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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Raysonic Audio CD228, Apple iMac 1TB with AIFF files up to 24/192, Weiss DAC2, iPod Classic 160GB, Sieben Technology dock
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03 (transistor), Bent Audio Tap-X (AVC passive), ModWright DM 36.5 (tube)
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5 & J2, ModWright KWA-100 SE, ModWright KWA-100 [on review], Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya, Octave Audio MRE-130 with SSB, Yamamoto A-09S
Speakers: ASI Tango R, Zu Essence, Boenicke SLS
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and AKG K-702; stock audio-technica W5000; stock Grado PS-1000; HifiMan HE5LE with optional silver wiring and grill mod
Headphone amps: Trafomatic Audio Head One; Woo Audio Model 5; Burson Audio HA-160; Meier Audio Corda Concerto
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline, Furutech GT2 and WireWorld Starlight USB A-to-mini-B cables [on loan], LaCie and Entreq Firewire 800 cables, Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable [on loan]
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters, Advanced Acoustics Orbis Wall & Corner units
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: $3.995

Dan Wright: "I have decided to offer an SE version of the KWA 100 sooner than later. I had intended this later but an enthusiastic customer who posts widely on the Internet mentioned it and now the cat is out of the bag. The differences between KWA 100 and KWA 100SE include: 33% increase in total number of Mosfet output pairs (2 additional pairs per side for 5 total); twice the power supply capacitance for 176,000uf in main supply reserves not counting local decoupling; upgraded signal path resistors in key locations to Takman carbon films; upgrade of key capacitors to MWI to replace Wima film caps; increased bias as a result of increased O.P pairs - and I have a few other tricks up my sleeve as my techs are building the first SE units now and I have to listen and evaluate and tweak.

"I purposely designed the boards to accommodate the upgrades but knew that I could not afford to release the unit at $3295 fully tricked out. I felt it important to offer a unit in the $3K range to make it attainable to more audiophiles. The SE raises the price to $3995, still within reach!  All existing KWA 100s can be factory-upgraded to SE level for $700 + shipping."

The KWA 100 SE is physically distinguished by a plaque engraved with Special Edition which affixes right beneath the original model designation. Otherwise this amp is identical. That is, until one pops the hood 28 screws later to inspect the added and upgraded parts. Of those there's a surprising number. This is a significant hotrod job.

To compare the standard amp, revisit the images of page 2 (this link will open in a new window).

Here is the new Mosfet row for a total of 10 output devices per channel.

The big black Panasonic caps for power supply storage are doubled up for a total of four per channel.

Nearly all original red Wima film capacitors (the two photos show three per channel remaining) are upgraded to ModWright's own metalized oil-impregnated poly types. Critical resistors are upgraded to carbon film units.

The original hi/lo bias switch now turns on the internal blue backlighting on both the KWA 100 and SE models. The power logo remains lit independently. If you want that off, tweak the LED toggle to stay right in the middle between up and down. As a two-pole switch, this isn't really an intended position but does the business.

To jump straight into the main business of sound, I'll remind you that Frederic Beudot and yours truly have been on a secretive little mission. As two proud owners of the Nelson Pass FirstWatt F5, we've been searching in our own ways for a high-power F5 that would scale up its 25wpc power rating by at least four times to become more universally applicable but otherwise make comparably excellent sound.

For a lot more dosh, Frederic recently came upon his first contender, the Gryphon Audio Diablo. His brilliant tale of four (blue) moons exposé describes how the two compare while adding another two award-winning amps for good measure. Catching up with Frederic, I'll now add the ModWright KWA 100 SE to our private shortlist. This obviously doesn't imply that the ModWright sounds identical. What it does imply is that a listener super fond of the F5's special virtues will feel right at home with the KWA 100 SE. You'll trade bits of this for bits of that but fundamentally remain on common ground. At just $1.000 more than the F5's original price (that model's limited run has since run out but used reconditioned units regularly crop up at Reno Hifi), that's a monster discovery at least in my book.