Musical Fideity’s M6 Encore Connect is a ripper, streamer and preamplifier all in one handy, if substantial box. It costs £3629 and Lionel Payne hooked it up to his system to see if it came up to scratch. 

The Musical Fidelity M6 Encore Connect Multi Format Audio Streamer is quite a mouthful! From now on in this review I will simply call it the Encore Connect.

The Encore Connect is what is often referred to as an “All-In-One” although this particular model has preamplifier but not power amplifier facilities. However, Musical Fidelity also produce a variant with in-built amplification (using dual mono amplifier modules from the M6Si providing 225watts at 8 Ohms) called the Encore 225. Available in black or white, the review sample arrived in the black variant and proved to be no lightweight as it tips the scales at over 16 kilograms, this being a good indicator of the build quality of the unit which is particularly sturdy. To either flank are substantial heatsinks which I assume are only really required for the Encore 225 but as both variants wear the same clothes they remain on the Encore Connect.

The Encore Connect has a rather extensive feature list. It is an audio preamplifier/source component allowing you to keep all of your music in the one place. It can be connected to almost any source component whether analogue or digital and it is also compatible with many network speakers such as Sonos. There is official support for Tune-In Radio, Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify, the latter two having just been added within a major software update. These updates come at fairly regular intervals and prove that the Encore Connect is ever evolving and improving.

There are three available analogue inputs (via RCA), the Encore Connect provides fixed and variable outputs, and these remain completely analogue throughout. There are no less than four S/PDIF digital inputs (2 coaxial, 2 toslink) as well as four USB type A connections, one of which has high current capacity for charging phones or tablets. There is also a USB type B connection but this is limited to use in future expansion. There is a slot-loading CD player and upgradable 1TB hard disk drive for storage which is enough for approximately 2500 CD’s. A quarter inch socket for headphones is provided and this proved to be of high quality when tested. At the heart of the Encore Connect is a 64 bit Intel CPU with 2GB of RAM. This specification is far more than is required and as well as ensuring superb performance it allows for continual upgrading of its facilities and makes the Encore Connect virtually future proof.

It’s not often that the manufacturer sends a representative to make sure its product is installed correctly for the review but this was the case with the Encore Connect – thank you Andrew, it was good meeting you. I was told that installation is quite complicated but I’m sure I could have handled it without any serious problems and any potential purchasers should not be deterred. The biggest problem Andrew and I had when installing the Encore Connect was discovering that my RJ45 network cable that travels from my ground floor router up to my second floor mancave must have been damaged when new carpet had been installed on hall, stairs and landings last summer. We overcame the problem by setting up downstairs directly to the router and then installing upstairs without it being hard-wired to the internet. The RJ45 network cable was then replaced a couple of days later and everything worked as it should. It should be noted that not hard-wiring the Encore Connect limits its functionality somewhat.

I have been contemplating the task of ripping my CD collection to FLAC for some time. The main reasons that I haven’t so far are that it would be rather time-consuming as it is a rather large collection and I could never be 100% sure that a new format wouldn’t be introduced to make my FLAC files obsolete. Once the Encore Connect had arrived and I had ripped a few CD’s to its’ 1GB hard drive I saw the opportunity to tackle the task.  I never quite imagined it being so easy! Using the Encore Connect for ripping couldn’t be easier, simply load the CD and the ripping begins. In fact playing a CD is a little more complicated than ripping it as you have to access a sub-menu and select to play a CD before you put it into the slot-loader. At first I have to admit that this seemed counter-productive but once I had spent a little time with the Encore Connect it made absolutely perfect sense. The first thing to realise is that once you own an Encore Connect you will be very unlikely to want to simply play a CD with it. Much more likely is that you will wish to rip it to the hard-drive and use the FLAC file in all subsequent use.  When I compared the playback of a CD against the playback of a ripped CD from the hard-drive I found a small but not insignificant improvement in the sound of the ripped CD. This can be explained by the fact that the ripped CD is virtually bit-perfect whereas playing the CD will incur error correction being involved during. Ripping a CD takes around 10-12 minutes and the Encore Connect will automatically search for the artwork and metadata to accompany the FLAC file. One or two of my less well-known CD’s weren’t recognised and I had to input the data manually but this was made very easy by the fact that the Encore Connect can be found through the use of Google Chrome on your laptop or PC. This allows you to manually input artist, album and track titles as well as drag and drop artwork to accompany the FLAC file. Using this Google Chrome interface also allows you to drag and drop large audio files directly to and from the Encore Connect. It also allows complete control of the Encore Connect and I personally found this fantastic and my much preferred alternative to using the multi-function remote control or the available free app (available for iOS and Android devices). The remote control works extremely well but I found it to be a little lightweight, being made of plastic, for a machine costing so much.  The downloadable app also works very well and may well be the first choice for many users. However, I absolutely loved using the Encore Connect with the Google Chrome interface and there are several extra very useful features with this including Random Mix, Alarm Clock and Don’t Stop The Music which allows you to set up so that you never have silence.

The sound quality of the Encore Connect is beyond reproach. When it first arrived my immediate thoughts were that it seemed bright but that was simply my own brain needing to become accustomed to the extra detail on offer. The Encore Connect is not bright but rather, it delivers wonderful sound quality throughout the whole sound spectrum with oodles of detail on tap. As a subscriber to Tidal (hifi quality) I was keen to listen to the same albums I had already ripped to the hard drive and determine whether there was any significant difference between the two. In most instances I found it difficult to determine which I was listening to in blind listening tests as both formats excelled. However, on a couple of occasions I found the Tidal offering far better than the CD rip and I can only assume that this was due to me having a poor quality recording on the CD in the first place.

AT A GLANCE

Conclusion

I don’t imagine that the Encore Connect is for everyone, but for those looking for an all-in-one such as this with top sound quality being the main objective, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It sat perfectly within my system hooked up to my Tri Vista 300 integrated amplifier, by the same manufacturer, and set as a source by using the line level outputs so that the Tri Vista controlled the level of volume. The sound from my resident Monitor Audio PL300ii’s or any of the loudspeakers I had in for review during the period never failed to satisfy or excite. In fact it became my “go to” source for most of the time it spent with me.  I can also imagine it would be ideal at the heart of an audiophile’s office or second system. It could simply be hooked up to a pair of active speakers or an amplifier and passive speakers to produce a remarkably engaging system. Heartily recommended!

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality : Built like a tank and should last for years.

Sound Quality : Up there with the very best with outstanding detail.

Value For Money : When you add up what is available within the one box and take into account the sound quality, perceived value is astonishing.

Pros: A very well thought out package which offers true audiophile quality.

Cons: A remote control with a more luxurious feel would be welcome and care should be taken with amplifier matching as the Encore Connect’s detail may grate with a bright sounding amp and speakers.

Price : £ 3629.00

Lionel Payne

 

Specifications

Inputs

3 x Line Level RCA 300mV nominal 2V typical up to 7V rms

2 x optical S/PDIF 24 bit inputs up to 192kHz

2 x coax S/PDIF 24 bit inputs up to 192kHz

1 x USB 3.0 type ‘A’ connector

1 xUSB 3.0 type “B” connector (for future expansion)

3 x USB2.0 type ‘A’ connector (1 front, 2 rear) 10/100/1000 Base-T Ethernet connector

Outputs

1x line level PREAMP variable outputs (>6V rms max)

1x line level FIXED 2.0V @ 0dBFS (300mV rms nominal, >6V rms max) (Preamp gain, line input to PREAMP outputs is 4.5x (13dB) at maximum volume)

Headphone output suitable for headphones impedance 8 ohms to ∞. (Headphone output features independent volume setting)

Speaker outputs 1 pair 4mm banana plugs per channel

1x optical S/PDIF 24-bit output up to 192kHz

1x coax S/PDIF 24-bit output up to 192kHz

Internal storage 2.5” 1 TB SATA II hard disk (included) or SSD (future upgradeable)

General

Dimensions – W x H x D (mm): 440 x 125 x 400

Weight (unpacked / packed): 16.6 kg/ 21.3 kg

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