Change of the Guard with Modwright Integrated KWH 225i

I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to evaluate equipment a few times a year at shows with SOTA Turntables and whoever we partner with in the rooms we exhibit at.

SOTA has had the opportunity to partner with Modwright Instruments at Axpona 2018, 2019, and at Capital Audio Fest fall of 2019. During the show at CAF the integrated Modwright KWH 225i made its debut.   With a MSRP of $8500.00 you have to consider the cost savings of not having a preamp and extra power cable.   I’ve been trying to simplify my setup the past few years so the integrated amp has been my area of research.

I spent the entire CAF show playing LP’s on a SOTA Cosmos attached to the Modwright 9.0 phonostage, and the integrated KWH 225i. The tonearm was the Jelco 950 with Dynavector DRT xv-1s cartridge. The sound filled the room with music especially interesting considering the hotel room acoustics we were dealing with were terrible. Everyone that heard our room recognized that we were not trying to bombard the listeners with overpowering decibels, just allowing the equipment to showcase what is possible. Many people stayed for entire records, or came back and relaxed when they sat down in our room which pleased me to no end.

If you’ve met Dan the designer, and founder, of Modwright Instruments it becomes quickly apparent that he cares not only about the equipment he designs but how it integrates into his customers rooms. The sonic signature I’d experienced with the past few exhibit rooms was warm without being covered, and the sound existed outside of the speakers line of site in width and yet had multi dimensional sound forward and back in the listening field. Many times I get annoyed long term with equipment that doesn’t complete the entire listening field in both regards to depth and imaging left to right.

In my system prior to the Modwright KWH 225i I had an integrated 60 watt solid state amplifier that I was very happy with but decided that I liked what I heard at these past two shows, so I committed to the first run of the KWH 225i’s that were to come through in March 2020. It’s always nerve wracking to think that you are going to change your system (again) and hope the relationship with everything works. I don’t review equipment for a living, so if I don’t like what I’ve purchased I have to sell it and move on to the next piece like everyone else in the world.

Integrated amplification is something that is new to me as I’ve always had preamps of some sorts in my system and finally decided to try and clean up the overall presentation and get rid of another set of cabling. Upon installation I paired the KWH 225i to my Pass Labs XP-25 phono stage. Part of my listening is comparing side by side turntables so the dual input is a must for me. The speakers are Wilson Audio Watt Puppy 8’s and all the cabling is Dyrholm Audio X series which SOTA will debut as the US Distributor in 2020. I found an SME tonearm and Grado cartridge in my arsenal and dropped the needle.

I never take the first sound as “what it will be”. It is my opinion that most equipment needs to settle in and over a couple hundred hours will stabilize and show it’s true colors. I’ve found very little equipment that I loved out of the box and the one company that I found in the past 30 years that I did love out of the box did not hold up well over the long haul.

The KWH-225i has been in my system for two months and the amount of time I’m spending listening has increased dramatically. Not just due to the Covid “stay at home” decree. We are making sneeze guards on our CNC Router to help local businesses and remain essential but that’s another topic.

The sound is most important to my ears and the Wilson Audio Watt Puppys’ can be a little bright if something is not set up correctly or is miss matched. The newer tweeter that they are using is more musical, but I’m not quite ready to take that plunge considering our new current economy.

The sound is musical, the detail is in the sound and it is not fatiguing to my ears. I generally tend to get tired ears after listening due to a strident overtone coming through the system that just becomes the focus of my attention rather than the music. With this integrated KWH 225i my ears can now go 3-5 hours without becoming exhausted and a break needed.

I switched the standard tubes that came with the Modwright for some Telefunken tubes and I don’t want to change anything in my system. Listening to Mahler tonight I hear the orchestra’s hall resonating as if I’m there, and a lot of times the individual instruments become melded together and you lose the voicing of the overall orchestra.

You can hear the style of the recording used in the Beatles albums I was listening to earlier with my daughter (who is all into the Beatles right now). She commented that she liked to listen in the room because she can hear every little thing in the music, better than through her Bose headphones. I trained her right…

I often fight between too dark with tube amps and preamp setups or too detailed and void of any sense of emotion coming through the music. This hybrid 225 watts per channel amp (first 25 Class A) gives me the best of both worlds. So far it’s held up on everything I’ve put it through and I’m enjoying my listening room more every day as I test SOTA Turntables before, during, and after work.

Christan Griego

For more information go to:  SOTA Turntables or Modwright Instruments Website.    

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