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Power amplifier
Nowe Audio mono3.5

Price: 11 000 zł (para)

Polish distributor: Nowe Audio

tel. kom.: +48 604 610 138


WWW: Nowe Audio

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Photography: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

I received information about the birth of the company Nowe Audio quite unexpectedly. This is not a big deal, those things happen. Important is the fact, that this company proposed and absolutely uncompromising amplifier, which brings the idea of “ampli-wire” to extremes, in the form of two flat, heavy as hell, made from one block of milled aluminum, monoblocks. And this was not even all – their creator turned out to be Wojtek Untershuetz, who was also responsible for the loudspeakers Acuhorn, from which we tested the model Rosso Superiore 175; you can also find an interview with Ms. Alicja (privately the wife) and Mr. Wojciech HERE. From that perspective you can see, that the idea behind the tested amplifiers is not new, but a consequence of earlier research and putting emphasis on simplicity in the most worked our form.

The amplifier is so unusual, that I needed to clarify some things first. I collected the emails I exchanged with Wojtek and combined them into one statement:

„mono3.5 [this is the way the company consistently uses – editors note] does have nothing in common with previously presented constructions. I chose one new element for it, not used by anybody in audio, from the newest technologies available in solid state. This is a MOSFET – not a tube, because tube technology is inductive and imprecise. The amplifier is switched on with a red, backlit power switch. During plugging and unplugging the audio signal input and loudspeaker output, the level from the preamplifier may not exceed 20V peak, as it will damage the MOSFET. For full power it needs from 4.4V for 2Ω speakers to a maximum of 6Vpeak for 8Ω. The cabinet acts as a heat sink, so nothing can be put on top of the amplifier: at 20°C room temperature the top cover will have about 40°C, in a sunny spot with 40°C it will be very hot – 65°C (the temperatures were measured with a thermo camera on Politechnika Gdańska).

The main premises of the amplifier:

  • class A amplifier without a feedback loop,
  • only one single-ended element in the sound path,
  • common collector amplifying circuit,
  • purist design of the amplification circuit,
  • 3.5A output stage,
  • power supply with 150 000µF per channel,
  • low impedance power supply,
  • high impedance input,
  • superb linearity of input and output,
  • lowest possible harmonic distortion ,
  • direct connections with a silver wire,
  • CNC machined aluminum cabinet.

You can also order a preamplifier based on the same construction and I plan to construct a stereo and an integrated amplifier.”

I will not write more about that, but I am pretty sure, you have not seen anything like that before.


Discs used for testing:

  • FIM Super Sound! II, First Impression Music, FIM XR24 067, XRCD24; review HERE.
  • Art Blakey Quartet, A Jazz Massage, Impulse!/Universal Music Japan, UCCI-9043, CD.
  • Basia, It’s That Girl Again, Koch Records/WHD Entertainment, Inc., IECP-10168, HQ CD.
  • David Sylvian/Steve Jansen/Richard Barbieri/Mick Karn, Rain Tree Crow, Virgin Japan/EMI Music Japan, VJCP-68875, CD.
  • Jim Hall, Live!, Horizon/A&M Records/Universal Music Japan, UCCM-9225, CD.
  • John Coltrane, Coltrane, Prestige/JVC, VICJ-60270, K2 CD.
  • Judy Garland, Judy in Love, Capitol/Toshiba-EMI, TOCJ-9656, CD.
  • Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD.
  • Martin L. Gore, Counterfeit e.p., Mute/Sire, 9 25980-2, CD.
  • Savage, Tonight, Extravaganza Publishing Srl/Klub80, CD001, 25th Anniversary Limited Edition, CD.
  • Smolik, Smolik, Kayax 014, CD.
  • Stan Getz Quartet, The Soft Swing, Verve/Universal Music Japan, POCJ-2721, CD.
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road, Apple/Parlophone/Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-51122, CD.
  • Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, Autumn In Seattle, First Impression Music, FIM XRCD 043, XRCD2.
  • Wes Montgomery, Just Walking, Verve/Universal Music Japan, UCCV-9355, SHM-CD; review HERE.

Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan

Already during the first listening it became clear, that the sensitivity of the monoblocks is very low, and without a high gain preamplifier (one with a high output voltage) you will not get any sound out of them. But this could have been expected, having only one (!) transistor inside the sound path, and Mr. Wojciech did not make a secret out of it. With the Harpia Dobermann (86dB) and the preamplifier Ayon Polaris II I had to put the volume knob almost at maximum. I do not have problems with that, but it could be heard, that the amplifier is begging for a higher efficiency of the loudspeakers or a different preamplifier. And this is really interesting, because the unit is specified at 10W (at 8Ω), and the amplifier I listened to just a day before, the ATM-300 from the Japanese specialist Air Tight, using 300B tubes (HERE) with 8W rated output power, sounded much, much louder. Here you can see the basic difference between the tube and transistor – the first ones go into clipping softly, so they will sound subjectively louder, albeit with higher distortion. And although the amplifiers waited for different speakers, I could already tell something about them. The sound was incredibly natural. Not a tube sound, not a transistor sound, but just “its own” sound. Slightly soft, but not due to softening of the edges, but due to the lack of stinging sharpness. Everything was well balanced in that sound, maybe except the light bass. But this had to wait for other loudspeakers before I could make any judgement. The treble was incredibly resolving. A bit in the direction of 300B tubes. The sound with the Dobermann was not as palpable as with the ATM-300, not even mentioning the Jota Sentry Art Audio. But this differentiation, this ability to show microdynamics! Those were outstanding even now!

The longer I listened to this product, coming from the city of Gdansk, the more I realized what I am hearing. Because the case with critical listening sessions is, that they cannot be done “cold”. At least this is what comes from my experience. To evaluate the sound well, we have to change into a “participant”, come into the sound, confront it with what we remember, allow it for a while to take control of us, and come back to the “observer” status from the other side. Music is emotion, and listening to it is also very emotional. When nothing moves us, then it is just an intellectual game, and it makes no sense, it is better to go out for a beer – it will be of better use. Consuming this transfer must rely on its “translation” from its language to our language, our way of evaluating things, our sensitivity. This is the reason, that there are as many readouts of musical pieces as there are listeners, this is why it is so beautiful, because it is infinite area of art. Of course we cannot forget about analysis, because it gives some boundaries to everything, proposes some “solid” borderlines we can refer to – in a positive, but also a negative way. But analysis can give any effects only if we have some personal feelings to the tested device. I believe, that a “non-aligned observational entity” is a harmful invention, a reverie of structuralists, maybe correct from an ideological side, but impossible to apply. In case of the monoblocks mono3.5 not everything I see now, was clear was clear from the beginning. I had to “work” with that sound, confront it with the “models” I carry inside. At the end of the fourth month of listening I finally knew – at least I think so – the what and where.

This is a brilliant “tool”, which should be present in every recording studio, and every listening studio of an audio salon. And in some systems of music lovers. I will explain now: this is not an amplifier for everybody, a system has to be setup for this amplifier, and not the other way round. So many systems are out of the equation, systems where the elements are equally important, or those working in large rooms. The power of the tested amplifiers is limited, and it can be heard much clearer than with tube amplifiers of comparable, or even lesser power. I wrote about that, but I’ll repeat: the nowe audio amplifiers go into clipping abruptly – it is clean, clean, and then it breaks. So the first limit is the size of the room – if we use the amplifier to drive all the sections of the loudspeakers, it should not be too big. The second thing is the efficiency of the loudspeakers. The manufacturer send me a small list on how it works:

“The amplifier mono3.5 is a high current device with a input level of 4.4V @ 2Ohm, without clipping. I propose to use it with loudspeakers of efficiency equal or higher than 90dB spl (2.83V, 1m), with low impedance, preferably with a minimum of 2Ohm, similar to: 

  • Lumen White Silver Flame ..... 91.5dB, minimum 4.0Ohm,
  • KEF Reference 207 ..... 91dB, minimum 3.2Ohm,
  • Sonus Faber Amati Homage ..... 92dB, minimum 2.2Ohm.
  • Increasing the efficiency of the loudspeakers by 6dB means lowering the gain of the amplifier by a half at the same volume level: 
  • loudspeakers with 86dB efficiency need 8V,
  • loudspeakers with 92dB efficiency need 4V.” And something more: “we will get good bass with higher efficiency and lower impedance loudspeakers; strong neodymium magnets replace amplifier power.”

    And that is true – I found loudspeakers with impedance lower than my Dobermann. At a medium volume level, in my room, which has the main part of around 25m2, the amplifiers handled loudspeakers with impedance lower than usual well, namely the Chario Academy Sonnet. Their manufacturer quotes the efficiency at 90dB (4Ω), but I have the idea, that it is lower, more like 88dB. And yet those speakers sounded fabulous with those amplifiers.

    Talking about a “tool” for the recording studio, I did not think about harsh processing, like with a hammer and a saw, but rather fine tuning, like laparoscopy surgery. The quality of the treble and midrange is truly reference, and it can only be compared to a few other amplifiers I know, the monoblocks Ancient Audio 300B and the hybrid power amplifier Tenor Audio 175S, which I am using for some time.

  • I would also like to mention devices from Spectral, because it is the same league. This sound is not yet as saturated, as palpable and true like from those units I mentioned, but it is not far off. And at the same time the mono3.5 does not sound as a transistor or a tube. It sounds, as if it would be empty inside. Going back to the tool concept – the device shows the depth of the stage fantastically, showing us a kind of panorama, but not only to the sides, but also in depth, a 3D panorama. Delicacy combines with precision. This is not an “everyday” sound of an amplifier, because it involves the listener, draws our full attention. Despite the fact, that nothing is colored. The resolution of this sound, the ability do differentiate, is just plain spectacular.

    During the test of the Audiomatus AS250 I mentioned comparing some discs. Those were two different masters of the solo EP Martin Gore Counterfeit e.p. and two versions of the recording Autumn In Seattle Tsuyoshi Yamamoto. In the fist case the difference is that the discs are pressed in two different plants, although both are coming from USA and were issued on Mute license by Sire. But one of the discs was pressed by WEA Manufacturing Inc. in Olyphant Pennsylvania, the other – I do not know where, as it bears no markings. Autumn In Seattle is the title track from the 2001 disc of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto, written especially for Winston Ma, the owner of First Impression Music. I have two versions of this disc: XRCD2 and XRCD24.

    What is differentiation? It is showing as many differences between the instruments, the background, the recordings, versions, etc. The more - the better. The basis for that is resolution and detailness. To have it make sense, there has to be the right tonal balance, as differentiation must happen in all subranges. The tested monoblocks are perfect in that aspect, at least when we are talking about the range above, let’s say, 60Hz. Below that – this is a subsequent limitation – the sound is not as resolving, and most of all, it lacks energy. I will get back to that.

    The Audiomatus showed the differences nicely, but only with the Tenor, and most of all with the tested amplifier, I heard more – and – I could name it. It could be perfectly heard, that the percussion cymbals were thinner on the XRCD2, less natural. This was a cloud of sound, but without any clear elements, it was rather making noises, than being clear, separate hits, “collisions” between the drumstick and the cymbal. With the XRCD24 the cymbals finally played, being hit, touched, brushed, etc. It was not that monotonous. And yet the XRCD2 is splendid, no doubt about that! It was similar with the midrange, because Yamamoto’s piano sounded deeper on the XRCD24, darker, but it was also more real. I could tell you the same about the Gore’s disc. This is electronics, but a high classed one. WEA sounded clearer, in a smoother way, it was more coherent, and the voice was more natural.

    On of the characteristics of this device is, that regardless the kind of music is played, it does its thing. There are no recommendations, or counter-recommendations as to the recordings, as long as it is not heavy, because that kind of music requires other characteristics. But everything – from Tool, to David Sylvain, to Judy Garland and Art Blakely Quartet sounds in an equally engaging way, full and natural. The sound is deep, “inviting”, etc. This device does not condemn the less well made recordings to non-existence, while not covering up their flaws, it shows their assets, similar to the things the Ancient Audio amplifiers do. This was nicely shown by the disc Basia It’s That Girl Again. It is quite typical to multi-session, multi-track recordings, meaning a bit “plastic”, slightly hard, with a voice without much depth, and with sharper sounds appearing here and there. I bought this disc in the HiQualityCD version (on CD Japan), which is better than the regular one, but it cannot change the things, that were set in the recording studio. With Wojtek Untershuetz’ monoblocks the disc was really splendid! I did not listen to it for some time, because the mentioned flaws annoyed me a little, but now it turned out, that this is a splendid production, that those are brilliant musicians and even the multiple sessions and tracks did not kill off its spirit, that this is just nice music. I had similar feelings while listening to discs from Smolik and Savage.

    With all the esteem I have for the tested amplifiers I have to repeat one thing: those are no amplifiers for everybody. I wrote about three things – the room, the loudspeakers and the system (preamplifier) – but now I have to add the last limitation: bass. Discussions about its role in the sound creation, if there can be more or less of it, how it should look like, what happens when there is less of it, etc, are ongoing since the beginning of audio. The mono3.5 sounds a bit like Quad ESL63 electrostatic speaker. I mean it has no low bass, and the midbass is not as dynamic and open as in other constructions. There is a known saying, attributed to Peter Walker, the owner of Quad and designer of the ESL series, who responded to accusations about the lack of bass in his constructions, that when somebody misses bass when listening to music, then he should take a cardboard box and kick it during the songs… I respect this attitude, I understand where it comes from – from the choice of better, better controlled, although limited bass – but I think, that for reproducing music in an ultimate way, the response should be equal in every part of the sound spectrum. This is the reason, that the amplifier we are talking here about, not being able to create big sound, will also not recreate the low bass passages from the Laurie Anderson disc Homeland, the way stronger amplifiers do. It was the same even with the loudspeakers Goshawk Ayon Audio (90.5dB, 6Ω), which I used for some of the listening sessions. The Chario bookshelves, I told you about, sounded splendidly, but even they profit from a stronger bass, which allows them to have a more dynamic sound, especially at higher volume levels. This is the reason, that when somebody will miss the bass, the amplifiers should be tried with half-active constructions, like Avantgarde Acoustic, or ADAM, where it will handle only the midrange and treble.

    While editing the text, I read the last paragraph a few times, as something did not fit there. Everything I wrote is true, and this is how I see it. But it does not fully represent what I wanted to tell, especially after using the monoblocks for a prolonged time. There is not so much bass as from stronger amplifiers. That is a fact. But you can easily get used to such a tonal balance. The assets of this sound are so devastating to our former belief, about what a solid state amplifier should and should not do, that they can easily be used solo, without extra power in the bass section. Because the lower midrange is full and active, what makes the sound far from being thin, or dried out. And that is it – now everything is as it should be.

    This is a reference amplifier, based on an incredible idea, a very bold one. And it really works – given we know what to do with it. This is a sound we could expect from a very expensive tube amplifier, with a 300B or 2A3 on the power end. The bass is not strong, but this is always a case of choice. A refined project, splendid external design and exceptional sound – an almost perfect trinity.


    The manufacturer lists the elements used for its production:

    • ultra-fast transistors MOSFET TPCA Toshiba,
    • high power resistors (60W) Caddock MP2060 Kool-Pack,
    • precise resistors Caddock MK-132V Micronox,
    • silver loudspeaker terminals WBT-0210 Ag Nextgen,
    • silver input sockets RCA WBT-0710 Ag Nextgen,
    • rhodium plated IEC socket Furutech Inlet R,
    • in the bridge – ultra-fast General Semiconductor FES16BT,
    • cabling silver/gold Siltech G6 Series in Kapton isolation,
    • low impedance filtering capacitors Nippon chemi-com LXZ 105c,
    • polypropylene capacitors Wima MKP 10,
    • Lachowski mains transformer,
    • bias cell Energizer Ultimate 9V.

    Monoblock mono3.5 the temperature spread on the surface, a film made with a thermo camera on Politechnika Gdańska: link

    The monoblocks are made from milled aluminum blocks. The mills are made for the elements like the transistor, capacitors, transformer and cables. From below aluminum slab is bolted to the whole. The device is very flat, and looks similar to the Linn Sondek CD 12 concept. In the front we have only the company logo. On the back, below the extruding top cover, we have the sockets, very tasty elements – please look at the listing above. There is also a mechanical power switch – with red back lighting. The unit is placed on three, large spikes – the amplifiers look great, but are impractical to position. This is why I used the finite elemente Ceraballs. It turned out, that the diameter of the holes in the amplifiers is identical to the ones in the Ceraballs. Coincidence? – There is nothing like a coincidence… After unscrewing the bottom cover we can see what I was talking about – the elements and cables are positioned or running inside milled spaces. In the middle, like a queen in the beehive, we can see a copper block, with an aluminum element bolted on top of it. Between those there is a small (please look at the picture) but brilliant, ultra-fast TPCA, MOSFET transistor from Toshiba. The signal reaches it from the input via a polypropylene Wima capacitor, with a capacitance of 0.22μF. There are also two Caddock resistors and a battery, which replaces a classic bias circuit for the transistor. From the MOSFET the signal goes directly to the output. The power supply is incredibly worked out; especially when we take into account, that only one active element is powered, having the size of a fingernail. There is a powerful, toroidal transformer from the company Lechowski, and an army of parallel connected capacitors with a total capacitance of 150 000μF. At the loudspeaker output we can also see one more capacitor, which couples the transistor with the loudspeakers. This is the bottleneck of such kind of constructions. The transformer and the capacitors are damped with silicon, which eliminates vibration. The cables are fairly short. An ultra-minimalistic construction. The finish of the enclosures is not perfect, it can be seen, that those are the first units made. But when finalized, those can be ones of the best looking audio products on the market..

    Technical data (according to manufacturer):

    • input level (until clipping): 4.4V/2Ω
    • input impedance: 200 kΩ
    • gain: 0dB
    • output power: 10W
    • mains voltage: 110/240Vac (50/60Hz)
    • maximum power consumption: 100W
    • power consumption when idle: 50W
    • dimensions: W 320mm x D 320mm x H 40mm
    • weight (a piece): 8.4kg

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    • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime (tested HERE)
    • Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
    • Preamp: Leben RS-28CX (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Polaris II, tested HERE)
    • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
    • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
    • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
    • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
    • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
    • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
    • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
    • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
    • audio stand Base
    • resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE ) Turntables change continuously, as do cartridges. My dream setup: SME 30 with Series V tone-arm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge (also in the PC-1 Mono version).