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MSB Analog DAC? (Review p3)

post #1 of 731
Thread Starter 

I have been pointed to this DAC by a fellow head-fi'er (jimndre): http://www.msbtech.com/products/analogDacDetail.php


It's in the "would love to try, can't have" price bracket, but I can't help being curious. Anyway, compared to the other top MSB models, if you sum up what's offered, it comes out as "almost" cheap (in comparison). They advertise it as their "most advanced dac", so I was wondering, is it actually the best, just offering less features? Or, otherwise, where is a catch (if any)?

post #2 of 731

The catch is that they're still asking for 7k

post #3 of 731

Yeah, and that's 7k stock.  Look at the options.  Adding second and third inputs costs 1k per.  I can see the price getting out of control pretty damn fast.  No surprises there, though.  We're talking about MSB after all.

post #4 of 731

Yikes - $995 for each additional input, $1950 just to get a wifi input.


Also, they really recommend the better power supply. 

post #5 of 731

Is MSB really that good?  I've been curious about them ever since reading up on ladder vs delta-sigma DACs, but they're more than I'd want to spend on a source given how quickly digital technology advances.  Audiogon sometimes has their last generation DACs discounted, where they cost just as much as a new Alpha Model 2 or used DAC202 :)

post #6 of 731

This is a great DAC. It doesn't offer the highest resolution around, but it is indeed - surprise, surprise - very analog sounding. Very fluid, with very good texture.

post #7 of 731

I'm surprised there's no discussion about this dac... any recent impressions? popcorn.gif

post #8 of 731

I ordered one, waiting for it to come in.

post #9 of 731
Originally Posted by Radio_head View Post

I ordered one, waiting for it to come in.


Nice, let us know how it goes.


I find that I'm somewhat biased against MSB, for no good reason really... Not sure how that came about. Maybe I'm still upset at them for charging almost $2500 for their iLink digital iPod thingy. 


I do wonder what would have happened if they named this DAC "The Digital" instead of "The Analog". 

post #10 of 731

I don't like their add-on pricing either, but at the end of the day with the Analog DAC I won't be needing to add on that much and I can do the rest of it down the line.  I respect how just how custom their products are, but don't think that's an excuse to charge 10K for a clock or 50 for a DAC.  Then again, so many others in the industry just gussy up the casework and charge numbers like that anyways.  Its a terrible justification but I really wanted to buy one. 


On another note, their youtube series is awesome: 



With this much awkwardness, you know the engineering must be good.

post #11 of 731

I want to hit the Christmas office party at MSB!  Those guys are rock stars!

post #12 of 731

People have also mentioned the power supply, but this is actually their "stock" power supply (included in price, no extra cost)


Photo found on WBF, posted by user Elberoth (who is now a member here as well)


Two toroids, four voltage regulators, linear power supply.  I don't know how much more they do with the powerbase, but this is already pretty nice.  

post #13 of 731

Yeah, and he also has a DAC IV Signature for sale at 13K. What's the price difference between that and the Analog, and which one sounds better?

post #14 of 731

An Analog DAC with powerbase, I2S, USB 384, and preamp would be $11980 new.  I'm not certain that the included filter suite/upsampling are the same.  Signature powerbase is also a bit beefier than the Analog DAC's from what I understand.


Biggest difference is the number of modules - the DAV IV Signature has 4 and is internally balanced, the Analog DAC has two and is not, though it does have balanced outs.  MSB also claims the modules are better on the DAC IV series so ultimate resolution would also be better.  Also the DAC IV is modular for easy (though pricey) upgrades in the future, with the Analog DACs upgrades limited to functionality rather than capability, other than the powerbase.  The clock on the Analog DAC is the same Femto 140 that MSB was charging 4K+ for on the DAC IV series, but (admittedly only from what I read) when the significantly cheaper Analog DAC outperformed its much more expensive bigger brothers the Femto 140 was made standard on the DAC IV plus series.


Here's MSB's soundbite on the Analog DAC and its goal (and incidentally why its called the Analog DAC)


How does this DAC compare with the DAC IV?

This is the first question I am usually asked. The answer is not simple. Its like comparing a Mini and a Prius. Both are very good at doing what they were designed for, but they are designed with a different goal in mind.

So lets start at the beginning. When a DAC reproduces a digital sample there are two independent components. The precision of the analog level and the precision of the placement in time. The DAC precision determines the exact voltage created. The jitter of the clock determines the precision of the placement of that sample. The graph shows that shifting the reproduced audio signal in time or amplitude creates an error that effects the sound BASED on the nature of the signal. Test tones are not important here, we are talking about music. So the perceived change in the music is defined by the nature of the music and the type of error introduced.

So in my perception, and in simple terms, the amplitude precision provides the realism of the instrument and voice. It contributes directly to accurate harmonic structure. Jitter on the other hand primarily contributes to the 'digital harshness' effect and focus. Jitter for me takes the pleasure out of the music and creates fatigue over time. For me its deadly. In single bit, Delta Sigma DAC, you find yourself trading off resolution and harshness. You just don't get both. The only way to control harshness is to filter detail.

The Ladder DAC gives you an opportunity to adjust both parameters independently. The DAC IV family provides three levels of DAC precision, all of which are as good as or exceed the Analog DAC precision. But the Analog DAC provides time performance superior to the basic three models of DAC IV, but not what the DAC IV can do with the Galaxy Femtosecond Clock installed. The Analog DAC is optimized for time stability on a budget.

So you will love the natural sound of the Analog DAC. You will love the lack of digital harshness. You will think you are listening to an analog source. But when you compare with the DAC IV with Galaxy Clock you will realize that you are missing precision and absolute accuracy.

Depending on your budget and listening priority, the Analog DAC may be perfect for you or the DAC IV may be perfect. Also remember that the DAC IV offers years of upgrades and improvements, and the Analog DAC does not. Again, the value of that depends on your lifestyle and priorities. So if the DAC IV is out of your budget, and you are considering ANY other Delta Sigma DAC, than you must give the Analog DAC an audition before deciding.

Edited by Radio_head - 5/30/13 at 9:26am
post #15 of 731

OK, I think it got it now. It doesn't look like the Signature IV has a Femto clock (not plus series), so there's another 5k min. to add to the 13K and all of a sudden the gap is much bigger. Based on current configuration of both I'd guess the Analog might actually sound better. The Analog doesn't have many upgrades so at least there is some wallet control built in. Hopefully you'll post a review at some point.

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