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"The remote control circuit is much more complex now to allow for far greater functionality via the 10-key plastic wand (an eventual ModWright metal remote with an obvious attached surcharge is planned - Ed). The polarity button is reserved for the LS 36.5 or other future balanced preamps. Remote and balance controls are located as close to the input signal as possible to keep noise levels down. The power supply is located as far away from the same input signals as feasible and the power transformer is mounted vertically to limit stray emissions in the signal plane.

"The 6SN7 driver tubes are operated at very conservative operating points so tube life will be very long. The use of our proprietary mu-variant circuit and top-quality components result in what we feel to be a perfectly balanced sound providing the strengths of solid-state circuits with the beauty of tubes. The phono upgrade is quieter and as good or better sounding than our previous $5.000 SWLP 9.0SE with external supply. The LS100 with internal phono and internal power supply is just over $4K.

"The LS100 uses our MWI caps in all critical locations as well as the Takman Japanese carbon film resistors. Relative to your findings between KWA100 and KWA100SE, it is interesting to note that the input stage design between them and the KWA150 is the same. Over the 100 we did of course improve the caps and resistors in the SE. The doubling of capacitance and increased output pairs really made a  big difference in the overall control and I believe speed of the unit. The parts upgrades added to the refinement, overall clarity and detail. Our ModWright Instruments capacitors are remarkably good. I didn't realize just how much of a difference they would make over the Wima capacitors. So naturally they also ended up in the LS100. Circuit gain here is 11dB, Zin is 38KΩ, Zout 300Ω. About the 6SN7 double triodes, we use just one half per channel. This gives the advantage of extended tube life as you can channel swap the tubes to use the other two halves. Theoretically we could have used a single 6SN7. In the case of our phono board, we do use a single 12AU7 and 12AX7 for two gain stages, again half a tube each per side."

Photos of ModWright's audition room by Marco Prozzo

Very interesting was Dan's choice of 6SN7/CV181 over the 5687 in the predecessor or the 6H30 in my two-boxer DM 36.5. In tube terms the 5687 sounds very transistorized. The 6H30 despite widespread popularity meanwhile is somewhat forward and dry. If you fancy a tube pre with more overt tube tone virtues and fluffier textures, the big-tone 6SN7 should have your attention. I use the fantastic Esoteric C-03 preamp for transistor strengths and the equally masterful Bent Audio Tap X autoformer volume control for a true passive. A one-box valve preamp not shy to wear its glowing bits on the sleeve was a fine proposition in my book. The option of an onboard DAC with USB should merely prove further incentive for PC-audio listeners who are keen on reducing their hifi box count.

"I am still working with my digital engineering consultant Alex Dondysh on how best to implement the DAC board, i.e. USB and S/PDIF or just S/PDIF. USB is necessary from a marketing standpoint even though it doesn't sound as good. I hope to have the upgrade available by year's end. The upgrade board will be easy to install for any end user." By 2.15.11, this option had firmed up to be 24/192 coaxial and 24/192 asynchronous USB for a retail of $995.

Given my prior suspicion covered in the KWA100SE review—that had I not returned the KWA150 before its smaller replacement arrived, a direct A/B very likely would have had my tastes declare the cheaper amp the winner—was there a similar chance at upsetting predictions now vis-à-vis my DM36.5? Committing to a review which the maker specifically didn't expect is what any enthusiast reviewer would do. It's our contribution to the hifi community where each member must pitch in according to their gifts to keep things afloat.

Clear on specifications alone was that for just $300 more than the SWL9.0 Signature predecessor, ModWright's LS100 replacement offered improved aesthetics; improved functionality with RCA and XLR i/o ports (the latter wired SE); defeatable balance control; 12V triggers; a dedicated headphone amplifier; more comprehensive remote control; and a dual upgrade path for phono or DAC modules. Such added value seemed quite anti inflationary. Promised sonic improvements would be mere icing on the cake.