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When I first heard this dac, I thought it would hold it's ground with it's well respected reputation. Well, i'm glad to say that this dac was so magical, that it outperformed the red book standard sony 777 cd player, and it went toe to toe on sacd. This dac put every performance into a live spectrum, and I have never heard more clean, fast, and accurate low level detail and bass from a dac at that price. This dac has demolished the likes of my bel canto dac, and the msb, and even the audio note tubed dac. Make sure you use silver plated coaxial cable, for some reason, the tributaries silver plated cables made magic on this dac and threw a huge soundstage over the xlo, audiquest, and cardas that I tried with it. So for interconnects, this dac really liked silver, I mean, I found some copper interconnects too soft, but the silver plated nu-vista cables by the same company just put everything in place. You have to hear this dac, I have one of the prototypes that were sent to canada. This dac sounds incredible on neutral to laid back transports. Even an old pioneer transport made this thing sound incredible, and with a high end transport like the sony 777 cd player, or the pioneer stable plater, or a teac transport from what i've heard, this thing has air, soundstage, imaging, the blackest background, lots of depth, and acuity and beyond. Wether your looking for a dac that's $2000 or even up to $5000, listen to this dac, why? because it's under $2000 and when the reveiws get out, your going to have a hard time getting your hands on one, and like the bel canto dac, your only going to see this thing used when the new version is released, and that's far away, remember, this dac is based off their $7500 NU VISTA cd player, and believe you me, whether you have electrostatics, magnaplanar speakers, k-horn or box speakers, this thing will make you realize the future of upsampling.
I enjoy reading UK reviews (even though we have to pay exorbitant prices here in the US for publications like "What Hi-Fi?"). Still, I think all Americans should take British reviews with a grain of salt, especially since Americans generally have different tastes than the Brits. Americans like major-league SLAM in their bass, while UK listeners often focus more on subtle musicality and rhythm in their gear (i.e., Linn). In other words, you might find yourself in agreement with a British review in terms of their analysis and the rationale behind why they arrived at a certain conclusion, or you might find yourself feeling that a given British review simply doesn't apply to your tastes. Ultimately, I try to blend American and British reviews before making a serious purchase, in order to obtain multiple perspectives on the pros and cons of that particular item. Such was the case with the Denon 3802 receiver that I'll be adding to my home theater (Gallo speakers). I really felt the cross referencing of British and American reviews helped me get a better feel for the overall characteristics, sonic and otherwise, of this piece.
It does sound terrific. We have had some other upsamplers here that have been fine, but not a big deal to me. So they sit because if I don't get a groove from it I can't get behind it.
Thus far this has been quite a different experience. I have been so backed up I have not been able to spend hours with it. I am most curious about the switchable upsampling frequency option with different discs. And how it works with different transports.
My tax appt is Thursday. I was going to get the final stuff together Wed nite. I will try to do it tonite (Tuesday), and if I don't commit suicide, will use Wednesday nite to just play with the DAC without interruption.
I will say compared to another product I have had. this is built much better. More substantial. Esp for the price.
The new MF DAC sounds quite good and gives alot of performance for the money. It still isn't as good as a $3500 single box unit (Linn Ikemi, Krell KAV-280cd, Meridian 508/24) but for the price it gets awfully close. If you have an older CD player that you don't want to replace but want a more open, spacious sound I'd definately recommend checking this unit out.
No volume control, multiple upsampling frequencies, coaxial and optical inputs ( no balanced ) and lists for $1195.
I have to admit, i REALLY wish that they would have had someone other than "Mr Tellig" review it. This is not to say that i don't like reading his column, enjoy his style, etc... I just don't feel comfortable with reviewers covering dozens of products from the same manufacturer and all of them getting raves ( Class A ) or near raves ( Class B ). I'm not even near the lake or ocean yet something smells fishy on this one. Kind of like reading an Audio Research review that Robert Harley writes. You already know the outcome... Sean
I certainly agree on the Sam Tellig thing - between Musical Fidelity and Triangle speakers he doesn't find much time to write about anything else. He appears to be close personal friends with the founders of the line and gets treated like a king. MF, at least, appears to spend a fortune on advertising with Stereophile and, as Sean says, everything ST reviews of their's gets a rave review. I enjoy Stereophile a lot and try not to go out of my way to bash them, but the ST columns for the past 12-18 months have broken just about every rule I can think of if one wants to maintain objectivity and credibility. -Kirk
It's interesting this is being brought up, after reading the review of the A324 the other day, I was going to start a thread on here asking questions about MF.
As already stated, each product gets a rave review and either class A or B rating, which is fine if true.
It would be great if class A products would come down to these prices.
What particularly struck me in the review is that the guy from MF, I forget his name, jumps on a plane and hand delivers the product. I just envision Sam having a hard time cutting it down with this going on.
1) Antony Michaelson takes an untested unit out of a pre-production run of a brand new up and coming product.
2) He flies across the ocean to hand deliver this unit to Sam Tellig in person
3) The unit dies within 24 hours of installation and turn on ( much like Blackie's unit did )
4) A replacement unit is sent and it performs flawlessly.
5) The unit is an instant success and is placed in the ( new this month ) Class A listing of Stereophile recommended components.
Let's examine this a little closer.
Points 1 - 3: What manufacturer in his right mind would hand deliver an unverified unit directly to a reviewer on the other side of the ocean ? Why would a manufacturer put an entirely new product, production run and his company's reputation at risk without first verifying that the sample was at least up to snuff ?
The obvious reason is that he had no fear of getting "bad press" under ANY circumstances. He also wanted to "get the word out" about his latest "moneymaker" via someone that he knew would act as a high profile advertising mouthpiece. In that respect, i would say that his "mission" was accomplished.
Besides that, ST's unit failed during normal operation and so did Blackie's. What does that tell you about Musical Fidelity's quality control or parts selection ? Not exactly up to snuff for a "Class A" manufacturer, regardless of price.
Points 4 & 5: Tellig downplays the fact that the unit died, makes a joke about an older MF product "fading away" due to technology moving on to lighten things up and then comes back to talk about how great sounding and reliable the new model is. The fact that he happens to REALLY like it and manages to sneak in the review just in time for their latest "recommended components" list is strictly a coincidence.
This is not very different than a "previous coincidence". Sam managed to "sneak in" reviews of their "Class A" preamp and "Class B" power amp just in time to make a previous "recommended components" issue. Kind of amazing how the timing on this stuff works out. In fact, the little blurb that accompanied those recommendations actually stated "See ST's review this issue". Kind of like saying, "this stuff is good. Just ask Sam".
Now factor in how many products Musical Fidelity has had reviewed in the last 3 - 4 years and how many of those products have been HIGHLY recommended. In case you're wondering, their "worst" product ranks in "Class B". Now think about how many other brands and products are out there. You have to wonder how MF has gained priority over the hundreds of other audio manufacturers that would KILL for even a "decent" product review.
The funny thing is that i've discussed this situation with John Atkinson previously. He insisted that ST is NOT "bought & paid for" when it comes to MF gear.
Both the "statistics" and "logic" dictate a different answer though. After all, how many other companies have had multiple products reviewed by Stereophile during the same amount of time ? The fact that JA himself has been called to task about HIS affiliations with Harmon International ( Levinson, Revel, Proceed, JBL, Infinity, etc... ) says something in itself. You would think that they would "wise up" sooner or later, but i guess not.
This has been an on-going debate at AA as many of you know. JA and i ended up going round and round initially and ended up talking privately via email. While he assured me that everything was now "on the up & up" and that they had "cleaned house", he also verified some of the accusations about "reviewer misconduct" that i had made. After all, you can't deny FACTS that came straight from the horses' mouth.
As such, i initially believed what he had to say and figured that he was trying to get things straightened out. Since he did "own up" and come clean about some of the improprieties that had taken place in the past, i figured that things might get better. As such, i figured that we would start seeing some major changes in how products were picked, who reviewed them, etc.. I guess that either i was lied to or i am a fool.
This situation has now spilled over onto A-gon with much the same "flavour". The general consensus is that Stereophile reviews / reviewers ARE bought and paid for. That is, at least SOME of them. The basic platform and reasoning as to why some of us think what we do is covered quite well by Kristian Soholm in the April "letters" section of Stereophile. If you haven't seen that letter, you need to. It sums things up all too well.
Subscribers should take note that nobody on the entire staff offered any type of rebuttal to those accusations or statements. I think that JA figured that just publishing such harsh criticism would show that they had nothing to hide. My take on it is that the argument presented makes so much sense that he has only helped to condemn himself as an editor and the magazine as a whole.
The REALLY scary thing about all of this is that TAS is now supposedly undergoing major revamping with new leadership. While i've seen some very positive comments about what has taken place so far, i shutter to think about where that magazine will end up when all is said and done. If it goes where i think it will go, we will end up with NO American based "glossies" to read and / or believe.
Would such a situation be our fault. Yes, mostly. We've allowed "corruption" in every facet of life to take place for so long that nobody thinks it is "wrong" anymore. It is somewhat expected and treated as if the old adage "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" were true. Keep it behind closed doors and nobody will know any better. The only problem is that the corruption has become SO obvious that we can no longer overlook it. After getting slapped more than a few times on each cheek, there's nothing left to do but face the music and get your hands dirty. Sean
I believe you are totally correct on this.
The UK mags are exactly the same and although I enjoy reading them I would never buy a product or even believe any hype surrounding any piece of equipment based on their views-certainly at least by some of the writers.
But I do enjoy the mags,I get to read about stuff I could never afford and obviously a lot of the writers are genuine about this hobby but I see many reviewers who appear to be in the pockets of the big guys.
The only choice we really have is not to buy the mags.
Here's an interesting bit of information - Sam Tellig's (not his real name) graphic design company does the layout for the Audio Advisor catalog which was the exclusive Musical Fidelity dealer in the US. Not to say that the MF gear is not good but maybe there was a little "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."
You can't buy a good review at Stereophile. I can assure you of that. I know from behind the scenes of a couple companies that have pulled big dollars not just for getting bad reviews or not getting mentions at shows. Sam Tellig certainly has given good reviews to Rega. Do you see a single Rega ad? Triangle hardly advertises at all...this month in the "showcase" section which is the least expensive.
I spend a lot of money there doing a full page every month, and I deal with an outside ad rep like everyone else.
On Musical Fidelity ..it couldn't be that the gear deserves it, can it? The product of the year awards from not just the US, but from the UK and Asia? Naw...it's the guy behind the grassy knoll that killed the president.
As to any reviewers likes and dislikes...I will say this. Some want to "be the first" to discover something. If they aren't, they may temper their words without even realizing it. If you piss them off, you may get a review that is lukewarm to bad. So on a personal level, yes, there can be a lot of ass-kissing.
No different than a new car introduction. You don't think that does not get special handling? Parties? Test track get-togethers? In most other industies it much worse than hifi because high end audio manufactures are small and don't have the money.
As to relationships and gear getting hand delivered, If you were the owner of a small company you would not make sure everything lined up? You'd be dumb not to.
Lastly, some people are fans of marques. I like BMW. In fact I LOVE BMW. So when they come out with a new model I will have interest and a pre-conceived feeling of its potential. I have a Chrysler Town and Country minivan too (I have to). My last one was a piece of crap, and though this one is better I still cast a suspicious eye. It's human nature.
One last thing. I've been in this a while, and when guys get into ultra high end, there is sometimes a notion that "if it's made in a garage, it's better". The small up-and-comer has "new" concepts and ideas...then that same company, after they get big and actually HAVE some REAL engineering experience (and they start advdertising)is suddenly not tweaky enough and everything they make is "good but does not exhibit emotion" or some such goofiness.
If I sense that, some customers will admit it, some won't. It's like that in watch collecting too. Most serious collectors hate Rolex and dismiss them as commercial mass made watches. Truth is they work and don't break.
Upscaleaudio - lots of good points and interesting insight. I wouldn't, however, liken anybody's assertions to be conspiratorial to the point of being ludicrous. If nothing else, even if MF is the greatest value / gear ever made, what's up with covering every component they've ever produced? I mean, ST has covered so many of their pieces in the past 18-24 months it's almost silly. Then they've also received full blown reviews on the high-end components as they've come rolling off the production line as well. I have no experience with MF gear, but am more than willing that believe that it's excellent stuff. I'm also willing to believe that there is no direct connection between this number of reviews and MF's place on the back cover of recent Stereophiles (certainly one of the most expensive full-page ad placements in the magazine). But the combination of all this coverage, coupled with the glowing (even by Stereophile standards) reviews and the hands-on service is certainly going to bring suggestions of impropriety. Even if it's not accurate (or completely accurate), it's not "out there" to suggest that this behavior causes the opinions generated to be somewhat suspect.
And, no, I doubt anybody here thinks that this behavior is unique to audio. I'm sure if we were talking about cars, guitars, power boats or what have you that there would be threads with the same theme. I'm in a position where decisions I make can direct a significant amount of capital expenditure and am therefore exposed to nice "offers" that are, of course, not intended to influence my behavior. It's why many corporations have a "no gift" policy - they don't want this type of behavior to influence the right business decisions. Of course the behavior is still rampant, but some companies are much stricter than others specifically because they want to be "above" reproach on the topic. If you're openly hand-in-hand with the equipment supplier and potential advertiser, and all that that brings with it, you're going to legitimately bring a shadow of potential impropriety on yourself.
It is funny how the pattern of upstart vs. established plays itself out across so many hobbies. A friend of mine is into biking and, without knowing any of the brand names, I started describing the "overpriced piece of crap" made by one of the big players, that nobody "in the know" would buy because they know the real performers. Only those thousands of satisfied semi-enthusiasts who don't know any better buy that stuff. -Kirk
They have covered many of the Musiacl Fidelity products..but NOT every one. But if the product is one that deserves it, why shouldn't they? They write about stuff that is interesting and in demand, whether that is from a small compamy or not.
Look at Creek. A bit of press there, eh? How many Creek ads are there? Zero I see.
If the statements made earlier rang true, there is a full color inside gatefold ad for YBA.
Mordant Short has a full page color. Where's the juice for that? So does Canton. And Ar. And Viola. How many more? It's silly. In fact it appears the reverse is true.
How about the Richard Gray's Power Company? He has a half page color and if my memory serves me well...that has not bought him a thing. I recall a review he may not have dug.
How about full color from SMART? Half page color for Acoustic Dreams? Where's the payback?
If I have any gripe with reviewers, it's that they may take a contrary position to a brand or model that's "hot" either consciously or subconsciously. Or if a brand is not "stylish" they won't say how really good it is...esp if it's a model or line that has been around or beat up anywhere else.
Good example is Sonic Frontiers which made amps that were no doubt some of the best ever. Class A..and you could not deny their performance and engineering...but the last reviews were written with less "oomph".
On the small company thing....some small brands overcharge like crazy...at obscene levels for what you get. I think every product should be judged on it's own merit. I also think that there are some brands that work on a lower margin, giving you more for your dollar.
Musical Fidelity is no doubt one of those, and it can be witnessed by taking the lid off and comparing them to Levinson and many others.
Interesting remarks and rebuttals written above; at my level, I may be least appropriate to add to this discussion.
I wouldn't say for sure that "You can't buy a good review at Stereophile". I have no first hand facts either. But I have talked with a few people much farther up the latter than I that can be more convincing that it this is possible; I am not one to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon though.
If there didn’t seem anything peculiar to all the MF reviews and the most recent in particular, there wouldn't be a number of people chiming in. True, none of us knows for sure, but the behavior draws attention to itself.
As for him jumping on a plane and hand delivering the product, Upscaleaudio stated, “If you were the owner of a small company you would not make sure everything lined up?". If he was so desirous to have "all things line up", then why didn't spend some time trying the unit out first? Also, what does "owning a small company" have to do with this being more important over any other company? (I am not being ultra critical here, just my observations on the comments.)
I really thought the comments by Upscale about people’s thoughts of a company at "start up" or "young" versus when they are full scale were very insightful!
I also liked the fact of Upscale pointing out that there are many brands advertising and not getting reviews. (Although this leads us back to why is MF so blessed to have as many reviews in such a short time period?)
And as alluded to, we have our favorites, if I have a favorite brand, I am more curious to try theirs latest out.
Upscale, your closing statement left me a little puzzled, about pulling the lid and comparing products and you specifically mentioned MF and ML. I am not sure what you meant by it.
I have only seen pictures of both products with their hoods off. From what I have seen, the MF is far more simplistic, and I don't mean that in that one is better than the other. From what I can see and gather, ML has more to it than the MF. (Again, I am not implying anything about sonics here.)
I have recently talked with two companies that do modifications and I asked a question about an ML amp and each had nothing but high praise for what is in them and how they are constructed and designed.
I think we are blessed by those who can afford to advertise, as this helps continue this hobby. I also hope magazines like Stereophile, TAS and others can continue.
Where would you advertise if you were Creek or YBA? There are obviously companies that try to go word-of-mouth for their advertising, but if you're going to run print ads, don't you pretty much have to go through Stereophile, or maybe a combination of a couple other avenues? Just because there are advertisers who aren't personal acquaintances with ST, having dinner with him, personally delivering and setting up their gear to be reviewed, and having their product covered by him every other issue doesn't change the look of impropriety for those that do.
I don't much care if the "politics" of getting good reviews is thick or thin. They charge a buck an issue for their magazine, so I'll read it. They can cover whatever they want, acquire it however they want, and have any opinion they want. They do a lot of things that are incredibly informative and objective. They have a lot of good reviewers. In general, I think they're an excellent magazine. They also walk an interesting tight rope in their commentary, which is sure to draw commentary from the bleachers, and a few of their practices amplify the commentary. -Kirk
Just because the magazine as a corporate entity "can't be bought", that doesn't mean that individual contributors can't. One would be foolish to think that ANY "organization" was made up of 100% loyal and upright employees.
The statement that Blackie contributed regarding Audio Advisor and Sam "Tellig's" business affiliation is quite interesting and bares checking into. If it is true, i would consider this a breech of ethics to the highest degree.
Someone would be foolish to think that favours don't take place in every line of business. As such, audio is no different. With that in mind, some companies and products that deserve recognition and reviews are passed over simply because "favours" are being exchanged. The favours that reviewers do is to expose / pump up specific products / product lines in exchange for being able to keep the products reviewed at no charge, obtaining other products from said manufacturer / distributor at no cost, being the first to see and comment on new products, etc... After all, reviewers that are "in the know" about new products and industry trends are sought after just like reporters that can sniff out stories.
Besides that, i have talked to a few reviewers that were selling "review models" or that had told me of how their "reference systems" had come about. Believe me, these guys normally CAN'T afford this type of gear. The fact that they can keep "review samples" and then unload them for 100% profit can finance a LOT of audio ( and non audio ) projects.
Nobody can justify covering well over a half dozen components from one company within less than two or three years, let alone one reviewer doing such. This is especially true given the amount of manufacturers and quality of gear that are being neglected to do so.
As to the build quality of MF, it is nothing special at all. Nor is the sound that it produces. I will agree that it is all pretty solid stuff for the money though. I say this having owned a half dozen different pieces of their gear and still owning a few. Anybody that makes "glorious" statements about MF is either lacking exposure to various competitive components or has something to gain by promoting such ideals. The fact that Kevin / UpscaleAudio is a Musical Fidelity dealer tends to support the latter theory. He has surely been exposed to other "more than adequate" product lines in his life to make these statements blindly.
I am out of this conversation and thread for good. I do not need to get sued or dragged into court. I am stating what is strictly my opinion based on first hand knowledge coming from several different horse's mouths. If you think i'm talking trash here, John Atkinson had already threatened to see me in court on a previous occasion. That is, until we privately discussed information that he could not deny nor want revealed to the public. As i had stated on AA and promised to John, what he and i discussed WILL remain private. Even if i don't agree with some of his magazine's policies or actions.
I hope that some of you have woken up from what has been said here and in other related forums. Start supporting the underground mags that don't accept advertising, return their review samples and pay attention to whom their employees associate with. Sean
<< As to the build quality of MF, it is nothing special at all. >>
I don't agree. I just had a Levinson 383 $6500 integrated traded in for a Nu-Vista M3 $4995 integrated. The Nu-vista without the external power supply was more substantial and weighed much more. In fact the power supply by itself was about the same weight as the Levinson.
The A3CR Dual Mono Power amp has four transformers (two large chokes and two large toroids) for $1595. There may be a couple other American or Western made products that also have that to tout. I can't think of them, but there may be some. I am not picking on this name as the only thing to buy...just stating facts. People should buy what they like.
<< Start supporting the underground mags that don't accept advertising, return their review samples and pay attention to whom their employees associate with. Sean >>
I have supplied samples of gear and tubes to magazine reviewers, and in the case of Sam Tellig he was insistant on returning the product (at my expenense) in a very structured manner. I run a full page ad in Stereophile every month, and frankly was pissed at the content of the review (thought positive, I disagreed with its tone) and as you said, I am also a Musical Fidelity dealer, so THAT didn't help. I didn't even know when the friggin' review was coming out. I was in France at the time and had to read a fax of a fax and respond within a couple days.
OTOH, the only time I have not gotten something back is from TWO reviewers of so called "underground mags".
But Sean you are right if you say relationships count and will influence. It would be naive to say they would not.
Even in the "underground" where a "newer" writer may get starry-eyed by getting to talk to some famous name. Influence can take form in many ways. Especially if you don't get paid for writing.
<< They have a lot of good reviewers. In general, I think they're an excellent magazine. They also walk an interesting tight rope in their commentary, which is sure to draw commentary from the bleachers, and a few of their practices amplify the commentary. -Kirk >>
Right on Kirk. And I hope Sean did not get the wrong idea from my comments. Personal influence happens every day, from the guy that gets off on a traffic ticket to whatever. So we do agree on some things.
I think most reviewers are having fun with the hobby, doing the best they can. And they SOMETIMES will be influenced by liking or dis-liking someone, or special treatment.
My point is no magazine is immune to that. Impossible. Unless you hire robots.
I will say that advertising dollars have little to do with it. Reviewers are so removed from that. One of my best friends sells ad space for one of the biggest computer mags in the world, and gets hung out to dry for ad space orders when a product gets a bad review, but tells the manufacturer he has no control over content.
John Marks from Stereophile made a nasty personal comment about me, which is amazing since we've never met and I don't know him from Adam. And he was presuming a bit about me because he did not like my "woody" ad in Stereophile (this was a thread on Audio Asylum). I could care less, but it was suggested that I should be offended by some customers of mine that took offense.
I think there are bigger things to think about.
I will attempt to keep my composure on this reply. As Upscale mentions the 383, which I own, I am bound to get a little defensive. This is my second 383, why two you may ask? Because spending time on places like this and reading many messages, whether accurate or inaccurate, I was convinced to sell the first and try other things, even though I was greatly enjoying the 383.
If I had unlimited funds, I may look into other products, but the 383 works wonderfully for me and I readily admit that some of what I like about the 383 is its functions and ergonomics. The 383 has some wonderful user features that do not add to the sonics but no doubt ad to the price.
But as long as we are talking of reviews, Stereophile couldn’t sing it’s praises high enough nor could Marc Mickelson of Sound Stage.
Every time a user on a forum wants to express how wonderful a particular integrated is, it’s always the 383 they want to claim it is better than, not another brand but the 383. That said, I am not at all claiming it is the best there is out there. In fact I have talked to a person that prefers the Mac MA6900, that’s great, to each our own. (I also note that Upscale only singled it out as he recently came into possession of one.)
Lastly, your analogy of weight to claim the MF is superior, if we used that across the board, NOBODY would use 95% of MF gear!!!! …as they don’t weigh diddly in comparison. Also, you are very wrong in what you said, in claiming, “In fact the power supply by itself was about the same weight as the Levinson.” The power supply weighs 30 lbs, the unit 65 lbs. The 383 weighs 65 lbs. SO, the power supply that you claim to weigh the same, weighs less than half! Total loss of credibility!
Disclaimer: I have nothing against MF gear, in fact, I bet the Nu-vista M3 sounds wonderful and wouldn’t mind the limited CD player, except for the silver and gold.
Sorry for the rant.
I did not mean to offend...I was using your 383 as an example of something that is nicely built and well respected, so used it as a comparison. It's a fine amp, and I happened to just take it in on trade towards the Nu-Vista. People change all the time as you pointed out. Thanks for the correction on weight. Levinson makes great stuff.
This was in answer to a post that said the build of MF gear is "nothing special" The fit and finish is as good as I have seen in 25 years in this biz. So good you have to at least see internal pictures if you have not.
And the weight (which is one of a few ways that you judge cost to build) is exceptional.
$4995 for 95lbs w/outboard power supply (Nu-Vista) vs $6500 for 65lb single chassis (Levinson 383). Not meant as a knock, just a comparison to another fine product in answer to a statement.
Hence Musical Fidelity setting up dealers. So you can go there and see for yourself. When I looked at the Audio Advisor ads I never got a sense of how they look in person, esp with the lid off. Now you can.
"Lastly, your analogy of weight to claim the MF is superior, if we used that across the board, NOBODY would use 95% of MF gear!!!! as they dont weigh diddly in comparison."
Not true on any of their amps or preamps...compare them to most products made in USA or Western Europe. I know you can come up with an exception. But I mean most.
The new M250 monoblocs are 250w per channel and weight over 26lbs each for $1200 a pair. Made in England. If we think hard enough SOMEONE makes something like it. Maybe. Rotel made the MB100 for $1000 a pair, in China (not that there is anything wrong with that), and weighed less, with 100w channel.
Most folks that look closely see it. Look at what most British brands sell for once they get over here. Add 30% or more to the retail compared to what they sell for in the UK. Same thing for US products imported over there. Expensive. You cover transportation, import duty, wharehousing, at least two steps of distribution, advertising, and warranty. Being an importer myself I know the drill.
The Musical Fidelity A300 integrated (over 35lbs) sells in the UK for somewhere between $2100 and $2300 US dollars
(I have not checked exchange rates against the British Pound lately). Here it is $1695. IT'S LESS!
That is a skinny margin for them, but buyers can dig life.
Listened to the new A3 24 DAC from MF yesterday. Compared it to the Bel Canto DAC1 and the new Jolida CDP. We were using the Sony 777 as a transport, B&W802 and SF amplification. A few things I noticed:
1. Huge bass
2. Detailed highs and controlled bass
3. Bigger soundstage than the Bel Canto
I still have a thing for the Bel Canto. I found myself tapping my toes when the Bel Canto was connected more that with the A324. This is strictly personal preference because all the other guys preferred the MF A3 24 DAC. Also, it wasn't broken in yet, so I only got a vague idea.
Hope this helps.
After much research, talking to audiophiles and reading this thread, my better half and I took the plunge and auditioned the Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC at San Francisco Stereo. The A3 DAC we auditioned was placed in a Musical Fidelity ensemble comprising of the A3 CD player, A3CR preamp with an A300 amplifier driving a nice pair of BW 802 loudspeakers. All interconnects and cables used were Tara Labs. According to the salesperson the A3-24 we auditioned wasnt fully broken in yet but the unit commanded an inspiring performance with every CD we had brought to feed it. In fact, we caught ourselves giving each other that knowing look during playback of tracks with those well known musical passages. After an hour of listening to our familiar CD tracks we compared notes to confirm that we had both heard musical detail and harmonics at a level we were not accustomed to. Additionally, the A3-24 DAC is a handsome, well constructed and finished unit that received more than a passing two thumbs up in the all important WAF rating. One noteworthy point is that the button for switching between 96kHz and 192kHz upsampling is located in the back of the unit. This isnt a problem for me as my audio rack allows for easy access to this button. Others with limited access to the back their components should take note. We were duly impressed so I purchased a new unit and we had it home and up and running within an hour or so
Our current system is an Anthem CD-1 player serving as the transport. The Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC feeds a Sonic Frontiers Line 3 preamp. Loudspeakers are the passive cross-over version of Innersounds' Eros amplified by Wolcott P-220 monoblocks. All interconnects are Nordost Red Dawn and speaker cables are Kimber Bi-Focal XLs.
Straight out of the box, the A3-24 exhibited a prodigious amount of base and high end detail coupled with a notable level of midrange suck out. We left the unit to play for the remainder of the afternoon and eight hours later returned to our listening room to find that the sound had significantly improved. The midrange had returned and the sound across the musical spectrum, while still a bit bottom heavy, was generally well balanced. With wine in hand, we both settled in for a two hour audition. This DAC renders an extremely detailed soundstage. Imaging was excellent with notably more air and 3D sound stage separation and layering between vocals and musical instruments. This really fleshed out and accented harmonic detail across the audio soundstage and rendered an excitingly enjoyable listening experience. On the down side, there was a trace of digital edge in the upper registers along with a notable loss of sweetness and liquidity compared to the Anthem CD-1 with its tube output stage. However, we both felt that the significant clarity in detail and soundstage outweighed the tradeoff of sweetness. Besides, after only eight hours the best was sure to come. We ended the evening by declaring victory and toasting the Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC. We decided to let the unit play all night and revisit the DAC in the afternoon for a second audition.
24 hours later and after an hour of listening I can, without any reservation, say that the Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC is just a great piece of audio gear. Holy cow! Midrange warmth and balance, soundstage presentation and overall detail are just superb! For the money, I cant think of any upgrade I have done that has had such a dramatic impact on my system as this DAC. I dont know if this DAC belongs in Stereophiles Class A component listing or if it got there by a disingenuous review. I do disagree with Sam Tellig as he said he found the Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC to sound better with Sony transports using the 96kHz up-sampling. The Anthem CD-1 uses a Sony transport and to date the 192 kHz up-sampling sounds much better to me. I do know that through the years I have found Sam Tellig to be pretty close on target. I also know that this DAC has elevated CD playback to new heights in my system. It is just outstanding! If you are looking to upgrade your digital front end for CD play back, I think the Musical Fidelity A3-24 is a serious contender, worthy of your consideration and time to audition.
Well sounds like the $1000-1500 DAC competition has some great contenders now like Bel Canto Dac 2, Perpetual P1/P3, Musical Fidelity A3 Dac.
Glad you found a good match for your system. BTW I like to read Sam Tellig also, but many people here at this site know
more about sound equipment I believe. I am puzzled why MF would offer a switch for 96/192 operation, why would you not use 192 always?
I have an all MF A3cr system and use the Bel Canto Dac 1.1 currently. Would be tempting to try the MF A3 Dac and have an all MF system, but I would really be surprised if it surpassed the new Bel Canto Dac 2. BC was ahead of the curve a few years ago with the Dac 1, so I have high expectations for the Dac 2.
I will probably be upgrading Dac later this year.
Thanks for your post Megasam and I agree with you all the way around. I considered the Bel Canto DAC 2 but I chose the Musical Fidelity product offing based on the fact that I live in the Bay Area and San Francisco Stereo is an authorized Musical Fidelity dealer. They had the unit in stock and I could audition it. That was critical to me. Additionally, they offered a no cost extended warranty on the A3-24. After reading Telligs review, this thread and considering this unit is manufactured across the pond, having a brick and mortar establishment I could take the unit to if I experienced a problem seemed like a good idea. Moreover, San Francisco Stereo offers a generous trade-in upgrade policy should I decide to purchase a newer piece of gear down the road. Lets face it, after a year or two, some DACs tend to end up in the infamous audio closet bone yard or serve as bookends, door stops and god know what else. I also felt that the Bel Canto DAC 2 had all of the good looks of an adobe brick. To me, it looks cheaply made. That doesnt mean that it is and like my mother always told me, there is no accounting for taste. And speaking of taste. One thing that stuck me oddly on the A3-24 was that the up-sample switching button is located on the back of the unit. The Brits never cease to amaze me.
I dont know enough about digital workings to understand the benefits of up-sampling at 96kHz rather than 192kHz. Most of this digital science is beyond me. I just trust my ears as at my age, they are one of the few remaining body parts that still work!
Last point of interest. After auditioning the MF DAC, my better half and I were commenting on what a sweet system the MF A series of gear was. The salesperson who helped us audition the Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC said that his system at home was identical to the set up we had just listened to. It really sounded nice.
While waiting for the upsampler from the AH! guys in Holland and having recently read the hype on the MF A3-24 I decided to give it a whirl. I borrowed a unit from San Francisco Stereo in Mtn. View CA for 2 days.
I must admit I was full of expectation for this DAC especially after the reviews in Stereophile, in Hi-Fi News, on AA and this list. Plus, I really like MF gear, have heard a lot of it although I don't own any. On return from the shop, I plugged the AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 (btw, I have Siemens 7803 tubes) in to the DAC in an A/B configuration so I could easily switch between "Tjoebed" analogue out and digital "MF" out.
At first I thought I had them wired up to the wrong inputs on my Creek 5350 but, no, I was not wrong. My immediate, instant impression was that the MF wasn't working. No, I was wrong again, so I switched the upsampling to 192. Not a real difference, maybe very slightly more detail in the highs. (Note, I had to have the Njoe Tjoeb on the lowest possible volume to match the levels). Anyway, I continued to switch between the units for several hours, listening to different types of music, from classical, chamber music, jazz, piano, downtempo electronic, REM and The Orb (lots of detail). I can honestly, categorically say, and sorry MF fans, that the Njoe Tjoeb 4000 does a much better job of DAC than the MF A3-24!
Why? The NT4000 presented a much more full bodied, up-front image packed with guts and life. It seemed to bloom so large when compared side-by-side against the MF DAC. I was convinced I should here more detail with the MF but no, it wasn't there. I searched and searched the MF tonal spectrum for the elusive special greatness it promised in the reviews but could not get it to impress me over and above the Tjoeb (honest I really wanted it to be better than it was!). The NT4000 does sounds more "analogue" that's for sure (it has tubes, it should) but it also has more musicality, tonal richness, you name it (I could go on and on with the superlatives here...)
I wouldn't say the MF failed though. It did maybe have the edge in the detail department and maybe it was subtler in presentation. But I think we all strive for mid-range definition and presence (without brightness) and it was certainly outdone here. I did try a test with a lesser DVD player (Sony DVP something) and the MF did make a convincing improvement there. Also, maybe the MF needed to be broken in a little - I think it was brand new.
In conclusion I couldn't possibly justify the purchase of this product (although it looks *great*) - for $1200 it's a bit much to ask. However, I'm sure there are many that will be buy the MF DAC on the strength of the Stereophile review.
All I can say is "can't wait for the upsampler chip from Upscale!!". Congratulations to the AH! guys - they really have done a great job with their tubed DAC (I always wondered what it could stand up to and now I know). I sure "upscaleaudio" will be rather chuffed too...
Next, the MSB Link DAC III...
PS. If anyone's interested the unit I borrowed did exhibit a certain "bug" I think others have mentioned - it became all muffled suddenly and I had to flick the upsampler switch on the back several times to get it back to "normal". Weird.
I think it will take more time to judge the new MF DAC as the units only seem to be trickling into this country. I currently own the Perp. Tech. P1A/P3A combo and am a believer in upsampling and speaker correction (I have the Speaker correction installed on my P1A for my Thiel CS 2.3). Ultimately I look forward to reading more good comparisons between upsampling products.
Cudos to Buckingham. More than just a lot of blah blah blah about Sam T and payola and who's zooming whom, Buckingham just listened and compared using his own real life ears and experiences. This is what adds to useful information for people who are interested in buying the highest quality audio. From the dozens of threads here, this one made me want to go listen and compare for myself. Thanks.