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  1. #1
    Super Dooper Wammer hifinutt's Avatar
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    music first audio baby reference

    thanks to jonathan from mfa for driving around 8-9 hours so myself and crimsondonkey could hear this amp.
    first impression is its utterly transparent, incredibly so . dead quiet and very very enjoyable to listen to .
    would i part with the audio reaserch ref 5 , well no not yet but this baby is really lovely and will go far
    around 6k i believe

    i`m sure wayne will be along shortly with a far more accurate opinion as i am limited on how much i can express
    heres some photos














  2. #2
    Sic Transit Gloria crimsondonkey's Avatar
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    Okay my thoughts on the newest Music First preamplifier.

    Yesterday in Phil's system we had the pleasure of listening and comparing three rather good preamps.
    1. Music First Audio 'Baby Reference' - rrp c 6k
    2. Music First Audio Mk II - rrp 5k
    3. Audio Research Ref 5 - rrp 10.5k

    We used a selection of tracks to try out as each of the preamps were inserted into the set up: Kraftwerk, Supertramp, Katie Melua, Trentemoller, Can Atilla, Led Zep had repeat plays.

    I'll kick things off with my observations and I'm sure Phil will add his.

    The 'Baby Reference' had been playing for a few hours by the time I arrived. It's the preamp I've been crying out for Music First to release - a Reference stripped of the additional outputs and the motorised remote. Appearance wise it looks like a slightly bigger Classic, with a coloured front panel with the same switches as the other models in the family. It has the Reference coils with less attenuation steps on the dial, and the +6dB switch now removed.

    The sound is quite unmistakeable Music First - zero noise, crystal clear. The soundstage is well defined and easy to locate instruments - precise but not etched. It's unbelievably transparent. The most obvious thing that strikes you is the extra headroom at top and bottom end. As a result instruments and voices have more depth and solidity, there's more weight to the images so it sounds more real and convincing.

    Jonathan popped back to collect the amp and so we had a chance to chat about its construction and get the lid off to see where he had used damping materials on the inside of the casework. There was some chat about the MFA MC step up which I'll be auditioning once I get my power amp back.

    Next up, the Music First MkII I had brought for comparison. Mixed opinions on the differences. To me it was clear that I was hearing the benefits of listening to a well run in unit - the Reference was produced less than 2 days ago. As a result I thought that the MkII sounded a bit more even across the mid range, a touch more depth and the soundstage more spread out between the speakers. What was obvious was that the Reference had the edge on overall bandwidth, and that little extra weight of image.

    Finally came the Audio Research Ref 5. It didn't take long at all to appreciate the vastly different presentation. The unit warmed up in about 10-15 mins and was fully on song. The most obvious feature - massive projection of vocals. Music flows from the Ref 5, very effortless and easy to enjoy. The soundstage is big and three dimensional and extends beyond the speakers. Its not as precise as the MFA preamps but it does make instruments sound 'right'.

    They're all extremely good amps, just very different. A summary description which doesn't do them justice but may help to define the contrast, is that the MFA's sound is vivid and quite 'hifi' - with transparency, zero noise and incredible detail. The Ref 5 on the other hand just sounds 'analogue' and very easy to listen to.
    I\'m a street walkin\' cheetah with a handful of napalm..

  3. #3
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    I am new to the site and this my first posting. I own the MFA Reference and the Classic. As such I have compared the classic to the ARC 40th Anniversary preamp and the Concert Fidelity CF-080LX2 and the Berning ZOTL Pre One. While all of these are superlative preamps the only one that I felt equaled the MFA was the Concert Fidelity (USD 24K). The ARC was very very nice, but I felt it added a bit of artifice in how it propelled the music into the room. The MFA had a relaxed completely NON hifi way of allowing the musical even to swell into the room. How much did I like it, I just ordered a Baby Ref for my second system today. I believe I ranked the outcome on Agon as follows: MFA Ref and Concert Fidelity as a tie for first place, ARC 40 Anniversary (USD 24K) second place and the Karan KAL REF MKII as third. The Berning (USD 8.5K) was not present with the other preamps but was done head to head against my Classic (which it beat) and the MFA Reference. The Reference offered a more tangible image and seemed to be more grounded. Obviously with an active preamp one can experiment with power cords and in 3 of the units I used (tubes).

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    My last sentence is worded a bit ambiguously... I wrote
    The Berning (USD 8.5K) was not present with the other preamps but was done head to head against my Classic (which it beat) and the MFA Reference.

    I meant the Berning was better than the Classic but it was not as good as the MFA Reference and to be fair, the MFA Ref at the time (US Dollars) was nearly twice the price of the Berning.

  5. #5
    Super Wammer lee1975's Avatar
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    I love the look of that MF refrance. I am sure it sounds great as well.
    life is like a box of chocolates, You never know what you gonna get.

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    why wouldnt a transformer be dead quiet (unless wrongly wired)? i dont get why this is being consantly repeated about MFA products. which TVC or AVC is not dead quiet?
    Horn OK Please!

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    Quote Originally Posted by anubisgrau View Post
    why wouldnt a transformer be dead quiet (unless wrongly wired)? i dont get why this is being consantly repeated about MFA products. which TVC or AVC is not dead quiet?
    EMI and RFI? And I have the Promitheus TVC, which does need to be placed and earthed correctly.

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    I have never ever had a problem with noise from either my MFA Reference or the Classic.

    Concerning MFA units I have noticed, is that if you do not set the grounding switch to the correct input type, you will sometimes pick up a buzz from induced from the input and output being at different potentials.

    I failed to mention I also had the Allnic L-3000 preamp, beautiful unit but I did not like its' presentation at all. It just seemed off and by that I mean it seemed as if it injected something into the timbre of the music that was not quite right, askew, if you will of the original event.

  9. #9
    Super Dooper Wammer hifinutt's Avatar
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    welcome to the forum dev , really interesting to hear your thoughts , i certainly love the mfa stuff and at 6k it is half the price of my current ref5se and sounds utterly transparent. would love to hear the mfa one day with the current speakers i have [ml summit x] . the main difference i found with the arc is the sense of presence was greater with the arc and my wife certainly loves the arc
    You might slip, you might slide, You might stumble and fall by the roadside, But don't ever let nobody drag your spirit down, Remember you're walking up to heaven
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    MFA and such

    Quote Originally Posted by hifinutt View Post
    welcome to the forum dev , really interesting to hear your thoughts , i certainly love the mfa stuff and at 6k it is half the price of my current ref5se and sounds utterly transparent. would love to hear the mfa one day with the current speakers i have [ml summit x] . the main difference i found with the arc is the sense of presence was greater with the arc and my wife certainly loves the arc
    Thanks for the warm welcome. I can certainly understand how some would prefer the ARC (though I have not heard the Ref 5, I have only listened to the 40th Anniversary preamp I will let you guys know what I think about the MFA Baby Ref vs the MFA Reference once I receive the new B-Ref unit

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by awkwardbydesign View Post
    EMI and RFI? And I have the Promitheus TVC, which does need to be placed and earthed correctly.
    My Glasshouse TVC is dead quite too, cant see where 6k is spent on a passive though but then again im no expert, quite the reverse actually

  12. #12
    Super Dooper Wammer hifinutt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by devpsc View Post
    Thanks for the warm welcome. I can certainly understand how some would prefer the ARC (though I have not heard the Ref 5, I have only listened to the 40th Anniversary preamp I will let you guys know what I think about the MFA Baby Ref vs the MFA Reference once I receive the new B-Ref unit
    always good to have new blood ! my understanding is the baby is almost the same as the ref without some of the inputs etc and no remote and less damping . be intersting if you find much of a diff between them sonically
    You might slip, you might slide, You might stumble and fall by the roadside, But don't ever let nobody drag your spirit down, Remember you're walking up to heaven
    Don't let nobody turn you 'round, eric bibb

  13. #13
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    MFA and such

    Quote Originally Posted by hifinutt View Post
    always good to have new blood ! my understanding is the baby is almost the same as the ref without some of the inputs etc and no remote and less damping . be intersting if you find much of a diff between them sonically

    Yes the Ref has a total of 6 transformers inside, the main TVC's, 2 isolation transformer which bypass the TVC's and I believe the last two are for the "Tape Out" outputs and yes it is remote controlled. The B-Ref only has the 2 TVC's Nickel Brick transformers on board. Remote control is an option and I may opt for it during the build process. I am in no hurry as I only have one of my systems up and running but I figured, oh well... I was going to upgrade my classic to MKII status in hopes that it would approach my Ref, but I just decided to go for the B-Ref

    I have found, curiously, that I do NOT like the Ref on the included "Ref" feet. I think they hurt the sound of the unit. I have tried a number of feet under it and so-far I like it resting on the stock little rubber bumpers

    I have been told by Harry at MFA that some prefer the B-Ref while others think the Ref is slightly better and yet others hear no difference, so I will report my findings after I have about 500 hours on the unit. I will break it in with a continual loop of music and load it with a 60K ohm resistance.

  14. #14
    Super Dooper Wammer Cable Monkey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by falcoron View Post
    My Glasshouse TVC is dead quite too, cant see where 6k is spent on a passive though but then again im no expert, quite the reverse actually
    That is the position of most of us I am afraid. Very few can make considered judgements across a single company's range, never mind across multiple companies further complicated by valve/solid state/hybrid/resistive passive/transformer passive/tapped transformer passive etc,etc. When I purchased mine the person who sold mine made favourable comparisons between it and the MF Classic. The first thing I did after picking it up was to drive it unheard to a MF owners house (thanks Phil!) and compare the two. I was pleased with the result because I can't afford MF but I could afford something that did a remarkably good job and got pretty close to the MF in some areas. It is my point of reference and I will cling to it for as long as possible!
    Let me get this straight. You take a perfectly good CD and put it in a DVD player??!!

  15. #15
    Sic Transit Gloria crimsondonkey's Avatar
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    I've heard the MFA classic, mk2 (mine!), the ref and baby ref up against a variety of passive and active preamps. Normal caveats regarding matching and accounting for different tastes etc, but the very next preamp I will be getting will be the baby ref.
    I\'m a street walkin\' cheetah with a handful of napalm..

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    MFA and such

    Quote Originally Posted by crimsondonkey View Post
    I've heard the MFA classic, mk2 (mine!), the ref and baby ref up against a variety of passive and active preamps. Normal caveats regarding matching and accounting for different tastes etc, but the very next preamp I will be getting will be the baby ref.
    So your opinion would be most valuable to me. My fear was that the MKII would be close to the Ref in sound... Can I assume correctly that because you own the MKII and have future desires of the B-Ref that the B-Ref is substantially better than the MKII?

    I really appreciate any feedback you can offer as I have not been privy to a MKII.

    Thanks...

  17. #17
    Sic Transit Gloria crimsondonkey's Avatar
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    You would obviously expect me to early on signal the extent to which diminishing returns kicks in. Its far easier to say that

    Classic<MkII<Baby Ref.

    Its less easy to quantify the effect and the value for money of the additional benefit. In each case the improvement can be characterised as follows; greater weight and solidity of sonic images; bit more in top and bottom end frequencies.

    The rest is a value judgement for each individual based on what they are comfortable spending, and the balance of talents within their existing set up as to whether it is the best investment.
    I\'m a street walkin\' cheetah with a handful of napalm..

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    Quote Originally Posted by crimsondonkey View Post
    You would obviously expect me to early on signal the extent to which diminishing returns kicks in. Its far easier to say that

    Classic<MkII<Baby Ref.

    Its less easy to quantify the effect and the value for money of the additional benefit. In each case the improvement can be characterised as follows; greater weight and solidity of sonic images; bit more in top and bottom end frequencies.

    The rest is a value judgement for each individual based on what they are comfortable spending, and the balance of talents within their existing set up as to whether it is the best investment.
    Got it, that is good enough for me. It is nice to hear someone who has actually heard all of them (or at least the 2 I am concerned about) comment. This validates my decision to purchase the B-Ref. My Ref was so much better than the Classic (MKI) that I did not want to listen to the Classic any longer. I described the difference of the classic and Ref as such... When I turn the volume of the Classic up, it gets louder. When I turn the volume of the Ref up, the room swells with more music. That may sound simplistic, but when experienced it is undeniable. Thanks again as you have eased my mind, I live in the USA and the dollar to the pound right now is not in my favor LOL!!!!!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by devpsc View Post
    I have never ever had a problem with noise from either my MFA Reference or the Classic.
    I don't have any problems either, I was just answering anubisgrau's question. I am replacing the phono sockets, though, as the originals are pretty flimsy. At the price, I think that's fair enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by awkwardbydesign View Post
    I don't have any problems either, I was just answering anubisgrau's question. I am replacing the phono sockets, though, as the originals are pretty flimsy. At the price, I think that's fair enough.
    I see I will have to look your unit up and find out a bit about it.

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