DAC! MSB link dac 3 w/HDCD option. SACD may sound fantastic but most of their players do not do CD's well.
15 responses Add your response
I also have a startos. I am using a CAL Alpha DAC with 1963 GE Long Plate Tubes. I love my DAC, it has let me know there is more to CD's than you've previously heard. As far as SACD, there is not a whole lot of titles out there. The SACD format is amazing, I've heard it on a Sony 9000 DVD/SACD player. It sounds great for SACD, but I feel your current CD selection will benefit from a DAC. Wait a year or two till they have a combo SACD/DVDA player. There are a lot of reasonable DAC's out there, but a Tube DAC will let you change the sound.
I'll try to even out the count here. So far, it looks like MSB is winning : )
Honestly though, i would go for a REASONABLY priced DAC at this point in time. With that in mind, i prefer the CAL Alpha or Sigma over the MSB's. While it is a matter of personal taste / system synergy, i really don't think that there is much competition between the two. Keep in mind that i'm talking about STOCK unmodified units and not "hand tweaked" units.
If you wanted to get into the expense of buying a mass produced unit and then tweaking it, why not just start with a unit that was "tweaked" from the ground up like an EVS Millennium II ??? It offers all of the resolution of a SS DAC with the liquidity and smoothness of tubes. On top of this, it upsamples and has the switch selectable option of phase reversal.
Most of the other DAC's at this price point are using chips that cost less than $5 apiece ( including the MSB ) whereas the ones that Ric uses cost appr $25 each. Quite honestly, Ric has well over $500 in raw parts in this unit, so i have NO idea how he can cover all of the labor involved in building these units one by one AND offer a money back guarantee. At $1050 with a 30 day trial period, i can't see anything else coming close for redbook. In a direct comparison, it blew my Alpha clean out of the water..... Sean
I'm with Sean on this one. I've been using an EVS Millennium DAC 1(the original version--trading up for the DAC II soon) and have been absolutely amazed at the openness, transparency, dynamics, tonality, etc. that this piece provides. It made my MSB Link(with Dusty Vawter upgrades) sound veiled and slow by comparison, and I can't imagine listening without this DAC in my system. Only problem is you may have to wait a little while to get a DAC II, although I know Ric is in the process of ramping up production so may not be as much as an issue. Definately worth the wait, and like Sean said there's an honest 30-day money back guarantee, but I seriously doubt you'd use it once you hear what this DAC will do for your system. One caveat: I don't think there is an HDCD option for the DAC II, but I'd bet even those disks will sound better in non-HDCD with the DAC II(I also have a few HDCD disks and don't even give it a second thought). Give Ric a call and he'll give you the straight poop(www.tweakaudio.com).
As for SACD, there's really not much software now and you'll just have to buy another player later to handle DVD-A and/or multi-channel SACD. Of course there's also the impending digital output connection--I absolutely will not buy any of these new formats until they have digital outs. Obviously I believe the DAC is the better way to go in service of your current CD collection. Best of luck.
I'll jump in and wholeheartedly recommend along with Sean and Tim the EVS Millenium II.
Ric is down to a two week wait time now, and a 30 day money back clause. go to tweakaudio.com
this upsampling 24/192 dac is blowing away stereophile class a pieces like Audio Research DAC3 and Meridan 508.24
check out the reviews at audioreview.com under dacs
Has anyone compared these $1000 ish upsampling dacs to one of the moderabuck players such as the marantz sa-1 and sony scd-1 ?
I heard the scd-1 lose out to a dcs/elgar with 192 upsampling. Pretty close actually. I bought the scd-1, but I am interested in hearing if an improvement can be made (of course!). The scd-1 has some of the very best cd playback I have ever heard. I loaned it to one of my friends who commented that his levinson 360S sounded better, but only by a very minute amount.
The Kora Hermes, an inexplicably overlooked DAC, renders jaw-dropping sound for a mere $1500 retail. Interpose this chrome-faced converter into your system and you'll notice, without trying, that once unintelligible lyrics are suddenly fully articulated. Some of the Hermes' sonic attributes can be ascribed to its triode tube output, 24 bit chips and studiously separated digital/analog power supplies. Have a little faith and buy this French jewel...you'll be glad you did.
There are a lot of good deals available on used dacs and jitter reduction devices (usually necessary to get best sound from dac) so if you have a lot of redbook cd's that would be the best way to go.
If you are going to get an MSB, I highly recommend buying with a right of return. I tried the original MSB Link and was underwhelmed. I got a lot of criticism at the time for returning it, only to subsequently find at least 2 aftermarket modifications released which claim to address the very problems I heard with it (it lacks bass and has a lean midrange).
DAC's I recommend are the Bel Canto or Micromega.
Before getting my Bel Canto DAC 1.1, I came VERY close to getting the Sony SCD777ES. All I had to do was to walk across the street to the Sony Employee Store and place the order. It would have only been $1301 brand new.
What ultimately swayed me was the number of redbook CDs in my collection and the lack of SACD titles I actually wanted which were available at the time. Getting the DAC exposed the weaknesses of my CD player/transport, so I upgraded that too. I haven't regretted my decision for one second.
Even though I love my Bel Canto, I strongly agree that the EVS Millenium DAC should be looked at as well.
Have fun and good luck!
I had a good DAC and sold it then bought a good high-end CD player. I have no interest in SACD (for now) since like you, I own nearly 500 regular CD's and a lot of what I like isn't even available on SACD - plus SACD titles cost more.
My logic may be backwards to some but in my opinion it makes more sense to have a very good high-end CD player and just buy a dirt cheap SACD player a little later if you want to experiment SACD players keep coming down in price and used ones keep showing up for even less every day. When a $300 SACD player is available and sounds better than regular CD, I may buy one just for grins.