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post #121 of 330

It's been some happy but busy days with all the holiday stuff and all this new gear! In any event, I said I would do a comparison so here it is. It won't be a formal write up as I feel I need a lot more time with the MSB The Analog DAC and the AMR DP-77 to really put them through their paces but I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what I hear and the differences that follow.

 

I want to start off by saying that both of these DACs are some of the best DACs I've ever heard (I've now heard quite a few in my DAC hunting). They both are packed with some nice features, although as many of you know the AMR doesn't do DSD, but that is just a minor area of recordings at this point and I won't knock it just because AMR chose not to follow suit with this gimmicky format. Both of these DACs lean more towards the euphoric, analog side of things. It is a myth that these type DACs mask, or gloss over any of the details nestled in well recorded and master music. I've heard and compared DACs with all sorts of implementation and different tonal balances with mixed results. Coloration is a totally separate area in sound than detail extraction and resolution. Of course many will disagree that a DAC should ever have its own character, but I have come to realize that coloration and what that implies isn't always bad especially if you prefer a sound that is similar to that of vinyl. Some of you already know that I tend to prefer a system that is very "musical" and analog sounding. For example, the LCD-3 is my favorite headphone because it reproduces music with such a non-fatiguing, smooth, a euphoric-like atmosphere that I have yet to find in any other headphone. The LCD-3 does have faults of its own, but I can live with those because it brings me closer to what this hobby is all about... the music. 

 

The AMR reproduces music very similarly to the MSB. They share very similar tonality, albeit slight differences. The AMR has more emphasis in the mid-range. Vocals are sweeter, smoother, and more forward. On some tracks, especially heavy vocal tracks like Diana Krall's stuff, the added warmth in the mids was appreciated. On the other hand, the emphasized mid-range can become un-natural sounding with rock. Instruments such as electric guitar lose some of that bite and clarity due to the thick mids. I wouldn't classify this DAC as overly warm, but I feel the mid-range can be toned down some to make the tonality almost perfect per my preferences. A few areas where I feel the AMR could use some work is the bass, and the control. Mostly in the lower registers, but I feel the bass slam is lacking, and could be more extended. With well recorded electronic and R&B, the bass lines don't hit as hard as I've heard in the past. The control of the bass is slightly loose. The treble is rolled-off just enough for me. I feel the treble is one of the areas were this DAC shines. It has great extension and is presented in a smooth yet clear way. Horns and cymbals are very natural and realistic. Overall I would say that this DAC is definitely worth the money I paid. The MSB... still haven't decided on the value. 

 

As I said the MSB has very similar tonality. The way it differs is I feel the Analog is the most natural and well balanced DACs I've ever heard. There is no portion of the spectrum that I feel is emphasized, but just enough warmth to make music natural and non-fatiguing. I've played many instruments and have attended a ton of concerts: lounge-type venues, stadiums, and arenas. (one of the perks living in SD is live music is everywhere!). The MSB brings me the closest I've ever been to live music through my system without actually being there. I can feel the bass, I can pick up the spatial queues even with the faintest ring, and of course I can toe-tap without looking like an idiot. Initial I thought the AMR actually was too close to the performance of the MSB to justify keeping such an expensive component, but now that I've run the MSB through speakers and headphones I can full appreciate the rave reviews about this DAC. From the aesthetics to the sound, this thing kicks ass. Is there anything the AMR does better? Honestly, I feel the AMR has more tube amp type qualities and because of that, also has their strengths. Dynamics and a slightly wider soundstage goes to the AMR. Yes! It does have some pros and some kudos over the MSB, but that is about it. The MSB has better detail extraction, imaging, and of course the more balanced tonality as well as other things. The MSB also is more natural sounding to me top-to-bottom. Instruments and vocals are perfect. Is there anything that you feel the MSB is lacking? I feel the MSB soundwise is perfect for me. I don't hear any faults at all. I can say I'm not a fan of their isolation spikes and the matte finish. The finish is EXTREMELY sensitive to oils and contact. I've had this DAC for a few months now and it already has a few marks, and the what makes it worse is I have no idea where they came from. Also, If one is interested in this DAC, I would highly recommend replacing the feet. They may look cool, but if ever want to move or adjust the dac you will scratch or scuff the finish. 

 

For less than half the price, the AMR still is the better buy. It has very few shortcomings, and actually has more functionality. The dual dac chip design, the tube buffer, and all the filters really makes this DAC an all around good buy for multiple applications. The build is top notch, the design is state of the art, and the company supports their products very well. It seems like they truly value their customers and want to keep them. But if you are looking for the best of the best and your budget is a blank check, go for the MSB The Analog DAC. I haven't been disappointed with either of these. I fully plan to use them both in their respected systems, but overall the MSB is league ahead in the technical aspects of music reproduction. 

 

Systems:

 

DACs - MSB The Analog DAC / AMR DP-777

 

AMPs - HeadAmp GS-X mk2 / Firstwatt F5T v2 / McIntosh MC452 / Vintage Kenwood (Forgot the model) / Vintage Marantz 2230 / Rogue Audio Apollo Monoblocks

 

Sources - Mac Mini 2012 w/ Boulder PSU / Custom PC 

 

Preamp - MSB The Analog Pre-Amp / AudioValve Eclipse / Ayre X-K5xeMP

 

Headphones - HD800 / LCD-3 / HE-6 / Alpha Dog / HD600 

 

Speakers - Tekton Designs Pendragons 

 

 

IMO, YMMV, etc. 


Edited by Greed - 12/20/13 at 2:56pm

Gear mentioned in this thread:

post #122 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greed View Post
 

It's been some happy but busy days with all the holiday stuff and all this new gear! In any event, I said I would do a comparison so here it is. It won't be a formal write up as I feel I need a lot more time with the MSB The Analog DAC and the AMR DP-77 to really put them through their paces but I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what I hear and the differences that follow.

Extra Text (Click to show)

I want to start off by saying that both of these DACs are some of the best DACs I've ever heard (I've now heard quite a few in my DAC hunting). They both are packed with some nice features, although as many of you know the AMR doesn't do DSD, but that is just a minor area of recordings at this point and I won't knock it just because AMR chose not to follow suit with this gimmicky format. Both of these DACs lean more towards the euphoric, analog side of things. It is a myth that these type DACs mask, or gloss over any of the details nestled in well recorded and master music. I've heard and compared DACs with all sorts of implementation and different tonal balances with mixed results. Coloration is a totally separate area in sound than detail extraction and resolution. Of course many will disagree that a DAC should ever have its own character, but I have come to realize that coloration and what that implies isn't always bad especially if you prefer a sound that is similar to that of vinyl. Some of you already know that I tend to prefer a system that is very "musical" and analog sounding. For example, the LCD-3 is my favorite headphone because it reproduces music with such a non-fatiguing, smooth, a euphoric-like atmosphere that I have yet to find in any other headphone. The LCD-3 does have faults of its own, but I can live with those because it brings me closer to what this hobby is all about... the music. 

 

The AMR reproduces music very similarly to the MSB. They share very similar tonality, albeit slight differences. The AMR has more emphasis in the mid-range. Vocals are sweeter, smoother, and more forward. On some tracks, especially heavy vocal tracks like Diana Krall's stuff, the added warmth in the mids was appreciated. On the other hand, the emphasized mid-range can become un-natural sounding with rock. Instruments such as electric guitar lose some of that bite and clarity due to the thick mids. I wouldn't classify this DAC as overly warm, but I feel the mid-range can be toned down some to make the tonality almost perfect per my preferences. A few areas where I feel the AMR could use some work is the bass, and the control. Mostly in the lower registers, but I feel the bass slam is lacking, and could be more extended. With well recorded electronic and R&B, the bass lines don't hit as hard as I've heard in the past. The control of the bass is slightly loose. The treble is rolled-off just enough for me. I feel the treble is one of the areas were this DAC shines. It has great extension and is presented in a smooth yet clear way. Horns and cymbals are very natural and realistic. Overall I would say that this DAC is definitely worth the money I paid. The MSB... still haven't decided on the value. 

 

As I said the MSB has very similar tonality. The way it differs is I feel the Analog is the most natural and well balanced DACs I've ever heard. There is no portion of the spectrum that I feel is emphasized, but just enough warmth to make music natural and non-fatiguing. I've played many instruments and have attended a ton of concerts: lounge-type venues, stadiums, and arenas. (one of the perks living in SD is live music is everywhere!). The MSB brings me the closest I've ever been to live music through my system without actually being there. I can feel the bass, I can pick up the spatial queues even with the faintest ring, and of course I can toe-tap without looking like an idiot. Initial I thought the AMR actually was too close to the performance of the MSB to justify keeping such an expensive component, but now that I've run the MSB through speakers and headphones I can full appreciate the rave reviews about this DAC. From the aesthetics to the sound, this thing kicks ass. Is there anything the AMR does better? Honestly, I feel the AMR has more tube amp type qualities and because of that, also has their strengths. Dynamics and a slightly wider soundstage goes to the AMR. Yes! It does have some pros and some kudos over the MSB, but that is about it. The MSB has better detail extraction, imaging, and of course the more balanced tonality as well as other things. The MSB also is more natural sounding to me top-to-bottom. Instruments and vocals are perfect. Is there anything that you feel the MSB is lacking? I feel the MSB soundwise is perfect for me. I don't hear any faults at all. I can say I'm not a fan of their isolation spikes and the matte finish. The finish is EXTREMELY sensitive to oils and contact. I've had this DAC for a few months now and it already has a few marks, and the what makes it worse is I have no idea where they came from. Also, If one is interested in this DAC, I would highly recommend replacing the feet. They may look cool, but if ever want to move or adjust the dac you will scratch or scuff the finish. 

 

For less than half the price, the AMR still is the better buy. It has very few shortcomings, and actually has more functionality. The dual dac chip design, the tube buffer, and all the filters really makes this DAC an all around good buy for multiple applications. The build is top notch, the design is state of the art, and the company supports their products very well. It seems like they truly value their customers and want to keep them. But if you are looking for the best of the best and your budget is a blank check, go for the MSB The Analog DAC. I haven't been disappointed with either of these. I fully plan to use them both in their respected systems, but overall the MSB is league ahead in the technical aspects of music reproduction. 

 

Systems:

 

DACs - MSB The Analog DAC / AMR DP-777

 

AMPs - HeadAmp GS-X mk2 / Firstwatt F5T v2 / McIntosh MC452 / Vintage Kenwood (Forgot the model) / Vintage Marantz 2230 / Rogue Audio Apollo Monoblocks

 

Sources - Mac Mini 2012 w/ Boulder PSU / Custom PC 

 

Preamp - MSB The Analog Pre-Amp / AudioValve Eclipse / Ayre X-K5xeMP

 

Headphones - HD800 / LCD-3 / HE-6 / Alpha Dog / HD600 

 

Speakers - Tekton Designs Pendragons 

 

 

IMO, YMMV, etc. 

 


Fantastic review Greed!  What power supply were you using with the Analog?  Did you try any of the other ones they offer?  Did you connect it via USB?  Do you feel that the digital volume control on the Analog is worthwhile?  Thanks! :beerchug:


Edited by Audio Jester - 12/20/13 at 4:09pm
post #123 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio Jester View Post
 


Fantastic review Greed!  What power supply were you using with the Analog?  Did you try any of the other ones they offer?  Did you connect it via USB?  Do you feel that the digital volume control on the Analog is worthwhile?  Thanks! :beerchug:

 

Thank you for the kind words. I hope it helps anyone that is on the fence. To answer your questions:

 

1) I'm using MSB's Power Base, the upgraded PS that goes for $1000 or so. 

 

2) I haven't tried any other power supplies, but I know the upgraded power base is one of the best designs I've ever seen. Check their site for more info of it. 

 

3) Yes all of my testing was through USB for both the AMR and MSB.

 

4) The volume control is actually not digital. It is highly debated but most higher end equipment use analog attenuators. Digital volume controls can introduce other problems.  So to answer your question, yes the volume control in the MSB is really good. You would be hard pressed to find a better pre-amp under $3K. 

 

Picture of the power base:

 

post #124 of 330
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the wonderful review, Greed! I doubt I will ever own a MSB Analog, so it is good to know how the DP-777 compares with the Analog. I am glad you are still enjoying the DP-777 despite its shortcomings when compared to Analog. beerchug.gif
post #125 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by froger View Post

Thanks for the wonderful review, Greed! I doubt I will ever own a MSB Analog, so it is good to know how the DP-777 compares with the Analog. I am glad you are still enjoying the DP-777 despite its shortcomings when compared to Analog. beerchug.gif

 

Thanks froger,

 

It sounds cliche but I could honestly live with either. I find the Analog does better with speakers not sure why. I'm guessing it is just limitations of driver size or something like that. For right now, the Analog will be set up with my speakers and the AMR with my headphones.


Edited by Greed - 12/21/13 at 1:05am
post #126 of 330

Thank you for the review.

 

I understand why you prefer the AMR on the headphone. It's because it tames any treble or mid spike.

That's right ?

post #127 of 330
Thread Starter 

Hi, for anyone who trusts my reviews/impressions, here is something I just discovered recently which has brought my enjoyment of music to another level. Definitely one of the best value for money products in my relatively short experience as a head-fier. 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/696177/da-t-ac-filter-impression

post #128 of 330
Great review, Greed. Gives me a really good impression of both DACs.
And the amr will stay on my shortlist. The msb is way out of my league financially.
post #129 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by froger View Post
 

Hi, for anyone who trusts my reviews/impressions, here is something I just discovered recently which has brought my enjoyment of music to another level. Definitely one of the best value for money products in my relatively short experience as a head-fier. 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/696177/da-t-ac-filter-impression

Haha, great to see you're liking the DA&T AC Filter too. I've been trying to hunt one down since reading about them a year or so ago. No luck so far, but maybe that can change soon?

 

Anyway, I'm happy more people are giving them a shot and talking about them :-D

post #130 of 330
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Benny-x View Post

Haha, great to see you're liking the DA&T AC Filter too. I've been trying to hunt one down since reading about them a year or so ago. No luck so far, but maybe that can change soon?

Anyway, I'm happy more people are giving them a shot and talking about them :-D
Yes, it indeed seems well-received by those who got their hands on it. I have spent over $4000 over the last year on power cords, conditioners, PSUs, cables, upgrading ram, SSD, but none of them seemed to yield more obvious results than the 3 combined DA&T filters, or should I say on top of what I have already done to improve the power to my system, the DA&T filters are still able to bring the sound up to another level I really enjoy. I only wish there are more English speaking headphone users out there who can chip in their experience. I am also keen to find out whether others share the same positive results in a headphone set-up.
post #131 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greed View Post

...

 

IMO, YMMV, etc. 

Thanks for the great write up!

 

I auditioned the MSB - it's a great DAC. I would love to hear the upgraded 777 vs it.  

 

2 of the biggest factors I came across in the auditions were chip type - MSB and AMR both use multibit chips (ie: not delta sigma designs) and  output stages - SS vs. valve.

 

I found in the end that my preference leans towards valve based DAC's, the AMR seemed to connect me to the music a bit more, however I did not hear them back to back as you have had the chance to do.  None of the reps wanted to be at my place to demo the gear at the same time.. ;) 

 

Cheers,

 

gav.

post #132 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by gavtorn View Post
 

Thanks for the great write up!

 

I auditioned the MSB - it's a great DAC. I would love to hear the upgraded 777 vs it.  

 

2 of the biggest factors I came across in the auditions were chip type - MSB and AMR both use multibit chips (ie: not delta sigma designs) and  output stages - SS vs. valve.

 

I found in the end that my preference leans towards valve based DAC's, the AMR seemed to connect me to the music a bit more, however I did not hear them back to back as you have had the chance to do.  None of the reps wanted to be at my place to demo the gear at the same time.. ;) 

 

Cheers,

 

gav.


Thanks gav for the kind words. You could be on to something regarding the multibit-chip design. I'll be honest I've never been a fan of the Sabre chips. I feel they do have a signature sound that no implementation thus far has seem to firmly grasp. I demoed the Vega, which is a Sabre chip implementation (I believe?) and it was not what I expected. It still suffered from the same digital hardness that most DACs have that I feel really takes away from the music. Hard to explain, but that was what I was hearing. 

 

In regards to valve vs SS, I feel both have their values just like with amplification. I've only heard two valve based DACs thus far and that is the Lampi and the AMR. The Lampi is what I would call the classic tube sound. Warm (most of the time overly warm), thick mids, very intimate and forward presentation, but wide and vast soundstaging with excellent dynamics. The AMR is different in that it brings more control and authority. It leans more towards middle ground in comparison, taking some of those aspects were I feel SS design is very strong. 

 

In the end, it does come down to your individual preferences as well as your setup. The Lampi may sound extremely good with Bryston gear or Simaudio stuff. 

post #133 of 330

Thank you for these words. Seems the AMR a great dac. 

I was thinking about upgrade my M7 to Vega but it seems that it isn't a good idea ?

post #134 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hun7er View Post
 

Thank you for these words. Seems the AMR a great dac. 

I was thinking about upgrade my M7 to Vega but it seems that it isn't a good idea ?

 

Prep can tell you about that :beerchug:

post #135 of 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hun7er View Post
 

Thank you for these words. Seems the AMR a great dac. 

I was thinking about upgrade my M7 to Vega but it seems that it isn't a good idea ?

 

I wasn't impressed with the Vega other than its functionality. If you can find it for a good price it is worth the marginal upgrade over the M7, but I would rather have an AMR, Invicta, or Phasure. I still would like to hear a HEX, Calyx, and the Bricasti again. 

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