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While vinyl continues to grow in popularity and CDs show no signs of going out of style (as many audio experts have erroneously predicted for years), files are becoming the most important medium, especially among younger audiophiles. That's why Fidelity Music couldn't resist offering a digital-to-analog conversion amplifier for stereo and PC audiophiles.
After the MX-HPA compact headphone amplifier, Musical Fidelity introduced the MX-DAC USB DAC/AMP, a product designed to enhance high-end audio systems with the latest reference and hi-fi headphones, which feature features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis. The MX-DAC USB DAC/AMP features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis. It features a similar design and is housed in an all-metal chassis and is said to offer excellent specifications and quality. Other benefits include low jitter, excellent linearity, and neutral sound.
Music Fidelity MX-DAC High-quality Desktop DAC+AMP Review
DAC: Burr Brown TI PCM1795 | Harmonic distortion: < 0.002% (PCM) or less, 0.003% (DSD) or less | THD: 0.00025 | Frequency response: 2 Hz – 90,000 Hz | Signal-to-noise ratio: 115dB | Channel separation: 110dB | Inputs: USB, 2 optical, 2 coaxial | Output voltage: 2V RCA / 4V XLR | Output connectors: RCA, XLR | Power supply: DC5V/2A | Power consumption: 1W | External dimensions: 53 x 220 x 215mm | Weight of unit: 1.9kg
The MX-DAC’s chassis is coated silver, and the front panel is nice enough to convince us that Musical Fidelity’s MX-DAC is a premium device. The case is well built and looks good. The aluminum front panel is slightly rounded. The right side is dedicated to external signal indicators divided into two sections, one covering PCM sample rates (up to 192 kHz) and the other covering DSD sample rates (DSD64 and DSD128).
Speaking of features, the MX-DAC doesn’t use many, but it’s not minimalist either. Two optical, two coaxial, and one USB (Type B) inputs cover all the necessary connection standards. The DAC doesn’t have a volume control, but it does have XLR and RCA inputs, as well as a digital filter adjustment switch, so you can customize the system to your liking. In addition to the usual connectors, USB is the strongest element here, supporting PCM 32/192 and DSD128 (and DSD64, of course).
Musical Fidelity’s MX-DAC has 15 LEDs on the front panel, which makes the presence of a display redundant, which seems to be a solution that caters more to audiophiles. The MX-DAC uses these LEDs to give detailed visual information about inputs, filter settings, sample rates, etc. However, the descriptions of the various LEDs on the front panel are in tiny font, which can be bothersome for people with poor eyesight.
One of the things MF designers do best is ergonomics, and despite a large amount of information on the MX-DAC’s display, the design is simple and elegant. In fact, it’s one of the most pleasing amplifiers we tested. What detracts somewhat from this impression is the external power supply, which is not very noisy during operation: The power supply connector is enclosed at the rear of the device as the MX-DAC does not draw power from the USB port but includes a switched-mode power supply.
The Fidelity Music MX DAC is a balanced converter. As befits a modern device, this UK-based converter is the first MF product to work in the DSD domain, offering up to 32-bit, 192kHz upscaling. The digital section uses a 32-bit Burr-Brown PCM1795 digital-to-analog converter, operating in Multi-bit Sigma-Delta mode.
Although the enclosure is small, the entire circuitry fits together seamlessly. Interestingly, almost all of the power supply is routed externally, leaving the regulator and filter inside.
The MF MX-DAC has an asynchronous USB port and coaxial and optical inputs, supporting data streams up to 24-bit/192kHz, USB, and DSD (64 and 128). The SRC4392 DAC upsamples the received PCM signal to 192kHz.
It also has two digital filters for PCM and DSD signals and can be powered by an external 5V supply. Together with DAC MX-DAC and a laptop, it makes a fantastic audio system for listening to high-quality music on headphones.
In terms of connectivity, there are two coaxial and optical inputs each and an asynchronous USB port for connection to the signal source; In addition, the amplifier also has two balanced XLR and two unbalanced RCA outputs.
Of course, there are some sonic differences between the various input terminals. These differences are not fundamental, bordering on the significant, but still noticeable. The differences in sound between the different inputs are also influenced by the differences in wiring.
The coaxial RCA input gives the Musical Fidelity sound signature a darker, heavier, more textured, and denser character. In contrast, the USB input is brighter, well-rounded, and faster but a bit too dry at times.
Overall, Musical Fidelity’s MX-DAC did a great job and produced an attractive and interesting sound for the listener. The smooth transitions between bands were equally impressive. There was no gap or dominance of one band over the other. The sound is balanced and fairly neutral.
At first glance, the sound of this high-end desktop balanced amplifier is analog, with a slightly attenuated midrange, very much in the Anthony Michelson tradition of those years. But there are also modern elements. These are clarity, accurate highs, and fast and deep bass.
There is not much difference in sound between the two filter positions, but in the first one, the MX-DAC sounds more detailed, while in the second one, it loses some attack and liveliness of the reproduced sound and sounds softer. Nonetheless, you have the option to choose any filter position depending on the music you are listening to and your personal preference.
When playing CDs, the MX-DAC amplifier sounds better than many other devices with DAC/AMP with USB ports. Yet, the main advantage is the excellent integration of the music elements. The sound quality can be improved by adjusting the equalizer on your computer’s audio player to increase performance. With DSD material, the MX DAC amplifier has no problems, and changing the sample rate does not cause any noise or interruptions.
When the music plays in 16/44.1, its sound is expressive and refined. The music is detailed down to the smallest detail, making it easy to perceive the change in soundstage; the detail, rhythm, and tonal balance make for a wonderful arrangement to admire. In 24/88.2 PCM, the music reproduced by the MX-DAC overflows with warmth, with rich, smooth vocals and instruments and a gentle rhythm.
Listening to good quality recorded tracks, I felt that they lacked low frequencies compared to other DACs. However, when it comes to low-frequency reproduction, the unit is very good. Low frequencies are bright and lively where they are needed. Vocals on all tracks are very clear and lifelike. The reproduction of instruments in the upper register is characteristically accurate and otherwise full of life and energy. The treble range is just as detailed and professional as the mids and lows.
Although the MX-DAC has some shortcomings in its design and functionality, it is still well worth the price when it comes to reproducing musical material. There are no problems with either coaxial or optical connections. The unit also has RCA/XLR outputs, which is important because many amps sound better when connected in balance with the DAC.
In terms of music reproduction, the MX-DAC leaves the analytical qualities to other desktop amplifiers such as the Marantz PM7000N. However, the MX-DAC excels in bass reproduction, with very deep, powerful, and dense bass. As such, it helps give dry and airy recordings a more favorable balance.
In short, thanks to its high-quality design, construction, and overall sonic performance, the MX-DAC is a very impressive desktop amplifier capable of playing a broad spectrum of audio material, although more flexible models are still available.