrill, of Merrill Audio, told me he's taking in quite a few pairs of Veritas as trade-ins toward purchases of his new Element line of amps.  He stated they thoroughly check all of these amps, refresh and tune them up as needed and resell them for about $5K/pair. I only know this by responding to one of his ads for a pair of Veritas on U.S. Audio Mart and wound up speaking directly with Merrill (he's a a good guy).  So, I'd likely buy a pre-owned pair from Merrill Audio if I opt for this option.
     This means I'd also need to select and buy a high quality and well matched pre-owned preamp, which I would appreciate any advise on, too, especially from current Veritas owners.
     Overall, my preference is for a ss preamp, mainly due to ease of maintenance, but would accept a tube preamp if it was low noise, low distortion, had a more neutral than euphonic sonic character and was highly detailed.  Besides this, my requirements for a preamp are that it's balanced, has a minimum of 2 pairs of balanced xlr inputs and a single pair of outputs, has a means of HT passthru, has a remote for at a minimum input/HT selection and volume functions and has an output impedance of 10K ohms or less.
     I've thus far identified two preamps that I believe are good pre-owned preamp candidates to pair with the Veritas: the Mark Levinson 326S solid state preamp for about $5K pre-owned that is my 1st choice and the Aesthetix Saturn Calypso hybrid ss/tube preamp for $4,500 new or up to about $2K less pre-owned that is my 2nd/backup choice.
    So, I'm requesting feedback on whether you think the Mola Mola Makua preamp and Kaluga mono-blocks or the Merrill Veritas and a TBD preamp is my better upgrade option and, if you believe it's the Veritas, which high quality preamp would you recommend?

Thanks in advance,
         Tim
128x128noble100
@noble100, Previously, I owned a custom built Hypex dual NC400 mono block class D amps (modified). They sounded okay but I decided to purchase the Mola Mola Makua pre-amp/DAC and Kartugas NC1200 mono blocks. The Mola Mola units sounded much better than the Hypex dual NC400 mono block amps. I have no listening experience with the Merrill Veritas amps.

After months of listening, I was not happy. Everyone has a different opinion on class D sound. Neither of these Class D amps sounded right to me. The music was very clear but, for me, it did not sound like music. I invited several friends over to listen and everyone agreed.

The music played, but for me, was not engaging, feeling, emotional and did not feel right to me. As a result, I decided to sell both my Mola Mola units.

After that “expensive” experiment, I decided to visit my local retailer and ask for advice. I have known him for many years and trust his ears. After listening to several units (many times), I finally purchased the SimAudio 700i V2 integrated amp. This integrated amp sounds terrific and is much more musical AND engaging than the Mola Mola units. This is my opinion.

I also purchased the Bricasti M21 DAC. This DAC operates as a 24 bit delta sigma, a 20 bit ladder DAC and a true 1 bit DSD for DSD content. Most of my listening is using the ladder DAC. I am very happy with the sound quality and have STOPPED looking for any new audio equipment (finally).

I hope this post encourages you to give class D amps a “serious” listen before you purchase one. Of course, some people on these forums will disagree with me and that is okay. The Mola Mola equipment is expensive, preowned or new.

Audio equipment Decisions like this are complicated. I encourage you to audition both the Mola Mola Amps and the Merrill Veritas amps before you purchase. And, also, I suggest other amps be auditioned before you purchase. I hope this helps.

And, if you are unable to audition the equipment, I suggest you scan these forums for additional info and post more questions, as needed.


You are asking people on an internet forum that you do not know to help you decide on gear you have never heard....a recipe for disaster, IMO.
Just like @hgeifman I too purchased Ncore NC1200 amps and eventually sold them because I didn't think they sounded as believable as the Class A and Class AB amps I owned previously.
You really ought to listen to a pair before spending your money.  It took me almost a year to figure out what exactly I didn't like about them in comparison to Class A and Class AB amps.
You could instead buy the pair listed by @willgolf.  If you like them, then you will have a set manufactured by the man who created Ncore, but if you decide they are not for you, then you could probably sell them without losing too much. 


Not to complicate things for you but Nuprime's. Evolution One Mono amps should also be on your list. New 8K and used about 5K, to me they handily beat out many Class D including Veritas. I also have found that Class D pairs well with a tubed preamp or DAC that tends to add a naturalness to the music.
I am personally not a fan of class D amps, but IMHO best implementation of those is from Jeff Rowland.

The only Mola Mola I have heard is their DAC, the Tambaqui. It was fantastic!

A few people I know own the monoblocks from Gato Audio, and they like them very much:

https://www.gato-audio.com/eu/pwr-222.html

I personally have no experience with Gato
rsf507:
"Why not get the Veritas with the matching Merrill Christine pre? "

Yes, the Merrill Christine does seem like an ideal option.  I just read a very positive review on it:
  
http://www.enjoythemusic.com/superioraudio/equipment/0517/Merrill_Audio_Christine_Reference_Stereo_P...

   I think this just moved to the top of the list if I go with the Veritas.  Thanks, rsf507.

yyzsantabarbara:
"For class D I would be interested to see what Mr Puztey's new class D designs sounds like. He is the king of Class D."
     Good point.   If Bruno Putzeys's sets out to create and design a custom pair of high performance class D mono-blocks specifically based on the top of the line Hypex NCore 1200 power modules, that he also invented and designed, along with a solid state preamp designed and built from the ground up to be a high quality low noise, low distortion, neutral and ideally matched companion component,  I would think the chances are excellent they would each be outstanding performers individually and achieve even better results combined.

     Based on the numerous Merrill and Mola Mola reviews I've recently read, however, I'm  becoming increasingly concerned that the Makua and Kalugas may not live up to my high expectations. I wasn't expecting the Merrill Christine preamp and Veritas mono-blocks  would consistently receive more positive reviews than the Makua and Kalugas. 
     I believe the reason why rocray's advice, to "put your ears on the gear", sounds and feels so exactly right to me is because it's an honest and simple remedy to the consequences of relying too heavily on audio equipment reviews.  I enjoy reading reviews even though I realize it's a very poor substitute for listening in person and forming one's own impressions, likes and dislikes.  
     My primary current intention is to seek out and arrange methods to personally audition the audio equipment I'm interested in, as well as exposure to available high quality gear I'm not presently aware of but might develop an interest in,  to gain knowledge, experience and develop an effective plan to upgrade my a/v system within my budget in the near future.
     I would describe my current combination 2-channel music and 5.1 surround sound audio/video system as generally of good quality with a few obvious areas in need of improvements, that I'll detail later on this post.
     My room is 23' x16' x 8' with wall to wall carpeting and the following along one 16' short wall:
A low 6'w x2'h equipment rack, 
A 65" wall mounted Panasonic plasma 1080p hdtv located above the rack that extends 3' out from the wall. 
A Magnepan CC3 center speaker, mounted to a separate tv wall mount that also extends out 3' from the wall, positioned just above the  hdtv and angled slightly downward towards my listening seat.
A pair of Magnepan 2.7QR 6'x2' panel spkrs straddling the hdtv and about 3' out from the front wall.
The top wood shelf of my low 6'x2'  equipment rack contains:

A pair of D-Sonic M3-600-M 1,200 watt @ 4 ohms class D mono-blocks that drive my main speakers.
A Parasound Halo P6 preamp with HT passthru. 
A 20 TB Synology NAS storage device.
A Lumin D2 dac/streamer.
An Oppo 105 Bluray/CD/SACDplayer/5.1 Surround processor

The 2 shelves behind the front doors on my rack contains:

A  1,000 watt@ 4 ohms class AB amp that powers the four Audio Kinesis Debra distributed bass array system subs (1'x1'x2' cabinets with a 10" aluminum long-throw woofer in each) that are dispersed throughout the room.
A 220 watt @ 8 ohms ClassD Audio stereo amp that drives a pair of in-ceiling Infinity rear surround speakers.
A 375 watt @ 4 ohms Emerald Physics class D bridged stereo amp that drives the Magnepan CC3 center channel speaker.

     I've already begun the process of upgrading my system in areas that are fairly obvious to me such as:

Purchased a 4K Oppo 205 to replace my 1080p Oppo 105 
Will soon purchase an LG C9 77" OLED hdtv to replace my 1080p Panasonic VT60 series 65" plasma hdtv.

     I've also identified a few areas of my system that are currently performing well but that I believe could significantly improve my overall system's performance quality if upgraded effectively, such as:

Upgrade my Magnepan 2.7QR main speakers, that are approaching 25 yrs old, to a new or pre-owned pair of Magnepan 3.71s.

Upgrade my Parasound Halo P6 preamp to a pre-owned preamp with HT pass thru.  Possible candidates are the Merrill Audio Christine or Cara, Levinson 326S and possible others that have at least 2 balanced xlr  pairs of inputs and at least 1 balanced xlr pair of outputs, a means of HT PassThru, a remote and an output impedance under 10K ohms.

Attempt to arrange 30 day in-home trial period to audition the Merrill Veritas, the Mola Mola Makua and pair of the Kalugas. I'm going to attempt this since I'm having such difficulty finding Mola Mola and Merrill Audio dealers to audition mainly their amps but also the Makua preamp.


     Because of this, I've decided to shift my upgrade focus over the next few months more toward upgrading my main speakers, preamp and likely having a local audio shop analyze my room, develop a  comprehensive plan to improve its acoustics using GIK products and installing the treatments.

     Posting this thread and reading the responses has not only already helped me take a more objective look at my system and recognize areas that would benefit from specific upgrades,  it's also spurred me to estimate the likely benefits of each of these potential upgrades to my overall system performance and prioritize them in order of expected benefit.  Kind of like picking the low hanging fruit first.
     For example, I realized that I consider the high quality performance of my D-Sonic mono-blocks driving my main speakers as a major strength of my system.  Upgrading these at this time makes little sense and was probably motivated more out of curiosity than an actual need. 
     Another example is neglecting the fact that a system's main speakers are the main factor that determines the quality level and characteristics of its overall sound.  Of course, it's also important that the main speakers are driven by a high quality and well matched amp I've been driving my 2.7QRs with high quality and well matched amps for so many years with great result, that I may have taken their performance for granted, neglecting the reality that they're about to be 25 years old and failing to realize that upgrading to the much newer 3.71s would likely result in a significant system improvement of the 'why didn't I do this years ago' variety.
Sorry this post is so long.

Thanks,
   Tim