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This review first appeared in October 2019 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of Dawid Grzyb or Marton Audio – Ed.
Reviewer: Marek Dyba
Analog sources: J.Sikora Basic MAX turntable, J.Sikora KV12 tonearm , AirTight PC-3, phonostages: Grandinote Celio mk IV, ESE Lab Nibiru V 2.5
Digital sources: passive custom PC with Win10, Roon, Fidelizer Pro 7.3, JCat USB Femto card with iFi power supply, Hdplex linear power supply for PC, JCAT USB Isolator, LampizatOr Golden Atlantic +Ideon Audio 3R Master Time (USB signal regenerator), LampizatOr Pacific
USB: iFi audio 0, micro iUSB3.0 and 3x Mercury cables
Preamplifiers: Audia Flight FLS1
Amplifiers: GrandiNote Shinai
Speakers: Ubiq Audio Model One Duelund Edition, GrandiNote MACH4, ESA Credo Stone [on loan], Mårten Mingus Quintet [on loan]
Interconnects: Hijiri Million, KBL Sound Red Corona, Metrum Lab Edge, TelluriumQ Silver Diamond USB, Stavessence USB Eunoia and Apricity, Ethernet Eloquence
Speaker cables: LessLoss Anchorwave, Metrum Lab Edge, KBl Sound Red Corona
Power components: GigaWatt PF-2 MK2 and GigaWatt PC-3 SE Evo+; a custom power line with GigaWatt LC-Y in-wall cable; GigaWatt G-044 Schuko and Furutech FT-SWS-D (R)
Rack: Base VI, Rogoz Audio 3RP3/BBS
Sundry accessories: Rogoz Audio SMO40 and CPPB16 platforms and BW40MKII feet, Franc Accessories Ceramic Disc Slim Feet and Wood Block platform
Retail price of reviewed components in EU: €69'000
One of my major sightings at Warsaw's 2018 Audio Video Show was the launch of Mr. Marek Knaga's latest, his Marton Opusculum Reference 3 integrated amplifier. The brand had already built a well-deserved reputation for numerous remarkable products. But this model was the first result of a new cooperation between Marton and GigaWatt, another renowned Polish brand. I was impressed and requested a sample for a world premiere review.
Marton had emerged in the early 1990s. Right from the start they created a buzz during our period of rapidly developing domestic audio when many new brands and products saw the light of day. Knaga had set himself ambitious goals. He didn't want to make yet another good-sounding amplifier. He wanted to offer true high-end sound designed and made in Poland. Most manufacturers enter the market with some decent reasonably priced product, assuming they first have to build a name for themselves. Only after attracting enough attention and booking sufficient success in the more general hifi area do some take the next step into the world of no-compromise audio. Which makes a lot of sense. Being DIY making great-sounding machines for oneself or a small group of friends can eventually become a small-scale manufacture facing real-life production and market challenges. But that's still different from accumulating the considerable knowledge and experience over many subsequent projects which is normally required to develop bona fide high-end products to begin with.
Marek Knaga's goal from the onset was to develop a neutral amplifier with top-notch performance. By neutral he meant the proverbial straight wire with gain. Instead of presenting a range of products as consecutive steps toward his ultimate goal, he'd already amassed impressive knowledge and experience whilst developing his very first Marton amplifier. That wasn't rushed but properly built, refined, tweaked and upgraded well before the first one ever found its new owner. He has kept to the same approach since, hence twenty long years haven't seen many new Marton models. Developing and refining each takes a long time. So Marton amplifiers never were affordable and only a few could own them. Among Marek's customers aren't just regular audiophiles but designers who use his amplifiers as references for their own work. For example, Andrzej Zawada, the man behind ESA and their fantastic Credo Stone, has used Marton while developing his loudspeakers. And he isn't the only industry insider who enjoys Marton power amplifiers for his reference system.
Marton amplifiers have always been large and heavy. Even though some featured outboard power supplies, the total weight was as ever the main obstacle preventing delivery for a review. Hence I never had opportunity to assess any Marton in my own system. Also, Mr. Knaga didn't participate at the Warsaw show each year. I had no opportunity to track his progress over time. Many years prior to the last 2018 event was in fact the last time I remember spending any time in his room.
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