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Musical Fidelity M6 500i Integrated Amplifier Review

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Musical Fidelity M6 500i  Integrated Amplifier

I love finding unexpected pathways to performance, that is, methods that have potential to outperform expectations. Some are so unexpected that few audiophiles would try them because of the foregone conclusions, “It won’t work,” or “It won’t matter.” If it doesn’t involve something potentially harmful to the system, I’ll likely try it. Some of my favorite discoveries have come about this way.

One such discovery was doubling bi-wired speaker cables. It sounds like an idiotic idea to slap another full set of speaker cables on top of (parallel) to an already doubled set. That entails the use of two full bi-wire sets; in the case of the reliably superb sounding Clarity Cable Organic cables that means eight full cables! I can’t tell you how many engineering types, “know it all” types, skeptical types, etc. have rolled eyes, laughed, or were silent when I intoned that it is a superior way to hook up speakers. Do I care that they scoff? Not in the least, because I get to hear the results!

The reason I do so is because in my casual experimentation the total gauge of the speaker cable matters, and the more conductor (while maintaining a short signal path) the better. In short, if you have an identical wire in terms of conductor material, geometry and dielectric, doubling it up will improve its sound. I’m sure this violates all sorts of fancy electronic principles, but it works. I’m not most interested in proving electronic principles; I’m most interested in building superior sounding rigs, so my cables get doubled.

Might I find a cable someday which would as a standard bi-wired setup outperform the double bi-wired speaker cables? Sure, but then I would want to hear it in a double bi-wire configuration!

Now, if you are scoffing, sensing this is going to be a dumb article, please feel free to stop reading now because you likely will not take away much from it. You likely have already labeled me and condemned my perspective, so save your time. To the rest, who want a potentially useful insight into alternative systems to achieve unexpectedly good results, read on!

Mono Integrated

About five years ago I stumbled upon my first mono integrated amp, the Pathos Classic One. I first bought the amp to use traditionally as a stereo integrated. Following the geeky habit of reading through the Owner’s Manual, I discovered it was capable of being run in Mono mode! I thought it a swell idea and scoured the audiophile community to find only two others who had tried using two units for discrete Left/Right channel amplification. Not only did it prove efficacious, it became one of my favorite amplification schemes I have ever encountered. These two lovely Italian workhorses put out 170wpc into 8 Ohms and approximately 270wpc into 4 Ohms! I say “approximately” since Pathos didn’t even put the specifications for Mono mode in the Manual, as the function was seemingly an afterthought. After all, who would be foolish enough to try mono integrated amps? Are you beginning to get the gist of this article? It is the setup you don’t see, the one you would dismiss, which might be your ticket to glorious sound. Those little amps stayed with me five years, longer than any component or speaker I have owned.

Upon embarking on this review I was shocked to discover that the Musical Fidelity M6 500i is a dual mono integrated amp, literally two mono integrated amps in one chassis! My amazement increased when I learned that Antony Michaelson of Musical Fidelity has been designing such amps for decades. I’m sure that his eyes have been rolling furiously as he reads the above comments on cables. Antony does not suffer fools easily, and as I interviewed him the exasperation with lesser design minds was evident, as he stated flatly that cables are, “… one of the biggest confidence tricks ever foisted on the consumer.” According to Antony assessment of a cable is straightforward, the relation of the total resistance of the cable to the output impedance of the amp. One gets the feeling Antony is confident he could make coat hanger wires work as well as boutique cables.

Titan Design and Titanic Power

So, those wishing to consider this Musical Fidelity M6 500i should know that it is built solidly upon objective principles, such as the Titan Design. Antony explained that the Titan design is based on the principle of very low global feedback through subtle circuit and PCB layout design. In a Titan layout, high frequency distortion doesn’t climb nearly as high as with classic designs. In 2006-2008 Antony decided to build the ultimate circuit, which was a bridged Mono design, which is neutral in terms of distortion all the time. The goal is an amplifier absolutely neutral both objectively and subjectively.

I suggest that Antony has hit the mark, as to my ear the M6 500i is fantastically neutral sounding. When one has experienced the dryness of many Class D offerings, or the warmth of higher power tube brands such as Moscode or VAC, then “neutral” is not only conceptual but very real goal for some listeners. It shows itself in the dynamics being as evident as the tonality, the definition as noticeable as the coherence and fluidity of the sound, with no emphasis placed on any part of the audio spectrum. Put the M6 500i on an electrostatic speaker and one notices the speed associated with panel speakers. Put the amp on a higher efficiency dynamic speaker such as the Daedalus Audio Ulysses and the vibrancy, sometimes considered as forwardness, of the speaker is epitomized. Put it on a rock-your-world hybrid like the Vapor Audio Nimbus White and you will get well-defined and powerful response over the entire spectrum, as well as generously scaled soundstage.

A 500wpc amp in such a tidy package is music to this audiophile’s ears! I love big power amps; the cleaner and more powerful the better! But, as aforesaid, the simplicity of the dual Pathos integrateds was beguiling. There is a direct payoff sonically relative to system costs when one simply skips the preamp and extra set of cables for a fine integrated. The problem is that often the integrated with high end sensibility is unable to fulfill the promise of a big gun amp, which can drive nearly any speaker on the market effortlessly. The M6 500i resolves that issue.

Musical Fidelity M6 500i  Integrated Amplifier inside view

9 Responses to Musical Fidelity M6 500i Integrated Amplifier Review

  1. Aitor says:

    Hi, I have a pair of Proac d30r speakers.
    Whats is your opinion for using them with m6? Thanks

  2. Aitor,
    God’s Peace,

    Those speakers will present no problems at all to the M6 500i. Whether it is
    a perceived “match made in heaven” depends on your musical tastes and how
    much effort you invest in working with the system, i.e. cables, to tune it. Just
    putting the two together will not assure complete satisfaction, and that is the
    case with every system. A certain amount of follow up work is necessary to
    get the rig to the point that it’s thoroughly satisfying. Usually that can be done
    by testing a variety of power cords, interconnects and speaker cables. If the
    source is budget, that, too will be an area that upgrading will bring a sea change
    in performance.

    Douglas Schroeder

  3. Impressive reviews on the M6 500I and am thinking about pulling the trigger…..Your opinion on the results with my Coincident Total Victory from 15 years ago and my Cocktail audio highly modified would be appreciated………have all the Cardas power cords with the Purist Audio Design speaker Cables so I bet this amp would be wonderful………..Thanks in advance, Dr. Deegan

  4. Matthew,
    God’s peace,

    No one can predict with certainty the outcome of any particular pairing. My advice to Aitor, above, is applicable.

    The Total Victory is an impressive speaker, and with high sensitivity, it will likely wake up to a surprising degree with the output of the M6 500i. If you have been running a lower powered amp, be prepared for an utterly different experience. If you adore a warm, syrupy sound, then you may wish to demo it first. But, if you have enjoyed precision, less sense of bloat and warmth, then you should have few issues. Quite often with different amps the relative degree of upper end to lower shifts, so be prepared for a possible sea change.

    I strongly encourage you to reproach cables. What works with one set of components often doesn’t work fabulously with another. It’s a lot more work and potential cost, but I suggest to really get a handle on cables, you need to compare 3 entire sets. It allows you to find a sound you like, then tune a bit with one or two swaps.

    Douglas Schroeder

  5. Stephen DeVincentis says:

    Hello Doug.I have left a question on another reveiw of yours on what amp to use with a Spendor D7.2 and i am hoping this amp is the answer…..Thanks Steve

  6. Xer says:

    So grateful to have reached this webpage in my quest for more info on an upcoming stereo equipment purchase. As of now the m6si500 is in top spot on my every pared down shortlist of int amps to go along with my current Focal Aria 926’s. A sensible progression might be to acquire the m6scd to complement the m6si500. I know everything is subjective , but in general what is your overall opinion on the aforementioned setup given your dedicated knowledge in this area ?

  7. Douglas Schroeder says:

    God’s Peace to you,

    I’m sorry I cannot tell you specifically about that combo as I have not used it. You may wish to ask that specific question on forums to see if anyone is using or has used that combination. You will want to pay attention to the quality of the cabling, as this strongly influences the quality of performance of the components.

    I have almost entirely moved away from discs, but I maintain a Musical Fidelity M1CDT transport just in case, and I have been quite pleased with its performance with outboard DACS. I pay close attention to the digital and power cables I use.

    Douglas Schroeder

  8. Welle Thierry says:

    hello, i have focal 948 speakers and they can dip to 2.5 ohms min., can i drive these speakers with the musical fidelity m6 500i without any problem? i see that they never mention 4 ohm power,
    best regards Thierry

  9. Welle,
    Christmas Joy to you,

    The rating of impedance is nominal impedance, and not an absolute in the sense that damage is sure to occur if one has a speaker that dips below the level shown on the specs. I have used many amps and integrated amps that have both 8 Ohm and 4 Ohm ratings on speakers that are less efficient, ie. that touch 2 Ohms, and have never encountered an incompatibility. However, that is not to be taken as suggesting that every amp that has an 8 Ohm rating is fine with such speakers; generally, yes, but occasionally, no. Generally, amps that are rated for 2 Ohm speakers will drive them better, but that doesn’t mean that they will always be preferred holistically.

    I’m not sure if you recall this piece of information from the article, “According to Anthony the M6 500i is unconditionally stable into low impedance loads, which makes it not only suitable but ideal for speakers like the King Sound King III electrostatic. I found that it was necessary to use the volume setting at higher than normal settings relative to other amps with digital readouts.” If you are concerned, check with MF on it. If you play music at “live” levels, i.e., very loud, then you may not be happy with the MF amp. I do not play at live levels and do not recommend it. It is possible for an amp to be unable to drive a less efficient speaker to desired listening level. If you are concerned about that, then likely the MF is not for you. But if you listen at moderate levels, then it should not be a problem.

    In general, amps which are not built specifically to handle less efficient speakers are not as desirable for use with them. Most of the time they will work fine, but there may be an amp from a different maker that might be superior. Here’s the rub; no one knows which amp will holistically outperform (i.e. satisfy not only in terms of macro-dynamics, but also tonality, cleanness, etc.) any other amp and be preferred by the listener. One simply has to compare. Of course, this is the difficulty, as we cannot simply buy every amp we wish to compare. It’s a frustrating reality of the hobby that the only way to make headway with certainty is to do a demo/comparison in one’s listening room if possible.

    If you wish, confirm the statement in the article with MF. Then your concern is laid to rest. No one can answer whether you would prefer amp A to the MF amp apart from a direct comparison. The amount you are willing to work with/change the system to optimize an amp will directly influence how much you like it.

    If you do go with the MF integrated, I strongly suggest you try at least three different aftermarket power cords on the unit, because they make a substantial difference in the performance of any amp or integrated amp. I just recently set up for the fun of it a vintage Realistic LAB 400 Turntable and a budget Schiit Mani Phono Preamp. While not ideal, these are plugged into a Wireworld power bar. Simply changing the power cord feeding the power bar alters the turntable and phono pre performance. I am not shocked by that, but some people might be surprised by it.

    Douglas Schroeder

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