ICON AUDIO: Their mighty flagship limited special edition MB81 mono blocks

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Icon audio MB81 pair

They tell us .....

Has Icon Audio founder David Shaw designed the ultimate triode amplifier? Previewed at September’s National Audio Show and lovingly created to fulfil a personal ambition, these gargantuan amps will be sold in limited numbers as a very special edition.

“If I’m completely honest,” says Shaw, “for much of the past year I’ve been building my own birthday present – and this is it!”. After discovering a quantity of ‘new old stock’ Russian GU81 transmitter valves, Shaw began to work on a prototype amplifier that would achieve a long-held goal: to effectively drive any modern low-efficiency high-end speaker to realistic levels.

At 260 mm tall, 100 mm in diameter and weighing in at 1 kg, the GU81 is a truly majestic valve. Although the GU81 remains in production, Shaw still favoured the ‘new old stock’ valves for the MB81, hand-picked for their combination of fine resolution, enthralling musicality and immense power.

Shaw has long been a fan of triode operation, being the purest form of valve amplification. But triodes typically have a downside: limited power output, which to overcome presents real a design challenge. Says Shaw, “Our pursuit for making ever-better amplifiers often leads us into uncharted territory. This is such an example and it’s been a genuine labour of love. I’ve spent many, many months designing and listening, listening and redesigning.”

Happily, his efforts have more than delivered, if reactions to the prototype previewed at September’s National Audio Show are anything to go by.

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