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✒️ Author: Hai Wei | 📷 Photo: Willy
As the “flagship” pre-amplifier from Musical Paradise valve amp line up, the MP-701 mk2 is selling at a pretty reasonable price—RM2947 (retail price before discount). But don’t look down on it, with some proper tuning, the performance is comparable with its rivals that might cost 2-3 times more expensive!
Besides the various options for tube rolling, coupling capacitors on MP-701 are also interchangeable. The combination Bennic and OHVL caps (default configuration) sounds pretty smooth and natural. However, if you prefer to get a bit more bass slam, treble expansion, clarity and separation, I strongly recommend replacing the OHVL with a pair of VCAP ODAM (oil damped advanced metalized) audio capacitors!
“I’d love to, but I don’t have any soldering skill wor…”
No worries. “Caps rolling” on MP-701 is as simple as “tube rolling”; after removing the upper case, you will see 1 pair of Bennic and 1 pair of OHVL caps are locked on the circuit board. All you need to do is just loosen and tighten the screws. Capacitor is a kind of “battery”, so kindly remember to wear gloves while rolling the caps if you don’t want to get shocked.
Ok, let’s start talking about the most interesting part—tubes rolling!
MP-701 supports a variety of preamp tube types, including ECC88/6922, 6SN7 with adapter, ECC83/12AU7, ECC99/12BH7, 12SN7 with adapter and so on. Basically, with the ECC83/12AU7, it sounds smoother, more mellow, while on the other hand, the ECC88/6922 sounds more solid, energetic and faster.
It is also compatible with rectifier tubes such as 6Z5P/6X5, 5R4/5U4G/5AR4, GZ33, GZ34, 274B and so on.
Both rectifier tubes and preamp tubes supported by MP-701 are very popular. You can find plenty of replacements from the valve market, try to mix and match to create different types of sound signatures which suit your taste and your current set up.
The stock tubes of MP-701 are 1 unit of Shuguang 6Z5P and 3 units of Beijing 6N11 (or Russian 6N1P). Their sound quality is “OK”—clean, neutral and balanced, worth every penny you paid for a RM2k amp, but it won’t really “WOW” you. However, if you thought, “Oh, that’s it” and stopped discovering the full potential of the MP-701, you might miss out the chance to experience how good this tube amp can be.
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- Preamp Tubes Rolling
Prices of vintage tubes are getting higher and higher nowadays, but you’ll still be able to find tons of “value buy” options from the 6922 and 12AU7 family. My personal favourite “budget tubes” for the MP-701 is RCA 5693 (D getter, long black plate), which will only cost you RM300+ for 3 units. The sound signature is clean, refined and smooth. It doesn’t sound aggressive at all, while remaining good transparency and separation.
I also own a pair of Shuguang 12AU7-TG SE (price is around RM500 per pair), which is a limited edition modern tube with black carbon coated glass. Modern tube normally sounds quieter than the vintage one, but sometimes not as lively. Shuguang 12AU7-TG SE doesn’t have this issue. It has a very rich body, and the mids are lush and vivid.
Mixing 2 Shuguang and 1 RCA (you need 3 preamp tubes on MP-701) together generates a spacious, holographic space in my 12m² Hifi room. The tonality is slightly more on the dark side, while the imaging is quite full and meaty. This is my favourite tube combination for vocals, especially those with orchestra accompaniment (such as classical opera and Lieder). I enjoy the way how it presents Mahler's Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children) conducted by Leonard Bernstein—the whole orchestra roaring at the back thunderously, while the sweet, melodious voice of tenor flowing out from the middle of the stage gently with great sensibility.
Indeed, it is a good combination with mellow and lush sounding, but sometimes we just need something more fresh, more energetic, more powerful. Here comes the 6922. I owned some Amperex 6922 (green globe), Bugle Boy (big O getter) and Siemens A3, with a market price of around RM200-400 per unit. They both have more sparkling treble compared with 12AU7, especially the Siemens. My favourite match of ECC88 tubes are 2 Amperex green globe and 1 Siemens A3. The Amperex tunes down the brightness of Siemens, while retaining the superb separation, airiness and clarity of it. The vocal doesn’t sound as soft as the 12AU7, but it is more solid and punchy. When performing instrumental works, the ECC88 tube combination is the clear winner. The PRaT (pace, rhythm and timing), dynamic response and micro dynamic are better. Overall it sounds more V-shaped, the bass slam is more rumbling, the treble is also more crispy, hence you can feel the “energy” of the music easily.
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- Rectifier Tube Rolling
You may start with a budget GE 5R4 (O getter, green label, JAN) recommended by Musical Paradise. The price may be just RM200, but you’ll immediately be able to hear the improvement significantly. It is much clearer and cleaner than the stock Shuguang 6Z5P. If you feel that the treble of the GE tube is a bit too aggressive, give the RCA 5R4 (dual square getter, ST bottle shape, JAN) a try. It sounds warmer and smoother, but the tonality is also darker and softer.
If your budget is unlimited, a legendary NOS vintage WE 274B should be in your “must try” list. Sorry, my pockets are not that deep, so I only bought a PSVANE 1:1 cloned version (still cost me around RM1k!). I haven't had the chance to audition a real WE 274B in my life, but according to some online reviews the performance of the PSvane cloned tube sounds pretty close to the genuine one. So far, it’s my favourite rectifier tube on MP-701; it’s very analog, lively, silky smooth, yet clean and transparent.
I also own an ACME 274B tube made by PSvane, it is even more expensive than the cloned WE, and PSvane claims that it is the best 274B they’ve ever manufactured to date, with the most advanced technology. Indeed, it has the best resolution, transparency, sound stage, dynamic, micro details among all of my rectifier tube collections. Technically speaking, while it is rated the best, I still prefer the tonality of cloned WE, especially when pairing with ECC88 preamp tubes. Yes, while not as quiet, and probably has more distortion compared to the super clean ACME tube, it is more “tubish”. By contrast, the ACME tube sounds closer to a solid state component. It has a more modern sounding tone, but I personally prefer the nostalgic, vintage-like tonality of the cloned WE.
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- Compared with MP-501’s Preamp
Musical Paradise flagship integrated amp—MP-501 can be used as a pure power amplifier too. Here’s the question: Will MP-701 (preamp) + MP-501 (power amp only) sound better than MP-501 (work as integrated amp)?
Well, since both of them are using preamp tubes from different families (6SJ7 vs ECC88 or ECC83), I can’t really do a fair comparison here. Beside, the preamp tubes I own for MP-501 are superior (and far more expensive!) than my collections for MP-701—1 pair of Sylvania JAN 6SJ7 and 1 pair of Mullard EF800 with adapter. However, even equipped with the expensive tubes, the MP-701 sounds significantly better than MP-501’s preamp section.
The impact of bass is deeper and more rumbling. Treble is more transparent and has better expansion. A lot of micro details and dynamics were unveiled. The biggest improvement would be the imaging—everything sounds more solid and lively, as you would be able to hear the 3 dimensions of the body and staging clearly. It sounds like speakers were being driven with extra power, even though I didn’t change the power amplifier at all.
I do prefer the tonality of MP-501 more when pairing with those expensive preamp tubes. They are sweeter, more airy and silky smooth—the Sylvania and Mullard tubes proved that they’re pricey for a reason. However, the limitation of the MP-501's preamp section is there—it has a very good preamp, just not as good as the stand alone MP-701 preamp. So the conclusion is, if you already own an MP-501 and wish to improve the sound quality preamp section, go for the MP-701 if you have the extra space for it. This stand alone preamp that only cost RM2947 is proven to have a better potential for future upgrade, including tubes rolling and caps rolling!
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⭐ SHOPIFY | bit.ly/MP701-S |
□ Retail : RM2,947
** PM for best price
⭐ BUNDLE DEAL
□ Top up RM949, upgrade to 2 x VCAP ODAM 2.2UF capacitors
□ Top up RM99*3 = RM297 for 3 pcs of [RCA 5693] preamp tubes
** NOS with box: D getter, long black plate, NOS, original box
□ Top up RM220*3 = RM660 for 3 pcs of [Amperex ECC88] preamp tubes
** NOS: Bugle Boy label, 1960'S, big O getter
□ Top up RM740 for PSVANE clone WE 274B rectifier tube
** 1:1 cloned 1940’s Western Electric 274B
□ Top up RM1,329 for PSVANE Acme A274B rectifier tube
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I’m interested in upgrading tubes for my Musical Paradise 701 MKII preamp. I would like to replace all tubes, including rectifier tube. I like great sound staging, good dynamics and imaging. What would you recommend and approximately how much are we looking at? Thank you, Bill.
Great article. I’ve been considering the MP-701. Does it support a subwoofer?