M6x Phono Amplifier from Musical Fidelity
19th May 2023
Handling both moving magnet and moving coil, Paul Rigby gets to grips with this fully featured unit
This is Part 1 of a sort of two-part review. I say ‘sort of’ because the majority of the features offered by the M6x will be covered in this review and most people won’t need to move beyond it.
This phono amplifier offers inputs and outputs for single-ended connections. That will cover the needs for most HiFi users out there. The M6x also handles balanced outputs for those with balanced amplifiers and I’ll also talk about those later in this review.
More than that, though, this unit also offers balanced inputs. Why do you need those? For those users who might have a turntable with balanced terminations. There are fewer examples that particular turntable breed available on the market.
Now I have many turntables in my collection but a design with balanced terminations? No. Not in my possession, I’m afraid. I would like to see and review one though and thus am in talks with Pro-Ject to do just that. If and when that time arises? I will then hook it up to the M6x and test the balanced inputs on this box. That will be Part 2, within the review for that turntable.
COMPLETE THE TOUR
While we’re talking about inputs and outputs on the rear of the chassis, let’s finish our tour. There are grounding posts for each input pairing, three in all. And yes, that means you can, in theory, hook up three turntables or tonearms or a combination of both to the unit and switch between them.
You could, say, have a default stereo source, one for 78 discs perhaps? Another for mono play, maybe?
There is a Ground lift switch on the far left. So, if you have hum issues, this switch will give you a few options to tackle it. On the far right is a socket for an IEC power cable.
Switching to the busy front fascia now and a quick general point. I get the aesthetic direction, the hilarious contrast with a full width, relatively high chassis. That comedy expanse versus the devastating irony of tiny buttons and tiny lights and tiny labelling but in usability terms? The interface is substandard. The guy who wrote the manual? Because he kept the illustrations in scale, you can hardly see what his captions refer to, they’re so small. You have to take it on trust.
“And the button in the middle? That’s for the built-in nuclear warheads with flip-top Musical Fidelity silos.”
“Is…it…really? Right, well I’ll take your word for it. So that’s a dealer upgrade, then?”
When you press a button it glows blue. Well, something glows blue.
Using my newly bought magnifying glass then, at the far left we have a power button with power, standby and mute lights above.
To the right of that is a toggle button to flick from moving magnet play to moving coil. Next in line is a selection of moving magnet loads (47k Ohm and 50-400pF).
Next in line is a subsonic filter, then a +6db gain if your HiFi needs a boost…
…more loading but for moving coil this time (25-1.2k Ohm and 470pF) and a source button which cycles through the same.
Based on discrete circuitry – and as a valve-phono amplifier fan I approve of that – the M6x spans 440 x 100 x 385mm and weighs in at 5.5kg via silver or black chassis colours.
So how does this one sound then?
I recently used Mike Oldfield’s Incantations to help review a pair of PMC twenty5.26i floorstanding speakers and, as that was still out, I plonked it back on my Origin Live Sovereign with a high-end moving coil.
One that is in its prototype stage so no names, no pack drill but it does sport a sapphire cantilever.
First impression? I was very happy with the focus and precision around the upper mids from the M6x. Because of that precision, with notes starting and stopping briskly and then racing off to the next one, music never dragged or felt slothful. There was always a sense of pace from the M6x.
Another reason for that was the rather solid-state presentation, one that accentuated the upper mid frequencies in digital fashion giving a slight edge at times, especially during crescendos.
The glockenspiel section of this record was a good example. Hence, the overall presentation was not strictly neutral or balanced.
This edge wasn’t too accentuated though and often became a virtual boon during parts of the arrangement on this record.
For example, later in this album Oldfield offered us some decidedly, staccato, choppy electric guitar strums and the sheer texture from this sequence was impressive indeed.
The presentation of the sound also lifted subtle or shy elements of the mix, bringing them to the surface for the ear to track.
Over to moving magnet now and the Mental Wealth compilation album from the vinyl subscription club, Vinyl Moon via my Rega Planar RP3 and the relaxed, rather low BPM, the sun’s-going-down-on-a-golden-beach type of Balearic sounds.
The moving magnet module on the M6x sounded wholly more balanced and neutral, although the less incisive nature of this lower-cost moving magnet cartridge had a part to play in that, I’m sure.
Even so, the warming bass combined beautifully with the rich midrange synth noises and treble-based filigree effects. The rolling heartbeat bass lulled the ears into a relaxed state. Even the higher-paced fare later in the album was highly engaging with an almost organic tone to the bass. Bass, that is had real ‘give’ during each strike. There was no hint of chrome beats here.
I then flipped by to Mike Oldfield and my moving coil cartridge but this time switch to a balanced output and oh yes… this was the one. This was the one. Everything clicked into place here. Gone was the slight edge around the mids, in came delicacy around the upper mids, treble was full of fragility and a wholly new sense of frequency balance. Neutrality was wholly restored via balanced mode which sounds obvious sure but isn’t always so.
The tonal realism from the M6x lifted up a couple of rungs in the sonic ladder while subtleties like nuanced reverb inserted into he music without any effort.
Here the glockenspiel sounded like perfectly-formed sonic raindrops while the later guitar and drum section provided both strength, mass but also power in reserve.
While I might be rather grumpy when considering the interface, I did love the expansive nature of the feature set and the overall sound of the Musical Fidelity M6x. In single-ended mode, moving magnet offered the best performance while moving coil was fine. It was good without being great. Perfectly usable, though, especially for those who like the solid state sound.
For me though, if you go moving coil via the M6x, make sure that you hook up a balanced output to your amp. In this mode, the M6x sounded absolutely sublime. A sheer audio delight and well worth the price tag.
MUSICAL FIDELITY M6x PHONO AMPLIFIER
GOOD: balanced output, moving magnet performance, build quality, feature set
BAD: edgy mids in single-ended mode, interface
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