Musical Fidelity V-DAC II Digital-to-Analog Converter (Playback 53)

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Digital-to-analog converters,
Headphone amps and amp/DACs
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Musical Fidelity V-CAN II

Does the V-DAC II have any sonic limitations? Well, yes, in that it only supports up to 96/24 bit-rates via its USB input. Obviously, if you listen to music from CDs and MP3s this 96/24 ceiling won’t be a problem, but if you plan to use 192/24 music files you’ll need to use the V-DAC II’s S/PDIF inputs for that purpose.

SONIC CHARACTER

In the good old days reviewing DACs was easy because the sound quality differences between entry level DACs and the crème de la crème was wider and deeper than the Marianas Trench. Today that difference has shrunk down to gap that even a gymnastic mouse would be hard pressed to fit through. Top echelon DACs have gotten better, but entry level DACs have improved faster.

Much of my reviewing time was spent listening to the V-DAC II connected to one of the analog inputs of an April Music Eximus DP-1 DAC/pre. I also had an Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 4 USB conversion box connected to one of the Eximus’ S/PDIF digital inputs. With this set-up I was able to do direct A/B comparisons between the V-DAC II and the Empirical/Eximus combo. Using Pure Music 1.85 I could go from one to the other via PM’s audio control configuration box—it only takes about 15 seconds to do the switch.

After many hours of listening to a wide variety of sources I can confidently write that the Musical Fidelity is a VERY good DAC. Is it as good as the almost $5000 Empirical/Eximus combination? Nope, but it is much closer than the monetary difference between the two rigs. Where did the VDAC fall down? Compared to the double E rig the V-DAC II lacks some image specificity and dimensionality. Also the mid and low bass through the V-DAC II is not quite as fast, firm, or dynamically nimble as the E/E. Finally the E/E rig has a bit better low-level definition and inner detail. This was most noticeable on my own 96/24 recordings (mix-downs from DSD) that I’m very familiar with—on many commercial pop recordings the differences between the two set-ups were much harder to discern. 

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