is certainly a year of commemoration for Engstrom & Engstrom. This Swedish Hi End brand founded by Dr Lars and Timo delivered 2 ground breaking products: The cost-no-object Eric Encore monoblock power amp, and the Monica MkIII preamp. My maiden experience with Engstrom electronics was in 2014 pairing the Monica Mk1 with the Lars Type 2 300B mono block amplifiers.
Monica Mk3 was finally delivered several weeks ago after relentless researches and field works done in the past few years. Aesthetically, the new preamp has 2 separate knobs
controlling the input selection and volume, which differs from the previous co-axial knob controlling both functions. It is still a 2-chassis design with the
power and control circuits housed in one box and the audio inputs/outputs in
another. This intelligent design isolates the control circuits from noises induced by AC
If the chassis configuration is the same, what are the changes inside? I was
told it is a total revamp with a mandate striving for a statement like Eric Encore.
The Scandinavian scent from the Monica/Eric combo chills me with immediate musicality. This balanced tube preamp has a very refreshing
sound delivering crystal clear piano percussion alongside snappy transient attacks through the Gobel Marquis. My favourite piano recording is Maria Joao Pires Mozart piano
sonata. Her crispy notes strike me with intimacy and virtues as though she plays solely for me. Contrasting
the cello performance between Shafran and Rostropovich on Schubert Arpeggione has never
been so apparent. I can distinctively tell the minute differences on the
subtleties, twists, pacing and energy placements. Aida conducted by Karajan sparkled with textural details, harmonic patterns, and dimensionality
of concert hall.
The recording of Rodrigo Gabriela - Live in Japan, and Dua Lipa’s Levitating, thrill me to the hair buds because of tremendous rhythmic dexterity and dynamic contrast.
Timo, you visited my home system several years ago. I was deeply impressed by your humbleness in
accepting my feedbacks on the previous
version of Monica. Today, I am even more
impressed by a promised delivery exceeding much of my expectation. Not only does it deliver an unprecedented silence and resolution relative to its ancestor, it compares favourably to other super preamps such as Zanden Chukoh and Robert Koda K15EX.
My salute to Dr Lars and your good self.