year: Pre 1995
This preamp outshines every other
that I have tried in a variety of configurations. Others I've auditioned
include several Yamaha, Parasound, Onkyo, and more. Regardless of the power amp
(B&K preferred), the MC-101 produced cleaner, fuller, more natural and less
harsh sound than its rivals.
preamp is identical to the PRO-10MC, except for the inclusion of tone controls
in the 101, which are 100 percent bypassable. Actually, its the other way
around. The PRO-10 MC is the MC-101 sans tone controls. Both versions,
originally belonging to B&K's Sonata series of components, which were aimed
at the discriminating audiophile, are discontinued but can be had on the used
market. Everything about the MC-101 hints at quality. It is amazing that
B&K could produce this amp with excellent quality parts and finish for the
features a nice black/blue satin finish front panel and black pebble finish on
the top cover. The separate power supply, which is a hefty (for a preamp)
toroidal transformer in a heavy gauge metal box (also with black pebble finish)
with detachable line cord, connects to the preamp via an umbilical cord terminated
with a high quality plug. The bridge rectifier and filter caps are located on
the preamp's main board, on the other side of the power supply jack.
RCA jacks on the rear panel are all Tiffany style heavy gold plated types.
Indicative of B&K's attention to detail, even the terminal post for
grounding the phono ground wire is a substantial sized, knurled, heavily gold
plated affair. Moving to the front panel, the detented volume and balance pots
are both high quality Noble brand units. These and the tone control pots turn
as smooth as a hot knife through butter.
The MC-101 can be used in either active or passive mode via
front panel buttons. The active gain stage and tone control stage are removed
completely from the signal path by activating two buttons, turning the preamp
into a 100 percent passive unit. The preamp can be used with both moving magnet
and moving coil cartridges. Gain, load resistance and capacitance matching are
all accomplished on the main circuit board by removing the top cover. A switch
on the main board selects either MM or MC operation. The appropriate load
resistors and caps for each channel fit into tiny gold sockets on the glass
epoxy main board, which is loaded with high tolerance metal film resistors,
film caps and discrete semiconductors. I could go on and on but I think by now
you get the picture. Now on to the sound.
The MC-101 is amazingly smooth and detailed, with a good treble. Instrumental
timbre and voice are unusually realistic. Bass is good, deep and detailed. This
preamp throws an unbelievably wide, deep and reverberant soundstage that I find
is only bettered by much more expensive units.
The phono stage is a very good and detailed performer and mates well with a
wide range of moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. For those who listen
via headphones, the MC-101 has a headphone jack from which some amazingly good
sound emanates. To get better performance from a preamp, one would have to
spend two grand or more. At the prices paid on the used market, it is an even
better bargain. The MC-101 is very musical and an excellent value. I give it 5
stars for performance versus value.