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Wright On
No mods for this preamplifier
by Ernie Fisher

This is my second look at a ModWright preamplifier and, it seems, the more refined model in the company’s line of products, which include the previously reviewed SWL9.0SE, and a phono stage, said to be one of the better units around. Dan Wright, the company’s principal and head designer, has been around for a few years and became quite famed for his modifications to certain digital components. I received the LS36.5 shortly after my heart surgery — about two years ago — and I’ve had the unit in my house for a few weeks. Still recuperating, I just listened to music, hoping that its healing power would speed up my convalescence. It did, and finally I decided to actually write this evaluation now — the end of August 09.

Those of you who never heard of the company should know that Dan Wright, Modwright Instrument’s head, is a mechanical engineer who turned his attention to audio modifications for assorted digitalia first, and design and manufacture later. His fist effort was the earlier-mentioned SWL9.OSE preamplifier, which became an instant success. I considered it a premium preamp for the proverbial song and dance.


The new model offers much the same functions and appearance as the original. The faceplate is not unattractive and sports a centered selector knob, a volume knob on the right and three toggle switches for mute, monitor and home theatre by-pass. The on/off switch is on the far left. Though Spartan in its form, the unit’s company logo is a beautiful design, which I believe is the only hint that there is something special about it. There is, as we shall see.

The unit measures 17 1/2"W x 12 1/2"D x 4 3/4"H and weighs 34 pounds, about five or six pounds more than the SWL9.0SE

The Sound

As I always liked the original SWL9.0SE, I wanted to compare its performance with the unit under review using the same back-up components. About three years ago, I stumbled onto a very musical system combination when I had used the original SWL9.0SE with Bryston’s flagship 28B-SST monoblocks (see our archive section for the review). Therefore, I began my listening tests with another Bryston amp, the 14B SST. This quickly established that my earlier conclusions regarding musicality held up with the 14B/Modwright combination. My first few hours with the new preamp didn’t exhibit a marked improvement over the SWL 9.0SE when I tried it with the Bryston. When I connected the “old one ” I listened carefully for elements like imaging, tonal balance, resolution etc. This proved once more to be a great, very musical system combination, almost in the same league as the system with my in-house Wyetech Labs Ruby. Upon connecting the review model, I found that the fundamental sonic elements of the SLW9.0SE were also exhibited in the LS 36.5, although somewhat more conspicuous and more refined. Nevertheless, the all-round musical essence was almost identical (that is a good thing). To confirm my initial conclusion, I used another amplifier, one of the infamous Chinese power amp renditions. I’m not going to name it, but I will tell you that its not-so-great sonic character was faithfully reproduced by the ModWright preamp. Next up I used the Esoteric Audio Research power amplifier Model 890. With this amplifier, I experienced what good tube gear is all about: musicality galore, loads of bass (surprisingly resolute), highs that can light up a music-lover’s life and an impeccably clear, refined midrange. All that with great tonal equilibrium and smooth as can be. After a few days of listening to this system combination, I went back to the Bryston 14B SST. The unit had been operating for a couple of weeks and I could now hear a few additional improvements over the 9.0SE. Top frequencies had a little extra sparkle, not hard or annoying, but quite revealing and very pleasant indeed. Midrange and upper bass energy was in line with the 9.0SE — too good to be true for a medium priced preamp. Where the LS36.5 bettered the 9.0SE is the deep bass area. Low bass was resolute all the way to an organ’s pedal notes, while frequencies just above (upper bass and lower midrange areas) revealed the very textures of instruments performing in these frequency ranges.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t use more than three pairs of loudspeakers for my auditioning sessions: the new Pioneer speakers, my own Ethera Vitae speakers and a pair of bookshelf Monitor Audio speakers. Source components included the tube EAR CD player and the Audio Aero Capitol Classic. Wiring by Nordost, Bis and JPS Labs and all compatible with the ModWright.


Here is a preamplifier that will provide the same sonic benefits I found in much higher priced units. Its compatible with a great many power amplifiers and it doesn’t get in the way of the music signal it’s controlling. Its sonic signature is not necessarily like so many other tube preamps — charming, but not puritanical. The ModWright is closer to the kind of neutrality found in only the best out there in audio land, such as the Wyetech Labs, the Hovland, the EAR and very few others. I won’t call it a puritan’s choice, for it has a sonic signature uniquely its own. However, the 36.5’s “voice” is that of a trained artist. It’s enticing, seducing and ever so musical, which makes it an excellent addition to any serious audio system. If you wish to step up, this preamplifier’s performance by a few notches, consider getting this model with an external power supply. Though I have not auditioned it, I take for granted that a lower noise floor and separating the power supply section of this preamp will further refine its performance. I believe that the LS36.5 will hold up or outperform most preamplifiers in its price category and, challenge units at twice its price.


ModWright LS36.5 Balanced Tube Linestage ModWright Instruments
Modwright Instuments/Tricell Ltd.

$4,995.00 (CDN)


The Model LS36.5 employs a few design changes, improved parts and different tubes than the SWL9.0SE. It features one set of XLR balanced inputs, four sets of RCA inputs, two sets of RCA main outputs, one set of RCA tape outputs and one set of XLR (balanced) outputs.

This time around the unit employs two 6H30 “Russian Super Tubes” with a tube rectified power supply. Gain is ~12dB; input Impedance is 50Kohm; output Impedance is 110ohm; frequency response is from 20Hz to 100Khz +/-1dB; noise level is a surprising -125dB.

The power supply is choke loaded and B+ regulators provide discrete constant current.

The gain stage is pure Class A, and features the cathode bias 'Mu'* gain/buffer stage with zero feedback. The power is sequenced whereby the mute delay turns on with soft start to improve tube life.

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