Audiolab’s M-ONE compact integrated amplifier is the latest addition to the M-DAC family,harnessing the company’s acclaimed DAC and amp tech in a single diminutive box

Audiolab, one of Britain’s most revered audio brands, has cooked up the perfect recipe for modern music lovers seeking a conveniently compact yet high quality single-box sonic solution. The M-ONE takes Audiolab’s multi-award-winning DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) technology, adds high performance pre/power amp circuitry and stirs in a range of connectivity options including aptX Bluetooth to deliver a delicious sonic banquet, whatever your chosen musical menu.

Outwardly, the M-ONE is almost identical to the M-DAC+, Audiolab’s flagship DAC component. It sports the same compact aluminium case, small enough to sit unobtrusively on a desk, table or shelf, with the same central OLED display and elegant dual rotary control scheme. But while standalone DACs like the M-DAC+ require a separate power amp to drive a pair of speakers, the M-ONE packs stereo power amplification of suitably high quality, plus preamp facilities for analogue sources as well as digital, into its diminutive chassis.

Now DAC’s magic

Since the launch of the original M-DAC in 2011, Audiolab’s range of standalone DACs has earned widespread acclaim and a host of awards from respected audio journals around the world. The M-ONE shares the same core D/A conversion technology, based around the peerless ES9018 Sabre32 Reference chip family from ESS Technology – in this case, the recently introduced two-channel ES9018K2M, little brother to the flagship eight channel ES9018 chip found in the M-DAC+. It sports the same patented 32-bit HyperStream® DAC architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator, unique to the Sabre32 Reference family, surrounded by Audiolab’s signature circuitry to make the most of this chip’s exemplary performance.

The M-ONE’s DAC section shares much with the M-DAC+. It is equipped to process PCM audio data up to 32-bit/384kHz via USB, ensuring the M-ONE is primed to take full advantage of high-resolution digital sound both now and in the future. The USB input also supports DSD files (the digital audio system originally developed for Super Audio CD), offering compatibility with DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256 – a significant inclusion, as DSD has an important role to play in the developing hi-res audio scene.

In line with Audiolab’s standalone DACs, the M-ONE offers a range of user-selectable digital filters to finetune sound from digital sources according to taste. While the M-DAC and M-DAC+ supply seven settings for PCM files, the M-ONE distils these to a more concise selection of three; these join the same four settings offered by the M-DAC+ for DSD files. This element of sonic tailoring is a useful facility, particularly as the nature and quality of audio delivered via streaming and download services varies greatly.

I’ve got the power

While Audiolab has earned particular renown for its DAC technology during the last five years, it is the company’s amp circuitry that has formed the cornerstone of its range since its very first product, the classic 8000A integrated amplifier. The task for Audiolab’s electronics design team was to create a high-quality amp section to fit the limited space available within the M-ONE’s compact case, without compromising the painstakingly engineered DAC circuitry.

The preamp section mixes minimalist design with high-quality components, ensuring a short, direct signal path to maintain sonic purity. Volume is digitally controlled in the analogue domain, outputting directly to the Class AB power amplifier, which delivers an output of 40W per channel into 8 ohms – plenty of power to drive efficient modern speakers to room-filling volume levels without a hint of strain.

A low-noise linear power supply benefits all circuits from the DAC to the power amp, incorporating a shielded, precision-wound toroidal transformer and multiple power supply sections to keep crossover interference to a minimum. This uncompromised circuit design enables an open and amply scaled soundstage brimming with crisp detail and swift, precisely defined musical transients – when used with speakers of suitable quality, the M-ONE’s performance belies its diminutive size.

In addition to the main power amp stage, the M-ONE shares the same high-quality headphone amp featured in the M-DAC and M-DAC+, ensuring it’s just as capable with headphones as it is when powering speakers.

Well connected

The M-ONE incorporates full preamp functionality for both digital and analogue sources and is well stocked with inputs to accommodate multiple playback devices, from smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs to dedicated audio components.

There are two USB inputs – a Type B socket (ideal for PC/Mac connectivity) and a Type A socket (useful for Apple iOS device docking and playback). Both USB inputs are compatible with PCM data up to 32-bit/384kHz, as well as DSD64/128/256, and both are asynchronous – data is regulated by the precision master clock in the M-ONE’s DAC section, rather than by the source device, thus helping to minimise jitter.

Other digital devices can be connected via optical or coaxial cables; one input of each type is supplied, supporting PCM data up to 32-bit/192kHz. These are accompanied by two RCA-phono inputs for analogue source components, while those who enjoy the freedom of wireless connectivity can pair smartphones, tablets and computers via Bluetooth, with support for the sonically superior aptX codec.

It all adds up to the ideal compact integrated amplifier for modern music lovers, fully equipped to make the most of all forms of audio delivered from every type of playback device.

The Audiolab M-ONE is available from August in finely textured black or silver. RRP is £799.95.