Frequency extension at the upper end of the spectrum was also very good. I never felt as though I were missing some extra energy or “presence” because of a reigned-in top end. Along those lines, the KWI-200 had a “quick” upper-midrange and lower-treble presentation that allowed much of the natural swing or verve of live music to come through at satisfying levels. This upper-midrange snap, coupled with solid, sure-footed bass, helped bring out the momentum in heavily beat-based music. “Winter” from Patricia Barber’s Modern Cool [Premonition Records], for example, took on an infectious forward propulsion with its seven-beat time signature and minimalist arrangement. The overall tonal balance of the KWI 200 is essentially neutral with just a hint of pleasant warmth in the midbass and a whiff of nicely integrated “liveliness” in the upper midrange—which could very well bring a welcomed sense of speed and rhythmic oomph in an otherwise slightly lackluster system.
Soundstaging was, generally speaking, also quite good: respectably wide, deep, and fleshed out with defined images. Rendering of depth, both of individual images and of the front- to-back layering of the larger soundscape, was also reasonably good. The depiction of depth in modestly-priced solid-state amplification is one of a few defining elements for me, but may be less important to others. On this dimension, the Hegel H200 (Issue 211, 200Wpc) presents a more fleshed-out portrayal of depth, of both the individual images and of the overall soundscape. It reveals more of the subtle details that convey spatial cues and dimensional relationships such as during “Chinese March” in Song of the Nightingale [Stravinsky, Oue, Reference Recordings].
The H200 has good bass extension and control, but the KWI 200 has even better bass extension and control in absolute terms, as well as having a more engaging upper midrange and more overall dynamic verve than the H200.
So, we have some interesting and different positive characteristics highlighted in these two products: the more sophisticated, relaxed, and more revealing H200 versus the more lively, dynamically compelling, and bass-powerful KWI 200. Personally, I preferred the KWI 200 on some music material when mated to the Dynaudio C1 II, but preferred the H200 across the board with both the more revealing YG Kipod II Passive and Aerial 7T speakers. The Dynaudio seemed to benefit from some of the liveliness of the KWI 200, whereas the YG and Aerial speakers sounded more musically rewarding with the more liquid presentation of the H200. The KWI 200 has the advantage of offering both digital and mm/mc phono capabilities as add-on options, but it also starts off at $600 more for the basic package. The $4400 Hegel H200 comes with a nice metal remote, whereas the metal remote to replace the KWI 200’s plastic stock one is a $200 upgrade. This makes the two integrateds, as reviewed, $4400 (Hegel) and $5200 (ModWright). The respective price and performance of these two amplifiers are relatively close to each other and both would be included in any list of integrateds I would recommend to someone in the market in this price range. In my own way of evaluating value, and based on matching up in my system, the Hegel H200 tips the scale in its favor. This, by no means, is any predictor of how you will assess the ModWright KWI 200—or the H200, for that matter. As usual, system-matching and personal preference play large roles in choosing the best amplifier for you. If you’re in the market for an integrated amplifier in this price range, I encourage you to audition both before making a decision.
On its own terms, the ModWright KWI 200 is a well made, solid performer. Its power output, dynamic range, rhythmic agility, and welcoming tonal balance make it an attractive choice for a lot of listeners. It certainly will hit the mark for many users with power- hungry speakers looking for an easy to use and musically satisfying single-chassis amplification solution.
SPECS & PRICING
Power output: 200Wpc
Inputs: Three RCA, one XLR line-level, and one “amp in” (RCA)
Outputs: One pre-amp (RCA), two 12V triggers, 5-way speaker terminals
Dimensions: 17" x 6" x 17"
Weight: 55 lbs.
Price: $5000. Options: metal remote, $200; DAC, $1150; mm/mc phono, $350
Analog Source: Basis Debut V turntable with Vector 4 tonearm, Benz-Micro LP-S cartridge
Digital Sources: Ayre C-5xeMP universal disc player, Sony VAIO VGN -FZ-490 running JRiver MC 17, Hegel HD2 and HD20 DACs
Phono stage preamp: Ayre P-5xe
Line stage preamp: Ayre K-1xe
Integrated amplifier: Hegel H200
Power amplifiers: Gamut M250i
Speakers: Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature, Aerial 7T, YG Kipod II Signature Passive
Cables: Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron signal cables, Audioquest Coffee USB and Hawk Eye S/PDIF, Shunyata Anaconda and Cobra ZiTron power cables
A/C Power: Two 20-amp dedicated lines, Shunyata SR-Z1 receptacles, Shunyata Triton and Typhon power conditioners
Room Treatments: PrimeAcoustic Z-foam panels and DIY panels