Review Work (Headphone Amplifier)

M2Tech Evo DAC 2 Plus! : The Italian Stallion

P6900639_DxOM2Tech from Italy is very well known for their Hiface (USB to audio converter) series, while they are making some insanely good DAC and headphone amplifier, it is not as famous as their Hiface line, I have tried their DAC and headphone amplifier, honestly they are really good, sounded meaty and dynamic, especially the Young DSD and Marley headphone amplifier, freaking good although came with high price tag, the design is brilliant too.

When I heard news about their Evo 2 series, I was getting really excited. The Evo 2 series are quite attractive regarding to their feature and price, coming from an audiophile oriented company I really expected a lot from M2Tech, I can say I am impressed with the Evo DAC Two Plus during the review process.

P6900641_DxOM2Tech Evo DAC 2 Plus! (605USD + VAT and Taxes)

The original Evo DAC got its name in the audiophile crowd, but it is such an old product (Dated back to 2011), the original version definitely needed a refresh in 2016.

Here comes the Evo DAC 2, it is M2tech’s answer to the budget DAC tier, now the market has been crowded like never before, arguably this is also price category where most of the consumers’ money go (or will go), it is logic that M2tech started to put effort at budget tier product, just for your reference, Young DSD and Marley of M2tech are extremely well sounding and competitive in their own price category, but consumer would love to see something as good as their bigger brother at fraction of the price.

Evo DAC 2 actually came in two version, another one is a higher end Plus! Version, the one that I am reviewing today is the Plus! Version. The differences between Plus version and normal version are as below:

1)      DAC IC (ES9018K2M for Plus, ES9010K2M for base);

2)      Analog stage (OPA2209 with I/V converter for Plus, NE4432 voltage driven for base);

3)      I2S input (PS Audio standard) for Plus;

4)      External Clock interface for Plus.

5)      Plus version is selling at 605USD + VAT and taxes while base model is selling at 439USD + VAT and taxes only.

Both of them are using different DAC IC so I am expecting them to sounded differently (analog stage too), Plus version is capable to use external clock too (M2Tech has some really good external clock product), it is clearly that Plus version is a much higher end product than the base version.

Build quality of M2Tech Evo DAC 2 Plus! (will be naming as Plus for entire review) is good and compact, it is not as solid as brick like some of the competitor but it is far from bad quality, the finishing is quite good and the size is very compact, while it is so feature rich it is smaller than the Stoner Acoustics EGD, it is really small and if you have other Evo 2 series (such as the Evo Supply 2, Hiface Evo 2 and etc) they can stacked up nicely and beautifully. I love the white colour display and it looks great in the dark albeit a little too bright, I really wish we can turn off the display.

One thing I like about the Plus is the connectivity capability of it, it can accept USB input from computer and also coaxial input, optical input is capable too, it is a great achievement especially when it is in such a compact and light dimension, however, I really wish Plus has balanced output as well, but the onboard RCA is the only option, it is not a deal breaker but adding balanced output is like icing to the cake.

Another great achievement is that Plus can be powered up by USB without any external power supply, however there is a PSU included in the package too, in anytime I will recommended you to use the PSU rather than just USB powered anyway, if you really want to make the most out of it, you can get M2Tech Evo Supply 2 too, not cheap (at 439 USD + VAT and Taxes) but it really does an exceptional job to unleash the potential of plus which is downright impressive.

P6900632_DxOAudio Quality

I have paired M2Tech Evo DAC 2 Plus! With the Evo Supply 2 most of the time, with Teac HA-501 and Rudistor NX-03 as headphone amplifier, listening through Sennheiser HD700, Beyerdynamic T90, German Maestro GMP450 and Vsonic GR07. Speaker system consists of oBravo speaker amp and my mini bookshelf speaker which is an OEM, all from computer system and played with Bughead (Infinity Blade) software with Asio driver.

I started listening to Plus with the excellent Evo Supply 2 (which is an external power supply by M2Tech), first thing I noticed about the sound is how incredibly detailed the sound is. The sound character is not bright at all, in fact, Plus carried good body of sound and certainly didn’t sounded thin at all. Plus sounded neutral and balanced in general, with incredible amount of detail. Sound separation is surprisingly good too, all of these are not something hard to notice but once I play the music I can directly noticed and felt the strength of Plus, the soundstage of Plus is wide, deep and immersive, centre image is spot on too, I really can’t complain on the audio quality, it is downright brilliant and scored excellent here. When I listened to 24 Caprices (Kaler,Llya) the sound of the string is very detailed and I promise you I can listen to every bit of the string with my Beyerdynamic T90, even with the T90 the sound is not bright at all, so if you are worrying that Plus sounded bright you can really rest assured. Timing and speed seems accurate and agile too, impressive!

P6900644_DxOYou don’t have to worry about the low frequency (bass) detail and body, the album City of London Sinfonia – Vivaldi : Cello Concerti Vol.3 showed good weight to the cello sound and the imaging and positioning is excellent here, you can pin point every location of the instrument and telling which is which, in  a large soundstage. I played The Piano Guys 2 by The Piano Guy, bass impact is good too and the bass is weighty, sound is largely neutral however, if you are expecting emphasize low end then you should looks elsewhere, I do think the depth is not perfect here (although quite deep too) but not a deal breaker.

I can’t really find fault on the performance of Plus paired with Evo Supply 2, however, without the Evo Supply 2, the sound do degrades although still a stellar performance, first thing I have noticed is the layering, soundstage and detail level is not on par when adding an external power supply, using only the USB bus as power supply is what I won’t do, the sound suffered a lot and I will say stay with the bundled psu for good result, if you want the best out of it, look no further, adding a dedicated external power supply do help a lot (In this case it is the Evo Supply 2).

P6900642_DxOM2Tech Evo Clock 2 (439USD)

I have to be honest, I have never try to connect an external clock to DAC, this is my first time trying and I seriously don’t know what to expect from an external clock. Connecting the Evo Clock 2 to Plus is a breeze by using a coaxial cable (It is not the regular RCA coaxial cable though), connect an optical cable for clock info and you are good to go.

The result is stellar and impressive anyway. Soundstage and imaging is the first thing that I noticed that have gained a great improvement. The placement of instrument is way more organized and unhurried, sense of air is much more relax and I can only say it is really a great improvement. The speed is more agile as far as I can tell. Is it worth the hassle? I will say yes, every bit of goodness it ‘restore’ in your music are really priceless.

Final Thought

I am really impressed with what Plus and its sibling can do, don’t get me wrong, even without the Evo Supply 2, Plus itself is a fine DAC too, easily the best you can get in the price range, but the external supply brought it to another level. If you are in the market to find a DAC that can accept multiple input and virtually able to play every format you throw at it, don’t look further, get the M2Tech Evo DAC 2 Plus!.

 

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