London Audio Society Meeting #1 Recap / “Musical Fidelity and Arcam are forces to be reckoned with”

From the archives:

As promised I am reporting on the first meeting. Others who were in attendance may feel free to add their insights and comments:

London Audio Society
Meeting #1 Recap

In Attendance: David Blumenstein, Furrukh (proprietor of Swiss Cottage Audio and Video (neither participated in the voting) Kevin P., Andrew E., Philip B., Sam S., Myles M.

The first meeting of the London Audio Society took place Wednesday, July 24th from 6:30 - 9:30 PM at the Swiss Cottage Sound and Vision shop on Finchley Road. DACs were the topic of the evening and those in attendance took part in an interactive double blind shoot out tournament between 7 DACs from 5 manufacturers and at the end included an £30 unit available from eBay with an ESS Sabre chip.

The DACs in order of appearance:

1, Audiolab M-DAC £599 went head to head with the
2, Musical Fidelity M6 DAC £2000 and the M6 won by a margin of 3-2
3, Arcam IR DAC £399 took on the M6 and came out ahead by a margin of 3-2
Note: the IR DAC output level was lower out of the box and later in the evening when the volume went up so did the praise for the unit
4, Chord Qute HD £990 with incredibly hight output level came off as brash and strident, against the IR DAC at half the price it lost 4-1
5, Musical Fidelity M1 DAC £399 took on ARCAM's IR DAC and healthily won the shoot out by a margin of 4-1
Note: had the IR DAC had its volume pumped up the vote would have been closer, however, the intention of the evening was to have attendees hear all the units at the SAME volume.
6, Arcam FMJ D33 £2300 the most expensive unit went to town on the Musical Fidelity M1 by a margin of 4-1. Here you get what you pay for.
7, Asus Xonar Essence £599. Manufactured by a computer vendor and it shows. Arcam's FMJ D33 wiped the floor with this unit. 5-0

What did we learn:

* Output levels of DACs vary greatly out of the box
* For the price, we were blown away by the Musical Fidelity M1 and Arcam IR DAC
* Arcam's FMJ D33 stood apart from the others, bear in mind it was also the most expensive
* The feature laden Audiolab M-DAC left us all wanting more musically.
* Price points of DACs and excellent quality at lower prices is good news for the consumer
* Musical Fidelity and Arcam are forces to be reckoned with

The range of DACs does not represent all units on the market. The evening was intended to highlight how different DACs can sound and how attentive we must be when making comparisons. Attendees left the event scratching their heads

Note: Musical Fidelity launched their V90 £199 DAC which I am auditioning this evening. How low can they go on price and still manage to manufacture such quality. * I posted initial thoughts in a PinkFish Audio thread.

What source material did we listen to:

Booker T & The MGs - Green Onions 24/192
Grateful Dead - Friend of the Devil 24/96
Jane Monheit - Over the Rainbow 16/44.1
Gary Graffman, George Szell - Tchaikowsky Piano Concerto #1 16/44.1

What gear comprised the system:

Roksan Caspian M2 Integrated Amplifier
Wireword USB Cable
Monitor Audio Gold GX 200 Speakers
Monitor Audio Speaker Cable
Macbook Air running Audirvana Plus

None of the above manufacturers had any DACs in the running and there was a £2500 price limit placed on each piece of kit.

All files were played at all the same levels on the computer and the volume setting on the Roksan dial was set to "11 o'clock" by default. The Arcam IR DAC was bumped up to "`12 o'clock" when we listened to it again and the Chord Qute HD was dialed down to "10 o'clock".

No animals were harmed in the process and no pink noise generator was involved, as the intention was to have attendees hear the units as if they came straight out of their respective boxes, so varying output levels were readily apparent.

Continue reading