Marco at M2Tech generously sent me the new Mac drivers for 10.6. The file is called hiface 1045106.dmg. What a surprising difference. The edginess that had been concerning me – an all pervading roughness that flattened the stereo illusion of depth and took away from the delight of female voices – was far reduced.
Performance is now really rather good and for the price it’s excellent.
But it is still not a high end solution. The Firewire output from my Mac into the TC Konnect 8 is still significantly better in virtually every way: More detail, better low end, sweeter voices and the list continues. There is a price difference of course: The Konnect 8 with a modified Naim PSC is around £500 making it around five times the cost of the hiFace. The question is, are you trying to save money or are you an audiophile?
Getting Pure Music was the motivation I needed to try the hiFace M2Tech again. Last time the results were a little dissapointing: it wasn’t the giant killer that various forumites had been writing about. It was OK value for it’s price of around £105 including the BNC output, but in my opinion no more.
To recap the M2Tech is a USB2 to S/PDIF device that comes in a small portable package.
More info here.
One caveat, and hence one more experiment required, is that I have been using the M2 with a 5metre coaxial digital cable terminated in BNC plugs. Maybe it would work better with a 5m long USB cable and a short digital? That’s for another day.
Remember that I’m comparing a budget USB to S/PDIF device with a more expensive Firewire based device powered by a good stiff linear PS (a modified Naim PSC). No great surprise that there was a difference especially as the Konnect 8 is my favourite way of getting digital music from a computer so far.
The results using the same system as used for the Pure Music listening, but substituting the M2 and cables for the Konnect 8 and cables, wern’t in the same league. The M2 is rougher, more two dimensional and just lacks the sheer class of the Konnect 8 based interface.
Pure Music works well with it, and Memory Play sounded cleaner and tidier than standard play.
With this and the Pure Music listening it’s just the start of the process. More when I’ve experienced them in more than one system.
Postscript: I experimented today with a 5m long hi-speed USB cable and a one metre BNC to BNC S/PDIF cable. There was a small improvement over the 5m S/PDIF cable but the results were still a little dissapointing. To be fair, the M2Tech is a budget product and as such sounds great. It just doesn’t really cut it in a high-end system.
I downloaded the demo package of Pure Music (the playback only version of Pure Vinyl) today. A quick listen using my TC Konnect 8 as a firewire to S/PDIF interface to my Naim DAC with 555 PS Power Supply was enough to make me take up the $79 limited time offer.
I need to have time to seriously listen to this combination and to also try the hiFace M2Tech I have had since before Christmas.
To summarise the listening results, the performance with Pure Music was significantly better than with iTunes alone. Cleaner and more interesting. Memory playback was even better. The sound didn’t have the shiny, chromium plated character so common in computer audio. It had solidity and grip.
My only concern in the short-term at least is in the rhythm. It might not have the true ‘drag me in’ character I find essential for long-term enjoyment.
Much more as soon as I have time.
In the meantime…