|Monster MPA 5150 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Sunday, 01 July 2007|
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Music And Movies
I used the MPA-5150 for casual listening for about a week before I sat down for a careful listening session. Having recently watched a television special on Norah Jones, I decided to start my review with her debut album. Come Away With Me turned out to be one of, if not the most, commercially successful albums on the historic Blue Note label. While listening to the title track, the MPA-5150 reproduced a soundstage starting a little before the front plane of the speakers. The depth of the image was not quite as great as when I used the Krell 400xi, but it did extend to the front wall. The breadth of the soundstage was appropriate for this track. The vocals were clean and solid at normal listening volumes.
The MPA-5150’s sound quality was as solid as its 75-pound chassis. The sound was sharp and clear and the amplifier had no problems keeping a tight reign on all of the speakers I tried with it. A close comparison with my reference Krell indicates that the MPA-5150 has a slightly higher noise floor with a touch of grain. The amplifier is slightly forward and, at high volumes, I noted a bit of glare on the high end. At normal listening levels, the MPA-5150’s high end was well extended with some air, but not quite as much as the amplifiers two and three times its price.
I moved on to Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms album (Warner Brothers). “Money For Nothing” is an all-time favorite of mine. The momentum-building opening riff was easily handled by the MPA-5150. The instruments were all individually portrayed with clarity and weight, maintaining their separate space without blending together. The imaging on “Your Latest Trick” was solid. The vocals were crystal clear, as was decay of the cymbals. When listening at normal volumes, the cymbals were slightly on the bright side, but still sounded natural, just a bit more energetic than usual.
Paula Cole’s “Tiger,” the first track on the album This Fire (Warner Brothers), has a great dynamic range. The track opens with her vocals solidly placed center stage. I listened to this track with the McIntosh Laboratories C-220 tube preamplifier driving the MPA-5150 and found the combination to provide a well-balanced combination of lushness and detail. The vocals were still crisp and clear, but with a touch of that magic midrange bloom associated with tubes. The track’s deep bass line was portrayed with good detail and speed, reaching deep down to provide a tactile performance.
My stereo listening sessions with the MPA-5150 proved the amplifier to be a very capable performer. Like most components, proper system matching provides maximum benefit. This was clearly demonstrated with the components I was using. The preamplifier section of the Krell is quite good, very detailed and slightly forward of neutral. The MPA-5150 shares similar sonic attributes. Each component by itself is fine – add two of them in a row and the sonic characteristics are magnified. On the other hand, the McIntosh C-220 preamplifier is also very neutral and detailed, but it is slightly to the relaxed side of neutral. This made the McIntosh/MPA-5150 stand out above the Krell/MPA-5150 combination. This is neither criticism nor praise of any specific component, just a reminder that most components are not perfectly neutral and their sonic leanings should be considered when compiling a system.
Wrapping up my stereo listening, I watched The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Buena Vista Home Entertainment). The MPA-5150 kept the vocals clear and easy to understand, with distinct enunciation. The sonic signature was consistent from channel to channel, with voices retaining their distinct identities as they moved from channel to channel.
I was a bit anxious to see how the MPA-5150 would do when all five channels were being fed dynamic material. The big battle scene, even at high volumes, remained dynamic. There were no signs of compression. The slight glare I noted when listening to higher frequencies at volume during my stereo sessions was not as noticeable on movies. Despite the amplifier’s relatively modest rating of 150 watts per channel, it performed as though much more power was on tap when needed.
I then watched Superman Returns on HD DVD (Warner Home Video). As with the Chronicles of Narnia, the voices were natural and clear. This was an especially tough challenge in the congested newsroom scenes, but the MPA-5150’s clarity and crispness prevailed.
Moving on to the HD DVD presentation of Million Dollar Baby (Warner Home Video), I listened closely to the sound of the bags being hit. My most recent gym (no, I don’t go as much as I should) was the gym where Hilary Swank trained for the movie and the sound of bags being hit was consistent with my personal experience in the actual space. Ambient sounds were also portrayed with a good sense of envelopment and space, whether in the confines of the gym or the crowds in the arenas.
Listening to Sting’s album Brand New Day (A&M – DTS), I noted that the MPA-5150 easily controlled the bottom end of my full-range speakers on the bass-heavy first two tracks, “A Thousand Years” and “Desert Rose.” Despite the power the full-range speakers were eating up at louder volumes, plenty remained for all the various effects in the center and surrounds. Sting’s vocals remained clear and solidly placed, unaffected by the activities in the other channels.
While listening to the horns in “Perfect Love … Gone Wrong,” I was able to detect some of the brittleness I noted in my stereo listening, but only at higher volumes. This track does not have much in the way of horns, but if you listen closely to the horn sections and even the upper ends of the piano’s range, there is a slight grain. Again, this is something that I think most people would never notice if they weren’t listening for it.
The amplifier has some features that I did not use very much, such as the power meters and adjustable level controls for each channel. During a few loud and complex movie scenes, I found it interesting to watch the power level meters to see how much it really took to drive my speakers to those levels. I doubt that the power meters will be used on a regular basis by most listeners. They definitely add to the coolness factor of the aesthetics but, for most people, I think they will not be a needed item. The level controls may come in handy if there are extreme variances in the relative speaker levels or if you wanted to use multiple channels to bi-amplify speakers. I can think of a few other uses as well, but I think the majority of listeners will not use the individual channel levels.