I've listened to both dacs. I would go with the MSB.
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The MSB when carefully setup is one of the best dacs I've yet to hear, perhaps it is the best. I own the Power DAC, it is in a completely different league than say the Weiss Minerva. I have a thread on here detailing my long journey with the MSB dac. Bidat vs PerfectWave vs MSB or something similar to that :)
Yes, it is a bit involved but this is what I had to do in order to get my MSB up to that of the best digital I have heard. I did not thatmy units neesds to be on vibration control preferably wood blocks (3) with some type of dampening atop the unit. I am going to cut and past an email I generated for several people on my configuration. I hope it helps.
Ok, so for the MSB to sound its best (at least in my situation) I have found that the following components sing EXCEPTIONALLY well together (and I mean to the point that I have all but abandoned my idea of buying a TT). If you are using a different dac mileage may vary but you will be able to get sound unheard of out of the system :)
1. Mac Mini with at least 3GB of memory
2. ChannlD PureMusic or PureVinyl, I am using PureMusic.
3. M2Tech HiFace (BNC connector)
4. Really superb digital cable, I use the FIM Gold (now owned by CRL)
5. I prefer copper interconnect
6. (optional) iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad for remote control of system
Ok, so once you have all your software installed you need to configure PureMusic (henceforth known as PM) as follows. Set the Audio Midi clock to 176.4 Khz under the M2Tech properties (you will see this once you install the M2Tech HiFace USB to SPDIF converter). Now in the PM software make sure you have selected Memory Play (the software will completely buffer the music file to memory before playing, it is also worth noting that the HiFace driver also buffer files as it is an Asynchronous USB device thus you have 2 memory buffers before you even count the memory buffer in the MSB DAC).
Under Preferences in the PM software select "Audio Advanced Setup" check "Allow Selecting Device from Application" and check "Use Strict Device Validation". Choose output device "M2Tech HiFace" and check "Enable Exclusive Access ("Hog" Mode)". Select Max Rate "192khz". Click Ok, now under the "Music Server Setting" menu in Preferences select the up-sampling method to be "NOS Type Classic".
For best sound do NOT use "Hybrid Memory Mode".
What is Hog Mode? This is really cool, what it does is locks the output of the Mac Mini for iTunes to the Hiface device only. This keeps my computer sounds from coming through my dac, i.e. the ONLY signal which will come out the HiFace is the music being played from iTunes when is launched. In Audio Midi the default output MUST be something other than the HiFace when in Hog Mode, use the "System Default". Now you can hook a standard analog pair of outputs to the headphone jack and feed it to your preamp, if you watch a movie or listen to Pandora etc the sound will come out of the headphone jack or you can use a second dac which for instance does not have a buffer (which will make characters lips be out of sync with the voices during a movie) to watch movies with.
I have my Bidat hooked up to the Tos-Link output of the Mac Mini and when I want to listen to music on the Bidat, I simply shut down PM and the default output sends the iTunes music to my Mac, remember when PM is running iTunes is NOT playing the file, it simply becomes the jukebox for selecting the music.
I can explain Hog mode further if needed but it does sound better that way.
This should be all you need to get going let me know if you have questions.
Were you using your Puccini with the U-clock? If not, you have not optimised the performance of the Puccini. May be cheaper to just get the U-clock and return the MSB if it turns out that the Puccini/U-clock combo sounds just as good if not better. For the Paganini to sound its best, you should get it plus the Paganini clock.
I am very curious about the performance of MSB 4. The upgradeability sure is a big appeal for MSB. I am considering to get at the signature level but with diamond power supply and volume control. And then upgrade to Diamond chips when funds permit. It will be my first foray to high end DAC.
Hope to get more inputs from other MSB users.
There is no debate !! The MSB gives music with an excellent sound structure. The DCS gives an excellent sound structure without music. You need to go for a complete dCS setup at seventy thousand dollars to get something musical and still it is blown away by a Diamond version of the MSB DAC IV.
Also consider any MSB as upgradable in software and hardware future technologies. The dCS is definitly not upgradable except with some poor software improvements. In terms of positionning in the business, MSB is the future since dCS is the past with no technical improvment since 5 years. dCS is out of the pro business since MSB is entering it. Both are good products of course but the MSB gives such an analogue sound that no other DAC can really compare.
Recently I've heard msb dac IV vs dCS Debussy vc Esoteric D03 using transport for all the esoteric P03.
The MSB was far worse than the dCS & Esoteric.
It was so thin sounding and fake sounding that was a surpise with so poor performance on the other hand the Esoteric D03 and dCS Debussy playing music without missing something. In some areas Esoteric was better [bolder and a bit deeper low frequencies] and Debussy had more air and more delicate high frequencies. Overall both were pleasing and got involved with music.
Furthermore Esoteric rubidium clock was used and upgraded the sound in all mentioned dacs. I guess the Esoteric loom helped more the D03 and we heard SACD only through Esoteric [encrypted dsd].
3 people participated in this audition with same listening findings.
I guess Paganini or D01 are even better (not mentioning Scarlatti...)
I've owned the Paganini stack driven by an Esoteric rubidium clock as well as the Elgar Plus stack, the P03D03 etc. I would say that the Esoteric and dCS approach things differently and would not say that the Paganini is superior. The British unit does have tremendous detail retrieval and a clean, fast, dry sound and nice bass. The Esoteric has (if one upsamples CD to DSD) more diffuse sound, nice midbass and a projects a more palpable image. I have never heard any MSB gear.
I output the digital from my Oppo BDP and from my Esoteric UX1 to my Boulder DAC and find it exceptional. I also have tried the HDMI digital into my Denon AVPA1 and that works fine for movies and, of course, provides multiple channel output and subwoofer control. I think the Blu Ray into DAC is an excellent and simplified solution worth considering. DVDs are improved relative to most players (my UX1 is very good); given the bitrate, the sound quality and picture are noticeably inferior to Blu Ray. With movies and in multichannel, if what is on screen is compelling, I don't pay any attention to the sound quality per se, just the effects and dialog clarity.
I have purchased MSB DIAMOND IV DAC +Transport late 2011 and replaced my MPS-5 with it... ! it is simply amazing! . Especially when listening to the piano and violins,, it will give you goose bumps !
If money is not in the equation , I will truly recommend this DAC to any of my friends and audiophiles.
It is that good ! ,, you have to really hear it to believe it ( but one thing I did notice is that you really need a good preamp as well to really show the quality of the MSB,,,,
Babybear - I am using the DATA CD IV , and honestly it sounds just amazing, I tried oppo 93 as transport on it and even EmmLabs as transport on it , and the difference was day & night,,, DATA CD IV was holographic and airy ,, the other transport for some reason , the image is flat... they still sound great , but just very very different from DATA CD IV. I would highly recommend the DATA IV.
Also I did get to try to Volume Control Board on my MSB DIAMOND DAC, I have to say ,,, it will outperform almost any PREAMP out there unless you are using FM Acoustics ,,, The volume control gave a super clean , detailed sound,, the best way to describe is like as if you were having shower with a small shower head & low water pressure in MOTEL6 , with the MSB Volume Control Board , it is like have a shower a presidential suite , where the water flow is strong ! the music just floats ! ,,,
By the way I also got the FEMTO Clock.. and I hate to say it,, but don't listen to it unless you have the intention to buy it ... it is a BAD ASS TOY ! ,,, its amazing! simply amazing... ! !
Thanks for the detailed answers.
I agree with you in that I have since purchased the Data CD IV and have it paired with the new Signature Transport power base and also have the Diamond DAC IV with the optional clock module and Diamond power base. I am also using the Pro I2s interface to connect them together.
I also tried the Diamond Dac with its optional volume control and again I would agree with you that unless you have a very top end preamp, the volume control on the Diamond Dac is really, really good and hard to beat. For me it was a very pure sound without any colorations from a preamp.
The Diamond base powering the CD IV uses a switching power supply for the transport (however the Diamond base uses a linear power supply for the DAC). The Signature Transport power supply is a linear power supply dedicated to the transport. Only you can decide if it is "night and day" but based on what I heard when I did the comparison in my system it was definitely a pretty significant improvement in sound quality.
Hope that helps.
perhaps, an aside, but a question nonetheless.
the issue is a comparison between two solid state dacs.
could someone explain how a ss dac can better a tube dac
with respect to the strengths of tube character. also, the facility to find the ideal tube is not possible with ss products.
my favorite tube digital components are the original zanden dac and the original 20 bit lector.
i'll admit that a well designed solid state product has its strong points, but there is something about the classic tube sound that cannot be replicated using a solid state device.