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Integrated amplifier
MUSICA int1000s

Price: 12 800 zł

Distribution: Moje Audio

Powstańców Śląskich 118
53-333 Wrocław
tel/fax: (71) 336 52 67
tel. kom.: 606 276 001, 790 425 142



Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Importing rare, niche brands, “discovering” them or finally test those discovered by distributors becomes slowly the domain of “High Fidelity”, or at least I think so. There are at least three reasons for this: for once, I am really interested in such products; secondly, in this magazine there was never a link between advertisements (banners) and tests; and finally, that it is easier for an internet magazine – you do not need a distributor in a given country to test a device. You just need common sense to compose the subsequent issues, because those devices are only supplements to the main offering, but on the other hand this is the only limitation. You do also have to take into account, that the availability of those products is limited, so not many people will be able to enjoy them. But just like with many of such “plums”, they are a coloring element, a safety valve in the – actually – routine life of an audio reviewer.

However it was different with the brand Musica, than with other Japanese companies, which came to Poland due to us. We received the integrated amplifier int1000s from the Polish distributor of that company, the Wrocław based Moje Audio, which carries also, among others, the brand Reimyo. The representative of Musica outside of Japan is Mr. Yoshi Hontani. The Japanese market, different to what we are used to with companies from other sides of the world, is mostly closed and oriented to itself. Only rarely it is represented abroad by the same companies. That task is taken by agents, special companies, which are used to contact people from Europe or America, and tolerate their behavior – normal for us, but completely tasteless in the eyes of a Japanese. And Mr. Hontani, a very nice man, is the representative of brands like: Musica, Acrolink, Oyaide, Leben and others. Yes, the first one mentioned is the last one we met. Photographs of their products were known to me from the magazine “Stereo Sound”, but I did not read anything about it. Because the company does have a web page, but it is entirely in Japanese, and for me this language remains a mystery… So I asked Mr. Hontani for a few words of introduction.

“The model int1000S is a special version of the amplifier int1000. The main differences are:

  • The output power increased from 100 to 120W (class AB)
  • Front made from Indian Rosewood, by a famous Japanese guitar manufacturer, the company Takamine Guitar (info HERE and HERE)
  • The IEC socket with rhodium plated contacts instead of nickel plated ones
  • A better power switch
  • A better power cable”

    The int1000s is so unusual, that we need to tell more about it. “The inputs of this integrated amp have very high impedance, provided by the tube working in the preamplifier stage. This impedance is about 20 times higher than in other amplifiers, what limits the current flowing from the source to 1/20 of the usual current. And this means also, that losses on transmission are reduced 20 times. The lack of negative feedback loop on the power stage (NON-NFB) allows to eliminate the Back Electromotive Force (a reverse electromotoric force, induced in the voice coils of the speaker, which influences the output stage of the amplifier). The power stage features MOS-FET transistors – ideally reproducing quick changes of the musical signal. The volume is controlled in a slide potentiometer, placed below the amplifier. The designer of the amplifier believes, that no knobs or buttons on the fascia should interfere with the perception of music – this is the reason, that the input selector and power switch were also placed on the bottom plate of the enclosure.”

    This Japanese integrated is different, than most other amplifiers. It is quite small, and you do not have the impression, that it has the rated power. Mr. Hontani added, that the sound from the int1000s is so clean and free from distortion, that the listener does not know, with what power he deals with – the music flows so effortlessly. That there are no knobs or buttons on the front panel we know already. But there is a round window there, with a blue led and a double triode visible in it. There are only two inputs, this is why the selector is a simple switch, but we can also choose if the amplifier should work as an integrated one, or only as a power amplifier, this is done by means of another switch, which separates the preamplifier stage from the power stage. The insides are also extraordinary – the transistors were not tightened to typical heat sinks, but to long aluminum plates, bent in the shape of a chair. Despite the high output power, there is only a single pair of transistors used per channel, in push-pull setting. There is no remote control. And one more thing: the power cable is additionally mounted in a metal, bolted clamping ring – to not allow it to loosen. Yes, for sure this is not a run-of-the mill amplifier.


    Discs used for testing:

    • Project by Jarre For VIP Room, Geometry of Love, Aero Prod, 60693-2, CCD.
    • Michael Jackson, Thtiller. 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP-963-4, CD+DVD.
    • Suzanne Vega, Nine Object Of Desire, A&M Records, 540 583 2, CD.
    • Madeleine Peyroux, Bare Bones, Rounder/Universal Music Japan, UCCU-1188, CD.
    • Al Green, Lay it Down, EMI, 48449-2, CCD; review HERE.
    • Charlie Haden &Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim, naimcd098, CD; review HERE.
    • Antonio Forcione, Tears Of Joy, Naim, naimcd087, CD.
    • Charlie Haden, The Private Collection, Naim, naimcd0108, 3xCD; review HERE.
    • Five Songbirds, First Impression Music, FIM048 VD, HDCD; review HERE.
    • The Modern Jazz Quartet, Pyramid, Atlantic/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-25125, CD.
    • Frank Sinatra, Only The Lonely, Capitol/Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 792, gold-CD; review HERE.
    • The Beatles, 09.09.09 Sampler, EMI Records, Promo CD, 2 x CD; review HERE.
    • Carmen McRae, Carmen McRae, Bethlehem/JVC, VICJ-61458, K2HD.

    The Japanese versions of the discs are available on CD Japan.

    Did you ever have a feeling – looking at something (a film, painting, sculpture, architecture – anything), reading something, listening to something, that you knew immediately, you are dealing with something special? That the thing calling our attention is really good? And that other people can say whatever they do, they can vivisect anything they want, and still this experience remains with us forever. I must say, that it happens to me quite often. I just know, that I’ve run into something special, something worthwhile. Most of the time I lack the tools to describe what I see (hear), because I am not a historian of art (critic) or a musician. But I think, that “exposing” myself to the influence of art, for prolonged time, creates some categorizing and evaluating mechanisms in us. Their weak side is the lack of legitimization in education and knowledge, but the value is the lack of burden, acquired during the study of a given problem. Listening to the amplifier int1000s from the Japanese company Musica I had exactly that impression. It was fortunate, that I had the tools to evaluate and describe at my disposal. Of course there are always obstacle – for example something, that did not allow me to get so deep inside the sound as in case of the brilliant amplifier ASR Emitter II was related to the limited (in absolute terms) resolution of the Japanese amplifier (the test of the ASR next month). As it turned out later, that was one of the few elements, we could point to and tell, that we caught the Musica on something. This was such an interesting experience, because this small device not only had to face the not so efficient loudspeakers ProAc D1 (test this month), the Harbeth HL Compact 7ES-3, but also the absolute top – my Dobermann Harpia Acoustics and something special, the loudspeakers Hansen Audio Prince v2. The latter, costing 120000zl, are of course not a product, Musica can meet in the real world. As always, I try to use the most transparent, most truthful components, which will show everything, what the tested product can offer, while not covering by their own flaws. If course, there are no products free of any weaknesses, but loudspeakers like the Dobermann or Prince have less of them than cheaper loudspeakers, and that’s it.

  • But let’s return to the main topic – even with the most expensive loudspeakers, the sound of the Japanese integrated was incredibly, really incredibly, spacious. This is very important for me, because it influences how I perceive the whole transmission, how much I get enchanted. Musica shows a very deep and wide stage. Those are elements, we often search for. But more important was the fact, that all planes, had a splendid gradient, and the differentiation of recordings was fantastic in that aspect. I started the session with electronic music, the disc Geometry of Love issued under the name Project by Jarre for VIP Room. There was a full midrange and very nice bass. This is a small amplifier and has limitations coming from – actually – not so high power, about that in a moment, but those are nicely masked by saturation and the mentioned, breath taking, sound stage. The voices of Suzanne Vega from Nine Object Of Desire and Madeleine Peyroux from Bare Bones sounded very nice. Both discs were recorded in a very warm, organic way. Musica, although the midrange remains its most important sub-range, did not mud or thicken anything. I would even say, that with the Dobermann the transmission was even more equaled, than it should be. As it turns out, to make everything better in the system, we need more organic loudspeakers to be attached to the amplifier, like the Harbeth. Michael Jackson Thriller sounded splendid with them, with strong rhythm and a slightly softened treble, which is sometimes troublesome for other amplifier. About treble later, now I want to underline the splendid coherence of the midrange, fullness based on worked out harmonics, etc. But the Musica isn’t such a warm amplifier like the TRV-88SE Tri, but it seems, that its sound is much more complicated, but more refined. I listened long, and with pleasure, to discs where vocals are most important – I told already about Peyroux and Vega, but I would also add the sampler with new re-mixes from the Beatles catalog (09.09.09), the Carmen McRae disc, and most of all, the diversified, in terms of mastering, but nice in musical terms Five Songbirds, issued by First Impression Music.

    int1000s is an incredibly universal amplifier. Although its limitations – like the medium resolution, or the not too high dynamics, need us to pay closer attention to choosing the right speakers, yet the pure pleasure of using it, to listen to music with it, is special. Like I mentioned, I started listening from pure electronics, with which it was nice, but I ended with acoustic jazz, mostly very well recorded. With the Musica I listened to most of Naim Label discs I had, and I must confess, that this is the environment, in which the assets of this amplifier shine most. The sound is clear, quite transparent, saturated and coherent. You have to watch the efficiency of the speakers, as with the Hansen Audio Prince the volume slider needed to be maxed, to achieve adequate volume, but it is worth to try. You need to try! First Miller with Stancey, from the phenomenal, already old disc New Dawn, then Haden with Forcione from Heartplay. And then Forcione with band from Tears Of Joy and Haden from The Private Collection. Very big pleasure! The differences between the mastering were nicely caught: Heartplay intimate, close, New Dawn spacious, dynamic and Tears of Joy with slightly underlined upper midrange. This is interesting, because the resolution of the amplifier, the ability of getting deep inside the sounds is on a nice, but really outstanding level – maybe in the high regions of this price level, but not beyond.

    The amplifier has a softened, warmed upper treble, this is why lesser recordings receive a bit of the needed warmth and “humanity”. Very nice sounded, first the mentioned Jackson, then the splendid musically, but worse sound wise disc from Al Green Lay it Down. It was warm, thick, but also quite dynamic. However some things this amp cannot do, and dynamics will always be lower, that in amplifier with higher power. And we just have to face it. And not get offended. Intimacy, music, etc, are very sublime. The handling is not so easy, its functionality minimal (only two inputs and lack of remote), but in the end, despite the not so low price, it is a splendid proposition. Unique, different to anything around, with an incredible space and very coherent timbre – this is the Musica amplifier.


    int1000s is a hybrid, integrated amplifier, from the Japanese company Musica Corporation. You can see at first glance, that it is different, than 99% of devices of that kind. I believe, that only Leben, my beloved Leben, offers similar units. Musica has its own, easily recognizable style, which bases on specific external design and internal construction concept. The first one depends on a round glass window in the middle of the fascia, which shows the vacuum tube placed behind it, and with round openings on the top cover, which are used to ventilate the unit. A second very characteristic thing, is the lack of any knobs or buttons on the front panel, which is made from Indian Rosewood by Takamine Guitar, a Japanese guitar manufacturer. It turns out, that the power switch, the input selector, in form of a simple switch, as we have only two inputs, and a slide volume potentiometer are located on the bottom plate. The last one is very unusual. Some time ago, those were very popular, seen for example in graphical correctors, now it is almost exclusively used in studio gear – every mixing table is equipped in dozens of such potentiometers. There are no markings on it, as the people at Musica believe, that only that what we hear counts, and not that, what we see.

    On the back plate we have gold plated input sockets – only two line inputs. Next we see the preamplifier output and power amplifier input. The unit can work as an integrated amp, or as two separate ones – a small switch next to the sockets changes the work mode. The loudspeaker terminals are singular, not gold plated, quite typical for Japanese manufacturers. I mean, that they look worse than they perform… The power socket is a classic IEC, but with rhodium plated pins. And with this socket comes also a very interesting thing – a clamp to hold the power cable in place. It holds it in one position, so that there are no vibrations or movements. A nice idea.

    Like I mentioned earlier, on the input of the amplifier a vacuum tube was employed – a double triode, looking like Chinese make, with all markings erased. This is a subsequent idea of the company – this is a buffer, not a preamplifier per se, the gain is 1. This tube is placed on a separate PCB, where there is a complete power supply for it, including many capacitors. Due to this tube, the int1000s is formally a hybrid amplifier. Musica offers also buffers of that kind as separate units, because it claims, that not matching impedances of the sound source and amplifier input have the biggest influence on the sound. Anyway, the signal from the gold plated RCAs goes via long, shielded cables to the source selector switch, then to the buffer, and then to the potentiometer. From that, also via cables, the signal goes to the power section. Starting there, the amplifier has a dual-mono setup. In the middle, there are two big transformers, each powering a single channel, bolted together. Their construction is not typical, those are core transformers, but not classic EI, or toroidal, but something like a double “C” type. They are expensive, and made for the company by one of the Japanese specialists. To the sides, vertically, the heat sinks are mounted. Those are not classically looking ones, but something resembling a chair, where in the middle excision the power stage PCB is bolted. The circuit is very minimalistic, and we can see the work, to eliminate every not necessary thing. Taking into account, that this is a circuit without negative feedback, then this is really an achievement. The circuit is fully discrete, with polar transistors of the MOS-FET type on the output, the Toshiba 2SK1530+2SJ201 pairs, in push-pull setting in AB class. They get quite warm. Next capacitors were placed, to even out any ripples from mains – two Nichicons 4700 μF for each channel. All other electrolytic capacitors are also top notch, provided by Sanyo. The resistors are precise, metalized. Lets also add, that the whole top and side covers are damped with thick mattes – those look like bitumen, but are probably carbon fiber based.

    It can be clearly seen, that the circuit was built “on listening”, with chosen elements and thought through architecture. I am a bit worried by the long internal connections, and the tube in the buffer of not so high quality. It is a pity that it bears no markings, it could have been replaced – we could make an “upgrade”… Except for that, this is an example of Japanese hand made gear in the best possible form.

    Technical data (according to manufacturer):
    Power: 120W/4Ω
    THD (20Hz-20kHz): 0.1%
    Frequency response (-3 dB): 10Hz-40kHz
    Power consumption: min. 80W, max. 360W
    Dimensions (WxHxD): 300x148x306mm

    g               a               l               l               e               r               y


    • 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).