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Digital to analog converter

Price (in Poland): 4650 PLN

Manufacturer: M2TECH S.r.l.

Via Giuntini, 63 - Incubatore Polo Tecnologico
I-56023 Navacchio di Cascina (PI) | Italy
tel.: +39 (0)50 7519600 | fax: +39 (0)50 754707

Polish Distributor: GFmod Audio Research

Country of origin: Italy

Manufacturer’s website:

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Wojciech Pacuła | M2TECH
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Just a few years ago, companies like Burr-Brown manufactured large quantities of USB digital receivers capable of receiving 16 bit signals with 32-44.1-48kHz sampling frequencies (like the PCM2702). So many units were manufactured that now they sell for next to nothing, and are still often used, sometimes even in expensive gear. Those receivers usually sound bad because they are characterized with very high jitter. There are of course exceptions to the rule, like the magical, unexplainable by common sense, sound of the Musica Ibuki DAC or the incredibly successful King Rex UD-1 Pro DAC. But these are really exceptions.
As a matter of fact it seems that if sound quality was their only concern, the major brands would not raise a finger to do anything about it. Changes were brought about by life itself, not even by audiophiles. It just suddenly turned out that selling files via the Internet is very profitable, and not only mp3s or only 16/44.1, but also 24-bit versions with higher sampling rates. So the first USB receiver chips were manufactured that could handle 24/96 files. One of the first was probably the TAS1020 TI, now rather obsolete because of its still high jitter. It seems that the decision to stop its manufacturing was premature. For example the newest product from Primare, the digital board for the I22 amplifier sports exactly this receiver. The thing is that Primare engineers developed a special program with the PLL loop and implemented it in the chip, so the signal is reclocked inside the IC. This gave outstanding results!

Companies quickly embraced another chip, the Tenor Audio TE7022, now used almost everywhere – from the inexpensive Audinst HUD-mx1 DAC to the very advanced Soulution 540 player. Yet even this chip is limited to 24/96 input signal. Something more was therefore needed to “open” the computer for 24/192 files. Because this is now the “golden standard” for audio files, in some way endorsed by DVD-Audio and Blu-ray, whose best sound is defined with exactly those parameters. But to transmit sound with these parameters via USB, proprietary drivers are needed. Default Windows drivers only handle chips up to 24/96 standard. For higher parameters you need something else.
Enter Wavelenght, which needs – in my opinion – to be seen as the most important precursor of the two streams currently shaping the audio scene: USB DACs with 192kHz sampling frequency and asynchronous mode of the USB receiver. And although the latter is essential, unlocking 192kHz files is equally important.
Fortunately, besides Wavelength there were other companies which quickly took the lead and came up with their own, very advanced solutions. One of them is the Italian M2TECH which conquered the audio scene with small hiFace USB-SPDIF converters. Those converters were really small but fulfilled two requirements: they handled 24/192 files and asynchronous USB mode.
So we could think this is good, isn’t it? Well, human is such an animal that needs to explore the limits of what is possible. This is why the 24-bit 192kHz formula is not sufficient for many. Nor is it for the M2TECH. The word got out last year that the company prepared a DAC and a USB-SPDIF converter handling 32 bits and 384kHz. Although the first value was already seen – for example in the King Rex UC192 DAC (32-bit 192kHz) – yet such a high sampling rate is pure madness. What is it needed for?

We can approach this in different ways. Two are most valid in my opinion: the need to present something that nobody else has yet and the need to introduce a device able to reproduce all available consumer formats, including DXD, an archiving format developed for DSD, and characterized by 32-bit 384kHz.
The first approach is clear: each company tries to do that. Regarding the second postulate, probably more important, the Young would be future proof. Except for one thing: it currently does not handle DSD files. And those need to be played with two sampling frequencies: 2.8 and 5.6MHz. Currently only one DAC can do that, the Playback Designs MPD-3. Others will undoubtedly follow shortly.
Anyway, the Young is a very advanced device – a DAC which can receive the 32-bit 192kHz signal via classic connections and 32/384 via USB. It has a fantastic, big display showing the selected input and the sampling frequency of the input signal. It has analog RCA outputs with higher than usual voltage – 2.56V (instead of the CD standard 2V).

Recordings used in the test:
  • Tron Legacy, OST, muz. Daft Punk, Special Edition, Walt Disney Records, 9472892, 16/44,1, rip z CD, FLAC.
  • T-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV, ripy z DVD-R.
  • Vinyl Magic for High Fidelity, sampler, DVD-R,, 16-24-32/44,1, WAV, ripy z DVD-R.
  • Al Di Meola, Flesh on Flesh, Telarc, 24/96, źródło: HDTracks, FLAC.
  • Art Pepper, Intensity, Contemporary/Universal Music [Japan], UCCO-5114, CD.
  • Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, WARPCDD207, 2 x 180 g LP + 2 x CD + 24/44,1 WAV;
  • Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony, Blue Note, 29752, CD;
  • Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC.
  • Clan of Xymox, Darkest Hour, Trisol, TRI 419 CD, CD;
  • Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus 2011, Mute, cdbong43, MS CD.
  • Eva Cassidy, Imagine, Hot Records, G2-10075, CD.
  • Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 4 x 45 rpm 180 g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV;
  • Mikołaj Bugajak, Strange Sounds and Inconceivable Deeds, Nowe Nagrania 001, 45 rpm LP+CD+WAV 24/44,1;
  • Miles Davis, Seven Steps To Heaven, Columbia/Sony Music/Analogue Productions, CAPJ-8851, SA, SACD.
  • Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia/Sony Music Japan International, SICP 1484, CD.
  • Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve, 24/96 FLAC.
  • The Doors, The Doors, Elektra Records/Warner Music Japan, WPCR-12716, CD.

Japanese versions of the CDs available at CD Japan.

YOUNG as DAC with S/PDIF input and 16/44.1 material

The Italian DAC compared directly to reference players, the Lektor Air V-edition and Soulution 745 showed something that I have not heard for a long time, maybe for five years and what – attention! – I missed in both players. I mean the incredible dynamics and energy of the treble.
The Young sounds in such direct way that all other players seem a bit veiled in comparison. After longer listening this was not so explicit anymore and more natural sound came from the two reference CD players but the impression of some loss stayed with me for a long time after disconnecting the DAC from my system.

I remember a similar, uncompromised presentation of dynamics and treble in the top system from dCS from a few years ago, now replaced by a new system I do not know. Only the Gryphon Mikado tried to repeat this later. Now the Young brings almost the same (if not exactly the same) thing for a fraction of the money you needed to pay for the dCS or the Mikado. Once heard, you keep searching for that in all other products.

This incredible dynamics! Although heard each and every time, with each disc, it makes the biggest impression with discs that are rather withdrawn due to recording technique, or offer not fully developed treble. That was the case with Art Pepper’s Intensity and Seven Steps To Heaven by Miles Davis. Especially with the first one the Young seemed to be better placed, showing the leader’s saxophone closer, stronger in a more selective way. And probably “selectiveness” is the keyword here. The whole sound is built around it. It is a worthy center of things.
The proportions set between the energy of the treble, selectiveness, and the subjective level of the treble are very interesting. All these are interconnected but not equal. Compared to the Lektor Air the Young sound spectrum seems a bit more restricted, as if there was less treble. But with each next disc you could hear the bigger energy of this subrange. I think that the solution to this puzzle is the completely different differentiation of shapes and localization in the Young and the Air. It is here where the world of difference in price and quality becomes visible. The Young sounds flatter and the instruments do not develop as well as in the reference player. Despite the Italian DAC’s much higher energy of the higher frequencies, if we have a clear strong cymbals beat, like on the Dream of Fools from the Clan of Xymox disc, the Air will present it closer to us, with bigger mass and saturation. As if somebody upped color saturation when re-touching a picture. Also counter-phase effects, like the voices of Simon and Garfunkel from the Punky’s Dilemma, are much better placed around the listener on the Air and the Soulution. The Young shows them rather in the front, only suggesting a level of density like from the reference players.

All well, and now I return to the shock I told you about, but when Eva Cassidy’s guitar played in the Autumn Leaves the Young showed how it SHOULD really sound. And the sibilants recorded with Cassidy’s voice were not exaggerated. This is incredible because when something sounds brighter, sharper, etc., it usually goes over the top and sometimes that artist’s recordings are not enjoyable. And the treble energy in the Young is just incredible, trying to convey what we know from reality, and what is tamed by recording technology and the limitations of listening at home. At the same time there is absolutely no overemphasis of upper frequencies – and in this lies a certain paradox, a magic ability of this DAC, which we can only envy the Italians.

As I already showed you, this is not an ideal DAC nor does it aspire to this position. It sounds lighter than the reference players and also the DAC-2 Wyred4Sound. The latter has a more fleshy bass and more saturated, dense midrange. On the other hand the Young controls these subranges much better, it just sounds cleaner. Where the DAC-2 rounds off the edges, slightly washing out the dynamics, the Young is ultra-precise, incredibly accurate. We are not talking about any exaggeration of that, about lack of emotions. We will not lack them, absolutely not! But you have to know the limitations of this device to have a clear picture of the whole. We have a few DACs in the 5000zl price range but none will be as precise, or as quick and dynamic as the Italian DAC. And up to a few dozen thousands zlotys none will be as resolving.

YOUNG as DAC with USB input and high resolution material

I tested the Young first as a classic DAC because only this way we can establish what brings the D/A section, and what the D/D section – in this role the USB-I2S converter. And the USB 32/384 input is the main feature of this unit.
Playing files from the computer will result in a slightly different sound than from the S/PDIF input. Not as brilliantly dynamic and not as clean in the upper registers, but better saturated and more coherent internally. The sound of high resolutions files with the Young exceeds what we usually assume as the “median” in this price range. This sound will easily convince all those who regard a CD player from the 5000-6000 zl price range to be very good. Because the Young is much better. Of course much depends on the files and other elements, like the player used on the computer, but our conclusion will remain such.
As I say, the sound from the USB input is denser. The treble is quite strong but this time bass is equally strong. It still does not go as low as from the reference player but it is nicer than before, denser than what we hear from S/PDIF and a CD drive. Finally the Depeche Mode recordings from their latest single Personal Jesus 2011 sounded strong, with a kick. This was helped by outstanding dynamics, very characteristic feature of the Young, but it was clear that files from the computer had better positioned timbre.
In terms of resolution and stage there was also slight improvement but the changes were not big. We can improve on that taking a few steps in the right direction. Each one brings a change that can be demonstrated, but only all of them together result in a qualitative change.
The first thing you need to do is to prepare your computer. It is important that the computer output is not upsampled, that it is identical to the file we play. And then the file player you use. When I was visited by Marcin Ostapowicz, one of the JPlay developers, he presented to me its various playback modes with the Young. Also the comparison to foobar2000 was made using this DAC. Each change was clearly audible, which confirms its splendid resolution. This is why it is worth to look at each detail because the M2TECH DAC will show it immediately.

An exceptional, really exceptional DAC open for what will come tomorrow, handling almost everything that we have today. Almost, because there is still the undiscovered world of DSD files… It is small, nice and has a splendid interface. Bravo!

Conditions of the test

The DAC Young was compared to two CD players: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition and Soulution 745, which will be reviewed in the November edition of “High Fidelity” (No. 91, 2011). I also used the DAC of the Soulution 540 player and Wyred4Sound DAC-2. For the S/PDIF connection I used the Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA5100 digital cable and for the USB the Acoustic Revive USB 5.0PL.
The computer was a dual core HP Pavilion dv7 laptop (320GB HDD, Windows Vista). The software players were most of all the JPlay, but also the foobar2000.
The CD players were placed on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48 anti-vibration platform and the DACs on the Acoustic Revive RHB-20 Hickory platform. During playback the laptop was disconnected from the mains. For comparison we also used the M2TECH hiFace EVO (32/384) USB-S/PDIF converters and Haliade Design Bridge (24/96).


The Young is a small device. Its chassis is a molder from thick aluminum with the PCB with the circuitry inserted into it. In the front we have a perforated, black mesh, hiding an incredibly big, LED based red display. The displayed text is scrollable and is super visible. There are also two small buttons – one powers on the unit, the other selects the input. The mesh is arc shaped and is hidden in the aluminum chassis profile. The overall looks – splendid.
The inputs and outputs are on the back plate. All sockets are of the highest quality. We have digital inputs: USB 2.0, AES/EBU, optical TOSLINK, RCA and BNC. The analog output is stereo, unbalanced. From the side there is also a small socket for the external power supply. The socket is similar to those used in mobile phones. Frankly speaking I would prefer to see a better one here. The power supply is medium sized and resembles those for laptops. It would be ideal to have a battery power supply, like the one for the hiFace EVO converter.
It turns out that the aluminum shell covers a steel molder, to which the PCB with the circuitry, the inputs, and the display are bolted. The circuitry can be divided into three sections: USB, digital inputs and DAC. At the USB input there is a large microprocessor, housing the M2TECH software to handle the USB signal. Next to it there are two, eight channel digital isolators, providing galvanic separation of the digital inputs from the rest of the circuitry. This is not all the isolation – the digital inputs are separated by digital transformers matching the impedances.
To the side we have an even bigger Xilinx Spartan processor, working as a digital filter. As it turns out, the signal is oversampled with 786kHz frequency. And the digital filters seem to be the most important component of this device.
Next we see the DAC. It is based on the Burr-Brown PCM1795. This is a new DAC chip with 32/192 parameters and good dynamics. The I/V filtration is handled by the IC 8674 from Analog Devices, highly respected by DIY-ers. In the output there is another amplifier/buffer, the TI OPA2211. It is accompanied by nice polypropylene caps from WIMA. All other components are surface mounted but also of very good quality. Each section features its own sophisticated power supply with stabilizers and filters.
The digital section is exceptional. The cost of the Young is determined by its analog section which is fairly simple despite using good components.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Dimensions: 200(w) x 50(h) x 200(d)mm
Weight: 1kg
Sampling frequencies (kHz): 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384
Resolution: 16-24 bits (S/PDIF, AES/EBU, optical), 16-32 bits (USB)
Frequency response: 10-20kHz, +0.1/-0.5 dB (fs = 44.1kHz) | 10-90kHz, +0.1/-0.1 dB (fs=384kHz)
SNR: 121dB (weighted A, 192kHz, 24 bits, up to 20kHz)
THD+N: 0.0003% (192kHz, 24bits)
Inputs: 2 x S/PDIF (RCA & 75Ω BNC) | 1x AES/EBU (XLR) | 1x optical (Toslink) | 1x USB (USB type B)
Outputs: stereo RCA
Output voltage: 2.65V rms (7.5 V pp/0dBFS)
Power supply voltage: 15V-18V DC
Power: 240mA/15V

Distribution in Poland:

GFmod Audio Research

Okulickiego 53/34 | 42-200 Częstochowa | Polska

tel.: 510-44-99-90


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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air (previous it was Prime, tested HERE)
  • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, tested HERE, Miyajima Laboratory Waza, tested HERE.
  • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III with Re-generator Power Supply; version II tested HERE)
  • Power amplifier: Tenor Audio 175S, tested HERE and Soulution 710
  • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom version (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Wireworld Platinum Eclipse
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, tested HERE
  • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
  • Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • Audio stand Base – under all components
  • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE)
  • Pro Audio Bono platform under CD