Musical Fidelity’s M2si and M2SCD are distributed in the UK by Henley Audio and cost £699 each. Ian Ringstead tries them out.

A minimal and good looking pairing

Formed in 1982, Musical Fidelity has been around for nearly forty years and was the brainchild of Anthony Michaelson, a talented clarinet player and audiophile. The first product he released was The Preamp (My first real HiFi product – ed) a refreshing and reasonably priced simple design that really surprised the market at the time. It was a sleek black Perspex fronted unit that, despite its minimal in facilities, was a musical gem. This was closely followed by the Dr Thomas power amplifier that was also sleek in design in the mk1 version and had the same black Perspex fascia and a very smart looking oblong case. In my early days of retailing HiFi I lusted after both items and hoped my boss would let us sell this range, but alas this never transpired. Instead, I and my wife ended up travelling to London to audition a Dr Thomas amp in Camden. We had gone to London initially to see Arthur Khoubersarian of Pink Triangle fame to collect one of his turntables but the chance to hear the Dr Thomas in London was too good a chance to miss. Battling through early rush hour traffic in central London to audition the amp was a saga, let me tell you. We travelled in our first car as a married couple – an early 1970’s Vauxhall Viva that had more rust than solid metal in its bodywork and the front wings were like paper doilies. The traffic was horrendous, and it took over two hours to travel a few miles, but we got to the shop and ended up buying the amp. The sales assistant was fantastic and said that, although the amps were in short supply, we could take one he had sold earlier rather than wait for a new delivery. I hope the customer expecting his amp forgave us jumping the queue.

The long intro just shows the lengths we audiophiles will go to hear and buy equipment in pursuit of our dreams. Thirty-odd years on and once again I renew my acquaintance with the brand. Anthony Michaelson sold the company a couple of years ago to Pro-Ject company owner Heinz Lichtenegger who wanted a new electronics brand to compliment his own range, and what better brand than an established British favourite. Musical Fidelity has never stood still and has produced numerous models and ranges over the decades and I’m sure that Heinz and his team wanted to continue this trend.

The models I am reviewing here are the cheapest full-size items in the current Musical Fidelity range. Around for about a year now, these budget models (relatively speaking) follow the rest of the pricier models’  style and build quality.

CONSTRUCTION

Simple clean lines define this amp

The M2si is an integrated amplifier rated at 72 W per channel into 8 ohms and so there is plenty of power on tap for normal listening levels. There are six line-level only inputs so the user will have to add an external phono-stage if vinyl is their thing. Of course, Musical Fidelity has a choice of options on the phono-stage front, as do Pro- Ject.

Plenty of inputs on the rear of the amp

The smart solid aluminium fascia and simple controls give the unit an air of minimalist sophistication and the internal build is impressive too. The pre-amp stage is Class A and has its own independent power supply and the power amps are discrete which results in a real value for money, no-nonsense integrated amplifier. For Home Cinema installations, the AUX1 input can also be manually switched to a Home Theatre (HT) through-put. A plastic remote control is included that controls both the amp and CD player.

The simple and elegant lines continue in the CD player

The matching M2SCD compliments the amplifier perfectly in its looks and quality. The CD player features a mains choke filter and a high-tech digital stream noise filter which Musical Fidelity say allows the player to perform like much more expensive models and it does have excellent specifications. Trickle-down tech’ from the pricier models includes a 24bit Delta-Sigma DAC with 8x oversampling to ensure excellent data recovery from your discs. The slot-loading mechanism worked well and without a hitch, I am pleased to report. In the past, I went to a retailer for a demonstration of some speakers and I took along a favourite CD of mine by Michael Ruff an American artist on MFSL CD. The salesman loaded the disc into the slot-loading mechanism and the disc jammed inside refusing to play or eject. Embarrassed by this he apologised and took the machine into the back for a colleague to try and dismantle the unit and retrieve my treasured CD. Unfortunately, they couldn’t access the mechanism, so the unit had to go back to the manufacturer. Happily, I got my disc back a week later. This made me somewhat wary of this method of loading when it was newly introduced, but since then I have used other machines that use this mechanism with no problems – and there were absolutely no problems at all with the M2SCD.

Around the back of the CD player

Aimed at newcomers on a reasonable budget, and perhaps dipping their toes into HiFi for the first time, the Musical Fidelity amp and CD player offer a no-nonsense look but allied with great quality. The units I received had obviously been out for previous reviews or used at shows which is actually a bit of a bonus for a reviewer as they will have had some use and be suitably ‘run in’. I was provided with a silver amp and black CD player and so I could judge each finish in the flesh – both looked very smart and well presented.

SOUND QUALITY

Down to the nitty-gritty and how they performed. Immediate impressions were very favourable. The presentation was lively and detailed with decent depth with the amp driving my Jern 12WS loudspeakers without a hitch. There was certainly plenty of power to fill my living room with rock music such as Yes or Dire Straits, and there was real vim and vigour to the presentation. Female vocals like Alison Krausse with Union Station were sublime, and Eva Cassidy’s ‘Live at Blues Alley’ gave me a sense of being there at the live performance. I played a couple of Simon and Garfunkel’s early discs with tracks like “Old Friends” really standing out for their simple acoustics and superb harmonies that were presented nicely by the Musical Fidelity pairing.

Choral music such as the Messiah performed by the Dunedin Consort in Dublin was well portrayed. This particular version really is a superb recording and one of the best examples of this well-loved choral piece. Listening to the Messiah can’t help but put a smile on your face and lift your spirits. The quality of musicianship and the soloists is exceptional on the CD and I speak as someone who has heard it live countless times and as someone who still loves it. The imaging was well spread with all the instruments accurately located in the soundfield, with the only real criticism for me being that the depth was not as holographic as I’d have liked.

The M2si is a good and very competent modern design. Back in the seventies and eighties, there would have been a plethora of integrated amps in the M2si’s price range because a decent HiFi was a must for many a household, whereas today lifestyles have changed dramatically. Retailing in the eighties and nineties the M2si would have its work cut out due to sheer choice on offer, but now the options seem to be more limited. Upbeat and enthusiastic like a puppy are the main characteristics of the M2si’s charms, and I’m sure that many will be endeared to what is on offer here. Despite what the amp lacks in features (it is pretty minimal), it is clear that the design team spent the budget on the quality of parts, solid simple casework, and controls. The dynamic sound certainly impresses and the power on offer is ample for most setups and the average rooms it will be used in.

The M2SCD is a no-nonsense CD player that is well thought out and I liked the slot-loading mechanism which proved reliable – made a nice change from the sometimes cheap plastic drawers often used. I hadn’t got a similarly priced CD player to compare with (though I have an older Marantz CD52SE mk2 in my study system) and it would not be fair to pitch it against my Luxman D-05, but having owned similar priced units over the last thirty years, the design certainly holds up well to modern players. The M2Scd is clear and articulate with no nasty traits and matches the amp both for looks and sound. Dynamic, like the amp, it casts a good and spacious soundstage that never errs on the harsh side of things, with clarity being excellent for a machine in the sub £1000 sector. The components have been wisely chosen in this machine and it has a very good DAC – the  24-bit Delta-Sigma dual differential DAC. This is a design that is on a par with the competition such as the Audiolab 6000 CD player I have previously reviewed. Whether it was modern jazz or prog-rock the M2Scd played it with aplomb. Vocals were accurately portrayed and well defined as they should be and so long term listening was a pleasure. Bass was tight and easily followed, a must in my book as I love the sound of an accomplished bassist. This CD player has an elegant simplicity with a sound that has excellent pace, rhythm and timing.

We all need a reference to work to and of course ‘one man’s meat is another’s poison’. The various genres I played covered many years, but they all thrilled me, and the several weeks I had the Musical Fidelity amp and CD player were very enjoyable. The combination was never boring in presentation, but I do have a word of caution with regards to matching loudspeakers. Match the M2si with smooth sounding speakers and you’ll be rewarded with a detailed and dynamic sound, match it with very revealing or ‘toppy’ speakers and your senses may be overloaded over long listening periods. The synergy between individual components in a system is an important consideration – get it right and you will be hugely rewarded, and so I strongly suggest, as always, a demonstration with your own or similar loudspeakers.

CONCLUSION

Heinz Lichtenegger, best know for the Pro-ject brand and who took over the intellectual property of Musical Fidelity in 2018, wanted to rejuvenate the Musical Fidelity brand, build on its reputation and introduce the well-loved brand to a new generation of consumers. I have seen the brand grow from its infancy in 1982 (when it was of an exciting newcomer) to a mature and varied series of world-class electronics to suit all pockets. The newest models here have certainly benefitted from trickle-down technology and offer a lot of its more expensive siblings’ qualities for the budget-conscious music lover. T

he amp and cd are certainly a good match with each other (of course), but, if used separately, they will still deliver in a well put together and synergistic system.

AT A GLANCE

Build Quality: Solid and well-turned-out functional products

Sound Quality: Clear and bold sound that says “Here I am”

Value for Money: Good value for money at £699 a box

Pros:

Clean and good-looking kit that should give many years’ service when matched with smooth sounding speakers

Cons:

The amp produces a well-lit sound stage that some may want to tone down if your room or speakers are on the brighter side of tonality

Price: £699 each.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Ringstead

Review Equipment: Luxman PD151 and Benz Micro Ace low output moving coil, Temple Audio Harmony moving coil phono stage, Luxman L-505UX11 amp, Luxman D-05 SACD player, Jern 12WS speakers, Chord, Tellurium Q, Missing Link and Way cables.

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