More on the Meitner MA-1

I have had about six weeks to play with the Meitner Audio MA-1 now and that’s easily enough time to be able to tell you this: it kicks ass.

I concur with everything that Uday Reddy said in his review that was published in SoundStage! Hi-Fi on May 15, 2012, so I’m not going to rehash anything like that here. Plus, it was already recognized as a Recommended Reference Component in SoundStage! Hi-Fi on November 1, 2012, which is also worth checking out if you want even more information. As a result, I’m not going to write a formal review of it for any of our publications since everything that needs to be said about the MA-1 likely has been said. But I am going to dedicate this entry to describing the one thing that impressed me about it the most: soundstaging.

The moment I sat down in the sweet spot for serious listening, the width and depth of stage that the MA-1 recreated captivated me. With a good recording with proper soundstage information, the left-to-right spread extended beyond the speakers by a little bit, and then extended far back, way past the front wall of my listening room. I can’t say the MA-1 cast the largest stage ever in my room (Simaudio’s Moon Evolution 650D and Calyx Audio's Femto DACs are equivalent in that regard), but the MA-1 portrayed images within that huge stage better than any DAC I’ve heard. There was no need to close my eyes and really concentrate to make out the positions of the performers; instead, the MA-1 recreated the soundscape with spot-on image specificity, which pinpointed the performers on the stage, and had all the spatial cues intact so I could easily hear the space around them. The result was a wholly natural recreation of musicians playing in real space.

Meitner MA-1

What accounts for this caliber of performance? I don't really know. But if forced to take a guess I’d have to say that superior resolution is one thing, which is why Ed Meitner favors his proprietary 1-bit DAC technology over all others. The other is his insistence that jitter not only be reduced, but eliminated. Jitter has to do with timing errors that might be inherent in the recording or introduced as the bits travel from the source to the point within the DAC that they’re converted into an analog signal.

Ed Meitner addresses these timing errors in two ways. First, he designed a re-clocking circuit that he says eliminates all jitter. Second, that circuit is placed right next to his 1-bit DACs so that no timing errors can be reintroduced to the music signal. According to Ed, the placement of the clock next to the DACs is crucial.

Meitner MA-1

Then again, there might be something else at play. Frankly, though, at this point I’m not concerned if there is. As I said in my blog entry on March 26, Ed’s comments to me at CES 2013 prompted me to want to listen to his products. Now that I have, what I heard confirmed what he said and what all the fuss is about with the MA-1. For those who are serious about finding the best-sounding equipment out there, the MA-1 is an incredibly good DAC that’s well worth its $7000 USD asking price.

Doug Schneider
Founder and publisher, The SoundStage! Network