Mola-Mola Kaluga Ncore-based Monos: An impression

Interested as I am in trending and promising advances in high power amplification, I sought at RMAF new amplifier designs based on new class D modules like Ncore NC1200 technology and its derivates… Hence my specific interest in listening to the soon to be released Mola Mola Kaluga monoblocks for the first time.

The amps, driving a pair of YG speakers, were in a nice double sized room... 535(?), I believe... This room has no bizarre acoustic interactions, so systems can perform under good conditions.

The differentially balanced Kaluga monoblocks are based on a version of the Hypex Ncore modules, which have been customized by Bruno Putzeys for these devices. Mr. Putzeys is both creator of the underlying Ncore technology, as well as the lead designer of the Kaluga amps. I do not have detailed specs yet, but Kalugas should output approximately 400W/8, 700W/4, and close to 1KW/2 Ohms. Peak current should be in the general neighborhood of 40A. Each half width chassis feature two sets of Furutech binding posts for biwiring, an XLR and an RCA input connector, and a 15A Furutech IEC connector. A small temporary contact switch for standby/operating is in the middle of the front plate.

In case you wondered what the Mola-Mola name comes from… Mola-Mola is a sunfish… The largest bony fish in the world... A lovely oceanic swimmer that can weigh over 1500 Lbs. Hmm, but what about Kaluga? The mighty Kaluga instead is a majorly large sturgeon fish native to the frigid Amur River… Fact is that Kaluga may be the largest fresh-water fish in the world. So, it was not a total surprise when I realized that the shape of the half width chassis of the compact Kaluga amp, seamlessly assembled from thick slabs of complexly machined aluminum slabs, is very much in keeping with the Neptunian theme... The top is broadly wavy, and starts to sweep downwards towards the front of the unit... Where it meets the front faceplate, which is gracefully concave instead... The whole gives the impression of a stylized breaking oceanic wave... Intentional or serendipity? I do not know... Must ask Bruno about it.

The unusually looking Kalugas may be compact, yet they sound as mighty as they feel solidly hefty. The amps drive the big YG with elegant musicality, firm ease, and loads of resolving harmonic richness that extends from deep bass to high treble without obvious constrictions... In the best Ncore tradition, Kalugas never break a sweat with the demanding YGs, and have no problem reproducing bowed 7th cords in my test string sextet (introduction to Dvorak Op. 87) with enchanting finesse and without obvious cross-modulating distortion... a feat that is sadly so painfully difficult to accomplish by many SS and tube amps of classic topologies.

The Kaluga monoblock amps by Mola-Mola are expected to be released by CES 2014... At $15.9K, my highly preliminary impression is that they will prove very strong music performers, congruent with my general goldilockian sonic goals… Definitely worth examinin them in much greater detail.

Here is the US distributor:

On A Higher Note
(949) 544-1990
Contact: Philip O’Hanlon

Saluti, Guido
Al, I agree. As I said my nC400 sounds better than my friends by simply using a different wire were possible.

Don't get me wrong I'm not bitching about their retail price. In the end its all about what you want.

Looking at the larger SMPS1200 it's not a huge difference in build than the 400. They're still surface mounted components, I'm guessing, with a minimum of hand soldering.

From what I've read of this years demonstrations of the 1200s they must be at least another order over what the nC400 is compared to the older uSD which says a lot to me. My nC400s replaced a pair of NuForce v3s which themselves fooled all my audio hobbyist friends thinking it was my big SS amp.
VicDamone, the SMPS1200 and its 400 counterpart use machine-controlled surface mounts to minimize circuit path lengthand optimize QC. I am not sure if Kaluga utilizes the basic SMPS1200 like Veritas, or a more sophisticated SMPS1200 derived implementation specific to Kaluga... I will eventually find out.

The build seems to be very important to NCores. I borrowed a friend’s NC400s for a couple of months and they seemed comparable to my current amp. I then built my own NC400s and used machined Aluminati cases. They sound a couple of levels better than my old amps. I thought the machined cases might make a slight difference in sound as that is why I paid a premium for them. However, I was unprepared for the total change in sound that the cases made. I guess I got lucky.

Hi Bob, I am not terribly surprised about the sonic enhancements that you experienced with the implementation of heavier chassis for your amps...

Case in point... The half width Mola-Mola chassis weigh a bit over 20 Lbs each... They are not made from a single block because of the complexity of the shape and the different textures that Putzeys wanted to impart... The chassis is instead formed by a small number of assembled slabs. Bruno Putzeys appears to believe in mechanical isolation by fastening the modules inside a solid non resonant mass... So does Merrill with Veritas... Rowland has been segregating electronic circuits into pockets carved inside milled chassis probably for the last 15 years.... Including the M925 monos in my system.

But the benefit may not be only one of mechanical isolation... According to Rowland and Merrill, the benefit is also one of RF isolation from/to the outside, as well as minimization of RF / EM contamination among various internal chassis pockets.

Guido, I agree with you. Mechanical and RFI isolation is a good goal. The Aluminati cases have separate machined pockets for the amp and power supply too. I suspect that is one of the main reasons they sound so good. From the 6 Moon’s pictures, Bruno’s NC1200 demo units seem to use the power supply’s heat sink as a RF shield between the power supply and the amp board.