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This review first appeared in the January 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Magnum Dynalab MD-301A in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Magnum Dynalab- Ed.

Reviewer: Martin Mertens
Sources: Analogue - Thorens TD 160 HD w. TP250 & Benz Micro MC Gold; digital - Creek CD 43 Mk II, Logitech Transporter
Amplification: Phono - Lehmann Black Cube SE II; integrated - Jadis Orchestra blacksilver, Exposure 2010 S
Loudspeakers: Gaithain ME150
Cables: Low-level - Vampire CC; high-level - Fast Audio Compact 6M biwire
Review component retail: €3.500

I somehow think
that Canadian firm Magnum Dynalab ought to supply radios for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Don’t laugh. Starting with HD’s Elektra-Glide series radios come stock. And Magnum Dynalab is famous for its tuners. Both companies marry vintage tech with modern solutions. Harley’s Revolution engine combines a classic 60° V-twin motor with electronic fuel injection and dual overhead camshafts. Magnum Dynalab weds valves to transistors.

There are further parallels. Whilst many Harley fans lust after the €38.000 CVO Ultra Classic Elektra Glide, they end up with the 1200 Custom instead whose €11.000 are rather more palatable. Magnum Dynalab fans may ogle the MD-309 top amp for ca. €10.000 but may reach for today’s tester, the new €3.500 MD-301A. Either company guarantees exclusivity though you’ll probably meet more folks driving Harleys than listening to Magnum Dynalab.

Where Magnum diverges is model politics. Their catalogue is shorter. As mentioned, the top amp is the MD-309. Below that slot the MD-307, MD-306 and finally MD-301. All include a coax/USB DAC unless the nomenclature sports an ‘A’ for analogue. That indicates that the digital inputs were left off. In the MD-301’s case that saves €700.

So let’s park the stoutly gurgling wheels. The V-Twin dies off with a final growl from its lateral pipes. Kick out the side stand which locks in place with a reassuring plonck. Relax the bike sideways accompanied by another manly noise, swing out of the saddle and fix your attention on Magnum Dynalab’s MD-301A integrated amp.

With a foot print of about 45 x 50cm, it’s quite the mighty box and 16cm height take up their own space in the rack. The front plays it minimalist though. The center sports a two-digit blue—what else?—display which confirms volume in steps from 00 to 99. During input switching this display briefly defaults to showing the chosen source. Beneath the display are three controls. The left awakens the amp from standby. While it comes alive which that takes a bit, the display undergoes funny antics whilst the innards click away with various relays. The middle button handles mute, the right one shuttles sequentially through the inputs. Analog inputs A1 through A4 are followed by D1, D2 and U1 for two coaxial and USB sockets. With the MD-301’s A version those three obviously aren’t live. At the right the fat round volume knob is actually an electronic encoder. Its Burr-Brown ICs instruct the actual attenuator which parlays each step as an audible clack. I’d call the design functional.