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Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Review (Balanced DAC)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Musical Fidelity balanced USB DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $999 from their dealers.

I am a fan of the Musical Fidelity industrial design. It kind of manages to look "high-end" while obviously being priced lower. That is in white. In black, I think that identity gets somewhat lost:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Review DSD Balanced.jpg


Still, it is differentiated which I like. And I appreciate the hard button for such things as filter selection.

I am disappointed to see an external power supply in a box this big and at this price:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Review back panel upsampling DSD Balanced.jpg


I like to see built-in power supply.

Nice to see more than one of each kind of digital input when it comes to Toslink and Coax.

There are a number of accolades on their website for this DAC. Here is some of it:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Reviews.png


As an aside, not sure how any of those quotes are consistent with each other! One says "mellow" and the other "lively?" How can it be both?

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements
While there are both RCA and XLR Balanced outputs, performance is essentially the same so let's go with balanced output and USB input:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements Balanced.png


Very sad performance in this day and age at any price:

Best DSD DAC reviewed.png


Measured THD+N is actually better than the specs in the manual. Strangely, the website has an extra zero in there (0.0003%) which is totally wrong. Wonder who wrote the manual versus the website!

Dynamic range won't win any awards but it is not as bad as distortion:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements DNR Balanced.png


IMD distortion shows the penalty of high noise and distortion:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements IMD Balanced.png


Jitter test shows higher than expected noise floor which can hide some bad things but overall, it doesn't show any audible interferences:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements Jitter Balanced.png


There are two DAC filters in there but only difference seems to be attenuation:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements Filter Balanced.png


THD+N versus frequency shows rising distortion at higher frequencies:
Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements THD+N vs Frequency Balanced.png


Same is seen in our 32-tone test signal:

Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements Multitone Balanced.png


Linearity is some of the worst I have seen:


Musical Fidelity MX-DAC Measurements Linearity Balanced.png


Conclusions
The website description says, "The MX-DAC is a tremendous performer. It has ultra low distortion, very wide bandwidth and low noise. The technical performance of the MX-DAC is on a par with any other DAC at any price." At any price? There are DACs at less than 1/7th the price of MX-DAC which run circles around it in every objective score. Next sentence states a bunch of specs which as I explained, is not in sync with their one manual or what I measured. Regardless, this is embarrassing level of performance today. Company needs to retool this platform and build something competitive.

I can't recommend the Musical Fidelity MX-DAC.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Madjalapeno

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I'll put a Topping E30 in a nice case for you.
 

martijn86

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Realistic subjective reviews would probably write; "Couldn't hear anything special with this DAC. Filters also didn't make an audible change.", but instead we're supposed stay in this romantic fairytale dream where reviewers have golden ears and the reader does too unless... They're not really an audiophile??!! o_O

9/10 times the weight, price, look, name and marketing material dictate what the reviewer says a DAC or a cable sounds like. Let's be honest. If a Digital to Analog CONVERTER is nothing but a translator, you ideally don't want your translator to alter the message or the tone now do you? By that logic, any DAC with a unique identifiable sound is flawed.
 

keebz28

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Why are these flagship priced DAC's so poor in performance and engineered so poorly. Aside from Mola Mola Tambuiqui and Okto Dac8, i don't see any other flagship that can be justified for price and performance. Much deserved headless panther IMO.
 

PeteL

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Why are these flagship priced DAC's so poor in performance and engineered so poorly. Aside from Mola Mola Tambuiqui and Okto Dac8, i don't see any other flagship that can be justified for price and performance. Much deserved headless panther IMO.
Musical fidelity’s flagship is the m6sr, not sure that means it’d be better tough.
 

keebz28

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Musical fidelity’s flagship is the m6sr, not sure that means it’d be better tough.
I should've corrected myself and said "kilobuck" territory.
 

Helicopter

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Thanks for the warning Amir.

Perhaps Musical Fidelity should have compared it to "DACs at twice the price, and even higher" rather than to "any DAC at any price." :facepalm:
 

sam_adams

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Let's see, one kilobuck for no readable display—teeny-weeny LEDS behind holes in the front panel—when others have, at the minimum, a readable at ten feet numeric LED display. That's so Radio Shack from the 90es—but RS used square holes in a lot of their stuff. Fair to middling perfomance across the board. Marketing that makes it seem like your purchase of this device will satisfy your every audiophile desire. Sorry, but headless panther is generous. (Headless panther is my favorite panther.)
 

Matias

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Why are these flagship priced DAC's so poor in performance and engineered so poorly. Aside from Mola Mola Tambuiqui and Okto Dac8, i don't see any other flagship that can be justified for price and performance. Much deserved headless panther IMO.
Chord Dave and dCS are also top measuring and expensive DACs.
 

KeithPhantom

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It’s not broken at all. It’s audibly transparent and not $3,000. Linearity 3 dB down at -116 dB is not broken. Median SINAD is not broken.

@amirm, this does not deserve a headless panther.
The problem is the price. If they offered this at $150 it will be one thing, but $999 for this performance is unacceptable in my opinion.
 

MediumRare

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The problem is the price. If they offered this at $150 it will be one thing, but $999 for this performance is unacceptable in my opinion.
So that’s a good reason to not recommend it, but not to say it’s broken. ASR attracts plenty of invalid criticism we can be proud to argue against, but if objective measurements are to have any persuasive power, this is not defensible.
 

KeithPhantom

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much higher jitter
JItter contributes to SINAD since jitter is timing errors that happen so fast that increase noise, lowering SNR, thus, lowering SINAD. It doesn't matter that much as well since SINAD is dominated by distortion.
 
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