Review: Monoprice stereo hybrid 15 watt tube amp

Budget Esoterica Review Magazine
September 2017 Bonus Issue

Monoprice or bust

Are you looking for gold in the hills of mid-fi dreck? Monoprice might just have your answer. The Monoprice stereo hybrid 15 watt tube amp with bluetooth sells for a mere $80, yet it gives you very good sound. One thing i like about the Monoprice tube amp is that it is very receptive to different power cords. I tried two different audiophile power cords, and one sounded clearly better than the other. Don't be afraid to use your best prospector pan, er i mean power cord for this amp. I have no problem with the fit and finish of this amp and it proved to be dependable during the time i was using it. If you are a tube roller, be warned that the tubes are a little bit difficult to remove and reinstall. 
Okay, so what about the sound? Good amps are neutral, but some have specific strengths that other amps may not have. While listening to the Monoprice tube amp, at times i noticed a slight bit of vintage warmth to the sound. The monoprice is also a fairly organic sounding amp with a good sense of body and texture. I would say that mid range transparency would be another strength. I used the Monoprice tube amp to drive a pair of Mission tower speakers and the bass was not bad either. 

Reference Discs

1. Shirley Horn, Where Are You Going, "The Eagle And Me".
2. Miles Davis, Live Evil, Disc two , Track # 3 "Inamorata And Narration By Conrad Roberts".
3. Blue Note Trip Maestro, Birds Beats, Disc # 2, Track # 1 "Soulive ", Joe Sample.
4. Blue Note Trip Maestro, Birds Beats, Disc # 2, Track # 3 "Stormy", Duke Pearson.

To test out the bass capabilities of the Monoprice tube amp, i listened to "The Eagle And Me", by Shirley Horn. The opening bass drum was hard hitting and tight sounding. Vocal transparency was very very good, i thought. There was a slight roughness to her voice, most likely from the recording. This is not an overly tube sounding amp. I think it is voiced more like a solid state amp that exhibits tube-like qualities rather than something like a Fatman that has a  more colorful and juicy sound. 

Settling into a more relaxing vibe, I listened to disc 2 of Live Evil from the Miles Davis electronica period where he shelved out one masterpiece after another for many years. You do get a fairly organic sound here. At times i did notice a slight harshness and a little bit of sloppiness too. I had the volume turned up to 12 and got pretty good volume levels. If 15 watts doesn't do it for you, Monoprice has more powerful units available. 

On some recordings the bass really thumped. The opening track from Maestro disc two had deep bass with a penetrating bass density. Track 3 from the same side also showed very good vocal transparency with vocals that were slightly upfront. This time the vocals were smooth and flowed very well. Rhythm and timing were very good and definitely toe-tapping worthy. 

I did not find the Monoprice tube amp to sound very "tubey". It did sound similar to another solid state amp i have that was voiced with a tube-like sound. The low power output demands that it be used with fairly efficient speakers. Overall, i think this is a good effort from Monoprice, but i would like a little more flavorful sound, more pristine highs and a little better focus to the sound. I think for the price it is a pretty good amp. 

Associated Equipment

Sony NS3100ES dvd player
QED speaker cables
Audiomagic Xstream power cord
Virtue Audio stereo interconnect
Mission MV-6 tower speakers