HomeTheaterReview.com - Andrew Robinson reviews the M500MkII Monoblocks


"I began my evaluation of the M500MkIIs with Tori Amos' album From the Choir Girl Hotel (Atlantic) and the track "Playboy Mommy." Right off the bat, what struck me first and foremost was the M500MkII's smooth, silky but not overly sweetened demeanor. I know Red Dragon Audio claims SET-like fluidity in a digital design, but I'd say the M500MkII is far more neutral and non-artificial, as most SET designs have an inherently smooth, rounded midrange. This obviously can be pleasing, too. However, if your goal is being true to the source, I feel the M500MkIIs are more neutral than tubes. That said, the high frequencies don't get a boost as with tubes and/or Class A designs, which is to say that some may classify the M500MkII's highs as being a touch dry, maybe even flat. I could understand that and even wrote such descriptors in my journal, but they're still very natural, even if they don't quite sparkle the way that some amps do when presenting high-frequency information, such as cymbal claps.

I will say that the air and subsequent decay that surrounded and followed such things as cymbal crashes were incredible, seeming to expand upon and hang onto the instrument and/or note for a touch longer than in my previous tests. Inner detail was also exemplary, as the flexing of the skins and resonance within the toms could be heard clearly. Amos' vocals were well defined and stood out in stark contrast to the music with lifelike scale and weight. Center imaging was spot-on. Regarding the soundstage, the M500MkII seemed to favor width over depth, but not distractingly so. Bass was very solid and articulate and natural. I have heard a touch more control and/or impact elsewhere, if I'm honest, but again, nothing to disqualify the M500MkII's abilities....

Moving on, I cued up the SACD edition of Keane's Hopes and Fears (Interscope) and the track "Bedshaped." The opening of the song is rife with both midrange and high-frequency information that borders on purposeful distortion, which can sometimes come off as abrasive or, worse, fatiguing. Not so with the M500MkIIs in the signal chain, as they toed the line beautifully and even imparted a greater sense of lateral space to the proceedings than I was used to previously. 

With regard to space, one of the other things I noticed was that the M500MkIIs projected further into my room that other amplifiers I had on hand, which largely kept the same track relegated to a plane in line with or behind the loudspeakers themselves. This was very nice on the M500MkIIs' part and gave the opening 15 or so seconds a greater ethereal quality than I had heard from the song before. When the track gets into the swing of things, it was more of the same that I described above. I noted the M500MkIIs' strong dynamics which, while not explosive or instant per se, were still rather remarkable, possessing a great deal of snap off the line, bested in this aspect only by very powerful or high-dollar solid state rigs that I've heard. Again, the M500MkII's boundary-defying width in terms of its soundstage was infectious, as it made it seem as if my side walls simply weren't there."