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Musical Fidelity M3i

Stereo integrated amplifier (Black)

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Item# 778M3IB
 

Review Summary

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Our take on the Musical Fidelity M3i

by Jim Richardson

Everything you always wanted in a stereo receiver, except the radio

An integrated amplifier is essentially a receiver without a built-in AM/FM tuner. You get power to drive your speakers, audio controls, and inputs for music source components. Connect an iPod, a computer, a network music player, or any other device that can play Internet radio, and you may find you have no need for an AM/FM radio.

Designed by a serious musician for people who are serious about music

When you hear great music played through the M3i, you're hearing it the way a master engineer and a brilliant musician meant for you to hear it. Antony Michaelson's superb musicianship and perfectionist tendencies guided his quest for better audio reproduction when he started building preamps on his kitchen table back in 1982. Musical Fidelity products are prettier on the outside than they were in those early days, but Michaelson's convictions about circuit design continue to govern what goes on inside his products.


Trickle-down technology makes the M3i an outstanding value

In some aspects of its circuit design, the M3i takes after its big brother, the M6i (which sells for twice the price), and its even bigger brother, the 2 x 1,000-watt Titan. With a discrete Class A preamp section, the M3i delivers superior stereo separation and imaging. The preamp section has its own power supply, and the extra isolation pays big dividends. You'll hear layer upon layer of fine detail that lesser amps fail to reveal. Even if you've listened to the Surprise Symphony a thousand times, it will surprise you anew, thanks to the M3i's astounding dynamic range.

The M3i is conservatively rated at 76 watts per channel into 8 ohms. That's plenty of power to drive all but the most demanding loudspeakers. Into a 4-ohm load, the M3i puts out nearly 140 watts per channel. This proves on paper that the M3i's power supply has plenty of muscle. Proof positive comes when your speakers need a quick jolt of high current for a savage bass drum wallop. That's when you feel it in your chest.

Want to enjoy audiophile-quality 2-channel sound and spectacular surround sound from the same system?

You invested in high-end speakers for your home theater, and you love your surround sound. But you're scratching your head because you're still not thrilled with the way music sounds on your system. The truth is that surround receivers are complex creatures filled with video processing circuits that can tarnish the sound of 2-channel music sources.

What's the cure, short of buying an entirely separate system for music playback? Add an M3i and one extra cable. That's all you need to experience the benefit of home theater bypass mode. You'll have sweet stereo sound when you feel like listening to music and hair-raising surround effects when you're in the mood for a good chase scene.

It's simple. You'll use the M3i to drive your front left and right speakers while continuting to use your receiver to power your center and surround speakers. Your music sources connect to the M3i. Your Blu-ray or DVD player connects to the receiver. The "extra" cable connects the front left- and right-channel preamp outputs of your receiver to the Aux 1 input of your M3i. When you want to watch a movie, just push the Aux 1 button on the M3i. Your receiver will control the volume of the M3i. When you want to listen to music, select a different input on the M3i.

Highlights:

  • 76 watts x 2 channels into 8 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.014% THD
  • 137 watts x 2 channels into 4 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.014% THD
  • 4-ohm stable for use with a wide range of speakers
  • signal-to-noise ratio: 96 dB
  • large toroidal power transformer for low-noise and high current output
  • discrete Class-A preamplifier section with its own independent power supply
  • straightforward signal path with no tone or balance control
  • 6 RCA audio inputs
  • tape monitor loop for adding an equalizer or headphone amp
  • aux 1 input can be configured for home theater bypass
  • preamp output for connecting a powered subwoofer or separate amplifier for bi-amping
  • 1 pair of speaker binding posts
  • detachable AC power cord
  • remote control
  • 17-3/8"W x 3-15/16"H x 16-7/8"D
  • weight: 20.25 lbs.
  • warranty: 1 year (4-year extension with registration)
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee
 

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Features and Specs
General
Watts RMS per Channel (8-ohms)
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76
Watts RMS per Channel (6-ohms)
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106
Watts RMS per Channel (4-ohms)
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137
Frequency Bandwidth
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20-20K
THD
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0.014%
Minimum Impedance
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4 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio
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96
Number of Inputs
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6
Phono Inputs
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No
Preamp Outputs
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1
Width (inches)
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17-3/8
Height (inches)
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3-15/16
Depth (inches)
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16-7/8
Weight (pounds)
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20.25
Parts Warranty
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1 Year/5 Years*
Labor Warranty
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1 Year/5 Years*
Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • Integrated amplifier
  • 7' AC power cord
  • Remote control
  • 2 "AAA" batteries
  • 2 White cloth gloves
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Installation Guide
  • "Thank You" letter

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Overview: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier employs Musical Fidelity's tried and tested ultra-low distortion power amplifier circuitry, which has enough current reserve to drive even the most demanding speakers with ease. A very low noise and distortion, high-quality preamplifier completes this integrated amplifier giving it a perfect sound. The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier has excellent signal-to-noise ratio (>96dB), low distortion (<0.014%), wide bandwidth (20Hz-20kHz) and dynamic range, with extraordinary resolution and fine detail. The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier has been engineered to be as smooth and seamless in operation as possible. It has ultra low noise silent switching, perfect volume control matching even at very low levels, and outstanding power amp stability margins.

Note: The M3 Series integrated amplifier is designed to be partnered with the Musical Fidelity M3 Series CD player (778M3CDB, sold separately). This combination yields high-fidelity, audiophile sound. It can also be used with any CD player or external analog audio source which features either an analog stereo (RCA) input.

Features
Remote Control
Connections
Warranty Information

Features

Rigid Chassis: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier features an extruded metal front-panel, all metal chassis, and solid metal controls to resist vibration and improve overall sound quality.

Stereo Power Amplifier: The Musical fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier's power amplifier consists of two top-quality power amplifiers for the absolute best in stereo separation and imaging. Generously rated, they are enough to drive even the most demanding loudspeakers with ease. As a result, the M3 Series integrated amplifier will deliver all music types exactly as the artist originally intended.

Class A Preamp: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier has a Class A preamp with its own, independent power supply with separate transformer windings. The M3 Series integrated amplifier is in effect, a separate Class A preamp with a stereo power amp, in a single elegant package.

4-Ohm Stable: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier delivers 76 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and 137 watts into 4 ohms, a near-perfect result that shows that the M3 Series integrated amplifier will perform well even when driving power hungry loudspeakers.

Low Distortion: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier features a finely tuned and tweaked preamplifier, for smooth sound coupled with low noise and virtually no distortion. The amount of high frequency distortion an amp has reveals the true quality of the whole circuit design and printed circuit board layout of the amplifier. Driving loudspeakers is demanding for any amp, and the ability to have very low distortion into a wide range of loads over a very wide frequency range is the basis for a proper design. The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier has a very low distortion, typically less than 0.02% from 20Hz to 20kHz. 

Isolated Circuitry: Great attention has been paid to the integrated amplifier's internal layout, isolating each circuit section to prevent possible interaction.

Remote Control

IR Remote Control: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier includes an IR remote control for wireless operation of the unit and your connected Musical Fidelity CD player (sold separately).

Note: The remote operates off of two "AAA" batteries.

Connections

6 Analog Inputs: The Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier is equipped with 6 rear-panel analog stereo RCA inputs (CD, Tuner, Aux1/HT, Aux2, Aux3, and Tape). These analog stereo RCA terminals are suited for any line-level source (except phono).

AUX 1/HT Input: The Aux1/HT Input can be set to bypass the M3 Series integrated amplifier's volume control. This allows you to connect a source which requires its own volume control to be used.

Tape Output: The integrated amplifier's analog stereo RCA tape-output lets you connect a tape recorder or CD-burner. The unit's tape-output is not affected by the volume control.

Pre-Out: The integrated amplifier's analog stereo RCA pre-out allows analog signals controlled by the volume, to pass on to a second amplifier (useful for bi-amping). You can also connect a powered subwoofer, which has its own built-in low-pass crossover.

Binding Posts: The M3 Series integrated amplifier is equipped with 4 binding-post speaker terminals to connect a pair of bookshelf or floor-standing loudspeakers. The binding-post terminals will accept bare wire, pin-connectors, spade-connectors, and banana plugs (single/dual). The binding post terminals are color-coded (red/black) to distinguish positive and negative.

Optional Phono Preamplifier: The M3 Series integrated amplifier does not feature a phono input. You will need an external phono preamplifier, such as the Musical Fidelity V-LPS, (778VLPS, sold separately) to connect a turntable.

Optional Headphone Amplifier: The M3 Series integrated amplifier does not feature a headphone output. You will need an external headphone amplifier, such as the Musical Fidelity V-CAN (778VCAN, sold separately) or the M1 Series headphone amplifier (778M1HPAB, sold separately) to connect a set of headphones.

Warranty Information

5 Year Warranty: By registering the Musical Fidelity M3 Series integrated amplifier with Tempo Distribution LLC, the integrate amplifier will receive a (4) four-year warranty extension to the original Musical Fidelity one-year warranty, for a total warranty term of (5) five years. Simply register the product online with Tempo Distribution, LLC within 30 day of purchase. 

Note: Visit www.tempohighfidelity.com to complete the online warranty registration, and then mail a copy of the original sales receipt to the following address - Tempo Distribution, LLC, PO BOX 541443, Waltham, MA 02453.

 
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Musical Fidelity M3i Reviews

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4 out of 5

Very nice integrated amplifier

Written By TM, Washington state on Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
The Musical Fidelity M3i is a very good integrated amplifier, especially for a mid-priced unit. The sonic presentation is very smooth and detailed, with good tonality and tone color. It is very musical and enjoyable to listen to. Moreover, the aesthetics are quite good: the faceplate gives the unit a nice appearance from the front (the casing itself less so). Very sturdily built. There are three areas of weakness in my view: the high frequencies are not as extended and airy as they could be; the soundstage is not as open and spacious as it could be; and the bass is not as clean and defined as it could be. Having said that, however, these issues are do not preclude a strong recommendation in light of the enjoyment the M3i brings to music listening. Good stuff.
Pros:
Smooth, detailed, and musical sonics.
Cons:
'Soft' high frequencies; midrange not as open and spacious as could be; and bass not as clean and defined as could be.
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5 out of 5

MF Gear

Written By Audionirvana, Midwest on Saturday, May 25, 2013
 
Well I am giving this piece a very favorable review much like the other professional reviews that I have read and seen. I been using MF gear for some time along with Tube Gear. Sure enough it is very neutral sounding equipment and hardly close do being bright, now if your comparing it to a legendary L7 pre/amp and Amp combo then yes it could sound bright, but a better comparison would be to compare it to the Musical Fidelity KW-500 with has a tube output stage. This is MF affordable M line and for what you get, it's well worth it, if your looking for a system even with more punch I would suggest the M6i which comes with balanced inputs.
Pros:
Great neutral sound, very musical. Easy to use, sounds fantastic with a ton of different speakers and doesn't run hot, so you can use it in a closed cabinet as long as there is room around the Amp. Lots of punch on the bottom end.
Cons:
Lacks balanced inputs, and it could be bright depending on what your comparing it with and what you are use to using listening too. I have both tube gear and I have had a ton of MF gear over the years and not once did I think a piece was bright. More power would be nice, similar to their A3.5 piece which came in with more wattage.
1 out of 1 people found this helpful
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2 out of 5

Was Expecting Great Things from this Product

Written By Steve, Nevada on Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
After giving the M3i close to sixty hours run-in time, the sound quality didn't improve measurably. The other equipment used during the evaluation process included Morrow Audio speaker cables, New Advent Loudspeakers (1982 walnut edition), Pro-Ject Debut III with Ortofon OM30, and Cambridge Audio Azure 540P phono preamp. When I compared the sound depth, tonal quality, and overall response provided by my aging equipment to the M3i, the Audio Research LS7 and Hafer DH220 ran circles around this new piece of equipment. The main criticism, as I see it, is that the M3i is too bright [for me]. The highs tend to be accentuated and the lows just didn't impress me. I played a variety of albums from basic jazz to rock to Nautilus and MFSL half-speed masters. While some of the albums sounded better than others, overall, the sound emanating from the M3i wasn't consistent nor did results reconcile with all the rave reviews about it. Having said that, I could have received a faulty unit which would impact performance. In any event, I agree with other reviewers who've already raised the point that the M3i is temperamental when it comes to pairing other pieces of audiophile equipment with it. I returned the item to Crutchfield. They handled the return without question and responded in a very professional manner. I will definitely buy from them again in the future.
Pros:
I genuinely liked the product styling. I purchased the black finish which complemented my other equipment.
Cons:
I purchased this item to replace my Audio Research LS7 tube preamp and Hafler DH220 amplifier. I read all the reviews, did extensive online research and felt pretty good going into the purchase. However, the sound quality and level of detail just wasn't there. I also didn't feel the remote control was entirely necessary - I didn't use it.
35 out of 53 people found this helpful
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