Posted on Thu, 21 Dec, 2017
Posted by Bob


Audiolab M-DAC is a multi-award winning DAC, preamp and headphone amplifier which is still cream of the crop amongst its segment.

Time moves fast in the world of Hi-Tech audio; even for those of us in the industry, it’s often surprising how quickly some products come and go. For a DAC to be consistently winning awards, years after its introduction must surely indicate a product that’s “a little bit special”.

Let’s take another look at what it is that’s made the Audiolab M-DAC a four-time What Hi-Fi award winner…

M-DAC three quarter

Audiolab M-DAC – a modern classic?

Audiolab introduced the M-DAC in 2011, which was the first offering from their LAB Series of compact components. With a design heritage dating back to Audiolab’s inception in the early 1980s, it perhaps wasn’t such a surprise that the M-DAC would turn out to be a winner.

Straight out of the blocks, the Audiolab M-DAC picked up What Hi-Fi’s “product of the year” award, as well as earning a coveted 5-star review. That wasn’t the end of the accolades for the M-DAC however, not by a long way…

M-DAC Front

In 2012, Hi-Fi Choice awarded the M-DAC both a five-star award as well as the prestigious “Editors Choice” accolade. The same year What Hi-Fi?  crowned it their “Best Digital Headphone Amplifier”, whilst Hi-Fi News awarded it “Outstanding Product”. In 2013  The M-DAC picked up Hi-Fi Choice’s “Group Test Winner” as well as receiving the highest accolade of a “5 Globe Award”.

What Hi-Fi? continued in its praise of the Audiolab M-DAC, declaring it 2014’s “Best DAC £500-700”, and the following year awarding 5 stars as part of a Recommended Laptop System with the Grado Sr325E headphones and the MacBook Air. It seems then, that if there’s one thing the press does agree upon, it’s that the Audiolab M-DAC is a superb piece of kit!

Adaptable and well connected

Perhaps one of the secrets behind the Audiolab M-DAC’s success lies in its superb connectivity, feature set, and audio specifications. Any modern DAC has to offer a panoply of connections to suit most any situation and circumstance; in this respect, the M-DAC is well appointed.

The Audiolab M-DAC offers both coaxial and optical digital connections; two each for the pair of inputs, and a pair for the output. These connections are capable of supporting 24bit resolution, and up to 96kHz on optical and 192kHz on the coaxial connections. A USB input is also provided for 24bit/96kHz connection directly to your computer.

The Audiolab M-DAC gives the user a choice of analogue outputs, which again, greatly enhance its versatility and adaptability. The stereo analogue outputs are offered on both unbalanced RCA as well as fully balanced, professional grade XLR connectors.

M-DAC rear

One of the Audiolab’s “trump cards” however, lies in its ability to act, not only as a DAC but as a combined headphone amplifier and preamplifier. Looking for a high-quality route to premium headphone listening from your laptop? The M-DAC won’t disappoint with its superb headphone amplifier.

The included remote control also assists in the M-DAC’s brilliant ability to act as a digital preamplifier for your Hi-Fi system. For those listening from purely digital sources, looking for a Hi-Resolution solution, the M-DAC’s got you covered there, too!

“Effortlessly talented and enjoyable”

…is exactly how What Hi-Fi? described the Audiolab M-DAC in their five-star review of 2015; it’s perhaps the M-DAC’s presentation of sources which has consistently impressed. It appears everyone agrees that the Audiolab M-DAC is a superb sounding DAC, especially at this price point.

Audiolab includes a number of user-selectable filter profiles (filters are an essential component in any DAC) which offer the user a selection of various characters. Audiolab themselves point out that whilst some of the profiles are more technically “perfect”, the user may find that other profiles are more subjectively pleasing. Whatever you may decide, isn’t it nice to have the choice?

So there you have it; the Audiolab M-DAC is still the king of DAC’s at this price-point. Don’t take our word for it, there’s a wealth of journalists who agree!