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Musical Fidelity V-DAC II Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 December 2011
Article Index
Musical Fidelity V-DAC II Review
Set up and Listening
Set Up and Listening:

The V-DAC II was a snap to install. Simply plug in your USB, Coax, or Toslink cable, connect the wal wart power supply and off you go. I first used my Squeezebox Touch, connected via DH Labs Toslink cable, and then my Marantz 5003 CD player connected via DH Labs coaxial cable.  Functionally, there is a toggle switch between SPDIF and USB inputs.  The V-DAC's layout is a bit unusual in that the digital inputs and analog outputs are on opposite sides of the brick shaped chassis. I ended up laying it on its narrow side, with the digital inputs facing me, so I could see the LED indicators for power and incoming signal.  I later decided to lay it on its broad side as well. I used a pair of Kimber HB Hero interconnects, which fed a Marantz PM6004 integrated amplifier (review forthcoming).

Switching between the generally good sounding analog outputs of the Squeezebox Touch to the V-DAC II was like going from a distant AM radio signal to full on High Definition Digital FM. There was loads of space around instruments, a delicate, detailed top end, and a beautifully transparent midrange.  It was obvious to me there was no going back to the Touch’s analog outputs. I did multiple comparisons using various recordings, and the results were the same.

Music Fidelity V-DAC II & Squeezebox Touch

Using the Marantz CD5003 yielded similar results. Switching back and forth between the player's analog outputs and the V-DAC II, I was able to pick out the V-DAC II’s superior transparency every time. On discs ranging from Olabelle’s Neon Blue Bird to Anoushaka Shankar’s Traveller, there was an improved delicacy on acoustic instruments and voices, and deep bass was taught and articulate.  On heavier, rocking albums like The Who’s Quadrophenia (2011 Super Deluxe Version), and Queen’s The Game (2011 remaster), the drums had visceral impact, and electric guitars had real crunch and presence. Roger Daltry’s and Freddie Mercury’s vocals were amazingly detailed and present.

Routing various digital sources through the V-DAC II seemed to remove a layer of haze, and it was like looking through a newly cleaned window. This effect was consistent no matter the source material or component. A pretty neat trick for a $350 DAC, but I should not be surprised considering what Musical Fidelity has done in the past.

Using the USB input was also a snap. I ran a Belkin Gold USB cable from my Dell Netbook, using the Windows XP dbPoweramp for playback of FLAC files.  I simply selected the V-DAC II as the output device and decided what music to play.  I had the 96 Khz / 24 bit download of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours, and a sampling of high resolution files from MA Recordings. I was not prepared for how good the USB input sounded.  There was a solidity, dimension, and authority to the sound that was easy to hear. It is hard to believe this level of sonic performance is possible at this price point.


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