British firm Musical Fidelity is a fascinating high-end audio company. They fly in the sky with statement products costing as much a sports car, yet offer a full line of incredible value products that audiophiles of any means can afford. Trickle down? Maybe. But I can tell you from experience that entry-level products like the V-DAC II and the V-Link 192, they offer very little compromise unless compared to the very best. The V series can also be upgraded with external power supplies. The M1 series, one step up, is filled with amazingly versatile products like the M1 CLiC.
As a matter of fact, Musical Fidelity has a new line of “V90” series products coming to the market. I can only imagine the company is trying to keep up with the rapidly changing and fiercely competitive entry-level market. This especially holds true with digital source components. There seem to be new products brought out with impressive specifications at unbelievable prices.
In for review is the M1 CDT CD transport, priced at $999, and available in black or silver (for a small premium). The CDT uses a slot loading CD mechanism. It has no onboard DAC, and no analog outputs. It must be connected to an external DAC. It is equipped with three digital outputs, including optical, coaxial RCA, and AES/EBU. There is detachable power cord, and a remote control. Now, one might question the introduction of a CD only transport in this day and age. I personally don’t, as I think that CD playback is very much alive and well, which is a different topic than the declining sales of physical CDs.
Theoretically, since CDT is charged with one important task -- accurately pulling data off of a spinning disc -- it should appeal to digital purists who are already very happy with their current DAC(s). Separate DAC and transport components were all the rage a number of years ago, and what comes around goes around. Ironically, the market has also carved a huge niche for one box, multi-function disc players with digital inputs, file playback options, Apple connectivity, and even networking capability. There are have never been more high quality options for purists and convenience seekers.
According to Musical Fidelity, “the M1 CDT is a transport only, allowing us to optimise its ability to read the digital discs and deliver the data with no interference from analogue circuitry. Removing the digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) and any other extraneous components leaves a pure digital disc transport, with no interference from those other elements. Jitter is another unwanted element of digital replay – and one with the M1 CDT minimises thanks to our use of a premium stabilised clock system.”
Set Up & Listening
The CDT is housed in the same sized chassis as the other M1 components, like the M1 CliC and M1 DAC. I am sure Musical Fidelity is hoping to sell the CDT and the M1 CLiC or M1DAC as a pair. This would get you a very worthwhile digital setup for far less than one can spend on a high end CD player. That would allow you to add more digital sources like a PC or NAS. They also would make an attractive pair. The function buttons of the CDT are very well laid out on the front panel, and they are duplicated on the remote. The CDT is equipped with some very decent support feet to help control resonance. My only logistical complaint is the rather small front panel LCD display. Since the CDT supports CD Text, it would have been nice to make it a bit easier to read.
The review sample was supplied in black, with silver buttons and logo. Overall, I liked the CDT’s compact and unassuming appearance. I used an Element Cable Red Storm AC cord, and a DH Labs AES/EBU cable to connect the CDT to my Bryston BDA-1 DAC. I also tried the optical and coaxial connections, but preferred the AES/EBU overall.