Been wanting to get a hold of one of these for a long time now, just to satisfy my own curosity. Over the years there have been a few reviews of this amp in Stereophile and other publications. I am not going into what was said by Corey Greenberg and Robert Hartley, but both of them were suitable impressed with the Muse 100.
Actually a few years back a pair on the Muse 150 mono blocks as well as a 100 passed through here so quickly I did not have the chance to evaluate. In one day in through the back door and out the front some four hours later. That should have told me something about Muse products straight up. Plus a friend of mine scored a Muse 160 and he continually raves about this amplifier and he has had many high end amplifiers, but he seems to be keeping the 160 though.
So when one of these came in again, I was able to put it aside for if you will a meet and greet session. First of all this is one of the most unassuming amplifiers you will come across. Finished in black, plain jane face plate with the Muse logo in the upper left corner bottom in the middle says Model One Hundred and to the left the power on red illuminated switch, and thats all the fanfare on the front. Back panel is all business as well with an IEC connector in the bottom middle, speaker posts are first rate and appear to be from Cardas and the RCA inputs. No glitz or fanfare. Heavy duty steel chassis, black crinkle finish on top and moderate size heat sinks to the side, which are very sharp. Yep, you can cut yourself easily on the heatsinks. Amp weighs 28 pounds, but feels heavier than that, or I am getting a wee bit weak at 68 now.
Now For the Obligatory Specs:
Gain: 30 dB
Sensitivity: .89 volt in for full output
Input Impedance: 51 k ohms
Absolute polarity non-inverting
DC offset: less than 100 mV
Distortion: less than .5% THD + N
Frequency response: -3dB at 13 Hz and 200 kHz
Power output: 100 W, 8 ohms 200 W, 4 ohms
Output impedance: .60 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz
Rise time: 1.2 microseconds (10% to 90%)
Output current capability: 45A maximum, measured peak to peak into a .1 ohm load.
Input: 1 kHz sine wave gated on for 20 ms each 500 ms.
Power consumption: 90W idle, 600W maximum (limited by 5A line fuse)
Dimensions: W: 18.9 in.,D: 13.4 in.,H: 3.5 in.
Weight: 28 lb.
Music Used For Evaluation:
Cannonball Adderly - Somethin Else
Cannonball Adderly - Know What I Mean
Curtis Amy – Katanga
Chet Baker - Chet
Chet Baker - Groovin' with the Chet Baker Quintet
Chet Baker - Smokin' with the Chet Baker Quintet
Chet Baker - Chet Baker in New York
Art Blakey - Buhana's Delight
Dave Brubeck - Time out
Donald Byrd - Bird in Hand
John Coltrane - Crescent
John Coltrane - Self Titled on Prestiege
John Coltrane - Blue Trane
John Coltrane/Johnny Hartman - vocal
Sonny Criss - I'll Catch the Sun
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
Miles Davis - Seven Steps to Heaven
Miles Davis - Round Midnight
Kenny Dorham - Quiet Kenny
Duke Ellington - The Far East Suite
Bill Evans - You Must Believe in Spring
Bill Evans - Sunday at the Village Vangaurd
Art Farmer - Modern Art
Benny Golson - Free
Dexter Gordon - One Flight Up
Dexter Gordon - Doin Alright
Charlie Haden/Kenny Barron - Night and the City
Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
Johnny Hartman - The Voice that Is (vocal)
Hampton Hawes - The Green Leaves of Summer
Joe Henderson - Page One
Joe Henderson - Double Rainbow
Bobby Hutcherson - Crusin the Bird
Bobby Hutcherson - The Kicker
Keith Jarrett - Koln Concerts
Keith Jarrett - Standards Vol. 1, Vol. 2
Milt Jackson - Bags Opus
Ahmad Jamal - Rossiter Road
Ahmad Jamal - The Awakening
Jackie Maclean - 4, 5 & 6
Les McCann - Compared to What
Charles Mingus - Ah Aum
Thelonius Monk - Monk.
Joni Mitchell - Both Sides Now
Hank Mobley - Soul Station
Modern Jazz Quartet - Fontessa
Lee Morgan - Cornbread
Lee Morgan - Sidewinder
Oliver Nelson - Straight Ahead
Oliver Nelson - Nocturn
Ike Quebeck - Heavy Soul
Ike Quebeck - It Might as Well be Spring
Dizzy Reese - Comin On
Sonny Rollins - Saxaphone Colossus
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness
Sonny Rollins - Alfie
Charlie Rouse - Unsung Hero
Gonzalo Rubalcaba - Suite 4x20
Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil
Stanley Turrentine - Blue Hour
Sarah Vaughan - Crazy & Mixed Up (vocal)
Sarah Vaughan - I Love Brazil (vocal)
Lem Winchester - Lem's Beat
Lem Winchester - With Feeling
Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Private Investigations Best Of Dire Straits (HDCD) - Dire Straits (Warner Bros 49891-2)
Straight Up - Bob James Trio (Warner Bros 945956-2)
Land Of Giants - McCoy Tyner (Telarc 83576)
New York Reunion - McCoy Tyner (Chesky 5173324)
Gladiator Motion Picture Soundtrack(Decca 2894670942)
Copland - Appalachian Spring (Telarc CD 80078)
Frederick Fennell - Holst Suites (Telarc 80038)
Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture (Telarc 80041)
John Williams - American Journey (Sony 89364)
Bizet - Carmen (Telarc 80048)
Live At Sweet Basil - McCoy Tyner Trio (Evidence ECD 22106-2)
Paul Desmond & The Modern Jazz Quartet - Red Baron JK57337
Jimmy Smith - The Unpredictable - Verve 8230308-2
Dexter Gordon - Our Man In Paris - Blue Note 7 46394 2
Mike Garson - Jazz Hat - Reference Recording RR 114
Bill Evans - Live In 1975 Switzerland - Gambit 69232
Bud Powell - Essen Jazz Festival - 1201Music-1QGN9
Cannonball Adderley - Know What I Mean - Riverside OJCCD105
Bill Evans - Ronnie Scotts 1980 - Gambit 69242
Tommy Flanagan - Over C,s - Prestige - OJCCD 1033-2
Ahmad Jamal - Chicago Revisited - Telarc CD 83327
Installation is as straight forward as it gets. Just make sure it has enough room for cooling. The Muse 100 is a passive convection cooled amplifier and does get very warm to the touch. Sits on three low profile chassis feet, look a little bit pedestrian, but are indeed quite substantial, looks can be deceiving.
The rest of the hook up is a Emotiva USP-1 preamp, later on will drag out a high end preamp for further evaluation. Used Discovery Interconnect Cable their signature series with locking RCA's. Speaker wire is the Alon Black Orpheus connected to Alon Model 1 speakers. The turntable is a VPI HW19 MKIV with Audioquest tonearm with a Denon 301 MKII cartridge. The phono cables are Discovery Plus 4. Finally the Audio Analogue Paganini CDP used with Musical Design Interconnects and the Polk Satellite XM tuner connected with Musical Design interconnects. The Sony MDP is connected with Audioquest interconnects. So that rounds out the installation.
This is day eight of continious operation. I leave solid state powered on as opposed to switching them through a on/off cycle. This seems to add to their signature and their service life. Over the years have never had a problem with leaving solid state components in 24 hour operation.
Over the years many of the reviewers of this amp have been tube guys. However most have commented that the Muse 100 has the mids and highs of a good tube amp with the bass end of a very good solid state amp. Gad - how many times have we all read that. Seems as if they are trying to appease both camps. There is no holy grail here regarding tube gear or solid state both have their pluses and minuses in their execution. Quite frankly if the Muse 100 had sounded like a tube amp, I would have been quite jaded. From 1957 to 1978 was into tubes, because solid state had not come of age until the late seventies, with such companies as Threshold and Levinson. When solid state finally got right I was out of the tube gear in a flash and haven't looked back, totally burned out with tube gear at that time and to this day have no fond memories of any tube gear.
So lets examine the Muse 100 for what it is, and that being a solid musical performer, that is a solid state amplifier of exraordinary sonic signature with a solid build quality.
As you can read by the above music list, many genres of music was used in the evaluation. My bag is jazz and in particular Jazz Trio, such as Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Bill Charlap, etc.
The overall signature in my opinion the Muse 100 errs on the warm side of neutral with its current preamp. After 54 years in this hobby, it takes a lot to put a grin on this old face. The Muse did exactly that. Its ability to resolve complex passages with ease and definition, while not being harsh and over analytical is not easily accomplished in solid state design. The Muse is a class A/AB amplifier, although due to the size of the heat sinks, not much Class A bias can de dialed in. Although the unit does get very warm to the touch, but not hot enough to burn you like a Pure Class A amp, still have some scars from those units.
I have no problem with ranking the Muse 100 with the likes of Coda 10 & 10.5, Threshold S150, S200 and S300 or the early Mark Levinson ML 9 and ML 11 power amps. As far as more current amps it excels most anything I have heard from Parasound, Bryston,Classe given the same output. But falls short of Spectral, Pass Labs and Goldmund, but to name a few. The Muse 100 falls into the mid level of high end amplifiers and sounds vastly better than most in this category.
As I compose this interview Ron Carters album Stardust is playing in the background. The bass sounds are tight, not soft and his finger work on the upright bass comes through as it should, well defined. Benny Golson on Tenor Sax has that air of depth and transparency not often encountered. While Lenny White on drums pushed the music ahead, the Muse 100 here offers a solid rendering of the drums, no bloat here just solid drum work that the Muse 100 handles with ease. Roland Hanna on piano sounds as if he is in the room with you, great action on the keys and at times you can hear the hammers hitting the strings on the piano. Vibe work is handled by Joe Locke and a lot of amplifiers just don;t get vibes right due to the complexity of the frequency of the instrument. This was a major surprise point as the vibes come through on pitch and lush in texture. This is great Ron Carter that the Muse 100 handle with a delicacy not often found in amplifiers in this price/performance category.
With Classical in particular full scale symphony orchestras the Muse 100 has zero difficulty in bringing forth this music from the quietest passages to the thunderous crescendos. At times its presentations have raised the hair on my neck and sent a chill down my back in its ability to deliver a full symphonic signature. Damn few amps have ever done that to me.
If their is a weakness in what this amplifier can deliver it has yet to reveal itself. From the thunder of a kettle drum to the shimmer of brushes on cymbals, the amp can and does deliver. This is an amp that is not in your face. It precisely delivers the music as it was recorded, and does so effortlessly. Now I get the picture on why this amp has the following that audiophiles go after.
Muse 100 had a long production run as far as amplifiers go. It was discontinued once, but due to audiophile demand it was put into production once again. That does not happen all that often. And who knows Kevin may yet put the Muse 100 into production again sometime in the future. There is always room in the market for an amplifier of this caliber.
Is this the best amp I have ever heard? In a word no, in 54 years in this hobby have heard a boat load of amplifiers. From 30K amps to $200.00 amplifiers. For a Class A/AB amplifier the Muse 100 is a pure gem, in a field crowded by pretenders and contenders.
It has been noted by other reviewers of the Muse 100, that in some cases there is a hum emitted from the amplifier or through the speakers. I did not encounter any hum or anamolies with the Muse 100, it was and remains dead solid quiet in its operation.
If your looking for a sculptured work of art, this is not the Muse 100. Cosmeticaly it is an unassuming black box, that has in my opinion an understated elegance in its presentation physically. In this area it will not put to shame Rowland, Pass Labs, Krell and the like. However if you interest lies in performance the Muse 100 gets it all so very right. There is so little to fault with the Muse 100 in the area of musical reproduction, given of course it has like components to work with.
Regardless if planning an upgrade or downgrade for that matter to something less expensive. The Muse 100 should be on that short list of consideration. Buying products from now defunct manufacturers is always problematic. Should service ever be required where does one go,the same holds true for some mass market consumer manufacturers such as HK,Denon,Kenwood, etc.,who only stock parts for less than three years on most models. Muse remains in business so service should it ever be needed will not be an issue to deal with. And that is a very important consideration in ones purchase.
The Muse 100 is a thoroughly modern ampifier of robust construction with far better than average parts used in its build. If your a first timer putting together a separates system, the Muse 100 should at the top of your consideration, it will not dissappoint. One can do far worse by not selecting the Muse 100 as the heart of a system.
In 54 years in this hobby/business I can without reservations totally recommend this very fine amplifier from Muse. It ranks in very lofty company indeed and stands on its own merit without any excuses. Nuff said.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products
Threshold,Krell,Levinson, Musical Concepts,Pass Labs,Bryston,Classe, Parasound, etc