Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 Integrated Amp Reviewed

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Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista M3 Integrated Amp Reviewed

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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 <something> of which we should take note is happening in Wembley.

As for the 'few tears', well, the M3 <is> 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.

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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.
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