Review sample supplied by Melodyhifi Europe
Retail price in the Netherlands (incl 21% VAT):
Action Ultra – €1.649
MDA2 – €5.850
Everest 211 – €14.950
When Melodyhifi Europe, a new audio distribution partner of A Tube Hifi Import in Almere, asked me to review this trio of amplifiers, I must admit that this was the first time I heard of the brand. As it turns out, the brand is indeed new to this region, and MelodyHifi Europe is launching the product in the EU. Of course, there are lots of tube amp brands and one cannot possibly know them all. Still, as it would turn out rather quickly, Melody is something rather special.
Melody International Holdings Pty Ltd. was established in 1999 in Australia by Mr Allen Wang. Founder & the current chief executive of the Melody Company, Mr. Allen Wang has a solid electronic engineering professional background & with a wealth of management experience. Besides being the company leader he is also the product’s chief designer.
The corporate headquarters, which comprises, among others, the R&D center (product design), is based in Australia. Later, in order to meet the growing market demands, the company decided to invest by building a factory in Shenzhen, which is located near the city of Hong Kong. The factory has a modern assembly line including a transformer production line, a vacuum processing plant & a variety of proprietary self-built high-end testing equipment & measurement instruments. Although the brand is currently still best known in Australia and Asia, they are working at raising awareness in the EU.
The three amplifiers will be tested in the context of a system that normally consists of an Ayon CD10-II CD player, an Ayon Spirit III integrated amplifier and Xavian Perla Esclusiva loudspeakers in a relatively small room. Interlinks are AudioQuest Water and for speaker cables, there is a choice between Driade Flow 405 and FoilFlex. Power cables are all Belden 19364 with Bals schuko and Oyaide C-004 IEC.
The Melody Action Ultra is the company’s entry-level integrated amplifier that is recommended for the Audiophile starter who wants to get familiar with tube amplification. Especially for its size, the amp offers a remarkable power output of 2x 28 Watts (presumably Push-Pull Class AB) using a quad of Melody 5881 power tubes and a quad of RCA 6JT8 (6KT8) driver or gain tubes. Inside, the amp uses point-to-point wiring. Unlike its bigger brothers, the Action Ultra uses Auto-Bias. Every Melody amplifier has a Soft Start and 30-second time-delay.
Besides the Ultra version, there is also a pure Class-A version of the Action amplifier called simply “Action” but for this review, I will only be looking at the Class-AB Action Ultra version.
A removable heavy metal tube guard cage with magnetic feet and a milled from solid aluminum infrared remote control are included. The amp offers two cinch inputs and has separate speaker taps for 4 Ohms and 8 Ohms.
The Action Ultra is silent in use and the remote control works well. With some amplifiers, no matter how briefly the remote control button is used, the volume control makes steps that are too large in either direction. With the Action Ultra, however, the volume is responsive and operates very softly.
After 30 minutes of warming up, the Melody Action Ultra sounds energetic, with good drive and dynamics. With its mildly warm sound, it has an easy-going character with a very natural timbre and it is easy to listen to. With a good balance between relaxed fullness and dynamic impact, the Action Ultra may well indeed offer an ideal balance for those who are buying their first tube amp. It offers a middle-of-the-road tube sound (as a first-time buyer will likely expect) without surprises.
It has great grip and drives the Xavians (using the 8-Ohm tap) to high levels without any issues. There is a limit to its power, of course, but I did not reach it without playing substantially louder than I normally do. I should note that the Xavians obviously are not incredibly efficient at 88dB. For 1.649 euro, however, one cannot expect the world. The amp certainly sounds more powerful than one would expect based on its modest size but it does not perform miracles. The amp’s lesser areas are a soft and round bass with slightly soft transients. The bass is full and well-paced but lacks definition and attack which translates to a less rhythmic delivery than I would like. However, the amp does sound energetic and lively which, to a large extent, makes up for this.
It works really great with ballads, acoustical instruments and slow music in general but is less ideal with more rhythm-driven material. As far as resolution goes, there are more explicit and revealing amplifiers but maybe not at this low price point. The amp has lots of other things going for it, though. It has no dryness, edge, sharpness or grain whatsoever, it is forgiving, quite spacious and has surprisingly deep imaging that will make most similarly-priced transistor amplifiers sound straight out flat in comparison.
The Action Ultra’s midrange is harmonically rich and a little warm but still open and communicative. The treble is open, airy and, if not ultimately detailed, still nicely refined. The combined sound is very well-balanced and easy to sink into. Especially smooth jazz turned out to work a treat.
The AudioQuest Water interlink has a robust and solid character itself and found it to match with the Action Ultra very well. Between the speaker cables, I found that both the FoilFlex and the Driade worked equally well, albeit with different results. For those who want to yield the tightest bass and highest precision and transparency, the FoilFlex cable is a good option while the Driade helped the amp better portray its 3-dimensionality and natural flow. While the Driade cable added some more fullness in the bass, it did not lower the pacing and, ultimately, I felt that there was more magic with the fuller and richer-sounding Driade than with the more accurate but also more factual FoilFlex cable.