Musical Paradise MP-301 Mk 3 Vacuum Tube Integrated/Headphone Amplifier and MP-D1 Vacuum Tube USB DAC

Musical Paradise is a Canadian company that designs audio equipment in Canada, but builds it in China. The MP-301 Mk 3 carries the very affordable price of $302, which, when you look at the amp, is quite remarkable. I have previously reviewed (elsewhere) both the Mk 1 and Mk 2 iteration of the MP-301 amplifier, and in both of those versions I found the quite inexpensive tube amp to sound good, but to be a little finicky. Some degree of hum was difficult to eradicate in both prior versions depending on tubes and headphones that were used. With quiet tubes and headphones that were not both super-high efficiency and low impedance, the earlier versions of the MP-301 provided a very compelling musical headphone listening experience for the money.

The Mk 3 version of this amplifier is physically larger and has some new features. Perhaps most interesting is support for the 6550 vacuum tube, in addition to the EL34 and 6L6. The preamp tube remains the 6SJ7, which is actually a sharp-cutoff pentode but I believe in the MP-301 it is being used triode-strapped. The amp comes with Chinese EL34 and 6SJ7 equivalent tubes. I tried these, and while the amp sounded good with them I quickly substituted vintage tubes, which sounded better. I used Tung-Sol 6SJ7GT's, and either GE 6550's or Mullard EL34's. Granted those tubes cost about as much as the amp itself, but I wanted to see what the MP-301 could do with the best tubes I have.

MusicalParadise_MP301Mk3_Photo_Rear

The MP-301 Mk 3 has a headphone/speaker selector switch, as well as two inputs with a selector. There is a 1/4" headphone jack on the front, and speaker taps on the back. The MP-301 is transformer-coupled, so it's best to have a load attached when the amp is powered on. It's nice looking for a budget amplifier, and in fact, when I looked over at it, it was very hard for me to keep in mind that it only cost $300.

That said, there are a few "quirks" to the MP-301 Mk 3. Like previous versions, some tubes produced an audible hum with headphones. To some extent this is just the way tube amps are, and I have found with other amps I have owned that use the 6SJ7 that this tube in particular is prone to hum. It is also important to note that the provided stock tubes were very quiet. But if you are an avid tube-roller and you want a dead silent amp this isn't a good choice. Also, the MP-301 did NOT like being right next to the MP-D1 DAC. Significant EMI/RFI noise was audible through headphones when the units were right next to each other. When they were a few feet apart, it was not an issue.

The MP-D1 USB/DAC is also pretty impressive in terms of build quality for a DAC in this price range, as well as its capabilities---24/192K USB, 24/96 via COAX/Toslink. Switches allow the choice of TOS, Coax, or USB. High end AKM DAC chips are used, as are some high quality parts. And then there are the tubes in the output section---the almost ubiquitous (for DAC use) 5670/2C51. Actually, the amp is supplied with the Chinese equivalent, the 6N3, but MP sells better tubes. I used the Sylvania JAN-5670, which is a +$30 option from Musical Paradise. Musical Paradise sells direct via its website, musicalparadise.ca

I will focus mainly on the MP-301 in this review, but will make some comments on the MP-D1 DAC as well.

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Vic's picture

I don't really care for the tube sound myself but I have to admit the amp looks far more expensive than $300. Definitely an achievement on some level. And it's always good to have more choices in the budget range. 

Frank I's picture

Nice review. Try the EI KT90 and see if you like them better Rob. Inexpensive amp for sure. The only concern I would have is the humming issue. But for a little money I am impressed it can do bothe EL 34 and 6650. The GE are bass masterts too but the KT90 is a legendary tube that does it all well and is indestructable.  It is too bad EI went  during the war.

Impulse's picture

Been luring around Inner Fidelity for a while as I researched various headphone upgrades I've made this year (Ety hf3, DT 880, M-80)... This article finally convinced me to register so I could post. The amp does seem like an awesome value, did you try it at all with speakers? I've actually been looking to upgrade the cheap little T-amp that I'm using to run my Infinity Primus P163... Figured I'd just end up with something like Audioengine's N22. I'm also interested in trying out a tube amp with my Beyer DT 880 tho, since a lot of people seem to think it's an ideal pairing... This little amp could knock out two birds with one stone for me (the Infinity speakers also happen to be pretty bright). How well would it work with 250 ohm DT 880's?

Skylab's picture

Didn't have any Beyers to test it with unfortunately.  It is very nice with speakers, though, as long as you pair it with speakers and environment where a low wattage tube amp is a good choice.

gtube's picture

Hi Rob, Thanks for your unbiased review. I want to point out a small typo here. Schiit Audio Bifrost with USB 2.0 option is actually $449. The MP-D1 is actually $100 more than it. Not $200. 

Skylab's picture

Ooops! Sorry about that typo.

MacedonianHero's picture

Great write up Rob (as usual)! Nice to see a good tube amp come in at such a reasonable price.

Cheers!

Skylab's picture

Peter, Frank, thanks for your posts!

The Federalist's picture

Skylab I know you are inundated with requests for comparisons so I apologize up front, but do you think the MP-301 holds its own against your average older/ low profile intergrated amps like a Sansui AU-317 or NAD-7125 or Pioneer SA510 for headphone use? Not those models specifically, just as a generalization. 

I know you roll with the bigger power wars era receivers ala SX-1250 and 9900 but I assume you've spend some time with lesser models. 

I like the idea of the MP-301 as a desktop unit for my LCD2's but also am debating using a decent low profile integrated. I've pretty much soured to the idea of dedicated headphone amps. 

Does the MP-301 stack up in this context?

 

 

jazzer's picture

I have owned and used this integrated amp for almost a year now. Of all of the audio products I have bought through the years, this amp is one of the most consistently satisfying amps I have owned. It is also probably the least known headphone amp. Whether it's vinyl or CD, my Sennheiser HD 600s sound their best through this amp. The O2 is good; the Musical Paradise makes music come alive. Well worth the money.

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