I’ve been following the steady and quite impressive growth of the Lab12 from Greece from a very beginning. I was one of the first (if not the first) who reviewed their products way back in it’s great to see this relatively young company flourish in such a positive way.
Stratos Vichos is wisely leading the company into the future with clever introductions to the brand’s portfolio. These products are not only great sounding and technologically advanced by each new iteration. Most importantly, they’re very reasonably priced.
FULLY ADJUSTABLE PHONO PREAMPLIFIER
Phono preamplifiers represent the utmost challenge for all high-end audio designers and companies. There are numerous phono preamplifiers on the market, of course, but as with the rest of Lab12’s products, Vichos and his team wanted to create a phono-stage that follows the profoundly different, flexible and sonically perfected Lab12 path.
Melto2 is another proud Lab12 future retro creation that fuses past and present into a fully-fledged high-end product for the 21st Century.
Melto2 is a true full tube and remotely controlled phono-stage with a high-quality OLED display, where all important functions are clearly visible and easily selectable in real time. You don’t even need to get up from your listening chair.
Years of experimenting and creating high-end audio devices have allowed Lab12 to create what they believe to be the most potent and emotionally engaging phono preamplifier for the price, where no subtle detail is being hidden behind the noise.
This full-blooded, meticulously crafted, highly adjustable phono-stage offers fine settings for impedance, capacitance, gain, and even three EQ curves… and there’s more.
“Melto2 represents a vinyl enthusiasts’ dream come true with exceptional sound quality and Lab12’s legendary down to earth pricing.”
• Full Tube Design
• Lundahl Step-up transformers
• Full adjustable settings: Cartridge type, Gain, Impedance, Capacitance, Curve, Mono/Stereo Output
• Remote control
• Toroidal power transformer
• No feedback design
• SRSG® implementation
• Fine symmetry® implementation
• 1-minute warm-up time
• 5mm Aluminum face panel
• Five Years Guarantee
There is always a way more than meets the eye with the Lab12 products so let me take a closer look at the Melto2 phono stage.
As the rest of the Lab12 products, Vichos is implementing the best possible materials and solutions to avoid any electromagnetic interference and achieve very low noise and high gain preamplification stages.
The power supply offers more than 1000uF regulation with Nichicon high-grade capacitors and custom 10uH power choke, that is followed by two stages of voltage stabilization. All of the tubes heaters are also fed with the regulated and stabilized DC power.
Each of the two channels changes are using dual triodes. two stages of gain amplifier stages and another two cathode followers.
The first stage uses two Electro Harmonics tubes followed by two Voskhod 6n2p from in the second stage.
Passive equalization filters (RIAA, DECCA, Columbia) is inserted between these two gain stages. When the MC mode is selected the input is going through the Lundahl step-up transformer.
All crucial parts of the filters (MPK capacitors, 1/% resistors) are hand selected and matched. Both of the channels are extremely well balanced and measured before the Melto2 leaves the Lab12 premises.
All the PCBs are of high quality and produced with a special procedure. All of the tracings are conducted via the 35micron high-grade copper.
Signal MKP capacitors are specially built under the Lab12 strict specifications, perfectly matched and manufactured in a well-known factory. All other MKP capacitors are from the Panasonic.
COTO and OMRON reed relay are in charge of all of the adjustments and settings. This translates to click-less and noise-free performance during all of the settings changes.
Single 8bit microprocessor is responsible for functions setting of Melto2 that is controlled by the Lab12 own software.
All of the PCB traces for the left and right channel as well as the overall PCB design was designed from the very begging to offer a perfect mirroring of both channels. Exactly the same length of copper traces ensures identical behavior of both of the channels.
As with the rest of the Lab12 products, everything is handcrafted and built in Lab12 facilities in Athens, Greece.
Lab12 Melto12 is straightforward to use. The front panel hosts a large yellow OLED screen where all the current info is displayed and two knobs. The right knob acts like the mute on/off switch and left one controls all the features. By turning it left and right you scrolling through the menu features and a single press-in puts you in the edit/select mode. I really like and love the simplicity of operation and logical distribution of feature. Simple, straightforward and no brainier to use.
On the back side, there are three RCA inputs sided with three ground connectors and two (XLR/RCA) outputs. On the right side resides the IEC connector and I/O switch that lights up yellowish when the Melto2 is turned on.
Many might know Mark Hollis from his work with Talk Talk, for others, it’s still a mystery waiting to be discovered. Sadly Hollis already left this world to early and his’ unsung genius resides somewhere in Eden. Mark Hollis – Mark Hollis is not an easy listening record that you’ll just simply dive into.
Well, for me it actually works like this, but I guess this comes with appreciation and years of particular intake. There are so many things and subtle changes to be discovered with Hollis’ self-titled album.
The album might appear somehow reclusive, but it’s actually utterly intimate, error-free and meticulously crafted. These days it’s also quite a rare gem, but when the analog chain is fitted properly Hollis’ mastery really comes to life. Melto2 managed to expertly render a plethora of subtle details that were scattered and distributed into the listening space with a way higher density than expected.
This was further confirmed by Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man album Out Of Season. It carries a similar, almost poignant weight. The resemblance to Hollis’ work is somehow cryptic, but no other than Talk Talk bassist Paul Webb is ridding under the Rustin Man pseudonym. “Show” is a beautiful, haunting slow-paced ballad that really needs above usual mojo energetic forte to come alive.
The vinyl is surely the most proper way of playing this undisputedly aching and melancholically spirited work of art and Lab12 Melto2 was noway shy in presenting the full scope, boldly and proudly.
Rickie Lee Jones self-titled album is a well known great sounding and fantastically produced album. It will sound good even with an entry level phono stage, but the album demands much more to full shine.
When about 2:45 into the track drum battery kicks in all becomes crystal clear. This instantly shows how much inner power does a particular phono stage possess. Lab12’s phono holds its authority with surprising ease. Melto2 has rendered the complex studio production impact with unexpected lightness. I was surely not expecting such a stressless operation. Especially at this price point!
The track “Algodão” from the Quarteto Novo album is a great reference track to explore any system ability. The ever-changing instruments, tempi and nonetheless great sound represent quite a stress for any setup. It’s no different for the analog front end and especially the phono stage.
The sense of fairness and the grande atmosphere is easily squashed by the phono stage non-ability to provide the unmilled, raw music’s energy. Lab12 Melto2 zestful inner core allowed a massive amount of music’s vivacity to scintillate prominently.
At around 3.37 the metallic percussion takes it solo flight. The distinctive way of recording this passage delivers a string lifelike lucidness and Melto2 response to this challenge was authentic and timbral spot on. Right after this solo part, the metal percussion is joined by the flute positioned far on the right channel. The flute really needs a lot of sonic space to fully breath and Lab12 Melto2 phono stage allowed a way more airy and palpable eminence that yours truly has expected.
This fantastic track is among the favorite reference songs. Ongoing momentum and the high-spirited mood is one of the kind and if the phono preamplifier’s effectiveness is of proper balance you’ll be literarily glued to the listening chair for the entire seven minutes.
Lab12’s Melto2 phono stage proves that is was designed without any restrictions regardless of its given price. All around proven solidity in performance was really nailed with Quarteto Novo. My listening notes on that particular page was marked with a big smiley on the side :). Yes, I was high spirited and impressed at the same time.
Scottish pop-folk troubadour Donovan’s gentle and subtle vocal on the “A subtle The Tinker and the Crab” from the album A Gift From a Flower to a Garden get easily pulverized when the phono inner mechanisms are not ticking with the right beat. Lab12 Melto2 tubbed innermost epicenter has manifested the chameleon-like instant reactive ability to morph from being featherlike subtle to full-frontal, in your face energetic tout de suite when needed.
Donovan’s voice, as well as guitar and flute, were presented with a greater sense of space than expected. All of the instruments easily formed their designated focus in the virtual environment. Three dimensionality is surely one of the key advantages of the analog and it was enticing to hear how well and effortless Melto2 has denoted the sonic scenery. Melto2 emission of licit sonic pulses was uncomplicated and alluringly involving.
I’m a big fan of anything guitar related. With a properly recorded guitar tracks the evaluation of the phono stage’s magnitude of denseness, translating into to the veracious rendition of decays and delays. These are pivotal in shaping the believable aural xeroxing.
Bert & John album by John Renbourn, Bert Jansch is an inordinate example. While the “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is outright closed miked, it will vouchsafe and expeditious sense of phono preamplifier preparedness to catch and drop-ship the guitar’s grip, how aptly it locks to the tone and how far it will expand the notes’ overlays. Lab12 Melto2 focal point once again propagated above the usual sonic faculty that could without a hitch facilitate a copious, highly concentrated and at the same elongated (much needed) delays and all of their fractions in time and space.
The Melto2 is features packed phono stage and comes with so functionalities that make it more than just highly competitive. It also stands up boldly with value for money as well as with the sonic impact, that is far away from the indicated price point class.
Melto2 is highly involving and distinctively organic sounding phono preamplifier. In the right system music just purr and Melto2 possess the re-return factor that is not easily found.
Lab12 Melto2 comes with enough of the healthy analog warmness that will captivate tube aficionados for many returned and prolonged listenings. Do note… I’m not talking about the typical saturation tone glow. Melto2 is a modern take on tube phono stage that is silent, dynamic and harmonically rich.
At it’s given price sticker one really cannot expect more fulfillment and a bang for the buck. Have no doubts… If one of the bigger and more established brands would present such preamplifier, logically packed in a bit more luxurious chassis the price would be easily doubled if not tripled. Yes, Melto2 is that good!
Big OLED screen, a remote control that handles the plentiful of features is only a cherry on top of the already highly delicious cake…
This is a product that instantly restores the faith in our beloved industry and into the people/brands that are doing the things in the right way. Melto2 is a 21st-century tube phono preamplifier that is no shy of features; it’s seducingly involving and with a right dose of technocratic appeal to sparkle the interest of ardent audiophiles and music lovers.
More often I’m being asked to recommend a tube phono preamplifier that is worthy of the money, musical and more than just a sum of its parts. While I’m known to enjoy cost no object creations of various kinds, I’m also no stranger when it comes to discovery and highlighting the stand out high-end audio products that come with the way more earthly price sticker. With the ability to host three phono inputs, selectable MM/MC inputs, hi-low gain setting and correspondent matching impedance loading, mono/stereo switch; all selectable from the listening position Lab12 Melto2 is no happy accident. This is a matured, fully fledged contemporary tube phono with an impact, performance and price to match!
For what it represents and at what price point I’m wholeheartedly giving out 2019 Mono and Stereo Best Buy Award. Well done Stratos and Lab12 team!
– 3.750 EUR
• Power: 230VAC 50Hz (115VAC 60Hz)
• Power consumption: 100 VA max
• Gain MM: 38dB
• Gain MC: 64dB
• Input impedance: adjustable (50 ohm – 47Kohm)
• Input capacitance: adjustable (0-300pF)
• Available curve: RIAA, DECCA, Columbia
• Tube complement: 2x E88CC dual triode, 2x 6n2p-EV dual triode
• Inputs: 3x line stereo (RCA connectors)
• Outputs: 2x line stereo (1x RCA connectors, 1x XLR connectors)
• Available Colours: Matt Black, Frozen Silver
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 43x11x29 cm
• Weight: 8 Kg