The number of high-quality all-in-one components seems to have multiplied in recent years. Like me, who was infected and socialized with the hi-fi virus in the early eighties still remember the philosophy that one should buy a separate device for each desired source or audio task. “Otherwise, it’s nothing! And anyway, when there is something to such a complete thing. Nobody fixes it!” Do you know? Do you know!
Customer requirements have changed significantly over the past few decades. Not to forget: the living environment. Not everyone wants to install sprawling equipment parks that immediately attract attention. With a jack-of-all-trades like the Magnat MC 400 (price: 1,499 euros), you end up with a charming hit: “Look, honey: our new stereo system! Where? Well, here! Everything in there? Yes!”
With the MC 400, Magnat didn’t want to leave any format or source questions unanswered. That’s why I can make it pretty easy for myself: The thing plays everything. Complete. Let’s come to a conclusion … yeah, I know I can’t get away with it that cheaply.
In the aluminum housing, which is just eleven and a half centimeters high and immaculately crafted, the receiver hides a slot-in CD drive, a receiver (FM and DAB+), a phono preamplifier for MM pickups, a network player – which accesses the home network via LAN or WLAN – and Four interfaces each for analog and digital source devices including HDMI and Bluetooth of the 5th generation (aptX HD-capable). For users who would like to use the Magnat MC 400 in connection with their television set, it should be mentioned that it has an “HDMI-ARC” interface, i.e., an audio return channel. On the one hand, this saves separate cables and, on the other hand, avoids annoying latency between picture and sound.
“Spotify Connect” and “Tidal Connect” are pre-installed as streaming services in the “Magnat App,” which can be downloaded free of charge for Android and iOS devices. More can be added. By the way, contrary to what I initially expected, the app cannot control device functions. It only manages or accesses the content – and is very clearly structured.
Just like the receiver itself. Anyone who looks at the front panel of the MC 400, which is equipped with astonishingly few controls and has a very tidy design, will have no idea at first glance what kind of “media port” is in front of them. The face of the receiver is dominated by two main elements: the centrally placed, gridless volume control and the 2.5-inch TFT display, which can show any condition of the device sharply and, of course, in color. Nice: Cover images and station logos are also displayed in a size that is easily read from the listening position. If the radiance of the display is too intense, you can dim it. A rotary pushbutton on the right of the screen navigates through the menu levels of the receiver, which also works with an infrared transmitter.
Speaking of “works,”: the days when network-enabled hi-fi devices required at least a basic understanding of IT – better yet, a computer science degree – are over. In 2023, such components will be ready to go in just a few moments, and the Magnat MC 400 is no exception. The user guidance via the setup assistant is intuitive; the WLAN connection to my home network was established in less than five minutes. State-of-the-art comfort.
Under the hood
If you open the “hood” of the Magnat MC 400, the first thing that catches your eye is the generously dimensioned power supply. The Rhinelanders specify a sine power of 60 watts per channel at 4 ohms for the amplifier part; the pulse power should be 100 watts per channel. On the converter side, Magnat relies on the arithmetic skills of Cirrus Logic and installs a DAC chip with a resolution of up to 192 kilohertz and a word width of 24 bits.
In addition to the numerous inputs and outputs already described, the back reveals a cold device socket for feeding in the mains voltage. If you like, you will find tonal tuning potential there. And a wonderful breeding ground for evening-long cable sound debates …
The Rhinelanders have saved a bit with the loudspeaker terminals. Okay that “only” a pair of speakers can be connected. In practice, hardly anyone else will do it anyway. However, I would rather classify the quality of the screw terminals in the “simple but robust” category. With a component in the 1,500-euro class, one could perhaps have grabbed a higher shelf, but hi-fi editors are particularly good at “moaning at a high level.”
If you wanted to thoroughly test every audio source that the Magnat MC 400 has included in its large playback heart, the listening test alone would go beyond the scope of the text available to me. It is, therefore, helpful to focus on the most concise characteristics and their differences if they exist. With the Magnat MC 400, I would like to split my sound analysis into three parts: 1. How does it sound as a network player/streamer, i.e. “digital” in the broadest sense? 2. I would like to separate the CD section from this – you can read why later. 3. The integrated phono MM preamplifier prominently represents the analog part.
I started the listening course with Tremonti’s “If not for You” (Album: Marching in Time), a driving power rock track with hammer-hard guitar riffs, gnarly electric bass, and pumping kicks on the double bass. You can not only hear this energy at the official level, but you can also feel it. It goes through the soles of the feet directly into the bloodstream. That’s how I know and love it when my Magnat RV-3 tube hybrid integrated amplifier, which is about twice as expensive, pushes the impulses into the listening room.
If I use that as an “emotional reference,” the CVR-100 MKIII receiver block tested last year, which is equipped similarly to the Magnat but is cheaper, sounded(1,299 euros) as expected with less depth and penetrating power but quite emphatic and dry-crisp. Magnat’s MC 400 follows very similar paths. In the first few minutes, both receiver colleagues could be considered close siblings, if not twins, in-depth. But only briefly. The Magnat doesn’t sound out the last octave below either, but is a little “earthier” and “snarler” compared to the Block; e-bass runs show a more precisely formed profile. There are no words in between, but the difference is audible. I would describe the bass range of the Magnat MC 400 as a little “distinctive.” However, rumbling bass thunderstorms are not unleashed by either of them. If you want walls to shake, you have to look elsewhere.
You’ll have to rethink this receiver if you hear the sometimes flattering, charmingly timbered mid-band of other Magnat components. He reproduces singing voices very clearly and vividly. Nina Simone’s hauntingly voluminous organ in “Sinnerman” builds up tactilely in front of the listening position, devoid of any embellished warmth. That sounds neutral, “real” in the best sense of the word, without appearing cold. Even acoustic instruments never tend to become “bulky.” Presence and plasticity clearly precede a sonorous charm offensive – which you can also like.
A respectably more expensive Cambridge EVO 75 (about 2,200 euros), for example, affords more flattery and may sound more pleasant and round at first listening impression. Like the block CVR 100 MKIII before it, the Magnat MC 400 is more correct but offers a little more plasticity, which may also justify the slight price difference.
The two are surprisingly in agreement at higher altitudes: “Don’t get on anyone’s nerves” seems to have been the motto of the Magnat developers when they set about tuning the upper-frequency end in a rather good-natured manner. No, please don’t expect any fluffy, dull mumbling! Experienced sound engineers can do that much better today. The Magnat MC 400 shows a very clear treble spectrum, which even transports a lot of information of a spatial nature. Still, it is more discreet than offensive, ensuring that harshness or hissing sibilants in pop and rock productions are made more tolerable. Here, the Magnat MC 400 distinguishes between its “duty to provide hi-fi information” and polite restraint in favor of a pleasant long-listening capability. Of course, a little more is possible if you listen to the competitor from Cambridge Audio, for example. The Brit makes it even clearer when a piano or guitar string is struck. Depending on your taste in music, you have to ask yourself whether you need it for the listening experience.
Overall, the resolution of the Magnat MC 400 is perfectly acceptable for a device in this class. An acoustic magnifying glass that “zooms in” on every little detail and looks at it from all sides is not to be expected. Nevertheless, the magnate inquisitively searches beneath the surface of musical structures, such as in the multi-part “Be Hard on yourself” on Marillion’s current long player, An Hour Before It’s Dark. His clear, neutral style ensures that individual musical events can be easily localized and followed without degenerating into acoustic patchwork. Certainly, there are even more detailed components that illuminate fine ramifications with the brighter lamp. In my opinion, that’s not the point with components like the Magnat MC 400. They are primarily designed for the high-quality playback of “commercial music.” Listeners with explicitly audiophile demands are not addressed here.
While devices from Magnat that have been tested in the past tended to appear attractive in terms of space, the MC 400 is clearly more reserved. He is not a fellow who practically puts the music on the audience’s lap, according to the motto: “Come along, join in, be funny” – no, he maintains a respectful distance that could be described as “ending at the imaginary front edge of the stage or stereo base”. . His classification of breadth, size, and depth of the spatial dimensions, which is always based on the respective template, speaks in his favor, as he is quite flexible. Nothing seems small or cramped – but not exceptionally airy or even spacious.
The Magnat MC 400 takes a more subtle approach to dynamics. Brutal jumps in level with a resounding attack, and merciless punches are not on his menu. However, he knows how to appreciate the power of an orchestral metal piece such as the classic “Ashes to Ashes” by Blind Guardian (album: Somewhere far beyond) and to serve it accordingly. But not in such a way that the audience would be overwhelmed along with the listening chair; he’s more of a gentleman who politely announces, “There’s an impulse that could get louder.” That, too, is something one is accustomed to differently from the Rhinelanders, namely more directly. However, this is also a…
Question of the source
In the case of the Magnat MC 400, the most important distinguishing feature of the sources I mentioned at the beginning lies in the dynamics. All sound impressions described so far refer to the network module of the receiver.
Regarding dynamics, the Rhinelander has made significant gains when playing CDs. If I take Tremonti’s “If Not for you” again as an audio example, this time from the silver disc, the earthy, growling bass is accompanied by a clear increase in attack and punch. The playback is at least half a step closer to the auditorium and sounds “more tangible.” This impression is as clear as reproducible and occurs with every test piece I play both from the CD and for comparison from the network. So if you are looking for a media all-rounder, with which the CD collection, perhaps somewhat neglected, is in top form regarding sound, you should look into the Magnat MC 400.
But now we also have a phono stage on board, which – the Magnat developers are known for – it shouldn’t just be seen as a token feature. So I quickly docked my Technics SL-1210 GR and put on John Butler’s “Hello” (Album: Sunrise over Sea). The double bass that carries the piece picked up closely, creaks bone-dry and palpable from the loudspeakers. The title “trots” along lightly, conveying a carefree summer feeling that one would like to associate with the vastness of New Zealand, the home of John Butler. Hey, that’s a real official performance! “Witch’s Spell” by AC/DC (Album: Power Up) is no less enjoyable and bursting with agility and speed – in this respect, the phono stage also takes precedence over the network module.
Is that analog? Yes, it is! And it doesn’t sell badly compared to an external phono pre (Lehmann Black Cube Statement) that is connected in between for comparison. Okay, when it comes to the tones, dynamics, and flow of the internal phono module of the Magnat receiver, the Cologne cube can never be taken away from the bread. Still, anyone who cannot draw a direct comparison to an external phono preamplifier should choose the MM interface of the MC 400 look forward. She can do anything.
It’s not as if Magnat had reinvented the receiver itself, but: The MC 400 is probably one of the few examples that doesn’t leave any format questions unanswered. Analog and digital interfaces, including an official-sounding phono MM input, a receiver for FM and DAB+, a CD player, a network player, and a streamer – everything is included. In addition, the whole flood of features can be operated almost intuitively and sounds good.
The CD player stands out with its rich tones and great dynamics, and the integrated phono preamplifier is far more than an alibi feature. The network module is factually neutral at the expected level of the price range. Many have spoken of a complete hi-fi system in just one housing. The Magnat MC 400 fulfills this expectation while remaining pleasingly affordable.
Profile Magnat MC 400:
- The tight and agile bass range doesn’t explore the last depths but never pushes itself or “booms.”
- Uncolored and clear middle band, which gains even more plasticity via CD. The generally flattering, warm tuning of other Magnat components is not audible here.
- The altitudes are well-balanced. Means: Even some borderline mixes don’t bite your ears and/or get on your nerves with hissing sibilants. However, one does not get the impression that the MC 400 is omitting relevant information.
- Regarding dynamics, you must differentiate between the network and the CD department: with Silberlingen, the Magnat plays with more attack, speed, and punch. The Phono-Pre follows closely behind. Streamed sounds a little “smooth” but also very homogeneous.
- The room image is absolutely fine and sticks to the respective template. The MC 400 does not put the music on the lap of the auditorium. Stage width and depth are neither too compact nor impossibly generous. What is happening “on stage” can be located very well; the relations fit.
- Model: Magnat MC 400
- Concept: all-in-one network CD receiver
- Price: 1,499 euros
- Dimensions & Weight: 433 x 115 x 301 mm (WxHxD), 7 kg
- Inputs: 4 x analog (RCA, jack), 4 x digital (coaxial, optical, HDMI-ARC, USB-A), Bluetooth, LAN, WLAN, phono (MM), integrated CD player
- Outputs: 1 x pre-out (cinch), 1 x subwoofer out, 1 x headphone (6.35 mm jack), speaker outputs for a stereo pair
- Power: 2 x 60 watts at 4 ohms
- Colors: black
- Guarantee: 2 years