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Musical Fidelity V90-HPA - review

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by jason1969, Jan 9, 2014.
  1. jason1969
    Well, no-one has reviewed the V90-HPA as far as I can tell, so... I bought one.
    Thinkpad T61 + P100ii.
    - Don't be silly!
    - ok, bass punch - but muddy, compressed, clipped high end range, can be involving, but crowds at anything demanding.
    MF V90-HPA + P100ii. That is, a USB-DAC to headphone-amp in one box.
    - Initial ... fluid, precise, clarity, no crowding, great separation.
    - Bass ... loses a bit too much, punch weakened (SURPRISING based on the DAC-only unit reports)
    - Midrange ... very low midrange a bit too thin, you actually notice involvement in that area is missing.
    - Female vocals - that bit too thin & bright in that it begins to get tiring over time
    Classic Musical Fidelity signature - WITHOUT THE PRICE - musically smooth, faithful incision.
    HOWEVER for ME that tiny bit too bright, gets tiring, so looking elsewhere. That is a common "10% of people who listened to MF over time vs in the listening room". So don't take it too strongly.
    Headphones really THUMP with power on/off.
    Build Quality
    Someone actually cared, I bet it might be a tiny bit better with a worked over PSU vs wall wart.
    So what now...
    Market bottom - Topping VX1 has more features, likely inferior, unreviewed.
    Market top - perhaps Meridian Explorer
    trellus and khojberg like this.
  2. Wojtek
    Sorry I'm a bit a confused - do you mean you bought the v90-hpa and also the m1 hpa? If so how do they compare? Just looking at these, helpful to know your thoughts.
  3. jason1969
    No, just the v90-hpa.
    I was comparing it to the pretty poor T61 internal SoundMax HD, whose sound is ironically better than the later X200T.
    The v90-hpa has the Musical Fidelity signature.
    - Crystal Clear.
    - Fantastic Resolution.
    - Attack & Decay of instruments is crisp... but this and a degree brightness can become tiring to SOME listeners.
    The Senn p100ii were a poor match really, I now have HD558s which whilst imperfect are a better balance overall - but I suspect the review comments would still stand pretty unchanged.
    What is surprising is the v90-hpa gave the classic MF signature I remember from their grey boxes of the late-80s/early-90s without the price. Comes down to preference and what phones you partner the unit with, so signature aside "test n see".
    trellus likes this.
  4. Mister R
    I bought this 2 weeks ago...my first headphone amp, using a Cyrus Dac-XP and a pair of Sennheiser Momentums...will need bedding in but initial impressions are it's a super amp for the money
  5. sebajun
  6. jason1969
    There is the old adage that what seems overly bright after a few months doesn't, ears burn-in slower than electronics :))
    Out of about 7 reviews (mostly buyer) that I have seen, only 1 has suggested slightly bright - plus my own which I think was Emeli Sande at one point on one track. That could EASILY be a matter of new to ears, sinus and headphones which lost the left a few days later. I did not have chance to try the V90-HPA with my current HD558 which is unfortunate.
    There are rumous that the MF V90-DAC is somewhat better than the V90-HPA - and V90-DAC is well reviewed.
    Going to V90-DAC prompts the question which headphone amp to match it with?
    I wish MF had just stuck a headphone socket on the Amp for a separate DAC+AMP twin rather than V90-HPA. However it is a stark move for MF to produce a dedicated V90-cutdown-DAC-HPA at what is a very low price point in comparison. Perhaps someone finally figuring out that volume makes more than niche... a long history of dead UK businesses that snobbishly ignored that.
    To add, I wonder if a better PSU would help...
    Many thanks for the follow up review.
  7. sebajun
  8. jason1969
    I am without the HPA-V90 now.
    Very frustrated I did not try the V90-HPA with the HD598.

    Still looking for a DAC+HeadAmp.
    Tried many things, nothing really hitting the nail.
    One thing that sticks in my mind about the HPA-V90 was the separation, clarity (every breath) & musicality.
    Next things to try...
    A - Arcam rPAC - will audition shortly, open mind
    B - MF V90-HPA - could buy back
    C - MF V90-DAC - I lack the time to find a headphone amp, the search instead of ending then begins!

    Re HD598 & ATH-M50.
    Tried both, went with the HD598 re my heavy bias for female vocals.
    However they are a good solution for covering a LOT of music out there.
    The V90-HPA PSU is commodity meet EU-SMPS legislation.
    I am certain those who changed the PSU found it improved the bass quite noticeably.
  9. sebajun
  10. jason1969
    I have been fortunate in either borrowing, choosing suppliers with sale discounts & selling at the discounted sale price, or choosing unusual suppliers with "if not happy for any reason". So the cost has been minimal, thus far.
    I would like to go with the Arcam or V90-HPA really ... cost & time would soon rack up finding a headphone amp for the V90-DAC. My old Thinkpad T will eventually be broken up for parts, with my various Thinkpad X tablets taking over - and that has an utterly diabolical sound system (1980s AM radio!). Frustrating MF have gone all consumerist with a combined HPA+DAC... tut-tut ... what is the world coming too :)))
    Edit: Spheres.
    Arcam +ve ... good, very musical, clearer
    Arcam -ve ... not the clarity or separation of the MF, indeed in a lower class + does not like either laptop (cut out crunch re-plug disease which means insufficient power) + clicks n pops + volume a bit lacking on the HD598
    Oh the Arcam can singgggg-g-g-g-g-g-g ... just not quite as good as the MF quite definately... something is a bit recessed, only a bit but enough to detract. There is gravy spilt on the PCB somewhere re attack/decay unlike the MF very clearly on piano!
    Hmmm... time to investigate amps for V90-DAC methinks.
  11. sebajun
  12. jason1969
    Now trying the Arcam rPAC with a very old XP desktop showed its better colours...
    It does have a bit of gravy (veil), but it is very very nice gravy.
    VERY much worth an audition at the least, it is not fatiguing, just not as super-precise as the MF.
    So bear in mind a powered hub may help matters / be necessary.
    Like 2 pairs of headphones, it may be necessary to have two DACs :))
  13. Raga Patron
    @jason1969, @sebajun   I own the V90-HPA and I agree with your reviews. The only thing I do not like about this amp is that it is somewhat lacking in bass. You guys mentioned that changing the PSU can/may improve that. Since I am a newbie, may I ask if you are talking about the power-adapter that gets plugged into electrical-outlet!
    Which brand/model would you be replacing it with? Where can I get it in the US?
    Thanks in advance.
  14. andyj34
    Apologies for my ignorance as I'm a completely newbie to the world of headphones and DAC, but as the V90-HPA accepts USB input does this infer that V90-HPA is a DAC as well as a headphone amplifier?
    Or would I better offer buying a separate DAC to feed a headphone amplifier.
    Presently I listen to music using my Apple Computer using my Philips Uptown headphones.
  15. sebajun

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