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REVIEW: ME Sound ME 240 Amplifier (SS) Review by David Aiken at Audio Asylum

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ME Sound Pty Ltd is a high end Australian electronics manufacturer with a range of amplifiers and a DAC. The ME 240 is an integrated amp based on the chassis of their ME 200 power amp with a passive line stage input. The ME 200 is their entry level power amp and the ME 240 is their entry level control plus amplification product. There is a range of active pre-amps as well.

The ME 240 is a low, slim unit with the spartan options of most passive pre-amp units. You get an on/off switch and led indicator, a source selection switch, a record selection switch which enables you to record from one source while listening to another, and a volume control. There are no balance or tone controls. Three options are available to extend the basic unit - a remote control option that provides remote volume control, a headphone amp option, and an option to include an additional amount of capacitance in the power supply. This last option is said by ME to provide improved bass and transient handling and imaging and is one they recommend. It takes the power supply from a bit over 40,000 uF to just over 100,000 uF. The amp is rated at 80 w/ch and runs in class A for the first 2 amps

Let me say at the outset that this is the best amp it has been my pleasure to have in my system, and though I’ve only had it a bit over a week we’re talking a fair bit of pleasure. What that means is that my comments are highly favourable but I also don’t have a yardstick to measure against. My dealer says there are better amps and I’m prepared to believe him. I think the ME logo might be on a few of them.

I borrowed a demo unit - just the basic model - for several days. I picked it up late Saturday morning and took it home, connected it up, turned it on and threw on a disc without waiting for it to warm up. At the end of the first track I looked at my watch, turned to my wife and said “I’ve got 5 minutes before the dealer closes - do I ring up and order one now?” I hung off ringing up and around an hour later when the amp had warmed up and I threw on the second disc, I was thinking it was a lot better than I’d thought after the first track.

I ordered one with the extra capacitance which duly arrived a few days later. I’m glad I got the option - ME are right about the improvements, but I think it adds a bit more. Perhaps it’s implicit in the improved transient response but there was a much greater sense of effortlessness in the way it handles music. My tastes are wide - rock, folk, country, world music, jazz, classical, and a lot of 20th century experimental composers. I’ve thrown a hell of a lot of different styles at the demo amp and at mine, and while the demo unit handled them all quite happily, mine seems to take ease of handling to a slightly higher plane. I would strongly recommend that anyone buying the 240, or the 200 power amp, spend the extra $320 Australian and get the extra capacitance.

So, how does it sound? I think the first word I would use is smooth, no grain or glare. At the same time it doesn’t give an artificial gloss to the sound like some of the other amps I auditioned. Violins sound like horsehair grating over catgut, and voices have character. Shrill instruments like the reed instruments used by the Moroccan group, the Master Musicians of JouJouka, still sound shrill, but it’s a shrillness without any added edge. It’s simply that lack of added “edge” that contributes the smoothness and yet keeps everything sounding natural and very realistic.

It’s good over the whole range. It’s a wide band design specced at +/- 1 dB from DC to 199 kHz. Bass is firm and appropriately weighty and well defined while the high end is clean and open. The mid range is a joy on my KEFs which are at their best in that area, and I’m finding voices - male, female, and groups - ravishing. In fact, I was walking through the room while I had some Peter, Paul and Mary on as background and there was a passage where Mary spoke. I spun around thinking my wife had come into the room behind me, the voice sounded so natural. It wasn’t really like my wife’s voice but I wasn’t paying close attention just at that minute and the naturalness of the voice totally fooled me.

There’s plenty of detail but it doesn’t get in your face. If you want to listen to it, it’s available, but it also has the habit of sneaking up on you unawares. I keep hearing things I hadn’t noticed before, and so does my wife when she occasionally sits down to listen rather than using music as background.

Transients are handled brilliantly, especially with the high capacitance option. I like a lot of percussion music and when things go bang, they go bang fast and accurately. When things are going bang real fast - a drumstick volley for example - you get each impact still delivered with razor sharp timing and the very very brief sense of space between each individual strike - no hangover blurring the impacts. There’s also no sense of compression in the dynamic range anywhere, either at the macro or micro-dynamic level. In fact I think it’s the way it handles the micro-dynamics that contributes to the naturalness of the sound and helped to fool me with the spoken voice bit.

Imaging is clear and precise, and it’s very easy to pinpoint performer’s locations. The sound stage is wide, wider than the speakers, and deep WHEN the recording has it. I’m more aware of those recordings with a constricted sound stage where everything sounds like it’s just been dumped in an ill-defined clump in the centre than I was previously, simply because of the precision of the imaging. In addition, in material recorded in large, reverberant spaces such as cathedrals, the sense of the acoustic space is extremely good. I have a disc that was recorded in a large, cavernous water cistern with a 42 second reverb time (“Deep Listening” by Oliveros, Dempster and Panaiotis on New Albion) where the musicians are really performing on the reverb characteristics and the echo includes large phase changes as it moves around the space. I’ve always had the sense that I didn’t know what it really sounded like and, while it’s still impossible for me to characterise the music, with the 240 I feel that I’m getting an idea of what it really sounded like if I’d been there when it was being recorded. The relationship between source sound and reflection now makes sense, and this is apparent in music recorded in cathedrals as well.

That brings up the old one about whether you’re there or the performers are here. I know what people are saying but I’m undecided on this one. On material recorded in fairly normal sized spaces, I’d probably lean to the “they’re here” option but on stuff like “Deep Listening”, there’s no way you could fit that space into my room. It’s very definitely “I’m there” on that sort of stuff. I think the bottom line is the degree of realism, either way, and it’s very good. What is also apparent is that simple 2 mike recordings on location, where the engineer doesn’t play with the recording afterwards, sound extremely real and natural. Multi-track studio recordings can still sound natural, but they don’t give quite that sense of immediacy. I think it must have something to do with phase relationships. The amp is claimed to be non-inverting with 0 degrees phase shift and I’m inclined to believe that given the imaging characteristics.

All in all, an extremely nice amplifier.

Re my room - the dimensions below are the listening area - the total space is really 22 ft long with a part wall half way dividing the room into living/dining areas. The speakers are set up along the long (22 ft) side of the living area. It's a difficult space that works much better with my DIY room lenses.

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Topic - REVIEW: ME Sound ME 240 Amplifier (SS) Review by David Aiken at Audio Asylum - David Aiken 14:22:01 09/10/99 ( 1)