Audiolab’s award winning M-DAC is the most popular DAC we’ve ever sold and the fact that its been going for several years now is testamount to how incredibly well it was designed and made that little has come out since to rival it for the price. This latest M-DAC Nano model makes things portable.
Since 2011, the British company has garnered consistent acclaim for an ever-extending catalogue of alluring, and objectively good, DACs. Its original M-DAC seemed to set the precedent for everything a modestly-priced DAC could be, with its sonic quality belying such a generous, sub-£1,000 price tag. The 2016-released M-DAC+, a calculated bulking-up of its predecessor, then doubled down on the ground-breaking design and technology that saw its older brother scoop up such well-deserved plaudits. The M-DAC and M-DAC+ are not exactly portable though.
Last year’s M-DAC Mini looked to move the other way by shrinking down this powerful and punchy tech into a smaller, more affordable device. A largely successful endeavour, it’s this sophisticated middle ground between desktop-ready DAC and portable, more inexpensive product that seems to have inspired Audiolab’s latest iteration.
M-DAC in minature
The M-DAC Nano, a much smaller, scaled-down and, yes, legitimately portable device, represents the brand’s foray into the world beyond four walls. A gutsy new DAC direction that sees the transportation of their esteemed technology out of the house and into the pockets of commuting audiophiles everywhere. With the same precision at its core, for a veritable fraction of the price. And its advantages are many.
Commute-ready at 44mm x 44mm x14mm, it’s positively Lilliputian when compared to its siblings and certainly much more compact than the so-called Mini, which measures up at 34mm x 136mm x 178mm. Its significant decrease in weight is also a joy to behold. At 28g, it really won’t put too much of a strain on its carrier and is a bit of kit that’s intended to be used on-the-go. Not only something that bit easier to carry, but a tool custom-made for the sound-conscious traveller.
Sound-wise, its quality is up there with the larger models in its family. Audiolab has always prided itself on its ability to effortlessly produce a consistent quality of sound through any listening tool, whether they be headphones, amplifiers or speakers, that can be plugged into its impressive range of DACs. The M-DAC Nano follows suit by producing the same clarity and quality of sound when supporting any style of headphone (in-ear or over-ear) with its standard 3.55mm headphone port, making smart use of an autosensing circuit to set the appropriate output for the impedance of the user’s chosen headphones.
Perfect at home or on the move
Connectivity-conscious, the Nano can be conveniently used in conjunction with a whole host of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. Connecting to these external devices with the help of Bluetooth version 4.2, the digital files it plays can easily be elevated from 16-bit/44.1kHz to 32-bit/384kHz for the kind of legitimately high-resolution, high-fidelity digital listening experience that we’ve come to expect from Audiolab. The device’s “F” button, which can be used to turn it on or off, also doubles as a way of activating this upsampling feature. And there’s certainly no noticeable decline in sound when volume is pushed past acceptable levels. Par for the course for Audiolab at this point really.
In terms of battery life, running the Nano in “enhanced” mode (the option that supports upsampling through digital filtering) gives the user around six hours of use. Not much time perhaps, but certainly more than enough make it thorough one daily commute. The more serial travellers wincing at this stat should be reassured by the DAC’s “standard” mode life of eight hours. It’s even supplied with a handy wireless charging pad that can be used in case of audio emergency. Not to mention its in-built ability to switch off after ten minutes of non-activity and automatic pause feature when headphones are unplugged. With such sophistication in place here, quality, detail and convenience are most central to the Nano’s appeal.
Finished off by a smart, fascia-based rotary control that can be used both to adjust volume and skip tracks, the M-DAC Nano’s sleek silver design perfectly complements its vast array of astonishing on-the-go audio features. And when you do finally make it home, it’s even got enough technical smarts to connect to a house-based amplifier. Bravo.
A smart, intricate, and most importantly, incredibly sophisticated bit of kit then that brings Audiolab’s noted quality to those out and about or on-the-go. Priced at £149, it’s an absolute steal for those wishing for a better listening experience either at home or on the move. Read more on our website