Review: MCM Custom Audio 50-7774 24/96 DAC
Despite my insistence that I didn't need or want any more audio gear, the old lady wanted to buy me something for Christmas. After a heated argument lasting at least 15 seconds, I picked this little DAC/headphone amp out of the MCM catalog. Although the SRP was listed as $179, MCM had it marked down to $89; after finding and applying some on-line coupons, the out the door cost was $74.56. This unit is identical to the Beresford TC-7510 (which has garnered very good reviews here and elsewhere); however for some reason the Beresford is more expensive.
Less than a day after ordering it, it arrived by UPS (MCM presumably employs elves) in a somewhat garishly printed box more suited to a flea-market product. The unit itself, however, is well-built and good-looking; compact with gold buttons and headphone jack. It has two coax and two optical units which, conveniently fit the two cdps, Squeezebox Touch and computer in my office.
I've previously posted that the inboard DAC in my new Squeezebox was surprisingly good and that the Squeezebox was very serviceable as a player through its analog outs. I was curious to see how the Squeezebox would sound using this MCM unit as an external DAC.
The sonic improvement using the MCM DAC was dramatic and immediate; treble was far more extended and detailed; drums in particular with much better articulated and low end more defined. The Squeezebox did sound richer in the midrange when using its internal DAC, but overall it was no contest--the MCM DAC was much more musical and transparent; a night-and-day difference.
I then tried the MCM with the cheap Pioneer multi-disc changer I used before buying the Squeezebox and, again, the improvement was huge--the murky, digital sound of the Pioneer was gone.
Finally, I compared the MCM to the internal DAC in my Arcam CD72 (a solid player I've always liked). Here the differences were more subtle. Music through the MCM still sounded more detailed and nuanced, with drums again sounding more lifelike; the Arcam's DAC sounded warmer and a bit less transparent, but very engaging, with a deeper bottom and bit more overall punch. I like the sound of both, albeit in different ways. In due course I'll bring in my MF V-DAC, an acclaimed budget product, for direct comparison to the MCM. In case anyone cares.
I briefly tried the MCM as a headphone amp and came away impressed--again very detailed treble, unhyped midrange, tight bass, no noise or distortion. Volume control works well for such an inexpensive product.
I've previously reviewed, favorably, a $59 Muse Audio DAC and expressed considerable surprise that its Chinese manufaturer could deliver such quality at the giveaway price. If anything, the (Taiwanese-made) MCM is more of a steal, given that it has not only four digital inputs, but dual (fixed and variable RCA outputs) and, as noted, a really good headphone amp.
So Santa was good to me and I'm really digging my new toy. I'll post as to further impressions. Thanks for reading.
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