Audiolab M-ONE

FOR Ex­pan­sive sound­stage; aptx Blue­tooth; ca­pa­ble DAC AGAINST Lean bal­ance; tre­ble lacks re­fine­ment “By re­pur­pos­ing the suc­cess­ful for­mula of the M-DAC+, Audiolab has cre­ated a bold-sound­ing amp”

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Any­one who’s ever tried cramming hol­i­day clothes into a carry-on cabin suit­case will sym­pa­thise with the con­cept be­hind Audiolab’s lat­est in­te­grated am­pli­fier. How do you pack pre/power am­pli­fier and aptx Blue­tooth re­ceiver into the same com­pact chas­sis as the com­pany’s flag­ship dig­i­tal-toana­logue con­verter, the MŠDAC+, with­out com­pro­mis­ing per­for­mance?

Here’s how: the 40W-per-chan­nel MŠONE. Phys­i­cally, it’s very sim­i­lar to the flag­ship MŠDAC+, with the same boxy alu­minium case, cen­tral OLED dis­play and dou­ble rotary dial cre­at­ing a con­tem­po­rary aes­thetic. It’s sig­nif­i­cantly heav­ier than its DAC cousin, the in­clu­sion of the power amp adding on the pounds.

Fas­tid­i­ously well-staged

Call­ing the MŠONE ‘the MŠDAC+ with am­pli­fi­ca­tion and Blue­tooth’ would be mis­lead­ing. It shares the DAC tech­nol­ogy with Audiolab’s stand­alone mod­els, but fea­tures the two-chan­nel ESS9018 K2M chip, the ‘lit­tle brother’ of the eightchan­nel ESS9018 used in the MŠDAC+.

It nabs the head­phone amp from the MŠDAC+ and its pre­de­ces­sor the MŠDAC, and you can take ad­van­tage of that via the 6.3mm jack. Two USB in­puts – one type-b for PC and Mac com­pat­i­bil­ity and one type-a for Ap­ple de­vices – sup­port 32-bit/384khz and DSD256.

Sin­gle op­ti­cal and coax­ial in­puts are 32-bit/192khz com­pat­i­ble, and there’s a pair of line-level in­puts. Seven sound set­tings for PCM files in the MŠDAC+ are whit­tled down to three here, but join the same four set­tings for DSD files.

Pre­dictably, the MŠONE bears a like­ness to the MŠDAC+’S in­sight­ful and au­thor­i­ta­tive sound, crisply draw­ing in­stru­ments on a sound­stage that is not only big and ex­pan­sive, but also fas­tid­i­ously well-staged. Be­yond size and scale, it dis­tin­guishes it­self with gen­er­ous de­tail, par­tic­u­larly in the midrange.

Float­ing across keys

The Audiolab is flu­ent and fo­cused with the melodic pi­ano in Lu­dovico Ein­audi’s An­cora, de­liv­er­ing its flow­ing na­ture while en­sur­ing each note is punc­tual, well de­fined and har­mo­nious. It sig­nals both dy­namic up­heavals and less ap­par­ent vari­a­tions with ease. The piece brims with vari­a­tion, no key car­ry­ing the same bur­den. It con­jures im­ages of the pi­anist’s hands float­ing across the keys.

Rhythms are con­fi­dently ren­dered, if not as pre­cisely or sub­tlely as through the Rega Elex-r or Heed Elixir. The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the vo­cal echo, snare drums, cym­bals and synth riffs in Ma­jor Lazer’s Pon De Floor de­mands tip-top tim­ing and, even in the most con­vo­luted sec­tion, the MŠONE avoids be­ing tongue-tied.

In­stru­ments don’t just con­cern them­selves with kick­ing in right on cue, but also with how they in­ter­play with one an­other. There’s as much in­sight into the march­ing drum roll as the choppy synth hooks, which speaks vol­umes for the MŠONE’S demo­cratic spread of de­tail.

While it’s backed with some weight and mus­cle, ton­ally the pre­sen­ta­tion is a lit­tle lean. It’s not quite as im­me­di­ate as the Rega or Cyrus One, but thanks to its other tal­ents it’s sure to grow on you. There is one crit­i­cism: the tre­ble feels raw­boned, the Audiolab snag­ging the edge of notes at the top of the fre­quency range where we’d like a lit­tle more warmth.

By re­pur­pos­ing the suc­cess­ful for­mula of the MŠDAC+ for the stereo amp world, and fur­ther strength­en­ing its va­lid­ity with the ad­di­tion of Blue­tooth stream­ing, Audiolab has cre­ated a bold-sound­ing amp. While it’s not quite class-lead­ing, it is cer­tainly wor­thy of its il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sors and de­mands a lis­ten.

The alu­minium case looks sim­i­lar to that on the flag­ship M-DAC+ KEY FEA­TURES 32-bit/384khz DSD256 aptx Blue­tooth

Two asyn­chro­nous USB in­puts sup­port 32-bit/384khz and DSD256

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