Out of the box with zero running-in time, the M3i gives a good impression of what it can do. None of the key personality traits change dramatically with more hours under the belt, but there is slight sense that the amp frees up a little and becomes a little more open.
This amp is a revealing and insightful performer, able to extract great amounts of detail from recordings without losing sight of the performance as a whole. In part, this is due to a slight lift in the top-end performance, which pushes detail which can often be overwhelmed a little further forward and gives a pleasing vibrancy to performance.
This could potentially become too much of a good thing and we would advise against partnering the M3i with very forward loudspeakers, but running into a pair of Neat Momentum 4i's, the results are lively and exciting without tipping over into harshness or aggression.
Pushed very hard indeed, the M3i will harden up a little and lose some of the sweetness it demonstrates at lower volumes, but the level this occurs at is a great deal higher than what we would regard as 'normal' listening levels.
Tonality is good throughout the frequency spectrum, with instruments and vocals possessing a convincing realism and a very natural sense of attack and decay.
Special mention must go to the reproduction of piano pieces, which is a harder trick to pull off than is generally assumed and can prove a challenge for amplifiers that are rather more expensive that the M3i.
The well-lit top end and excellent tonality combines with a deep and musical low end that is amongst the best in class. The results are never less than convincing be it the reproduction of a kick drum, bass guitar or purely electronic rumble.
Give the M3i a complex and fast-moving bass line and it will reproduce it with fantastic speed and assurance that makes it a must-listen for anyone with preferences towards rock or dance music.
Timing can be a tricky concept to define and explain but by most standards the M3i has it in spades. When given gentler music to work with, this can manifest itself as if the M3i is trying to add pace and excitement to material that is less suitable for it to work this trick on. For some, this slight relentlessness might prove distracting while others will revel in this sense of liveliness.
To round off an impressive set of sonic attributes, the M3i generates a substantial and convincing soundstage with musicians placed believably within it. The results are not as panoramic as some of the competition, but neither is there the sense of sound clinging closely to speakers and giving a very 'left/ right' presentation.
Life in the fast lane
Summarised in one word, the M3i could only be described as 'entertaining'. It will replay anything with a sense of excitement and liveliness that is hard not to like. That this punch and timing is coupled to excellent tonality and soundstage and placed in a well-finished and relatively well-specified box, results in a very strong performer at the price point.
The slightly boisterous presentation it can sometimes display with gentler music may not be to everybody's taste, but many will revel in the sheer enjoyment that the M3i can bring to listening.
If this is the result of a new Musical Fidelity philosophy and an example of what we can expect in the future, then we hope it is one that the firm will follow enthusiastically for some time to come. The M3i is definitely a welcome addition to the fold.
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