Musical Fidelity V-DAC II D/A processor Specifications

Sidebar 1: Specifications

Description: Solid-state D/A converter with asynchronous USB and S/PDIF data inputs. Sample rates handled: 32–192kHz (S/PDIF), 32–96kHz (USB), both at up to 24 bits word length.
Dimensions: 3.75" (95mm) wide by 1.7" (40mm) high by 6.7" (170mm) deep Serial number of review sample: Not noted (Tellig); SDY0367 (Atkinson & measurements).
Price: $379.
Manufacturer: Musical Fidelity Limited, 24-26 Fulton Road, Wembley, Middlesex, England HA9 0TF, UK. Tel: (44) (0)20-8900-2866. Fax: (44) (0)20-8900-2983. Web: www.musicalfidelity.com. US distributor: Tempo Distribution LLC, PO Box 541443, Waltham, MA 02454-1443. Tel: (617) 314-9227. Fax: (617) 336-3486. Web: tempohighfidelity.com.

COMPANY INFO
Musical Fidelity Limited
US distributor: Tempo Distribution LLC
PO Box 541443
Waltham, MA 02454-1443
(617) 314-9227
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COMMENTS
FSonicSmith's picture

JA-your review of this MF DAC could not come at a better time. DACs are a hot product category with more offerings in all price ranges than ever before. Being a headphone enthusiast, I can tell you that among young burgeoning audiophiles worldwide (particularly space-craved European and Asian enthusiasts who frequently use computers and headphones in bedroom or tiny apartment rigs), DACs are a constant topic of discussion on headphone oriented audio sites (I would name the most trafficed one but am not sure that is permitted in this forum).

I LOVE this review because here we have a no-nonsense product from a very well respected manufacturer that has "measurements beyond reproach" and yet the sound is respectable, but not state of the art. It is "Exhibit A" to that old but absolutely undeniable chestnut that "If the sound quaility and the measurements don't coincide, you must not be measuring the things that matter the most". From time to time Stereophile has published long essays on a particular topic of facination i.e. cartridge alignment theory. I look forward to the day when someone as well versed in independant engineering as you, dear JA, undertakes a similar essay and takes a very hard look at what sets apart the state of the art DACs from the merely respectable in terms of design and implementation. Perhaps some input from someone like Gordon Rankin, whom I gather is one of this world's leading software engineers and experts on digital audio would assist in the essay. Is the size and sophisticatioin of the power supply and it's isolation from the digital components a fundamental aspect? Are operating temperature control (the so-called oven) for the DAC and clocking circuitry critical? Is the recreation or simulation of "real" (as in naturally rounded" soundwaves rather than the notched one we see via scope a critical goal? Where are the current engineering short-comings that need to be overtaken before digital recording and playback can have an absolute break-through in SQ? Just my thoughts, likely to be worth 2 sense and not more.

Archimago's picture

Nice review.

I found the opening comments curious however.  Having bought hi-rez downloads from various sources, I think it's obvious which hi-res format *should* win:

FLAC format - open source, easy to decode, capable of multichannel, good compression (in my tests better than Apple's ALAC). Apple's refusal to include native support in iTunes after all these years is an example of why I am reluctant to buy Apple products.

No DRM. Since you'd likely want to convert to lower-res versions for iPod/phone/tablet without hassle.

I prefer PCM over DSD. After all these years, DSD has not gained much of a foothold - I think there is a reason despite claims for the press and manufacturers like Sony. The standard DSD64 just doesn't sound all that much better and most albums have to be mixed in PCM anyways in the studio.

I really hope the whole affair around hi-res gets standardized so more people can enjoy the benefits of higher quality digital.

 

wozwoz's picture

i) The article seems a little johnny-come-lately to me. I mostly purchase hi-rez stereo on SACD, which, when done with a proper hi-res DSD recording (without PCM messing about in the editing), yields the most natural, warm analog sound I have heard ... rather like vinyl without the pops and scratches. There do exist D/A converters that can play DSD files, but the above reviewed item does not appear to be one of them.

 

ii) In any event, there are vastly more hi-rez files available on SACD (about 8000) than available as downloads, ... and most of the download files are ripped from SACD anyway, even if they started life as 24bit/96kHz files. 

 

iii) Finally, I am confused at the articles pointed assertions NOT to buy downloads. I personally do not ... I buy discs because I like the physical touch, I like the hi-rez stereo DSD format, and I think downloads are a waste of money because they have zero re-sale value. But, if this product is designed for downloads, and the article advocates that people NOT buy them ... then we are EITHER in the bootleg piracy world (where who knows what you are actually downloading anyway) OR the source is the hi-rez physical world (i.e. SACD) ... and if so, the SACD will yield better quality than an imperfect analog rip of same. 

Jon Iverson's picture

I strongly disagree with Sam's anti-download stance here and encourage readers with digital music servers to explore the dozens of high resolution download options now available.

It is a trivial matter at this point to convert file formats as things change.

Check out AudioStream for a list:

http://www.audiostream.com/content/hd-music-download-sites

Stephen Scharf's picture

Jon, I agree completely and have been buying more and more true high-resolution content from various providers e.g. HDTracks and Linn. I find them to be markedly better than their Redbook equivalents  (try the 24/192 version from HDTracks of Ella Fitzgerald's Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! for a revelatory experience). I find Sam's perspective on this rather curmudgeonly, personally, 

Also, I'm personally a bit tired of seeing repeated Musical Fidelity DAC reviews....and no review of game changers like the Schiit Bifrost. For the same price as a the V-DAC you can get a DAC with a built-in power supply and superior industrial design that you can use a with a real power cord. And for $100 more, you can get that DAC fully upgradeable with asynchronous USB up to 24/192 KHz performance. I owned a Bifrost for the better part of 4 months (before getting my Wadia 121), and IMHO, it blows everything in the $500-$1000 price class completely into the weeds. I've listened to the Musical Fidelity V-DACs and the M1(?) DACs, and agree with JA about being too dry for my taste as well. Once fully burned in, the Schiit Bifrost is musical, sweet and mellifluous, and anything but dry. It does require a good 250-300 hours of burn in, though (approx 3 mos. of use). I think Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat at Schiit are genuine movers in this computer audio/DAC arena, though, and I think two years from now their products will be very highly regarded. Wish I was seeing their products reviewed in Stereophile...

Jon Iverson's picture

I've got a Bifrost review in the works right now.

Stephen Scharf's picture

Excellent! 

Thanks, Jon, I'll look forward to it.

 

SpinMark3313's picture

The DAC on my Marantz SA-8004 is quite good, but a bit more "hi-fi" sounding than the V-DAC II.  The II helps tame the digital nasties on some older CD's in particular -- worthwhile music but often poor recording / mastering.

Progressive rock, large scale classical = Marantz onboard DAC.  Small combo jazz / chamber music = MF V-DAC II.  My preference anyway...

AA's Pangea power supply for the V-DAC II is well worth the extra shekels by the by...

attilahun's picture

Did Sam say the V Dac II handles 192 and John say 96?

I would prefer 192 and feel 96 will be obsolete sooner as I'm a fan of hi-res audio. 

John Atkinson's picture

Quote:
Did Sam say the V Dac II handles 192 and John say 96?

The VDAC II handles sample rates up 192kHz via S/PDIF (coaxial or Toslink) but only up to 96kHz via USB.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

attilahun's picture

Thanks for the info John. 

There seems to be a consistent resolution drop in many USB inputs. 

I'm aggravated by the 48 limitation on the USB input on my bryston bda1. 

Hopefully these will slowly fade away. 

I've heard rumors that bryston is exploring a USB upgrade but no solid news.

earwaxxer's picture

I dont know - it seems to me with computer audio we have come to the point with digital music playback where we can do with it what we wish, and we dont have to settle for the set in stone hardware manipulations of the past. From my experience, SRC algorithms each have a different sound, with many methods to tweak phase, dither etc. That is the future and present of getting the most from redbook. Forget about letting the chip do the work.

jim777's picture

You have the choice of sending your 44.1k redbook to the dac and living with its upsampling (with the advantage that it might retain more bitlength than 24bits internally, or be optimized for the type of sigma-delta conversion that is done), or you can choose your SRC algo and send hi-res (already upsampled) data to the DAC. So I'm not sure that your concern is valid.

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