The original M-DAC caused quite a stir when released and for good reason as it is highly specified with many features that belie its modest price.
If you are unfamiliar with the original, the M-DAC's can operate as a stand alone DAC, a pre amp DAC and a DAC come class A headphone amplifier making for a very flexible Hi-Fi solution. Included on the back are 2x optical, 2x coaxial, a USB and 1x ASE3 digital inputs. You also get the usual RCA outputs as well as balanced outs and on the front you have a headphone socket.
The new version builds on what Audiolab gave us the first time round. The first thing you notice when opening the box is that it is twice the height of the original M-DAC. This is because Audiolab have decided to give the M-DAC+ a proper internal toroidal power supply with several windings that regulate the power to the different sections of the DAC. Gone is the desire to go for an after market power supply which is what owners of the original did.
The improvements don't end there as the M-Dac+ can now deal with those ultra high resolution up to 32-bit/384khz via USB. It can also handle DSD files, which are so fashionable at the moment, DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 are all catered for.
The filters are still there and when activated the DAC chip works in a different manner. This offers you lots of choice in fine tuning its output for different music or simply to tune it to your taste and system. Some new filters are present especially for use with DSD.
So how does it sound. We tried it in every way you can i.e. as a pre-amp into active speakers, as a stand alone DAC and as a headphone amp DAC, it worked flawlessly. To my ears it is much more refined than the original with a smoother delivery and a more open engaging sound. The headphone output seemed a lot better and I could happily sit for a long period without any fatigue. All in all I would say the improvements made have taken the new M-Dac's performance up a notch and the improvements definitely justifies its increase in price.
As always, if you like what you hear we have one in the store for you to have a listen and play with, just give us a call.
Audiolab Hi-Fi products are available at the following branches of Audio T: Brentwood, Bristol, Cardiff,
Cheltenham, Enfield, Manchester, Oxford, Portsmouth, Preston, Reading, Southampton, Swindon