Audiolab‘s first M-DAC was, without a doubt, a game-changer. Released back in 2011, the M-DAC has gone on to win no fewer than four back-to-back ‘What Hi-Fi?’ awards across the categories it was listed in, as well as many other plaudits from media outlets across the globe. Five years is a long time in the electronics industry though, and 2016 finally sees the M-DAC given the once over by Audiolab‘s engineers. The result is the M-DAC+, and Audiolab will be hoping that lightning can strike twice with this new iteration.
Featuring an entirely new aesthetic, the M-DAC+ takes its design cues from the 8300 series of products. Opting for smooth, rounded dials and display in favour of the sharper lines of its predecessor, the symmetrical front panel of the M-DAC+ certainly looks every inch the premium product. Where the original had something of a CB radio look going on, the M-DAC+ has a real flair to it’s front end – definitely a real improvement.
Of course, the hardware maketh the DAC, and Audiolab have cut no corners here either. Rather than throwing the old model out and starting again (a terrible waste of an award-winning product!), Audiolab have focused on bringing the M-DAC+ into line with more recent DAC releases. So, whilst the ESS Sabre32 9018 DAC chip is still in, the USB socket has been upgraded to accept signals as high as 32-bit/384kHz, as well as also playing DSD64, 128 and 256. These two updates are most certainly the key selling features for any modern DAC. With hi-res audio coming on in leaps and bounds, and particularly with DSD now filling the gap in the market left by SACD, the M-DAC+ arrives well positioned to be a true digital audio powerhouse.
Those looking to make the most of the M-DAC+‘s full functionality will be pleased to find a host of other inputs on the back panel. Two optical connections, two coaxial, an AES/EBU socket and an additional USB socket for connectivity to Apple devices accompany the above-mentioned USB slot. One each of optical and coaxial outputs are also included. RCA and XLR outputs round things off, offering the two most common methods for connecting DAC to amplifier. As with most desktop DAC’s these days, Audiolab have included a 6.3mm headphone socket, giving the M-DAC+ even greater convenience.
One of the original M-DAC‘s standout features was the use of switchable ‘filters’ built into the DAC’s software. These filters enable the user to switch between a number of settings (11 in total) that slightly alter the sound of the DAC. This is a fantastic way to tailor the machine not only to the user but to particular genres of music or file-type quality as the user sees fit.
Under the bonnet, the M-DAC+ sees its largest hardware change in the form of a new, precision-wound transformer. This hefty power supply should guarantee smooth, clean power distribution, and Audiolab‘s engineers claim this to be their best-specced power supply for any DAC they’ve yet produced.
All in all, the M-DAC+ looks set to carry on its older brother left off. Its host of new features, coupled with a smart new design, should ensure that Audiolab have even more stars in their eyes come awards season.
Alternatively, you can find out more about the Audiolab M-DAC+ here.
Author – Chris, Liverpool Store