MBL’s N31 represents mechanical precision and electronic mastery unified
CD-DAC MBL N31
Mechanical precision and electronic mastery unified
MBL’s N31 CD-DAC elevates the soundtracks to your life by seamlessly combining a world-class CD transport with a state-of-the-art digital-to-analogue converter – all in a stylish, sculpted chassis. Using XLR, RCA, optical, or USB inputs, the N31 CD-DAC processes digital signals with sample rates up to 24-bit/192 KHz, or using NativeDSD. The USB inputs have been skillfully designed to extract digital data stored on an iPhone or iPad – bit perfect, error free, every time – while the N31’s optional Roon Module allows connection to a local network and provides background information on its color display, such as album art and title tracks.
Every feature of the N31 is dedicated to the delivery of pure, room-filling sound, beginning with the choice of three exceptional digital filter variants, each of which can be selected through the soft keys or the remote. An ingeniously dampened CD drive suspension protects the laser optics and CDs from vibration, while the heart of the N31 boasts a D/A converter design that combines the advantages of Multi-Bit and 1-Bit Delta/Sigma technology.
Yet even the finest digital components are helpless in the face of CDs or digital files with improperly mastered signals, which can force the converter to “clip” or distort from successive intersample overloads. Not the N31. The building blocks of its converter have been developed with MBL’s one-of-a-kind True Peak Technology, which guarantees that distortion-laden clipping effects never interfere with your listening pleasure.
These unique features reflect the obsessive attention to detail applied by our component design team. Their intense focus on eliminating disruptive influences – like deleterious ultra-high frequencies that can produce distortions in the sensitive analogue circuits – led to the N31’s capability of seamlessly putting any unused circuitry into sleep mode. The crystal oscillators are activated only as required.
Ultra-adept and laden with impressive features, the N31 CD-DAC is more than a single piece of circuit wizardry that delivers superior sound. It’s a distinguished CD player, a superlative DAC and, optionally, a Roon Ready streaming endpoint that embodies the culmination of many hard-earned improvements and innovations – winning features in an exceptional product of German engineering.
State-of-the-Art Digital to Analogue Converter
1-Bit or Multi-Bit technology? It’s a purist’s debate where both converter principles have their pros and cons. 1-Bit converters work more precisely at low signal levels, while 18, 20 or 24-bit converters flaunt their dynamic prowess at high signal levels. The N31 CD-DAC combines the best of both worlds with classic MBL ingenuity. The switchover from the 1-Bit to the multi-bit converter doesn’t suddenly occur at a certain signal level. Instead, it’s distributed over four paths that switch at four different levels, delivering a gentle, imperceptible transition from digital to analogue with the utmost adherence to faithful sound reproduction.
Fingertip Flexibility – Three Selectable Digital Filters
It’s a fact: digital signals must pass through digital and analogue filters in order to suppress the high-frequency interference inherent in digital music files. The N31 offers a choice of three digital reconstruction filters, each selectable from the menu or remote control. The default filter setting the N31 ships with is Minimum Phase, in which all sound compromising “pre-ringing” is eliminated. This filter is ideally suited for recorded music with natural instruments in real-world settings such as a concert hall, church, or jazz club, without artificial enhancements. The Fast Roll-Off filter is best suited for “artificially” recorded music produced in a studio. This filter choice produces a crisper direct sound with harder-hitting bass impulses. The Slow Roll-Off filter is optimal for mixed forms of music with some tangible space and ambiance often found in today’s rock, pop or jazz recordings. It also suits singer/songwriter style compositions with its slightly more natural and rounded expression.
The choice is yours.
iPhone and iPad digital sources
Apple’s iPhone and iPad apps provide outstanding digital sound quality through the N31. Songs rendered up to 192 kHz / 24 bit, or other Hi-Res formats such as DSD (or with lossless codecs such as FLAC), are easily reproduced on mobile Apple devices, even if the device’s built-in digital-to-analog converter is not well suited for the music genre. Even with the finest mobile DAC, sound differences generated by the mobile device would hardly be discernible given its limited sound quality. However, what doesn’t work with the Apple device’s headphone connection is made possible through its docking connection. When connecting an Apple Camera Connection Kit or a Lightning USB adapter between an iPhone or iPad* and the N31, the high-quality bit-perfect digital signal extracted from the device is converted into peerless sound. The USB input of the N31facilitates perfect signal processing, which not only benefits from the clean power supply of the converter section, but also from its own Master Clock for jitter-free and interference-free music enjoyment. Outstanding sound quality right out of your pocket.
*(iPhone 5/iPad 4th generation onwards)
Optional network input with Roon
Say goodbye to the days when high-end sound and ease-of-use were incompatible. With Roon, your stored music files merge with those from your streaming service and your MBL high-end music system. Everything is one, with ease of operation from your smartphone or tablet.
When it comes to different music formats that your hardware may not readily distinguish, Roon does the work for you by instantly recognizing the possibilities of the hardware and smoothly adapting the signal to the highest possible quality and consistency
All the benefits of Roon are now available as an option on the N31 CD-DAC, ready to be combined with the brilliant sound of your MBL music system.
True Peak Technologie
The simple calculation, 16 x 6 = 96, represents the dynamic range of a CD, meaning the ratio between the quietest sound a disc can store and the loudest noise it is capable of producing as defined in decibels. The audio tracks of the CD are encoded with 16 bits. Each bit delivers a dynamic range of 6 decibels, making a total of 96 decibels of dynamic range.
One might think that would be enough to flawlessly capture a piece of music on a digital file or CD recording with the lowest levels of the music sufficiently far away from noise, and with enough safety distance from distortion-prone overloads. This is the assumption of the major manufacturers of digital-analogue converter chips, such as AKM, ESS or Texas Instruments (Burr-Brown).
Unfortunately, audio reality paints a completely different picture, especially with pop music where overdriven recordings are the order of the day. Every music producer wants his songs to be loud and dynamic when they reach the audience’s ears. What could be achieved by any listener with a simple turn of the volume knob is built in right from the start by many recording studios where producers encode the music signal hard and fast to the maximum level. This is to the detriment of the highest-quality music playback. If several samples on a CD are fully distorted one after the other, the digital filters of the converters generate waveforms that are overdriven by up to three decibels – and are then abruptly cut or “clipped.” Unpleasant distortions are the audible and measurable outcome of this practice.
Fortunately, this is not the case with MBL’s converter design. With sophisticated stop-gaps built into the digital filters, MBL’s engineers have ingeniously created an additional modulation reserve of three decibels, thereby correcting and basically eliminating any sound-degrading overloads from CD or music files. We call it True Peak Technology. Listeners call it extraordinary. The result is natural, distortion-free sound from CDs and digital music files – even at peak volume levels.