Audiolab adds to its award-winning M series with the introduction of the M-DAC MINI, but does this pint-sized newcomer live up to the accolades earned by its bigger siblings? Read on to find out…
Upon hearing the news that Audiolab were releasing a new DAC (digital-to-analogue convertor), I can’t say I wasn’t a little bit excited. Their M series DACs have been a massive hit since their release a few years back, so what else could they do? The M-DAC , which was an award winning product, was only released in 2015 so surely it couldn’t be a replacement. Fear not, as what it appears to be is a slimmed down, almost younger sibling to the M-DAC.
I present to you: the M-DAC MINI.
Mini by name, mini by nature as this little beaut is a lot smaller than its siblings at just 136mm x 178mm x 34mm. Being this size I could only assume this isn’t your standard Audiolab DAC, which would usually sit in a hi-fi rack and never leave. My assumptions were correct as this isn’t your usual DAC, as the M-DAC MINI is much more than usual.
Let’s start by looking at the build, as this seems to be the only thing I can fault the M-DAC MINI for. Its plastic casing, which incorporates all of its components, seems a little underwhelming. It’s not to say it’s terrible, but it just feels a bit lightweight and could do with a bit of beefing up. It does come in at a far cheaper price than the other DACs in the range, so hopefully the money saved is down to materials and not the performance.
So, what about the performance? Well first of all let’s find out what we can put through the MINI.
There are all the standard connections you’d expect on the rear. These include both optical and digital coaxial inputs as well as two USB. The USB inputs offer you standard USB-A connection but also a micro-B input too. Quite handy, as this gives you a bit more flexibility and enables you to connect a number of devices to it. The outputs are your standard RCA, but there’s also the added benefit of optical and coaxial outputs to again give you that added flexibility. Turn it around and you’ll see a quarter inch headphone socket; a great little addition that enables you to starch a set of headphones and use this as a headphone amplifier too.
That all seems fairly good but there’s more. For the first time included in an Audiolab DAC is Bluetooth connectivity. It’s a welcome expansion, and that’s where I’m going to start playing my music from.
I use Spotify as my usual source for anything Bluetooth related and instantly it’s a massive upgrade from any Bluetooth receivers I’ve seen about. A bit of R.E.M. is enhanced using the MINI’s inbuilt ESS Sabre 32-bit DAC. With every track that ticks by on Automatic for the People, I feel myself getting more and more submersed in the whole experience. Vocals seem a bit clearer and the whole album sounds cleaner and more expansive then when using a standard Bluetooth connection. It’s a really smooth sound and I’m really enjoying it. Even without all of the other things it can do, in my opinion it’s worth the price just as a Bluetooth receiver for an existing hi-fi set-up. Add in the fact that you can charge it up and take it on the move – with up to 7 hours’ playback I may add – and it’s clear that Audiolab really have a gem on their hands.
If you want to it hear this little wonder for yourself, then pop down to your local Richer Sounds with your own favourite music and they will be more than happy help.
Author: Bradley, Plymouth Store