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Halide Bridge vs Musical Fidelity V-Link

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A few people who posted in the "Help me choose a new DAC" thread asked me to report back on the Halide Bridge vs the V-link. I rigged up my big system for an A/B comparison and listened for a few hours this afternoon. Here's the setup:

MacBook Pro > Halide Bridge/V-Link (A/B) > McIntosh C-50 DAC/PRE > McIntosh MC452 AMP > Martin Logan Summit X

I tried music of varying types and sample rates through both USB interfaces. From my listening position, using OSX screen sharing and the C-50 remote, I was able to switch instantly from one USB interface to the other. The TRIM LEVEL function on the C-50 allowed me to match the volume level of the test units to each other. Volume level makes a huge difference in your impressions when you're doing these kinds of comparisons.

Both USB links were feeding the McIntosh C-50's internal DAC, which is a 32-bit, 192kHz upsampler.

Bottom line is this folks: These two devices are so close you won't be able to tell the difference in a blind A/B test. The Halide Bridge is coax S/PDIF only while the V-Link provides both coax and optical outputs, so I compared the Bridge against both V-Link interfaces.

Via its optical output, I could not tell any difference between the V-Link and the Bridge at all. I tried with all sorts of music and just could not hear a difference. No trim correction was needed to match volume between the V-Link and Bridge.

Via its coax output, the V-Link needed about +.5 to +1 trim correction to match the Bridge. I did have the impression that vocals were a tiny bit recessed as compared to the Bridge, but that could have been a lingering impression from before I trimmed the volume. Even after volume matching, it was still so close I don't think I could have detected which was which blind.

Note that the difference in sound that I heard could just be due to differences in the C-50's implementation of the coax vs optical ports. It's also possible that the Bridge's galvanic isolation made a difference vs the V-Link, which is not similarly isolated. But of course, when you use the V-Link via optical, your preamp it is also galvanically isolated from the computer. Could that account for the fact that these units sounded identical when the V-Link was running optical vs the Bridge's coax?

The Musical Fidelity V-Link works beautifully and is an incredible bargain even at its original price of $169. But with the introduction of the new V-Link II, which includes async USB, you can buy the V-Link for around $119. It's a must-have at that price in my opinion and brings a big step up for DACs that have only S/PDIF or adaptive USB ports. In particular, I feel that the V-Link feeding my Benchmark DAC1 makes a huge and very beneficial difference. I'm going to pick up another one!

I'm also very pleased with the Halide Bridge and to me, it's worth the extra price. It is a marvel of engineering and beautifully made. I prefer its small, unobtrusive form factor to the V-Link's DIY-style box. It uses Gordon Rankin's Streamlength code, which is a bona-fide American innovation and widely recognized as the best implementation of async USB. I may yet realize the benefit of this as the Bridge lives in my system. And finally, the Bridge is made in USA. Folks, it's time to start paying a little more for products made in our own country when those products are as good as this.
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