Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Mies i100 Integrated Amplifier Pre-review

If you regularly read my blog you already know that I am highly critical when it comes to equipment. Basically, if it doesn’t have an exotic core power transformer inside, I do not bother listening seriously to it. Of course other quality considerations are also essential – like a well-regulated power supply, high-quality signal-path components, and well designed grounding – and finding these in even the highest-end gear is sometimes elusive.

The good news is that a Canadian startup company called Mies is launching a piece of budget-minded entry-level high-end gear (see that seems at the outset very interesting. From what I observe in the limited images on their site, I see a nicely designed piece of equipment with a high listenability potential. Called the i100, the Mies integrated amp will boast a compact design with not-so-compact features.

The Mies i100 Prototype

Despite its small footprint, Mies engineer Gunner Van Vliet has managed to squeeze a large toroidal power transformer into roughly 1/4th of the available space. Two reasonably-sized capacitors appear to smooth out the high-voltage section and two physically smaller but most likely equally-sized low-voltage capacitors snuggle up nearby. What this means is that for the money, a lot of attention is paid to making sure this amplifier is solid throughout its entire 40-watt power bandwidth.
Notice also the heat sink bank opposite the power supply with discrete transistors. These components make up the output stage and are coupled to high-current 5-way gold binding posts (my personal favorite).

Input switching is planned to support a high-level phono stage and two line-level inputs via gold-plated RCA jacks, plus a front-panel 3.5mm jack for your iPod or streaming media device. Also featured in this rear-panel configuration are full-bandwidth a preamp output RCA jacks and another pair of RCA jacks for your subwoofer amp making this an extremely flexible unit. In other words, you could use the i100 as a preamp and drive two external power amps via these two pair of output jacks, something to keep in mind as you grow your system.

I believe that this company has found a nitch in the market by offering these highly attractive features. An entry-level audiophile could purchase this unit and use it as an integrated amplifier. As funds permit, more amplifiers could find their way into this system driving larger speakers and subwoofers. By this time surely Mies will expand its product line and develop a more sophisticated preamp sporting possibly differential input/output connections. But that’s just a personal pipe dream and may have absolutely no bearing on what these folks at Planet of Sound have in mind. Mies already has a reputable audio track record with two all-tube amps, the m25a ($899 CAD) and m50a ($1,499 CAD). BTW, you can connect either one or both to the i100.

Mies m50a Stereo Power Amplifier

How can you get one? That’s the catch – you can’t. Today, it’s a sort of pay-it-forward approach where you invest in an unlistenable product hoping that what you see in the pictures of the prototype actually matches what the production unit delivers. At the current MSRP of $399 CAD, this is a reasonable risk to make and with an incentive of $100 CAD off that MSRP to the first 50 backers, it is down-right attractive.

If you are so moved, get in line with the tens of others, and sign up on their web site before March 13 or before the 50-limit number of backers is reached and save $100 CAD. Even at just under $400 CAD, this little unit could bring to be something to behold.

FAIR WARNING: Not hearing something and buying it strictly on visual impressions and word-of-mouth is risky. Know that I have not heard this unit myself and my comments are my personal, highly subjective impressions. It reminds me much of the old joke “Want to buy a bridge in Brooklyn?” If the production design follows the prototype pictures, the i100 could be a pretty darned decent unit. There is just no way to know for sure other than trusting these folks who say that the i100 will be a respectable sounding piece of audio gear.

I have been promised by the manufacturer, Planet of Sound, access to a first-generation production unit as soon as this company fulfills order commitments. I am waiting with baited breath for the arrival of this unit. Once it arrives (currently projected to be , I will review it and let you know my unbiased opinion.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny 

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