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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

Pros

  • +

    Even tonal balance

  • +

    digs up some detail

Cons

  • -

    Grubby, hazy sound

  • -

    poor timing and dynamics

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?
What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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