Labs 2A3 Moondog Monoblocks
In trying to relive the magic I once heard
in 1990 with the original Cary 300se Monoblocks, the Moondog 2A3 was
added to the mix. Quite simply, there is nothing more frustrating than
system matching for a low watt SET. On the other hand, there is nothing
quite like the sound of a great SET amplifier, especially when mated
with an appropriate speaker match allowing the amp to sing.
Besides the speaker load interaction, wire and source must be looked
at critically. I had to toss my Transparent cable as it was heavy and
thick sounding via the Moondog. What took its place? After a brief stint
with about 75 cents worth of Radio Shack 18awg solid core, I started
a project with DIYCable.com implementing a new online presence. Ah,
the perks of web work; I found the DIYCable Fat Ones, Superlative,
and Twisted Cross Connect speaker cable to be truly excellent,
replacing all my other cable in one fell swoop. It is amazingly open
and detailed sounding without glare. It has become part of a synergistic
match with my latest speaker find, a find that has literally changed
my whole system in a profound way.
As for the Moondogs,
I have come a long, long way with these beasts... Removed the stock
Philips 6SN7s and deposited NOS Sylvania 6SN7WGT "Yellow Lettering"
60s vintage leading into a CBS 5692. This simple input tube switch really
fleshed out the sound and gave the presentation a certain harmonic richness
that was missing before. Sense of air was increased around instruments
giving them a more fleshed out presentation. In addition, I have added
a set of RCA Black Plate 2A3s from '44; truly excellent sound here!
While my Sovtek 2A3 might be subjectively slightly more powerful, the
RCA black plates really add a beauty and soul to the amps that is extremely
addictive and far more involving. Even though the Moondogs are around
3.2 watts or so, I am getting extremely musical results with good extension
at both extremes. Bass is very agile with excellent definition; the
highs with the RCA Black Plates are almost sublime. And with the addition
of my new speakers, I have finally reached a certain level of SET nirvana.
While question the Moondogs at first, I have come to love them; it just
takes some patience and work. Once your system is truly optimized, the
single-ended triode is one of the all time most musical, natural, pleasing
amps I have yet experienced. And with well designed SET with an excellent
power supply, and top notch output transformers, you don't have to sacrifice
the extremes. These amps deliver top to bottom with amazing low end
articulation coupled with that sweet and pure treble that sounds extended
without the unnatural quality so easily characterized by lessor solid
state or even other tube designs.
I now believe the Audio Note copper paper in oil caps and Audio Note
Tantalum resistors are doingme right. Very musical and I don't think
I would prefer the tactile and less harmonically rich sound of a standard
film and foil cap in the long run. I can now recommend these amps highly.
And even though I got great sound from the Moondog-ProAc combo, the
amps did not fully let go and sing until the vintage Cornwall I entered.
These Alnico (mid/tweeter) powered beasts have been a near revelation.
Very musical! Indeed, my current system sounds so damn open and unfettered,
with a clarity that is amazing. And since I replaced my ProAc Minitowers
with the 1977 vintage Klipsch Cornwall I, the sound has gone to the
next level of involvement.
first, one almost has to adopt a willing suspension of disbelief when
getting into SET due to the fact that many are just not able to comprehend
how much dynamics and drive, combined with a liquid-like purity, one
can achieve with only a handful of watts. My current setup in the main
room [Linn LP-12, Rega Planet, Cary SLP-70 Modified, Welborne Labs
2A3 Moondogs, 1977 Klipsch Cornwall I with Alnico] is EXTREMELY
liquid sounding. Of course, the midrange is captivating but the extremes
are there as well. And almost as important, I think there is practically
ZERO bloat or congestion with these amps; they are really amazing in
There is such excellent resolution without any fog and the warmth and
roundness to the notes makes your mouth water! Literally. I noticed
this trait this morning while listening to Sarah Vaughan and even Diana
Krall (that one Love Scenes CD is her only saving grace music-wise).
Put on some Edgar Meyer playing Bach solo cello suites (and he is doing
it on a double bass!), and the sound is just luxurious. There is nothing
greater than hearing a cello or double bass so superbly defined all
the while keeping the midrange and tonal coloring intact.
Yet one might be
tempted to think that with these 3.2 watt 2A3 amps, all things heavy
need not apply. Well, I have a very varied collection of music consisting
of many independent label releases from the 70s through 90s, recordings
that are very challenging to equipment, especially something of the
single-ended variety. Band like Guided by Voices, Mogwai, Helium, Sebadoh,
Mission of Burma, PJ Harvey, Syd Barrett are just as likely to hit the
table alongside John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman,
Bill Evans, or Chet Baker. 60s-70s artists such as Led Zeppelin, The
Who, Hendrix, Yes, early Pink Floyd, Cream, Beatles, Zappa, Yardbirds,
early Kinks etc are also frequent visitors. And although my classical
collection pales to the 40-60s Jazz / indie label/ 60s rock, I do have
a number of CDs and a smattering of vinyl from the likes of Glen Gould,
Edgar Myer, YoYo Ma, Bach, Mozart, Wagner, Liszt, Stravinsky, Denisov,
Mussorgsky etc; in other words, this system is not stuck in the audiophile
approved hell hole of sterile, unchallenging works used to see if one
can float an image five feet behind the speakers. This system PLAYS
MUSIC...and often at near live levels and beyond, depending on the source.
Most would be amazed at the quantity, as well as the quality, of sound
I am getting from this setup!
To be sure, I would not like these amps at all if they didn't have a
rich midrange...but I surely don't like highs that sound muted in any
way. In fact, I would rather have bass that does not plumb the depths
for highs that are extended YET NATURAL which is VERY VERY hard to find.
To read more about my Welborne
Labs 2A3 Moondog II, see the above for schematic,
press reviews, and detailed wiring shots. Reviews include Positive Feedback,
and Sound Practices excellent review by Joe Roberts that is a must for
any SET lover.
Labs 2A3 Moondog Parts List ~ '98 Schematic ~ Trans Info
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