Review: Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monos Tube amp

Category: Amplifiers

Before moving to seperates, I spent about a full year with a Melody AN211 integrated amplifier driving my Zu Definition 2 speakers with significant upgrades and to be honest, I was pretty happy with the combination. A few extra dollars and a lot of insanity however, drove me to contact Hugh Nguyen, Melody distributor, regarding an upgrade to the Pure Black seperates. After a couple days of email then a couple weeks of waiting for more inventory to arrive, the deal was done and I had the very gorgeous preamp and monos in my home.

It should be noted that the burn in period associated with these units was substantial and there were times I questioned whether I made the right move going to seperates as, at least initially, my integrated seemed to have sounded better with my associated equipment and room. Patience paid off, however, and what I’ve been rewarded with has been well worth the wait.

The first and most obvious ways in which my presentation changed is that of scale. My system previously stretched to fill the room with sound but with the Pure Black trio in place my room is fully pressurized with a stage expanding beyond the walls. This has never been a sonic priority of mine, but once you’ve lived with it, it would be hard to do without.

More impressive and important than the stage width is depth—the ability to present a holographic portrayal of the recorded event. This is something I’ve struggled with which the Melody duo has really helped bring together. The ability to close my eyes and picture where everything is located on a set, not only from side to side, but staggered front to back is really special and contributes greatly to the illusion of REAL music.

Tonal balance was another area in which I saw a change in the move to the seperates. Where the AN211 was a tight and concise machine, capable of great mid-range presence and palpability, the seperates brought with them even more tonal beauty. The balance is on the warm side of neutral but it exists in this realm without being syrupy or obscuring detail.

In terms of the lit from within presentation small bottle SET is known for, this Melody gear is right there. I’ve owned several other SETs including other 845, 211 and 2a3 amplification and I can say without reservation that the mid-range presence I get between my Zu speakers and Melody stack is up there with the finest. Listening to simple, vocal driven stuff like Michael J. Sheehy or Kelly Joe Phelps their voices are just projected into the room in a really awesome and uncanny way. It is easy to close your eyes and just become immersed… the presence really is unbelievable. With the Melody pieces in a well matched system, Vampire Weekend’s Hanna Hunt is just plain spooky.

As far as the bass performance goes, nothing about my systems presentation would indicate you are listening to SET. It is deep, taught and flat out explosive in its delivery. Listening to synthesized tracks like on James Blakes’s self title album, I’m faced with the type of bass you *feel* in your chest. This is a blessing and a curse as my system shares a wall with the master bedroom and my wife’s morning starts much earlier than mine.

The treble is sweet and non-fatiguing. There is plenty of detail presented on top and the preamp/amp combo is very well balanced with appropriate tubing. Things got a little hairy when using Create Audio/Synergy Hifi 6sn7s in my preamp, but this is more a testament to the Melody’s ability to be a chameleon to the tubes you select then a fault of the unit. With Ken-Rad Black Glass VT-231s and a Shuguang 274B (preferred series) in the preamp things are *very* well balanced.

Finally, more importantly than all the audiophile adjectives—my system nails emotion. It was capable of conveying emotion previously, but was really voiced more towards the excitement end—now it seems to be able to cover both on demand. In my opinion this is what it is about—who cares about resolution, extension, etc., when the rig is too analytical to keep your interest? In the case of the Melody gear, they really nail micro-dynamics, which I understand to be the more subtle swings like vocal inflections which really contain the performer’s emotional state these small swings and nuance are what really makes the performance for me… that is not to say the Melody fails to nail macro-dynamics… on the contrary it is EXTREMELY competent in that regard. My rig has tremendous jump factor and really catches the excitement of music… not only that, it has been extremely competent for 2.0 channel home theater, though with my speakers 2.8 might be more accurate…

In sum, the Melody Pure Black twins are a very special combination. If your speaker efficiency is greater then 89db and your budget allows, they should definitely be on your list. More so then a bunch of adjectives, they convey the essence of music. Prior to these seperates I owned AN211 immediately preceded by a MK88—Melody really does it for me and I urge you to give them a shot… They will probably do it for you too!

Associated gear
Melody Pure Black 101 Preamp & M845 Monoblock Amplifier Review
Zu Definition mk2 speakers w/ Dominance drivers and Clarity CapMR supertweeter network
LampizatOr “Big Six” DAC
LampizatOr TranspOrt
Pi Uberbuss
Wywires signal cables throughout
Triode Wire Lab, HiDiamond Power 3 and Swisscables Reference PCs throughout.

Similar products
Shindo, Audion, Decware, Shuguang, Fi Audio, VAC, MuFi, Musical Reference, Tube Guru, etc. Too much to name in last decade.
Hey Gopher,

Enjoyed reading your well written and informative review. I'm a staff reviewer for and published a review on the Melody 300B integrated amp, bought the review sample, which is superlative, have in house the AN211 for review and finally will be submitting a review on the M845 Mono Blocks in the next couple of weeks. You will be very pleased with the review on the 845 Mono Blocks. I give them a very big thumbs up and found them to out perform amps costing much more.

Hugh Nguyen of Angel City Audio, who is the importer for the Melody line, is one of the great gentleman of high end audio. It's been a pleasure to work with him to set up these reviews. The Melody line is one of the great unknown resources for audiophiles here in the US. Based on build quality, intelligent designs, beautiful looks, reference level performance and cost ratio these Melody pieces are the hidden gems of tube gear. I hope very much that more music lovers looking for what tube designs have to offer will find out what great performance they can get from Melody and keep a lot of money in their pocket for other things. All their amplifiers are also self biasing which makes it easy to use them hassle free.
Hey Gopher,

I noticed after I posted that you have the M-845 SET Mono Blocks in your system and my soon to be published review is on their big brother, the PM -845 Mono Blocks that are a push/pull design. These guys put out over 70 watts into 8 ohms with tons of headroom and powered many different speakers I had in for review effortlessly and beautifully. Just wanted to clarify for the readers of your review and posted comments. Still hope who ever reads this might try to audition some Melody gear if their looking for new amps or line stages. Very recently I just auditioned two more very expensive tube based amps, over 10K in price, from some highly regarded companies and neither came close to what the Melody PM-845 had to offer sonicly.
You listen to jazz predominantly (as do I) so I'd imagine that tone and timbre of the mostly acoustic instruments is a priority for you. Having reviewed both 300b and the 845 amplifiers how do they differ in their presentation. How do these two types compare to your Pass amp ?
Hey Charles I Dad,

As you know already, based on your 300B based system, there really is a magic in the sound of this tube that is quite different from anything else. Both the 845 and 300B amps present a more grain-less/liquid tonality compared to the Pass Labs amps. The XA.5 amps are wonderful in their own right, however they just can't do what these tube based amps have to offer in timbre/tonality, 3-D imaging and space/air around individual players. I still favor the 300B over the 845 because its slightly richer sounding with timbres that sound more like the real thing to me.
Thanks for sharing your well informed impressions and perspective as a
reviewer. I'm enthralled with what my amp does in reproducing acoustic
instruments and voice so natural and realistically. I will say that after
hearing several different 845 amplifiers I could very happily live with those
as well. It must be fun and educational having the opportunity to hear and
closely evaluate
various components in your own system. I appreciate the time and effort
you put in your audio reviews(it shows), keep up the good work.