M-DAC vs Naim Uniti vs T+A Receiver (The Start)
It’s Murphy’s Law. I’m well acquainted with it. And I should have suspected.
I might have mentioned previously that I had problems with my Linksys router since dabbling with it in preparation for the NAS installation and network streaming. Everything actually still worked except that I could no longer access the web-based admin/config screens – everything I read on the ‘net said: “you’re stuffed mate!” It would be a factory default reset and hope I could re-configure. This is not something I have done in years!
So, my computer-savvy mate was due round last night. I was picking up the first couple of hi-fi demo boxes straight after work. I had umpteen ferrets to attend to in the absence of Herself. Time was going to be short.
It got shorter. Whilst in Music Matters, firkling for my credit card in my wallet to secure the loan of the kit, I noticed that my debit card was missing from its slot. Strange, I knew used it over the weekend. I got home by about 5.30pm and then wasted the best part of the time to gone 7pm trying to track down the errant card and then admit defeat and cancel it. Oh, and then there were the furry carpet sharks to be ministered to. Needless to say, by the time my friend arrived I had not eaten and had only just managed to carefully extricate two enigmatic boxes from their packaging.
My friend, bless him, finally departed after 10.30pm with my sincere thanks and mission accomplished. It’s amazing (oh really?) how long IT can take to sort out, but eventually all systems were talking happily and behind the layered defence grid.
Ah well, as it’s a week night and getting late it was time for bed then…oh, go on…just one quick listen. After all, I’ve still not eaten!
As it was the smaller of the two, and also I had planned to do it this way around, the Audiolab M-DAC was already in-situ, merely needing a quick link up of the cables and away to musical bliss.
First impressions (fresh out of the box, never been played): I can hear Raj from Big Bang Theory cry: “oh, it’s dinky!” Heavier than it looks, the M-DAC is a very purposeful looking compact box that calmly exudes solid quality. It is just a tiny bit larger than my Cambridge Dacmagic, but feels like my Primare kit. You wouldn’t want to drop it because it will damage something! Knowing my luck it would be a broken toe followed by a nasty dent in our nice new floor!
Having played Melody Gardot’s My One And Only Thrill and also Worrisome Heart albums earlier in the evening from laptop-based Winamp via USB to Dacmagic, I thought I might as well continue in the same vein. It is interesting to note at this point that my IT friend had already commented on the great sound issuing from my current system, but with the rider that he thought it a bit bright. A result of the new laminate flooring? Maybe due to his younger years and ears? Hard to say.
Anyway, I linked everything up but this time chose to use the NAS-based music storage and music player through my laptop…just to prove it works.
OK, it is not a proper side-by-side test at this point, but I have to say that my initial impression is that the sound has more substance. The detail is still there; indeed, I think I was beginning to hear even more nuances. But there is more body – a fuller sound. It seems to have greater impact and presence in the room. Preferable? Not sure – yet.
I put the CD version into the Primare and did a few rudimentary comparisons, switching from one to the other. Hmmm, there is a difference. I need to listen more, but there’s a subtle difference between the two. Again, I am unsure as to which I prefer. I can’t even put it into words at this point. Maybe later on when I return home and listen again.
In the meantime, brooding on the living room table, lurks an altogether different black box. The Naim Uniti (sadly not the Uniti 2) lurks menacingly, straining the structural integrity of our dining table. I was told Naim kit likes to be warm before it will perform at its best: that Naim doesn’t ‘do’ standby – the green award is not something it aspires to. So, as soon as I got home yesterday, I hefted it from the large package and plugged it in. It will have had over 24hrs of warming up by the time it is called into the arena. I daren’t even look at the electricity smart meter!
At some point this evening, if the great British motorway network allows, a nice man from Avoke will arrive at my door bearing the third (black?) box to compete for my affections: the T+A Music Receiver. I must say that I am looking forward to the contest between the two all-in-ones.
But prior to that, once I have tended to the furry horde that infests our premises, and maybe slung some food into my own gullet, I need to give the Dacmagic, the Primare CDP and the M-DAC a work out. Maybe even feed the CDP through the M-DAC? And then there are the balanced interconnects and coax cable to try and the filters and… There should be time if I leave work promptly.
Of course, maybe Murphy knows different…