Review: Musical Fidelity M8xi – Musical Fidelity is an English brand that has been around for decades. But a while ago it was bought by Pro-ject, the largest turntable manufacturer in the world with headquarters in Austria. An unconventional marriage? Perhaps, but very promising if we rely on their first love child: the M8xi, a high-end mega amplifier of 46 kg that sends out a spectacular 550 Watt per channel.
Musical Fidelity M8xi
Let’s say right away that the $ 6,250 M8xi is not the integrated amplifier most people need. It is a real boss, a colossus of a power source that can easily deliver 550 Watts per channel (at 8 Ohms), with a peak power of 1.6 kilowatts or 1600 Watts. Not the kind of device you buy to softly play some background music, so. Musical Fidelity designed the M8xi to be able to control absolutely everything.
Colossal are the dimensions of this integrated amplifier, especially the weight. The M8xi taps at 46 kg. That should not be a record – if you start with monoblocks, your scale will quickly indicate even higher figures – it is quite something. It is not illogical that the device arrives in a reinforced box, but that means you are quickly carrying 50-55 kg. Taking the amplifier out of its packaging and placing it on the wooden furniture in our test room was a job that in retrospect we would have preferred to do with two people. Because the large housing is also equipped with burly cooling fins on both sides, you don’t just grab it. Anyway, if you listen to music afterwards, you do have an extra feeling of satisfaction. Mission accomplished!
Plenty of connections
Because of its rather understated appearance, you first think that the M8xi is an old-school amplifier. One that goes all out in terms of amplification, but remains very modest in terms of functions. An amplifier with only analog inputs, to which you then have to add all kinds of devices to get started with digital sources. A wrong impression, because the Musical Fidelity is very well equipped with inputs, both analog and digital. It is an integrated amplifier with separate DAC section based on a Burr-Brown PCM5242 that you can address directly via a USB class B connection or one of the four other digital inputs (two optical, two coaxial). Prefer analog? This can be done via four cinch pairs or two XLR sets, if you prefer balanced connections. Since the largest record player manufacturer in the world now owns Musical Fidelity, we do note that there is no dedicated phono input. MI of course has an appreciated phonostage in the form of the M6, should you be looking for a way to connect your turntable brand loyalty.
More unusual is that the M8xi also comes with a whole series of outputs, including two digital ones. It means that you can really use this colossus in many situations, even high-end home cinemas where you want to use something more powerful for the stereo channels than what the AV receiver can deliver.
We already noticed that the rock solid M8xi is not an eye-catcher in terms of design. But that doesn’t make him ugly now either. You can get the Musical Fidelity amplifier in two colors: black or silver. The latter is very clever, we think. Still, the M8xi remains modesty itself at all times. It’s an amplifier that will make a noticeable presence in your listening room thanks to its size, but at the same time, it doesn’t do anything to get your attention. The front looks a bit basic at first, but is actually finely finished. The two large rotary knobs in the same color as the housing are made of metal and offer just enough resistance when you turn them. The central OLED screen that is located between these two stars is also not exactly big. But it does show all information in a legible and calm manner.
Where the M8xi itself succeeds very well in exuding an aura of silent power, the remote control fails to convey a luxurious feeling. Pro-ject usually has a good eye for detail, so we are somewhat surprised that you get a cheap-feeling remote with a device of this price range. There is nothing wrong with that, but what a difference if we compare with the beautiful metal remote that is supplied with our Devialet 220 Expert Pro or. The makers of the NAD M33 or the Hegel H390 have also realized that a remote control is tastefully the most tangible element in an audio device.
Easy to set up
Musical Fidelity calls the M8xi itself a super-integrated amplifier. Purists may adopt a different opinion, because for them the ultimate high-end can only be done with separate pre and output stages. The striking thing about this amplifier is that it actually consists internally of a separate preamplifier with two separate monobloc output stages. Coincidentally, those things are all in one chassis here.
The designers of the M8xi had a special goal in mind: to create an amplifier that sounds neutral and behaves like Class A, but without the accompanying exorbitant power consumption. 2 x 550 Watt power, it would probably blow fuses in full class A in an average house. Equally important, it says, is that the amplifier is completely linear, no matter which speakers are attached to it. The same goal has been with previous Musical Fidelity amps, but it is clear that the M8xi is the next step. One area for improvement that has been worked hard on is the feedback section, which removes distortion caused by the amplification process itself.
Has no limits
We do have some speakers to use in tests, but for a device of this class, we can’t help but roll the Sopra N ° 2s back into the listening room. Fortunately, we fitted wheels to these large floorstanders during the lockdown, because with their 42 kg each it was always a job to set them up.
Lovers of composer John Williams were greatly pampered this summer. None other than the Wiener Philharmoniker released an album through Deutsche Grammophon with live recordings of a series of well-known Williams themes, including of course a number of works that sound very familiar. Can anyone still have fun listening to the Star Wars theme or ‘The Imperial March’, greyed out as they are? They have almost become musical clichés. We don’t listen to them very often, which made this album (ALAC, 96 kHz / 24 bit) an unexpected surprise. Yes, they are familiar pieces of music that we hear here, but presented in a slightly different way and perfectly recorded technically. The combination of M8xi and Sopras let you fully enjoy everything that is present in these recordings. ‘Raider’s March’ from the famous Indiana Jones series, for example, or (and especially) the ‘Imperial March’ is compelling. The dynamics in Imperial March are great, especially because you can hear it being played here with a large ensemble in a huge hall. And subtlety? That is the case with the beautiful and lesser known ‘Marion’s Theme’, where the Musical Fidelity shows itself to be able to deliver every little nuance. Wow. We are listening at this point with a Primare PRE35 that we connect to the MF via coaxial cable, so that we can use the built-in DAC stage. If you’re spending that much money on an integrated amp, you’d better use it all.
Personally, we had no specific expectations about the Musical Fidelity brand, and therefore also not about display quality. What we quickly notice when listening to techno and pop is that the M8xi just adds a pleasant dash of coloration without getting woolly or sluggish. That is pleasant with the Sopras, we think. The beats of Stromae’s ‘Papaoutai’ are tight in space, and resonate deeply. That Hegel H390 from a while ago was just timed tighter, but the M8xi certainly does not disappoint. And one thing we know for sure: no matter how loud we put this amplifier, it will continue to deliver power. Horsepower enough. There is never a moment during testing that we felt that we were running up against a limit, even with these Focal giants.
Because the M8xi is built around class AB technology, the consumption is not spectacularly high (a comparable class A may have exceeded the kilowatts), but it is also not minus. We have solar panels, so without remorse we listened to this hi-fi beast , but we noticed in the high summer that an appliance like this can really heat up a room even further. So it was with a certain sweat that we listened to ‘The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady’, Charles Mingus’ masterpiece that requires eleven musicians. (ALAC, 96 kHz / 24-bit) and that regularly descends into near chaos to bring all instruments together in a sultry sounding ensemble. It is amazing how the M8xi controls the Focals perfectly – quite challenging in this work – so that you can enjoy the bright contrast between the slow, low tones coming from the tuba and baritone sax and the faster, fickle high wind instruments and the occasional string instrument. . ‘The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady’ is not easy to listen to, but neither is it extremely inaccessible; listening through a DAC / amplifier that presents everything smoothly and in detail is necessary to really enjoy it. And that’s something the M8xi does without any problems.
Musical Fidelity M8xi Integrated Amplifier – Conclusion
The M8x is a very different proposition than most Hi-Fi high-flyers in terms of gain we see in 2020. It may not look like it, but it is very modern. This is evident from the immense versatility in terms of connections and the excellent DA section.
What Musical Fidelity is also doing here is showing that integrated amplifiers can also be real power sources for the most difficult speakers. There are hi-fi enthusiasts who believe that for the ultimate reproduction you have to work with a separate pre and output stage. They are wrong. The fact that one box can also provide sufficient power to actually control everything has been fully proven with this one.
Pros of Musical Fidelity M8xi
- You never need more power
- Great DAC section
- Versatile in use
- Sounds like class A.
Negatives of Musical Fidelity M8xi
- Not easy to install due to extreme weight
- Much more connections than you ever need
- Nice and warm
- Too cheap remote