Review: WAVAC MD-300B Tube amp

Category: Amplifiers

The MD-300B is attractive in its lightly gold-colored chassis and taller light gray transformer cover. It has a wood front panel with a large round power button in brushed light gold and two knobs that are triangle shaped on a round back in the same color and metal. One is an input selector switch and the other is a volume control. The amp has a simple eloquence that everyone who sees it thinks is beautiful.

The amp has a pair of 300B output tubes, a pair of 6Y6s as driver tubes, and a pair of 12AT7s as input tubes. I listen to it with the mesh plates from Sophia and JJ, but I preferred the Western Electrics. The mesh plates had a tighter bass and the top end seemed a little more extended but they just didn?t play music as beautifully as the Western Electrics. So all of my comments are based on the amp with W.E. 300Bs.

In my system it was just no contest as much as I wanted the amp to sound better with the passive volume so I could sell my Audio Note M5 it just didn?t. The addition of the M5 fleshed out the music. It was more real, it just all came together better with the preamp. The WAVAC sounds good by itself and I would not be surprised that it would sound better with the passive volume than it would with many preamps in the 1K to 3K price range. Let me mention that though from different companies both the Audio Note M5 preamp and the WAVAC MD-300B are both transformer coupled. In fact the WAVAC has no caps in the signal path at all. By the wy WAVAC has a new transformer coupled preamp and I?m sure it?s superb, but you can buy both the MD 300B and the Audio Note M5 and still have 5K change coming back for what the WAVAC preamp cost. You can go to the respective companies web sites and read about how they do this. So all of my listening was done with the M5 preamp.

Power output 10 watts per channel
Frequency range 40Hz-50KHz
Input sensitivity 1.0Vrms
Input impedance 100k ohms
S/N ratio 80dB

Sony 777es SACD Player, full Kern mod
Audio Note M5 Preamp
Audio Note AN-E SE speakers
Other Amps Audio Note Conqueror, Kora Cosmos Reference
All Cable Audience AU 24, three of JC Audio?s ISOs

I hated to list the specs because I don?t believe them or other manufacturers measure differently or as is so often the case with tube amps numbers just don?t seem to add up.

I mean who are they kidding when they say the bass goes down to 40. The first thing everyone who has heard this amp says they didn?t know you could get that kind of bass out of a 300B. The bass is articulate and allows the music to have a very natural sounding since of weight. This seemed true weather listening to an acoustic guitar or an electric bass. This weight seemed to give all the music a foundation to build on.

It is also the quietest amp I?ve had at my house including transistor amps. I think these two features give it one of its most captivating qualities. This amp has the best sense of pace and rhythm I have heard. I found myself tapping my foot almost as often as I do at live music.

If you want to know if this amp has as wide or as deep a soundstage as other I have used, or if it?s as detailed, or if the images float in space, or other audiophile questions then you miss the point of this amp. It has a great sound stage that does not draw attention to itself. It doesn?t sound overly etched or detailed but I hear delicacies with strings and guitars I have never heard with recorded music. It sails through music with grace and rhythm and a sense of timing that is uncanny.

What I?m trying to say is that it let?s me listen to my stereo and think about the music and the performance and not the equipment. For, a seasoned audiophile like me this is really a something.

Let me end the review by sharing the two things this amp does that are most important to me.
1. VOICES. I have always known that how an audio component did voices was the deciding factor for me. This amp lets you hear small nuances in voices, it lets voices swell into big moments without loosing those nuances or straining. With the M5 preamp there is a natural weight to voices that let?s them just sound real.
2. Quite Passages: As much I?ve always known how important voices were to me I never even thought of quite passages as part of the audiophile experience but we all know it?s a big part of live music. As easy as this amp sails through big passages it has a magic with quite passages I have never imagined. I guess its because of the quietness of the amp but when the music get soft and quite there is no desire to turn it up for you can still hear all the delicacies and nuances that are there without having to crank the amps so that loud passages are too loud.

I feel like I have struggled to say what this amp sound like but I know this. It?s a keeper.

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intersting re: the 'weight' thing. I have found the same benefit on the digital front with my Audio Note 3.1 Balanced dac (also transformer coupled)- I am now addicted to the 'weightiness' of the sound- fantastic- organic, and real!

By the way- what are you using the other two Iso's on? the amp AND preamp?? I use two Ensemble Isolinks on my transport and dac to good effect (lower noise floor, better staging, etc.), but I am curious as to their perceived benefits with a non-digital piece like a preamp or small amp.
the 'weight' of piano notes or the'slap' of a bass string are mia (sad to say) on any 300b amp at any price. they are, as a rule, forced to mate with the color and control of an active linestage to perform well with a wide variety of music. the quest for sonic purity often takes us back to the old ways. the transparency of the300b is kryptonite for the rhythym section of a jazz or rock combo without the warmth offered by the m5
I have owned 2 md300b amps .And I have used them with and without preamps .I perfer wihout but then again Iam running horns that are over 103db .Used it on other speakers works great without a pre if your speakers are over 95db.I have owned many ,many amps ,Most types. And to me in my system the Wavac is the best I have heard, its quite, detailed ,musical ,has a large sound stage that goes far beyond the speakers .And is built rather well .And the US distributor Jim is a great guy and audiophile .Will bend over backwards to help you out .Great gear if you get the chance pick 1 up .