Someone told me that the MSB platinum DAC IV is loads better than the Alpha DAC. Can't audition the MSB DAC unfortunately. I'm thinking of using it to drive my Spectral poweramp. Anyone has listened to the MSB DAC? What's the sound like?
How much is the MSB platinum IV DAC?
Starts at 6000 USD.
Silence is Music
And it goes up to like $15,000. Which model is it that sounds Loads better than the Alpha DAC? Your source should clarify that. It would be nice for TAS to review it but it would be interesting which one they do review, the $6K one or the Top most expensive model? Robert Harley.......would be a good one to get this reviewed by.
I spoke with MSB at CES about sending me the fully loaded DAC. I expect to receive a review sample in the next eight weeks.
Incidentally, I heard the previous generation MSB DAC as part of "The Best Stereo I Ever Heard" that I blogged about last April.
Robert, will u be reviewing the MSB data IV CD transport as well? It seems similar to the ps audio transport only difference is that it's still not in the making for years or announced pre maturely. It would be great if you could give ur thoughts on the transport as you heard at the CES. A review sample would be nice.
I didn't speak to them about getting the transport as well, but it makes sense to evaluate them both if the transport is available.
Re. the MSB CD IV transport, It seems to have an AES/EBU digital output, Solid state memory that the data is stored to and sent out to a DAC bit perfect. Seems like master clock is seperate from the Transport/Disk on the fly. The price is not out of this world. It appears that it is available at this point. God knows when the p.s. audio bridge will become available and if by that time others will catch up with them. Robert what are your thoughts on Wireless audio? Can that hold up the sound quality? It appears that companies are trying to come up with bridges or networks that could play music all over the house wirelessly. Will that compromise sound quality? Im curious how that would work at an audiophile level, Given that even USB is such a weak way of transporting data/music at audiophile quality. My understanding is that the best sound currently available is via Hard disk (Music Servers) or solid state memory in some of these CD transports that store data error free, clock it and send it out as clean as possible. And that AES/EBU is the best choice, second choice would be RCA, and the worse choice as far as sound quality at the moment would be USB connection......is that correct?
Your ranking of the interfaces corresponds to my experience. I would put TosLink in there ahead of USB (adaptive USB, that is, not asynchronous USB).
Are there any plan to review Playback Design MPS-5? I am very interested in the product as a possible upgrade to Berkeley DAC as I want SACD capability as well as ability to play high rez music via music server. The new EMM lab single box player would fit the bill but quite a bit out of my budget range, dCS Puccini does not support 24/176 and the new Debussy DAC does not have provision for iLink that I can connect to SACD transport as far as I can tell so Playback just seems to have all the neccessary feature at a pretty good price point (in comparison to its direct competitors).
We should review the Playback Design MPS-5. Our reviewer Jacob Heilbrunn bought one.
Excellent, I am looking forward to see the review.
Stereophile reviewed it and said that some of the noise makes the SACD sound like regular CD. Doesn't sound too great for a $15K player. Hopefully TAS can comment on those issues regarding SACD playback with the Playback Design player.
Sam, I think what the main concern Stereophile had was related to the measurements John Atkinson made and not the sound. The review had very high praise of the sound both for SACD and PCM playback and, at least for SACD playback, put it in the same league as the DCS Scarlatti. However, the reviewer preferred SACD playback to high res PCM playback of the MPS-5 when comparing the same material available in both formats. What the review really lacked was a direct comparison with a state of the art PCM DAC. JA's measurements highlighted some interesting findings like the noise floor being the same for CD, high res PCM and SACD implying the loss of the resolution advantage of high res material. There was also less than perfect matching between the left and right channels and steady state and random bursts of noise. There also seemed to be earlier than normal roll of of high frequencies due to the use of two filters rather than the one (can be seen on Stereophile's website not in the published review). The manufacturer's response said that the filters used in the MPS-5 could not be defined by traditional measurements and were based on psycho-acousic theory. It did not really go into detail to give a complete explanation for JA's findings. Overall the MPS-5 seems to be a different and no doubt superb sounding SACD player. Whether it is also a state of the art PCM DAC in sound quality (as clearly it is not in measurements) is still to be seen.
I was rather curious about JA comments in stereophile. In the past, I remembered Stereophile did not hesitate to recommend the original Wadia DAC eventhough it measured performance was quite a bit worse than its direct competitor (I think). Anyhow, CD measurement in general in better than LP but that does not means that CD sounds better than LP.
I definitely would like to see how Berkeley stacks up against MSB and PD MPS-5. Currently I have EMM Lab XDS-1 in my system for home audition and Berkeley is holding up very well against EMM. EMM has slight more detail and leaner presentation. Bass is faster, tighter. My biggest complain about Berkeley was its relatively slower, fatter bass in my system. However, recently I removed Furutech AC outlet and replaced with it with Wattgate and installed PowerHouse breakers on my dedicated lines for stereo and Berkeley's bass performance inproves significantly. I heard EMM lab before and after the change as well and its bass performance improved but not as dramatically as Berkeley. (it was my Usher/EMM dealer who came and heard my system and thought that EMM/Usher did not sound quite the way they supposed to and suggested that I made these changes to my electrical system). So it seems that Berkeley is also very sensitive to changes in electricity. Anyhow, at this point, Berkeley has richer midrange and more gorgeous big tone than EMM. The bass performance is still a little behind EMM but not by much. Hopefully by the end of April, I will have a chance to hear PD MPS-5 and see how it stacks up to Berkely.
I have a Berkeley Alpha DAC (BADAC) and I can tell you from lots of experimentation that to realize its full sonic potential you must feed the BADAC a low jitter/low noise AES/SPDIF and properly ground your system. I use a Zalman Win7 64 PC with Lynx AES16. In experimentations I realized a very significant sound quality improvement inserting an Antelope DA between my Lynx card and the BADAC. The DA does not reclock the AES data stream, but rather just provides noise isolation. I then tried externally clocking the Lynx and got a smaller, yet audible improvement. Then, most recently, I A/B'ed my Lynx set-up with a Legato 16/44.1 async USB-to-SPDIF interface and the Legato was noticeably better. I now have a HiFace on order to try that.
Bottom line, to hear the BADAC at its best you need to feed it the lowest jitter/lowest noise input as possible. Unless you want to spend silly money on the Mykerinos system ($10-12K) which has executed a superb AES interface on a PCI card, then I think the way to go is outboard async USB-to-SPDIF/AES. There are a bunch of these coming onto the market including one from Berkeley (USB2-to-AES3) which should be out mid-year. These solutions use better clocks, power supplies and galvanic isolation which yield lower jitter and noise.
Personally, I would think the even better solution would be an async USB-to-I2S, but for right now the Berkeley guys are saying they believe the best interface solution is one that keeps firewire/usb processing out of the Alpha DAC chassis.
Yes, I agreed that you need really good source for BADAC. However, I recently auditioned Weiss Int202 in my system
vs Lynx and I much preferred Lynx over Weiss (my computer is Vista, using XXHighend program. Another friend who was there also agreed. However Weiss was used
with unfamiliar firewire/PS Audio XLR cable and the unit was brand new so it was hard to tell. I definitely would like to try
Berkeley USB/AES-EBU unit when it is available. I wonder if Berkeley will make its own driver or waiting for new microsoft Window7 that supports 24/192 to come out first.
For what its worth, my local Weiss dealer carries HiFace USB converter as well and he prefers Weiss although I did not listen to HiFace myself.
I am curious to see how the hiFace is. I tried Weiss INT202 with a prototype audiophile quality firewire (supposedly) and PS Audio digital XLR cable in my system vs Lynx with DIY Kimber AGSS silver cable and I much preferred Lynx. However, before I will invest anymore I think I am going to wait for Berkeley USB/SPDIF interface that hopefully will come out soon.
I am interested in knowing more about your experience with the INT202 as I have been considering purchasing one. I understand it has the same jitter reduction circuity as other Weiss products which are all highly acclaimed. What was the length of the firewire cable you used? Did the PC sync to the INT202 or viceversa? Did you have a chance to try it with a Firewire equipped laptop powered from the battery alone? I understand USB jitter decreases significantly when you use the laptop battery for power rather than the power adapter. I am not sure about if firewire behaves in the same way but the INT202 can also be powered from the firewire cable alone and if that electric power is noisy it might affect the performance of the INT202. Any experiences you can share about the INT202 would be welcome.
INT202 was powered through firewire port. The firewire cable however was quite long, 4M. It was a prototype from a Canadian company but my dealer did not tell me what it was. We tried it with my PC which I did not like the sound very much. With Vista, XXHighend, it was brittle and a bit harsh in the midrange and not as well extended at both extremes in comparison to Lynx.
However, the same Weiss setup sounded much better with MacBook Pro/iTune/Amarra running on MacBook batteries.
I am not sure why it did not sound as good in my system. I have firewire PCI card with TI chipset that Weiss recommended on my computer. I planned to try Weiss again eventually when my local dealer gets in the product version of the cable in shorter lenght. I was told that the Weiss unit was also brand new so may be after a few hundreds hours of burn in, it might be better.
sorry tried to post reply but the d..... spam filter kept rejecting my post. I give up!
Ok let me try again, I am using Win Vista with XXHighend program. The firewire that was used in the demo is a prototype from a Canadian company but I don't know the name. It was 4M long. INT202 was powered via firewire. In my system, INT202 did ot sound good at all. It was also a brand new unit. I plan to reaudition it again once the dealer has it burned in for a while. He should also be getting the shorter, actual product version of the firewire soon. It suposed to be priced quite a bit less than Acrolink/Esoteric firewire. However, the same INT202 setup sounded very good with MacBook Pro/iTune/Amarra running on MacBook batteries.
Thank you for your feedback and patience. It seems that it could very well be the switching power supply used in PCs and laptops that is causing the INT202 to perform poorly. I remember reading the manufacturer's reply to the measurements that Stereophile published for the jitter performance of the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic with USB. The manufacturer included the jitter performance graphs for USB input when laptop battery power was used and when the power supply was used and the difference as far as I remember was very significant. My guess is that powering the PC or laptop with the power supply and powering the INT 202 through the firewire cable might be a worst case scenario. The switching power supply could be both introducing jitter in the data stream and supplying the INT202 with noisy power and thus impeding its jitter reduction effectivness and its ability to be a proper clock master for the firewire interface if it was set as such. At $1300 for what it does, I hope the INT202 turns out to be a superb performer. I consider it to be a more practical soultion for computer audio than a PC-installed Lynx card, that is till somebody builds a proper LAN interface.
I was rather surprised that I found Lynx better than INT202 in my system as well. Certainly next time I try it, I will also try it with
its own power supply rather than firewire and see if that makes a difference. I hope Berkeley unit will be reasonably priced.
In my system, interestingly enough, I find older firmware sounds better as I was having problem with HDCD light not light up properly
when playing RR HRx files with the most recent firmware (this was a year ago) and Berkeley suggested that I rolled back to older
firmware which resolved the issue and actually improved the sound as well.
Sort of an extension of Earsflappins comments, i also think the Bada is at it's best when noise/jitter are addressed before it. After some experimentation, I found the digital cable to be a very effective way to do this and the MIT Oracle MA-X AES cable proved a significantly better mate than all that I tried. This cable does a remarkable job of addressing ringing, jitter, noise etc and has transformed my DAC. I feed my Alpha with a Logitech Transporter and I found addressing the incoming power, on the Transporter with a good cord and conditioner also is critical to strong performance of this pair. Currently I use either an Isoclean Superfocus or MIT Oracle Z3, both with great results. I use an Acoustic Revive RTP4 Ultimate for power conditioning/isolation on both the DAC and Transporter. This setup has done well to address noise, ringing, jitter etc and has simplified the issue too. All the solutions that involve changes in the server, software, interface areas become complicated for me. I would be very curious to hear if anyone else has tried the MA-X cable with their BADA because to me, it is hard to imagine a bigger performance gain. I often read threads that discuss these noise issues but rarely is the cable itself mentioned. I think we tend to over complicate things! I certainly do!
I just had a chance to try the MSB Platinum DAC IV, and the CD Data transport too with the M202 MSB Tech amps for two days. Nothing less than fascinating. Extremely musical and I just can't think of any problem with it or how it could be bettered on any way. The CD Data transport is a steal, can played my 192k/24 bit vinyl rips (digitized using a 128x DSD format with a Korg MR 1000 pro hard disk recorder then converted to 192k PCM). I am using very picky pro speakers in my system with Parasound JC1/JC2 amps and they were as smooth and as dynamic, as real as the room allowed them.
The MSB Platinum range with the M202 amps is one of the most clever audio system solution I have ever seen and ever tried. You do not need fancy cables, fancy stands as they are designed to work on the top of each other with a very clever feet in every chassis, and because of the common external PS the user needs only one mains cable as the DC cables are provided. They work very well with pro microphone and speaker cables. This system is one of the very best, smoothest, most dynamic and most emotional, you can ever have, for sure. Even if they seem to be quite expensive at first I think they mean a very good deal considering the quality of the music reproduction and the lost of clever idea went in the products. Do not hesitate to try them.
Robert, When are you moving to California? and Does that mean you will be away for a while from reviewing things? Any set date for the move?
Hi Sam. I'm moving in two weeks and should miss just one issue of reviews while I get the new system set up. I've found a house with a room that looks promising, but you never know how it will sound until you set up loudspeakers and listen.
Robert, I know you will be busy, but if you can please keep us posted with how you setup the new room, dimensions, placement, room treatment, comparisons to old setup. Perticularly the current components that you had tested in your state of the art room in New Mexico home and now in the new room in LA. It would be great to hear from you here and there on how you tweek your existing setup to a totally new location since you were so familiar with the existing setup. Good luck with the move! looking forward to more of your reviews once you settle in.
How is the progress on testing the MSB unit. I am very interested on how it sounds. It uses a ladder DAC and was also curious if that was better. Thanks
I don't know if a transport will be also reviewed but one of the new universal transports matching these new msb dacs. Uses the exact same bdp oppo transport as stated on msb website. I wonder how this would differ if it was compared with using a regular oppo players coaxial digital output to a DAC. My guess is that there won't be much of a difference. But that to come out in a magazine would be financial suicide by pissing exotic cd player manufacturers who pay to advertize. Potential buyers, if they can should test cd transports before laying down the green. Use that $5000+ to upgrade some other component or do something else with it that u like.
I can't wait for this review. I'm tossing up between this or the new Antelope or alpha dac. It's a big step for me, but the I do like the way it is upgradeable in so many ways and when you buy one, you can upgrade to the next model whenever it comes out (with some limitations). I think the nature of the DAC (sign magnitude) is also compelling. Reading between the lines, it seems to be on the level of the dCS gear but at a more affordable entry price.
Unfortunately I'm not in a city where I can review any of these and it's a gigantic leap of faith to buy one on spec - at least for me.
Intriguing DAC with MSB sign-magnitude modules..