As it happened, the M1 was an almost perfect stand-in for the DAISy1; or vice versa. Whilst I thought that the Korean ultimately had the slight edge on deeper color saturation, it was close enough to not only be called a draw—which in the sideways business only means standing next to each other whilst facing different directions—but an actual overlay. After confirming this with numerous swaps and varied music, my judgmental work was done. Matt Esau could have his loaner back sooner than later. Being more than twice the price, the M1 obviously came at a very real cost. But where the Fore repurposes Apple's metal wand, the M1's is custom. Where the Fore only switches inputs, the M1 adds volume, phase and comprehensive filter options. Finally there's that 40 micron gold plating. It didn't match anything I had but the right owner could call it the cat's meow. Finally, Bricasti's growing catalogue allows assemblage of a one-brand stack. Fore Audio at least presently don't.

In my digital hierarchy, this assessment placed the Bricasti M1 directly into the Gryphon Kalliope DNA. Rather than Aqua Hifi's emphasis on how music moves in the temporal domain of timing, the Fore/Gryphon perspective is on dynamic density and color depth. The first quality is often associated with high slew rates and bandwidth, i.e. circuit speed. It seems related perhaps to escalating speaker efficiencies. As those approach then cross the 100dB threshold, dynamic reflexes can dominate. That's like a top Wimbledon match played back at double speed or higher. Essential to stabilizing 'fast' playback is tonal substance and color gravitas. This avoids going nowhere fast which becomes threadbare, whitish, nervy and ultimately annoying. The M1 packed the natural antidote to that tendency like its mentioned kin.

Whilst speed and mass seem mutually exclusive and often are—more of one tends to mean less of the other—rare gear manages to maintain those scales at equilibrium. Then it is free to pile up on either with equal enthusiasm. That increases intensity without introducing nervy elements. Less balanced gear steps out of equilibrium. It favours one or the other flavour. It needs managing to not get lopsided. Usually that's done with deliberately cross-mixed ancillaries. In those terms, Bricasti's M1 was self-managing. It didn't play favourites which by implication always turns its back on something. Without falling back on tubes and their potential effects on noise floor, the M1 Gold wrung richly hued fully developed colours from the Mark & Daniel monitors. I didn't need to move in the Zu Druid V to complete that score even though its 10.3" widebander moved still deeper into that direction. Dynamic contrast as both a calling card of folded air-motion transformers with their five times higher propagation velocity over cones and domes and Zu's hard-hung driver was catered to as well. This not only works in the macro domain where one's own hearing and communal concerns impose limits. More importantly, it operates in the micro realm of inflections. Here a singer or instrumentalist leans in a tad at a particular juncture of a melodic arc. A drummer or bassist applies deliberate accents to shift rhythmic emphasis. The degree of twitchiness inside even modest playback volumes is the difference between red-lined radio-ready Pop and proper dynamic range. One sounds solidly loud from beginning to end. The other reveals many values between loudest and quietest. Its dynamic thermometer isn't stuck but most responsive. Its quicksilver flickers. And the M1 magnified those recorded flickers.

As an advanced machine of proper engineering credentials, Bricasti's M1 captured both dynamic and tonal sophistication. It combined speed with substance. A perfect example for this double-tasking was the eclectic miles_gurtu album which has the Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu collaborate with electronica composer Robert Miles. Essentially a massively layered drums'n'bass slash ambient concept, its execution is incredibly varied and sophisticated. At times it includes 'found' sounds which could be close-mic'd crinkling cellophane injected with odd-order harmonics as synth-triggered percussive elements. Now myriad little shards pop up and disappear constantly as though in a game of endless mirrors whilst a complex groove builds and certain beats or bass hits tax the system with their startling violence. To come off fully relies on timing (phase), very low noise floor and vanishing distortion. Playing something this intricate at stout nocturnal volumes, with all light-proof curtains closed and lights out, becomes a virtual walkabout in deep space. The gear must firmly hold the cosmic map in precise focus. The more holographic such mapping becomes, the higher the involved precision and ease of the walkabout. The more texturally varied and shock-value unfettered the leading edges manifest, the more in-room presence the sounds take on. Occasionally the body reacts startled when some 'ping' or 'broken glass' sound seems as real as a slammed car door or fork dropped on kitchen tiles. The M1 aced such frisson. But the real trick was doing that stuff of high speed and timing precision without stealing from the other half of developed tone and believable weightiness. Capacious staging with very specific depth cues was an added bonus.

I also sampled the Bricasti in my bedside headfi system. There it replaced an AURALiC Vega to feed two Questyle CMA800R mono amps into Audeze LCD-XC. Whilst the Vega already leans a bit toward Technicolor and would never be deemed lean, the M1 still trumped it on color temperature and sonic substance. The only real criticism I can see leveled at it is cost. That must be judged also against an industry where much brand differentiation includes coin positioning; and where the High Street vendors value layering not just in soundstaging but margins. For the buyer considering this league, the only real disappointment might be the lack of a word-clock input. Whilst I'm personally unconvinced of its need in domestic systems where one needn't sync up multiple digital machines, those who call more boxes more advanced could disagree. If that's you, the M1 won't talk to you. If it's just the gold bling which doesn't, there's always the £9'999 black SE version. Should you want analog volume, analog inputs and networking, an extra £1'000 over the Gold would buy you the M12 source controller - same DAC, more functionality. Ah, the cruelty of choice and all that Jazz. Either way, the Lexicon, Madrigal and Mark Levinson ancestry rewards with a complete fully mature package that appears to be extremely well built and which performs on par with very high expectations. That ex factor really does the business!

Bricasti website
UK distributor's website