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Musical Fidelity M6 500i Integrated Amplifier Review

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Musical Fidelity desires for its products to embody pragmatic appearance and operation. The looks will not win awards, at least from me, as they are plain bordering on drab; a flat black aluminum chassis with one large silver dial and array of silver buttons does not stir my soul. However, it means no preoccupation with looks; let the sound do the talking. On the face of the unit is the oversized Volume control knob with a simple but easily seen digital display showing volume in half decibel increments. Underneath the Volume control starting at the left are Power/Standby with indicators, Tape Monitor, Balanced, CD, Tuner, HT/AUX, and Tape input selector buttons, and the IR receiver lens at the end of the line.

On the back side two sets of closely spaced binding posts allow for bi-wiring. Scrunched in between with small, difficult to read print beneath each set are the L/R inputs associated with the functions on the front panel. Above the HT/AUX inputs is located the switch to allow dual functionality for a HT system to be incorporated. A pair of XLR inputs are provided at the lower left, and the detachable 15A IEC sits opposite on the right. Generous heat sinks flank both sides of the unit, which seemed to be massive considering the low heat generated by the unit. At no time, even if left on for hours or playing demanding music, did the casework become hot to the touch. One need not worry over excessive heat being generated by this 500 Watt amp.

Even though the amp has a form of volume protection circuitry, wherein if turned off at a very high volume it will turn on with the setting down to protect speakers from potential damage, the Owner’s Manual warns that the HT input is uncontrolled, that is, controlled by the source, not the M6 500i. Consequently, caution is to be used when setting up such a system.

The supplied remote control is extensive, as it is a system remote. The functions are laid out sensibly and one can operate it by feel in a dimly lit room. Oddly, the M6 500i almost invariably ignored the first press of the volume button, up or down. I had to depress it a second time to control it. This was a consistent operational quirk which never seemed to become worse over time. I have come to accept that certain IR devices will exhibit peculiarities and if they don’t worsen I tend not to worry over it. Perhaps there is a wormhole between my listening chair and the amp rack? Regardless, the volume control hiccup would not stop me from considering ownership of the unit.

There was one truly irritating feature of the M6 500i, that being the puny footers. I don’t believe I have ever encountered such skimpy footers on a larger piece of gear. This would not be an issue if the M6 500i weighed about ten pounds or did not have rippled heat sinks. I do not have thick fingers, but when I attempt to jut them under the amp to lift it the prickly heat sinks sink into the fingers and prick them. People with thick fingers might find it all but impossible to grip the amp from the bottom. The first thing I would do if I owned this amp would be to secure rubber rings of appropriate diameter and longer screws to extend the footers. Surely, Musical Fidelity should address this obvious, though not sonically significant, shortcoming. It is a good sign that these are the worst aspects I can mention, perhaps trifles to some, as issues about an integrated amp that has the capacity to thrill.

So, on we go to the listening sessions! I fervently enjoyed the crispness of the M6 500i, especially with artists featuring heavy bass lines such as Norman Brown or Larry Coryell. Supple is not a word that is typically associated with bass, but the combination of the M6 500i in conjunction with the Mac Mini playing iTunes through the BMC PureDAC, currently on review, was tremendously rich as heard through the Vapor Audio Nimbus White linked with a mix of Clarity Cables for the speakers and power, with Silent Source Cables for the interconnects. A supple guitar sound is not a blurred guitar, no matter how tonally spot on. When one sees an overweight person, they don’t appear supple, but a fit person is quite tony. Consider the general sonic character of the M6 500i to be limber as opposed to ponderous.

Electric guitar can sound thin and grating, much like a buzzer on a microwave. Joe Satriani’s guitar in a less than spectacular system carries that “buzzy” sound, but the M6 500i tames this to a great degree. Swapping out the PureDAC for a set of AMR’s ifi DAC, ifiUSBPower, and iPUrifier along with Mercury and Gemini USB Cables was revelatory, as this “dirt cheap” digital combo tightened up the rig even further, as well as thickened the guitar, chasing away much of the buzzy nature of Satriani’s guitar.

Vocals proved to be a strong point with the M6 500i as well. I typically listen to female vocals such as Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Annie Lennox, and Paula Cole to see if their voices seem immature, and thus rendered thinly, with an emphasis on the upper end of the frequency spectrum. Even with highly respected amps such as the Pass X600.5 one has to match equipment well or there is an irritating amount of such thinness. Not so with the Musical Fidelity integrated, which had the grace to be difficult to thinned out female vocals. The sound would not be mistaken for ripe tube amplification, but neither will it allow these women to sound as though they are singing their debut album.

Limitations of Integrateds

Integrated amplifiers are judged to be exceptional values if designed well, as with the M6 500i. However, they do hit hard limitations in comparison to exceptional combinations of preamp/amp separates. I returned to the Pass Labs X600.5 Monos to prove the point. I then compared the Musical Fidelity to the Teo Audio Liquid Preamplifier, a “rock your world,” statement piece of a passive preamp, with the Pass mono amps. Watch for my review of this hot ticket preamp in the future! This combination torched the M6 500i soundly, however the combo is right at four times the price. This should be expected of high-end preamp/amp combos with superior synergy. It is not an everyday occurrence achieved by tossing in any set of preamp and amp. Honestly, it didn’t happen with the Pass XP-20 Preamp and X600.5 Monos, which were fairly evenly matched by the M6 500i. The Pass amplification had an edge in terms of openness, but the M6 500i had the edge in transients. One obvious conclusion to be drawn about the effect of the preamp as regards these results is that a combination of mixed brands is sometimes far more efficacious, especially in light of the technological advantages of the Teo Liquid, as to be revealed soon. When such an unexpectedly powerful synergy is not available, then indeed a well made integrated could be most pleasing to the ear.

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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