The difference was immediately apparent. The soundstage immediately expanded. Vocals were clear and crisp. Instruments came alive and had a definite dimensionality to them. Bass was tight and well controlled. Overall, it was a very musical sound. I heard no noise artifacts or any other degradation to the sound quality that other Class D amps may suffer from, just good clean sound. Trading blows with my reference Crowns, I felt that the additional power output of the Crowns enabled them to be a bit faster. In action films, bass on the Crowns had a bit more oomph. The noise floor was still a little lower on the Crowns, even with the M1PWR in mono mode, allowing me to eke out just a little more of the low-level details. While the Crowns have a more matter-of-fact character, I felt the Musical Fidelity amp was a little more, well, musical. The midrange had a slightly warmer feel, reminiscent of the tonal character of some of its higher-end brothers. Overall, the amp was a pleasure to listen to, and what you would expect for the entry-level offering from a quality manufacturer like Musical Fidelity. With SVS's powerful PC-13 Ultra subwoofer plugged in, the sound further improved, bringing in a greater level of that effortless feeling, which demonstrates one of the greatest benefits of pairing your towers with a quality subwoofer. It allows you to dedicate your front-channel amplifiers to reproducing just 80 Hz and up, so that the deepest bass frequencies don't take all the precious power from your midrange and highs.
• A warm, natural-sounding midrange makes this a great selection for music.
• The M1PWR's looks and form factor make for easy setup in any system.
• At its street price, the M1PWR is a great buy.
• Power output, especially in stereo mode, is quite low and may not be the best solution for driving lower-sensitivity speakers or otherwise difficult loads.
• A relatively high noise floor makes it difficult to hear some of the subtlest details.
• This amp does not accept balanced inputs for those looking to put together a fully balanced system end to end.
Comparison and Competition
The value proposition of the M1PWR depends on how you are operating the unit. At its original retail price of $1,300, running one per channel in mono mode for $2,600 total, competitors abound. Fellow Class D amplifiers like the Wyred 4 Sound mAMP is $800 cheaper and significantly more powerful. The Red Dragon Audio M500 MkII and the M1000 MkII are both similarly great values. If you don't like Class D architecture, the Parasound New Classic 2250v.2 is a great value at $1,350. At the M1PWR's lower street price of $499 for a stereo amp, especially for the way it sounds, the M1PWR is almost in a class of its own.
If your speakers are relatively easy to drive and power requirement is not critical, the M1PWR has a great sound and is a superb value, especially at the current street price of about $499. I loved the tonal character of the M1PWR. I just wish it were more powerful, especially in stereo. After all, more powerful amplification is a big reason why people buy separates instead of utilizing the built-in amplification in a receiver or integrated amp. What a combination we would have if Musical Fidelity came out with a switching amplifier with power on par with the Titan. One can always dream . . .