MSB Link III - Please help before I lose my mind

this is the short form:

Bought a link dac III with half nelson upgrade. The Canadian Distributor did the upgrade (claims to be 'authorized'). The parts that were to be in the upgrade were not the correct ones. I bitched and complained and so they took it back and made a new one with the correct parts.

From the initial date of purchase, it took about 6 weeks to get the product in hand.

I've now had the product home for about a week. Today I discovered more problems...

Issue 1:

While listening critically today, I noticed that vocals were a tad strident..they did not seem to remain in position. The MSB user manual indicates that sometimes the link dac can sound better by flipping the toggle switch on the back into the 'up' position, thereby inversing the phase. I tried it. Lo and behold, the singer's voice locked into place. I was going to leave it in this position UNTIL i noticed that when skipping tracks (or simply letting tracks play into the next - ie. when track one comes to an end and track two begins), there is a 'clicking' noise inside the dac. To reiterate, when i switch tracks (or even when i pause a track), the dac makes a 'click click' and then does so again when the track is resumed or the new track begins.

IS THIS NORMAL? it sounds as though an internal switch is being flipped each time a signal comes into the dac. This would not bug me if I didn't feel the 'up' toggle (inverted phase setting) didn't sound better. This problem does NOT occur in the 'normal' setting, which i feel does not sound as focused.

Issue 2:

I am thinking of ditching my HT amp and getting a higher quality 2 channel integrated. In this regard, i would be watching dvd's in two channel, so i figured i'd test out the optical input of the Link dac. I currently have my cd player connected through coax, and so the dvd will be through the optical. The link dac is supposed to switch between the two automatically, depending on which source is being utilized. With the cd player turned off, i turned on the dvd player and GUESS WHAT! it was not detected! The indicator lights glow brightly when the cd player is detected, but they are only illuminated very very faintly when the dvd player is turned on, not to mention the fact that no audio whatsoever is heard.

what should I have the audio setting on my dvd player set to? Should it be bitstream or pcm? Pcm down conversion or not?

Am i doing something wrong here???

I'm ready to simply bring the link dac back and try to get my money back or something (which i know the retailer won't do!)...either that or toss it out the window!!


I've actually listened to MSBIII and got simply a headache after 5 minutes and so figured that it's not the DAC for me.

1. I would not advise to enter MSB line since even instead of upgraded or Nelson versions you can get Bel-Canto EAD or Theta(maybe used) with far better results and certainly the built quality. So if you can just get back your bucks do not hessitate.
2. Most-likely in your DAC there is a malfunctioned relocking mechanizem and I would NOT advise you to play it through your system since it can damage it.
3. A dedicated transport is always easier "load" for the DAC and thus better works with DAC. Simply choosing a descent one-box CD-player can solve many problems since few out of many cases you won't face an integration and/or matching DAC/Transport issues.
The Nelson w/upsampling is actually a pretty good dac, in some ways better then the Bel Canto, no question built better, imo, too.

Anyways, you can set the phase internally with one of the included "jumpers." Read the manual to walk you through this. That said, I've never had a problem with strident or wandering vocals when I owned a Nelson Dac, inverting phase didn't make an impact I could be sure of, very, very small if any, HOWEVER, removing the filtering, also via jumpers, did make a nice improvement (again, see the manual, its online if needed). The clicking noise is NOT normal. BTW, are you sure that the switch is not used for upsampling on/off rather then phase inversion? On my MSB I had the switch set on the upsampling posts. Take a peak inside.

Regarding the DVD player, the link dac will not play DD/DTS or other such tracks and simply pass loud fuzz through if anything at all when a DVD is spinning. I imagine you'll need to set your player to PCM out, down converted possibly and ran in 2ch rather then surround out, if that is an option. Try hooking the DVD player up w/your coax cable just for grins. That said, it sure seems possible that your unit is still ill, especially should the above not help.
The toggle switch on the back is NOT for upsampling. I do not have the upsampling board installed. I have the HALF NELSON version, without the balanced inputs.

I found out that the clicking noise is b/c the toggle is connected to the j14 area (and part of it is in the internal switching jumper area) This particular internal switching has to do with internal switching based on signal detection. Currently, the jumper is not in place. No big deal to fix, apparently.

Without a doubt, however, when the toggle is switched to the 'up' position, thereby making the unit supposedly inverted in phase, the vocals are locked into place. Somewhere along the line, it got reversed.

Regarding the DVD connection, it turns out that the optical input is not working. I brought the dac into the retail store to test it, and it didn't work there either. (yes, my dvd player is set to pcm and i have tried both downconversion and standard).

By the way, thanks for mentioning the removal of jumpers to improve sound. I will definitely test this when the dac comes back from the shop!!


I really like the dac.
Also give it a chance to break in; 100 hours of contant play minimum.
As Socrates said, you might not be able to play DVD through your DAC since it's not compatible with DVD multi-channel format.
You should be able to play regular CDs through DVD player though.
Most of CD-players do not have a strong digital output and create the tough time for the DAC to relock. I realized that when I wanted to upgrade my player just by bringing DAC(on warranty, return policy, etc, etc) and figured that dealer was 100% right by bringing to me that issue and so I've got a dedicated transport.