Positive Feedback Logo

Acoustic Research M200 High Res Audio Player

06-15-2018 | By Carol Clark | Issue 98

Last year at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest we had a chance to listen to the AR-M200 player. It is a great sounding player and compact in size, and at a list price of USD $399 it's a great deal. In this tag-team article, we both give our thoughts.


At last year's RMAF Dave and I used the song "Farewell," from The Road by UNKLE to test a lot of personal audio products. It's a very moving song, and we frequently find our eyes welling up with tears as we listen. Because of that, I chose that song to test this player. It was every bit as moving as I've ever heard it, with sound that filled my head. Though the bass wasn't quite as deep as it is on my Astell & Kern AK70, that didn't detract from the overall sound.

I wasn't in charge of loading music on to the player, but according to the QuickStart Guide that Acoustic Research provides on their website, it looks like all you do is drag and drop. That makes it very easy to get up and running right away. I scrolled through the music Dave loaded, and found an old favorite, Disintegration by The Cure. For nostalgia's sake, I listened to the title track. It has been a very long time since I listened to this song, and I'm not sure when I last listened to it on headphones. A few minutes in I detected a murmuring in the background I'd never heard before. Just to make sure I wasn't hearing things, I played the same track on my AK70. There it was! Any time I hear something new in music I haven't listened to in a while I take that as a good sign.

The K&D Sessions by Kruder & Dorfmeister was also loaded on the M200, so I gave "Bug Powder Dust" a listen. Very engaging, just as it's always been. Finally, I listened to "Burn" from the new Soft Moon release Criminal. I haven't spent a lot of time listening to this release yet, but to repeat myself, this was also engaging.

Acoustic Research M200 High Res Audio Player

Slim and ergonomic, the M200 would be great to slip in your pocket and take on the road. The angled sides make it easy to hold. From the Acoustic Research website:

Following the acclaimed AR-M2 and AR-M20 High Res Audio players, the AR-M200 separates itself from the crowd with one of the finest DAC (AKM4490), a unique high-current high-output Class A based Amplifier and phenomenal signal to noise ratio and dynamic range. Capable of receiving and streaming Bluetooth Audio with APTX HD, the AR-M200 supports a wide range of HD music formats and is capable of driving high-end full-size headphones through its 3.5mm and 4.4mm Pentaconn headphones output.

I was able to figure out the controls without looking at the QuickStart guide or asking Dave. I managed to find the songs I wanted to hear, but using the buttons felt cumbersome. It doesn't have a touch screen, so everything must be done by pushing buttons. I was able to determine which buttons did what, it just wasn't as smooth as tapping the screen. I was also not able to figure out how to make a playlist, but that was hardly a deal breaker.

Overall, I found the AR-M200 to be relatively easy to use, even without a touch screen, and it sounded quite nice. Recommended.


Well yeah. What she said. I had the M200 prior to Carol and in listening to various tracks and was simply blown away by the overall musicality of the player. Clean and articulate, wonderful bass and treble… the M200 moves the music along with pace and engagement. For sure, when compared to pricier units—say those from Astell & Kern like our older AK70 (the MKII is now $699) and AK120 (the MKII is now $1700)—well yeah, it lags in comparison. But then the AK players are double, if not triple the price of the M200, so all that cash had better get you something—and it does in more refinement and resolution. More overall goosebumps. Then again, anyone in the market for a player under $400 is not out looking at players in the $700-$1700 range, so it is a moot point.

On its own, that is without knowing or having access to a more expensive and hence, potentially better player, the M200 is stellar sonically and musically. No need to be going up the ladder if one does not need to (meaning spending more cash that you might not have and after hearing better players, questioning your purchase). I was quite happy listening to my music as played back from the M200. One also has to remember that the M200 is AR's most affordable player, taking what they have learned from their pricier units, the M20 ($699.99) and M2 ($999.95) and offering the best they can at under $400. More money gets you more... more features, more music... more. The M200 needs to be considered as a "basic" player minus a lot of the bells and whistles as seen on the pricier units... even so, the sound it possess is quite impressive. I actually like the minimal look and feel... quite elegant actually.

Acoustic Research M200 High Res Audio Player

A few quibbles… the interface is somewhat cumbersome, but then at the price it is what it is… more money will get you a better interface. Even so, once you play around a bit on the M200, it all becomes rather intuitive and I was accessing my music quite quickly. Truth is, once you have the album or track you want to play, the player is pretty much out of the picture. Sit, walk, do whatever ...and enjoy. There is an update in the works that will address playlists and so on, so no worries there.

The M200 is a light player in terms of weight, but clearly a heavy weight player in terms of how it presents the music. Compared to my AK120, the M200 is like a feather in my hand… which is really nice, especially carrying it around in a pocket. Battery life is quite good and overall feel is spot on. The player does have both a headphone out (1/8") and a line out... nice for trips in the car. Highly recommended for those on a budget... heck, highly recommended for those who are not on a budget. The M200 is simply a bargain!

Acoustic Research