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This review first appeared in the May 2008 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Source: Audiomeca Obsession II, Fonel Simplicité (variable outputs)
Amplification: pre/power - Bel Canto PRe3/M300, Myryad MXP2000/MXA2150; integrated - Accuphase E212
Loudspeakers: Thiel CS 2.4, Sehring 703 SE, Quadral Rondo
Cables: low-level - HMS Sestetto Mk3, Straight Wire Virtuoso; high-level HMS Fortissimo, Ortofon SPK 500
Review component retail: €886.55 and €2623.95

Professionals or funky brigade?
Many hifi buffs respect studio kit, figuring that the pros know what's relevant. Good-bye to chrome then, adieu to glitz and massive face plates, with each euro invested in sonics and reliability instead. But are the pros more enlightened always? How often have hifi enthusiasts been reprimanded that any differences they hear in cables are pure imagination?

Personally, I'd not commit either way. For one, I dislike black and white statements. Plus, my personal experiences continue to exhibit too much variability. Herr Thomas Funk seems to operate similarly. Rather than clutch at fixed beliefs, he tries, tests and measures for himself, putting little stock in mainstream truisms - about which more anon. That one's choice of ancillaries does include appropriate cabling to impact sonic outcomes isn't at all mysterious to Mr. Funk. Rather, it's anticipated even on the test bench. What's more, this Berlin outfit offers redundant glitz as well. For example, their Lap-2 can be had with gold-plated or chromed face plates. Their €50 surcharge quite fails at cleanly distinguishing between studio and hifi clients.

With his professional career, accredited sound engineer and Moto Guzzi fan Thomas Funk now celebrates his 30th anniversary as a provider of recording studio kit, a calling he first answered in 1978 by fulfilling commissions and repair work for recording studios while operating his very own sound lab. Over the last few years, it's been particularly his preamps Lap-2 and MTX-Monitor which garnered attention from hifi enthusiasts, leading us to today's assignment of the €886.55 Lap-2.V2 and €2.623.95 MTX-Monitor.V3a.

To set back the clock, what stood as godfather over the R&D of these machines was a
Test bench at Funk's - no ears required to take measurements
very specific pro-arena scenario. According to Herr Funk, the monitoring modules of mixing consoles which technically mirror the requirements of preamps suffered "rather inferior quality". In 1990, this led Sony Classic in Hamburg to look for a new discrete monitoring solution for its mastering facility. The resultant AMS [left] already weighed in as bona fide hifi preamp but was cosmetically somewhat challenged for the average living room. At nearly DM 7.000, the AMS II successor launched in 1997.

The Lap-2.V2 is a mere 21cm wide. The MTX-Monitor.V3a clocks the customary 43cm width.

Admittedly, the list of special requirements which studio professionals might nurse for their machines can be quite lengthy. Yet it's equally true that not every recording engineer uses every last gizmo, feature and input. Hence 1999 saw the launch of the first MTX Monitor which replaced the AMS's XLRs with RCAs and stripped back functionality to something a bit simpler.

Throughout the following years -- and this is no hyperbole -- the MTX established a premium reputation well outside recording professionals, leading to Funk's name recognition also in diehard hifi circles. Today, nearly 50% of all MTX units sold end up in consumer hands. Herr Funk's creations are sought after also by clients who rely on their machines in challenging environs, hence the MTX as well as smaller Lap are routinely found in the mobile labs of the Bavarian or Schleswig-Holstein location broadcast divisions.

On the subject of reliability, Herr Funk immediately lights up with personal development goals: "Nearly all contacts are relay-switched which explains why we never suffer service calls. Our machines are also of exceptionally low distortion whereas the usual electronic contacts suffer rather high distortion values. Our relay switching benefits not only long-term reliability but improves measurable consistency over the long haul."

For AC rectification, Funk relies exclusively on his own laboratory power supplies. Besides minimizing insertion losses and operational heat, these provide full sonics without lengthy warm-ups, the latter a very common phenomenon with hifi kit which already on the bench shows operational drift over the first few minutes (leash up a basic watt counter to your components to observe significant action after power on). Where input impedances are concerned, consumer hifi is no stranger to the occasional three-figure kilo-ohm value yet Funk counters with one full Mega ohm. This deliberately 'abnormal' decision is claimed to eliminate phase shift in the bass. Herr Funk meanwhile views as abnormal how consumer amplifier designers waste resources by impressing their audiences with the fattest of filter capacitors.

As per Funk, engorged filter caps unduly load down the power transformer which has to refill the capacitors from phase to phase cycle while answering the instantaneous supply current demands of raw amplification. This twin action minimizes the available time the transformer has for its primary job. If merely 20% of time remains while 80% are allocated to recharging over-dimensioned capacitors, the transformer will see a 5-times increase in current demand. High filter capacitance further loads down the feedback loop and creates power supply noise. In short, I got the message that Herr Funk fails to be impressed by soda can capacitor banks.

He is a devout and self-proclaimed measurement freak however, owning between 200 to 300 oscilloscopes, audio and spectrum analyzers, custom power mains delivery boxes and ultra-complex parts testers. He claims to be able to divide/filter the audible spectrum into 250,000 bands to conduct 40 to 50dB measurements below the residual noise floor. Investigations into the low nano-volt range are daily routine as are GHz diagnostics - all of which eventually stopped me from taking notes. The result of such bestial test orgies is a not insignificant parts density in Funk machines. The MTX for example counts about a thousand parts.

Sound check
The small Lap-2.V2 has been in residence for a while and routinely serves as ancillary equipment during tests. It's a known and well-liked piece of kit for us but for this review, I still expanded on its getting-to-know-you protocol with additional comparisons and CDs. Enter avantgarde Brit poppers Radiohead with their 2007 In Rainbows album whose instant darling status with the critics was predictable. Utterly unpredictable instead was how this also commercially promising album was marketed initially only by download, allowing the listeners to even determine the coin they wanted to shell out. The cut "Reckoner" manages to evoke a subtle melancholy which hovers between intensity and intimacy and is carried aloft a loose percussion groove and Thom Yorkes' plaintive voice, tender guitar work and the occasional string section which contributes to an added tragic flair.

The Lap-2.V2's power cord is captive, its socketry exclusively RCA

Being so compelling is partially a function of how the listener is transported - an aspect in which the small Funk plays a not insignificant role. The Lap-2.V2 contributes a solid dose of clarity, calm and the proverbial pitch-black background, hence helps create the requisite relaxation required to descend into this type of music. Here the seemingly uncool 'low distortion' qualifier pays unquestioned dividends in fact.

Tone colors too are convincing. This includes the rich percussion as well as Thom Yorke's unusual voice which otherwise can quickly degrade into tomcat mayhem. Be it rattle, bronze bits or snare drum, the Lap-2 covers it on the quick as well as in body. What's more, the small Funk's silken treble prevents it from ever getting soulless and edgy on cymbals and hi-hat; or exaggerating sibilants. Musically more energetic than "Reckoner" but artistically every bit as heavy are certain numbers among Peter Gabriel's earlier oeuvre.

While an old hat today, the deliberate avoidance of any cymbals across Peter Gabriel's third solo effort in 1980 which otherwise relied heavily on percussion; the fresh use of samplers and nouveau drum sounds (including the tearing of a flag) all were very innovative in their day and remain impressive. The cuts "Start" and "I don't remember" flow into a single number and the intro sax -- sadly not recorded all that well -- strikes a silky note of warmth, proving how the Lap-2.V2 avoids all hardness as already indicated. This piece further clarifies how the Funk dislikes to peel out isolated events in any type of extrovert fashion. Its integral approach renders "I don't remember", intertwined with dry drum beats and sound and voice coder effects, impressively fluid and of a piece. Our small pro box is clearly no heady analyst though there is enough consideration on drum reverb or guitar flange effects in the background to also render the more subtle musical traits.

So yes, Funk's entry-level model is clearly on speaking terms with that barely defined yet oft-cited musicality. And while our Berliner is fundamentally studio neutral, its bass is more lean than buxom, rendering the catchy bass drum and runs on "I don't remember" with less force and mass than I've heard elsewhere. To test just how clean its bass rendition remains, I pulled out the ultimate test by old EBM heroes The Klinik, namely their sequencer synth-drum inferno Black Leather. Suffice it to say that the small Funk maintains solid organization even during opulent electronica lightning storms and conveys excellent dimensional and localized staging.

About our tester's innate charm, it's worthwhile noting a minor tendency to render the midrange and treble ranges slightly warm and silken (or subtly fluffy if you will). While this conveys cymbals, hi-hat, snare and related noise makers without pain even on more aggressive recordings to always sound palatable, fluid and light on its feet, other playback machines do manage more full-blooded offensives. Piano runs such as on e.s.t's "Fading Maid Preludium" or "Tuesday Wonderland" [Tuesday Wonderland 2007] are quick but perhaps a bit gentler than fully articulated. Some might even be inclined to identify a minor tube coloration in the Lap-2.V2 - without any saturation excesses to be sure.

The MTX ...
Roughly thrice the price, how fares the MTX-Monitor.V3 by comparison? Bigger and mightier as the visuals suggest? After all, such suggestiveness does tend to play its part. Yet I suspect that designer Funk would elude this question with a very pragmatic assessment: a very accurate, finely calibrated, digitally steered attenuator; polarity inversion; mute; a lower output impedance to support longer cable runs; an even more sophisticated board layout for reduced field interferences; higher channel separation (better than 125dB at 1kHz) and balanced connections (one out, four in) are a few plain factoids in the MTX's favor. Beyond those, the MTX enjoys a definitive sonic edge in the bass. While neither my Thiel CS 2.4 or Sehring 703 SE produced never-heard-before bass revelations, the MTX did overcome the Lap's relative leanness in this register for perfectly balanced quantity without forsaking the former's already excellent quality.

Instead of underhanded IOUs with the valve team, the MTX plays more angular, brighter and with a tad more 'just the facts'. It lives the by-the-book professional standards to an arguably more stubborn extent. In fact, results with it in the chain approached amp-direct schemes, something Fonel's Simplicité player confirmed directly with its variable outputs. While the MTX is thus technically more 'correct' or honest, I can't categorically declare that everyone will judge it superior. Especially over my Thiel CS 2.4s, the Lap's particularly charming upper registers rendered it somewhat more fetching - or musical to employ that devilish term. Needless to say, this enters the realm of personal bias and ancillary compatibility. To avoid
misapprehensions, 'stress' or 'aggression' are unknowns in the MTX-Monitor.V3a's vocabulary. Sonic purity and tonal accuracy insure long-term satisfaction. Particularly returning to the piano on e.s.t's "Tuesday Wonderland" and being enthralled by how the MTX lights up individual hammer falls, renders dynamics, precision and sustains and how accurately it nails percussive attacks, I found myself rooting again for raw honesty. That's nearly a given with my more organic Sehring 703 SE anyhow.

Are you shopping for preamps with a stout 4-figure budget earmarked? You don't mind cosmetic understatement, the lack of remote and balanced sockets nor if the planned investment should limit itself to three figures? Then better check out the Lap-2.V2. Sonically and in its functionality-driven build quality, this machine -- at the risk of sounding a bit cheap -- is quite the special. The MTX-Monitor.V3a adds a lot of functionality particularly for prosumers and recording studio buffs, walks the neutrality line right down the middle, is highly resolved, dynamic and ultra clean. Due to its price, I wouldn't call it exactly a special but it does constitute a watershed in its class.

The Lap-2.V2 is characterized by:

  • a base quality that's competitive with rather more expensive machines
  • an always stress- and fatigue-free character
  • a colorful, modestly soft rendition of the mid/treble ranges
  • a high degree of clarity, i.e. obviously low distortion values
  • solid resolution
  • a superlatively dimensional, well articulated soundstage
  • a slightly subdued bass range which is nonetheless clean and defined

The MTX-Monitor.V3a offers:

  • all'round professional excellence
  • high magnification power which, despite a powerfully analytical bent, offers sufficient body and color
  • Compelling dynamics and a fetchingly energetic directness
  • Top-to-bottom coherence without soft spots
  • High-level clarity, i.e. audibly low distortion
  • A superlative dimensional, well articulated soundstage


  • Retail price: €886,55
  • Weight: 1,6kg
  • Dimensions: 4 x 21 x 17,5cm (H x W x D)
  • Finish: Fascia in white, black, blue, red, gold or silver anodized, gold-plated or chromed
  • Power draw: ca. 5 watts
  • Inputs: 6 x RCA
  • Outputs: 2 x RCA
  • Extras: Internal dual-mono input trim pots, headphone output


  • Retail price: €2.623,95
  • Weight: 3,5kg
  • Dimensions: 4,5 x 43 x 25 cm (H x W x D)
  • Finish: white or black enclosure, fascia silver or black, studio version in all
  • Power draw: ca. 12,5 watt
  • Inputs: 4 x RCA, 4 x XLR
  • Outputs: XLR and RCA
  • Extras: Internal dual mono input trim pots, headphone output, volume and balance controls without physical contacts
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