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Musical Fidelity V90 DAC Review Print E-mail
Monday, 03 February 2014
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Musical Fidelity V90 DAC Review
Set Up and Listening

Set Up & Listening

The V90 DAC took residence in the exact same spot my V-DAC II normally lives, decoding FLAC streams from a Squeezebox Touch via both optical and coaxial connections for comparison. My Squeezebox Touch has the Triode Applet installed, which defeats the analog outputs, and allows for 192 Khz resolution. Cables were Kimber, for optical, and DH Labs, for coaxial.

I started off with a slew of Gene Clark and Jesse Winchester remasters, both artists being recorded naturally. These singer songwriters mined similar territories, but with distinctly unique approaches. Gene Clark’s cosmopolitan country rock shined bright on such as albums as Roadmaster, and the experimental No Other. The V90 rendered these recordings magnificently, and much better than it had any right to at this price point. Winchester’s 1970 self title debut, and his recent Love Filling Station, show off his stunning songwriting and pure as honey vocals. The V90 bordered on miraculous here, without a hint of any digital edge or glare.

A little context is required. The V90 is was inserted into an extremely revealing system, consisting of the amazingly transparent Genesis G7c monitors driven, with Transparent cables, by the very neutral McIntosh MA6000 integrated amplifier. There was simply no place to hide for the V90 if had any obvious shortcomings. I later cycled in additional amplifiers and gear, like the Rogue Sphinx, Clones Audio M25i, and my Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers.

Musical Fidelity V90-DAC rear

An eclectic mix of music filled out the rest of my V90 listening sessions. Tuareg masters Tinariwen’s Aman Iman: Water is Life, is very well recorded, with a mix of acoustic and electric instruments, and the band’s modal chants and percussion interlocking gracefully. The V90 did a marvelous job painting a seamless, coherent picture of this album. Conversely, the unit did not hide the rather hazy sounding production on Bruce Springsteen’s superb new offering, High Hopes. The album is an interesting mix of covers -- and older, unreleased songs -- and it works. However, the Pro Tools glaze that permeates the recording was not glossed over by the V90.

The astonishing new album by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Give The People What They Want, on the other hand, is an analog-sounding recording, mimicking classic, early soul records. Jones’s vocals have never been stronger, and the horns, and other embellishments, sounded simply breathtaking via the V90. (The 24 bit, 88 Khz download is a real treat.) That an entry-level DAC could provide such a transportive experience with sublime music was yet another reminder that now is truly a great time in the hobby for the entry level. Let’s remember this DAC was dropped into a system costing around $14,000.
Another very well recorded collection is the recent tribute to British folk rock icon John Martyn, Johnny Boy Would Love This. Performers ranging from the Swell Season, Lisa Hannigan, David Gray, Beck, and others provide excellent interpretations of Martyn’s songs. And through the V90, these performances really made me sit up, and demanded my full attention.


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