For those seeking a finely balanced, spacious performance with plenty of detail, the M-DAC Mini is diminutive only in size.
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.
|DAC||ESS Sabre32 9018 K2M|
|Sampling Rate||32-bit/32kHz -192kHz (Coax, Optical)
32-bit/32kHz – 384kHz (USB)
2.8MHz-11.2MHz USB DSD (DSD64, DSD128, DSD256)
|Digital Inputs||1 x Coaxial
1 x Toslink Optical
1 x USB MicroB for PC/Android
1 x USB Type-A for Apple iOS Devices
1 x Bluetooth (V3.0 with aptX)
|Frequency Response||20Hz-20kHz (+/-0.2dB)|
|Signal-to-Noise Ratio||115dB A Weighted|
|Output Voltage||5Vrms ±0.1V|
|Digital Output Connections||1 x RCA Phono and 1 x Optical TOSlink|
|Analogue Output Connections||1 pair RCA Phono, 1 x 6.35mm Headphone socket|
|Battery||Li-ion Type DC 3.7V 5000mAh|
|Playback time||Up to 7 hours|
|Dimensions (H x W x D)||34 x 136 x 178mm|