- AC In/Out: 110 to 120 Volts, 20 Amps
- NEMA Outlets: 12
- Maximum load: 2,000 Watts
- Overload Protection: (2) Two pole 15 Amp electromagnetic
- circuit breakers, one per section of 6 receptacles
- Height 3.5 ” Depth 17″
- Width 19″Weight: 75 lbs
- Cabinet: 16 gauge
- A note from Monarchy Audio: For optimal performance, we recommend plugging
- this AC Supply into a devoted AC Outlet with at least 20 amps rating. Please ensure the AC socket has clean metal contact surfaces. If in doubt, consult Monarchy Audio
- Retail price $980
For those of you not yet familiar with Monarchy Audio you should mark this day on your calendar. Discovering Monarchy Audio products for the first time is like going to that first dance. You are there having a great time, overwhelmed by the whole experience, never realizing until many years later just how special that moment really was.
I still remember my first Monarchy experience. I had read and reread my latest copy of “Stereophile” when I stumbled upon their ad. I had never heard of Monarchy but I noticed that this manufacturer was just 15 minutes from my house. I was hooked, how could I resist a chance to give them a call and perhaps, dare I hope, drop by for a visit. My nervous little hands quickly picked up the phone and dialed the number. On the other end of the phone was June. She has that type of personality that is perfect for customer contact. June is genuinely friendly, caring and even a big sports enthu- siasts like me. June and I have had many fun discussions about San Francisco bay area teams.
She promptly put my call through to CC Poon (the founder of the company) who was understanding and gracious. He offered to let me come visit with him whenever I could and I made arrangements to see him that very day. My first time there I did not buy anything but I was greatly impressed with all the audio gear he demonstrated, thinking how could he sell these high quality products at such a low price. I also was wondering why I had never heard of him. Having talked to many different audio manufacturers over my 40 plus years as an audio enthusiast I can tell you not many are as open and friendly as CC Poon. I probably am embarrassing him a little here but it needs to be said. I was so impressed with my initial visit that I went back a few days later and bought a DIP (digital interface processor) from CC. This of course was just the beginning of a long line of equipment I would later buy at Monarchy Audio. Lets see, I bought the DIP, DIP Upsampler, 4 DR-1 digital interconnect cables, 3 AC-1 power cords, one pair of his PCOCC made speaker cables, one pair of Monarchy SE-250 hybrid tube/solid state mono amps, two pairs of Dignity Audio SET integrated mono amps (imported by Monarchy Audio), a Dual 20-Bit D/A converter (a special CC Poon modified version), and one pair of SM70 PRO stereo solid state amplifiers I mostly use in mono configuration. Oh yes, you might just say I am a BIG fan of CC Poon, both the man and the audio gear he makes.
Monarchy Audio M150 review
The M150 is an AC filtering system, with each of its two Isolation Transformers handling 2KV (the Isolation transformers each actually is rated at 2700 Watts but recommended power handling is 2KV so as to allow it a large margin of reserve). At 75 pounds it is physically quite heavy but luckily it comes with two strong handles for easy lifting. The M150 has a beautiful retro styling to it and a power cord that is permanently attached. This is great news because you do not have to spend an additional $300 to $400 for a power cord like you do with many other components of this nature. Coming standard with 12 outlets, it is more than adequate for almost any audiophile system. Looking inside you can see that much of the space is occupied by the two massive isolation Transformers. Monarchy says that they do more than handle noise and interference blocking. These large transformers act as energy storage devices that account for a stronger and deeper bass response. Inside are also two EMI/RFI filters to block cell phone signals and radio frequency interference.
My listening room is 18’ 8” long by 13’ wide. The room’s cathedral ceiling starts at 8’ high then slopes upward to 13’ at its peak in the middle. Flooring is a soft hardwood covering with an oriental rug placed dead center in between (but not under) the listener and the audio system.
Today’s speakers will be the Legacy Focus 20/20’s because I needed to see, what if anything, the M150 could do with low power amps handling these 185 pound beauties. After all I cannot make it easy for the M150 can I. The Legacy Focus 20/20’s are a 5 way 7 driver speaker design weighing in at 185 lbs apiece. Each speaker consists of (2) 12″ subwoofers and (1) 12″ “transition driver”, (2) 7” Kevlar midwoofers (1) 1.25” Dome and one ribbon tweeter. They are ported in the rear and have a rated sensitivity of 95db @ 2.83V with an impedance of 4 ohms. According to Legacy these 20/20’s can be used with amps ranging from 10-400 watts per channel.
I plugged two Dignity Audio DA08SE SET mono amps (imported by Monarchy Audio) into the wall through a PS Audio Power Port receptacle using two TEK LINE PC-8 Signature power cords. If you have not yet heard the Dignity amps check out John Hoffman’s review in the February issue. I liked them so much I bought four, first two and a week later two more. Even though these little 8-watt amps sound much bigger than they should, they could not tame my Focus 20/20’s in the lower regions. After all I have a total of 370 lbs of speakers and 14 drivers to handle. Even at 95db efficiency that’s a lot to ask from a pair of 8-watt SET amp’s running a total of two 300B’s and two 6SN7’s. Normally I leave the Dignity’s hooked up to my Klipschorns, with their higher db rating, where they are much more comfortable. However, when I do connect them to my Legacy’s they produce a midrange magic I really can enjoy. Now of course that is what SET amps are supposed to do, glorious midrange musical reproduction.
Disconnecting the amps from the wall and plugging them directly into the M150 changed everything, as you shall see shortly. First I must tell you though the M150 does emit a hum that I just couldn’t quite get rid of. The hum can be heard from my listening position if the room is very quiet and no music is playing. For me I just switched the M150 off when not in use and found that the only time I was hearing a hum was between selections and before I put on the music. Once the music started playing I couldn’t hear it and what was to follow negated any noise issue whatsoever. When informed of my problem CC Poon dropped off a “DeadBeat” damping mat that is used for insulation in car doors. Following his suggestion I simple removed the top of the MonarchyM150, peeled off the paper on the damping mat and placed it on the underside of the top cover. After I smoothed out any wrinkles in the mat, I replaced the top cover, and everything was much better.
Playing Diana Krall’s The Look Of Love CD I felt as if my listening position had moved from the ninth to the seventh row, where everything seemed a little clearer and fuller. Listening to Christian McBride playing bass on “Cry Me A River” you could tell something good was going on with the SET amps/M150 combo. The Monarchy M150, while giving Diana’s voice more weight, did nothing to disrupt the SET magic of my Dignity amps.
Moving on now to Randy Travis and his beautiful enormous voice I dug out the Always & Forever CD where I of course played the title song. Again the M150 did nothing to interfere with the magic of Randy Travis but you could sense something was different when heard through the M150. His voice, like Diana’s, was just a little more distinct and magical. Still I had yet to play a CD with any real bass impact, which after all is supposedly the M150’s forte.
Ok, now that I had a taste of some of the positive virtues of the M150 and having determined it was doing no harm, I moved onto the bigger question. What does it do, if anything, that makes it worth $980 of your dollars?
If you have not yet heard Robben Ford go give him a listen and then send me a-thank you e-mail. I put on the CD, Handful of Blues, track 5 “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”. This song is played with lots of energy and soul. Now the M150’s presence was starting to really be felt. Finally I had given it something it could sink its teeth into. Still though the best was yet to come.
Next up was Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow CD track 3 “Constipated Duck”. Now we are going into the realm where I normally would use solid-state amps. This song should be played loud and it has a lot going on all at once. No simple vocals just plenty of guitars and drums. Here the M150 made the SET amps sound more solid-state in a good way, not destroying its SET magic, yet giving it some added heft. Now get ready, next up was Neil Diamond’s The Greatest Hits 1966-1992 CD. Listening to “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” gave me a sense that I really was at a revival meeting hearing a powerful evangelist speaking. Eightwatt SET amps are just not supposed to give you the dynamic powerful performance that I was experiencing. I know that these are truly unique SET amps in that they sound more powerful than they should but now with the M150 it was taken to another level. I felt like I was listening to the clear midrange of SET amps yet with the power of a solid-state amp in the lower bass regions. Playing this song with the M150 created such a magical moment that I listened to it over and over again not for the review process but just for the joy of listening. The following excerpt is from the song:
“Starting soft and slow Like a small earthquake And when he lets go Half the valley shakes It’s Love, Love Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”
This describes the Dignity amps Monarchy M150 combo, soft and slow SET magic yet turning it up into a small earthquake when needed. CC Poon is like that evangelist; when he talks people start to listen (or at least they should). His products shake up the high-end audio environment with high quality and low pricing. It just feels like your getting more than your paying for. This combination of M150 and Dignity Audio DA08SE amps had a synergy between them that I did not want to break up. Still I wondered what the M150 sounded like with solid-state amps.
Next in line was a pair of Monarchy Audio SM-70 Pro amps used in mono block configuration, but not in balanced mode. I am contemplating future upgrades to use it balanced but have not yet decided how to get there. If you have not heard of the SM-70 Pro’s go back and check John Hoffman’s review in the August issue. Again the M150 improved upon the bass and made the amp feel a little more at ease with complex passages. Voices were again stronger and clearer; while there was greater bass impact. The largest improvement though was felt with the M150 and the Dignity’s. I suspect that is because the SET amps, by their very nature, are lacking in the lower bass regions and any improvement there is greatly noticed. I then proceeded to plug my CD player and DAC into the M150 and was pleasantly surprise. Again everything got a little smoother and even a tad tighter in the bass regions.
Strangely enough the biggest decision with the M150 was how, not where, to place it in the system. Sure it just drops in and you plug in the associated gear, but which way does it face? You could have the 12 outlets with the two circuit breakers facing the listener, or perhaps the other side with the one long power cord that plugs into the wall. For me I decided on neither of these options. I placed my M150 on the floor sideways with the 12 outlets facing my amps. Like many audiophiles I have some long thick aftermarket power cords that are much easier to plug in when you do not have to twist and turn them. I then took the attached power cord; which wisely enough was long and supple, twisted that around the M150’s side and headed straight for the PS Audio power receptacle in the wall. Of course it really does not matter to the sound what you do, it’s only a matter of personal choice and ease of attachment. As for the two circuit breakers, in-between the two sections of 6 outlets, I liked them. My original McIntosh MC275 does not have a power on or off switch so I had to plug and unplug it as needed. Now just a flip of the switch and it’s either on or off.
The M150 is quite an amazing device. Whether I used it with tube or solid-state amps, the results were the same. Music just seemed to sound better with it in the system then without it. My UPC-200 retailed for $499 while the MrCable Musician 9’ power cord was $549 retail. Both are excellent products and I am happy with their purchase. Adding the two together equals $1048. The M150 lists for $980 and you get 12 outlets, not just 4, plus the added bonus of an on off switch (not found on the PS Audio UPC-200) for those components like my original 1960’s McIntosh MC275 or a Harman Kardon Citation II power amp. To top it off you don’t need an extra cord to plug it in. Standard with the M150 is a 9’ power cord. Yes 9 feet, that’s a lot of cord. Although I do wish Monarchy Audio would have a factory installed IEC outlet so I could try their cord as well as my own to see what the difference might be if any. After all I’m an audiophile with lots of power cords and I just love to play.
Now for one final test, how does it affect video performance? Yes I know this is not a video review but Monarchy Audio claims that it will “provide a cleaner, more stable picture if plasma, CRT, LCD or DLP HDTV’s are plugged into it.” Well I own a 1080P HDTV and I also have a CRT projector (although the CRT is not HD). So lets briefly take a look at what the M150 can do video wise.
My Sharp Aquos LC-GP321U 32” LCD HDTV provides me with excellent video already so this will be a tough challenge. Watching a high definition broadcast with the Sharp plugged into the M150 things were a little sharper and colors a little more defined, with less smearing. There was no night/day difference but once again both my 21 year old son John and I liked the picture with the M150 in more so than without it.
My home theatre displays pictures through a Sony 1272Q video projector with three 7” tubes. A Sony DVP-7000 DVD player and Silicon Image Iscan Pro line doubler provided video images for this evaluation. The nice thing about my Sony 1272Q projector is that it throws a very clear large 100” diagonal picture, which makes any changes easy to detect. I have this setup in my garage, with no windows, and therefore it is absolutely pitch black giving the best picture possibly. For this test I played the video “300” a movie about 300 Spartans who fought to the death against the massive Persian army in ancient Greece. This DVD mixes real life action with digital effects and it is indeed an excellent movie. In one scene, with M150 installed, I could see the details of an all black horse and without it the horse was just a black mass. Individual lines on the faces of actors were more pronounced and colors better contrasted. Again no drastic changes but ones I would rather have then not. As you can see the M150 is versatile in that it can be used for both audio and video applications, performing well in both.
I can see the M150 going into a home theatre setup to help out audio and video performances. Those of you with one system that subs for both your home theatre and your 2 channel audio setup need only purchase one M150. Others who want this for your 2 channel audio system and one for your home theatre should purchase two or buy one and move it when needed (at 75 pounds I’d buy 2 as they are quite heavy to move around). One time I bent over to pick it up and forgot to bend at the knees thus straining my lower back. Stupid me I was in pain for 24 hours, nothing serious but painful nevertheless.
The problem with the M150 is that once you give this beauty a try you will be hard pressed to take it out of your system. If and when you do subtract it you will notice an immediate sense that something good is missing. Monarchy Audio products have a way of spoiling you and the M150 is no exception. They always sound like high-end gear should yet they are priced for the value minded audiophile. Good job Monarchy Audio. Thank you CC Poon.
- Dignity Audio DA08SE integrated mono amps (imported by Monarchy Audio) Monarchy Audio SM-70 Pro Amps (run in mono)
- Oracle Delphi Mk I turntable with custom made interconnects
- Grace 707 tonearm with Denon 301 II MC cartridge
- Whest PhonoStage.20 + MsU.20 power supply
- Sony DVP-S7700 CD/DVD Player (used as transport only)
- Monarchy Audio Dual 20-Bit D/A Converter (modified by Monarchy Audio) Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers
- Monster HTS-2000 Power Conditioner
- PS Audio UPC-200 Power Center
- PS Audio Power Port Receptacle
- Blue Circle BC86 MKIII power line pillows (2)
- PS Audio Transcendent Interconnects (solid silver series) from the xStream Audio Series
- Tek Line TL 500-S (silver interconnects) Monarchy Audio DR-1 Digital Interconnect
- Tek Line PC-8 Signature Power Cords (2) 6’ lengths
- Mr-Cable Musician power cord 9’ length Black Diamond Racing Cones (#3 & #4) Audio Prism IsoBearing (Isolation Globes) Sony 1272Q video projector
- Sony DVP-7000 CD player
- Silicon Image Iscan Pro line doubler
- Sharp Aquos LC-GP321U 32” LCD TV
from aﬀordableaudio, By Anthony Nicosia