For most of my career, I sort of treated hi-fi and distributed audio as wholly separate domains. “Non-overlapping magisteria,” to borrow a phrase from the great Stephen Jay Gould. That isn’t to say that distributed audio can’t sound good, but that’s generally not the point. Most multiroom audio amps, I think you’ll agree, are designed to deliver listenable music around the home (or commercial environment) in acceptable quality, without having to litter every room with Wi-Fi-connected plastic boxes. But my first experience with AudioControl’s The Director Model D3200, way back in the bygone days of 2012, disabused me of this bias. It was a technological marvel with control features I didn’t even know I needed. But most importantly, it delivered legitimately audiophile-caliber sound. Who even knew that was a thing?
Well, now I know it’s a thing. So when AudioControl pitched a review of its new The Director Model M4800 eight-channel high-power network DSP matrix amplifier, I bit. Hard.
This being exclusive to the custom-installation market, it’s no surprise that AudioControl didn’t waste too much money on packaging design. Most end-users will never see the box in which the Model M4800 (suggested client price $2700 USD) is delivered. The one thing I couldn’t help immediately noticing about the box, though, is how light it is. Shockingly so for an amp that delivers 8 x 100W into 8 ohms (all channels driven), 8 x 200W into 4 ohms (ditto), or 4 x 400W bridged into 8 ohms.
It wasn’t until I cracked open the box and started digging around inside that I noticed the unit’s light weight—4.7 pounds—is commensurate with its size. The chassis measures an ultra-slim 17″W x 15.8″D x 1.75″H (1U), making its rated power specifications all the more surprising.
The Model M4800 is definitely packaged with a focus on protection over presentation. The foam looks to be closed-cell polyethylene, unless my eyes deceive me, but what I really like is the way the supports have been shaped to give the padding a bit of extra give and flex. Shock absorption, if you will. Given the current state of parcel shipping, that’s a welcome bonus.
There really isn’t a lot to unpack here. In addition to the Model M4800 amp, the box includes only a three-prong power cable, an initialed quality control checklist (a bit sad to see that my unit was only bench-tested, with no listening tests or coffee-brewing performed), and a dense but entertaining instruction manual (I said what I said) that, again, will likely only be read by your custom installer.
Flipping the Model M4800 around for a quick peek at its backside can be a little daunting at first. In addition to the four groups of stereo speaker-level outputs (all of which rely on phoenix-type connectors), there are four stereo line-level inputs (RCA), four digital audio inputs (your choice of optical TosLink or coaxial RCA), individual 12V trigger inputs for each of the four output “zones,” master 12V triggers (one each input and output), a pair of coaxial digital outputs (RCA), a ground isolation switch, and a metric buttload of status LEDs. Oh, and of course, the ethernet port, which is essential for setup and operation of the Model M4800.
The other thing worth noting upon initial inspection is that the Model M4800 has oodles of ventilation ports, which should help it run cool even in a tightly packed rack. The company warns against stacking more than four Director units together, suggesting that it’s necessary to leave at least a rack space above and below should you fail to heed this advice. The unit also has heat-activated fans and a thermal protection mode that puts it into standby if things get too toasty.
Unfortunately, I’m not really equipped to test out this functionality, since my only racks are already slam-full, as we say here in Alabama, and are located at the other end of the house, at that. But I am ready to connect the amp and get some listening impressions under my belt. Stay tuned for my full review, coming soon to SoundStage! Access.
. . . Dennis Burger