Musiland MD30 - musiland's new dac/amp

General Information

Overstated specs go here, but we won't bother since the measured specs are quoted on Soomal.

Windows only (drivers) so far, but Musiland is allegedly is making mac drivers

Has a:
Class-A transistor based amp, with a low/high impedance HP output socket
Bulk transfer mode USB (not async, really, bulk... Repeat after me - bulk... musiland customer support can't read device manager info or USBTrace isosync endpoints it seems).
Supports up to 24/192k via USB.
Line out, XLR out
Coax in, Toslink in, Mu-link in, AES/EBU in.
Mu-bass (or soon Mu-dsp) EQ (system wide except ASIO).
'Asynchronous FIFOs Step by Step Receiver' for SPDIF/toslink.
Headphone out is really capable of driving up to 300ohm HP quite well.
Firmware is upgradeable, and now musiland made a non-console output windowed update utility. Rejoice.

Latest reviews

Pros: Bulk mode usb,ok 300ohm capable amp,24/192k support... more refined sound than md11 (that's actually a preference but I'm reaching there :D)
Cons: still no mac or linux drivers, noise on HP1 with low impedance HP, issues with stereo separation on HP2 (low impedance). QC and design issues...Still.
We all know I have a love and hate relationship with musiland and an giant axe to grind with them from MD11 (http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/500181/musiland-md11-to-be-released and http://www.head-fi.org/products/musiland-md11-192k-24b-dac-hp-amp) and MD30 release(http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/543189/musiland-md30-is-out-musilol) and US 03 release (http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/560409/musiland-us-03-03us-us03-you-know-what-i-mean)... I suppose the irony is, after I couldn't sell MD11, it's now my work dac/amp, and does just fine with 300ohm GMP450, so either I don't care anymore , or the sound quality did really improve with the last few firmware and driver releases...'

The axe grinding is also from musiland always overstating and stating meaningless specs, when just after release soomal measures all the outputs roughly the same for MD11, MD30 and US 03. Or when it's clear mu-link has higher stated bit depth and sampling rate than MD30 and 11 and US 03 can support (I still hate soomal for not stating the power out and impedance load for the HP measurements, but no one cares, but oh well, they clearly don't listen)

So I decided to get an MD30(yes, veery rational of me there). http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/543189/musiland-md30-is-out-musilol

So...if you want some pretty pictures, visit the soomal evaluation:
http//www.soomal.com/doc/10100002153.htm

Here are 4 ugly ones from me to confirm ownership :D
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Let's start from the good points:

It uses bulk mode USB transfer mode that supports error correction and renders your aftermarket cable useless. You can read a bit more about it in http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/565791/on-usb-cables-and-controller-transfer-modes-a-series-of-questions-to-replies-from-usb-org and http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/546092/confirming-whether-your-dac-is-asynchronous-as-claimed-or-not
The sound is more refined than MD11 (better highs definition but a bit less bass)...Matter of preference there.
The clock is better than MD11 (vastly).
As is the SPDIF/Coax processing (buffered and reclocked). Keep in mind, I don't have a transport, so I can't test it. Some people reported issues on MD30 with the coax, but I think it was fixed in the lastest firmware.
The amp can really drive 300ohm HP without sploding. (interestingly MD11 can too now, after a major firmware update)
XLR out and line out sound pretty good and detailed but not harsh.

That concludes the good points. I'll quote my expectations for MD30 derived from owning an MD11 and let you see how those panned out below:

>a) buggy drivers and firmware without change logs or proper testing/QM or release management or installation instructions or manuals to reflect the changes in operation,

yes, that's a problem. Still no bundled change logs or install instructions. + The initial release had problems with SNR/THD+N and IMD on the HP outs. These are now fixed (took 2 months). but HP2 out 2 (low impedance ) still has stereo separation issues and it's doubtful that will get fixed.


>b) high noise floor due to PSU issues,
>DC offset on line out and HP out.

That was my assumption from MD11. I think it's more of an impedance mismatch issue for HP1 on md30 (you definitely hear noise on IEMs and low impedance HP)... unfortunately I wasn't able to get a coherent answer from musiland support to whether the MD30 low impedance HP out is just he HP1 + a resistor... my guess it is. Hence the issues above. It could still be a USB grounding or switching PSU noise issue, but I very highly doubt it.
There no longer is any DC offset on signal to ground on XLR, line or HP out. There is 200mv on ground to neutral, but I don't know if it's bad: http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/550811/how-much-dc-offset-would-you-consider-harmful-to-hp-and-after-which-point-would-you-throw-the-commercial-amp-out


>d) fiddly navigation with 1 overloaded jog dial doing everything. The jog dial that has to be authoritatively gripped holding your hand directly opposite it to turn (otherwise it slips) (and is overloaded with to nearly 0 usability with all actions being via it)

This is still annoying and I wish it came with a remote control. For an RRP of $600 and US sellers wanting nearly $800 it's quite justified.


>e) instability at high ambient temperatures (freezes).

not sure, it's currently winter and 20 *C... When it gets to 40, I'll update the review.



>f) overstated specs? quoting not measured specs, but DAC chip specs - see b), extrapolate the effects to SNR . (also, half of Soomal's RMAA pics are for some reason gone now and only the 44.1k measurements are left up)

Why yes! Musiland BSed again.. The SNR and THD+N are stated for the DAC and opamps... The actual measurements from soomal are an order of magnitude or two lower .(not that other manufacturers don't do it...)


>h) a nice looking box with 0 corner strength and undecipherable marketing gibberish on it.

Yes, the box is completely unsuitable for postage. Make sure the seller double packs it.
I either had my unit damaged in transit because of being mailed in the stock box, or it was a QC screw up (knowing musiland, about equally likely). http://www.head-fi.org/gallery/album/view/id/35230/user_id/125162 here's one of the input lines into the screen not being connected at all
View attachment .
Musiland ignored my emails about this (explicitly blackmailing them about QC btw :D) but I could finally get to them via their BBS forum http://bbs.musiland.com.cn/viewthread.php?tid=11422&highlight=, where they said I'd need to pay shipping both ways if I wanted it fixed (yea thanks, but, no thanks). That said - their moderators tried to help, and no one deleted my post...Unless they didn't quite understand the blackmail and points I was making about QC being vapidly poor and sooo many design issues not publicized anywhere.


>i) sound quality severely degrades for higher impedance headphones (e.g. GMP450 PRO), sound sig becomes mids centric and hollow. Distortion/noise floor also raise significantly to make things even worse

No longer the case for either MD11 or MD30. Blessed be firmware.


Now to my favorite topic of poor design QC and testing:
The HP2 has out issue with stereo separation problems and HP1 noise from impedance mismatch...
Thankfully, there is no more DC offset on HP or line out. There were clear firmware problems at the start with IMD and THD+N with HP out. There is a slight problem on XLR out at the moment (design issue)... There is about 200mv DC between ground and neutral. Reportedly it could be a problem for some units it feeds http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/550811/how-much-dc-offset-would-you-consider-harmful-to-hp-and-after-which-point-would-you-throw-the-commercial-amp-out, but wasn't for my Transistor-Amp v3. There were problems with coax in losing sync, but I'm fairly sure the OP said it was fixed on musiland BBS (if you intend to get on and use coax, I'd reaaaally want to confirm if I was you).

Bottom line:
That's about it really. The HP out sounds pretty good overall (at least HP1) even with high impedance HP (obviously there's a problem with low impedance ones, incl the HP2 stereo separation). HP2 sounds flat and weird (and this was my assessment before seeing the soomal measurements)

XLR and line out sound excellent to me (better than MD11 via capped cable and Yulong D100, and Aune Mk2 and Benchmark DAC 1 USB).
It's neutral, but not harsh. Sort of like the outputs on the Audio-gd NFB-10WM. (ironically sharing the low impedance HP issue :D)

Would I buy one for $800 incl the e-retailer shipping to outside china margin - not in a million years.
Is it worth the $500 I got it for - maybe? I would say - NO! Because if I say yes, then I legitimize musiland cr@pping on their customers with QC issues and BS marketing (making that acceptable)
svyr
svyr
IDK, maybe it's marketed heavily in china... Although $600 there would be a lot less affordable than $800 in Australia (or so I'd speculate).

I bought it out of curiosity and because I like the idea of the bulk mode usb transfer.
Unfortunately Musiland haven't really learned from their mistakes of MD11... Well, not all of them anyway.
svyr
svyr
Output impedance on the headphone out (especially 1) is too high. Low impedance/high sensitivity IEMs (e.g Unique Melody Aero or Mage), sound terrible and have interaction issues (high noise floor, distorted frequency response). Even hp out 2 doesn't seem to fix it fully. (even a cowon d2 sounds better )

Not something I'd expect from a $600 amp/dac. Will be buying an nwaguy o2 amp for low impedance headphones and iems.
svyr
svyr
ps i suspect the quoted output impedance of 2ohm is actually higher

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