I know the cynics in the audience may have a hard time believing this, but sometimes when I receive a component for review I don’t know its price. In the case of the Musical Fidelity M1 DAC and V-Link USB adapter, time had erased their price-point from my memory banks. When I finally discovered how little they cost—$699 and $169, respectively—I was more than pleasantly surprised. Practically anyone who can afford a Mac Mini can probably also spring for a M1 DAC and V-Link, creating a playback system that will enthrall all who give it a listen. According to Musical Fidelity, “the M1 and V-series offers state-of-the-art performance for a low price. It is done by solid commercial principles and state-of-the-art circuit/PCB design. The V-series has no extraneous anything. It is state-of-the-art circuitry laid out to perfection with no trimmings, packaged in a simple low-cost housing made in large numbers.” How well does Musical Fidelity succeed at bringing the state of digital art to the masses? Well enough to elicit a gentle tugging at purse strings.
Fidelity Ain’t Cheap
Musical Fidelity has a blue-chip reputation that comes from making A-grade audio components for over two decades. Headed by designer Anthony Michaelson, Musical Fidelity specializes in electronics, and was among the first companies to make a high-end digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The V Series components were a big leap for Musical Fidelity, from the rarefied heights of “If you have to ask what it costs you can’t afford it” to “I’ll take one for each room.” Historically, few audio companies have succeeded in covering such a wide price range without shortchanging some parts of their lines. But Musical Fidelity has managed to consolidate its position at the über-high end with products such as its Titan Class A power amplifier, while simultaneously creating the new M1 and V Series budget lines.
Technically, what differentiates the M1 DAC from its competition are its extremely low-distortion circuits (with overall distortion of less than 0.005% across the entire frequency band). The M1 DAC also uses a Class A analog output circuit that generates 2.25V RMS via its RCA single-ended outs and 4.5V RMS from its balanced XLR outputs. In addition, the M1 employs a special choke-filtration system that acts like a power conditioner for its entire power supply.