The nice bloke who runs computeraudiophile.com loves his Berkey. Check out his site....he has a few reviews and write ups about it.
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I have had the Berkeley for several months now, and it has effectively ended my search for ever better digital playback (after years of auditioning various highly regarded players). As far as redbook CDs, I have ripped most of mine to a computer I have set up as a server in my system. I use Exact Audio Copy to rip the CDs, either in FLAC or WAV files. The sound is phenomenal, which was crucial for me since the vast majority of my music is in good old redbook.
The Berkeley just sounds 'right' to me, and is equally adept with all kinds of music, from rock to jazz to bluegrass. It has been a real revelation in my system, and I highly recommend it.
I don't know of any way that I can listen to this unit in my system - there are only 7 listed dealers, and not a single one in my quadrant of the country - so like the originator of this thread I have been trying to find out whether this unit compares favorably on redbook to good, standalone players.
Has anyone done direct comparisons between this unit and highly regarded standalone players on redbook in their systems? I have searched widely and read reviews but there aren't many of these types of comparisons.
I ask about direct and specific comparisons because I had a recent experience with another very highly regarded and very well reviewed DAC which sounded good in the abstract, but when compared directly with an Ayre CD player in the same system at the same time it wasn't even remotely in the same league.
If this DAC is comparable to an Ayre (for example) on redbook in a direct comparison, then it is a perfect solution for the system I am about to build. If it isn't, then it makes no sense for me to sacrifice redbook quality on all the disks I own in exchange for the "next gen" features of this unit.
Thanks for the response.
I have seen some of Jeff Fritz's comments, but they are mainly focused on the fact that 24-bit/176.4kHz, etc., resolutions are far superior to redbook, and that the Minerva and Alpha One give you access to these resolutions, whereas standalone CD players don't.
I have seen his comment about the ARC CD7 vs. the Minerva but I was hopeful of something that was a bit more substantive. I'm not slighting Jeff here at all - I respect him as a reviewer - but it seems clear from his review that he didn't have the CD7 on hand for comparison when he made his comments (he was moving from a different, inferior DAC to the Minerva), and the CD7 isn't even an ARC current model.
Because aural memories are inherently unreliable, for people like me who are making an "in lieu of" instead of an "in addition to" purchasing decision between CD players and the Alpha One DAC, it would be great to find someone who has done a real time, side by side comparison of their redbook performances.
Just a reaction to the comment that the dacs give you access to high resolution digital where the CD players don't is not altogether true. Obviously, dcs gear does as do some newer CD players like the Cary Audio 306 Pro and there may be other examples of which I am unaware. I bought the Cary in large measure because it could play CD/SACD as well as do high res audio thru its digital inputs (up to 24/192).
You are correct, of course, that some of the newer CD players have digital ins...which leads to the opposite problem with respect to reviews - namely that the CD player reviews that I have seen focus on the "disk in the drawer" formats applicable to that specific player, and have only a few offhand comments regarding the digital in. I haven't seen much comparison at all of the "high resolution" sound achieved by using the digital ins on a given CD player vs. a given DAC.
In reviews, I hope we are moving toward the consideration of the relative sound quality of all of the formats that a player/DAC can handle, much like reviews used to (and sometimes still do) focus on both a player's redbook and SACD performance.
With respect to my current purchasing decision, I'm kind of looking for someone to say "I had a [high end CD player] in my home system, and I got a [high end DAC], and I listened to them side by side in my home system for a week and concluded that the DAC clearly bested my CD player on redbook performance."
Having not seen this in any review so far, I am reluctantly reaching the conclusion that while a DAC would be nice to have for the higher resolution stuff, DAC rebook performance is inferior to comparably priced standalone CD players. That is consistent with the conclusion that I reached in my own side by side test, but for cost and convenience sake I sure wish it was otherwise.
Well, I cannot comment on comparison's to stand alone dacs. I will be doing some side by side testing with a friend's benchmark dac1 soon. From what I have heard so far on both CD and digital inputs, I do expect to prefer the sound of the Cary (I had heard the Benchmark prior to purchasing the Cary), but as you correctly say, side by side evaluation is certainly preferable to going from memory.
I also agree that with players that provide digital inputs, it would be very helpful to have the review focus on the characteristics of the dac separately. I will be surprised if manufacturers are using an inferior dac setup for the digital inputs as compared to the dac used with the cd in the drawer, but I have no data one way or another.
I am looking forward to 10audio.com's upcoming review of the Cary 306 pro in part because I know Jerry used the digital inputs and I would expect him to comment upon their performance relative to the Benchmark and the PS Audio dacs that he had previously reviewed.
That is what you can do with the Cary 306 Pro as well, tho it is not cheap (list is $8k). The previous version which is very similar sonically according to the Stereophile review can be found on Audiogon relatively inexpensively. I am sure there are other players that can do the same like all the Wadia SACD players as I think their current releases have digital inputs.