Advance Acoustic MCD-403 and MDA-503 review

This DAC/transport combo is competitively priced, but struggles to impress Tested at £600

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Despite the competitive pricing, this is still a seriously flawed combination


  • +

    Even tonal balance

  • +

    digs up some detail


  • -

    Grubby, hazy sound

  • -

    poor timing and dynamics

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We very rarely come across a CD transport and DAC (Digital to Analogue Convertor) priced as competitively as the MCD-403 and MDA-503. But, should we be encouraged or apprehensive?

Looking at the two components head on, they appear impressive enough - it looks like you're getting a lot for your money. Both front panels are solid. So too is the remote - it's a chunky number that does the job.

Intriguingly, the DAC has a luminous circuit diagram-esque display adorning its fascia. It's interesting but not exactly necessary. Furthermore, the actual chassis of both the DAC and transport feel cheap. So, not the most glowing of resumes so far, but how does this tag team perform?

Well, let's start with the positives. The pair dig up a decent level of detail, and they deliver a tonally balanced performance. You don't notice one area where the treble or bass sticks out. Unfortunately, that's about as good as it gets.

The main problem with this pairing is the grubby presentation. It discolours the whole sound. Rhianna's Breakin' Dishes lacks clarity and transparency. The result? A one-dimensional, hazy sound. The duo struggles to capture the rhythm and urgency of the song.

It has the same effect with Mavis Staples' In The Mississippi River. The track sounds confused and cluttered as vocals and instruments become entangled.

The truth of the matter is that the class-leading stand-alone CD players at this price point are superior to this pairing in every department. We can't honestly think of any instance where we'd recommend someone buy it.

What Hi-Fi?

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