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Old 08-04-2016, 05:04 PM
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Default Analog Domain M75D - The “Bass” Awakens

AD. Two embossed stylized letters adorn the top cover of the M75D and stand for Analog Domain, conveniently spelling out the initials of its mastermind creator Angel Despotov. A nice pun, revealing something of the man’s playful and good-humoured nature. But AD might just as well stand for Alien Domain as the first 15 minutes of experiencing this piece of kit leaves you convinced Angel is a visitor from an alien future, stranded here on this “Blue Dot”, making a living by exploiting his advanced otherworldly knowledge. But I am getting ahead of myself.



I have been enjoying my McIntosh setup for some years now (MDA1000, C1000, MC501). Although the MC501’s play nicely with the ProAc Response D100 speakers, I had come to a point where I craved more and punchier Bass. The 4 Ohm ProAc D100 speaker, with its 92dB sensitivity, is a gentle giant cradling two 10 inch bass drivers that are kind of a handful to exploit for maximum effect. At some point I considered adding two subwoofers, calling on DSP wizardry courtesy of Trinnov, Deqx or Illusonic to make everything fall into step. However, for all the advancements in DSP, the “choice anxiety” that comes with it kind of killed off that approach for me. A little voice inside my head kept whispering: “You have four 10 inch long-throw woofers in your room, there must be another way”.



I had been aware of the brand Analog Domain since its 2010 inception in Munich, Germany. Their claimed Ultimate Sound Machines feeding dreams of unobtainium forged bliss. With the announcement of the Isis integrated stereo amp things changed. Today, for obvious reasons, that moniker is dropped for the more businesslike designation M75. The MSRP made it an achievable proposition and the innovative and unique concept piqued my interest. Innovative by virtue of the practical upgrade paths offered through combining different models within the M75 family, in stereo or bridged mono mode. You can read all about that and other specs on their web-site. Unique by employing a daring approach to amplifier design, aptly named the “Excalibur” circuit. This circuit makes these compact units true monsters of current, albeit limited to 50 Amperes. Lots of current is a good place to start. Posts on the web raving about exceptional bass performance and the availability of a demo unit provided by the Belgian Dealer Gydotron made for an irresistible temptation. Gladly I succumbed.



The unit came in a professional flight case, meaning the real deal, not some flimsy marketing contraption. I had the good fortune to audition the latest revision. This version features binding posts that have a transparent acrylic shell, also there is no fuse. The mains switch is a thermal circuit breaker that would trip in the event of a major overload, which cannot happen under any normal circumstances, only in the event of catastrophic failure, which in itself has a probability close to zero.



One could argue that four inputs is a bit Spartan but come to think of it, a lot of digital sources will be covered by the DAC and there are plenty excellent Phono Stages on the market at any price point.



Pictures do not do the fit and finish justice. If it were not for the buttons and switches, I reckon the unit would be airtight. It could pass for a container straight out of the Marvel Universe securing an Infinity Stone. One should not be surprised; all metal work is executed to insane quality standards. As first impressions go, it surely counts.



To use the M75D as a power amp only you would need a cable with male XLR5 to 2x female XLR3 connectors. This would provide the inputs direct to the power stages. Unfortunately I did not have such a cable at hand so I connected the McIntosh C1000 to a regular balanced input and turned the volume on the M75D to the max setting. Not ideal but at the end of the day of no consequence.



The C1000 and MDA1000 share a great synergy, and even using the MDA1000/C1000 on one of the M75D’s balanced inputs with volume turned to 127, sounded better than using the MDA1000 straight to the balanced input and using the Volume Control of the M75D. I am confident this says more about the C1000/MDA1000 combo, the whole being better than the sum of its parts, than the quality of the M75D volume control, as I have experienced this at other occasions.



Playing the first tracks was quite the emotional experience. The “Bass” had awakened. The ProAc’s, unshackled from whatever held them back for so many years, soared to new heights, or should I say lows. This was not just different, this was profound. No need for subwoofers anymore.



The sound stage, although occupying the same boundaries as the one provided by the MC501’s, became wider and deeper, kind of like a reverse dolly-zoom effect. A poor analogy would be like sitting in the audience, rather than up front or on the stage, having a better overview of the happening. Immediately noticeable was a better separation of instruments. I do realize that the less than adequate acoustical behaviour of my listening room and compromised speaker placement determines the sound stage for the most part. But, and it is a big but, performance of the M75 was consistent across the volume range from whisper quiet to insane volume levels. No change in staging or tonal quality at any level, which is quite something to experience. All topped off by iron fist in velvet glove control over the woofers making for explosive dynamics when called upon. An unexpected feature of the M75 was how well it handled complex and dense material textured with lots of distortion and reverb at all volume levels. The MC501’s forgiving nature stumbles at high and insane volume levels with this type of material. I attributed this to my listening room until the M75 proved it were indeed the McIntosh amps that were falling short.



Compared to the MC501 the M75 is neutral sounding, extremely consistent across the frequency band. It is kind of awkward; none of the usual words or hyperbole used to describe playback perception versus audio frequencies come to mind or seems appropriate. This can be a blessing or a curse. Somehow I suspect that tube lovers will run for the hills as no euphonic or other pleasing artifacts are present. However sounding neutral should no be confused with being bland. The M75 is far from being bland as it transmits the source material as it is and reveals the true nature of your speakers. How do you describe the sound of an amplifier that demonstrates the audible equivalent of being invisible? A clumsy way of putting it: the music delivery is pure.



The volume control does merit some further attention as its feel is somewhat of an acquired taste and I experienced minor pops in the speakers when dialing in the volume. When I mailed Angel about this he kindly replied and I quote: “A few more words on the volume knob - It’s a military grade contactless encoder, actually, with detents for a tactile feeling. No mechanical switches. The actual resistor network is an elaborate creation using opto - coupled devices. The pop has been figured out (took me a while!) and will be gone in the next minor revision, also revised pcb’s would be available to replace the ones inside the present amps for customers that are annoyed by it, at minor cost to cover shipping. The visible part is actually the outside shell. Beneath it is a metal flange, securely coupled to the shaft. It slides on two Teflon rings, acting as bearings. We tension this flange to the front panel during assembly to achieve a relatively smooth rotation, zero gap/wobble and mild resistance. As the whole assembly weighs about 200 grams and has quite some inertia, if it were to rotate freely you could spin it and it would continue on its own for a turn if it were loose – something we don’t want. The tensioning is intended to give a feel similar to turning a mechanical potentiometer. The encoders, although the top model from Bourns, a world class manufacturer, do have their manufacturing tolerances. On some units the click is quite noticeable; on others it’s more subtle, almost non-existent.”



On the model I had I did not experience the tactile feedback as described by Angel. In the absence of a free spinning knob, a more pronounced discrete stepped tactile feedback would be desirable though. Regardless, when the remote becomes available, the whole point becomes moot anyway. To quote Angel one last time: “About the remote – The real deal is coming very soon. It was delayed because I want to have a single unit to control all our devices, and some of them went through engineering changes, mandating changes to the remote buttons layout and firmware. It would be shipped to all existing customers free of charge when ready.”



Is the M75 family of amplifiers “the be all to end all” of sound amplification? Certainly not. Will these amps cater to everyone’s taste? No and nor should they. However they do demonstrate that one can safely abandon the axiom that posits “mono-block amplifiers are a conditio sine qua non for achieving superior sound”.



Are the M75 amps giant slayers? I would not know, but with Calysto, Artemis, Athene and Apollo completing Analog Domain’s portfolio, there certainly are plenty opportunities to push the performance goals set out by Angel Despotov to their limits. I can absolutely envision these other AD amps expanding the qualities of the M75 to another level.



Borrowing the DXDrive bias circuit from its bigger siblings makes the M75 family of amplifiers a true entry point into the range without disowning AD performance goals. And that, my fellow AA’s, translates into exceptional value for money.



As I am still very fond of my MDA1000/C1000 combo, I have ordered the M75P amplifier. That is the one without volume control. The MC501’s will be up for sale shortly and I already know that it will be very hard to let them go. However the promise of rediscovering my music and the joy that brings with it is intoxicating.



I big shout out to Guido from Gydotron for trusting me with his personal unit. And a big nod to Angel Despotov for his time, graciously answering all my questions.



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Last edited by Jem666; 02-21-2017 at 11:17 AM.
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Old 08-04-2016, 05:18 PM
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I can't get past the name of that amp Isis really!!
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Old 08-04-2016, 05:33 PM
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Originally Posted by paul1 View Post
I can't get past the name of that amp Isis really!!
At the announcement, the amps were named after the Egyptian goddess Isis. It is a common women's first name in many parts of the world.

Now the amps are called the M75D and M75P.

Thank you for not associating this post with anything other than what it is about...great amplifiers.
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Last edited by Jem666; 08-04-2016 at 06:25 PM.
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Old 08-05-2016, 02:33 AM
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Jacques, congrats!
And I loved your write-up!
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Old 08-05-2016, 11:19 PM
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Jacques.......A most enjoyable read. Thank you. Reading your description certainly helped pique my curiosity about the Analog Domain components.
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Old 08-06-2016, 05:22 AM
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next issie off Hifi+ will have a review on this amp
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Old 08-06-2016, 07:34 AM
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Just another 25 kg integrated with a un popular name

Last edited by paul1; 08-06-2016 at 08:04 AM.
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Old 09-28-2016, 12:28 PM
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New arrival
image-187424209.jpg
To be continued in a new thread
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Old 09-28-2016, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
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New arrival
Attachment 47597
To be continued in a new thread
Looking forward to your thoughts.
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Old 09-28-2016, 01:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Still-One View Post
Looking forward to your thoughts.
+1
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