Since the launch of the original M-DAC in 2011, Audiolab’s range of standalone DACs has earned widespread acclaim.
Last year’s arrival of the range-topping M-DAC+ and an all-in-one DAC/amp called the M-ONE extended the family by building upon the same award-winning technology.
Now, a fourth model is set to join the M-DAC range: M-DAC Mini.
As the name suggests, the M-DAC Mini is the smallest hi-res DAC/headphone amp in the range. It is also the most affordable.
Even though that’s all true, it contains the same core technologies that have earned the M-DAC family worldwide acclaim.
It is also designed to be flexible. You have the option of wired and wireless connectivity to boost sound quality from all manner of digital devices. So, hook up phones, computers, TVs and games consoles.
The newcomer cuts the need for a mains supply. Thanks to its built-in rechargeable battery benefitting sound quality as well as adding versatility.
The M-DAC Mini’s design deliberately blurs the lines between home Hi-Fi DACs and pocket-size portable units.
Its size is ideal to sit on a desk or table. Not only that, the unit’s accessible, easy-to-use controls and traditional analogue volume knob makes it even handier.
Audiolab has incorporated a useful array of inputs and outputs in to the DAC’s conveniently compact form factor.
There are optical and coaxial digital inputs and outputs, Type-A and Mini-B USB inputs (these are asynchronous with two dedicated master clocks to eliminate jitter), stereo RCA hi-fi outputs and a high-quality 6.3mm headphone socket.
Wireless connectivity via Bluetooth, with support for the sonically superior aptX codec, adds further flexibility and convenience.
Small yet mighty
Like the M-DAC and M-DAC+, the M-DAC Mini combines advanced digital-to-analogue conversion with a high-performance Class A JFET output stage and dedicated headphone amp section. This means that you should expect superb sound whether connected to an amp and speakers, or feeding active speakers, or driving a pair of headphones.
The Mini shares much with its big brother, the £800 M-DAC+. It similarly benefits from ESS Technology’s patented 32-bit HyperStream DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, unique to the Sabre32 Reference family. All this is surrounded by Audiolab’s signature circuitry to make the most of this DAC chip’s exemplary performance.
Like the M-DAC+, the M-DAC Mini is equipped to process PCM audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB, ensuring it is primed to take full advantage of hi-res digital sound both now and in the future. The USB
Input also supports DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 – a significant inclusion, as DSD has an important role to play in the developing hi-res audio scene.
Sonic performance is paramount throughout the Mini’s circuit design. For example, the M-DAC Mini’s analogue volume control incorporates a high-quality Alps potentiometer of the kind more commonly found in full-size hi-fi components.
Another point of difference is the proprietary analogue output stage which benefits both the headphone and stereo RCA outputs. These incorporatie discrete JFET amplification using transistors that are individually measured and matched to minimise distortion and DC offset.
This ensures that the M-DAC Mini is just as capable when operating as a hi-fi preamp as it is when powering a pair of headphones through its dedicated headphone amp circuit.
The use of high-quality internal components extends to the low pass filter design on the DAC output stage, which uses EVOX and Panasonic low-ESR capacitors for a more stable performance and increased reliability. This also facilitates improved noise isolation of the power supply.
The inclusion of battery power for the first time in an M-DAC component is not simply about portability. It also benefits performance by supplying clean and stable DC power. Many audiophiles use battery-power as it’s free from the distortion introduced by common switch-mode power supplies.
A mains charger is included in the package, and iOS devices can be charged from the M-DAC Mini whether the unit is connected to the mains or not.
Audiolab M-DAC Mini price and availability
You can grab your own Mini from June at an RRP of £299.95.