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Impressions on the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA  

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 

Has anyone heard the Musical Fidelity M1 HPA. How does it sound. How do you think it will sound with a pair of Denon Ah-D5000 

post #2 of 40

Do a little research and you will find out that it is not due for release until august.

post #3 of 40
Thread Starter 


post #4 of 40
Thread Starter 


post #5 of 40



1.  It's not out yet

2.  You started two threads asking the exact same question

3.  You do not need to continue bumping either thread, nobody has the amp yet, we'll let you know as soon as it's actually released.

post #6 of 40

Hey,it's out now!

post #7 of 40

I just got my Denon AH-A100 and Musical Fidelity M1 HPA today.  I have started the burn in process and will let that take place for at least 100 hours.  I will post my impressions of this combo along with how my previous headphones, AKG 340 and Audio Technica M50s fare.


Pictures are posted in my album.  I am new to posting on Head-fi so please forgive if I am doing this incorrectly.:-)


My initial check was to asses the drive capability of M1 with the 340s.  I was pleasantly surprised that there was enough volume at around 12 o' clock with the USB input.  More impressions to come in a few days.



post #8 of 40


Sorry, I don't want to hijack this thread, but there was already a topic open for this so I thought I'd post it here. It's quite a long waffle, but it might give you an entertaining read and a little more info.
As I sit here listening to the (not-so-)new mastering of Jean Michel Jarre's: Oxygene (the one with the album art of the earth peeling away like flesh from the empty-souled skull behind), I wonder how many hours Jean-Michel has spent listening to music through headphones and equipment of all designs imaginable. Whether it be for pleasure, whiling away the time or profession; sliding those mixer bars, adjusting gain, balancing harmonies, bringing out details and fine tuning recordings.
With this in mind, I would like to continue by pre-emptying a lot potential debates. Listening to music is a very personal thing. Given the fact that most studios have hundreds of thousands of $€£s of equipment, the average person (and even keen audiophile) will never likely be able to reproduce the sound as it was listened to when being mastered. Unless you own every piece of equipment and know exactly what setup was used in every studio, it is simply not feasible.
What you can aim for however, is finding the combination of equipment that makes you happy and sounds good, if not amazing, to you. That's all it really boils down to. My girlfriend for example listens to her iPod with a pair of Senns CX 300-IIs and is perfectly content with it.
For my background, I am not an audio expert by any standards. I don't have thousands of $€£s of audio kit. I did some DJing when I was younger and I know my way around a rig, but most of my earlier listening was also an iPod with a pair of Senns PX200 IIs. My first real upgrade (after much research) was my headphones; I was torn between the Senns HD650 and the Grado 325is. Eventually I went with the Grado and a whole new world of listening had opened itself up to me.
After looking into it further, I still wanted to use my iPod for listening (-convenience I guess), but I wanted more. I didn't have a fortune to spend and not a lot of experience, so I took some advice and got the Graham Slee Voyager amp with an iBasso line out dock. The warm tone of the voyager amp rounded off the bright sounding Grados wonderfully; a great combo!
Of course this quickly turned into a little addiction. I started asking myself, "If music can sound this good on such a little amp, what the heck do those bigger ones sound like?!" I asked around to try and get a recommended upgrade to my existing setup. I didn't want to give up my Grados, so I was looking at either a different amp or a USB DAC. One recommendation I received was to try the HRT Music Streamer II+. While that was a viable option, I learned that it was powered by USB. Now I'm not going to say anything negative about this amp because I haven't listened to it; my gut feeling however just didn't want accept that something powered by a USB bus would live up to the hopes I was setting myself. I concede that this rationing may be completely flawed. After all, my gut as has had some pretty off days ;)
Then I received another recommendation: The "Musical Fidelity M1 HPA Premium Class A Headphone Amplifier". That's already a mouthful; who comes up with these names? Anyway, I started doing the usual savvy searches to see what information I could find out. Unfortunately, to my disappointment there wasn't much at all. It turns out this thing was only released a little earlier this year and there are not really many reviews. Most sites containing a review were just copied from TechRadar.
Well, reading the tech specs (and review on TechRadar) and finding out that this amp also has a USB DAC, I decided to take a risk and spring for one.
Eagerly awaiting my order to arrive, I was looking up some info on USB connections. Wow, what a minefield finding a simple USB cable is. It seems everyone has an opinion and everyone is right. Personally, I didn't really buy into it that much - I was leaning towards the digital 1's and 0's camp. That said however, I am a techie and I know a quality USB cable has a higher transfer rate with less errors than a cheaply made one. Given the money I spent on this amp, I didn't want to be let down with hearing an unnecessary clip, pop, or random jitter just because I cheaped out on a cable. I caved and got the Kimber USB silver cable.
Ok, I had my UPS tracking number and planned delivery date; all I could do now was wait. I even planned a holiday off work to receive the package. Annoyingly I messed up the dates. It turned out I planned the following off by mistake. Also the day it was delivered I was out of town, but fortunately I have an adorable neighbour who took the package for me. I came back the following morning and knocked on my neighbour’s door to get the package. It was bigger than I thought.
I got back in my apartment, opened the box and was pleased to see a nice solid black, metal case. Lifting it out (4 kg/9 lb) of it, I was again surprised at the size (-I'm sure I could open it and put at least two netbooks inside). As this was new to me I was quickly getting excited about hooking this thing up and listening to it - like being a child again at Christmas :)
I fired up my PC, unplugged all USB devices (apart from keyboard/mouse) to ensure all bandwidth was available and plugged in the Kimber USB cable. I plugged the M1 HPA into the power socket and connected the USB cable. I looked at the front and saw the very discrete orange power light, lit up. I flicked the solid metal lever-switch to the USB setting, jacked in my Grados and pressed the power button; the orange light changed to blue.
Now after reading some bad reviews about other products relating to background noise, hum, hiss etc. I wanted to find out what the ground noise was like on this amp. I put my headphones on and started to turn up the gain. Then I paused. The gain control on this thing was extremely solid and smooth. There are many dials on many products out there that are too flimsy, too loose, feel like they will drop off if you turn it too quickly or just need a wrench to get them to budge. The M1 HPA's dial was very well balanced. It weighted enough that it's not going to turn by itself or allow you to turn it too quickly, but not overly so that you need to sprain your wrist trying to turn it. It simply glides. The design is also elegant: very large (taking some good real estate on the front), silver (aluminium I'm assuming) with only an etched groove to indicate the position. Visible, but also tactile when you have your eyes closed, listening and you want to stretch your hand out into the ether and adjust it without interrupting the focus on your music. Attention has been paid to detail.
Ok, after admiring the design I wanted to get back to testing the background noise on this thing. I carried on cranking up the gain cautiously but couldn't hear anything. I then turned it up the whole way, and listened. Nothing. Zip, nada, zilch. It really seemed like the thing wasn't powered on. There was absolutely nothing. I couldn't believe it; everything I had previously owned gave off at least something at high gains. I know I don't have the world’s greatest hearing, but I really could pick out anything.
I fired up MediaMonkey, opened up my flac collection (which recently replaced iTunes and alac) and started to look for a song. Now of course this would be a personal selection. After much browsing I decided to give the honour to The Phantom of the Opera with the opening prologue and overture: A good mix of spoken, ambience and music. I used the soundtrack from the recent 2004 movie instead of the original stage show. Some purists might disagree, but I find this recording much fresher. Emmy Rossum's voice brings a new youthful vibrance to the role.
As I listed to the auction at the opera house, I was amazed at the detail I could hear. The shuffling of feet, the shifting of chairs, the echo of the empty opera house. Stunning. Then the strings came in for the overture and I felt such a rush of emotion surge through my body. It's a similar kind of sensation you get when someone might say, "someone has stepped on your grave". It's that cold shiver, but it's not cold and you don't shiver. It's warm and the shiver builds up without actually becoming a shiver. It sounds weird, but I'm sure most people know what I'm talking about.
After this feeling had passed, I skipped ahead to "Angel of Music". Part way through, tears started to well in my eyes. Shortly, they overflowed and rolled down my face. I wasn't crying, there was no blubbering, but the emotion welling up inside just got translated to tears. I felt connected to the music somehow, like it was all playing out in my head, like they were actually my thoughts.
I then started cherry picking other tracks: Alison Krauss, Eva Cassidy, Jane Siberry while the tears continued to flow I continued to stay 'connected' with the music. After 30mins of playing, I stopped. It was still morning and I still had other things to get done. Playtime would have to continue later.
Later that night I plugged everything in again and listened to my first complete album, Vangelis: 1942 Conquest of Paradise. I donned my phones and lay back on the sofa. I wouldn't say this is an amazing album to test with, but I hadn't heard it in its entirety before so it's one I wanted to listen to (-after all, we don't listen to test, we listen to enjoy).
The first track is quite short on this album, so I was waiting for the famous Conquest of Paradise (#2) to begin. The bass, the harmonies, the vocals were very potent, clean and crisp. Signs that the M1 HPA was working its magic. However, the Grados are a naturally bright headphone and consequently I felt I lost some of the sombreness of this music. That's not to say anything was "bad", they are just the characteristics these headphones and you either like it or not.
Now some people (if you are still reading this) are going to shiver at my next suggestion. Use your equaliser. iTunes has one, MediaMonkey has one, foobar has one; It's there for a reason. Now of course drastic changes to equaliser settings can make your music sound hideous, but small tweaks should be experimented with. I found that fractionally lowering the 4, 8 and 16 kHz took the brightness "edge" of this music and made for much more comfortable listening.
So I finally listened to the album - the time flew by.
Unfortunately I haven't tried the RCA connections as I'm only running USB out, so I can't comment on those - but from my experience thus far, this amp is amazing for its price. It really is a box of magic. You will of course need good cans to get the most out of it, but my initial opinion is that it does not colour the music in any way. It just presents clear, clean sound.
When using this thing, you might actually be surprised at what your headphones are capable of!
post #9 of 40

That was a great post! Thanks! I'm glad to hear you like the M1 HPA so much. I'm thinking about getting one, but can't decide between soild state and tube.

Thanks for your impressions!

post #10 of 40

Just some two-cents-worth from a recent audition...


I took along my harman/kardon HD990 cdp and Grado SR60i to try the Musical Fidelity line of headphone amps - v-can, x-can v8p (tube output stage) and M1 HPA (solid state, pure class-A). My plan is to keep the HD990 (mostly running a squeezebox receiver through it's DAC, which is very capable) and step up the Grados to SR325si.


v-can - brash...very brash. Forward presentation, but more fatiguing than exciting. It boosted the output beyond, say, my 1g ipod touch, but high volume isn't my aim. I was after the smooth drive of my all-valve integrated amp (to loudspeakers), but with more purpose when playing the rock and metal I listen to, which isn't my valve-amp's strong point. This was not it, and I took the earphones off to the feeling of a mild headache.


x-can v8 - a clear step up, and was not grating like the v-can. That said, I was expecting a big jump in warmth and a medium jump in detail, and I was underwhelmed - it was good, and I wouldn't put anyone off buying one at the right price, but it didn't give me consistent enjoyment across my well-worn reference cd (blues>death metal>classical>indie>folk>orchestral). Good... but not great.


M1 HPA - No doubt in my mind - the M1 is on a totally different level. Having already spent 90 minutes listening to the same tracks at the point I picked up with the M1, it instantly sounded like a new CD. Baring in mind this was only with SR60i, the detail at the top end was superb, but not harshly presented, the bass was as tight as a tiger, and everything in between had epic smoothness and drive - velvety when required, relentless when called upon.


Needless to say, I see this amp being part of my rig in the very near future. Interesting to hear anyone else's view!

post #11 of 40

Apologies for resurrecting this thread.


Any word on the technicalities of the USB DAC section?


What is the overall signature like and would it pair well with Senn. HD600 for orchestral, symphonic-rock and J-pop? More interested in the soundstage and attack/decay transients of the middle and upper registers.

post #12 of 40


Any word on the technicalities of the USB DAC section?


Good question, I was also looking at this amp to combine with a HD800 / T1 /HE-6 or so.


Although you can't find much technical info on the DAC at the MF website, I managed to find text below.



Onboard 16-bit, 48 kHz DAC

The USB input uses a circuit that's similar to what's onboard the M6i and M6PRE. It accepts CD-resolution data (up to 16-bit, 48 kHz) and is processed by an onboard 16-bit DAC that runs at 8x oversampling. It sounds quite good and is only bettered by a much more sophisticated outboard DAC, such as Musical Fidelity's V-DAC and the company's higher priced DACs.

The high quality USB input is fully compliant with USB 1.1 with full-speed transceivers. The accurate 12-MHz clock source insures low jitter. The 16 bit Delta-Sigma stereo DAC has very low distortion and excellent signal to noise ratio.

According to Musical Fidelity's Antony Michaelson, "We believe that neutrality and complete faithfulness to the original recording is what hi-fi exists for. If you agree with that ideal, then the M1-HPA is for you."

post #13 of 40

Kewl! That means to say, as expected, the DAC would be rather nerfed against the full-scale monster DAC that they have then (makes perfect business sense).


But that means that for the average consumer like us, it'll be mighty expensive to pick this box up as we would still need a fairly decent source and interconnects to go along with it.

post #14 of 40

I downloaded Beethoven's Symphony No.9 from HDtracks as 96khz/24bit flac. Streaming USB from mediamonkey and it plays beautifully. I'm making the assumption that the DAC doesn't down-sample, but of course it would still have to read 96/24 to be able to down-sample it :)

Edited by theSC00BZ - 12/12/10 at 1:29pm
post #15 of 40

Took a naked picture of my M1 HPA today.

I'm not a expert in components but hopefully someone can comment on whats inside.


Marry Christmas!



M1HPA Naked.jpg


Hi-Res http://img821.imageshack.us/img821/5511/dsc7658copy.jpg

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