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My Musical Fidelity V-DAC II Mini Review

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

There are a few threads and posts floating around here discussing the V-DAC II, but I couldn't find a dedicated review thread.  So, I'm starting one.

 

I recently took delivery of the V-DAC II and put it through the paces.  I have a good feeling for its sound and wanted to share them here.

 

First, a word about how I review gear.  I don't spend weeks going back and forth doing A/B comparisons.  Rather, I use a certain set of gear for quite some time and really get to know how it works.  I know how my favorite songs sound inside and out.  Then, I put a new component into the chain and listen to my favorite songs.  I'll immediately form an opinion of the changes.  I'll listen for a while to the new configuration and further develop that opinion.  Finally, I do some brief A/B comparisons with my previous setup to really lock in my impressions.  You could say it's a mixture of memory and A/B at work.

 

My brief summary of the V-DAC II:

-Smooth and musical

-A hint of warmth while preserving good detail retrieval

-Realistic soundstage

-Realistic bass response

-Not much grain in the highs

-Black background

-Has a very analog flavor to it, much like vinyl

 

Now, for some more in-depth discussions.  I used these components to test:

-Sennheiser HD600

-Trafomatic Experience Head One Amplifier

-Onkyo C-S5VL cd player

-iTunes 10.6, Windows 7 64 bit, Apple lossless files, usb output at 24/96

 

Compared to the analog out of the Onkyo, the V-DAC is/has:

-Slightly wider soundstage

-Blacker background

-Slightly more refined bass, being tighter and deeper

-Slightly better instrument separation and imaging

-Noticeably less forgiveness for poorly mastered recordings

 

Compared to the usb/Apple lossless, the opitical out of the Onkyo is/has:

-Slightly wider soundstage

-Slightly better imaging

-Slightly less smearing

-Slightly blacker background

-About the same bass response

 

Ranking of performance:

1) Onkyo--optical--V-DAC II

2) Usb--V-DAC II

3) Onkyo analog out

 

Summary:

The V-DAC II is a nice piece of equipment.  It is musical, smooth, and has good imaging and very black background.  It performed the best when feeding it an optical signal from my cd transport, but usb wasn't too far behind.  The upgrades it brings to my system are subtle, but noticeable.  The biggest difference was the optical signal from the Onkyo vs. the analog signal from the Onkyo.  I always thought the Onkyo had a very good onboard dac and produced very musical sounds, but the V-DAC II makes slight, but detectable upgrades to my ears.  The first thing I noticed was how much more black the background was compared to the Onkyo.  Secondarlily, I noticed that the Onkyo's analog out was considerably more forgiving of poor recordings than the V-DAC II.  This is clearly linked to detail retrieval and imaging.  Next, I noticed the V-DAC's soundstage was ever so slightly wider.  Finally, I wrote a review of the Onkyo some time ago and I concluded that the Onkyo was very analog sounding.  The V-DAC is also very analog sounding.  In fact, I'd say it is just a hint smoother and more musical because it preserves details while still being smooth.  I think for the price, it is a very good dac and will provide slight upgrades to certain peoples' systems.  I'm happy with it, especially considering its modest price. 

 

Perhaps the biggest thing I can say about it is I finally have no problem using iTunes.  I might get addicted to the genius playlists. Of course, those poor recordings might get skipped over though!

post #2 of 4
Thread Starter 

I thought I'd post a little update to this after giving it a good run in over the last month and a half.

 

Coaxial is the best, followed by optical, and followed by USB.  I used the same source to send coaxial and optical signals to the Dac, so the only difference was how the signal was received and re-clocked.  It appears, to my ears, that coaxial either left the source with more accurate clocking, the DAC is better at re-clocking with coaxial, or a combination of both.
 

post #3 of 4

hodgjy 

 

I am not sure I believe in such things, but I bought the $99 Pangea separate power supply and found that it smoothed everything out --- no harshness.  The background also seemed even blacker than you describe.  I bought it from Audioadvisor thinking I would return it if I caught a whiff of snake-oil but threw away the box after 1 day of listening.

post #4 of 4
Thread Starter 

I read that some people have tried different power sources on the V-DAC and liked them, but I am skeptical from an electrical standpoint.  Absolutely, the wallwart is cheap and probably an inferior power source than a better transformer.  However, the V-DAC does have an internal DC-DC regulator, so on paper, supposedly, the advantages of a sophisticated outboard transformer are mitigated. 
 

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