The system in general cries out for good speaker designs like ProAc or Spendor (do these three ever sing with ProAc Response D Twos or Spendor S9s… wow!) rather than designs with metal dome tweeters. That being said, many love the combination with Monitor Audio. A little-known but truly delightful pairing is with Sonus Faber Cremona M floorstanders, as the neutrality of the electronics blends perfectly with the sweetness of the speaker sound.
The MF trio throw out an interesting conundrum for the reviewer. They don’t seem particularly stand and cable fussy. The difference between a Townshend VSSS and a Quadraspire, the difference between Vertex AQ Kinabalu and Ensemble Zorba platforms (why do audiophile platform makers come up with such left-field names?), moving from Crystal to Audience to Cardas to a set of ancient Exposure virtually identikit versions of Linn’s K20 cable made little difference to the basic performance of the Musical Fidelity. So why the conundrum part? Because it makes reviewers ask if this a good thing or a bad thing. Certainly from a keep costs low aspect, the fact that the MF gear sounds virtually the same on a sideboard as it does on a state-of-the-art platform is a good thing and it certainly saves splashing out large amounts on good mains, interconnect and speaker cables, but does it mean it holds the sound back in the process? It certainly doesn’t seem to in reality.
There’s an earthy ‘rightness’ to the sound produced by the Musical Fidelity package. Sounds are rooted in a three-dimensional soundstage. Vocals are neither recessed or forward in the mix and are very articulate. But the most immediate impression you get from the trio is the dynamic scaling it has. This comes across with most music, but especially on solo piano. Perhaps one of the acid tests of an amplifier, solo piano needs the electronics to be able to be both well controlled (to keep the speakers in check) and wild enough to cope with a sound that can push and amp form idle to its limits and back in a fraction of a second. Meanwhile, it needs to cope with those smaller, closer noises (the musician’s breathing, squeaks of backside on leather, the pedals being used and so on). Brendel playing the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Appasionata’ sonata is a perfect example of this. Too little control and the right and left hand blur. Too much and it sounds flat and drab. The Musical Fidelity trio pass with flying colours.
What doesn’t strike you at first but slowly burns into your brain in a wholly positive manner is the coherence. Not in a Mantovani ‘cascading strings’ sound, but where the instrument’s tonal palette is accurate across its range. This is typically a function of the loudspeaker rather than the electronics, but the M6 trio show just how much a good set of electronics aid that goal. This seems especially important when listening to bass guitar; the character of a Fender Precision bass is different from a Fender Jazz, or a MusicMan Stingray. This distinction can be lost on many systems, it just falling into the category ‘bass guitar’, but the MF trio – coupled with a good loudspeaker – can draw out the tonality behind the notes and you can easily hear who’s playing what.
Once again, a lot of this comes down to dynamic range, and it does seem like the M6 system has a lot of reserves on tap. Much of this comes down to the M6PRX. OK, using it with an amp-crushing loudspeaker load will see it hit its limits perhaps faster than the bigger power amps on the market, but used in the context of the sort of speakers this product would likely be partnered with and the MF package has an effortless quality that makes you confident that no music will be a struggle. In that respect, it almost makes your speakers seem bigger and better than they really are.
Of the three products, the breakout device is the power amplifier. The CD player is a fine addition to the portfolio, but I suspect those buying it will be those who want a matching CD player for their M6 products, rather than those wanting a CD solution in its own right – this is a bit of a shame, because it lives up to the Musical Fidelity name, being both accurate and tuneful, and never puts a foot wrong. Meanwhile the preamplifier is both excellent and excellent value for money, but there are a lot of excellent preamps out there. Once again, I can see this forming the centerpiece of an expanding MF system, rather than the first MF product anyone would buy from the M6 range.