Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC

Ok 24 hrs review:

So I got a message from distributor that the unit has arrived to Malaysian shores on Monday 11th July. So collected the unit the next day. Only 6 units were brought in the first batch which I have booked mine since last year Smile

Came home and immediately set it up into my system. Of course, being my normal lazy self, didnt bother with the manual reading.

What's included?

1. The unit itself
2. 3 pin plug power cable
3. Wifi antenna with extension cable
4. Network cable
5. Manual and warranty card
6. Personalised letter from Anthony Michaelson

Built

The unit is similar to the other M series. Although putting it side by side with M1 DAC, it looks slightly higher. I love the black granite finishing. Adds a sense of class.

Its a compact unit which weighs next to nothing. Very light but sturdily built.

The screen, to me is just the right size where contents can be easily read through.

The power button is of soft touch nature. Press it and the unit will be on standby mode for 10 seconds before it boots up.

Remote: Aaaaahhh this is a bit sad. The remote, although feature packed, feels a bit el cheapo. It reminds me to one of my old VCD player 15 years back that cost RM99. The unit can only be operated by remote control, so dont loose it.

Whats the buzz all about?

This unit is an ALL IN ONE digital (7 inputs) and analogue (3 inputs) preamp, music streamer and internet radio. Once connected to the network (wireless or wired), it can detect your stored digital music (and pics) and details will come out on the screen. You can then choose and control your music using the remote.

Inputs:
1. 2 coax input
2. 1 optical input
3. 1 USB input
4. 1 USB/iPod interface input
5. 3 RCA analogue input

For output:

1. 1 pair RCA variable pre out. Can connect direct to power amp and use the CLiC to control volume

2. 1 pair of RCA fixed out. Can connect to any input on your integrated amp/another pre amp.

What can it handle?

The CLiC will accept the following formats:

  • FLAC (up to 24bit 192 kHz on wired LAN and up to 24bit 96 kHz on wireless LAN)
  • WMA/9 (up to 16bit 48 kHz)
  • AAC, HE-AAC (up to 24bit 96 kHz)
  • LPCM (up to 24bit 192 kHz on wired LAN and up to 24bit 96 kHz on wireless LAN)
  • Ogg vorbis 1.0 (up to 16bit 32 kHz)
  • MP3 (up to 16bit 48 kHz)

The seven digital inputs are configured as follows:

  • 2 x digital ipod/iphone, memory stick, USB disc drive
  • 2 x coax inputs (SP-DIFF up to 24bit 192 kHz)
  • Optical (up to 24bit 192 kHz)
  • USB input
  • Network connection

How does it fair with the claim above?

Connectivity - Superb. I tested the whole day with wireless connectivity. My wifi route is downstairs and this unit is in my hifi room upstairs. It can detect the signal easily. Only 2 bars on the signal icon though. Keying in my wifi password was easy. The remote comes with mobile phone-like keys. Repetitive pressing on button to select the alphabet.number you want. I only had to set it up once and voila, within 5 seconds, its fully connected to my network.

First, I scrolled to media server on the CLiC and found my NAS with over 8000 digital files. All grouped to usual Tracks, Artist, Albums, Genres etc. Next I booted up my laptop, and again within a few seconds after the laptop has been booted up, the CLiC detected it.
For my iMac however, it could not as I have not installed a Twonky Media.

Next I tried the connectivity for internet radio. It automatic goes to Malaysis directory and found 6 stations. Tested all of them within a span of 30 mins and no signal dropout at all. However, these are not the most famous local radio stations. So tried with London and US radio stations. Again, no issues of drop out signals at all.

How about connectivity to iPod/iPhone?

So I took one of my Apple docks and connected the Apple provided USB/iPod cable to the CLiC. The USB/iPod connection is not interchangable with front USB connection.

But, it could not detect my iPhone 4 or iPhone 3GS. A note came out on my iPhone saying 'Could not operate 2 connections' or something like that. Ahhhhh this is when I started to open up the manual hehehehe.

Sooooo, I cannot connect it to a dock. Thats what went wrong. It can only be connected directly to the iPhone/iPod. reason being, the dock also have its own remote. Thats why the note came out cannot operate 2 connections.

Once I connected the iPhone directly to CLiC, it detected all my the songs on it and also the playlist within seconds. Its just then a matter of choosing the music you want using the remote.

On the screen, the song, album and artist is shown together with and also any picture/art cover attached to the song. It can be easily readable from about 3 to 4 feet away.

How about the other features?

1. I tested one of the coax connection using my Wadia 170i transport. It definitely produced a different sound compared to my previous connection via MF X-DAC that does not upsample. The sound is also different compared to the direct digital connection to iPhone. Definitely more uplifiting and airy I would say.

2. Also connected my BRIK Audio BT stage to one of the analogue connection. It does inject a sense warm and mellowness to the music.

The listening session

I connected the CLiC unit to my M6i using the fixed output with Cambridge Audio IC.

Now that everything has been set up, its time to play the music.

I first tried the digital files I have on my NAS which most of them are ripped to either 320kbps MP3s at 48kHz or Apple Lossles. I also have a few FLAC files.

This is where the CLiC really excels. These digital files which previously was played via Airport Express fed into my old but trustworthy MF X-DAC, sound very very alive. The presence of tracks played was definitely more involving.

Changing tracks manually in shuffle mode will take about a 2 seconds pause. But if you just leave the unit to shuffle on its own, there is no gap in between changing tracks.

It can also handle all the types of files listed above with no issues.

I am not comparing these with CD player SQ as it is different approach to music. I love the idea of accessing all my digital files with ease and without the need of turning on the PC/laptop.

One improvement that I would suggest is for the unit to show the rate of the signal coming through, similar to the M1 DAC.

I dont have much comparison to other similar units. The ones I can think of are Bryston and Olive. I have listened to both. IMHO the CLiC provides the most flexibility, multiple format adaptiveness and its feature packed. For that price, I didnt think twice to pre-ordered it since last year.

Now, where is that credit card of mine?
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