M2Tech Young DAC- £1,200

M2Tech Young DAC Sample rates and word-lengths that you can’t even buy yet are great, but what about day-to-day sound?

Every so often a hi-fi component comes along that really does stand out from the crowd. In this case, it’s a question of sample rate. We’ve seen plenty of DACs that can accept sample rates up to 192kHz via dedicated digital audio interfaces, and quite a few that can handle 96kHz via USB. Italian manufacturer M2Tech has expanded the envelope considerably, however, by offering USB-connected sample rates up to 384kHz and support for 32-bit digital words into the bargain.

Yes, software support is currently zero, and yes, even 24-bit resolution is barely physically achievable, but we’re never inclined to scoff at a little technical headroom. What harm can it possibly do? As long as it’s not been achieved at the expense of behaviour under more mundane conditions and we can’t see any sign of that here.

Incidentally, you can’t just plug in this DAC and expect your computer to feed it 384kHz audio (which you can at least create by upsampling in software). M2Tech provides suitable drivers and links to capable file-playing software on its website and we had no trouble getting things going.

Input provision is good, with two electrical S/PDIF inputs, thoughtfully using one phono socket and one BNC, plus optical, AES/EBU and, of course, USB. Output is unbalanced only.

Operation is simplicity itself, with one button for on/off and one to cycle through the inputs, while the display, still legible through the (slightly bizarre) metal grille front, shows sample rate. Familiar chips handle digital input, filtering and conversion functions, while the USB input is handled by proprietary means implemented on standard digital building blocks.

Sound quality

More than anything else, our listeners enjoyed the direct, bold and room-filling sound of this DAC.

It follows up a tight leading edge with a well-resolved and neutral body and decay to a note and manages at the same time to keep detail clear and open. As a side-effect of that, the Young can sometimes sound a little bright, but this depends on the material it’s playing: music with less in the nature of transients is actually quite laid-back tonally, as we proved to ourselves with a couple of church organ tracks. That same instrument did, however, show up a slight lack of the deepest bass.It’s not a major effect but in side-by-side comparisons it’s noticeable. Perhaps because of that, one listener found male voices a little underwhelming.

There’s invariably a good sense of detail to the sound and stereo imaging is good in both dimensions. Indeed, this proved perhaps the most successful of the group in producing a real sense of space around the performers, while keeping images stable as the music ebbs and flows overall. As you’d expect from comments above, pace and timing are good, too. As for the ultra-high sampling rate, obviously comparisons are limited, but we did have some fun upsampling using commercial software from Adobe and Izotope, suggesting that the possibilities of upsampling and digital filtering are far from exhausted.

LIKE: Lively, clear and forthright sound, with plenty of detail too
DISLIKE: Deepest bass occasionally a little lacking
WE SAY: High-sampling rates apart, this DAC offers energetic, yet subtle music-making
Origin: Italy
Weight: 1kg
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 200x50x200mm
• Digital inputs: two electrical S/PDIF (one BNC, one phono), one TOSLINK, one USB, one AES/EBU (XLR)
• Analogue outputs: unbalanced (phono), fixed level
• Maximum sample rate: 192kHz (USB 384kHz)
Distributor: Purité Audio
Telephone: 020 8815 5878
Website: m2tech.biz