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Musical Fidelity V-DAC MKII

 

New member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 10
Registered: Dec-09
It has been a long time since I visited this forum, but my latest buy, a Musical Fidelity V-DAC MKII made me curious about hi-fi again, just browsing the web looking at nice looking hi-fi components, cables and speakers appears to be fun again.
All this without any intention of buying something new, because other than my new Musical Fidelity DAC I still have (and most probably) will keep the same set-up I had since I first visited this board, upgrade-itis never caught me.

But enough about that, I just wanted to share my experience with my first separate DAC, the MF V-DAC MKII.

When I got my iMac back from repairs (the hard disk had died) the headphones-out appeared to be dead as-well.
The headphones-out I had used for years to connect my Mac with my Marantz amp via a mini jack / 2x RCA cable.
I have always been pretty content with the sound this non-audiophilic connecting solution gave me, but
I didn't want to bring my Mac back for repairs again and I felt it was time to try something better instead.

Yes I still have my Musical Fidelity X-Can V8 headphones amp, but unfortunately the sound has become noisier over the time, it could be a faulty tube or this amp is just too sensitive for outside electrical noise or static, I don't know, but I never felt comfortable using this amp anyways, but I am not getting rid of it yet.

In comes the MF V-DAC MKII.

Upload

At first I was a bit disappointed about the weight of the damn thing, I have cables that have twice, three, no four times the weight of this little box, but the built quality still is nice and more important it just works: plug and play.

The sound I heard when I did a first audition via USB port (up to 96 khz/24 bit) was immediately a surprise, just really very nice, nothing spectacular or grand, it didn't shout details, big dynamics or punch, but instead it just flowed naturally and soft handed, like I was listening to an old analogue tape-deck or turntable and it still does.
But when listening for longer I noticed how transparent the sound actually is - I am not going to use audio mumbo jumbo, like definition and texture, but hey that actually may well be the right description haha.

(When I read some old posts from me on this forum I want to crawl under a rock, the complete obsessive nature of trying to compare amps and cd players and trying to find the proper audiophilic words for them to describe and so wanting to convince everybody and myself that I really know my business *sigh*, oh well)

Spotify sounds really great now just as good as a CD or FLAC.
MP3s sound great as well, as long as they are bigger than 128kb/ps.

I am waiting for a digital coaxial cable I ordered to connect my old Marantz cd player(s) to the DAC, dying to know how the 192 khz/24 bit up-sampling will sound, but for now the sound I get with my iMac and this DAC is vastly superior to the sound of my two CD players.
A deeply satisfied lad.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 11
Registered: Dec-09
My digital cable has arrived and since I have connected the V-DAC with the TAPE input on my amp, which is the only input on my amp that is selected by a press button instead of the huge input selector knob, I am able to make direct 'live' comparison between the CD player's DAC and the V-DAC, simply by pressing the tape button ON or OFF.
Both my Marantz CD5000 and the V-DAC are connected by a Wireworld Oasis 5 interconnect (nice looking blue cables with gold plug, affordable, although I doubt it improves the sound over a 'freebie cable'...no, I am not a 'cable guy'.

Yes, I am an audio sceptic but are all DACs the same?
Nope.
Of course the source material, the CD you are playing, remains the same, so it is clear you will hear a lot more similarities between DACs than differences, but yes I can hear clear differences between the V-DAC and the DAC of my Marantz CD player.
The first thing that strikes me is the bass performance of the V-DAC which is softer and less tight, which I like. The CD player's bass hits harder and sounds a bit dry. The bass quantity is the same though.

The sound I get with the V-DAC is overall softer, not 'rounder' per se, it 'blooms' in comparison with the dryer sound of both my CD players, which is something I have never experienced with a digital source/DAC.
I have listened to quite a lot of CD players (before I stopped with this audio 'hobby' and just went happily on with the system I got) and apart from noticing difference in soundstage, forward or laid-back and detail and PRaT, I never found a particular CD player more desirable because of the analogue feel and fluidity.
I had stopped looking for anything better and for years I didn't have any other references than my system, which I just liked.
Until now, my ears have opened again.

Now something about the upsampling which takes place.
The V-DAC up-samples music, with digital coaxial connection to 192 kHz/24 bit and USB to 96 kHz/24 bit.
I have read about the downsides, the most heard complaint is that up-sampling red book CD files to 96 or 192 kHz will make the music more digital and hifi-ish (airy, more detail, but less cohesive, clinical) and that it is preferable to use a NOS DAC.
I know only what I hear, and the V-DAC II is not more detailed in comparison with the sound of my CD player, nor is the sound brighter, on the contrary, the sound is somewhat darker and softer and (cliche alert) more analogue.

On my iMac I can choose the sample rate, so if I want to I can set it permanently at 44 kHz/24 bit, which is closer to the sample rate of a red book CD 44 kHz/16 bit. (It still will up-sample to 24 bit)
My ears tell me (or fool me?) that the highest sample rate via USB 96 kHz/24 bit sounds better than 44 KhZ/24 bit
I tried 88 kHz/24 bit, this apparently is better in a mathematical sense, because 88 is two times 44 (this really is getting ridiculous haha), but I didn't hear any difference in comparison with 96 kHz.
I just leave it at the default highest rate, the V-DAC automatically will up-sample everything you play with the CD player to 192 Khz/24 bit, you cannot alter this, and the sound is really great, not clinical nor bright, so why would I want to change the default highest rate on my computer?

Another thing.
The power supply supposedly, according to lot of V-DAC users sucks.
A better power supply will make the sound cleaner, with better definition and with a tighter bass.
I like the bass and the overall sound just as it is, so I think I will pass on that 'upgrade'.

I may upgrade my USB cable, yes aesthetics only , I don't think it will improve the sound.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 12
Registered: Dec-09
What is interesting is that listening music with the V-DAC over headphones, plugged in my Marantz amp, the sound is better than the sound I got/get with my Musical Fidelity X-Can V8 tubed headphones amp.
So I no longer have any use for this amp.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 13
Registered: Dec-09
Update.

The latest listening session revealed something interesting.
I no longer was able to hear any differences between the V-DAC and my CD player.

Neko Case - Star Witness (from the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood).
The sound of this album is really terrible.
Too loud, Neko's voice is recorded too close and glassy.
Yesterdays listening session had taught me the V-DAC smooths things out in comparison with my Marnatz CD5000 CD player, so I was in for a big surprise: zero differences, the song sounded just a bad with the V-DAC.

Tragically Hip - She didn't know (from the album Up to here)
I reckoned the V-DAC would make the bass softer and less hard/tight and the sound overall less hard.
Switching between V-DAC and Marantz CD5000 made not any difference. The sound was exactly the same.
Etc. etc.

Oh well, I bought the V-DAC for use in a computer set up, not to compete with my cd players, although I cannot deny I am a bit disappointed :-)
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 14
Registered: Dec-09
Last update.

Call me a fool, but this afternoon and evening the differences I heard the first time are back in favour of the V-DAC.
That is to say, definitely not with every single track, some tracks (even ones on the same album) just remain sonically identical, no matter which DAC (Marantz CD5000's or V-DAC) is used, I just can't hear or perceive any differences.

It proves that Marantz CD5000's DAC, the TDA-1549 remains an excellent DAC.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 16203
Registered: Feb-05
Interesting thread, Nout. Thaank you for posting it.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 15
Registered: Dec-09
Thanks Art.
I am getting to appreciate the V-DAC more and more, but not without a natural dose of scepticism.

I feel my own ears can fool me a lot, both positively as negatively, the overall physical condition and mood plays a big part in this, in how I perceive sound and this means it can colour the music/sound enormous.

This last week I have tried out different music players on my iMac as-well and the funny thing is that listening blind I mostly cannot hear differences, but when seeing which player plays has a huge influence.
Fidelia for instance sounds so much better when the flashy looking player is seen.
But other than that I have found out that the players that actually sounded different than iTunes, with a (subtle) fuller sound had some sound-processing going on (or maybe iTunes in't neutral sounding that could be a possibility as well).
These differences are easily mimicked by equalising iTunes, a slight lowering 4kHz fequency and tilting the lowest frequency a bit, for instance.

The V-DAC definitely is an upgrade, a very subtle one in some cases, but still.
This cannot to be said about these music players
 

Bronze Member
Username: Nout

Netherlands

Post Number: 16
Registered: Dec-09
Ok, a final observation about USB audio cables.
I am definitely not a cable guy, but I have a weakness for aesthetics (audio cables are men's jewellery aren't they?) and to me hearing is believing.

I have ordered two reasonably priced USB cables, the Wireworld Ultraviolet (55 euro/0,5 metre) and the Nuforce Impulse (19 euro/0,5 metre)
Both look nice, the Wireworld somewhat better built in a nice purple/violet color, the Nuforce more understated in black 'cloth material', with a nice looking "nu' mark in red on the plugs.

I compared both cables to a generic grey printer cable, which actually is very well built, a thick cable, but not USB 2 and from what I have gathered not shielded? (the plastic coating isn't like a shield?, I never will understand audio technics)

If there were differences they are definitely subtle in the extreme.
Listening for a couple of days and comparing I find the Nuforce and the printer cable the most pleasant and musical.

Again, differences were barely noticeable!

The Wireworld UV cable is arguably in a audiophile sense the best cable, more detailed, with bigger and tighter bass and more airy, but to me less cohesive as the other cables.

The printer cable does distort the lower frequencies a bit, which makes the bass somewhat softer (some will say muddy) and this affects the low mids. I like this, to me it makes the sound more analogue, even if this should be considered to be artificial and unnatural.

The Nuforce Impulse cable tightens the bass a tiny bit, not so much as the Wireworld, and in comparison with the printer cable the Nuforce is somewhat smoother in the highs.

Once again, differences were barely noticeable, I cannot emphasise this enough. So all sound differences I have described are HUGE exaggerations.
"Somewhat" has to be read as "a very, very very tiny bit".

All in all I like the generic printer cable (already 15 years old) the best.
But the other cables just look better.
So what to do?
The differences were barely noticeable, so why not choose the best looking cable, the Wireworld Ultraviolet?
 

New member
Username: Leon58thom

London, London United Kingdom

Post Number: 1
Registered: Nov-17
kitchen renovations
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