Audio electronics reviews are weird things. Each review is, after all, a snapshot in time—an assessment of a product’s strengths and weaknesses compared to the current baseline. That’s perfect for TVs and A/V receivers and media streamers and the like, which are cranked out on something approaching an annual basis and packed with ever-newer features, formats, and performance enhancements. Other gear—like speakers and amps—doesn’t go through quite the same cycle of planned obsolescence. And somewhere in between those two extremes, you have a product like the Musical Fidelity M6si integrated amplifier ($2999, all prices USD).
We actually reviewed the M6si some years ago on SoundStage! Access. So why is it back in-house and being unboxed again? Two reasons: Firstly, despite being released in late 2014, this beast of an integrated amp remains incredibly popular in the enthusiast community. And since I’m currently on a bit of an int-amp review streak, we thought it would be good to bring it in and see how it stacks up against newer offerings. Secondly, a new review provides us the opportunity to do proper measurements and give the amp a more thorough evaluation.
I was a bit concerned at first that we were going to have to request a third review sample, as the oafs at FedEx handled the package with the same care you would expect from the apes in those old American Tourister commercials. The carton was unceremoniously dumped in my front flower garden, with half of it lying in the dirt and the bulk of its weight resting tenuously on the brick edging between the garden and my front walkway.
Despite that, the box retained its structural integrity, and once I brushed off the damp dirt, it didn’t seem much worse for wear.
Even if the outer carton had been a bit more dinged up, I think the amp would have been well-protected, since it’s double boxed and plentifully padded. Inside the two outer boxes, you’ll find yet another box containing the power cord, instruction manual, remote control, a cleaning cloth, and of course a pair of white gloves. Shockingly, the gloves actually fit my massive front paws, which is never a given.
Under the accessories box lies the M6si itself, wrapped up in a velvet bag and supported by what looks to be super-high-density polyethylene foam instead of the bog-standard expanded polystyrene. The padding seems to have been engineered with maximum shock absorption in mind, so I don’t think even FedEx’s worst could have done the amp in (if you’re reading this, Fred Smith, please don’t take that as a challenge).
Pulling the M6si out of the packaging resulted in something of a shock, since its weight is somewhat out of proportion with expectations based on its size. At 36.6 pounds, it weighs a good bit more than the Marantz PM-KI Ruby I reviewed a few months back, despite the fact that it’s significantly smaller, especially in terms of depth.
But with the amp disrobed and carefully perched atop my table, all thoughts of weight went right out the window. Pictures simply don’t do the amp justice—at least not mine. It’s a clean, elegant design with wonderful symmetry and a wholly modern vibe. And that beefy, inertial, smooth-as-silk volume knob just beckons me.
It’s a bit of a shame that the cluttered, plastic remote control doesn’t rise to the level of the amp’s design, but whatever. I imagine that physically interacting with the M6si will be one of my favorite things about it, so the remote will likely spend most of its time being completely ignored.
Approach the front end of the amp from a slightly different angle, and you can begin to see where at least some of its extra weight comes from. The gargantuan heatsinks that span each side of the amp speak to a design that runs a bit toasty, so that’s something I’ll keep tabs on in my review. They also contribute to the amp’s distinctive aesthetic, and speak to a design that’s intended for open-air installation, not to be tucked away in a gear rack in the closet.
Around back, those massive cooling fins still dominate the design, but there’s also a surprising wealth of inputs and outputs. In addition to one balanced stereo input (XLR), the M6si features an MM/MC phono input, four line-level stereo RCA inputs (one of which doubles as a home-theater bypass), stereo line outs, and stereo preamp outs (handy if you want to add a subwoofer, but I struggle to imagine why anyone would purchase a 220Wpc integrated amp if they wanted to bring their own external power amplification to the equation).
There’s also a USB Type-B port, which appears to be a USB Audio Class 1.0 connection, based on the 24-bit/96kHz label above it. This is something else I’ll investigate thoroughly in my full review.
The M6si also features 12V trigger input and output (3.5mm), a pretty beefy turntable grounding terminal, and two sets of seriously nice insulated five-way binding posts. If you’re like me, you’ll probably just plug bananas right into the back of the posts. But for those of you who prefer spades or bare-wire speaker connections, the binding posts of the M6si feature a nice little bonus that you don’t often see: rows of little teeth on the ends of the cap to dig into the conductors and create a more secure connection.
Now to plug this puppy in and see if it lives up to the hype. The answer to that, though, will have to wait for my full review, coming to SoundStage! Access on August 1.
Senior Editor, SoundStage!