Thursday, 11 August 2011

Musical Fidelity M1 CDT



The main reason I want to test this unit is because I am intrigued of the 'balanced' set up. (Note: I have not purchased this unit. Its on loan for demo). Good question on the price. I have not asked. If I only decide to buy after the demo, I will know the price. Reason being is that, I do not want to get influenced by the price tag to evaluate the unit. Some people will tend to say a unit is good just becauce the price tag is above RM10K and anything below that is crap. So might as well I dont ask the price. But I feel that it will sell at about RM4K.

Now about the balance, a few months back when I purchased my M6i amp, I posed a question on XLR connection in this forum where I connect my M1 DAC to the M6i using XLR. However, I was feeding the M1 DAC with a signal via coaxial from XRayV3. So, the conclusion I got from this was that my set up was still not truly balanced. Some say XLR connection is only needed for long runs of cable and cheap units are not truly balanced eventhough there is an XLR connection offered on the unit etc. But I am still intrigued by the question whether a fully balanced unit is superior than the common RCA connection.

So, I was thinking whether to go for an M3 or M6 CDP. However, M3 does not offer XLR digital connection and M6 will make my M1 DAC redundant. Hence, when the CDT came into the market last month, I feel like testing and compare it with XRayV3.

Built

Being in the M1 series, its definitely very lightweight. It still has the sexy black look similar to my other M series kit. Size is similar to CLiC and M1 DAC which it then compliment each other. It has a standby button which I like as I dont really like leaving the CDP to be on all the time.The button lay out on the front fascia is well laid oout and very intuitive. The display is of a bright greyish green. It is a bit too bright at night and it could have been better if the design came with a dimmer like the XrayV3. I am leaving the plastic cover on the display as I may decide not to buy the unit.

The remote feels cheap though, similar to CLiC. The difference between an M1 and M3 or M6 series are significant and it can be seen on the remote. Luckily enough my M6i remote can also control this unit, so I repacked the CDT remote into the bubble wrap.

The AES, coaxial and optical sockets are well laid out and firmly fitted. There is also 2 triggers where you can conncet any additonal device for power that can be run on 12V I think (have to recheck)

Loading mechanism

The CDT has a slot in mechanism which takes you away from the traditional tray loading. So no worries on mechanical failure there. However, I was listening to 10 different CDs last night and today and twice I encountered that the unit rejected the CD after loading. It ejects the CD automatically but no issues on the second attempt.

The loading however is very quiet and it will read the TOC of the CD as fast as 2 seconds.

CD format

It offers CD Text and can play CDR and CDRW. One bonus point over the XrayV3.

Hook up

I connected the CDT to M1 DAC using one side of VDH The Second XLR cable and from the M1 DAC to M6i amp, I used Siltech Classic XLR cable.

For the XrayV3, it is connected as follows:

1. Via coaxial into M1 DAC using Cambridge Audio digital cable and via Siltech XLR above into M6i
2. Via X-10D V3 using QED Signature IC into the the X-10D V3 and also into the M6i amp

The session

The test tracks:

1. Andrea Bocelli - Time to Say Goodbye
2. Janet Seidl - Till I Have You
3. My Hero - Foo Fighters

Volume was set at my normal listening level - 9 o'clock on the dial.

The unit is brand new, so I guess it needs burning in first. So I wasnt expecting anything major improvement. But lo and behold, the instant I put on Andrea, the room was fill with music. There was this liveliness injected that I though I was listening to a concert version of the track. I immediately change the CD into my XRay V3 just to make sure my mind was not playing a trick on me. I first tested via X10D.

And yes, it did not. There is a big different in the high notes. The CDT gave a brighter presentation of Andrea's vocal and the accompanied musical instrument in which it can be a little overwhelming. I guess the this is because the X10D does inject warmness to the music. But it was still much livelier than going via X10D. And the loudness of course is lesser than the XLR connection.

I then switched the XRay V3 to the coaxial via M1 DAC. Here is when the difference is not that transparent. I kept repeating the track and switching between CDT and XRayV3. Although the liveliness, the CDT wins hands on, but the clarity and detail, cant hear much different.

Same goes for the low end notes. On the track My Hero, the bass drum on both XRayV3 and CDT, provide justice to the ProAc. Bass was full, taut and very controlled.

Putting on Janet Seidl (a HDCD), provides the same presentation between both. I could start comparing them with HDCD decoding via my X-DAC, but it was 1 am, so NO.

I went to bed by putting on the Andrea Bocelli CD on shuffle repeat. I concluded that digitally, there is not much different between a coaxial and XLR connection. But somehow, the CDT added the liveliness.

Same story the next day? Nope. A big nope. After running in for about 12 hours, the liveliness of the CDT is more uplifitng and the high end notes were less harsh. I repeatted the above tests and found:

1. The CDT provides a much more open presentation of the music, with maintaining the similar level of detail and clarity from XRayV3
2. The low end notes on both units are very controlled and defined. It made the ProAc seems larger than its size.
3. The 'analogue' connection via X10DV3, although sounds very warm, now seems lacking in liveliness. Warm is important to me but now it sounds rather flat. Ooohhh is the X10D V3 going to be on sale soon? Heheheh.

Conclusion

Hhhmmmmm a tough one. Do I replace the less than a year old XRayV3 with the CDT? Is it really an upgrade? Or I am just going parallel and just want to really believe that XLR/AES digital connection is superior than coaxial and optical, especially that this set up will define that my system is truly balanced? Or do I really want to buy in to the believe that separate transport and DAC provides a better set up?

Too soon to answer hhehehe. Give me a few more weeks with this unit.

Maybe will try it with a Hari Raya song. Now where is my P. Ramlee CD.
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