Audiolab M-DAC

Average User Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. sq225917
    4.0/5,
    "Like it lots, "
    Pros - Compact, high VFM, good functionality, designer has provided many feature updates in firmware
    Cons - lack of 192 on USB, and nobalanced headphone out from the front panel.
    I've had this forever, but never thought about writing a review for it.
     
    I came to the Mdac via the Young and the Weiss 202, both which i still had when the Mdac first landed. it saw the Young off with its pre-amp functionality, remote control, headphone out  and better treble. The Young sounded a touch coarse in the upper register compared to the Mdac. Similarly the Mdac a touch coarse compared to the Weiss, but only slightly so and for less than 1/6 th the costs I was cashing my Weiss in and putting the money into my hifi elsewhere.
     
    I lived happily with the Mdac for a good year or so, then the designer started mentioning upgrades to the unit, revisions to the output stage, mods to the local regs inside the unit and improvements to the earthing scheme amongst others. I sent mine in for the mods and after a while, quite a while, it returned. It was sweeter sounding up top, very fine indeed and the bass had taken on a whole new level of solidity and drive. 
     
    During the time I've owned the Mdac there have been a host of firmware updates, both Mac and Windoze. They've added a lot of stuff, dimming display, wider bandwidth input for using with poor jitter sources, menu naming, improved filters. It's nice to see a company actually delivering a regular stream of new features via drivers, plenty never bother.
     
    Since then I've further sent it back for another mods package, which is based on the design he intends implementing in the replacement Mdac2, which he's going to make and release under his own brand rather than with Audiolab (IAG) who he's no longer connected with. So I'm looking forward to that coming back any time soon. The Mdac2 sounds like it will be Xmas/Feb time and will be a drop in mainboard PCB upgrade for current Mdac owners or a completely new unit for new purchasers. I'm very interested to see what he can come up with using a dual ESS chip layout and with is capable of handling DSD directly over USB and dual wire Spdif.
     
    To be honest I mostly use it as a digital pre driving my power amp directly and that's where it sounds best IME. Talk says that the revisions to the output stage have lowered the Headphone output impedance even further and added more class A operating margin for more drive into difficult loads. Might be tiem to change from my Sony MDR-1r to some planars...
  2. head8k
    5.0/5,
    "Great DAC"
    Pros - Feature packed, great sound, balanced outs, preamp mode
    Cons - Parent company (IAG, China) not providing support, weak power connector
    I love this DAC - it really sounds fantastic and is packed with features, inputs, outputs and great looks. Designed by arguably the best engineer working in this field - John Westlake (Google him if you're not familiar with his work) - I knew it was going to be good even before hearing it.
     
    John provides support over on the Pink Fish Media forums and has released firmware updates and fixed customer's units if faults arise. It's a strange situation where a designer working as a consultant (for Audiolab/IAG in this case) is providing repairs outside of the official warranty. Anyway, the community arising around this DAC is growing all the time and it seems to have a great future ahead of it with John's own company, Lakewest, currently designing matching linear psu, amps, a transport and more.
     
    I cannot recommend this DAC highly enough and it really should be auditioned if this is your price bracket.
  3. Ruzhyo
    4.0/5,
    "Slick"
    Pros - Great sound
    Cons - cannot off display
    Works and sounds great.
     
    Too bad display cannot be off.  Bright and distracting. 
  4. v3n
    5.0/5,
    "Audiolab M-Dac"
    Pros - Sound Quality, Ease of Use, Fantastic Support including firmware requests, Features
    Cons - Requires galvanic isolation on USB input through additional device
    Fantastic half width DAC that features 5 inputs, a remote, an OLED display, a pre-amp and a headphone amp.
     
    Based around the transparent ESS Sabre 9018 chip, this box of tricks can transform your listening experience.
     
     
    Bit-perfect playback of your music is guaranteed if you pass the units testing procedure as the M-DAC can check your digital audio chain and will report failure when testing via two test files (44khz and 96khz) that have known values.
     
    I'm using the USB connection on PC with a Olimex galvanic USB isolator in-between two regular USB cables with 100% pass rate.
     
    Constant feedback on the pinkfishmedia.net message board is very insightful and upgrades are planned including unofficial user requests.
     
    Couldn't be happier with the sound which is very revealing which gives a very pleasurable listening experience.
     
    Highly recommended.