The Main feature of the M1 is that is a pure Class A Headphone Amplifier and that is a strong selling point for MF as it has a great reputation with its amplifiers in the industry and that technology has been taken and put into this not so large M1HPAP. The M1has both line level and USB inputs and also a loop out facility too, It also has a variable line level output so can be used as a high quality preamplifier.
On the front of the unit is its Jumbo sized Volume Control bang in the middle of the unit, you will also find twin Headphone sockets so that two pairs of Headphones can be used at the same time so 2 people can listen if you so wish or you could have your 2 favorite headphones connected and swap between the two, and use which one you feel that takes your fancy, the only other feature on the front of the unit is a toggle switch which will switch between AUX1/AUX2 & USB inputs and that is about it, nice and simple, which makes it nice and easy to use, so no fussing around when plugging up and listening, you can just jump straight on in!
Performance and Listening
On this review I am just going to focus on what I think is its strongest point and that is its Line Level inputs.For these sessions of listening I used 3 pairs of Headphone which are the Sennheiser Momentum and 2 pairs of BOSE QC25 & QC3, now none of these headphone represent a heavy load to the M1 Amp as it able to drive literally any pair of headphones available to insane levels and I never even considered going near or past the half way mark on the Volume dial for the fear of damaging my ears, not my headphones and the sound was full and crystal clear, but the sound levels were just too high, it really does kick out some serious volume levels if required or you're a sadist.As for DAC's I have been using a couple of DAC's into the MF M1 and they are the Meridian Explorer 2 USB/DAC AUX out and the Oppo HA2 AUX out to the MF M1, out of these two DAC's which are both amazing little DAC's in there own right and hit way above there own price points I prefered the Meridian's AUX output into the Musical Fidelity M1 as it just had the edge over the Oppo DAC in regards to its AUX output which IMO is superior and really does shine with this combination.
The M1's sound into my BOSE Q3 is something that I have to say is not what I was expecting, I never expected these Headphones to be as capable as they have been but they seem to thrive on the power that this Class A amp has to offer, out of the 3 headphones that I own these seem to come out on top with regards to sound quality, they are indeed worthy of the price tag that I paid and I feel that since listening with the M1 that I have really begun to love these headphones as the sound is just so spot on with separation and transparency between the instruments and vocals that it is indeed Head-Fi that I am enjoying, I crave it every time I have been out and come back home, the first thing I do is that I need a listen to some music on my Head-Fi rig, which is what I am now calling it.
So I have my combination of PC with Network NAS where all my music is stored and then into my Meridian Explorer 2, out of that and in with Line Level inputs into the M1 Headphone Amplifier,and then out into my BOSE Q3 Headphones which is a brilliant combination which just seems to gel so well together.
So onto the Music and how this M1 performs, I have been listening to the M1 for quite some time now so am very familiar with it and also the music and the M1 has really brought another layer of performance which was not there than when listening to music without it, the amp has so much drive and power that you really never go past 10 o'clock on the volume dial as it really does excel in delivery, I have listened to Dave Hollands album Prism so many times on different set ups but the M1's bass delivery is just stunning it has so much attack and drive and the kick drums and snare drums have real punch and dynamics, while the electric guitar is just separated and crystal clear as well as the piano, there is so much going on in this album but it just rocks, and you can even hear the subtle noises at the end of the tracks like the drum sticks being put down which I never picked up before, it really is a rich listen through this M1 Amplifier as it just seem to pull everything out of the music.
The True Meaning of Determination is a track from the album and is so complex with so much going on but it sounds sublime with a grand scale to the music, soundstage and instruments placed perfectly within that soundstage, also coming in and out of it, but it is the drums and the bass definition which is so natural and probably some of the best that I have heard that really stands out for me.Another album that I have been listening to a lot lately is Shelby Lynne's - Just a Little Loving which is a beautifully laid back album and she has a wonderful voice and the vocals are indeed superb through the M1 as she takes center stage and pulls you into the music, with bass guitar strumming in the background but with a beautiful tone and this is indeed a trait for the M1 it does have such a beautiful and natural presentation which makes the music sound so natural, I would say that it is a smooth and enjoyable listen but with great dynamics when called upon and this album has become one of my favorites over the last few weeks with a little help from the Musical Fidelity M1.
On to something more recent and Paul Wellers - Saturns Patterns and the tempo is picked up and again the bass kicks in but I must stress that the bass is never too over tiring, or overbearing it is just strong and well defined that the music just rocks to the drum beat and Paul Wellers vocals echo clearly in the sound stage as does the harmony, one of my favorite tracks from the album is Pick it Up which is a funky rendition and has some great guitar playing that is defined well as is the organ which gives it a woodstock psychedelic feel to the song.
Round up and thoughts I have taken a step back lately and looked at what can be achieved for what is really not a fortune when it comes to getting good Head-Fi as you can mix and match some great products and end up with one hell of a product which exceeds your expectations, and that is what has happened here, I have taken some different makes and made a great music system for reasonable amount of money, the M1 may not offer all the flexibility of higher priced products but what it does offer is a really great sound which is very addictive and I feel it may well be staying in my home rather than going back to the shop as I like it that much.
Many thanks to Musical Images for the loan of equipment.