Sunday, 26 June 2016

Musical Fidelity M3S CD Player - A Decent Upgrade From Entry Level



As I went to visit Tony of LTB Enterprise, the long time MF distributor in Malaysia, I finally got the confirmation that he is retiring and has given up his distributorship of Musical Fidelity in Malaysia. A&L Audio Station is the newly appointed distributor. Nevertheless, Tony still has a heap stock of MF products including this M3S CD player. As I am in the mood of upgrading my M1 CDT, I requested for a home demo of this unit from Tony. Thanks Tony.


And of course.... I needed another CD player to compare it with.... so the discontinued M6 CD player tagged along home!

PACKAGING

Musical Fidelity maintains their high standard of packaging of their hifi products. The unit came wrapped in a soft velvet bag which gave it a luxurious feel. Not too mention that it also comes with a pair of white gloves.




SPECIFICATION, INS AND OUTS

This is a 2 in 1 CD player and digital hub as it also offers 3 digital inputs:
  • 1 x RCA coaxial (32 - 192 kbps, 16 to 24 bit PCM) 
  • 1 x optical (32 to 96, 16 to 24 bit PCM)
  • 1 x USB 'B' (Asynchronous data stream up to 24 bit/96kHz)
The DAC is a 24 bit Delta Sigma (bit stream) dual differential 8x sampling. If you fancy to connect to even higher spec DAC, this unit also offer 3 outputs:
  • 1 x RCA stereo to connect direct to amplifier
  • 1 x RCA coaxial
  • 1 x optical
It weighs about 6 kg unpacked and the dimensions are 440 x 100 x 380 mm (W x H x D)

THE FIRST IMPRESSION



Straight out of the box, the M3S sounded quite lively, surprisingly. It can be a harsh on the top side of frequency but it delivered quite a big soundstage that the harshness seems to be a minor shortfall. Putting on One Fine Day, the vocal was definitely the main highlight. It sounded bold and deep; just right for this type of lounge jazz. The bass is also another highlight for this first impression. It did not sound muddled at which in return, my expectation that the bass will sound even more enveloping once this player has run in properly.


Sampler 2 - Local Jazz

Recently, there was a resurgence of CD reissues of 80s and 90s local scene, one of which is Malaysian diva, Anita Sarawak. People have been skeptical of the quality of these reissues as it is selling between RM15 to RM20 (USD 4 to 5).  First of all, these new reissues is equipped with CD Text. The M3S display is clear enough for someone to read it about 6 to 7 feet far. This track Cintamu Muzik Di Hatiku. The bass goes quite deep and extended. Can be intimidating at times. The unique deep and bold vocal of Anita is well presented by this unit. The strength can be felt. The high is slightly overshadowed by the bass but it is sweet enough to give the overall reproduction a good ambience and big soundstage.


Sampler 3 = Percussion

Now with this famous test track on percussion, the M3S unit really delivers a punch to my system. It injects certain aggressiveness into this track with its huge sound stage. The sound dispersion of each hit of the traditional drums fills up the hall with a very lively ambiance. Its really free flowing of musical representation of the track. The highs on this track was delivered with a sufficient clarity and sweet sound. 


Sampler 4 - Vocal

Now, similar to the first impression, I find vocal is on of the key strength of this M3S model. Willie's vocal sounded very emotional which I do believe this player reproduction of the sound plays an important aspect of this. It really sent me a powerful vibe that the emotion flows fluidly from Willie.The overall sound on this track also provided a big soundstage which seems to be another trademark of this M3S design.


Sampler 5 - MD Replay

This is the first time that I am reviewing a CD player cum digital hub. Since my reference MDS JA20 ES MD player have always been fed into a separate DAC deck, I had to try connecting the MD Deck to this M3S unit via the coaxial input. Playing this track 'High' by Lighthouse Family, it sounded kind of harsh in the beginning and the bass is a little bit bloated as oppose to when I connect to my M6 DAC. The bass is a bit too mechanical sounding to me. 

THE SET UP
  1. MF M3S CD player to MF M6i amp using Siltech Classic Anniversary RCA IC
  2. Sony MDS JA 20 ES MD player to M3S using Cambridge Audio coaxial cable
  3. MF M6i amp to ProAC D18 using Siltech 330 L Classic Anniversary speaker cable
THE CONCLUSION

As a standalone CD player, this Musical Fidelity M3S CD player excels in delivering a huge soundstage with sweet and luscious highs. For the low end notes, it can dig quite deep and provided a god bass extension to my set up. Unfortunately, I am not really convinced with its function as an external DAC to other digital equipment. The liveliness is somehow was taken away from the MD replay as oppose to when I use the M6 DAC. If you are looking at a decent upgrade from an entry level CD player, this would be a good choice to audition it.


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