Musical Fidelity M8 PRE Preamp/M8-500s Power Amp (Part 3)

9/12/2014 11:38:25 AM
My vinyl experience largely mirrored the USB DAC one, with the added dimensions that pure analogue brings, but not until overcoming one obstacle – hum harmonics. With both the Townshend/Conqueror/Aladdin and also a Clearaudio DC turntable with MM cartridge, there was very noticeable hum, so bad that it made listening unacceptable. Yet this had not been audible before with other, stand-alone pre-amps. Initially, I had to use an external phono preamp and so I pressed a Creek OBH15 into service. Clearly something was not quite right. I fixed the problem eventually by grounding the tone-arm earth tag to one of the screens of the M8 PRE phono inputs, which removed the hum completely and totally transformed the listening experience. From then on I could hear and enjoy the remarkably fine performance proved by the on board M8PRE’s MM phono pre amplifier.

The M8 PRE Preamp silver edition

The M8 PRE Preamp silver edition

For instance, in the quietly evocative introduction to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring [Berlin Philharmonic/Von Karajan, DG] the instruments were clear and pure against a relatively silent background (a nice clean copy of this LP), the only noise being the barely detectable whisper of vinyl under stylus. As the music built to include jabbing horns, pounding drums and crashing percussion in the Dance of the Earth, the instruments remained well separated.

Playing the CBS LP Miles Davis with John Coltrane via the M8 PRE, again with internal phono pre-amplifier, I was struck by the clarity and richness of Coltrane’s Sax, Wynton Kelly’s clear, full-toned, expressive piano, and Miles’ distinctive trumpet playing. This 1974 compilation of early 60’s recordings was a delight to hear.

Inside the M8 PRE Preamp

Inside the M8 PRE Preamp

Going to another extreme, take Jimmy Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ (180 gram Hendrix Family authorised ‘Audiophile’ pressing of The Jimmy Hendrix Experience). Its raw energy, distorted guitars and driving bass lines were reproduced clearly with all their edgy roughness. Then, an original LP of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band [Parlophone] found its way onto the platter. It sounded particularly well, with excellent vocal clarity, bass power and definition and clean treble – a really enjoyable listening experience.

Not only is the preamp extremely quiet, but is is also remarkably transparent and lacking in any additional harshness, coloration or artificial brightness. Using the phono MM input, vocals sounded smooth and natural, while bass was, deep, well paced, and powerful – and all from a quiet background without exaggeration of clicks, pops, or surface noise. Vinyl of all sorts sounded highly satisfying. Indeed, I have rarely heard this turntable and arm with Aladdin cartridge sound this well balanced and accomplished.

The M8PRE and M8-500s at a sound test

The M8PRE and M8-500s at a sound test

So, in the final analysis, did I like the M8PRE and M8-500s? You bet I did, but as with any piece of audiophile hi-fi, system matching is the key and one must of course audition before deciding. It is a sweet sounding combo, but if there is distortion, brittleness, or sharpness in the source signal the Musical Fidelity will reproduce it. The tonal balance is as neutral as you are likely to find in a transistorised amplifier, and the power and control over the speakers is prodigious. More importantly, it frees the music.

Technical Specifications

M8PRE Preamplifier

·         Inputs: 1x Switchable MM/MC RCA/

·         Phono; 2x XLR Balanced Line Level; 5x RCA / Phono Line Level

·         THD+N: <0.005% single ended

·         THD+N: <0.004% balanced

·         S/N ratio: >118dB ‘A’ weighted

·         Frequency Response: 5Hz-100kHz

·         Dimensions WxHxD: 44 x 16 x 40cm

·         Weight: 17 kg

·         Price: $5,800


·         Inputs: 1x RCA Phono Line Level, 1x Line level XLR Balanced, 1x Trigger input 3.5mm mono jack ±4.5 to ±15V DC

·         Outputs: 1x RCA Phono Line Level (loop output); 1x Line level XLR Balanced (loop output); 1x Trigger output 3.5mm mono jack 12V DC, loudspeaker 4mm

·         Power output: 500 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms (27 dBW)

·         THD+N: <0.007% typical

·         S/N ratio: >120dB ‘A’ weighted

·         Frequency Response: 10Hz-80kHz

·         Dimensions WxHxD: 44 x 16 x 46cm

·         Weight: 29 kg

·         Price: $7,500


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