Reviews by negura


Headphoneus Supremus
I received the Jade 2 part of the tour organized by HFM. Many thanks for the opportunity to hear these at home and at length.

In terms of look and feel, the Jade 2 have an industrial look and feel. Not very premium, but appears sturdy, and at this price range I think this is about right. The only weakness is the cable which seems less sturdy than comparably priced Stax cables. It has been a while since I owned electrostats, but I did acquire an used pair of Stax L700 during my time with the Jade 2, as I also wanted to hear the latter at home and so I had something from a similar price range to compare with.

I will focus mostly on the headphones, as I cannot compare this amplifier with another one from the same price range. My main comments on the amplifier are it seems a bit on the warm side of things and it requires quite a bit of voltage from the source. My DAC can output between 5.6-15Vrms so that's more than plenty, but I would be slightly cautious with lower voltage sources paired with the Jade 2 amp.

The packaging the Jade 2 system arrives in is very basic. Cardboard boxes similar to Audeze 2 classic. No frills there.

Gear used:

MSB DAC V stack
Audioquest SKY cables
Audioquest Diamond USB
optimized PC

Stax L700 (modded for linear bass)

Sound impressions:
The very first impression is the Jade 2 have a very natural sound, slightly on warmer/fuller side, but largely neutral. The soundstage is pleasantly big, with very good depth and great height.

Tonal balance:
The Jade 2 are a bit warmer and fuller sounding than the L700. Very close to neutrality, with a slight euphony.

The bass is quite linear and goes very low. The sub-bass weight does not compete with my HE-6 or SR1a, but I don't expect that from electrostats.Saying that the Jade 2 have very satisfying bass in terms of both quantiy and weight. I am not a bass head, although I do have benchmark level headphones for bass quality, and I don't feel I am missing anything with the Jade 2 when listening to music with strong bass content. Even EDM sounds awesome.

The L700 have less bass body and impact. The bass attack is more defined than the L700s and there is more extension.

So the Jade 2 win here.

The most important part of the spectrum.

From 200hz to 800hz both Stax and Jade 2 measure virtually flat. The difference is the timbre. The Stax L700 have slightly thinner body with better note separation and sound faster.

Around 1khz the Jade 2 have around +1dB but Stax around +3dB, followed by a gentle decay to 2khz on both headphones.

I would say in comparison the Jade 2 have the more natural sounding midrange to my ear, with the Stax winning in technicalities. The latter are slightly more resolving of micro-detail.

The treble is typical of electrostats: silky, clean, airy, lacking distortion and very detailed. Even the brighter/peakier areas sound quite benign, unless someone is very particular about these areas in the FR.

Both headphones have a peak around 4khz. For L700 it is at 4-5khz and a couple of dB smaller than the Jade 2's.

In terms of stage proportions I would compare them as below:
Width: Jade 2 > L700
Height: Jade 2 >= L700
Depth: L700 > Jade 2

Both these headphones have a very spatious head stage.

Transient response:
Both headphones are really fast. They reach full sound amplitude very quickly and more quickly than most planars. They can hit hard when the content requires, but the Jade 2 seem to have a more focused weightier attack, whereas the Stax L700 hit have the ethereal quality typical of most Stax.

Both are VERY resolving headphones, but I would have to give the edge in resolution to the L700. However at this price range the resolution capabilities are beyond reach of most dynamic and planar headphones.

I have really enjoyed my time with the Jade 2 system. And if I had to pick just one headphones between these and the L700 it would be a difficult decision. On build quality alone there are more premium features the L700 have, like genuine leather pads and nicer cable. I used to switch between these two headphones depending on mood and occasionally content. Both are great all arounders. But for a more relaxing listen, the Jade 2 have the edge. The L700 are a bit more resolving and crispier/cleaner sounding, without giving too much way in terms of body. In conclusion the Jade 2 are really well positioned price wise for the sound quality they offer, and imo ahead of equivalently priced planars. But then one has to consider the electrostatic energizer cost to the equation.
Great job as usual, man! I love your technical ears. :)


Headphoneus Supremus
The IEMs were audiotioned at home and were received part of a tour. Many thanks to the organizers for the opportunity to listen to and enjoy these IEMs.

In terms of look and feel, the LSX seem very well built and the size is certainly smaller than both my Layla v1 and ProPhile 8 that I will be comparing these with. The Lark Studios won't protude much while inserted in the ear. The stock box is very well presented and they come with a great looking copper cable with standard 2 pin connectors. I have to note with this cable the socket fit is not particularly tight. The LSX sound bores are the largest out of the 3 IEMs.

Gear used:
THX 789 amplifier / Leckerton UHA-6
Ibasso DX200

Other IEMs:
JH Layla v1
InEar Prophile 8

Onto the sound impressions. From the first seconds of listening it is obvious the LSX have a very particular tuning compared than the other 2 IEMs I use regularly. My first impression of Lark Studios was that of a warm, lush, dense, smooth sounding IEM with enhanced bass response. Switching from the Prophile 8 the Lark Studios sound a bit neboulous and dark, more closed-in, but with great depth, liquidity and good impact. In turn switching the other way, the Prophile 8 sound more crisp, snappier and dry, with great clarity and instrument separation. After a few minutes of listening the first impressions mitigate on both as one gets acustomed with the sound. Two very contrasting sound signatures.

Tonal balance:
From warm to bright: LSX (noticeably warm/dense sounding) > PP8 (I don't hear these as warm at all, but not bright either) > Layla (neutral to slightly bright, depending on gear)

The LSX bass quantity is boosted compared to PP8 and Layla (both in neutral position on their controls as they have adjustable bass reponse), with strong midbass presence. The LSX bass quality is good, but not amongst the best. It is obvious compared to both PP8 but even more so Layla, that bass resolution and focus are significantly more defined on the latter. This is in my opinion the biggest weakness these IEMs have, but at least the bass for most part doesn't overshadow the midrange, which is good.

Envelopping, warm, well textured. Pretty awesome with female vocals for example. The LSX have significantly increased density and thickness compared to both PP8 and Layla.

The Layla are the most analytical sounding in the treble region out of the 3. Amazingly detailed (for any HP not just IEMs), lots of air, crisp articulation. PP8 are in between, slightly smoother treble, less detailed oriented but still have good bite and air to the treble. The LSX in comparison have the smoothest and most laidback treble response. Treble heads might look for something else, but everyone else will find the treble pleasing and accomodating to most recordings.

With the LSX vocal sibilance is kept to a minimum, but not entirely obscured where present on the recording (I used some badly mastered test recordings to assess this), which is good meaning they are accurate enough.

In terms of overall stage size: Layla >> PP8 > LSX. The LSX have the most compact stage, but with great depth. It doesn't feel closed like some lesser IEMs I had in the past.
In terms of stage depth: Layla > LSX > PP8

Transient response:
Despite the thicker/warmer sound the LSX can hit quite hard. They are still armatures after all. Not a huge difference here in terms of impact, but I would say the Layla have the edge over the other two. Based on previous descriptions it should come as no surprise the LSX have the most liquid decays.

Detail: Despite their warm/liquid character, the LSX are actually quite well resolving, except for the bass which I've already commented on. In terms of detail extraction the Layla are easily the most revealing IEMs out of the three. In fact they are so resolving, that with below average quality recordings one could wish they hold back a little bit (a bit like HD800 on IEMs). The PP8 are next in resolution, a couple of notches below the Layla, which makes them quite a bit more forgiving. The LSX as a combination of their warm/smoother balance are the most forgiving out of the three. I would in fact personally pair the LSX with a very assertive DAP/rig.

Against these top level performers, the LSX may come last with regards to their technical abilities, but they have a very seductive and engaging sound, only slightly let down by the bass quality (also quantity imo, but I know some prefer enhanced bass response). I have been really enjoying my time with them, and while I do not view them as all arounders, with modern genres they are quite fun IEMs.
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Headphoneus Supremus

Mason V3 Review

This pair has been with me for two weeks part of a tour demo.
I have used these IEMs with the below system(s):
Leckerton portable amplifier/MSB DAC V
Other IEMs: JH16v2pro, Etymotic ER4-SR

Introduction, Personal bias:
My personal TOTL collection includes the modded early version HE-6, Focal Clear, and "kiss" modded HD650s. From the stat world I really like both the SR-009 and SR-007 MK1, both of which I owned for a long time, before sticking with dynamic for the convenience of better amplification available to me. As such I enjoy a tonality range of relative neutrality/slightly bright to a bit warm from neutral.

While I have owned or heard at home most open headphone TOTLs, in the IEM world I've been playing catching-up, hence my interest in hearing these, and the IEMs I owned at the time of these review were the Etymotic ER4-SR and JH16v2pro.

There are plenty of reviews dealing with the exterior aspect, features and specs. I was more than happy with the build quality during the time I had these, so saying that I will move straight to the sound impressions.

I really liked the dual material options provided by the stock cable, but not long after checking both options I firmly settled with using the silver option, which complements perfectly the slightly warm/smooth tonality giving then the best sound balance for my preference. I did check the copper again at a later time, only to go back to silver again. I thought the results of changing the cable setting was noticeable and in line with my experience on using these materials from other IEMs. For a fuller/denser/richer sound with more bass oomph go copper, for better balance, more energy and more precise imaging, go silver.

Like many TOTL IEMs I have heard recently the Mason V3 have a subtle V-shaped tonality. The bass is very well controlled but a bit boosted, even at minimum setting. The midrange is present, and I would say slightly further in the stage compared to the Etymotic ER4-SR, but less so than JH16.
Treble is airy, smooth, and detailed, but perhaps not the most linear. While not particularly linear, these IEMs have great coherence. The overall tonal presentation can be described as a combination of 15% added fun, 85% accurate/linear/neutral and a bit on the warm/smooth/creamy side of neutral.

Bass: The sub-bass is present and well controlled and I would say these have a relatively linearly decreasing bass boost, even at the lowest setting. They sound powerful but not overpowering in this FR region. The bass response on the minimum control setting is already at the top of my preference for quantity so I have never felt the need to use the boosted bass other than for confirming it works and it works well. While the bass boost control is sturdier than with other IEMs, it's relatively easy to become adjusted by mistake, while handling the IEMs.
On the mimimum dbGO setting they are less bassy than my JH16v2 and this is why I use the latter strictly for added "fun" to genres like electronica/rock/metal.

Midrange: For headphones to gain my full interest the midrange has to be present and engaging. I was glad to note from the first few seconds of listening to the Mason V3 they have a very engaging midrange presentation and tonality. It can be described as slightly creamy and full bodied, well detailed and certainly not forward, but not too withdrawn in the stage either. The way the midrange is presented falls right between the Ety that have a more present midrange when well driven, and JH16 were the midrange is more withdrawn in the stage and the latter require a few minutes of accomodation with their sound.

Treble: The treble is airy and well detailed and it contributes to an atmospheric 3d soundstage. The Mason V3 do not have not the most detailed, sparkly or airy treble presentation I have heard in IEMs, but the level of detail, separation and openness are excellent. In terms of linearity, just like with the bass there may be a smooth increase in treble in the high treble. The Ety have more a sparkly/airy treble presentation, but then again I think they are boosted in the treble range and can sound slightly bright, particularly on some D/S DACs like my DX200. As the overall treble response is quite smooth, I found the Mason paired well my Sabre based DX200, and even more so with my desktop DAC.

Transient response: The transient hit is strong, but less so than the JH16v2. The latter have more energy on the attack. The Mason V3 decay is on the melodic side, but still fast and natural sounding.

Transparency: To be fair none of the IEMs I have or heard are as transparent as the best TOTL open headphones I have. All of them are less linear too. So it wouldn't be entirely fair to judge the Mason against open headphones. However versus the IEMs I have they are more transparent sounding than my JH16 and about similar to my Ety.

Soundstage: This is where the Mason V3 are quite a bit better than both the IEMs I own. The soundstage is bigger than both the other IEMs I have, more open with a better sense of 3D. The JH16v2 stage is the least wide, but it has great depth (V-shape helps that). The Ety come closer with regards to the stage presentation proportions.

Conclusion: I rate the Mason V3s very highly, preferring them to both the IEMs I owned at the time. The sound is technical enough, while having a certain euphonic quality and some added bass fun. From all the headphones I owned at the time of the review, only my HE-6 and Focal Clear exceed the Masons at this combination of being simultaneously technically profficient and provide musical enjoyment.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Dark background, great clarity, instrument separation, energetic sound (with appropriate headphones)
Cons: With a neutral and slightly lean signature, I feel it is a great pairing with mellower sounding headphones. Clear delta/sigma note to treble.
Thanks go to @glassmonkey and Aune for the loan tour. One of the reasons I decided to join this tour and write some impressions is that I am in the market for a new portable player at reasonable cost. The other is I am very pleased with my Aune B1 amplifier - love the  class A/discrete approach, looks and of course sound. Then there's the price which makes this an affordable DAP.
Since we have a few impressions with pics and specs I will skip this bit and move straight to the sound. 
In terms of build quality nothing to complain about. It's solidly built with a minimalistic approach that works. I am getting slightly too used to touchscreens these days, but for the price I won't hold this against the M1S in any way. 
Gear used:
Aune M1s (single ended only - no balanced IEM cables). Latest firmware.
Astell Kern 100 (RWAK100 - original)
Cayin I5
My baseline reference system: MSB DAC V + dual mono Benchmark AHB2 + modded HD650 (to keep transducers a constant)
- my reference sounding Etymotic ER4-SR
- Focal Spirit Pro (another neutral/close to reference sounding efficient headphones)
- modded HD650 (used with Aune B1). I don't think any of these DAPs can do enough justice to the HD650s, but I would not expect them to either. These headphones reach amazing levels of performance with high-end desktop gear. So this is no surprise to me and why I used the Aune B1.
Sound impressions:
In terms of tonality it sounds more similar to the AK100 rather than Cayin I5, so I'd say it has a neutral tonality (touching very slightly the bright side of neutrality). I am hearing the I5 a bit smoother/warmer tonally. The AK100 doesn't come close to matching the resolution I am hearing with the Aune M1S, but it's close in regards to background darkness and clarity. Both the Cayin I5 and Aune M1S have a very nice stage size, but I give the M1S the edge in instrument separation and resolution. The M1S also sounds more clear and open than the I5.
The I5 sounds more "relaxed", with a better sense of liquidity and flow, all of which are both good things imo, but it makes some compromises (to be expected at this level of the game) to achieve this. It's not as clear, resolving and transparent sounding as the Aune M1S. 
- Bass is nimble and articulated (for what it can adequately drive). Very good quality.
- Midrange - neutral, with good depth. Engaging and nothing I did not like here.
- Treble - Very detailed and clear. I wish it could be a bit better integrated with the midrange and I feel it lacks a bit of body and texture. I am not sure the latter is a result of resolution as at 120dB DNR it should be able to resolve treble micro-details better. Perhaps some further firmware tuning would help?
- Soundstage. GREAT. Open sounding with very nice width and depth. The separation is the best out of these DAPs.
- Transients. Very energetic and fast. I like strong transient attacks, hence why I own the HE-6s, but I think this is borderline too strong for me. I preferred the SLOW filter with this DAP, with the Etys and Focals. On the plus side it can bring mellower transducers to sound more alive.
I did think whether the Ety are a bit hard to drive for the M1s, but I can still hear the treble points I mentioned through the Aune B1 which does power these IEMs really well.
To summarize the Aune M1S is impressive in its overall sound performance and not only for the price. If not in features, with regards to sound quality it punches weeell above the asking price. That's not to say it is without weakness, as I have commented above. I would ideally choose to pair it with mellower / warmer sounding IEMs/efficient headphones. The Aune B1 makes a great pairing to drive heavier loads.
Very good impressions that echo my own quite a bit. I found that the there is about 15-20% more power out of the balanced output. I've got loads of adaptors, so have tried lots on the balanced output, including the HD600, which was too much to handle. The extra overhead gives a bit more soundstage at volume matched levels and a smidgeon more clarity. I agree that the treble borders on bright, but doesn't quite get there. For the money, I don't know of any technically superior DAPs. There are certainly more featured DAPs. Also worth noting is that there are two versions of the firmware, wherein the primary difference is the volume control. One volume control is more linear and the other more logarithmic. I used the linear, but Takeanidea may have switched to the logarithmic. Like you I preferred the SLOW filter.


Headphoneus Supremus
Preface: Hearing the MSB Analog was a long overdue matter. A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided it was a good time to do something about it, hence I got one from local dealer to have the question answered.

The usual details & stuff.
- Jriver Media Network DLNA
- SOTM SMS-100 network streamer with LPS
- Schiit Wyrd
- ESound CD-E5 Signture Edition CD player
- ifi Ilink USB to Coax interface
- Chord Indigo Plus Coax cable

Amp used:
Eddie Current 2A3MK4 with 4x EML2A3 solid plates, 2x Ericsson NOS 5842, 2x NOS Sylvania EY500A
- PMC IB2i speakers with Tellurium Q Ultra Black cables and links
- modded HD800s - no dust covers, liner rug mod, Toxic Cables Black Widow 8 wire cable, Norne Draug V2 cable
- modded LCD-3Fs- no grills/foam, Toxic Cables SW22
- modded HE-6s - no grills/foam, hard wired, blutack mod
- MSB Analog with the Premium Quad USB2 Module, Coax/Optical module, stock PSU. Latest firmware.
- Schiit Yggdrasil
- Theta Gen V A
Audioquest SKY
Power cables:
- 3 x Acrolink with Furutech FI-1363 and IeGo Pure silver IEC
Most of my time was spent comparing the MSB and Yggdrasil. At the time of the review the Yggdrasil had about 500 hours since last powered from cold, and several months of 24/7 use. The MSB is an ex-demo unit, and was powered on for 48 hours before I started my comparison. The Theta has 20years+, thus enough said. 
The Theta was warmed up and used to compare with the MSB, on one round with speakers and one round with headphones. It was less of a thorough comparison, hence some sections I have skipped  completely.

Sound impressions:
- Msb features a tighter, more detailed and a little drier bass than the Yggy. The bass is powerful, fast, and slams hard.
- Yggy has slightly more heft than the MSB, but not quite the full Moffatt bass. For that see below.
- Theta. Such a winner at bass heft, while still maintaining great quality. This has the full Moffatt bass. Very exciting with a host of genres, for the bass alone (and transient edge).
I can live with any of these with a big smile, however that said Theta just has to win this round imo.
All these three reproduce excellent vocals, but very differently so. Depending on the transducers, music, artist and recording, I can enjoy one or the other more.
- The MSB positions the vocals one-two rows further away in the stage than the Yggy. It has the most detailed mids out of the three and the best presence (tie with Theta). The voices have GREAT natural textures, nor too rich, nor too dry. Exceptionally good with female operatic voices (transducers allowing - see Carmen - Habanera notes below), and the best throughout with any female vocals in my comparison, out of these DACs . Also excellent with male voices. The impression listening to vocals is that they sound more "alive" than on the Yggdrasil. Crescendos have impressive amplitude and focus.
- Yggy has smoother smokier vocals positioned closer to the listener. What the Yggy cannot match, only comparatively of course, is creating the same sense of presence with vocals as the MSB can. 
- The Theta presents very rich and full vocals. Yet resolute. One could be fooled it has tube buffer stage. Theta always exudes authority and this is also the case with vocals. Male voices are particularly impressive.
I prefer the MSB and Theta with vocals, but Yggy is no slouch.
Sound stage:
- MSB presents a large, airy, 3d, expansive and open sound stage.
- Yggy has a smaller more intimate stage. It's not nearly as wide as the MSB's and it brings everything a couple of rows closer in a flatter image. After switching over from the MSB, Yggy sounds a bit more congested and lacks some depth. I'm fine with the width, but I wish Yggy had more depth.
- The MSB has the most precise sound cues and positional images I've heard in a DAC. The other two are doing a good job, but just don't come very close. This is a stand-out feature and a joy on anything and everything.
- Yggy does a good effort, but it is lacks the pin point precision and spatiality of the MSB.
The MSB is untouchable.
All these three DACs feature treble with no grain or harshness. Yet there are sensible differences between them.
- MSB has a more extended, sparklier, airier treble. It resolves, resolves. Careful system matching is advisable. While absent of any glare or harshness, the treble response leaves no prisoners where flaws are found in the recordings, upstream or transducers. That said the integration of the treble response is very coherent in the FR spectrum.
- Yggy is close, sparkly/airy for sure. But less so. It can be slightly "nicer", however interestingly it can sound just very minimally tonally off sometimes. Highlight on very minimal.
Choose your poison. I prefer the resolution, air and spark of the MSB. However, let me put it is way: If it was an average, but very detailed Sabre S/D DAC, the treble with the afore-mentioned characteristics could have been very challenging. However the MSB has no trace of harshness or glare. Even so, the combination of clarity, air, spark and resolution requires even more careful management with headphones like the HD800s. This is not a concern with my speakers or the HE-6s for me, but could be with for some with bright sounding transducers or systems. To be honest, the Yggdrasil doesn't make for an easier job either, but it's a bit less resolving.
- With the Quad USB input, simply put the MSB resolves more detail than the others. Once warmed-up, detail is presented in an impressively effortless manner. From the instrument macro-details, to voices, to ambient detail, to positional cues, to bass, the Analog is a very very resolving DAC. In fact it is the most revealing DAC I've ever heard (R2R or D/S) in a familiar rig to me.
  Switching to COAX and CD Player, the resolution reduces a notch and the sound becomes smoother and richer, and a notch warmer. It sounds almost like a different DAC. Anyone looking for the most organic sound from this DAC, coax could be the answer. I've never heard the old USB module.
- Yggy: Still a very resolute DAC, and before hearing the MSB, I thought the Yggy was an exceptionally detailed DAC. The new benchmark is here and the scale was reset. Yet again.
  Similarly with the MSB, switching to COAX resolution takes a hit, albeit a bigger hit than with the MSB. Either the USB is really good, or the COAX not as great comparatively.
- Theta: For a 20+ years old DAC, it resolves a surprising amount of detail. Perhaps it could resolve even better with a more detailed USB interface. The one I have isn't the best I've heard at resolution.
  As expected, the Theta does well with the CD Player, but surprising to me, not better than with the ifi ilink interface fed from network streamer. I prefer the latter for convenience.

Clarity/Background Blackness:
- This another area where the MSB is untouchable by the others. So clear sounding, with any input. Comparatively, the background is pitch black and it presents each sound with superb focus and presence.
- Yggy has a slightly smoky background compared with the MSB. If I had not listened to the MSB there was little way to notice this. Unfortunately this is one of those areas where once better was heard, you just know what's missing when going back.

Transient Response:
None of these characterics exist in a vacuum or isolation, so they are affected by other traits, which distinguish one sound signature vs another, and help to better describe what it actually sounds like.
- In the lower part of the FR comparatively Yggy has a more determined attack, followed by a slower decay. There's an energetic attack and propulsion to each note, however the slam is slightly mellowed by Yggy's smokier background and less precise focus.
- MSB has a very slightly less forceful attack at the bottom range, but it's a more focused and precise one. In the upper FR, the MSB is more visceral. Perhaps this is where MSBs native clarity and focus advantage come into play.

1. via streamer/MSB Quad USB/Gen3USB:
- The MSB is sounding the most neutral out of the three. Because the sound signatures are quite different, after a lot of thought, it and Yggy are not far apart in terms of tonal balance, however it does sound a touch more neutral, maybe in part due to its superior clarity and focus and less coloured midrange and bass.
- The Yggy sounds a touch nicer, smoother and warmer in the bass/midrange. The treble however can be more inconsistent, and this area of the FR can sometimes sound sharper than the MSBs. Averaging over the entire FR range, I think Yggy is a notch towards warmer comparative to the MSB.

2. Cd Player:
- The MSB shifts to a warmer/richer/"nicer" sound. Bass heft increases, voices are richer, treble is less energetic. Some detail/clarity are sacrificed. A very interesting way to listen to what sounds almost like a different DAC. But it's enjoyable, when I'm in mood for it.
- Yggy also takes a hit in resolution, but it also gets a somewhat muddy sound. I probably would not see much scope to use Yggy via COAX either with the CD player or the ilink interface. It seems to take a hit in clarity, openness and detail that is hard to mitigate.
- Theta V A has a clear notch or two of added warmness and richness compared to the other two. No USB here.
A matter of preference / system matching here.

Where one of the others is moar-ish than the MSB:
- bass heft (Theta> Yggy > MSB)
- richness/warmness (Theta>Ygg>MSB)
Where the MSB is moar-ish than the others:
- clarity/background blackness
- resolution
- presence (betters Yggy, but similar to Theta)
- imaging
- soundstage
Some tracks:
La Campanella (100 Best piano classics album). This is kind of how the piano sounds comparatively:
- the MSB shows the individual notes better defined in their own space. The note hit is very precise and focused.
- on Yggy the note hit sounds as if softer hammer heads were used. There is a bit less separation to each individual note and a greyish background. A smoother overall sound.
- slightly slower note decays on the Yggy

Leonard Cohen - Here it is
In the intro part Yggy has a bit better heft on the bass, but the individual instruments are more clustered together and it's all a bit softer sounding.
- MSB: Leonard's voice is frankly the best I've ever heard it (wow this sounds so bloody real). It's not easy to describe what it is about it, but it's the result of every strength this DAC has, as a combination of excellent clarity, focus, rich textures and superb definition. Each vocal inflection and transition is very clearly defined and superbly textured, giving the voice amazing presence. 
- Yggy is no slouch. The voice has smoky quality to it, which I quite enjoy and it sounds smooth and well textured. What it cannot match is the presence, focus or resolution of the MSB.
Carmen - Habanera (Best Opera Classics 100 Vol.2)
- From the first few seconds in the intro it is noticeable the MSB highlights individual instruments with better focus, precision in their own space. The voice emerges from a very dark background and the dynamic heights it can reach makes it goose bumps impressive. I've listened to this track with the MSB over several days already, and it still sends shivers when I listen to it right from when the voice starts. And from there it gets better. Need I say more?
(As a  side note and interesting to me - not all the transducers I have were similarly capable reproducing the sensational soprano vocals: The HD800s and LCD-3Fs fell short of recreating the incredible presence and emotion on this track. It was only the HE-6s and speakers that could deliver the vocals with jaw dropping see-through the recording quality)
- With the Yggdrasil the instrumentation is good, but even on the highest DR passages it is kind of blended into a smoother more relaxed background space and it never reaches the thundering amplitude the MSB can, such as in the interludes between the voice and instrumentation. The voice is really great on the Yggdrasil, but it just doesn't have the presence and emotion the MSB instills. I asked myself if I could still be as happy with Yggy's female vocals rendition, as it is very good, but both myself and wife have agreed: There's no going back in this case.
On some tracks/albums however the MSB will highlight vocal sibilance a bit more than the Yggy does. This thing resolves and it will indeed show whatever there is on the recording. I said it before: I don't think it can be had both ways. This is exactly what Yggy does vs lesser DACs.

SQ aside, what I don't like about Yggy:
- Takes days to warm-up to its full potential. But the good thing is, after that it's pretty steady even after a very short power off or if not used for a while.
- It's supposed to be modular and upgradable, but one may need an architect with a plan to open it and get inside.
SQ aside, what I don't like about the MSB:
- Price
- Accessories "upgrade" policy and pricing, for what most vendors offer as standard accessories
- This DAC is the strangest in terms of staying warm and at full potential. From cold I found it takes a couple of days for the sound to fully settle. When it does reach its stable state and potential, it sounds incredible. But this is not all. Even if it is powered ON, if for example the USB input is disconnected for some time (not sure yet, if it needs to also be playing music or not; I have to yet test what the effect is if for example SPDIF is active but USB is not), the DAC starts getting cold to touch. When this happens, I found the sound quality starts degrading... 
- Only 1 year warranty
Before hearing the MSB Analog, I've read over time pretty much all that was written about it, ranging from reviews to impressions. Without having heard it, I kind of expected the sound was going to land somewhere between the Theta and Yggy. This definitely it was not and again that shows how misleading any expectations can be. With that left at the door, the only experience that really matters: At home and at length. Which is what I would encourage anyone to do.
So where does everything fit then?
If one is looking for a really great sounding DAC AND offering great value: Theta V A or Yggdrasil both fit the bill perfectly. Either of them has a great sound balance and definitely offer silly good value as good DACs go. Compared to the Theta and Yggy, using the Premium Quad USB input the MSB ups the game to another level in critical areas for a DAC such as: resolution, imaging, focus, clarity and dynamic range, while having a controlled dose of R2R goodness, not too much not to little of it, and a neutral sound signature.
Well... and then there's that entry bill. But I have answered my original question: The MSB is a keeper as my main DAC. The remainder question is which other DAC will go, as I only need 2 DACs. I have not decided on this yet.
Later edit: It became quite clear after a few more days, the Yggdrasil was the DAC to go. The main reason was that it is not complementary to the MSB Analog, whilst the Theta V A is. Yggy is a very good DAC and I enjoy it, but there wasn't much that the Yggdrasil did better compared to the MSB Analog, while the former is offering a closer sound signature to the MSB sound than Theta does. 
I guess the side story here is that even if indirectly the Theta V A did win another victory, which is really very impressive, without having to add the mention: for a 20 years+ old DAC. At what it does well the Theta is exhilarating and it's here to stay for now, together with the MSB Analog. Subject to if/when I get some time, I may brush up and publish more notes on how Theta compares.
"Thumbs up"  Great job.  But I have to say WOW - The Yggdrasil "Perhaps a hint towards warmer comparative to the MSB"  I didn't see that coming..
Me neither. They are very close tonally using USB inputs. The Yggy is a hint warmer in the mid range and below, however it has a more inconsistent treble. On average I think the Yggy is exactly that: a hint less neutral. The Analog means business at what it does. It's the least outright "nice" DAC out of the three imo. It is so VERY revealing, in a good way. It can however sound warmish/richer via COAX. Via the Premium Quad USB it's a different fish.    
Excellent review. A very enjoyable read