Audiolab M-DAC Mini
Since the launch of the original M-DAC in 2011, Audiolab’s range of standalone DACs has earned widespread acclaim and a host of awards from respected audio journals around the world. Last year’s arrival of the range-topping M-DAC+ and an all-in-one DAC/amp called the M-ONE extended the family by building upon the same award-winning technology.
Now another contender has entered the ring, the fourth model in the M-DAC range: The M-DAC Mini. As the name suggests, the M-DAC Mini is the smallest hi-res DAC/headphone amp in the range.
The M-DAC Mini’s design deliberately blurs the lines between home hi-fi DACs and pocket-size portable units. It is ideally sized to sit discretely on a desk or table, with accessible, easy-to-use controls and a traditional analogue volume knob.
There is also sufficient internal space to enable in the inclusion of discreet audiophile-grade components in key circuits, eschewing the space-saving compromise often inherent in portable DAC designs. Yet its diminutive form factor makes the M-DAC mini easy to carry and place wherever it is needed, untethered to the mains supply thanks to its rechargeable battery.
Like the M-DAC+, the M-DAC Mini is equipped to process PCM audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB, ensuring it is primed to take full advantage of hi-res digital sound both now and in the future. The USB input also supports DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 – a significant inclusion, as DSD has an important role to play in the developing hi-res audio scene.
Sonic performance is paramount throughout the M-DAC Mini’s circuit design. For example, while most portable DACs control volume in the digital domain, which results in lost ‘bits’ and therefore reduced signal quality, the M-DAC Mini uses a high-quality analogue potentiometer like those more commonly found in full-size hi-fi separates.
The M-DAC Mini, like the M-DAC and M-DAC+ combines advanced digital-to-analogue conversion with a high-performance Class A JFET output stage and dedicated headphone amp section, to deliver superb sound whether hooked up to an amp and speakers, or feeding active speakers, or driving a pair of headphones.
The inclusion of battery power for the first time in an M-DAC component is not simply about portability. It also benefits performance, supplying clean and stable DC power – free from the distortion introduced by common switch-mode power supplies, yet without the need for a bulky, costly audiophile-grade mains PSU. A mains charger is included in the package; when connected to the mains, iOS and Android devices can be charged directly from the M-DAC Mini.