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As I said, I couldn’t detect any thinning out, not even of the bass. The same was true for albums by McCoy Tyner, Sara K. and e.s.t. There was no coloration or rolled-off response. The double basses had their own clear low end as did the pianos. If this response was intentionally limited during the recording and mastering stage as on the Tyner album, it was presented as such. Similarly the broader spectrum and lower reach of the e.s.t. album were immediately clear. This differentiation was really top notch.

However it needs mentioning that something was not perfect in the bass department and which more expensive preamps are largely free from. The electronic albums but also Pat Metheny’s Offramp showed something that needs our awareness – a slight reduction of the image size, a small shrinking of the virtual sources. That was why albums sounded lighter than they did over my $28,620 Ayon Polaris III with outboard power supply. They had less oomph and tangibility. It was still a good sound—definitely high end and very real—just not as strikingly realistic.

This also translated into a slight distance whereby the sound was reconstructed in the listening room.  The soundstage wasn’t as spread out and the music more focused on the center. Items placed there by the sound engineer were dominant. That was true for the aforementioned double bass on Previn’s album – clear but slightly contoured. These were the two main differences between the ModWright and more expensive preamps I could pinpoint. Other minor distinctions like slightly less vibrant cymbal crashes etc were too subtle to be worthy of our attention. You can forget about those nuances, all the more so as the midrange and treble demonstrated everything tubes are known and loved for.

It is a seemingly quasi soft sound. Seemingly is important since punch was present, strong and clear. It simply lacked the sharp edges or irritating grit one can get from both solid-state and tubes. ModWright’s sound could be described in a number of different ways but certainly never as dry, bright or lightweight. It is a slightly warm quite fleshy presentation instead and the machine itself is very nicely built. The signal path is short which translates into fantastic microdynamics. Differentiation is likewise excellent. And the price—in the context of the Avantgarde Acoustic PRE, TAD C-600, Octave Jubilee, Audio Research Reference 5SE and Soulution 720 reviewed in the same issue of—is simply unbeatable. This is a really cool high-quality sounding piece of gear!

Testing methodology. The ModWright LS 36.5 was compared against my reference preamp, the Polaris III custom version from Ayon Audio as well as other linestages reviewed for this issue: the Audio Research Reference 5 SE, the Soulution 720, the TAD C-600 and direct-coupling my Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition CD player to my Soulution 710 power amp. The LS 36.5 drove the latter and the Leben CS-1000P. I used a Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version power cord on it and it was seated on Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc spacers and the Base IV custom version rack. The review was an A/B comparison with A and B known. Music samples were two minutes long but I also auditioned whole albums. Connection was via RCA cables both on the source and power amp sides.