|Monarchy Audio SE-100 Delux Mark 2 Monoblock Amplifier Review|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Mono Amplifiers|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Wednesday, 10 February 2010|
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Monarchy Audio is a San Francisco, California-based concern founded in 1979 by C.C. Poon, an audio enthusiast with a technical bent who began his business selling amplifier kits from Japan. By the 1990s, the company had shifted focus and began manufacturing its own audio gear, including DACs and amplifiers, all under a banner of “High End at Low Cost.” in 1995, Monarchy introduced the SE-100 mono block amplifier, a Class A model whose design remained in production unchanged for nearly 15 years. In late 2009, an updated version of the SE-100 was released under the moniker SE-100 Delux Mark 2.
The SE-100 Mark 2 Delux, like most mono block amplifiers, is characteristically frills-free when it comes to buttons and other front-panel gadgetry. Aside from the twin handles, the front panel has a power switch only – any tone, loudness or volume controls are left to the pre-amp. The rear panel is equally spartan, with a single connection for RCA or XLR, one pair of speaker outs, an AC fuse and outlet for detachable power cord.
The “SE” in the SE-100's name stands for “single ended,” and to that end the amp is designed for RCA connection. If your system requires XLR connections, the SE-100 can accommodate but to no sonic advantage. And if you're into bi-amping, the SE-100 can be mated to a pair of its own for more power and separation of the high and low frequency spectrum. For this review, I used Hegel Audio's H100 integrated amplifier as a pre-amp and connected each mono block via the RCA connections.
Mono blocks can be thought of as single, self-contained amps, each with its own transformer and power supply. Such an arrangement, theoretically, affords better channel separation, imaging and a deeper soundstage. The SE-100s were my first foray into the mono block world, and what impressed me most was the degree of separation I heard in every recording. Monarchy recommends letting the SE-100 warm up for 30 minutes for best sound. Although the amps are touted as “virtually noise free,” there is a definite degree of hum when first powered on and warming up. That hum never goes away totally but decreases substantially - a power conditioner could probably smooth out the last bit of roughness. Even so, the Delux is smooth, clean, open and transparent and well suited for big and bold as well as intimate and delicate. The SE-100's specs suggest an amp that delivers distortion-free sound, even at full-rated power, confirmed by my experience.