Audiolab has announced the M-DAC+ at £600. Described as a “high-performance, multipurpose audio DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) for home use, designed to sit on a desk or table, or integrate into a hi-fi system”, it incorporates a digital preamp and Class A output stage for connection to a power amp and speakers. A “high-quality” headphone output is also provided.
All digital music signals need to be converted to analogue and amplified in order to drive speakers or headphones; the conversion process from digital to analogue is a critical part of any digital audio playback device or system. The purpose of an off-board DAC like the new M-DAC+ is to enhance the sound quality of digital music, whether streamed or stored locally on a computer, smartphone or tablet, or played from any other digital audio device such as a CD player. The new M-DAC+ is based on the classic M-DAC, with carefully targeted improvements in key areas. The M-DAC built a “peerless reputation with press and public alike” since its launch in the autumn of 2011.
Like the M-DAC, the M-DAC+ is built around the ESS Sabre32 9018, a 32-bit chipset. This is surrounded by circuitry that includes a proprietary, discrete master clock to minimise jitter, coupled with extensive time domain isolation. A JFET Class A analogue output stage provides the final link.
Changes from M-DAC include an aluminium case and control scheme, an OLED display window that’s centrally positioned and rounded at the sides and flanked by two rotary controls, one to adjust volume and the other to select settings, replacing the buttons found on the M-DAC. Under the hood lie a number of performance-related enhancements. The M-DAC+ now processes audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB. It also supports DSD files and is compatible with DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256.It also features user-selectable filters that allow the user to tune performance to suit his or her preference, depending on system configuration, digital file quality and musical taste. The M-DAC+ inherits seven filter settings from the M-DAC for PCM files and adds four more for DSD playback.
Digital input options have been expanded with an AES/EBU socket and an additional USB Type A input –for connecting Apple devices – alongside the existing USB Type B connection. These join 2x coaxial digital inputs; 2x optical digital inputs; 1x coaxial digital output; 1x optical digital output; single-ended RCA and balanced XLR analogue outputs; 12V trigger loop. The Audiolab M-DAC+ comes with a redesigned remote control and is available in black or silver from late-January 2016, at an RRP of £799.95. The classic M-DAC continues at £599.95.