Absolute top tier DAC for standard res Redbook CD

Hi All.

Putting together a reference level system.
My Source is predominantly standard 16/44 played from a MacMini using iTunes and Amarra. Some of my music is purchased from iTunes and the rest is ripped from standard CD's.
For my tastes in music, my high def catalogues are still limited; so Redbook 16/44 will be my primary source for quite some time.

I'm not spending DCS or MSB money. But $15-20k retail is not out of the question.

Upsampling vs non-upsampling?
USB input vs SPDIF?

All opinions welcome.

And I know I need to hear them, but getting these ultra $$$ DAC's into your house for an audition ain't easy.

Looking for musical, emotional, engaging, accurate , with great dimension. Not looking for analytical and sterile.
If the Berkeley Ref at $16,000 comes anywhere close to the sonic quality of the Vivaldi or Grandioso, and it seems to have the potential to do so, going by the reviews so far by CA and TAS, then it would indeed be a very "affordable" top tier DAC.
Don't sweat it, Matt. My room at RMAF last year had dCS Vivaldis in adjacent rooms on both sides. I listened to these. Although they are very good, I preferred the DAC in my room, the ODSE.

I would welcome a shootout with these DACs but I would rather wait untl the ODSX is available. I think it will be unchallenged in the market. Also more expensive than the ODSE. Both will be offered, since they are at diffent pricepoints.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
How dare you!....

That could not be more true. Physicians (and possibly engineers) are the worst offenders.....

Sure, physicians and engineers are most welcome!

But even Almarg (or anyone else with such extensive experience) would agree that the new Berkeley converter should at least make possible for DSD64 through the S/PDIF inputs via DoP format and let their customers decide whether Pure DSD is better than DSD converted to 176/24 PCM. And DoP sent from their external USB to S/PDIF converter will not have the "negative" impact of having USB input that contaminates signal lines resulting in more jitter. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Alex Peychev

Op-amps are far from perfect, even though the textbooks would lead you to believe it. However, like most things, the answer is "it depends". It depends on how the power for the op-amp is treated and what op-amp you are using. I have done a lot of experimenting with op-amps in the past and learned a lot of things that are not in the textbooks. If you choose the right one and treat it properly in the design, it can be just as good as a discrete circuit and sometimes better because the layout of most discrete circuits does not allow for optimum power delivery. The compact nature of chips allows for optimum power delivery.

Sure, I have also experimented extensively with OpAmps. The only one I currently admire as much as a discrete circuit is the newer MUSES01 by JRC. But I use it in my phonostage.

Even the reduced out-of-band noise of Sigma/Delta DACs calls for a very high slew rate OpAmp, but those never delivered what I expected. My opinion, of course.

I never claimed that S/PDIF is the best method for DAC input, but again the answer is "it depends". If the circuit is well-designed, a good coax cable is used and the right receiver chip is used, it can be every bit as good as the best internal USB interface. So close that no one can pick it out in A/B comparison. I have done this.

I was referring to the Berkeley claims. Of course, you are correct that USB can be as good as S/PDIF (or vice versa) if done correct. That is also my experience. But USB offers a much higher resolution that is desirable, at least for me.

Alex Peychev
"Although they are very good, I preferred the DAC in my room, the ODSE."

But, of course!