I would love to have two M-DACs and properly compare filters but I suspect the result might be disappointing
In the end you have to realise expectation bias is an integral part of this hobby and being human.
I occasionally have seen a user comment about the M-DAC that says something like "It has the Audiolab trademark of sounding slightly harsh but beautifully detailed.". Is this a DAC that leans towards detailed and revealing vs. musical and smooth then? Or is the "harsh" term describing brightness vs. warmth?
my local audio store finds the mdac 'fantasy sounding' as in it is trying to present the detail in a forward way im guessing.
Personally I still like it alot. Paired with my slightly warm SPL amp it works v well, even with HD800. Though I am personally
quite the detail freak. Just did HD650 mod (take foam out of back of magnet) and it's even better now.
you want detail and transparency with a dac imo ..then you can colour the sound (or not) with the amp and phones combo
i tried my setup with a 2k sterling arcam dac and it did have a more natural and less grainy presentation with my amp.
bloody huge though!
My dream dac is chord HD.
how reliable is m-dac? I'm worried about the 1 year warranty and lack of support in the US. I will be driving my Westone 4 IEMs with it and probably add a set of quality powered speakers to the mix in the future.
Do you guys recommend m-dac over:
centrance mini cx
benchmark 1 usb
1 year? i registered it with audiolab and got 3 years! but i am in UK. you may get 2 in USA if registered?
I got mdac over dacmagic...mdac has much better punch on percussion and overall resolution, esp on vocals
and piano (which can be hard on dacs imo). I find I want to upgrade though eventually as I listen to classical
more and more and the mdac isnt excellent for this slower stuff...as it sounds a bit brittle at times, plus more
hissy than say 2k arcam dac. (which is a good buy except the damn size lol)
Warranty not so sure, since the most obvious source to get it at the time in North America was Planet of Sound Distribution, which is canadian. Their service is great though, as I found out when my first M-DAC was DOA :/
And that would my comment on reliability: the dreaded "No Comms" error tends to show up early on if not immediately, well within a year. If you make it past that, so far I've found mine to be reliable, through almost daily use (knocks on wood anyway...)
Headphone-wise I have tried most of mine (see list) and think they sound fine. If I'm at my computer "station" with the M-DAC, and no dedicated amp nearby, I have no problem using the built-in output, I don't feel like it would deprive me in any meaningful way of enjoying my music.
Yes, in absolute terms, an (expensive) dedicated amp may yield better results (esp. via balanced) depending on the headphone, and how finely tuned that amp is to your preferred sound signature, but poo-pooing the M-DAC amp section just because it is integrated would be doing it a disservice.
Some more specifics: the Audezes would be pushing it (but no notable distortion at max. volume, to its credit), the Fostex TH900 is my personal favourite (on the M-DAC, not overall), the W3000ANV is OK but prefer other options, it keeps the Edition 8's treble under control well enough compared to some other options I tried, the Senn Momentum still has too much (even a bit more?) bass, but even Tzar 350 IEMs work very nicely, with almost enough bass (on portable solutions, I tend to EQ in a bit of a bass boost, its only weakness IMHO)
As I mentioned elsewhere before, if I had to move and only keep the essentials at hand for a while, I would be perfectly content with just the M-DAC and my favourite pair of cans.
thanks for the feedback TheGrumpyOldMan. I will be using M-Dac with Westone 4 IEMs. Do you think bass response will be weak? I think M-dac is going to complement it quite good on top since W4 is slightly treble shy. W4 basically is a balanced IEM with slight mid bass boost. It is not dark and it is not exactly warm.
Not familiar with the W4, I find the M-DAC pretty neutral compared to my other amps, maybe a -slight- bass emphasis, mostly from providing ample clean power (their "CROSS JFET Class A amplification") I think adjusting the filters will give you a bit of control over the sound signature, esp. in the treble domain.