M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

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RichP714
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M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by RichP714 » Thu Oct 16, 2008 9:15 pm

A place for people to post their experiences with this amp and share information. What speakers did you run her on, etc.....

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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by weitrhino » Thu Oct 23, 2008 4:47 pm

At RichP's gentle insistence, I offer my experience with his M500 MkII.

Initially I didn't want to risk coloring the opinions of anyone else who is listed to test the M500MkII. But then it took 12 days for USPS to deliver it from MD to AZ and I began to worry there might not be anyone else to audition it. Happily, it arrived today unscathed.

Several years ago I bought my first Carver, and M500, for a puny $189 through eBay. I had been looking at Carver amp auctions for a long time trying to decide which model I wanted. I decided on the M500 because of those gorgeous meters and because this is the only unit that fit in my cabinet! And what a lucky decision it turned out to be. Immediately the sound had much more presence than my mid-fi JVC ever had. One thing led to another, OCCD kicked in, and well, here I am. A direct comparison to the MkII sounded like a good idea.

First, Rich packed his amp very well, so when unwrapped I perched it atop my stock unit for comparison. It looked like it's had a much harder life than my stocker; cover repainted, a lot more scratches, it had that 'road warrior' look. A cover screw from the bottom is basically stripped. And it is a distinctly different color than mine, being noticeably lighter and more silvery. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to sound dramatically different. Boy was I wrong!

Beast! Beast I say! I pushed this thing hard in stereo mode listening to some good old rockin' Ronnie Montrose. The first sonic difference I heard was a robustness I had not heard from my unit. Powerful bass seemed to upwell from the bottom of the sound stage in a way that snaps you to attention. Whoa! There's something really cooking here! I was able to push it louder and louder till I just couldn't take it anymore. It wasn't fatigue, it was fear! This beast rumbled me while seated in a deep, plush couch. With my arms stretched across the back of the frame I could feel the music resonate from every surface and became enveloped within the soundstage rather than parked in front of it. Beast! Beast! This was a breath-catching moment. I noticed the meters did not seem to indicate the volume I heard, and sometime subsequently read Rich believes he has them adjusted 3dB lower than they should be.

I never tried the MkII in mono. It would simply out match my own amp giving a lopsided impression. While it retains it's musical character, much as the 500 series is reknowned, I detected a slight loss of delicacy to quieter passages. Honestly though, at the same time the MkII arrived I took possession of my new tube amps, which have a seductive quality to them simply unmatched. At this point I fell captive to that seduction. But I'll tell you what, in a bi-wiring situation I would use the MkII for the low end. It holds an astonishing amount of power. Beast!

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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Thu Oct 23, 2008 6:20 pm

I guess it's my turn now. I received the amp today. Can't unwrap it until tomorrow afternoon as it's house cleaning tomorrow morning. My plan is to compare it directly against my newly refurbished M-500, which should be a good comparison in that they are two basically "new" amps. I plan to do the test through my DCM Time Window speakers which I'm using for surrounds right now. The Time Windows are floor standing speakers at 32 lbs. each. They are 36" high with a sensitivity of 89dB/watt at 1 meter, and capable of handling 200 WRMS max. They are 6 ohm nominal, dipping to 5 ohms and up to 8 ohms. I have yet to choose a source, because it needs to have both fixed and variable outs, so I can match the volumes for the A/B comparison. I've got a couple of sources not in use that can do that, a portable CD player and my Kenwood KT-8300 tuner. That will be input to the two AUX channels of my C-4000. So, to change amps, all I need to do is change the speaker cables on the back of the amps and switch the control on the C-4000. More later.
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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Sat Oct 25, 2008 5:35 pm

OK, got the amp unwrapped and plugged it in just for a survival check. Don't think the meter lights survived :( But did attach it to a source, and the meters dance :D More later.
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Carver: C-4000 & C-1 preamps, PSC-60 preamp/tuner, TX-11a tuner, M-400 (2), C-500, M-500, M-500t, M-500t Mk.II, A-500x, AL-III loudspeakers (2 pr.)
Sunfire:Theater Grand III processor, Ultimate Receiver, Cinema Grand Signature 400 ~ seven, True Subwoofer Mk. II, D-10 Subwoofer

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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Sun Oct 26, 2008 5:33 pm

OK, I've got everything set up.
Setup front.JPG
Setup front.JPG (287.71 KiB) Viewed 1650 times
My stock amp is on the right and Rich's Mark II is on the left. The amps are connected to the two main outs on the C-4000. The tuner's fixed input is connected to Tuner, and the variable output is connected to Tape 1.
Setup back.JPG
Setup back.JPG (353.61 KiB) Viewed 1650 times
I spent a lot of (wasted) time making sure the gain on the Mk.II wasn't higher than the stock unit, balancing the fixed and variable outputs with an SPL meter.
Balance.JPG
Balance.JPG (355.55 KiB) Viewed 1651 times
What I found is that both amps have exactly the same gain at my desired listening level. In other words, when I switched outputs from the Mk.II to my stock amp, the volume (as indicated on my SPL meter using FM inter-station hiss as a reference) was identical. So that was one part of the switching that was unnecessary. I tried to make the interconnects as identical as possible. Here's a picture of the back of my amp.
Stock.JPG
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As you can see, when I rebuilt it, I added those nice binding posts. Here's a picture of the back of the Mark II.
Mark II.JPG
Mark II.JPG (339.89 KiB) Viewed 1648 times
On to listening. First some FM, then get a CD player out to listen to Cosmic Hippo and Dire Straits.
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Carver: C-4000 & C-1 preamps, PSC-60 preamp/tuner, TX-11a tuner, M-400 (2), C-500, M-500, M-500t, M-500t Mk.II, A-500x, AL-III loudspeakers (2 pr.)
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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Sun Oct 26, 2008 8:33 pm

First Impressions

The two amps sound amazingly similar. Both have all new caps. From another room you can't tell which amp is playing. Even right in front of the rig, I found myself checking to see which amp was playing — they sound that much alike. I'm going to withhold judgment for awhile. I can tell you what differentiates the amps isn't the sound, and I can't play it loud enough for my stock M-500 to run out of gas without burning up my speakers or ruining my ears. I can tell you that the Mark II gets hotter than the stock, and it's coil makes more noise. Also, the lights started working after I powered down the whole rig and powered it back up again after about 3 hours of solid playing. There must be a thermal short somewhere. I'm going to let it rest until tomorrow and do some more listening.
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Carver: C-4000 & C-1 preamps, PSC-60 preamp/tuner, TX-11a tuner, M-400 (2), C-500, M-500, M-500t, M-500t Mk.II, A-500x, AL-III loudspeakers (2 pr.)
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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Sat Nov 01, 2008 2:04 pm

Final Report

I’ve got to admit that this wasn’t a real test of the MkII’s mettle, because I couldn’t drive it very hard (without going deaf), and it was driving a very easy load (lowest impedance was 5 ohms (nominal 6 and up to 8). So, with that being said, I can share my impressions.

First, if you like the voicing of an M-500, this will not change it at all. So, you can send an ailing M-500 to Rich for “the treatment” and get back an amp that won’t sound worse in any way. That’s good, because sometimes adding power doesn’t improve sound. When you hear a MkII it will only sound better than a stock M-500, and only in the areas where a stock M-500 sounded bad.

Another point I noticed is that the gain of the MkII is the same as the stock M-500. I went to a lot of trouble to set up my test so I could match the gain between the amps, and found it totally unnecessary. When switching between amps using FM inter-station hiss as a source, my SPL meter read the same between the two amps. That gain is about 28¼ (i.e., 1 volt in, 28.284 out). That helped testing because I didn’t have to change between fixed and variable inputs into my C-4000, which would throw another variable into the mix.

I listened to a variety of music, comprised mainly of jazz and pop/rock. I can say that the jazz was the most revealing. When I thought that I heard a difference, I would ask my wife to validate, as her hearing above 15kHz is much better than mine. What I found, and what should be suspected, is that there is more clarity in sounds with very sharp attacks, like ping shots and rim knocks and the sound of claves. Also, any very short duration loud sound, like picking a guitar or banjo gains clarity.

Why this should be expected is that the rail voltage of the MkII gives it lots of headroom. Only a 2.6 volt input is necessary to clip a stock M-500. It takes a full extra volt to clip a MkII. These sharp attack notes have LOTS of energy for a very short duration, and are often clipped in lesser amps, dulling the sound. Because meter response time is slow by comparison (a millisecond), these spikes don’t even show up on the meters, and get averaged away in the overall volume.

The DCM Time Windows I’m using go down to 25Hz, so I did get to test the bass response. Again, I couldn’t get it loud enough for the stock M-500 to run out of gas, but the MkII was solid all the way down. Victor Wooten playing that fretless bass on Flight of the Cosmic Hippo was my test here. No problems for either amp, but there is no impedance problems down there on the speakers. However, had not my M-500 just been recapped, I’m sure its age would have shown. My guess is that if you’re under-powering your speakers, this is where a MkII would shine, as most of the relative long-term musical energy is located down here. While I know the MkII can deliver a LOT more current, if it isn’t needed, you won’t hear the difference.

I then switched to a set of M&K S-125 speakers.
Setup M&K.JPG
Setup M&K.JPG (326.47 KiB) Viewed 1603 times
These are highly regarded front mains for a surround sound system (the S-85s are for the rear). I always thought they sounded bright and forward for music, but I thought I’d see if they revealed anything more. The S-125s are 4 ohm speakers, but only have a maximum power handling capability of 200 Watts. What they revealed is that they are still strident in their delivery, especially mid-treble — fatiguing to listen to. They were no more revealing however, and neither amp ran out of gas, easily powering them.

So, my overall impressions of the amplifier is that it is better than a stock M-500, and there would be no way I’d get an M-500 refurbished except through Rich and “the treatment”. You never know in the future what demands you will put on an amplifier (like Infinity 9Ks). M-500s are very pretty amplifiers, and to get looks and power too is really something special. The M-500 MkII is an exceptional 400 Watt/channel amplifier, with ample headroom to respond to complex music dynamics and difficult speaker impedances.

I hope that future reviewers will be able to provide a more difficult load for this amplifier to drive than I could. I am going to include a CD of some of the music I used to evaluate the M-500 MkII for subsequent reviewers.
It should sound like it isn't there!
There is a difference between hearing and listening...
Making life enjoyable through expensive electronics.
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Carver: C-4000 & C-1 preamps, PSC-60 preamp/tuner, TX-11a tuner, M-400 (2), C-500, M-500, M-500t, M-500t Mk.II, A-500x, AL-III loudspeakers (2 pr.)
Sunfire:Theater Grand III processor, Ultimate Receiver, Cinema Grand Signature 400 ~ seven, True Subwoofer Mk. II, D-10 Subwoofer

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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by TNRabbit » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:43 pm

We seem to have duplicate threads; here's a link to my assessment of this amp:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=5956&hilit=500+drive+load&start=60
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Re: M-500 Mk II road show amplifier

Post by BillD » Thu Feb 26, 2009 2:00 pm

And the amp is no more. It was the one that god destroyed in shipping to someone. Rich is still waiting to see if they will let him keep the amp for parts (it was insured).
It should sound like it isn't there!
There is a difference between hearing and listening...
Making life enjoyable through expensive electronics.
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Carver: C-4000 & C-1 preamps, PSC-60 preamp/tuner, TX-11a tuner, M-400 (2), C-500, M-500, M-500t, M-500t Mk.II, A-500x, AL-III loudspeakers (2 pr.)
Sunfire:Theater Grand III processor, Ultimate Receiver, Cinema Grand Signature 400 ~ seven, True Subwoofer Mk. II, D-10 Subwoofer

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