If you initially thought this was an MBL CD player after seeing the pictures, you are not 100% wrong. Music Culture is an off shoot company from the same guy behind MBL. So it shares many “visual” similarities like gloss black finishes and gold buttons in contrast. The MC 501A CD player/ DAC is the later version (denoted by the “A”) which now spots a USB input. It does function as a regular DAC too if you want to utilize its onboard 24 bit/192 kHz upsampling DAC. The MC 501A is a very musical sounding player. It’s silky smooth delivery was reminiscent of a tube based player with warm mids and nicely rounded highs. Bass was deep but not too overly tight that it stands out from its “gentle” demeanor. Its sonic signature does not grab your attention immediately like some mega-bucks CD players do but instead slowly draws you in. If you just audition it for 15 mins or so, you might walk off with the impression that this player has a very smooth sound but listen for an hour or more and you will be drawn to its magical presentation and how the tiniest of details are captured and flowed in tandem with the music.
Build quality is impressive and very MBL “like”. Transport has a very smooth operation and back panel has all the necessary inputs and outputs for an “almost” high end machine. We have the original box, manual and metal remote. Cosmetically, the unit looks really good. Some minor scuff marks here and there and some very fine hairline scratches on the gloss black acrylic side panels.