This Escape M1 Air is one of those, where you wonder what it is and the more you think about it, the better it becomes. This Escape M1 Air is simplicity personified. This is, what I would call, a streaming bridge, not unlike the pristine presentation that is the Chord 2Go/2Yu streaming bridge that this reviewer swears by in the Reference system here at HF&MS. The difference, however, between the two is approximately twelve hundred pounds, and the Escape M1 Air also has analogue out if needed!
The Escape M1 Air offers a clean digital streaming option into your DAC. If your DAC doesn’t stream, like a Chord Hugo 2 or the excellent, recently reviewed, Earmen Tradutto for example, this is an incredibly simple, brilliant and value-for-money option.
Not only this, but the Escape M1 Air has an analogue output if required, making it a streaming DAC solution, it supports 24-bit, 192kHz hi-res audio files. With this output, there is the option of setting the preamp output between 1V and 2V in the App.
The Escape M1 Air supports just about everything, from Apple AirPlay 2, Roon and Chromecast as well as Bluetooth 5.0. I’ve been using it with Tidal Connect and Qobuz Connect and Spotify Connect is there too.
The Escape M1 Air is powered with a 5V, 1A input micro USB B lead that is provided, that’s the one you need to get the right way up. In the next iteration of the M1 Air, a USB C slot would be preferable.
In the box, there is the USB power lead with a bunch of adaptors, a 3.5mm mini-jack to RCA cable, a Toslink adaptor and an optical cable as well as a few accessories for upgrading the Reference Escape P9 outdoor speaker, which has a slot for the Escape M1 Air to slot in.
Yes, the Escape M1 Air is a bit plasticky if we are being honest. It is light and small, handy and it can be easily tucked away. There is a Velcro option in the box for a permanent solution once the Escape M1 Air finds its preferred position.
The dimensions are 89mm (L) x 45mm (W) x 18.9mm (H), think of a Swan Vestas matchbox if you know what that is! The price is £199 in the UK.
I’m using the Escape M1 Air digital optical output into the Earmen Tradutto DAC (and a Chord Hugo 2) that is analogue out to the Moor Amps Angel preamplifier. I have an Angel 6 power amplifier driving, variously the brilliant DALI MENUET SE, my own Jern 14DS speakers and the recent revelatory Acoustic Energy 109.2.
Set up of the M1 Air was pretty easy using the Google Home App…
I’ve had the Escape M1 Air in my listening space, it has been faultless with optical output to the Tradutto. I have it on a couple of blocks of kindling with homemade rubber feet on it to allow it to breathe a bit, mine is running a bit hot. I’d like a power button in this respect so I could turn it off at night. Otherwise, the M1 Air has been very reliable and the Qobuz and Tidal Connect aspects of it. It seems much more preferable to use the streaming service’s App, if nothing else for excellent accessibility, playlist building, etc. There is, however, an Escape App, see below.
Set up of the M1 Air was pretty easy using the Google Home App, I guess I have the advantage that I’m an Android user. I had to ‘Activate the M1 Air’ before using Google Home, but the setup was a five-minute job.
Escape M1 Air with Qobuz, Tidal, iPlayer, TuneIn, etc.
I’m happily finding the depth and detail I listen for in my preferred tracks…
Although there is the Escape App, I’ve generally preferred to stream the music in the Tidal or Qobuz Apps themselves with the Chromecast buttons, I don’t have Roon and I’m sure Spotify would be equally as easy. Chromecast in the Apps is dead easy, and you can do the same with BBC Sounds, TuneIn Radio, etc.
I’m happily finding the depth and detail I listen for in my preferred tracks, like Arooj Aftab’s Last Night (Qobuz 24-bit, 96kHz), there’s little to complain about in the performance of this setup and the super clean Tradutto DAC is still performing brilliantly.
Escape M1 Air Analogue output
I’m preferring the digital optical output from the M1 Air to the Earman Tradutto (or the Chord Hugo 2) but I’m a bit of a snob if I’m being honest. I sort of feel the analogue output may be suffering because the provided cable is possibly a bit rudimentary even as a 3.5mm jack to RCA. But as an analogue solution, it is fine enough.
Escape M1 Air turning the Bose Lifestyle into something modern!
Basically, using the M1 Air with the 3.5mm analogue output to RCA has just revitalised our dusty knackered Bose Lifestyle into a streaming product and my daughter now has a modern streaming stereo and I can’t get the M1 Air back.
Bluetooth is easy to pair with my Pixel 6 Pro, though I’m streaming the cricket, for example, from BBC Sounds using the Chromecast link so Bluetooth is not really needed. But it is reliable, and the connection has been faultless.
I’d just buy one, or possibly two to be honest
I’d just buy one, or possibly two to be honest, in case Escape either stop making them, can’t make them quick enough or they realise that this is a total winner, and they double the price.
The idea that our Bose Lifestyle has gone from dust collector to a really nice piece of kit for this reviewer’s daughter is a really nice outcome. I would really think about putting one on our Kitchen Radio which has a 3.5mm jack input too to make streaming easily accessible there too.
Indeed, if you have an analogue amplifier gathering dust or you are just not into streaming yet, this is a great place to start, now where is my Roksan K2?
This is just a streaming winner, get one, or two…
Brilliant execution of a simple idea, not a new idea, done superbly at an unbelievable price for the quality of the output. This is just a streaming winner, get one, or two; three should do it maybe!?
Tidal/Qobuz Connect (Chromecast reliability)
Clean optical output
A simple on-off button would be helpful
USB C power preferred in the Mk2 version
A BOGOF deal would be nice!
Full details are on the company’s site.