Newport 2016: ModWright can do no wrong with Ryan, Daedalus




It’s notoriously difficult for audio manufacturers to present consistently outstanding sound from show to show, with the vagaries of hotel rooms, onsite power and a sometimes constantly shifting assortment of partners bringing other gear.

Even with those challenges, ModWright Instruments somehow manages to make at least admirable music no matter what the venue or rig makeup. I’ve experienced this at so many events now that it can’t be luck.


The company did it again at T.H.E. Show in Newport. Teaming in one room with Ryan Speakers, and in another with Daedalus Audio, the result in both cases was impressive.

In its second-floor room with Ryan, ModWright was showcasing its KWA 150SE amplifier, which was running in bridged mode ($8,995 times two).

The KWA 150 is said to blend the strengths of both tube and solid-state products.

It features a single voltage gain stage, a regulated power supply for the input stage, Cardas Audio connectors and oversized heat sinks. The first watts operate in pure Class A.

The KWA 150 also uses no global feedback, is direct-coupled, fully differential, dual-mono and, as demoed in California, bridgeable. It comes with a high-low bias switch, stereo/bridged-mono switch and fully balanced floating inputs.

DSC_0489_wmAlso in the system was ModWright’s SWL 9.0 Anniversary line stage ($2,900) and its PH150 Reference phono stage ($7,900). Digital source components were the Aurender N10 music server ($7,999), feeding a LampizatOr Lite 7 balanced DAC ($6,750). Vinyl was played on a VPI Industries Avenger turntable ($9,500), sporting a VPI JMW 3D-12R tonearm ($3,000) and a VAS Audio Nova cartridge ($1,500). Cable was by Cardas and power conditioning came from Shunyata Research.

The speakers, from Ryan, were Tempus III floorstanders ($15,995 a pair). The four-way transducers were designed using a distortion analyzer and vibrometer, and are extensively braced to reduce vibrations. Frequency response in most rooms is said to be nearly flat.

Dire Straits’ “Water of Love,” from the band’s self-titled debut album, showed off the ease with which the system presented music. Mark Knopfler’s vocal was slightly recessed, which only helped highlight the great instrumental work on this track. Especially outstanding was the system’s portrayal of ace original drummer Pick Withers. Indeed, the show demo sounded like the listener was sitting five feet in front of Withers’ kit.

ModWright’s fourth-floor room also was inviting. There, the company was showing its Ambrose A30 monoblocks ($14,995), which are hand-built, 30-watt, single-ended EL 34 tube amps offering 30 watts a side. They are the new baby brothers of the awesome — and beautiful — $40,000-plus 845 DS SET monoblocks ModWright debuted at the last Rocky Mountain Audio Fest (see post).

DSC_0511_wmThe Ambrose amps drove the Athena V.2 speakers from Daedalus ($11,850). Cabling was by WyWires. The sound was luscious, with the Ambrose amps excelling at detail retrieval, soundstaging and tonal balance, combined with tube warmth.

ModWright founder and president Dan Wright told me last year he was thinking of rebranding as MWI. The company’s new components, in fact, are adorned with an MWI logo. In Newport, though, Wright was using both names.

“We got started doing modifications and my last name is Wright, so the name ModWright made sense then,” he told me. “Now we do a lot more than that. But I found out everybody knows the ModWright name, so we’re just kind of going with both for now.”

Whatever the name, wherever the place, and whomever joins in, though, it seems the result is the same for ModWright: good sound.

About John Stancavage 196 Articles
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile