Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 Integrated Amp Reviewed

Published On: January 11, 2009
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
We May Earn From Purchases Via Links

Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 Integrated Amp Reviewed

While the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 integrated amp may not come from the Motorsport Division of BMW it does have that solid build quality and is arguably harder to come by than an M3 with four wheels. Ken Kessler takes this integrated amp for a spin in this full review.

Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 Integrated Amp Reviewed

  • The staff at is comprised of experts who are dedicated to helping you make better informed buying decisions.

MusicalFidelity-NuVista-Amp.gifNamed after a motorway, or more likely, a rather hot-rodded BMW, the "Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 super integrated amplifier" according to Antony Michaelson "is the last amplifier ever in the Nu-Vista series." This in itself is cause for both rejoicing and a few tears. Rejoicing? Sure: the previous Nu-Vista models - the Preamplifier and the Nu-Vista 300 stereo power amplifier - have been among the most enjoyable and fascinating new products of the past decade. And when I get raving e-mails from the USA, not from readers but from fellow reviewers, and knowing that they were hard to find Stateside, you gotta figure that of which we should take note is happening in Wembley.

As for the 'few tears', well, the M3 the end of the line, with enough nuvistors in MF's parts cupboards for just one more entry in the series. All we've been told is that it will be a source component, hence the bit about the M3 being the last amplifier ever in the Nu-Vista series. Like its predecessors, the M3 will be matched by spare sets of nuvistors held at MF headquarters, the unit requiring four in the pre-amp; the power amp section doesn't bear any in the form of a driver section because the power amp is directly coupled to the pre-amp stage.

Additional Resources

• Read more stereo amplifier reviews from
• Find an AV receiver to integrate with the amp.
• Discuss audiophile equipment on
And more tears will be shed because, like the earlier models, the M3 is limited to 500 examples only; there's every reason to believe it will sell out as fast as tickets for a Stones gig. Further tears will be shed, too, for the break in the line's styling: some of us loved the 'lozenge' look of the earlier Nu-Vista gear (and the X-Series models). But it has been decreed that the M3 should bear the styling touches of the HTP A/V processor, the A3 and the rest of the current range. Additionally, as the company puts it, this decision was made "with a new and serious purpose: the seven-part knob construction gives a visual indication of the depth and detail of the research and development of the Nu-Vista M3." Hey, Antony: you don't need the fancy knobs to convince us of that. Just try lifting the sucker...
As much as the M3 is a sonic temptation, the first response you'll make is to its visuals, and even my good buddy, The Watchmaker, was impressed enough to decide to acquire one. Bear in mind that NOBODY has higher standards of mechanical construction than a watchmaker. Watches must occupy tiny spaces and run 24-hours a day for a number of years without maintenance, unlike, say, cars, which can use size and/or mass for the desired results. So when The Watchmaker told me that the build quality of the Nu-Vista M3 was something special, I made note of his respect. Because he mentally compares everything to Rolexes and Patek Philippes.
It will stop you in your tracks, because the M3 is one large integrated amp. A two-box affair, the M3 has a separate power supply which alone looks like a power amp: it measures 14 3/8x10x5 3/4in (WDH) and boasts the requisite hardware for connecting to the main unit. On the front is the main on/off button and a blue LED, while the back contains three user-accessible fuses, an IEC mains input and three outputs which take dedicated cables to feed the M3 - two for 'signal lock' and one for 'control'. Then we come to the main housing.
At 19x18x5 3/4in (WDH including knobs and sockets), this is clearly not something which will fit into the space vacated by a NAD 3020. (Hell, I'd like to drop one on top of NAD 3020 just to see that weasel of an amp crush under the M3's weight...) Despite the sheer mass and complexity, the unit is minimalist in the sense that it has only two knobs - the aforementioned sculptings made from seven components - for volume and source select. Acres of brushed "HE39" metal and 24k gold trim: it's a bit showier than some might prefer, but, hey, this ain't supposed to be a shrinking violet. Hell, no: this is about as in-your-face as hi-fi gets.
Both knobs, by the way, are motorised, and it's fun fiddling with the remote control just to see 'em move. Between then are four blue LEDS to indicate the functioning status of the pre-amp and the power amp sections, with each channel enjoying its own pair of illuminations. Also fitted is a single press button for tape monitoring; the rest of the source inputs include phono, CD, SACD (the first non-Japanese amplifier to carry an input so labelled), tuner, auxiliary and tape.
Around the back, after you get past the custom-made heat sinks which fill the sides, are four pairs of massive, proprietary multi-way binding posts which will accept any wire you care to use and can take as much force as you can apply. Naturally, the unit lends itself to bi-wiring with four separate feeds rather than two leads sharing a common connector at the amplifier end. All of the phono sockets are gold-plated and robust, as is the earth for the phono section.
As I had the earlier Nu-Vista models handy for direct comparisons, the shoot-out was straightforward. Speakers consisted of the Wilson WATT Puppy System 6 throughout the sessions, with a burst of LS3/5A, Indigo Stage One and Quad ESL 63s for variety. Sources were the Krell PS25cs for CD and the SME 10/SME Series V turntable/arm with Lyra cartridge. All wires came from Kimber, and both amps sounded best with the Siltech-wired AC ring.

Read more about the Nu-Vista M3 on Page 2.

Musical-Fidelity_brand_page_M3_integrated_amp.gifIt wasn't so much a case of determining whether or not the M3 was
a sublime stand-alone unit: that was apparent the instant I heard the
first rolling notes of Louie Prima's 'Just A Gigolo'. Anyone harbouring
prejudices against integrated amplifiers will have his or her cage
severely rattled, for this device behaves like a high-end pre-power
combo of the highest pedigree. It has force in abundance, enough detail
to satisfy a cable fetishist, grain-free textures and an airy
transparency, deep, cavernous, thundering bass and a surprisingly lush
It was the latter that threw me,
because, as I said above  - 'It wasn't so much a case of determining
whether or not the M3 was a sublime stand-alone unit' - it was also a
matter of determining how it fared against the Nu-Vista separates. And
I quickly decided that, while the preamp section of the M3 was audibly,
no, make that more quiet than the Nu-Vista pre-amp -
especially its phono section - the older unit struck me as far warmer
in its handling of vocals.
Quite clearly,
then, the seemingly warmer, more natural overall sound of the M3 had to
come from the power amplifier section, which indeed it did. And I
recall finding the Nu-Vista 300 slightly cool in the middle. And the
M3's trade off against the Nu-Vista 300 was barely detectable. Despite
a minuscule difference in power output of only 25W/ch - negligible when
you're talking 275 vs 300 - the Nu-Vista 300 still struck me as having
a trace more punch, more slam, more attack than the M3. Not significant
in the real world, but detectable through the Wilson set-up with a
select array of on-the-edge recordings which offer wide-enough
contrasts to expose this: Kodo drummers, step forward. Clearly, though,
the only times it was even remotely noteworthy occurred when
auditioning music with rare moments of bombast followed by
non-sequiturs of near silence.
In all other
respects, though, the M3 is a blessing for those who were unfortunate
enough or foolish enough to have missed out on the predecessors. As
before, the sound is wide and deep, and the M3 shares the same levels
of grace and finesse allied to an ability to rock which made the
Nu-Vista pre-amp and Nu-Vista 300 such delightful components. This
blessed schizophrenia has been retained, as have been
user-friendliness, a sense of decorum, top-to-bottom cohesion and a
blessed absence of fatigue inducers. What's also been retained is the
interest-free purchase scheme. What's been altered, though, is the best
news of all:
Given that the M3 overall is
'99.5' percent of the earlier Nu-Vista combination (and that 0.5
percent isn't worth worrying about unless you listen only to Kodo
drummers through Wilson X1s), it has to be said that the M3 is an
embarrassing bargain, especially at a time when the big Yank high-end
brands are issuing integrateds at twice the price. The Nu-Vista pre-amp
plus Nu-Vista 300 cost 4500. The M3? Would you believe 2950? And with
the same 500-only exclusivity. If you thought the other two models
disappeared from the shelves in record time, then the M3 is gonna
vanish into the horizon. Just like same-named BMW.
Fidelity, MF House, 15-17 Olympic Trading Estate, Fulton Road, Wembley,
Middlesex HA9 0TF. Tel 020 8900 2866 FAX 020 8900 2983.
BOX: M3 versus Its Elders
Michaelson tells me that the M3 is, effectively, an improved version of
the Nu-Vista pre-amplifier, plus the entire circuit of the Nu-Vista 300
power amp, minus one pair of output devices. So, instead of delivering
300W/ch, this monster provides 'only' 275W/ch. As we're not talking a
significant amount of power, you'd suspect no audible differences
between the M3 and the Nu-Vista 300.
Fidelity designed the M3 "to have no colouration, massive power and
current delivery, virtually limitless stability margins, almost no
distortion from virtually DC to in excess of 100kHz, with minimal
feedback, and super-quiet mechanical and electrical performance."
Tech-heads will love it, the first clue to the design integrity (after
the outboard power supply) being those four LEDs, two per channel.
That's because the M3 is near-as-damn-it to being dual-mono. Each
channel has a separate PCB, a separate heat sink, separate choke
regulation and a separate mains transformer, the latter linked only to
its respective power amp. Because Musical Fidelity accepts the research
and measurements which show that transformers' magnetic fields
interfere with low-level signals, the company chose the isolating
properties of an outboard power supply. 
direct opposition to those who cherish separate pre/power combinations
(and, for that matter, two-box CD players), Musical Fidelity makes much
of the M3 being integrated: because the Nu-Vista M3 is configured as an
integrated amplifier, "there are no interface problems between the
preamp and the power amp. The output stage of the preamp is perfectly
optimised to drive the power amp. No ifs, buts or maybes, it produces
predictable results all the time, every time." So there...
detail changes to Nu-Vista circuitry have resulted in the application
of slightly less feedback and with the concomitant benefit of 14
percent less distortion. The benefits are attributed to refinements in
the mechanical and electrical layouts, MF having paid close attention
to current flow analysis, to ensure that power supply interaction is
not an issue. And as has been demonstrated by the recent run of regular
MF models, the company is not hooked on choke regulation. The Nu-Vista
M3 uses the same choke regulators as the Nu-Vista 300 power amp, only
MF decided to in the M3 to mount them on the heatsink. According to the
company, "We discovered that by ensuring that the micro-vibrations
caused by the choke are exactly in phase with the choke and its related
circuitry, there is a significant improvement in sound quality."
regarding the pre-amp - and you know I adore the Nu-Vista pre - the
designers produced a totally new PCB layout, "occupying considerably
more PCB real estate." And my ears agree with their findings: the
Nu-Vista M3's preamp section is quieter, has wider bandwidth, lower
distortion and better overload characteristics. But it isn't quite as
warm in the midband...

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo amplifier reviews from
• Find an AV receiver to integrate with the amp.
• Discuss audiophile equipment on

Subscribe To Home Theater Review

Get the latest weekly home theater news, sweepstakes and special offers delivered right to your inbox
Email Subscribe
HomeTheaterReview Rating
Overall Rating: 
© JRW Publishing Company, 2023
As an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram
Share to...