|Musical Fidelity M1 CLiC and M1 PWR Review|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Friday, 18 May 2012|
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Set Up & Listening:
I decided to first set up the CLiC as a digital hub, without using it as preamplifier. I ran Stager Silver interconnects from the Fixed Output into the McIntosh MA6600 integrated amp driving Harbeth Compact 7 ES3 monitors. I hooked it up to an Ethernet cable and navigated the menu until I found Music Server. It found Twonky Media, which I have installed on my Mac Mini and, to my surprise, Logitech Media Server, which I normally use with my Squeezebox Touch. This must be because LMS is now universal UPnP software. After using both for a few days I settled on the Logitech software simply because I am used to it. I then connected my Marantz CD player via coaxial digital cable and was ready to roll.
I found the CLiC’s performance as a DAC and streamer to be superb. I don’t know why, but I was a bit surprised just how dimensional, organic, and transparent the presentation was. I felt, over all, it bettered my Squeezebox Touch connected to the V-DAC II. I don’t know if this is because it eliminates the need for a digital cable, its superior streaming, its superior power supply, or a combination of factors. The fact is that streamed FLACs, with resolution ranging from standard CD files to 192 kHz / 24 bit files sounded stunning. Playing CDs’ on the Marantz decoded by the CLiC also sounded fabulous. The CLiC’s upsampling DAC left me nothing to complain about sonically.
I then decided to use the CLiC as an analog preamplifier, simply switching to the variable outputs, and connecting it to the new M1 PWR power amp, rated at 60 wpc into 8 ohms, and doubling its power into 4 ohms. The M1 PWR is the same size as the CLiC, so they are a nice visual pairing. Interestingly, the PWR can also be used as a 100 wpc mono block amplifier as well. The amp is nicely finished, with quality connectors, and Musical Fidelity’s silver logo on the front. The M1 PWR retails for $1299. The pair was connected with Transparent MM2 Plus interconnects. Each was outfitted with Shunyata Venom 3 power cords. Everything else stayed the same
The M1 CLiC and M1 PWR combo turned out to be very symbiotic. The pair was dynamic, clean, and there was plenty of drive. I especially liked the smooth volume control steps via the remote or the iPhone app. The M1 combo offered up what was no doubt high end sound. They were a great match for my Harbeth speakers, flawless in operation, and exceptionally quiet. For kicks, I decided to briefly use the M1 PWR with the Belles Soloist 3 preamplifier I reviewed recently, which is my benchmark for sub $2000 preamps. The CLiC faired very well in comparison, which is impressive since the he Soloist 3 is a great sounding purist preamp that punches well above its weight class and, with minimalist features, retails for slightly more than half of the cost of the CLiC.
I briefly introduced the M1 CDT CD transport into the mix, which I connected via coaxial digital cable to the CLiC. The CDT is a transport only with no onboard DAC. A full review is forthcoming. It was a terrific addition to the set up. The CDT is a fine transport and is similar in dimensions to the CLiC and PWR combo. It is clear that Musical Fidelity offers complete audio solutions in the M1 series with all bases covered, including a phono preamp and headphone amp.
The best way to control the CLiC is definitely the free app for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. It works great, and allows for full control of the unit. You can see all your music files and artwork, switch inputs, control volume, and change settings. I found it very responsive and commands were immediately executed. During the last phase of the review period, on several occasions I found my wife had “hijacked” the M1 combo on her iPhone, where she downloaded the app and called up international Internet radio stations via the CLiC’s tuner. She even plugged her iPhone directly into CLiC and pulled up a bunch of albums, including Little Broken Hearts, the cool new album by Norah Jones. I plugged my iPod Nano in the iDevice input and it worked like a charm as well.
The last part of my evaluation consisted of playing back files directly from thumb drives and Fat32 formatted hard drives. No issues there. Playback was flawless, and high quality. Just remember that the more files on a drive, the longer it will take to index.