Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista DAC USB DAC Page 2

There are four of these tubes per channel, making for a balanced Class A output with, says MF, 'ultra-low distortion and unfathomably low noise'. The inclusion of the nuvistor triodes is also a compelling argument for not waiting around too long to acquire a Nu-Vista DAC. Heinz Lichtenegger says the company has ample NOS stocks, but the fact is they are no longer manufactured.

sqnote Character Building
Company hyperbole aside the Nu-Vista DAC has serious sonic appeal. It combines exceptional detail with subtlety and a smooth delivery, always seeming to convey the character, atmosphere and feel of your music. Set up with Primare PRE35/A35.8 amplifiers [HFN Dec '19 & May '22] and Focal Sopra No2 floorstanders [HFN Sep '15], it wasted no time in grabbing my attention and not letting go.

On Why Does The Earth Give Us People To Love? [September Recordings SEP-009; 48kHz/24-bit], the music seems to take second place to the singing of Kara Jackson. Then again, the former National Youth Poet Laureate knows how to craft a song that balances orchestration with storytelling. There are plenty of subtle layers to the nearly eight-minute-long 'Rat', for example, which this DAC easily revealed, in this case fed by an iFi Audio NEO Stream [HFN Mar '23] over USB (using I2S over HDMI failed because their implementations are different – it's not a standard in the strictest sense of the word).


The nuvistor triode tubes are powered via a separately regulated supply that may be upgraded at a later date via an external PSU

Space Invader
The song begins with an acoustic guitar riff, and the Nu-Vista DAC found all the detail you'd expect from a device at this level, such as the fingers brushing over strings and the spatial information that contributes to a 'live' ambience on a recording. Then there was the added smoothness that sets Musical Fidelity's nuvistor-based DAC apart from more clinically minded converters, making for a markedly more intimate listening experience. I was particularly impressed by the character it brought to the airy violin in the background, making this song just a bit more pensive.

I listened to the album again, letting Roon resample the PCM stream to DSD64. While this sounded a bit smoother with the Nu-Vista DAC, it did show that creating and transporting a DSD stream requires ample computing and network resources. Even with a Mac mini with Core i7 processor and a gigabit network, occasional dropouts marred the experience. But when all was in working order the Nu-Vista DAC took it up a notch in terms of timing and overall presentation. The same was true when upsampling to 768kHz via Roon and utilising the DAC's Oversampling Bypass mode.

The highly entertaining Maestro: Music By Leonard Bernstein [Deutsche Grammophon 486 5466] tells a great story too, with set-pieces performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin interspersed with dialogue from the recent Bradley Cooper biopic. 'Chichester Psalms: Psalm 23' commenced with beatific chorales which the MF DAC painted on a large stage with real depth and height, plus an enticing 'organic' warmth. It had me leaning out of the listening chair, ready to emulate Bernstein's conducting antics.


The Nu-Vista DAC offers USB-B (768kHz/32-bit and DSD512), AES/EBU, coaxial and three optical inputs (192kHz/24-bit and DSD64) alongside RCA and balanced XLR outputs. The I2S (on HDMI) input is reserved for future use while the five-pin XLR sockets are included to service the outboard Nu-Vista PSU upgrade

Full Speed Ahead
This track also introduced some impactful dynamics, as did the following 'Candide Overture'. Sudden changes of gear, with brass and percussion producing dramatic blasts, were handled without hesitation by the Nu-Vista DAC – those nuvistor valves don't make this unit listless at all.

That could have been a concern if you buy into the preconception that valves equal warmth equal sluggishness, but there's nuance and pace here. Yes, there's a touch of warmth too – a boon in this instance, as it nicely complemented my Focal Sopra No2s – but it isn't to the detriment of the playback of complex, fast-tempo works.

In fact, this blend of rich warmth and speed of delivery blew some much-needed life into A Humdrum Star, the fourth album from the British 'nu-jazz' band GoGo Penguin [Blue Note download; 88.2kHz/24-bit].

There's no faulting this trio's skill as musicians, but the over-clean production makes some tracks, including the rapid-paced 'Raven' and 'Bardo', sound a bit dull otherwise. There's something to be said for a DAC that does more than slavishly convert digital data into analogue signals.


Solid alloy remote offers control over all inputs, volume, upsampling, reclocking and digital filters

Silver Service
Because we're still waiting for the arrival of the Nu-Vista CD, I attached a Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 T CD transport [HFN Sep '19] to the Nu-Vista DAC via an optical connection. Marc Ribot's 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' on Saints [Division One 83461-2], an album some 20 years old but still not yet available via streaming services, hints at what the marriage between a Nu-Vista CD player and DAC might deliver.

This isn't a straightforward cover of the Lennon-McCartney classic, but a demonstration of the artistry of one of the foremost guitarists around, able to nimbly hop from sweet harmonics to off-key notes. The beauty of the piece lies in its rich minimalism: as contradictory as that might sound, it's exactly that intense detail which the Nu-Vista DAC communicates so brilliantly.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Combining a trusted digital design with a nuvistor tube stage, the Nu-Vista DAC delivers a precise but – importantly – rousing performance. This sets it apart from more straightforward implementations, merging artisan thinking with the fine build quality demanded of a flagship model. It's an obvious partner for existing (or future) Nu-Vista separates, and also a very capable converter in its own right.

Musical Fidelity (Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH)
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166