Silent Angel Munich M1T Network Bridge Review
Jay Garrett cannot fail to be impressed by this compact, affordable streamer…
Munich M1T Network Bridge
Technology moves on apace, and if you want to remain at its bleeding edge then you will find yourself whirling around, caught inside a revolving door of gadgets. While not every new device lands with paradigm-shifting evolutionary leaps, one must be careful not to get left behind. While some hi-fi equipment can satisfy even the most hard-to-please audiophile for decades, streaming still feels in its infancy – even though it's old enough to get served in a pub now! Furthermore, the DACs that streamers use must be ready to accommodate the next high-resolution solution.
This is where owning a separate digital converter and streaming transport makes good sense, as it lets you future-proof your system to an extent. For example, you can update your ageing DAC when new technology comes along – as it inevitably will – instead of having to bin your all-in-one streamer. The flipside of this is that the initial outlay for a pair of separate boxes can be more expensive, of course.
Thankfully, there are a host of streaming transports at various price points. For instance, we've reviewed the Auralic Aries G2.1 priced at £4,200, and the dCS Network Bridge costing £3,600. Additionally, there's Metrum's £1,100 Amber Roon Bridge and the Stack Audio LINK II that comes in at £725 if you don't add the optional linear PSU. This all serves to put the Silent Angel Munich M1T's comparatively modest £699 asking price into context.
This company says that it began its musical journey in 2014, but the UK has really only had easy access to its products since last year – and it's already making waves here. The company specialises in digital, networked components, and is led by Dr Eric Jian Huang. He has a background in network optimisation, amongst other things, and has worked for one of the more prominent NAS brands. He appears to have enough tech know-how to be manufacturing SSD storage in-house for Silent Angel's Rhein music server, as well as producing network switches.
Alongside the Munich M1T streaming transport, the company also offers the M1 all-in-one streamer with onboard DAC that costs another £300. There is also an optional linear power supply dubbed Forester available for an extra £430.
The M1T is a compact 155x50x110mm fanless unit, presented in a hairline black finish with an angled front panel sporting the Silent Angel logo centrally and smartly engraved Munich and M1T legends on either side. Being a transport, there are no buttons, dials or headphone sockets but round the back you'll find outputs via AES/EBU, I2S HDMI and coaxial. These all support up to PCM 384kHz and DSD 5.6M (DSD128), plus USB Audio good for up to PCM 768kHz and DSD 11.2M (DSD256).
Additionally, a pair of USB 3.0 sockets alongside a USB 2.0 port adds connected storage and one each of M-IO and M-LINK for peripheral access. Finally, there is a 1000Mbps Ethernet port for network connection or plugging directly into your NAS. Wireless fans – whether Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – will have to look elsewhere, I'm afraid.
Often streaming devices live or die according to their associated software. This gamble is perhaps why Roon is doing so well – it's rock-solid, looks good and is feature-rich. The fact that the Munich M1T is Roon Ready is already a feather in its cap, then. However, it also runs on Silent Angel's own VitOS Orbiter software. After living with it for several weeks, I am pleased to report that it appears to be dependable and user-friendly on my Google Pixel 6 Pro, as well as on the iPhone that the review sample arrived with, all packaged in a sturdy flight case.
Through the VitOS Orbitor mobile app, you are offered streaming audio from Amazon Music HD, TIDAL, Qobuz, a beta option of HighResAudio, Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, along with Internet Radio and DLNA Renderer. Also, from the app menu, you can grab music from networked and USB storage.
The VitOS app revealed the stock of albums on my QNAP NAS drive and was swift and responsive to my scrolling through the extensive digital library. However, the lack of any means of searching for tracks or albums, save scrolling through the list of artists, meant that I often returned to Roon's innovative aggregated search methodology. Albums saved to USB drive played with no issue, and once more, VitOS was quick to find them and have them playing through my system. For those yet to invest in a NAS or music server, this could prove a handy first step as a 512GB SanDisk flash drive currently stands at around £40. Alternatively, a 1TB SSD external drive using USB 3.0 can be had for a little over £100.
The unit's brain is a quad-core 1.5GHz ARM Cortex-A72 silicon chip mated with low-noise DDR4 RAM and 32GB of flash ROM devoted to only processing lossless music data. The unit is apparently designed and built in-house because they can. However, Silent Angel also offers a version of its VitOS to be used with Raspberry Pi 4, which leads me to suspect that the hardware, whilst not Pi-based, might be pretty similar in execution.
In my system, the Munich M1T spent time connected to Chord Electronics' Qutest and Hugo 2 DACs, as well as the big guns in the shape of Moon's 680D. This was mainly fed through a Gryphon Essence pre-power amp pairing, driving Audiovector R 6 Arreté loudspeakers.
As with CD transports, streaming transports can work with little outlay, but you still tend to get what you pay for. For example, increased quality can be obtained if the correct care and attention is paid to things like driver chips, power supplies, signal pathways, RFI and even the quality of connectors used. Done right, the sum of the parts can significantly improve on what your chosen DAC is given to process. Of course, the resulting tonal balance, focus, and soundstaging will still largely be down to the DAC used, but the difference an excellent transport makes can indeed be big.
Using Roon to play Billie Eilish's Bad Guy through the Moon 680D showed that the version selected was MQA. However, when pushing the same track through the Silent Angel transport, the readout showed 44.1kHz. So, while the Munich M1T is TIDAL-friendly, it all depends if you're already tied up in the streaming service's Masters tier and whether or not having MQA is a deal-breaker for you. On the other hand, the lack of MQA could also be a selling point for some purists…
Dust performed by Ben Monder was a particular delight when it came to Matt Brewer's upright bass solo just before the four-minute mark. For me, the tonality and rich woodiness was spot on, with the audible string fingering adding to that 'in the room' feel. That's not to neglect the sublime acoustic guitars throughout the piece, which were vibrant with harmonics, nor the percussion's organic attack and decay.
Mysterons from Portishead's Live at Roseland LP really had me enveloped in the performance, right from the audience's applause. Adding to the realism was the distinct natural reverb of the venue, which really rang with each snare roll. The timing through the Munich M1T and Moon DAC definitely had the feeling of everything falling into place both rhythmically and emotionally. Let's face it, this is what it should always be about.
Low-frequency information was processed pleasingly through the M1T, with Massive Attack's Angel getting my Audiovector towers dancing nicely. Such impressive bass was balanced by wonderfully open highs and incisive mids, which are crucial to making this seminal track so enjoyable. It underlined to me just how good the Silent Angel unit is considering its asking price, compared with much of its competition.
Acoustic pieces were also treated with respect, as evidenced by Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker through Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.2 in C minor (Little Russian), Op.17. Here, the first four minutes of the Andante sostenuto – Allegro vivo, as it is suggested, is rather subtle and moderately paced, and the Silent Angel transport translated this exceptionally well. I loved how it retained all the nuances necessary for the contrasting, more energetic section to have the intended impact. Very impressive indeed, considering its modest retail price.
Silent Angel has done a fine job, then. The Munich M1T is a very well thought-out streamer at a highly competitive price point, and a decently made and attractive package. In addition, the free control app appears to be more reliable than many - and there's always Roon should you need it. All in all then, there's nothing not to like about this little bit of kit, and much to love for the money.
StereoNET UK’s Editor, bass player, and resident rock star! Jay’s passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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