Musical Fidelity X-CAN V8 [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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06-11-2009, 06:10 PM
This unit is for a review of Musical Fidelity w/o Pre-Out put.
I've had this unit for less than a week, but I feel like I've heard all I need to review this product.

I had been in a pursuit of a quality headphone amp with a capability of decoding digital music via USB.
But, my main reason was to listen to LP as much as my energy allowed late at night.
Also, since I used work over 70 hours a week, including weekends, I wanted to setup a small office system that I can enjoy without sacrifice too much on the fidelity. However, music is not allowed at work (at least during regular hours), I didn’t want to invest too greatly. But as we all know, mediocre gear just does not suffice…

1. Ergonomics
This unit is very ugly in a picture, but looks great in person. This aspect is very subject, as it is for all areas of this hobby. X-CAN V8 is substantially bigger in size than its predecessor, X-CAN V3.

Bottom of this unit is embraced by 2 long rubber stripes for security. I imagine it will absorb nominal amount of vibration, but if this sort of isolation is needed then I would’ve relocated to a different home. The V8 does not have On/Off switch so it stays on 24/7. This unit runs very cool for a tube unit. Isolation for heat dispersion is also unnecessary. But if you feel it is needed for a headphone setup, then by all means…

MF had decided to use a very shallow (physical depth) volume pot. If you have clumsy finger with arthritis, then I would look elsewhere.

2. Connectivity

System setup via USB was extremely easy. It just plugged it in to my laptop with Windows XP and alter the audio setting in Control Panel. Small knob on the face allows for switch between USB/RCA inputs. Microphonic distortion from tubes is audible when this switch is made. This is nothing to be concerned about as it is not abnormal for tube gear.

3. Components
In order to take the cover off, I had to unscrew total of 8 hex bolts, unscrew ground wire, and 3 wires with plastic pin connectors. This wasn’t very difficult, but was bit of pain in the ass.

Here is the list of components used:

JAN Phillips USA 6922 ($15 x 2)
ALPS 50KAX2 Volume Pot ($18)
PCM2706 DAC Chip ($4)
JAMICON electrolytic capacitors, unknown ceramic resistors, diodes, etc (very cheap)
24V 500mA External Wall Wart Power Supply ($6)

There are 2200uF (6), 1000uF (4), and 100uF(4) capacitors in the power supply, and from what I can tell off of the internet, V3 and V8’s internal power supply components are exactly the same.
Layout looks very similar as well.
I guess this is expected from a company that comes up with a new line of products every 2 years. They are almost as bad as Denon is this department.
V8($650) offers DAC input and 2 headphone inputs, while V3($399) does not. You make the decision.

PS: I never expected to see exotic parts from a Sub $1K component, but some decent Nichicon caps would’ve been a nice touch.

4. Playability.

I had purchased a demo unit, so I assumed break-in was unnecessary.
I’m a believer in breaking in audio gear, especially tubes, cartridges, and speakers.
But this unit hasn’t really changed sonic character over since my purchase.

My V8 came equipped with a pair of JAN Phillips USA 6922 tubes and works just fine.

LP sound is very full, dynamics, and has plenty of headroom with my Audio Technica headphones.
I usually keep the pot dialed no higher than 8:30 to 9 O’Clock (less than 1/4 Open) for both CD and LP playback.
Volume control with USB setup, however, will need to be cranked up a bit higher, but no higher than 11 O’Clock. I imagine the setup with Sennhauser will require higher gain, but should match just fine.

5. Sound Quality.

Internal DAC in this unit is subpar with my Marantz SA-8001. I’ve been dissatisfied with Marantz’s ability to resolve finer details, but Musical Fidelity sounds very good thru Marantz, while CD thru my Laptop sounds dry and unfocused. Lossless files doesn’t sound any better or worse, so I imagine the sound quality is degraded thru cheap parts and not the PC Transport.

LP playback thru V8 is satisfying. V8 doesn’t introduce added noise or hiss when connected via interconnects. But, when listed thru a USB cord, digital hiss can be heard if connections aren’t secured on both ends. What I love about this unit is since I’m always in the listening sweet spot, I can test out L/R balance/alignment and anti-skate settings with headphones…. But of course you can do that with any headphone amps.

For the price I paid, I would give this unit 4/5 for value and 4/5 for its Sound Quality. If I had paid the retail price the rating would be lowered to 3/5 overall.