Publisher Profile

Audio Note UK Meishu Tonmeister 300B integrated amplifier, P3 Tonmeister stereo amplifier, M6 Phono Balanced Preamp Review

By: |


Audio Note UK operates a little differently than the rest of the industry in the home stereo world. The company creates a complete array of components for stereo systems from cartridges to loudspeakers down to making the internal parts including transformers, resistors, capacitors, cables, solder, etc. Furthermore, company owner Peter Qvortrup insists upon complete control over the engineering of his products to ensure performance quality. Whether you purchase a Level Zero system or Level Sp0ix (or beyond), the end consumer can often make multiple choices when putting an Audio Note System together.

The first question might be why? People are trained to believe that companies attempting to be a jack of all trades wind up being masters of none. On the other hand, “system synergy” plays an important role in the sound of a stereo system. Some amplifiers simply work better with certain speakers. Audiophiles are often on the merry-go-round of buying and selling gear that is touted as the next panacea piece of gear. I have read forums for over 20 years and I often see posters that will rave about some amplifier that is a measurement darling only to have it up for sale months later. The thinking is that if something measures the best then it will sound the best. There is logic to that, I have been there myself extensively auditioning the best measuring equipment from speakers to amplifiers to DACs and yet here I sit with old technology – very old, that measures “alright.” “Alright” is a nice way to say that when you read the measurement graphs fog up your glasses first.

Peter Qvortrup believes that a system is only as good as the weakest link and the rest of your stereo system will portray whatever that weak point offers. This is reminiscent of the notion of “source first” where no amplifier or speaker can “fix” a lesser source. I think all of us can recognize how important the source is as it starts with the recording. A good recording will sound better than a bad recording no matter what the stereo system. So to a degree, we are all on board with the notion of “source first.”

When you do a deep dive into the components that Audio Note UK makes, you will see a pattern emerge as to how it all works together.  Their turntables have low-mass platters with the intent of not storing resonances (as do high-mass platters). Their CD players read discs once and send the digital bits to a non-oversampling DAC that reads the information once to be sent to the preamplifier. Most digital players oversample information and make attempted guesses or corrections to the information they read.  They read the disc multiple times and “process” the bits with various error corrections. Audio Note players attempt to take all that out without error correction, jitter reduction, or digital or analog filters. The attempt is to give you what is on the CD with the least attempts to “fix” the information. They feel that all the fixes do more damage to the original recording.

Audio Note UK’s Single Ended Triode amplifiers use no negative feedback (which is a sort of error correction) to reduce distortion. Their speakers are lightly damped to allow resonances to leave their cabinets – again running counter to most loudspeakers that use heavy damping which tends to store resonances in the cabinet. The philosophy seems to be to get the music off the disc and to your ears as quickly as possible without adding various kinds of “processing” that muck up the sound, such as oversampling/upsampling/negative feedback and resonance storing materials.

That’s the theory, but the reality has been rather ugly regarding measured performance. It’s difficult for any reasonable, scientifically minded person to ignore the measured performance but it is also difficult to throw out superior audible performance.

I first must thank Eddy, TH, and Michael of Elephant Holdings, Hong Kong for lending me some of the equipment for this review, specifically the 2.1x/II CD player and P3 Tonmeister stereo power amp.

Some readers may recognize the name Tonmeister (From the German meaning “Sound Master”). I first auditioned the Meishu Tonmeister 300B amplifier in 2019 and I was immediately enamored with the sound. I have never been much of a 300B tube amplifier fan. I liked the older Audio Note Meishu but it lacked a little pizzazz. The 300B is affectionately referred to in Asia as a “lady-like” amplifier – gentle and polite – perhaps refined and polished. And for certain music – girl at a piano – to some there is nothing else. Indeed, some audiophiles will prefer the older Meishu to the new Meishu Tonmeister. However, I am not one of them. For me the Meishu Tonmeister is the best of both worlds – an amplifier capable of gentleness and politeness but can also bring it with rock and roll.

The previous-generation Meishu, as good as it was, was limited by its preamplifier stage – as is the case with most (perhaps all) integrated amplifiers. It housed a variation of Audio Note’s M2 Preamplifier and P3 Tonmeister power amp, all in one case. The limiting factor is that there is no way to upgrade the integrated amp. The new Tonmeister amplifiers look identical to the old Meishu, but Martin Grennall of ANUK has informed me of the major differences between the old Meishu and P3 stereo amplifier versus the new Tonmeisters:

“While the old Meishu (Integrated amplifier) had a 6SN7 preamp board that was capacitor coupled to the main power amp board (which was the same kind of arrangement that is used in the M2), the Tonmeister is completely different [as it is] based on the circuit concept developed for the 211 Jinro line integrated amplifier.

So it uses half an ECC82, feeding half a 5687, which is then capacitor coupled to the 300B.

So as you can see, there is nothing in the Tonmeister that is similar to the M2 (Preamp).

3 Responses to Audio Note UK Meishu Tonmeister 300B integrated amplifier, P3 Tonmeister stereo amplifier, M6 Phono Balanced Preamp Review

  1. NORBERT REIS says:

    Kappellmeister is actually Concert Master, a title typically bestowed to the leader of first violins, rather than Conductor.
    Praising AN as best of breed without reference to Kondo, Shindo or Wavac is at a minimum courageous.

    • Norbert,

      Thank you for your comment and readership. I don’t follow your reasoning. Would praising Kondo as best of breed without reference to AN, Shindo or Wavac equally hubristic?

    • Richard Austen says:

      Hi Norbert

      Konzertmeister is the first violin while Kapellmeister is the director of the choir or leader of the orchestra or conductor according to the three definitions I researched.

      I have auditioned The Shindo Vosne Romanee, The Shindo Petrus, The Kondo M7, The Kondo G-70, The Kondo Overture PM-2i and the Wavac ES 300B. I think I’ll stand by my statement especially given that the price/performance ratio wherein I found none of those units to sound better – different – not better. The Meishu 300B sounds more powerful and dynamic than the Wavac – that may not be to everyone’s taste but I liked it better and it’s around 1/3 the price. The Shindo Petrus I auditioned at an owner’s home who owns the same speakers and was running AN power amplifiers. Again that is their top preamp – I think the M6 is at worst at least as good for half the price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By :