What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Thu, 28 Nov 2013, 1:28pm

Musical Fidelity V90 DAC

Tested at £199
80100
4

A well-priced, well-featured DAC that’s a pleasant listen, but far from the last word in outright entertainment

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For

  • Detailed
  • Smooth, fluid midrange
  • Well-featured
  • Good build quality

Against

  • Not as agile as some
  • Bass could be tighter
  • Lacks excitement

The Musical Fidelity V90 DAC is part of a new range of devices aimed at providing an easy upgrade for a range of equipment at a reasonable price.

With a choice of coaxial, asynchronous USB and optical inputs, it will work with most digital devices your household can throw at it. So far, so good.

Musical Fidelity V90 DAC

It’s a well-built little box for the money too. Just short of half-width size, there’s a 32-bit DAC housed inside the simple brushed aluminium case.

The simplicity of its looks is complemented by plug-and-play functionality, with just two small switches on the front for controlling power and source.

Performance

Hooking the V90 DAC up to our Naim NDX streamer using the coaxial input and playing Kanye West’s Blood on the Leaves, we were immediately hit by two things.

First, the midrange is beautifully smooth and fluid, with clarity and stacks of detail that we wouldn’t normally expect at this price.

However, the overall presentation feels somewhat sanitised – a polite PG-rated version of an 18 movie, if you like.  

Musical Fidelity V90 DAC

Blood on the Leaves’s aggressive horn instrumental should bite into your ears with power and impatience, but played through the V90 DAC it sounds civilised and meandering, losing a fair amount of its intended drama, impetus and impact.

Play something a little more laid-back in character, like Nick Cave’s We No Who U R and that midrange shines again, creating a thoroughly pleasant, listenable sound, with plenty of subtlety. But even here, the bass could do with being a bit lighter on its feet to help it time better.

Change to the asynchronous USB input (which is capable of 24-bit/96kHz), and a listen to J Cole’s Power Trip proves this relaxed character to be consistent across inputs.

Musical Fidelity V90 DAC

Tonally, it’s an enjoyable listen, well balanced and never bright or overly bassy. You certainly won’t feel offended by any part of the V90 DAC’s presentation, although a tighter low-end wouldn’t go amiss – it can have a tendency to sound a little soft around the edges when it needs to be punchy.

Give it something fairly beefy to work with, like John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme and it does a good job at remaining composed when there’s lots going on, showing off a good sense of dynamics and space as the music builds. But it just falls short of the excitement we expect at the piece’s crescendo.

Verdict

For our tastes, the V90 DAC is just a little too relaxed, but it is an enjoyable listen that never becomes tiring. If you’re fine with just a USB input we prefer the insightful and exciting HRT microStreamer.

And if you want a full range of features, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100 is a great alternative.

 

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