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REVIEW: Menthor Menthor Integra Amplifier (Tube) Review by Daryl at Audio Asylum

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Well, here’s the long awaited (at least by me) review of the ever popular (and unavailable in the US) Menthor Integra hybrid integrated amplifier (insert drum roll). I learned of this amp through a review in the Star, a Malaysian online magazine, and was intrigued by its cost - $235 US! After several emails with Michael Loke (of Octave Electronics, the worldwide distributor), I sent off a bank check for $300 which included postal air freight. A couple of months later the amp arrived - delayed while awaiting the faceplate to arrive from mainland China. It arrived on a Sunday and the Post Office phoned me to come pick it up! Back home I anxiously unwrapped the little devil and was amazed by its drop-dead gorgeous looks and the build quality! I’ve seen $2,000 plus components that weren’t as solidly constructed or as aesthically pleasing as this baby. There are no markings on either the front or back, the stock tubes were no-name Chinese 12AU7s, and with only power, volume, and select knobs, it’s certainly minimalist. Ok, ok, the sound. I’m not stalling, just that it’s hard to review positively a (high-end) component that costs so little retail and be taken seriously. So, I’ll try to temper my enthusiasm so as not to appear totally ridiculous. First off, if you haven’t read the review at the Star, I urge you to do so. My initial impression, after a suitable break-in period, was that of a compressed and rather diffuse sound, with little life. Upon switching tubes to used GE 5814s, it seemed to open up a tad, but was still disappointing. It wasn’t until Dave Van Harn came up for a listen and suggested I play the Stereophile test disc that we discovered the channels were reversed! When I hooked the speaker cables up correctly, the amp took on a new light. Very good soundstage - more depth than width - surprisingly good imaging, and a solid punch to the bottom end. But it’s forte, as with most tubed equipment, were the mids - very seductive (yes, I said seductive, as in $235 seductive, but seductive nonetheless) on Richard Elliotts sax, and the highs - pleasant, although a bit rolled off, and without any trace of harshness. As I am tempering my enthisiasm, the Integra seems to temper the frequency extremes. Alas, at 25 wpc, the bass wasn’t world shattering, but tight and pretty darn solid, although a bit slow on complex passages. Most of my listening was smooth jazz, acoustic, and female vocals, and to the Integras credit it handled things extremely well. Only when I switched to some hard rock and complex classical did words like lagging and confused come to mind. Otherwise, it performed admirably. In comparison to my Audio Analogue Puccini SE, it was not as tranaparent nor extended, but it did seem to cull out some pretty good details. My overall impression of the Integra can be summed up thusly - if you want more transparency, extension, and dynamics, move up to the Puccini SE. By the same token, with the Puccini SE, if you want more transparency, extension, and dynamics, move up to the Pathos Classic One (as I am in the process of doing). But, through all the upgrades, one thing remained constant with all three amps - musicality! Relatively speaking (and to different extents), they all draw you into the music, are non-fatiguing, and are certainly a pleasure to listen to. Could I live with the Integra indefinitely? Yes and no (it doesn’t have a phone stage for one thing), and it is so good at what it is, it begs you to seek out more. I can’t think of any other component that represents a better value in high-end (yes, I said high-end) audio, than the Menthor Integra. Where else can you get a real taste of tubes, roll your own more than once, and still be out of pocket less than $350? It’s things like this that make the hobby fun. As a sidebar, I, and a dealer friend of mine, are negotiating with Octave to offer the line in the US. I’ll keep you all informed as to the progress and future availability, whether we have anything to do with it or not.


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Topic - REVIEW: Menthor Menthor Integra Amplifier (Tube) Review by Daryl at Audio Asylum - Daryl 19:55:33 07/24/99 ( 4)