Not long ago, when I definitely should have been doing something else—like working on my review of Micromega’s M-150 integrated amplifier—I was watching old commercials on YouTube. Onto the screen came a dimly familiar 30-second spot from 1984 for Prego pasta sauce. A young man, home from school for the holidays, approaches his father who is stirring something in a pan on the kitchen stove.
Son: “After a whole semester of college food…homemade spaghetti sauce!”
Father: “No, Tommy. This is Prego.”
Son: “Sauce from a jar? What about all that great stuff Mom puts in her homemade sauce?”
Father: “It’s in there.”
Son: “Even bits of herbs and onions and garlic?”
Father: “It’s in there!”
Son: “Well, what about homemade taste?”
Father: “Look, professor—it’s in there!”
Tommy samples the Prego from Dad’s wooden spoon and is completely won over.
The ad seemed to resonate with my own skepticism about integrated amplifiers, despite ample evidence at the last couple of audio shows I attended that this is a product category that manufacturers and consumers alike are taking very seriously. The concept is certainly appealing—fewer boxes, fewer cables, no impedance mismatching or other such incompatibilities, lower cost—but will there be something left out? Perhaps the audio equivalent of homemade taste? Spending a few months with the Micromega M-150 seemed like a good way to find out.
Rated as delivering 150 watts into an 8-ohm load and 300 watts in 4 ohms, the $7499 M-150 is the more powerful of the two integrated amplifiers in Micromega’s M-One range. (The $4499 M-100 has power ratings of 100Wpc and 200Wpc into 8 ohms and 4 ohms, respectively.) Externally, both models are examples of striking industrial design. The M-150’s chassis, which measures 16.9" wide by 13.8" deep by 2.2" tall, is machined from a solid block of aluminum, the edges artfully beveled, with two triangular indentations running from side to side on the top surface that add to the product’s svelte appearance. With the standard black or silver anodized finish, the M-150 costs $7499; with one of four enamel “automotive” finishes, the price increases to $8499. The review sample was an attention-grabbing Nogaro Blue, which my two car-buff nephews who were visiting immediately recognized as the preferred color for Audi’s RS sedans. Other custom finishes can be had for an additional surcharge. For most users, the M-150 will sit on a horizontal surface but one can also mount the amplifier vertically on a wall. With that possibility in mind, there are readable-from-across-the-room displays located on both the front panel and top surface of the component.
A look at the M-150’s rear panel gives a good idea of the unit’s comprehensive functionality and connectivity. Starting at the left, there’s a jack for the supplied room EQ microphone and then three sets of analog inputs: phono (switchable between 110 ohms and 47k), high-impedance unbalanced line RCA inputs, and balanced XLRs. Next to a pair of “trigger” in/out sockets are the digital inputs: coaxial, optical, AES/EBU, USB Type B, and then two I2S inputs (for use with “future Micromega products”—the M-150 isn’t configured to accept a data stream via HDMI). There’s a LAN input for a network connection and two USB Type A ports to facilitate software updates. The M-150’s analog outputs include a pair of five-way loudspeaker binding posts, a pair of XLR terminals with variable output, and an RCA out for a subwoofer (the upper limiting frequency set at 400Hz). A fuse and an IEC receptacle for the power cord complete the back panel. Out of view is a Bluetooth aptX receiver that can store as many as eight connections to compatible devices. The M-150 has a 3.5mm headphone jack discreetly placed at the bottom of the front panel display. A “binaural” process is applied to the headphone output to provide an experience that’s more like listening to speakers.
It must be said that making connections at the rear aspect of the M-150 is challenging, especially if you’re standing in front of the amp when you’re trying to accomplish this. The top surface extends beyond the 150’s back panel by two inches which not only makes it impossible to see what you’re doing, but also pretty much guarantees that inserting and removing cables will be awkward, if you have normal adult-size fingers. At least for me, removing the Ethernet cable required the use of a flat blade screwdriver to press down on the release mechanism. I recognize that actual consumers will be doing a lot less wire swapping than reviewers do, but still—for the sake of your sanity—I’d strongly recommend employing banana plugs rather than spades as terminations for the amplifier end of the speaker cables.