MSB Technology S500 Stereo Amplifier, Reference DAC, and Reference Transport with Magico M2 Speakers

A visit to the MSB Technology room yielded a formidable debut, the company’s new S500 stereo amplifier, which delivers 500W of power with apparent ease and efficiency, demonstrated with the mighty Magico M2 loudspeaker ($63,600/pair with required MPod bases), which was featured in the February 2020 Stereophile.

The hybrid class-AB amp uses zero negative feedback—which, according to MSB, might not have been achieved before at 500W. It boasts a million microfarads (or one farad) of capacitance in the power supply and a 136dB dynamic range for an extraordinarily low noise floor.

As expected, it looks the MSB part, with understated elegance in solid aluminum—beautifully machined smooth curves instead of sharp corners. Even the heat sinks are purposely designed to reduce resonances by having them vary in pitch—ie, so they aren’t ringing at the same frequency.

It’s available now and retails for $58,500—certainly steep, but then we’re talking about a company that comes up with some of the most sophisticated tech advances out there for higher-resolution, more accurate playback that sounds as music should.

This full MSB stack also included the highly configurable Reference DAC with various user-changeable modules (a preamp with passive volume control, for one; other stock modules include one for TosLink and coaxial inputs, one for XLR and RCA outputs, another for MSB’s Femto 140 clock, and further module options for streaming services, etc.) and an outboard power supply that contains discrete power supplies for its digital and analog circuitry, along with a Reference Transport that elevated even Red Book CD sound. Based on prior listening experiences involving MSB gear, I knew I’d be in for a treat but I wasn’t prepared for the next level of digital file playback through this system with the new stereo amp in place.

Given the smallish room dimensions, the Magico M2 seemed to be an excellent choice vs the company’s other larger M-series models. It was also a solid choice for balancing bass control with slam, transparency with musical energy.

A listen to Peggy Lee’s “Fever” came alive with snaps that sounded like actual fingers. Subtle microdynamics came through in macro ways, with good separation of the bass and kick drum, and those exciting downbeat attacks (ba-dum!). I also sensed more tension and buildup as the song’s gradual crescendo became more apparent than I’ve ever noticed before.

The MSB guys wrapped up the demo with something of an audiophile classic: Diana Krall’s stunning rendition of “A Case of You,” from a CD of her Live in Paris release. I could hear the piano pedals release a couple of times, so quiet was the background and so high the resolution.

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