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Q: Musical Fidelity V90 HPA

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Can anyone tell me if the titular V90 HPA from MusicalFidelity has a DAC inside it? I was shopping for a DAC/Amp today and the salesman insisted it did - but on the company's website there is a separate DAC which appears to pair with the V90 amp. The weird thing is, the headphone amp does have USB in... Does that mean it must have a DAC inside?

Many thanks in advance!
post #2 of 9

"1x USB Type 'B' Asynchronus up to 24bit / 96kHz sample rate"

It does. But for the price i think i could go with odac-o2 , schiit m~m or other competitors. (this must be around 300usd)

Edited by conheo - 10/1/13 at 9:35am
post #3 of 9

Actually, this particular amp from Musical Fidelity doesn't have a built-in DAC.  Instead, the USB input is used for "reclocking" the signal as indicated on their Web site.


 a re-clocking asynchronous 24 bit / 96 kHz USB connection. 


Here's a link to the amp on the Musical Fidelity page.  http://www.musicalfidelity.com/v90-hpa/


They actually have a DAC that matches the amp and it is the V90-DAC.  http://www.musicalfidelity.com/v90-dac/


I was actually surprised a bit to see just the amp selling at $199 from Musical Fidelity.  Normally, their gear prices up a bit higher.  They did have some other amps (in the past and recent) that were in a no-frills black, and then silver casing.  Those sold for a bit more than this V90-HPA amp, though.


It would be nice to see if there were some more impressions on this amp available, but either it's too new or not too many people own it in order to comment on it.

post #4 of 9

Sure looks like it is a DAC according to the manual. 




USB input 
 A good quality USB A to B cable is required to connect the 
unit to the computer. 
 Plug the B (square) end into the socket in the back of the 
 Plug the A (rectangle) end into a free USB socket on your 
Additional USB information 
On the host computer, a new device will be available, 
whenever the V90-HPA is plugged in. Use this device to 
listen to music stored or played from this host computer. 
CD, MP3, WAV files played on any software should now 
play through the internal USB DAC. 
 This device works with the normal USB audio drivers as 
supplied with Windows XP, Windows VISTA, Windows 7, 8 
and Apple OS-X and later. Musical Fidelity does not supply 
or support any third party or update drivers for this device. 
 The computer drivers for the USB input of the V90-HPA 
should install automatically. If they do not, please consult 
computer system admin
istrator/technical support. To check 
correct installation follow these steps: 

PC /Windows users 
Check the computer has picked up the device and is 
currently using it by clicking: (most Windows versions) 
- Start 
- Settings 
- Control panel 
- Sounds and Multimedia 
- Audio 


Check “V90-HPA 24/96” appears under PREFERRED 

post #5 of 9
Originally Posted by HiFiRobot View Post

Sure looks like it is a DAC according to the manual.


Correct ... appears to be.  But, it's just a reclocking that occurs and the specifics that might indicate data capabililties but truly don't reflect that it is a DAC, which is why they have the V90-DAC.  Musical Fidelity is not really known for making "economical" gear and seeing the $199 amp suprised me a bit.  I thought about springing for one, but may opt for the Emotiva X-100 instead and save $30 along the way.  A lot more punch, a proven amp ... the ability to blow headphones, and also the ability to have a weighty headphone amp on your desktop that is 15" deep.  What's not to love?  :D

post #6 of 9
Originally Posted by wje View Post


Correct ... appears to be.  But, it's just a reclocking that occurs and the specifics that might indicate data capabililties but truly don't reflect that it is a DAC, which is why they have the V90-DAC.


So it's an amp with a USB input that reclocks the digital signal...then what does it do after reclocking it? If it's isn't converted from digital to analogue because it has no DAC, then where does the signal go after reclocking in order to be converted from digital to analogue?

Doesn't the marketing blurb just mean that it has a DAC circuit simpler than than the dedicated V90 DAC - meaning just a single DACchip for both channels without a fancy output stage between it and the amp circuit - but unlike other auxilliary/bonus/second thought USB DACs built into most amps, it also reclocks? :tongue_smile:


BTW, just because it's an auxilliary/bonus/second thought USB DACs built into an amp, and probably using a USB receiver that doesn't reclock, it doesn't necessarily mean it would always be bad. The PCM2702 is used as simply a USB receiver by most other DACs, but it's used in my Cantate.2 as both USB receiver and 16/44.1 DAC, and so far I'm not itching to get a dedicated DAC or CDP. I've tried a bunch of CDPs with it (mostly during the course of reviewing a Burson Soloist, borrowing what local stores had, and using both amps to compare) and a lot of them had weird imaging* and even tonal (im)balance.** So far not even price has anything to do with it given I didn't like the tonal balance of the Rega CDPs on this amp and headphone either; my personal preferences right now if I get a (used) CDP would be the Cayin*** CD50T, CDT23, Rotel RCD1072, and Arcam CD72, out of all I got to try, but I'm really more inclined to get the Aune S1 music server instead for practical reasons. I just haven't heard it personally and I'm not into putting a DAC between it and the amp in case I don't like it, considering that for DACs my choice right now is the ODAC, which won't work with it as it only has USB input.




*I discussed this in further detail on this thread - see post # 26
**just because the HD600 doesn't sound like the BX5 (it does sound a lot like the KRK Rokit 6) doesn't mean that's where all the tonal imbalance was coming from, especially on relatively new earpads
***The Cayins weren't originally in my plans, but the local dealer did the repair on my Cantate's power supply when it wore out for some reason (apparently I shouldn't leave it, along with the surge protector and voltage regulator, plugged in all the time if the latter two aren't running)
and when I picked it up the technician was running it on Cayin CDPs - no one else came in so I camped out on one of the demo areas

Edited by ProtegeManiac - 12/11/13 at 7:59pm
post #7 of 9

ModalRealist, to answer your question, yes, it does have a DAC inside. ProtegeManiac & HiFiRobot, you're both right.

Wje, sorry to say you're wrong though I can see why you came to that conclusion as Musical Fidelity haven't made it clear on their website.


The V90 HPA is a headphone amplifier with a built in DAC. I know because I called them a few days ago and spoke to one of the development team members. I was surprised as this product is cheaper (£170) than their actual DAC (V90-DAC) in the same range (V90 series) and that costs more (£200). From what I gather, the DAC inside the V90 HPA is slightly scaled down from the one in the V90-DAC.


The actual DAC chipset is the PCM-1781 by Burr Brown / Texas Instruments which is a decent DAC.


Looks a good product from a respected and true audiophile hifi manufacturer though I've yet to see any reviews and I never buy without seeing a review first but I'd be surprised if it wasn't better than most of the other headphone amps/DAC combinations on the market up to that price point. 



If you get to listen to it, please post your views on here, I'd be interested in hearing what people's thoughts are.

Edited by miggyboys - 12/26/13 at 4:43pm
post #8 of 9

Just bought one of these today plumbed in to a Cyrus DAC-XP using Chord cable and initial thoughts are it's lovely and detailed. Great value little amp. Will post an update once I have experienced some burn in time.




post #9 of 9
Of course it has a DAC. What's with this "it's just reclocking" nonsense... reclocking what? And after reclocking whatever it's suppose to reclock, what does it do with it? Sends it back out trough the USB to your computer? Come on...there's not a hint of logic or common sense in some things that can be read in this thread, which is strange since this is a forum where you'd expect people to know that if an audio device has a USB input, then it has a DAC, because, without a DAC, the USB input does not work. It's like having a gas tank and no engine in a car. So yes, it's a DAC. It takes a signal trough USB and converts it from digital to analogue and then sends it out trough the headphones.
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