Micromega M150 Integrated Amplifier Review

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See? Innovation happens in stereo too

by Ed Selley May 26, 2019 at 8:01 AM

  • Hi-Fi review

    9

    Recommended
    Micromega M150 Integrated Amplifier Review
    SRP: £5,499.00

    What is the M150?

    The Micromega M150 is the flagship stereo amp from the French company. Normally stereo products adopt a slightly Alice in Wonderland approach to getting more expensive. The higher the price you pay, the less the product actually does. The argument goes that this allows that product to focus on doing one thing and one thing only to the very best of its ability. Purely coincidentally, it means you have to buy more equipment to fill in the other functions too.

    Recently though, things have changed a little. We have tested some integrated amps that have combined with some serious functionality with a collection of digital inputs and other functionality that means that the point where an integrated amp stops and an All-in-One system begins is increasingly hard to determine. The M150 takes this idea and runs with it.

    As we’ll cover, this is an integrated amp that does things that put it in a rather different category to anything else. It is - within the constrained world of stereo - a very radical object indeed and we shall cover the many and varied things that it does in due course. The thing is, the products in the stereo category reflect the tastes of the people buying them. They’re as radical as those people will generally stand for. This is an amplifier that does things that are quite a long way outside what we accept these sort of products do and it costs a significant sum of money. We need to find out if the M150 is a truly game changing product or a little too 'out there' to land a significant blow.

    Specification and Design

    Micromega M-150 Specification and Design
    Picking over the functionality of the M150 is interesting because it demonstrates two slightly different things. The first is that the specification is extensive and in some places really rather radical but in other regards, it is entirely traditional. After some time with it, neither is this accidental - a function of limited budgets or squashed development times. Where Micromega feels that there are benefits from going radical, they have done. Where there aren’t, they’ve left it well alone.

    No place is this more apparent is the amp itself. 2019 is a world of class D, class G and intriguing hybrids but here you get a class A/B amp, the meat and two veg of the amplifier word. Except that here, it’s a well crafted steak, chips and asparagus because it is clear that considerable care and attention has gone into it. It delivers 150 watts into 8 ohms which doubles neatly and exactingly into 4 ohms, which is the hallmark of all ‘decent’ amplifiers. It should ensure that the M150 has the ability to get on with driving pretty much anything that you might fancy.

    The inputs that are made available to the amp are rather more adventurous though. Once again, by any rational definition, the Micromega is firmly in the blurry area between amp and All-in-One system. First up, the conventional connections. There is an XLR connection and a line level RCA input. This is supported by a phono stage that offers support for both moving magnet and moving coil designs. There is only one of each input but this should be enough to cover the basics.

    Once you take into account the other connections, that should be still less of a concern. The M150 has 1 USB, 1 AES, 1 optical and 1 coaxial connection, all decoded by an AKM DAC - almost the only company that keeps going in the face of the onslaught from ESS. This ensures that the M150 can decode formats up to 32/768 and DSD 512 - well beyond anything you’re likely to encounter in the real work in other words. Impressively, Micromega isn’t done there either. An Ethernet connection allows for direct UPnP control and playback and you get aptX Bluetooth to finish the set. In other words, there is pretty much nothing that the M150 won’t talk to and there’s the prospect of still more wizardry as there is a pair of i2S connections that are for ‘future use.’ The only real gripe I have is that this would be a perfect candidate for Roon compatibility and at the moment, it isn’t.
    Micromega M-150 Specification and Design
    As such, the M150 has clearly been designed to handle a world where turntables rub shoulders with NAS drives (and where somebody, somewhere will think, however briefly, about connecting a reel to reel to an M150). There’s little strength in depth for the inputs but you can get a hell of a lot of stuff connected up. Impressively, we’re only getting started.

    This is because as well as this thoroughly modern set of connections, the M150 has a thoroughly modern extra feature. Supplied in the box is a microphone. Connect it to the dedicated input on the rear panel and the M150 will examine responses in room and make the required adjustments. It’s not the first time we’ve seen it - both Arcam and Lyngdorf have delivered stereo products that can do this - but it’s still a considerable break from the norm and a rare thing. Micromega isn’t using DIRAC, instead preferring their own M.A.R.S (Micromega Acoustic Room System) to do the donkeywork but it’s still an unusual and clever feature.

    The aesthetics of the M150 are fascinating- no, really they are. In microcosm, it is a reflection of the challenges the companies making conventional Hi-Fi are working with when they release products of this nature and the M150 has more hits than it does misses. Nonetheless, the misses are not trifling ones and need to be taken into account.

    The first thing that it does brilliantly is take advantage of its huge flexibility to make the decision to do something a bit different with the aesthetic. The aluminium casework is a single clamshell type design that covers the internals. It doesn’t look like much else but it doesn’t need to because the most likely piece of equipment it will share a rack with is a turntable which won’t look anything like it. In the past, if you made something that looked genuinely different to everything else, it ran the risk of looking rather out of place in a rack of more conventional equipment. The M150 doesn’t suffer this so runs with it.

    Micromega M-150
    And run with it, it really does. Most significant is, that as well as the standard black and silver finishes, there are some optional ones too. Quite a few optional ones, in fact. First up are five Premium colours; white, gloss black, red, orange and blue. Then, for extra money (and an agreement you won’t get all that money back if you don’t like it), you can choose from 182 RAL colours. Some of these are more appealing than others - if you feel that RAL finish 8001 (or ‘constipated toddler’) is the one for you, I’m not sure we can be friends - but it reflects on the idea that being less dependent on source equipment, really does free up some design options.

    The details are also good. There are two displays, a feature that seems pointless until you realise that the M150 can be wall mounted. The remote control is a thing of effortless loveliness too. It’s a big, all-metal slab that, as one of the main points of contact between you and the M150 helps you feel like you’ve purchased wisely. It’s also beautifully made and feels in keeping with other equipment at the price.
    Micromega M-150
    It’s not perfect though. The connections are too close together and the protective cover over the top means that things look neat but connecting it up is a chore. I am aware that this will count as a fringe complaint but the grounding post for the phono stage is terrible. Micromega has had a brainwave and decided to use a spring-loaded post, the same as you find on some satellite speakers. It’s a nice idea but it is too close to the edge of the casework and if you have an arm with twin grounds - especially if they’re on spades - you can forget it. On a more affordable amp, where you’re only likely to encounter a ground wire, it would be OK. Here it isn’t.

    More significant is the fan. To run a hefty 150 watt amp in casework like this, the M150 uses a fan assisted convection tunnel. Now, let the record state, I have no issue with fans, they’re necessary and often, they’re completely unobtrusive. The problem here is that the tunnel runs side to side and with that, fan noise is more apparent than if the air, and with it the sound, are blowing out the back. It’s not been a problem once music is playing and placing the M150 on an AVID isolation platform has reduced the noise further but it is present once the unit has been running for a while and I can see it being too much for a few would be customers.

    Micromega M-150
    The M150 has clearly been designed to handle a world where turntables rub shoulders with NAS drives

    How was the M150 tested?

    The Micromega has been connected to an IsoTek Evo3 Aquarius Mains conditioner and a Melco N1A NAS drive, both via the USB connection with and without an SOtM SMS 200 Neo acting as an intermediary and via the LAN port. An EAT Prelude turntable has been used for vinyl testing while an LG B7 OLED has been connected via the optical connection. Bluetooth has been tested via Essential PH-1 smartphone. Speakers used have been the Neat Momentum 4 and Acoustic Energy AE1 classic. Material used has been FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, DSD, Tidal, Qobuz and Deezer together with vinyl and broadcast and on demand TV services.

    Sound Quality

    Micromega M-150 Sound Quality
    Let’s be clear about one thing before we go any further. The M150 is more than five thousand pounds. Even offsetting its cost against the range of source equipment it can notionally replace, it doesn’t matter if the M150 is the cleverest thing we’ve seen in a while if it can’t perform sonically. There also isn’t that much to go on from Micromega’s other products either as there’s nothing truly analogous to the M150 in the rest of the range. Firing it up for the first time therefore was a bit of a trip into the unknown.

    The good news is that the Micromega is a seriously good amp. The closest point of comparison we’ve already tested to what it does is the Chord CPM2800 MkII. If you’re looking for additional ‘character’ in the performance, this might not be the best place to start but if you’re after transparent and linear power, the M150 works beautifully. There’s no shortage of power and it’s accessed in an extremely smooth and consistent way. Even with my relatively power hungry Neat Momentums, there’s no shortage of go on offer.

    Of course, using the Micromega via the decoding of another product seems both unlikely and a little pointless. Switch to the digital inputs and it starts to express itself a little more. The presence of that AKM DAC is a telling one and it is something that makes its presence felt albeit in an entirely benign way. The trademark AKM sound has a slight sweetness to it and combined with that gently matter of fact amplification, the result is very listenable. The absolute nailed on nineties joy of Afro Celt Soundsystem is reproduced with real flair. There’s no sense of the Micromega deviating from true accuracy but there is a sweetness and energy to the presentation that is really very satisfying to listen to.
    Micromega M-150 Sound Quality
    It’s reasonably satisfying to use too. The Micromega app is being judged in a ‘post Roon’ world but the iOS version is stable and well behaved and offers a perfectly pleasant listening experience. The Android version is rather less satisfactory though and can’t be considered a worthwhile device to use. When you have a rack full of things to connect to it, the M150 can seem slightly superfluous but this is not how it is likely to be used. Sat in the sort of elegant and minimal environment that I’m sure somebody, somewhere has, where it is just the M150 picked out in your RAL colour to be ‘just so’ and pair of suitable speakers, what slickness it loses out against random product a or b is nullified by the sheer elegance of what is being offered.

    Switching on the M.A.R.S and running the correction process is interesting because it really isn’t a parallel to Dirac. The correction process is more overt and depending on what you’re asking it to do it does have some, admittedly minor, effects on the tonality. Ultimately, my listening space is conventionally arranged and the performance with no EQ applied is more than satisfactory as I far as I am concerned so I’m not the target market but if you’re reading this with a less than ideal listening space, I suspect that the difference on offer is going to be more meaningful.

    Having found a turntable with a simple ground wire, the phono stage also offers strong performance. As is often the case, the moving magnet setting is better than moving coil but this really isn’t much of an impediment to excellent vinyl performance given the quality of moving magnet cartridges on offer at the moment. The Bluetooth performance is also extremely good. I don’t know how many people will want to connect to their very expensive amp in this fashion but it does work and works well.

    Micromega M-150
    Sat in the sort of elegant and minimal environment that I’m sure somebody, somewhere has, where it is just the M150, picked out in your RAL colour to be ‘just so’ and pair of suitable speakers, what slickness it loses out against random product a or b is nullified by the sheer elegance of what is being offered.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Impressive and very flexible specification
    • Extremely well made
    • Refined yet engaging sonic performance

    Cons

    • Not cheap
    • Very poor Android app
    • Fan can be audible
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Micromega M150 Integrated Amplifier Review

    Testing the M150 has been a fascinating experience. This is not a completely correct comparison point to any other amp we’ve tested - even the Chord CPM 2800 MkII comes down more on the side of being a conventional amp than this one does. The thing is, none of the decisions that Micromega has taken on the creation of the M150 prevents it from a very satisfying and extremely hi-fi product. It is merely that these abilities have been tempered with an aesthetic and design choices that mean that this isn’t merely another black box. The M150 is a bold, innovate and genuinely different amplifier. It has foibles but the performance on offer is extremely satisfying and it earns our enthusiastic recommendation.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £5,499.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    9

    Ease of use

    9

    Features

    10

    Audio quality

    9

    Value for money

    8

    Overall

    8

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