Bricasti M3 Network Attached DAC Page 2

Nothing has proved more recent fun than the Shchedrin Carmen Suite, adapted from Bizet's original. It's with the late Mariss Jansons, recorded live with the Bavarian RSO [HFN May '20, p95; 48kHz/24-bit download]. After the sinister atmosphere of the opening tolling bells, with track 2 the M3 recreated all the zest of the playing and full colour of the orchestration, with the rhythms sounding taut and the soundstage (albeit close-mic'd) explicitly set out.

Researching my Classical Companion piece about Jansons [HFN Feb '20] I was struck by how well those early Chandos Tchaikovsky Symphony recordings with the Oslo PO still sounded, although they are only 44.1kHz/16-bit resolution. Listening to No 1, 'Winter Dreams', you wouldn't say it was in any way an 'audiophile' choice – some of the fortes are a bit strained – but the M3 carried you along as Jansons urged his players dramatically forward.

Points Of View
Sticking with the USB input I switched to my main system and played the Shchedrin again. Now the pinpointing of instruments was even more apparent while the timbre of percussion instruments, such as the wood blocks, was resolved to even greater effect. What's more, the qualities of PCM playback were more fully revealed, as was the overall potential of the M3 – good though its inbuilt headphone stage was.

Switching to Input 2 (S/PDIF) and the sound – perhaps unsurprisingly – gained even more in the sense of instruments, such as the castanets, starting and stopping while the soundstage became more specific, and less 'in your face'.

HFN's DAC reviews have consistently shown a preference for S/PDIF over USB. For Bizet in a purer form a new Linn 192kHz/24-bit download has the Scottish CO under François Leleux playing the Carmen Suite No 1 [CRD624] which is enjoyable. But the album also has Gounod's Petite Symphonie scored for winds only. The M3 conveyed very well the alertness of the playing and the intimacy that this group suggests.


For a speech test – and animals snarling and roaring at London Zoo! – what better than the 1960 Decca recording of Saint-Saens's Carnival Of The Animals with the LSO and comic actress Hermione Gingold? The beasts in the opener always make me jump and the narrative is a full-blooded, arch treat (of a Marmite kind). Gingold is set extreme stage left [CD rip from Decca 483 056] and the cynical texts registered with enormous presence here.

Wow Factor
You couldn't have a greater contrast than Magdalena Kožená singing the 'Pie Jesu' from Duruflé's Requiem in the wonderful Linn recording with Robin Ticciati [CKD623; 96kHz/24-bit]. The sheer dignity of her interpretation with a presence that you feel you could almost reach out to and touch, the clarity of her enunciation, and the sensitivity of the accompaniment again made me say 'Wow!' as the track ended.

Using an AudioQuest carbonfibre cable, I next connected the M3 to my CD player and, with the tracks I so often use for headphone reviewing – Patrick Stewart narrating Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf [Erato 4509-97418-2], 'Blue Rondo À La Turk' from Dave Brubeck's Time Out [Columbia Legacy CH 65122], and the MJQ in No Sun In Venice [Atlantic 1284-2] – there was a significant step up in sound quality. There were more nuances in both speech and the orchestral reproduction in the Prokofiev, and the two jazz examples were more open and 'three-dimensional', with metal percussion having a more realistic timbre.

In our Hi-Res Downloads pages [HFN Jan '20] we reviewed Vladimir Jurowski's live recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet [Pentatone PTC5186761] at 96kHz/24-bit resolution. But has this as DSD tracks, so I compared the Overture and the six Divertissement movements. There was an obvious difference, initially perhaps subtle, but repeating the comparison showed how you get an increase in natural presence and a sense of ease about climaxes with DSD.

This was even more striking with the finale of Mahler's Symphony No 1, in the Budapest Fischer/Iván Fischer recording [Channel Classics; DSD64], where the sheer impact pinned you back into your seat. Extra money and longer download times of course, but thanks to the M3 I did become something of a convert.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Whether you stream your music from Roon, have a big CD library and are looking to trial a new transport, or just enjoy connecting a laptop and listening over headphones, the Bricasti M3 is worth saving for. The DSD DAC and headphone amp are welcome additions to the platform, and the engineering and finish are superb. It's built to last, operation is straightforward and the sound quality is exemplary.

Bricasti Design Ltd
Supplied by: SCV Distribution, Hertfordshire
03301 222500