Differences between Link 1, 2 and 3 DACs?

I am looking to buy a Link DAC, but I'm not sure which model to buy, the 1, 2 or 3. I understand version 3 is the easiest to upgrade, but I'm not really looking to upgrade it. The only thing I would want to add would be just an AES/EBU input, not the upgrade with the upsampler board though. Wouldn't it be better to go from a Monarchy DIP to the Link DAC using the AES/EBU jacks rather than Coax?

I can get a Link 1 DAC for about $80, or the Link 2 DAC with a Monolithic HC-2 PSU for about $150... so I'm wondering if I should save the extra money for cables or buy one of the newer DACs.

When I looked in to your thread I was amazed that you are planning to setup your digital front-end just like how I set up mine. I am currently using a Philips 921 (Transport) XLO Ultra 4 going to DIP (24/96 Version) XLO Reference 4a going to MSB LINK II. My result is a super fast accurate mid- and high-freq with pin point focus (XLO's Characteristic). Very punchy and speedy yet well define low-freq. Midrange has a bit shadow of tubes but just not too sweet and colored. (I dont like things to sound too tuby, I like fast and well define accurate sound) Hype everyone up when my system is playing Jazz and "Chesky Records". Transparent elegant mid to high with speedy and punchy low, yet just a little tuby (MSB Link DAC Characteristic. Somebody think MSBs are a little bit too bright, but I like it; just match it with maybe Kimber and Cardas from the MSB to your Preamp and it will fix the problem. A lot of you may want to get Link III Gold or Nelson Version which will cost you maybe triple the price of Link II. To me, Link II has always satified what I looked for. I tried Link I, it sound just like a DAC-IN-THE-BOX, of cox it's better, but won't go no where. Link II is good. I heard Link III at my friend and the characteristic is just like Link II but has a average of 15-20% improvement overall, and it's better easier for upgrading. To me, Link II and Link II are both good, if I were to buy a Link III, I will go get a Nelson or Gold Version with the PowerBase; since I am going Link III (if...) might as well get the most out of it. To use the DIP is a smart choice, lower jitter to a incredible level, but at the same time sucked away a lot of mid-freq juice. If cables changing couldn't help getting the mid-freq back alive, take away the DIP. One thing though, if you are not using DIP 24/96 your Link II will not get a true 24bit signal, because DIP will reprocess it to 44.1. I like XLOs, but you may wanna use other sweeter sounding cables since XLO might comes up too bright on your system. Email me if you have any question.
I can't see any good reason to run AES/EBU between the DIP and the DAC, coax works great and if you could hear a significant difference I would be totally amazed. Having owned a Dac II, Dac III and Nelson Dac III I can say that internally they are all very different, despite what is said on their website, and the Dac III has better parts and layout. I'm pretty sure the only way to get the AES/EBU input is to have the full Nelson version upgrade done on a standard Link Dac, which is about a $400 upgrade, so you would be better off just buying a used Nelson dac should you find one, or just installing the upsampler card.... At the 2 prices you have listed you can't go wrong either way, so why not just grab one and see if you like what you hear.
The AES/EBU socket connects internally to the optional 24/96 upsampling board so you will need to get a Link III to be able to use it. Some Link III chassis' have the hole precut for the AES/EBU socket, some don't. Mine does not, but when I checked with MSB they would sell the pre-wired socket for $50 and I could cut the hole with a hole-saw.

I would recommend getting the Link III just to leave you more options for future upgrades and resale consideration. The upsampling option, outboard P/S and DIP all make noticable improvements. Internal modifications from a company like ModWright can really take it to another level. The beauty of the Link DAC is that you can spend as much or as little as you want depending on what level you want to take it to.
If I had a Link III with the AES/EBU socket would it make a difference if I used it or Coax? You said it connects internally to the 24/96 upsampler, but doesn't optical and coax as well? I'm just trying to find out if there would be a significant improvement to using a certain cable type going from a Monarchy DIP to the Link.
The optical and coax inputs connect directly to the main PCB, the upsampler board plugs into a series of pins on the mainboard. I haven't used the AES/EBU input, but according to a Stereophile review it is a subtle improvement. THE best immediately audible cable improvement I have made with the Link is to use the Sound Professionals glass toslink cable,although this won't help you since I don't think the Monarch DIP has a fiber optic output. I sold mine when I installed an Audiocom Master Clock and P/S in my transport.

If you don't want to hassle with upgrades just get the Link II with the Monolithic P/S, use the coax and be done with it.If you change your mind you can always have it modified by ModWright at a later date. Good luck with your decision!
Well I plan on using the Link DAC with 2 different sources, so I will need to run optical to the DIP and coax out, then into the Link, as well as optical straight into the Link from my other source.

I hope going from optical to DIP to coax and into the Link won't hurt the signal... too much.
Yes consider the inputs/outputs of the Monarchy. I don't think it has an AES/EBU output, whereas the Audio Alchemy DTI Pro (32) has one (and I've found that the Link Dac does ALWAYS benefit from jitter reduction). But with my Link Dac II, I found that an AES from transport into the DTI Pro, and then a Canare Digiflex RCA cable from the Pro into the Link sounded good. Sometimes the digital cable into the jitter device is more important than the one OUT of the jitter device (very odd but true). In most cases optical does not sound good ever (compared to any coax) but there may be exceptions. In any case I agree with the other advice -- try to just find a Nelson Link used, since it's the easiest/cheapest way to get the whole package that does have an AES/EBU input.
I have MSB Link DAC II and I have MSB Link DAC III !!!!
Basicaly thay arethe same ??? But not realy. Sond is quite similar but I prefer DAC III definitely. Monolith suplly is needed !!!! If you have dejiter than find used MPS, it will make DAC sound much better. Dan take next step and upgrade MSB DAC with better parts inside. There are quite a few to swop that will make huge improvement in sound !!!! Just go for it !!! Use the Linear Tehnology and Analog Devices .