Published and edited since 1997, Audiophilia is one of Canada’s most popular web magazines for audio and music journalism. The magazine’s annual Product of the Year awards showcase the review team’s top picks from the equipment reviewed in full that year. Of the 17 products awarded, two are from German MBL.
Audiophilia’s editor, Anthony Kershaw, is a highly respected classical artist, having performed as flautist and/or conductor with some of the finest ensembles in Europe and North America. So when it comes to reviewing hi-fi, he knows exactly what he’s looking – and listening – for. In fact, Kershaw is an excellent reviewer and his reviews highly comprehensive; he’s as strong on tech detail as he is on musicality.
He finds both in spades in MBL’s N51 integrated amplifier and N31 CD/DAC, both of which are from the brand’s ‘Noble Line’, which sits in the midrange between MBL’s ‘Reference Line’ and ‘Corona Line’.
All MBL components are designed by Jürgen Reis, who was recently inducted into The Absolute Sound’s High-End Hall of Fame. Writes Kershaw, “Think of Reis, with his litany of ground-breaking designs, among the pantheon of the legacy high end audio designers such as Dave Wilson, Dan D’Agostino, Bill Johnson, Nelson Pass, Jeff Rowland, John Curl and others.”
N51 integrated amp: “an aesthetic and musical joy”
“Using this gorgeous art piece was an aesthetic and musical joy from initial power up ‘till review’s end. I’ve not seen a more beautiful high end component in my music room,” writes Kershaw in his review of the N51 integrated amplifier.
“Equal to its visual beauty are the multi functions, ease of use, and, above all, the beautiful sound it enables. Yet, like all great components, the N51 doesn’t have a sound signature per se. What it does brilliantly and beautifully is prepare and amplify digital and vinyl signals so they always sound their very best.”
“There’s nothing in the N51’s design chain that Reis has not figured out, solved and built upon to produce a component that looks and sounds fabulous. You need a one box solution? There are many from which to choose at all price levels, but this MBL box has a brilliant design, uses an extensive feature set and is chock-a-block with wonderful technology. Purchase one, and you are set for the foreseeable future.”
Like the N51, the N31 is “a machined beauty of metal and gloss black reflectivity,” writes Kershaw in his second review. “My wife’s one word when we uncrated MBL’s shipment was ‘wow’!’.
When it comes to listening, Kershaw knows, as a professional musician himself, that what really excites him is musicality. “That’s what I’m listening for—musicality. Many upper echelon boxes I’ve heard can get the details (galore), layers, power and subtlety, but it is the music’s essence through timbre, phrasing and emotion that all but the best designs miss. Reis has captured the soul of music in his design. And I heard and experienced it almost immediately.”
“I was so surprised by what I heard at first play, I remained in the music room for much of the afternoon. Soft, un digital-like round edges, but with detail and cutting musicality when required married to the most delicate transparency, a deep soundstage and exceptionally precise imaging. Actually, I was more shocked than surprised…. my vinyl bias was about to get a spanking.”
Discover more about MBL’s Noble Line and track down your nearest retailer at www.mbl.de.
View the complete list of Audiophilia Products of the Year 2020 at www.audiophilia.com