Inside Ultrafide Audio's factory

Spotlight on Ultrafide Audio

While new to domestic hifi, Ultrafide Audio has decades in the pro audio game it can call upon, which has led to the successful launch of its first amplifier range the Ultra Sigma Ultra Sigma U4PRE/U500DC pre/power amps that impressed us in our recent review.

We sit down with Ultrafide Audio and MC2 Product Specialist Mark Bailey to hear more about the company’s history and thinking that led to its hifi debut.

Mark Bailey

MC2 and Ultrafide Audio’s Mark Bailey

What led you to launch Ultrafide Audio?

Mark replies: “It was a combination of two things: consistent requests from customers and a love for all things ‘High-Fidelity’. We’re a team full of audio obsessives and care deeply about the highest quality sound.

“Although a pro audio brand, our parent company MC2 Audio has had a foot in the high end market since its beginnings in the 1990s with our legendary MC1250 amplifier. It was specifically designed as a touring/install amp, but due to its sonic qualities it found its way into many famous studios worldwide and some listening facilities, too. Alongside this, it was taken as an OEM product for Dynaudio, Quested, Tannoy and more for example. 

“When these were discontinued in 2011 they were superseded by our S-Series which raised the bar even more. For studio they were perfect, but for domestic/hifi applications there were two elements that our customers constantly fed back to us: Fan noise and the aesthetic for domestic use – they weren’t “sexy” enough!

“After lots of tinkering with the current design we decided that if we were going to produce a product natively for the domestic market it should be a ground up design and 100% fresh. R&D were also exploring amplifier efficiency and new ways of achieving the sonic results that we have always desired as a company – Alex Cooper got his head down and worked on a new breed of Class D design, as we felt that this would become even more prominent for the future of audiophile amplification, particularly as everyone is becoming more and more conscious of the environment and green issues. 

“The project was coined “Sigma” and is a design platform that gave us our own in-house designed module that could be scaled in two ways – higher power for pro and better sonics for audiophiles. In conjunction with this work, we also did extensive testing on the vast majority of modules that were readily available, and whilst they all have their strengths and there are some truly fantastic designs, we couldn’t get the sonic result we desired, and we also felt we could do it ourselves and bring in both manufacturing savings and also future scalability.

“We believe this is one of the most important developments we have made as a company in recent times, and to be given feedback along the lines of “Is this really a Class D?” has made it all worthwhile.

“We knew we were onto something really special – and it was then that Ultrafide Audio was born as a sub-brand of MC2 Audio, bringing pro audio home. We’re laser focused on the domestic audiophile market and strongly believe we’re bringing something exciting to the table.”

MC2 and Ultrafide Audio Founder Terry Clarke

MC2 and Ultrafide Audio Founder Terry Clarke

Your background is in pro audio, how has your experience in this area of the music business helped inform your approach to Ultrafide and its hifi products?

“We have always been a little different to the majority of our competitors in pro, in that we always put the audio first, whilst many put the feature set first. We like a balance of both but believe that when you experience good audio there is no turning back, hence our core focus since the ’90s. 

“Our founder Terry Clarke and head of R&D Alex Cooper are both lifetime musicians, so having a strong musical and practical background has always been an advantage and has helped us shape who we are today. This has nicely translated into hifi and has reminded us why we are doing this. It’s all about the music!”

What are the differences in sound that you aim for between your pro and domestic amps?

“In terms of our objective, not a great deal – we have always tried to get the best sound we can. However, there are significant differences in the type of components we use in pro vs domestic hifi which does bring some audible differences. 

“Ultrafide has always had a no compromise mindset, whereas pro has to hit price points to be successful in that market. We have made significant progress with getting our THD and SNR levels significantly improved for the Ultrafide products and have also focused our listening tests on many aspects not really prominent in pro, like micro dynamics and intricate subtleties in imaging at lower listening levels for example. Elimination of Crosstalk is another important difference between hifi and pro, so the approach in layout has to be changed and we’ve used dual mono architecture on the Ultrafide U500DC to achieve that goal.”


Alex Cooper, Head of R&D at Ultrafide Audio

Alex Cooper, Head of R&D at Ultrafide Audio

Your MC1250 was known as a bit of a legend during its lifetime in pro audio circles – are there equivalent hifi amps that have inspired you? If so, which and why?

“The MC1250 has always been a benchmark for us as so many of our studio/hi-end customers and friends sang its praises and tested it against some of the most respected brands in the field, for example Bryston, Krell, Benchmark, Chord. So, we have always done listening tests and AB comparisons with the MC1250 or S-Series to make sure what we have been doing is on a par.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for the classic Lecson AC1/AP1 pre/power from many years ago. My father owned a pair from new that he still has and still work, but they’re in need of a service! This was my first exposure to hifi along with some classic Heybrook HB2s.”

Ultrafide Audio team at the 2024 Bristol Hi-Fi Show

Ultrafide Audio team at the 2024 Bristol Hi-Fi Show

What are the fundamental goals you aim for when designing pro and hifi gear – and are they different for the two areas?

“Pro gear obviously needs to be able to survive on the road, being used on all kinds of mains supplies, often poor generators with no mains conditioning – so the PSUs have to be able to cope with the worst case scenario. We’ve seen 140V in some countries with 120V nominal, for example! Pro chassis need to cope with being put in and out of racks and loaded on and off touring vehicles regularly. It’s essential they’re robust and can handle an active lifestyle!

“Hifii needs to look a million dollars so the chassis/casework and construction needs a lot more careful thought, to ensure that there are no mechanical issues (vibrations for example) that could affect the sound. We went through countless samples of metalwork when designing our Ultra Sigma Combo (the U500DC and U4PRE) and have tried numerous paint finishes, to get the right end result and ensure the best possible finish.

“On the pro side, while everything is manufactured to a very high-standard and we pride ourselves on quality control, ultimately minute imperfections on the chassis of a 14KW bass amplifier would not be much of a concern given that it is then “thrown” into a rack when unboxed and carted out to a muddy field or harsh beach environment to work for 16 hours solid at full tilt!

“Whereas on the Ultrafide Audio side, the product’s application is very different – aesthetics are everything. People take huge pride in their home systems, me included! You are essentially selling a piece of furniture as much as an audio device, therefore, we are incredibly meticulous when working with our supply chain. Attention to detail regarding look and feel is paramount. We only work with the best and we very much work in partnership with them to ensure they’re delivering to our expected standard that ultimately means the best possible products for our hifi customers.”

Ultrafide Audio's Mark Bailey DJ'ing

Ultrafide Audio’s Mark Bailey hard at it on the wheels of steel

What’s next for Ultrafide Audio?

“As we’re only a year in, we’re thrilled with the initial launch for Ultrafide. We’ve exported our Ultra Sigma Combo to 16 countries in our first year and are on our third batch of production! We’ve been blown away to be honest, particularly with the interest shown at both the UK Audio Show and Bristol Hi-Fi Show where we exhibited publicly for the first time.

“In terms of what’s next, as always we are working on multiple projects at the same time. Our market research will dictate what comes to fruition and when. We can’t really say too much other than we are going very big and classic with one product, very small and hi-end with another, and very modern with something else. 

“To stay up-to-date with what we’re up to, keep an eye on our website, and our Facebook and Instagram profiles for more info and teasers over the coming months.

“You can also catch us at the excellent UK Audio Show in Staverton in October where we might just have some new toys to show you all..!”


Meze goes affordable


Guest playlist by Antonio Meze