review of Monarchy's diminutive 250W hybrid monoblocks appeared in
these pages in June, 2006.
In the conclusion, I wrote,
"The Monarchy SE-250 hybrid monoblocks represent outstanding value. Their
enviably neutral presentation, by no means a given when it comes to
amplification, is both musical and satisfying. With careful attention to choice
of tube, the Monarchys provide a wonderful taste of the real thing."
The last time I heard these monoblocks, my most satisfying experience with this
single tube, zero feedback design occurred when I substituted the NOS (new old
stock) Siemens E88CC supplied with the amp – the European version of the 6DJ8
--with the Jan Philips 5814A (a version of the 12AU7/ECC 82) that I use in my
reference Jadis 100W DA-7 Luxe stereo amp. Although this greatly improved the
sound of the Monarchys, the tube was only fed 6.1 volts between pins 4 and 5,
rather than the 12.6 volts it expects to receive. Regardless, even with the
monoblocks only delivering about 120 watts into 8 ohms rather than their rated
power of 250 watts, they sounded best with the Jan Philips 5814A.
Once informed of the situation, Monarchy's C.C. Poon opined, "I think that if we
can feed the 12AU7 with its full voltage requirement, it should sound exquisite.
If our customers want a 12.6 volt configuration, we want to give them that
Many months later, I received a pair of SE-250s upgraded to adequately
accommodate 12.6 volt tubes. Although I no longer have the original 6.1 volt
version monoblocks on hand to compare them to, I have spent a significant amount
of time listening to the modified SE-250s.
C.C. supplied the upgraded monoblocks with NOS GE 5814 tubes. As in my original
audition, it did not take long to determine that one can get much better sound
using other tubes.
Take, for example, the beginning of Hilary Hahn's recording of the Brahms Violin
Concerto (Sony). Using the GEs, I heard bountiful lower midrange and bass. The
bass was solid, full, and well defined. The entire sonic picture, however, was
somewhat gray, and definitely on the dark side. Hahn's violin was devoid of
sparkle, and color was rather monotoned. Only when seated farther back in a
fairly dead hall does the Brahms Violin Concerto begin to sound somewhat like
Equally disturbing was the constricted soundstage. The orchestral image was
confined mainly to the center and set quite far back in the eight or so foot
distance between my speakers. This tube failed to communicate the expanse and
breadth of a live performance. The soundstage was so narrow that I might have
been able to fool a casual listener into thinking that I was playing a monaural
No matter what I played – the Hahn, my almost religiously auditioned CD of
Karina Gauvin singing Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne (CBC Records), or the
multiple-Golden Eared Reference Recordings gem of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic
Dances with the Minnesota Orchestra – the soundstage was disturbingly narrow and
distant. What I heard seemed miles apart from what I'm accustomed to hearing at
an actual symphonic or chamber experience. Listening was neither fun nor
Again, I changed tubes to the Jan Philips 5814A I use in my Jadis. Voila, as if
by magic, life returned to the sound (although this time with more power than
when I auditioned the 6.1 volt version of the SE-250). The sonic image opened up
immensely. It was like night and day. Playing the Canteloube, sound now
stretched out to and beyond the limits of my speakers, with a much greater sense
of air around Gauvin's voice. The voice also moved forward, in front of the
instruments, and seemed much more realistically three-dimensional and round than
Much of the dark veil lifted, and life returned to the music I love. There was
also far more color to the instruments in Gauvin's chamber ensemble Instruments
were more naturally spread out across the room, and located at a healthy
distance behind her. I really enjoyed what I was hearing.
While the bass was different – there was less unnatural emphasis on the lower
spectrum to the detriment of the highs – it was not less powerful. On
Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, for example, bass was quite acceptable in size,
impact, and definition. While the sound overall is a bit lean, at least with the
Jan Philips 5814A tube, these babies are not wimps.
Were there major differences between the sounds of the Monarchy SE-250
monoblocks and my 100W stereo Jadis? You betcha. The Jadis sounded far more
transparent and clean. There was a noticeably blacker black around instruments,
and an even wider soundstage. Most important, the Jadis conveyed a far fuller
and richer sound, thanks to its more realistically substantial midrange. Note as
well that, due to differences in input sensitivity, the 100W Jadis required less
preamp gain than the 250W Monarchys.
The Jadis also supplied more detail, greater dynamics, a more palpable sense of
the room in which the performance was recorded, and more complexity to the sound
of voices and instruments. There was just more there there. Which, given the
difference in price – the Monarchys can often be obtained factory direct at a
significant discount, which makes them far less expensive than the Jadis – one
would hope would be the case.
Please keep in mind that my Jadis has been upgraded. Its internal wiring to both
speaker outputs and source inputs has been replaced with distributor Pierre
Gabriel's own wiring, resulting in more detail, openness, color, and
transparency. Even the Jadis company in France sanctions the upgrade,
acknowledging how much of a difference a change in hook-up wire can make. I've
also changed the Jadis' main fuse to an audiophile grade fuse from IsoClean,
which delivers far more than one might think in the way of extra detail, depth,
I continue to believe that, were one to upgrade the Monarchys' small amount of
internal wiring and perhaps change a few resistors and caps, one could draw even
better sound out of them.
The Monarchy SE-250 hybrid monoblocks are now available in two versions. The
first outputs 6.1 volts between pins 4 and 5 of its sole tube socket; the second
outputs 12.6 volts. Because the sound of these monoblocks is so tube dependent,
the ability to experiment with a far greater range of tubes than before makes it
possible to get the best sound from them. Given that I only tried one alternate
tube to those supplied with the two units, it is quite possible that I have yet
to discover how good these amps can sound.
In whatever configuration you purchase them, the Monarchy SE-250s represent
excellent value. Combining the bass impact of solid-state with some of the air
and liquidity of tubes, they deliver a decidedly musical presentation. For music
lovers searching for amps in this price range, audition is highly recommended.
- Jason Victor
Digital Front End
Theta Gen VIII DAC/Preamp
Sony 707ES transport heavily modified by APL Hi-Fi
Jadis DA-7 Luxe with GE 5751 Jan and Jan Philips 5814A tubes
Talon Khorus X speakers MK. II (with 2005 upgrade and Bybee filters)
Hsu VTF-3 HO Subwoofer
Nordost Valhalla single-ended and balanced interconnects
Nordost Valhalla balanced digital interconnects
Nordost Valhalla bi-wired speaker cable
Nordost Silver Shadow digital interconnect for DVD-Video
Nordost Valhalla Power Cables
Elrod EPS-2 Signature power cables for subwoofer
ExactPower EP15A equipped with outlets from Sound Applications
IsoClean fuses throughout
Dedicated 10 amp line
Ganymede ball bearing supports under all components and speakers
Michael Green Deluxe Ultrarack, Basic Racks and Corner Tunes
Shakti stones on amp, Theta, and transport
Stillpoints ERS EMI/RFI sheets under ExactPower
Bedini Dual Beam Ultraclarifier, Audioprism CD Stoplight,
Marigo Signature 3-D Mat, Ayre demagnetizing CD.
Also on hand and sometimes used:
PS Audio P600 Power Plant power synthesizer with MultiWave II
Interconnects: WireWorld Gold Eclipse 5 and Gold Starlight 5 digital, Harmonic
Tech Magic One, Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II balanced, and Nirvana
Power cables: Elrod EPS Signature 3 plus EPS 1, 2, and 3; WireWorld Silver
Electra 5, PS Audio X-treme Statement, Harmonic Tech, and AudioPrism
25.5' deep, 37' wide opposite the speakers, 21.5' wide in the listening area.
There is a large archway leading to the dining room next to the right speaker.
Ceilings are 9'2" high with heavy wooden cross-beams. Heavy curtains cover
windows behind the soundsystem. Floors are hardwood and carpet, walls a
combination of plaster and wood.