MBL Noble Line N11/N15 Preamp & Monoblock Power Amps Page 2

Within the set-up menu it's possible to switch off unused inputs for faster scrolling between those in use, set the maximum level at start-up and engage the preamplifier's 'Unity Gain' mode. This MBL feature simplifies the signal path by eliminating excess gain in the N11 so it behaves as a simple – elegant – buffered volume control.

sqnote Prodigious Performers
Set up in PM's listening room with the usual Melco/dCS Vivaldi One [HFN Feb '18] front-end, and with speakers including Bowers & Wilkins' flagship 801 D4 [HFN Nov '21] and the fabulous Wilson Audio Alexx V [HFN Jan '22], these MBL amplifiers proved more than up to the task of driving both sets of floorstanders in convincing fashion, as you might expect given their prodigious measured output.

This was immediately apparent with Yello's Touch Yello album [Polydor 7640161960251] which found the N11/N15s digging deep into the electronic rhythms, while also giving fine character to Till Brönner's trumpet contributions and the guest vocals. In broad terms, the amplifiers offer a fine combination of low-end drive with a sweet, clean and informative midband and treble. Not the last word in extreme treble detail, certainly, but they do avoid any abrasiveness, creating a fine soundstage that wraps the listener in the music.


Fed from a large linear PSU [bottom left/centre], the N11 includes an optional phono card [top right], balanced line in/output [top], screened motorised analogue volume control [under copper can], and network PCB [top left]

This was very much the case with Anna Fedorova's fabulous Shaping Chopin set of solo piano works [Channel Classics CCS 43621; DSD128]. Yes, some alternative amps may create a marginally better impression of the ambience of this recording, but it's hard to argue with the 'piano in the room' effect the N11/N15s deliver, the scale of the instrument's 'image', or the way the fluidity and spirit of Fedorova's playing is conveyed. There's superb light and shade in both the performances and the sound here, and it's a captivating, entirely effortless listen.

However, Adele's latest album, 30 [Columbia G0100046925635], while delivered with that same weight and richness was also attended by some slight stressing of the singer's sibilants via both the Wilson and B&W speakers. If you thought too long and hard about it, then it was mildly distracting, otherwise not.

Then again, we were on much safer ground with Sting's current release, The Bridge [A&M Records 3858707; see p97], which belies its lockdown genesis and scattered recording of musicians with tight, cohesive performances right from the Police-like opener, 'Rushing Water'. With its powerful drums, chopping guitar and tight multi-layered vocals, it echoes the wonderful 'Fragile' with its acoustic guitar, simple bass and percussion, as it does the close-up voice on 'For Her Love' before concluding with a passable cover of 'The Dock Of The Bay'.

Their ability to deliver this combination of focused soundstaging, fine presence and bags of detail serves well the introspective nature of much of the material on this album, ranging from folk tunes to jazzy breaks, all performed by a superb group of musicians.

Relaxed Confidence
Neither do the N11/N15 'Nobles' demand exemplary production to show what they can do – provided you're not intent on spotting every last nuance, however entertaining, of a recording, and instead simply want to revel in the music, then they will suit you just fine.


A 'handful' of remote control with buttons for MBL's CD players and amplifiers. Volume is governed by spinning the chromed peripheral ring

For example, with the often-dense T Bone Burnett production of the second Robert Plant/Alison Krauss outing, Raise The Roof [Warner Music UK], her plaintive vocals are a delight on their cover of Merle Haggard's 'Going Where The Lonely Go'. Meanwhile Plant's voice has superb immediacy on Anne Briggs' folky 'Go Your Way', with both the harmonies and the obvious quality of the backing musicians revealed to striking effect.

Even with the woozy period production values of David Bowie's Toy album, once thought to be mythical but now revealed as part of the Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) boxset [Parlophone/ISO DBX 5], MBL's Noble amplifiers deliver a sound of very fine clarity. They clearly reveal the singer's vocals have less of Anthony Newley's vaudevillian influence than the originals as he revisits the likes of 'The London Boys' and 'Let Me Sleep Beside You'.

Similarly, the 2000 live set from the BBC Radio Theatre, also in this boxset, retains real spirit and vivacity, with both Bowie and his band on top form. Here the MBL N11/N15s drove the Wilson Alexx Vs with palpable confidence, revealing a sound of excellent presence and ambience across the eclectic set-list. It's a thrilling, enveloping sound, with generosity and impact served up in equal measure.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Not for those who crave every detail being hurled at them, this MBL preamp/monoblock trio instead majors on the finer points of music-making – a sound blending weight and richness with all the niceties of focus, soundstaging, and instrumental and vocal timbres. Weighty they may sound, but with a lavish low-end comes agility, whether carrying the impact of solo piano or driving a rock or jazz track.

MBL Akustikgeräte GmbH & Co. KG
Berlin, Germany
Supplied by: Stranger High Fidelity, Real World Studios, Wilts
07702 155847