Originally Posted by Asr
Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC (MKI) vs Parasound DAC (Sachu's, unsure of model): At the end of the meet some source-swapping was done on Sachu's system and I got to hear the difference between these two on the SR-007/LL.
The Alpha DAC affirmed to me that source can definitely make a difference, especially when it comes to the SR-007. As I told Sachu, I thought the Alpha was the better DAC. It had more dynamic range - it was better at conveying low volume specifically, and it provided more of a contrast between soft and loud. It also had more clarity, and more separation/diffusion. The imaging on the Parasound was downright concentrated/integrated in comparison.
However, as better as the Alpha DAC was, and I thought it was a clear step above the Parasound in pretty much every way, it still wasn't as good as my own setup at home. My setup provides even more dynamic range - specifically, the ability to really push wide-volume swings from very soft to very loud, and I also got the nagging suspicion that my setup is considerably clearer-sounding too.
Was there a good USB transport behind the Berkeley? It's widely known on Computer Audiophile that the Berkeley's native Toslink, BNC, and AES is not that good. I got a significant upgrade using a Wavelength Wavelink USB converter. I've read similarly good experiences from people who have tried the Alpha USB, Empirical Offramp, and Diverter. The Weiss INT 202, not so good. A good USB converter is much better than a Lynx PCI card, which is what most people did until we had the USB converter renaissance in 2011.
It's a shame that the Alpha doesn't handle jitter that well, but I guess there were design considerations why they designed the unit the way they did.
If you hear the difference between ICs, I got a pretty shocking difference going from a Wireworld coax to a VH Audio Pulsar Ag. I normally don't hear much difference between ICs, but the digital IC really surprised me and my girlfriend (who is pretty unmerciful about pulling punches if I just wasted money on something that made no change or made things worse, like NOS tubes).
The Berkeley is capable of being an awesome D/A, but needs some experimenting before it gets there. It's still really nice out of the box with Monoprice cables, which is what I did for several months.
Too bad you haven't heard a KGSSHV. I'd be interested in reading some impressions on how the KGSSHV stacks up against the current top-end SS amps. I might be able to hear a KGSSHV soon, which I'm looking forward to.