Ampsandsound Mogwai

I’m surprised I don’t see an official thread for the Mogwai model! Well I hope we can talk about it here. I sold most of my amps and am down to the Mogwai SE with upgraded Jupiter caps as my reference amp for my Zmf collection. I feel perfectly content with this one!
If anybody has any questions about it I hope this thread can be that place for help.

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Who else owns a Mogwai?

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Good call. Looking forward to your impressions with ZMFs, comparison with your other amps, and if there are any particular tubes you’re liking.

I should be getting mine in a few weeks.

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I only have the leeloo and the mogwai now.
The mogwai was much more dynamic and heavy than the others. The Mz2 was a hard one to sell but I desperately needed the money and even though it was more detailed and transparent the mogwai balanced musicality and detail more to my liking. I like a less analytical sound with more vivid 3D glow and warmth but don’t want to sacrifice too much detail which seems hard to find in a component.

The mogwai makes the music sound real in a glowing and vivid way. Not robotic and sterile like a lot of non tube amps I’ve used. It adds that outline of an airy room or venue making the music sound lifelike and real, putting an organic touch to the people that recorded their analog voices into a mic. A good song to reference is Fleetwood Mac ‘dreams’.There is a part where an acoustic guitar strums straight into your left ear and with this amp it doesn’t pierce through but feels like a person is right next to you, just a little too close. With some amps I have to immediately turn the volume down when it gets to that but that isn’t the case with the mogwai. I also notice I don’t need to crank up the volume because even at a lower level this amp holds the weight to the instruments in a big organic manner. It’s funny most amps I want to crank up more and more and with the mogwai I crank down more and more as it does the same thing I am seeking at a better volume. Other amps dream of doing this in their sleep!

I’ve compared the mogwai vs. the amp inside my benchmark dac2, using the dac for both amps, I find the mogwai smoothed out the digital and analytical edges of the source/benchmark. The mogwai added a lot of depth compared to the benchmark too. The mz2 was different in comparison but had similar tropes to the benchmark more than the mogwai.

The mz2 felt like the benchmark amp with added space in stage and it also smoothed out edges without ruining the sparkle to the treble. If the mz2 had the heavy weight to its mid range and bass and the added dynamics the mogwai excels at, the mz2 would have had the best of both worlds. The mz2 has a big 3D sound but I’m looking especially for these things that it didn’t do but the mogwai did:

  1. When a drum solo hits you hear the huge scale of the Tom toms. Bigger than life and thunderous, not just loud but big and heavy. Note the difference between big vs. loud.( reminds me of my 2 channel setup that when I play Leonard cohens newer albums a 6ft head is imaged in the center stage singing!!) that big dynamic weight that the mogwai excels at was the one thing I value a lot in an amp. I want it to sound like a band is on a concert stage and not in a recording studio even if it was recorded in a recording studio LOL!

The mogwai compared to the T4 was another hard one as the t4 was smooth but also super tight. How the hell can an amp do that! When you heard a guitar strumming it was fast and detailed but was not as weighty as the mogwai. The mogwai was slower and less detailed but more dynamic and large scaling. I wonder it the T4 used an upgraded power supply like the mogwai, what would happen?

The difference between the leeloo (se84 non tube rectified pendant) and the mogwai was subtle but the mogwai did everything better by an extra 5-10%. Keep in mind my leeloo/se84 is a tad different than others as it was Justin’s workbench amp with a bigger OT.

Compared to the woo audio wa3 and wa6se, it was much more musical when balancing the detail and vivid warmth. I didn’t have these at the same time so I will pass on going farther in comparison.

All in all the mogwai I have is a great reference amp and I’m happy to stick with it and not try to top it as I feel it would cost a lot of money I don’t have to get better than where I’m at. My only other interest is to try a 2a3 or 300b amp but not expect it to one up the mogwai but just be a sidekick. I feel like having two amps is more than enough and will be a nice compliment to make sure my upgradeitis doesn’t kick in again. Out of all the amps, if the mz2 had the added weight and dynamics it would of been the one I kept. Basically if the mogwai and either the T4 or Mz2 had a baby I think that I’d keep one of the offsprings to compliment the mogwai. But for now I’m content with just jamming the mogwai as it checks all the boxes and some.

I use Zmf headphones 99% of the time with the mogwai and like the middle jack which is Low Z. The mogwai’s low z is tighter musically especially in the bass region than the high Z/300 ohm. The High Z is way warmer and bassy which is really fun with some genres but the volume is very restricted on that tap. The low Z works well across the board as it sounds more neutral out of it. If anybody tries the mogwai make sure to try all the speaker taps!
You might like one and not the other.
Another great thing about this amp is the amount of tube rolling you can do. New stock/NOS, whatever your cup of tea is but understand NOS tubes for this amp are a pretty penny especially if you are going for a Nos kt88/6550/etc. They are becoming very rare because a lot of guitar amps use the same types so we are competing with that crowd and their crowd is huge!! All the other amps mentioned are much easier on the wallet with Nos tubes.

Hope this helps. This is my raw take on this amp. All views and opinions are my own and may not align with others as my components I use are different. I tried to explain it the best I could and hope nothing is left unclear. I’m not a reviewer nor do I have the experience to be one as my writing skills are not the best but
I had fun typing this up and if it helps anybody that is awesome! I hope more people get to experience this amp and I’m glad I got one with the upgraded Jupiter caps that doesn’t come with the normal SE version. The upgrade costs around $400 and am really happy to hear that the 2021 version of the Pendant has them as well.

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Great comparison. Thanks for putting this together as there aren’t many comparisons out there of these amps.

I wonder if you could address the above by rolling a 5AR4/GZ34 rectifier and/or KT88/6550 power tubes.

I had a feeling the Low Z out might work best with ZMF cans (which is what I experienced with the DNA Starlett).

It seems like the prior noise issues that others have experienced on earlier builds has been addressed.

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I’m glad you are buying one and am really interested in hearing the difference between the mogwai and the starlett.

I haven’t tackled trying to compare tubes but when I said slower and less detailed that was comparing it to the other amp. By itself I don’t think the mogwai has any problems with micro and macro dynamics as well as speed and detail. It just was a level lower than the one comparing it to.

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I’m looking forward also and will report back when I receive it.

Understood, I’ve been researching more into the various tube options. It seems like the amp can be pretty versatile and you can voice it a certain way based on the tubes selected.

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My tube rolling comparisons take a long time as I like to listen to a certain tube for months and then change so I have a really good idea in my head built on solid memory.

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Best practices. Breaking in and getting to know a tube is a process.

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Should have a Mogwai OG soon! :wink:

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Super comparison. Packed with detail.

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I experienced similar with the MZ2’s stock tubes. Once switching the power tubes to RCA VT-231 military grey glass, I was able to get the desired tonal weight, dynamics, and impact. This is an instance where I’d recommend swapping out the power tubes as a foundation prior to voicing with different input tubes.

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I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the mogwai compared to the mz2. I’m interested in seeing if we describe it the same and if not, what the differences are. When is your mogwai SE arriving?

Also remember I’m comparing what’s better between the amps where one can be a B+ and the other an A+ but it might sound like I’m saying one is bad but that’s not the case. Both amps do everything really good but one has to be better than the other. Plus I’m not the greatest at describing what I hear as it can be tricky turning sound into words haha!

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I never tried that particular tube but wish I had before selling.

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It’s expected to land end of Jan, early Feb.

All good and understood! I think I’m aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the amps, and it’s rare for a piece of gear to have zero tradeoffs. I was just trying share my findings to be comprehensive.

I wonder how you’d find the MZ2 with the swapped power tubes.

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Have your bought any tubes yet for your upcoming mogwai?

Online, I came across a persons top ten favorite rectifier 5u4g/5ar4 vintage tubes and have been on the look out for them.(I will try to find it and share the link with you) I asked Justin about others like 5r4gy and he said to stick with only 5u4g/5ar4. A local hifi shop has a box of compatible tubes that they are going to let me try in the next month. Looking forward to that! They said there were a few vintage el34’s in the box.

Right now I’m using some tungsol 6550’s from the 60’s and I ditched the stock rectifier last week for an old 5u4g. Also have a 5691 red base rca I had lying around from a long time ago. I’m digging this combo and in a month will switch up to a pair of el34’s I found lying around too. I look forward to hearing your tube compliment.

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Here it is. Fun read:

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I haven’t bought any yet, but have been scouting. Justin recommended the same about 5U4G/5AR4.

I came across the Dubstep review also (I noted/remembered the reserved #2 and #3 forum posts).

I’ve heard good things about the RCA red base.

Looking forward to your impressions when you get that box :+1:t3:

You might find this post interesting: ZMF Pendant - Tube Headphone Amplifier - Official Thread - #147 by 55Powers

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That is interesting. The noise floor is definitely higher with the 300 ohm and is one of the reason I stick to the 32 tap most of the time. I’ve noticed too different tubes mitigate the noise.

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