MSB Technology The Analog DAC

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Input: Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0 384 kHz / 32, DSD 64 and 128 ; XLR connector for S/PDIF AES/EBU, Pro I2s for Signature Data CD transport, MSB Network for Data CD and UMT, Optical-Toslink and Coax Inputs The $6,995 price comes with 1 input. The others are provided as modules at an additional cost. The unit tested had USB, MSB Network ($995), S/PDIF Coax / Toslink ($995), Volume Control ($995) Total Price for The Analog DAC tested: $9980
Output: RCA (single-ended) or XLR Balanced
Dimensions: (H x W x D): 1” plus feet X 17.5” X 13” MSB Desktop Power Supply: (H x W x D: 2.25” X 6.5” X 9”
Weight: 28 pounds
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $6,995 including dual toroid low noise power supply and one input of choice, plus upgraded inputs and optional Analog Power Base.
Site: www.msbtech.com

Platinum Data CD IV Transport
Device Type: Transport using MSB Network for CDs and Disc with WAV files up to 384kHz.
Input: Disc transport
Output: MSB Network up 32/384kHz, XLR connector for S/PDIF AES/EBU. S/PDIF Optical and Coax
Dimensions (H x W x D): 2” plus feet X 17.5” X 12” Plus External Power Supply (H x W x D): 1.5” X 2.25” X 5”
Weight: 18 pounds
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $3,995
Site: www.msbtech.com

General Description of The Analog DAC
The Analog DAC is MSB Technology’s newest DAC model that was designed to offer audiophiles a DAC that is analog-like in sound quality, but without the limitations of dynamics and distortion. As it just so happens, The Analog DAC is the least expensive of the DACs offered by MSB Technology, but offers a number of features found in their more expensive models.

MSB Technology was founded in 1986 with a primary focus on high end audio products. The company also offers contract research and product development. The MSB Technology products are designed and built in-house in California and with help from a team of specialized local California vendors. The DAC modules used in MSB Technology DACs are not off-the-shelf products, but are custom built discrete ladder 32-bit 384kHz DACs built with the highest precision resistors made in the world today according to MSB. The resistor network used in MSB ladder DAC modules is faster than 5 MHz and has a noise floor of 160db. The digital filters used are in-house and have an 80-bit resolution. Data is reclocked with the Femto 140 Second Clock Technology found in the more expensive DAC IV plus line.

This extremely low jitter is optimized in The Analog DAC to offer time performance similar to the basic three models of the DAC IV plus line, but not what the DAC IV plus can do with the Galaxy Femtosecond Clock upgrade. It is this optimization of jitter reduction combined with the high precision DAC modules, optimized digital filters, and other proprietary processes that result in less digital hardness and loss of focus that helps to create an analog-type natural sound. But if comparing The Analog DAC with the DAC IV plus series with the optional Galaxy Clock, a higher degree of accuracy and precision can be achieved than that achieved with The Analog DAC.

The ladder DAC modules used in The Analog DAC are specifically made for this model, and are closer to the modules used in the Signature Platinum DAC IV plus. But the big difference between The Analog DAC and the DAC IV plus line is that there are only 2 modules in the Analog DAC. The DAC IV plus line offers 4 modules that allow natively balanced outputs. The Analog DAC does have balanced outputs, but these may not be as good sounding as the single end outputs as a result of this cost-cutting design decision. It should also be pointed out that The Analog DAC motherboard components cannot be upgraded like the DAC IV plus models but MSB points out that the DAC modules, Femto Clock technology and firmware platform, already provide extreme precision trickled down from the Platinum IV Plus series. Like the DAC IV Plus series, the Analog DAC was designed to be firmware upgradable providing a “new DAC” with every firmware upgrade. The all important digital inputs can be upgraded for future protocols or formats that might include something like USB 3 or Thunderbolt.

The beautiful sleek aluminum case contributes to the analog-like sound by being milled from solid aluminum plate with the actual DAC components potted into the plate for perfect temperature uniformity, long life, and excellent noise isolation.

The Desktop Power Supply that comes with The Analog DAC is not an inexpensive switching supply, but a pretty hefty linear power supply built with 2 transformers and four stages of regulation.

A high quality analog stepped attenuator is offered as a $995 upgrade for volume control that eliminates the need for a preamp in most systems. The volume control offers a display that shows the input and the sample rate / DSD, as well as a central button for input selection.

The Analog DAC comes with a choice of one input with additional inputs that can be purchased at the time of the order or at a later date. The volume control must be purchased at the time the DAC is built and cannot be added later on. The USB Module is the newest of MSB Technology’s USB Modules that can handle 32-bit 384kHz music and is opto-isolated to eliminate computer noise from contaminating the DAC. This USB Module will output native DSD 64x and 128x files using the DSD over PCM protocol (DoP). All of the S/PIDF inputs that can be purchased are capable of handling 384kHz 24-bit. The proprietary MSB Network input can handle 384kHz / 32-bit.

A remote is provided that controls volume, mute, and input switching. An optional aluminum remote is available that also adds control of phase, reclocking on or off, and display on or off.

Finally, there is an option for a system controller via RS-232 or Direct access via the internet. The Wi-Fi internet access module upgrade at $995 offers control features with an iPad/iPhone/iPod app. This feature set offers:

  • Volume Control
  • Mute
  • Input switching
  • Phase invert
  • Reclocking on/off (for use with video)
  • Display brightness
  • Digital filter selection
  • Ground connect (default is isolated)
  • Technical settings such as level and dither
Components Used In Listening
An Early 2011 MacBook Pro (Mtn. Lion) 2.3GHz i7 Quad Core; 16 GB RAM, Samsung 840 Pro 256GB SSD for the OS; Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt Drive and GRAID Thunderbolt Drive for the music library; Synergistic Research Thunderbolt Active SE cable with Galileo MPC. Synergistic Research Tranquility Base with Galileo MPC for the computer.

A Synergistic Research Tranquility Base / MIG feet with Galileo MPC was used as a base for The Analog DAC. I also tested the DAC without the base.

USB Cables: Audioquest Diamond, Synergistic Research USB Active SE, and Wireworld Platinum Starlight.

Music Software: Audirvana Plus and Pure Music with OSX 10.83. Windows 8 with JRiver Media Center 18 and JPlay 5.1.

Platinum Data CD IV Transport
Vince Galbo, national sales manager at MSB Technology, sent this transport with The Analog DAC, as he felt that the Platinum Data CD IV Transport may outperform my computer-based music solution. MSB prefers that customers evaluate an MSB DAC using one of their own known sources like the Data CD Transport. Unlike the expensive CD/SACD/DVD-A single read in real time transports utilized in other players, the Platinum Data CD IV Transport uses a user replaceable optical ROM reader with the data read from the disc in a bit-perfect condition. This drive is used like the drive in your computer; it will read the disc multiple times as necessary to get an accurate read and sends this data to an intelligent buffer memory. The stored musical data from the transport is then played back to the DAC with perfect timing and extremely low jitter using the MSB proprietary clocking technology and MSB Network connection.

The Platinum Data CD IV Transport not only reads CDs, but also high resolution audio .WAV files up to 384 kHz / 32-bit from CDs and DVDs like the HRx Reference Recordings discs.

First Sonic Impressions of the Analog DAC with the Platinum CD IV Transport
I began listening to CD quality files with Audirvana Plus in Direct Mode / Integer. I put on Fourplay Reach for the Sky and was quite impressed with the sound. The Analog DAC is very neutral sounding with excellent control of the bass. Images are placed slightly back into the soundstage which is quite wide and deep. The sound is very relaxed and does not add presence or brightness to the sound. The DAC is very dynamic with good impact to the bass. I then played Reference Recordings HRx Eije Oue Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances 176.4/24. The soundstage was very wide and deep. In fact, this DAC has some of the best depth I have heard: similar to the Light Harmonic Da Vinci DAC I reviewed this year (see review). The Analog DAC did a marvelous job in recreating the acoustic space of this recording.

Now it was time to listen to the same recordings with the Platinum CD IV Transport. To my surprise, the sound was clearer and better focused with the CD IV and the soundstage opened up in width and depth. I couldn’t believe the differences I was hearing. The Rachmaninoff HRx recording was simply amazing with the huge soundstage and enhanced depth I was hearing. But also the focus and imaging within the acoustic space was better defined. My computer transport sounded a little blurred and not as fast with a slight thickening of the bass. The soundstage reproduced by my computer simply did not compare to the CD IV. This really bugged me and set me on the path to see if I could improve the sound of my computer transport.

I began listening to the 3 high quality USB cables I had and found that I could get closer to the CD IV sound with the Synergistic Research Active USB cable with the Silver Enigma Tuning Circuit and the Galileo MPC. I then added the Synergistic Research Tranquility Base with Galileo MPC, and things improved again. I changed to Silver Enigma Tuning Circuit on the Synergistic Research Thunderbolt Active SE cable with the Galileo MPC for the Promise Pegasus Drive. I turned off the infrared remote, OSX auto update feature in Mtn. Lion, as well as the Bluetooth and Spotlight for the Pegasus. After all of this, I was closer to the sound of the CD IV, but still not there.

During my evaluation of The Analog DAC, Apple released the Mountain Lion 10.83 update that now supported Boot Camp for Windows 8. I installed Windows 8 Pro 64 bit and JRiver Media Center 18 for Windows. I then began playing with the program JPlay 5.1. After much fussing with the JPlay settings and Windows JPlay registry settings, I hit pay dirt. I was now very close to the CD IV sound.

Listening with Windows 8 Pro 64 bit / JRiver Media Center 18 / JPlay 5.1
MSB Technology claims that The Analog DAC converts digital music data with such a high degree of precision that the previously well-known digital harshness is now revealed to be just an artifact of poor digital conversion. The company feels that the truthful musical information relative to the densest harmonics has always been there including 16/44.1 Redbook recordings. I decided to play The Classic Records DAD of the soundtrack Glory (96/24). The opening track has a boys’ choir that on the peaks can be hard sounding. The Analog DAC sailed through this track without harshness or glare. The only other DAC I have heard that had as little digital glare or hardness was the far more expensive Light Harmonic Da Vinci.

Playing more complex orchestral/ choral pieces resulted in the same lack of grain and digital irritation. The massive sounding Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Antoni Wit; Warsaw Philharmonic and Choir 96/24 played with good definition and resolution of the complex panoply of different vocal choirs and orchestra.

Wycliffe Gordon’s Dreams of New Orleans 192/24 is a Chesky Binaural+ recording of a New Orleans style jazz band that would be a good test to see if The Analog DAC smoothed things out too much and robbed the brass of their natural characteristic loudness and bite. The Analog DAC played this recording with outstanding dynamic reproduction of the band with no softening or compression of the brass sound.

One of my long-time favorite LPs is the Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall: 1963. I have the original Vanguard pressing and numerous reissues including the Classic Records 45-rpm series release. I remember that there was a slight brightness to some of the singers in the original vinyl. I wanted to see how the Classic Records DAD 96/24 compared to the 45-rpm with The Analog DAC. More specifically, I wanted to see if The Analog DAC reproduced this slight brightness or did it over-smooth the sound. The Analog DAC reproduced the massive soundstage with excellent reproduction of the acoustics of the hall. The singers were well focused in the black acoustic space, and yes, the original tonality was not glossed-over by the Analog DAC. The Analog DAC did a magnificent job reproducing Pete Seeger singing along with the audience in "Ramblin’ Boy". The magic of the 45 rpm record was also found in the 96/24 files played with The Analog DAC.

What really got my attention was when I played Carol Kidd Tell Me Once Again (Linn Records) 192/24. Carol sings with a nylon string guitar played by Nigel Clark in this recording. Not only was the background dead silent, but the detail and intimacy of the guitar and voice were stunning. What really made my head spin was that MSB Technology has DACs that offer even more detail and resolution, albeit at a higher price of admission.

Native DSD Playback
The Analog DAC supports the playback of native DSD 64 and 128 files over USB. As you might have guessed, I was a rabid record collector in another life. I have the complete vinyl RCA Living Stereo collection in my Vault. I remember a wonderful recording LSC 1984 of Munch with the BSO titled Bolero. This 1958 recording had a superb high end that was closely miked and somewhat reminiscent of the early Mercury Living Presence recordings. The dynamics of this recording are considerable and should be played back without sounding hard or strident. I was interested to see how The Analog DAC would handle the ripped SACD of this recording in native DSD 64 playback.

The Analog DAC not only captured the excellent dynamics and large acoustic space of the original LP, but also the slight brightness of the original. The Analog DAC seemed totally relaxed with this recording while remaining true to the original sound. The DAC did not color over the slight brightness of the original LP. The sound was rich with great detail and quite transparent given the age of this recording.

I have listened to the Blue Coast Collection from Blue Coast Records many times, but have never heard it sound as good playing the native DSD files as I have with The Analog DAC. The outstanding naturalness and you-are-there quality of this recording really caught my attention. There was absolutely no hardness to the sound.

The Volume Control
I tested The Analog DAC volume control with a single ended input to my amps. The volume control used on the Analog DAC is extremely high quality and did sound very good. My amps prefer a balanced input, so I don’t have an absolute finding for you, but I don’t think many audiophiles will find fault with this feature save for those that have the best preamps.

The Analog Power Base
MSB Technology offers an upgrade to the excellent Desktop Power Supply. The Analog Power Base is a $2,995 upgrade that I hope to evaluate in the near future when it is available for review.

Final Conclusions
For those of us that have enjoyed this hobby over many years, there are a few products that come along in one’s audiophile life that leave a lasting impression on the listener. The Analog DAC is one of those products. It not only reproduces music with excellent detail and focus, but is one of the most natural sounding DACs I have ever heard. This DAC purges the digital artifacts that create listening fatigue and loss of interest in the music. While auditioning the Analog DAC, I also listened to other DACs at my house. In each case, I missed the beautiful bloom and ease that the Analog DAC puts out in spades. The soundstage was one of the best I have heard as was the ability of this DAC to unravel complex musical passages. Dynamic changes were well reproduced with a variety of music. I think that those of you that enjoy acoustic music, be it classical, jazz, or vocal, will simply love The Analog DAC. I know that I did.



Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
Priaptor's picture

Steve,

I have had the opportunity to demo the Analog with the standard power supply.  As you note, Vince is hestitant allowing people to demo the unit without their transport for fear that they are not getting the true capabilities of the DAC as a result of the variability of current "music servers" out there.  I did a comparison with my Meitner EMMDAC2X, no slouch by any standards and found the Analogue better, in all aspects with those magical qualities you refer to.

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of then trying the Diamond, which as good as the Analog is, takes one to another level still.   Is the difference worth it?  Only your pocketbook knows for sure.

One caveat.  As you have indicated, Jriver with JPlay equals the quality of the transport.  I think you should really look into a dedicated Windows server, such as the superb CAPS and/or CAPS alterntives, either in DIY or already built versions.  Obvioulsy the more powerful (Zuma variant) servers would be recommended for JPlay but I think you would get an enhanced experience compared to your Mac and Bootcamp.  I was leery about leaving my Mac based players but have yet to find a server that bests the CAPS 3 variants.  

While the Analog is "expensive", if one is looking for a computer based solution, IMO, getting the standard power brick, with an included 24/384 USB input for $6,999 is the best relative bargain out there.  It easily outperformed my EMMDAC2X, at least in my system and in my opinion.  Of course the potential buyer needs to recognize this is a SE solution, includes only one input for the price and doesn't include the $2,999 enhanced power supply.  So the price, if one wants three inputs, enhanced power supply and volume control can bring the price close to 13-14K, so buyer beware if these upgrades are necessary for your system.

Lastly, despite claims to the contrary, I tried the VC on both the Analog and Diamond and wound up ordering my Diamond without.  I know Vince finds it hard to believe that a preamp can sound better, but IMO, both DACS (like all my other prior DACS) sound better through my Audio Research preamp.  

Lastly, the phyiscal appearance of this DAC is gorgeous.  I wished their Diamond had taken on this new appearance but in the end it is about the sound.  

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thanks for your fine comments Priaptor. I'm sure your Diamond is a spectacular DAC.

I probably will build a varient of the CAPS 3 ( I need Thuderbolt) in the future. But the MAC is a great reviewing tool allowing me to change between OSX and Windows easily.

And yes, at $6995, I agree that The Analog DAC offers amazing sound quality for the money.

 

 

earwaxxer's picture

Nice review... A lust worthy piece for sure! I have one of the old Link DAC lll's. I use it for subwoofer duty, and occasionally switch it in for my Gungnir for front end play just for the jollies of it. Its very 'analog' sounding considering its about 20yrs old.

IndianEars's picture

Thanks, Guys for your comments.

I agree with Priaptor that in my book, a Good Pre amp is hard to beat ( yes, i too have an AR Pre and love its sonics).

Would appreciate your comments on :

1. How does this DAC's sound relate to the Sound of the Playback MPD-5 ? ( Which I have heard ?)

2. Any comments on the Bass power and slam from The Analog DAC ?

Steven Plaskin's picture

Sorry, I have not heard the MPD-5.

The Analog DAC has excellent bass power and slam. I have been listening to some of the new Reference Recordings 176.4/24 and they sounded very impressive on The Analog DAC.

t30lse's picture

Hi Steve.

Great review of the Analog Dac. How dose the Auralic Vega compare to the MSB Analog Dac specifically in terms of lack if hardness in complex passages and bass slam, etc? Any other comparisons that come to mind would be appreciated. The main reason for this request is to determine if the Auralic Vega is in the same league as the MSB Analog or is the MSB on totally different level. Thanks.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I just sent The Analog DAC to Michael with the same question as  he has the Auralic Vega. The ball is in Michael's court!

tbrads's picture

As always, Steve, you reviews are broad in scope and well-worded.  I like your perspective as a vinyl collector, too.  Nice job.

This Analog DAC has always been on my watch list; even more so now.  I have the Vega inhouse to compare to my Meitner, but look forward to Michael's comments.  A $3500 DAC compared to a $7-12K DAC, though, is already a bit skewed.  It wil lsay great things about Auralic if it can keep up in some departments.

Priaptor and i chat almost daily.  As he stated I will reitierate; I would love to help you move toward a CAPS design, but make sure it is nearly Zuma-sized, especially if you end up like me, smitten with the idea of a dual pc hibernating setup with Jplay.  :)  THAT would be amazing with the Analog DAC (as I guess the Win 8 driver issues with the DAC IV are not there with the Analog?)

Ted.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Thanks for the comments Ted.

I had no issues with the MSB Tech Windows drivers after I reinstalled them. I was able to play DSD 64 and 128 with JRiver / JPlay.

IndianEars's picture

Hi Steve,

How would you compare the sonic signatures of the MSB Analog Dac Vs Playback's MPD-3 ?

Thanks

Steven Plaskin's picture

The Playback Designs MPD-3 has a more "up front" sound that is somewhat highlighted compared to The Analog DAC. The Analog DAC has greater front to back depth. The Playback Designs sounds faster, while the Analog DAC is more "relaxed" sounding. Both are excellent  sounding DACs but quite different sounding.

fmak's picture

a computer transport with all the complexities that you indulge in is not any better than a good laser based transport.

Now you have proved it to yourself!

''My computer transport sounded a little blurred and not as fast with a slight thickening of the bass. The soundstage reproduced by my computer simply did not compare to the CD IV. This really bugged me and set me on the path to see if I could improve the sound of my computer transport.''

 

 

 

Priaptor's picture

after using Bootcamp and JPLAY using a Windows solution that he was able to get the sound equal to the Transport that the manufacturer wanted him to use as a basis for comparisons.

What I think, more than anything, Steve proved to himself as well as those of us who have done similarly is that Windows based solutions are better than Mac based solutions.  In fact, if and when Steve moves to a CAPS based solution he will take another step, that I believe can surpass the transport.  

The transport/Analog is a great solution, for those who want to play physical media and get up, change CDs, etc.  It takes all the computer hassles out of the equation but introduces a variable, namely having to get off your rear end to change media, store media, find media, etc.  That is not what I got into computer audio for.  

Lastly, as someone who has been playing around with this stuff for awhile, a hardcore Mac believer in the past and who has tried all of MSB variables, I can attest that I was blown away by the Analog with the transport and can happily report that my CAPS based server was the better solution.  My CAPS solution uses Red Wines Black Lightening battery solution which really adds to the experience.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Welcome to AudioStream Fred. The CD IV was excellent sounding, although it is different than the typical CD/SACD/DVD-A player as I described in the review. I'm looking forward to your future comments here at AudioStream.

luiscesarsaiz's picture

Thanks Steve for your great review. I have been waiting the review of the Analog DAC with a lot of expectation as the review of the Auralic Vega.

I rip all my CD collection almost 10 years ago (wav first and after again to flac), and start using slimdevices (v2) via coax to my Mark Levinson nº 39 that i still use today as a DAC. But last 4 years ago I forgot my interest to CD due a presentation of several LP playback systems. ( I purchased and analog front end -Project RPM 10.1/Blackbird/EAR834 and a reference preamp the AudioResearch Reference 5). What a sound gave me the LP, not the sterile CD!.

And know I'm very interested in finding a good DAC that RESTORES my CD collection, and it is open to new formats like the interesting but not so popular DSD with the promise of very analog sound.

I think most of us is still having a good collection of music on CD VS high quality files. So My questions are:

- could you give a more detailed explanation that how it sound with a CD quality files?.

- The Analog DAC have filters or Upsampling method to better our CD collection?

- How it sounds compared to the Auralic Vega

- How it sounds compared to a DCS Debussy DAC?

Thank you very much and thanks for your work !!

Priaptor's picture

I have had many DACS in my system, the last reference was the excellent EMMDAC2X which has garnered incredible press and enjoyment by many of us who have owned it.  No doubt that DAC, is arguably state of the art and I loved it.

As a point of reference, in the old days, I owned Wilson WATT/Puppies and later their X1s.  I am not looking to beat up on Wilson, just to point out that their overly detailed approach, albeit with pretty good soundstage, was in my opinion, excellent on first listen but somewhat fatiguing overtime.  The point I make is that it is easy to get caught up and even confused by an overly etched sound, that at first listen can allure the listener as he/she hears a cymbal that makes your eardrum vibrate.

When I put the Analog and later the Diamond into the system, while the Meitner did everything well, including detail, timber, imaging, etc, this was one of those 5 minute moments I have only experienced a few times in my life.  It took 5 minutes to not only hear the superior sound but to comprehend just how much better it was.  I was so taken aback by just how well MSB implemented their digital I almost immediately made up my mind to buy the Big Guy, something just 6 months ago I was saying one must be nuts to do.

The MSB is so effortless, so accurate, with a depth like I have never experienced.  We can call it analog like or anything you like, but I have owned many great vinyl setups in the past and have never been so moved by a source, truly.  The cymbal won't make your eardrum vibrate or be overly detailed BUT will be incredibly accurate, with a soundstage you have never experienced (at least with a digital solution) bringing the source material and the location it was recorded in, directly into your room-without any fatigue.  Understand I am not a person that tries to rationalize what I own and had no desire to find a product that bested my EMMDAC2X, but bested it did.  My quest started wiht the Analog as a solution for a second system but where I ended was much poorer financially but incredibly richer every time I turn on my system. 

Steven Plaskin's picture

I can only comment on CD playback quality as I haven't experienced the other DACs. 44.1/16 playback quality is excellent with the sound quality I described in my review. I am familiar with the Levinson 39. The Analog DAC is in a totally different place than the Levinson. 

MSB states that filter selection is available with the WiFi option. This option was not on my review DAC.  The Analog DAC plays music back at the native sample rate.

silvertone's picture

Good review and I appreciate the effort in the detailed observations.

However, in this day and age, reviews without measurements are really obsolete in my book.

There's no way I could make a purchase at this price range, even at a lower price, without having concrete digital and analog measurements.

Just my opinion about the way I go about my purchases.  It doesn't make any sense to purchase something strictly on listening tests.  I'll leave those type of purchase decisions to the mad men of the 60's and 70's. 

ST

Priaptor's picture

I believe it was Atkinson who did it and said it was the "best" he has ever seen.  I am assuming, although possibly erroneously so, the Analog would be close. 

junker's picture

I also have a fully balanced amplifier with a very nice Kimber Select XLR connection for it. This is one aspect of the Analaog Dac that concerns me vs. the Berkley Alpha 2 (being internally balanced).

Just wondering if you had a chance to compare the balanced to unbalanced outputs on the MSB into your balanced amps? I was trying to convince myself that either the amp side or source side would need an unbalanced to balanced conversion so why not just do it on the source side and use my one very nice cable and balanced inputs on the McIntosh MC452. Do you think that would still make any sense, or would I just want to get an unbalanced cable to go into my amp?

Very interesting product in that it is at a similar price point to the BADA Alpha 2 + USB, but with the added bonus DXD, DSD, one analog input, and an analog volume control...and only lacking a true balanced configuration.

Little dissapointed in their extreme al la carte configuration menu, however. For example, why not include the metal remote instead of the limited plastic model? And include digital filter setting with the remote.

Oh, and before I forget they call that color "Matte White". Is it white, or a light silver? I can never tell in pictures. Grr..

Thank you very much for another great review. It was funny becuase I was independently looking into this product last night when I ran across your review fresh of the press. Have a nice weekend Steve!

 

Cheers,

Josh

Steven Plaskin's picture

Yes I tried the Balanced and Single Ended outputs. For me, the Single Ended outputs sounded better. If one wants true Balanced outputs for an MSB DAC, I would consider the DAC IV. Now the Balanced outputs on The Analog DAC might just sound as good as those on the Berkley Alpha 2. The only was to be sure about this is to try The Analog DAC in your system. 

The white color is really the natural aluminum color. It looks really nice.

IndianEars's picture

Thanks again Steve for your comments on the MPD-3 vs the The Analog DAC. I guess the MPD-3 is more up my street. I now need to go out and hear the MPD-3.... I have heard the MPD-5 and found its HF a touch too Rosy tinted and its Midrange a touch too polite. Else its bested every DAC I have heard. (I am looking out to purchase a top notch DAC).

What Steve presented as a Superb review has blosoomed into a Very informative thread ( Caps Server and comparision to other DAC).

A Huge THANKS to all.

Steve, I willl certainly be seeking out all your reviews and absorbing them.

Cheers ! 

fmak's picture

If you decide to build one, I would suggest that you do not go for the low height case. this looks sexy but restricts what you can fit into it now and  in the future. The deeper Streacom cases would seem to be  better.

Why do I say this?

One of the reasons why the Zuma may be better is because of the dedicated USB card and the isolation of the SSD power supply. More improvements/changes to sound quality can be had after even more isolation such as the suppression of spikes in individual power supply rails, and for this, one needs space. Also, spacing components and wiring apart, rather than bunching them together, can be beneficial.

I personally allow for adquate enclosure sizing for my audio pc builds as this allows for expansion, modifications and experimentation.

 

 

IndianEars's picture

Thanks for those pointers, fmak. I completely agree with you. I have always built my own PCs for more than a decade, and extra cabinet space is invaluable.

However, its unlikely that I will go in for a self build, simply because all the parts ( Specific Bands and components recommended are just not available in my country, and imports do not always reach destination angry

On the brighter side, the premium charged for a completely built up unit is quite reasonable.

On the other hand, the Red Wine Battery price seems Over-The-Top. A quick seach shows that a a similar generic battery as that supplied by Red Wine can be had for as little as US 250 against the Red Wine price of US $ 1800... yes the Red Wine battery pack does have a couple of built in Regulators... which cost peanuts .  Or am i missing something ?

hulubao's picture

Hi Steven,

You have reviewed both the MSB Analog DAC & AcousticPlan DigiMaster DAC with very favourable conclusions.

Could you elaborate how these 2 DAC compares with regards to the musicality?

Thank you.