Author Topic: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?  (Read 586 times)

Offline Tonteldoos

Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« on: November 11, 2021, 08:42:14 AM »
Any experience with the M-DAC? As a DAC and/or headphone amp?

I can get one at a good price, but don't know if or how much much better it will be than the iFi ZEN DAC v2 I'm currently using.

I've read that it's USB input is inferior to the other inputs - and this is what I'll be using.

Keen to hear any thoughts.

Offline GECO

Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2021, 09:06:25 AM »
If i were in your shoes I would try and audition one and also one of the signature ifi units. And for good measure a holo from Stefan

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Offline Drifter

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Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2021, 09:17:36 AM »
I've owned one for several years a while back.

Audiolab still makes them, I believe they now have more than one model and some changes have been made over the years.
When the MDAC came out, it was ground breaking and sold like hot cakes.

On the plus side, it is a detailed sounding DAC with a very wide and open soundstage. The sound can be tweaked with the filters and the headamp is also decent. It also has a digital volume control and can be used as a pre-amp. I ran mine as a dac & pre-amp with a set of Audiolab 8200MB monoblocks.

On the negative side, the build quality was not great (i'm now talking about the 2015 or thereabouts model) with several people pulling the RCA connectors out of the case when removing cables as an example. The implementation of the Sabre DAC was also a bit brutal with the sound being a bit "digital". Great if you have a very warm system and you want to inject some detail but not great if you already battle with thin/forward sound it will just aggravate the issue.     

Back then the designer, John Westlake, was very active on PinkFishMedia. He provided firmware updates, did trouble shooting on the forum, offered advice on how to do DIY upgrades and so on and so forth.

Some info below:

https://pinkfishmedia.net/forum/threads/the-john-westlake-lakewest-mdac-fdac-vfet-and-detox.233225/

I think he left AudioLab somewhere in 2018 or 2019 to start his own audio company but I lost track. I don't think it was a success though. Maybe someone else on here followed the saga and can provide more details.

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2021, 09:45:51 AM »
Thanks for all the feedback. Think I'll save my money. Doesn't sound like a clear no-brainer. And it's not like I'm unhappy with the ZEN DAC.

Offline Drifter

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Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2021, 09:47:59 AM »
I own the Zen DAC v1. While I have not done a side by side, from memory I can tell you that the MDAC from the mid 2010's is a much brighter sounding DAC, so you will get a very different sound.

Offline Wolla

Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2021, 10:11:59 AM »
I own the Zen DAC v1. While I have not done a side by side, from memory I can tell you that the MDAC from the mid 2010's is a much brighter sounding DAC, so you will get a very different sound.

I agree. I've also owned both and will never be interested in another MDAC - it simply cannot do Piano to sound natural, whereas the Zen Dac can and does a pretty spectacular job of it.

The ZEN DAC range is wonderful, excellent value and a very listenable (entry level) dac. There is some tiny bit of micro-detail glazed over on the V1 if one listens critically, not sure if the V2 is any better in this regard, maybe?

I also like the fact that the ZEN DAC can be powered directly from USB, but that may or may not matter to others.

Offline Tonteldoos

Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2021, 11:09:52 AM »
I agree. I've also owned both and will never be interested in another MDAC - it simply cannot do Piano to sound natural, whereas the Zen Dac can and does a pretty spectacular job of it.

The ZEN DAC range is wonderful, excellent value and a very listenable (entry level) dac. There is some tiny bit of micro-detail glazed over on the V1 if one listens critically, not sure if the V2 is any better in this regard, maybe?

I also like the fact that the ZEN DAC can be powered directly from USB, but that may or may not matter to others.

I had the V1 and upgraded to V2. There was a definite improvement in micro-detail. I would say it was definitely worth the upgrade, even if it wasn't a dramatic shift.

I like the fact that it can power from USB - but I found the iPower to improve the sound quality, so use that now.

It sounds like it's worth sticking to this for now. I know it's not the last word in audiophile sound quality, but with the HD600 I get beautiful natural mid-range, and the bass boost of the ZEN fills in what the Sennies lack in bass.

Itched scratched.

Offline Scubadude

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Re: Audolab M-DAC - thoughts?
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2021, 12:35:15 PM »
Some have criticised as being a "typical bad D-S DAC" ... I found it quite enjoyalbe.

The original M-DAC worked incredibly well with high z cans out the back XLRs. Significantly better than the 6.35mm headphone socket.
"We should no more let numbers define audio quality than we should let chemical analysis be the arbiter of fine wines."  Nelson Pass