Musical Fidelity M1 CDT Transport Review 
Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players
Written by Andre Marc   
Friday, 26 July 2013

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.”

 

Musical Fidelity M1CDT rear
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.



I left a CD on repeat for a few days to give the CDT a bit of break in, then began some serious listening. I was immediately struck with the CDT's neutral, robust presentation. The first disc I spun was some amazingly raw blues by Charles Caldwell's Remember Me album, on the Fat Possum label. The CDT got all the grit and grime on this recording right, and locked into the snake like rhythms in a way I had not experienced before. Impressive start, to say the least.

The CDT was equally impressive with denser, polyrhythmic music like Senegalese star Chiekh Lo’s Lamp Fall. It's a well-recorded and incredibly infectious mix of traditional and Western styles. The CDT handled the propulsive bass lines, soaring melodies, and African percussion beautifully, providing coherence and focus. It was truly wonderful to hear the layers of this recording in a fresh way.

I made it a point to play various classical CDs from my collection as diverse offerings from the Telarc, Naxos, and Harmonia Mundi labels. The CDT did an excellent job recreating the recording spaces, and the scale of the orchestra. The CDT accurately streams the bits on the disc to your DAC as they were mean to be heard.

In the several months I had the CDT in my system, it worked without flaw, and proved to be very reliable. Loading and ejecting discs inspired confidence; slot loading CD transports have been known to have issues in years past, but that has not been my experience in recent times. The CDT is clearly well engineered and nicely built. 

Musical Fidelity M1CDT
Conclusion

Musical Fidelity offers nicely made, great sounding products for audiophiles at all price points. The M1 series may be the sweetheart of the line, as one can assemble a complete system of electronics, minus speakers for under $2000. Hats off to Musical Fidelity for making this possible. The M1 CDT offers sound that, in my opinion, is clearly competitive at double its price point and beyond.

As stated earlier, on the surface, a Redbook CD-only transport may be a tough sell as a concept, but in practical use, it is very much the real deal. The CDT allows you to match it to the DAC of your choice, and is engineered to do one task: retrieve the data from the bits on the CD. I’m impressed enough that going forward it will be a permanent addition to my system. Recommended for audition.


Specifications


Musical Fidelity M1 CDT: $999
www.musicalfidelity.com

Outputs
●    1x line level RCA
●    1x RCA coaxial connector (Digital SPDIF)
●    1x Toslink optical connector (Digital SPDIF)
●    1x XLR AES/EBU balanced digital connector

General
●    Dimensions - WxHxD (mm): 220 x 100 x 300
●    Weight (unpacked / packed): 3.5 kg / 4 kg




Review System 1


CD Transport: Musical Fidelity M1 CDT
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
external drives.
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Audio Research SP16, Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Bob Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4, Bogdan Audio Creations Art Deco
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids,  Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Onkyo C7000R
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity V-DAC II, MyTek Stereo 192 DAC
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, NuForce DDA-100
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, MAD 1920S
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS









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