MSB select II vs all dacs ?


Wherever I read I see unanimous praise for the MSB Select II. Of course this DAC is super pricey and out of the reach of many (including me). I wanted to know for anyone who has heard it have you also heard a DAC that approached it in sonic performance? One name that was thrown around by a few people I know is the  Rockna Wavedream. Anyone make that comparison?
smodtactical

I own the MSB Select II with the dual powerbases and 33 Femto Clock. had if for 2 years now.

as far as direct comparison with other dacs the closest I’ve done is listening to the Select II at shows and then listening to other top dacs in other systems at shows. this was how I originally decided to purchase the Select II as I was trying to hear another dac at shows that could do what I heard the Select II doing at a lower price. I could not so, after 2 years of trying, I bought it.

comparing top dacs directly is a bit challenging, even if you have them both together. for instance, the Select II is modular (customers can easily change modules in seconds) so it has the ability to quickly modify it’s inputs to allow for optimization of various interfaces. a year ago I got the new Renderer V2 which was a step up over USB.

but with digital things change quickly, and a month ago I got a new server, the SGM Extreme. the Extreme has some special optimization for USB. Also; recently MSB introduced a new interface that optimizes USB and adds fibre to reduce noise, the MSB Pro USB. turns out that with the Extreme USB slightly pulls ahead of the Ethernet with the Renderer, then adding the Pro USB there is now a significant step up over the Renderer.

what I’m saying is that comparing dacs also must take into account of all the interface advantages of each particular dac. and the MSB Select II has a huge advantage over other dacs with it’s modularity and in-house development which promotes, in a very timely way, keeping the product at the very tip top cutting edge of digital interface developments.

lastly; what I compare my MSB Select II to every day is my top level vinyl and top level reel to reel tape. those surpass any other digital choice. the Select II pushes the analog to be it’s best. it’s that good.

@mikelavigne   Can you share the list price for your current DAC 'system' with powerbases, modules, etc. included? 

Realizing there isn't a comparison (you personally found) that could go head to head with your current setup, which other DACs would you say are worth considering, even if second tier, per your experience?

Thank you.

hello David,

as my Select II sits it would list for $116,450.

other dacs I have enjoyed......in no particular order;

I would not call this second tier; but I prefer what hear from my Select II to what I’ve heard from these. so these are ’less preferred’. I could easily live with any of these.

CH Precision mono dac with clock and 3 power supplies (7 boxes)----it’s more spendy---$150k

Merging Technologies NADAC w/power supply and clock---much better now with the clock and power supply upgrades than my previous experience.----around $60k

there are others I know about but I’ve not heard them recently. I'm doing this off the top of my head. more might come to mind and I will add them.

Thank you, Mike. Looking forward to the your additions to the list.

For a trip down memory lane, I have the Found-Music 2A3 amps in my system. I believe you had the same around 8 or so years ago. : )
David,

oh yes, loved those Found Music 2a3 amps. too bad i did not have the right speakers for them. still on my short list of favorite amps. congrats on owning those. a local friend, member jazdoc, has a 40+ watt set of Found Music mono block amps i do get to hear on a regular basis, and they always sound superb.

i’ll see Scott Sheaffer (Found Music builder/designer) next week. he is almost done with a new DIN cable for my new Durand Tosca tone arm. can’t wait to hear it in the system......and see Scott.
This is a dealers email comment to me about comparisons he did. So take it for what it is. He liked the Mola Mola Tambaqui over these others listed below.

$90K+ MSB, dCS Vivaldi, Playback Design, Lampizator, D1 Esoteric, Mytek, Berkeley, Aqua , Weiss and a few more I am sure I am forgetting of course PS AUDIO and Auralic Vega

Mike, Scott has been absolutely wonderful in his support, despite my purchasing the Found-Music 2A3s used (from Art S.)  He has visited once and is planning another visit after the trip your way.

For those of you that may not know Scott Sheaffer of Found-Music, or his work, I encourage you to look him up should you have an interest in analog setup, cabling, SE amps, etc.
@mikelavigne --MIke, I thought I saw that you had an Aqua Formula xHD DAC at one point in your system. Am I remembering that correctly? And if so, how did you think it held up in your system?
@astewart8944--two years ago in Feb of 17’ i did audition the original Formula dac in my system directly compared to the Lampizator GG 1.5 and the Nagra HD and preferred the Formula for it’s greater space, lower noise, and more neutral and fast presentation. it just complimented my system better than those other two.

at that point i owned the GG1.5, and expected to buy the Nagra HD. but the Formula (one of the first to be imported into the North America), surprised me. i owned that Formula until that June, when i finally gave in to my ears and acquired the Select II.

i could easily live with that Formula dac and still consider it a ’giant-killer’ if a $14k list price dac can be considered a bargain. it did everything right to my ears and i found nothing that bothered me. coming from the GG1.5, and having the Nagra HD there too, the Formula stayed on the natural side of the neutrality line, but never sounded colored......or veiled.

i never did hear the Formula xHD version in my system. my understanding is that the xHD version is a bit less transparent, and more toward ’lush’. for my system, that might not be how i would like it. but i’m just speculating,
Thank you., Mike. Very helpful.
Al
@mikelavigne  Have you heard the rockna wavedream?
@smodtactical--
i was at Axpona in April, and RMAF in October, but don't recall hearing the Rockna Wavedream dac specifically; sorry. but i sometimes go in rooms and i don't immediately connect, and move on. i take pictures of most rooms i enter, and sometimes that jogs my memory. i will review those pics again when i have time.

if i've heard it, it did not grab my attention, and that is not necessarily any commentary on the Rockna. i will likely go to RMAF again in September and if it's there i will listen to it. 
@mikelavigne  What DACs that were much cheaper than the Select 2 have ever grabbed your attention? Say something under $20k.

What DACs that were much cheaper than the Select 2 have even grabbed your attention? Say something under $20k?

i’m not sure i’m the right guy to answer that question, as it’s been a couple of years since i was really paying attention in that dac market segment. i certainly liked the Lampi GG, the GG1.5 and the Pacific (just a bit over $20k) plus certainly the Aqua Formula too.

there are a number of competent dacs in that $10k to $25k range and i can’t say any stand out......but i’ve not deep dived into them since i went with the MSB Select II.

right now other than the 7-box CH Precision and the NADAC i mention above the other dacs i’ve liked alot are the MSB Reference ($40k+) and the Trinity Dac ($50k+) which i owned in 2016. i’ve heard and liked the Aries Cerat Kassandra II at RMAF, which i think is around $40k, and there are 2 steps up above that version for up to $84k i’ve not heard.

i hope that helps. i’m sort of caught up in optimizing my Select II with my new Extreme server and listening to lots of music.
smodtactical,

I've had the Rockna Wavedream Edition,  not the Signature in my system.  My wife and I preferred the Chord Dave DAC and decided to keep it. Initially the Rockna Wavedream Edition appeared to have more detail, but lacked the open soundstage of the Dave. After comparing the two for several days it was apparent that in my system the Dave was more natural,  with details,  but the detail wasn't forward sounding.  Based on my conversation with a fellow audiophile,  the Rockna Wavedream Signature is on amother level, providing more detail, but retaining an overall forward sound. I decided not to pursue the Rockna Wavedream Signature. 

@ricred1  Would be interesting to compare it to the signature. Are you going to get mscaler? Im guessing comparing the signature to select 2 is a little silly probably.

@mikelavigne  What does the rest of your system look like if I may ?
smodtactical,

I tried the mscaler in my system and prefer the Dave by itself. There is something that sounds unnatural, not right to my ears when I inserted the mscaler. I went from a PS Audio Directstream DAC to Brcasti M1 to Jeff Rowland Aeris to the Dave. In addition, I've listened to Esoteric, Rockna, and the Mscaler in my system. Unless I come into a lot of money the Dave is my DAC of choice.
@mikelavigne--What does the rest of your system look like if I may ?

like this;

https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/615

my pictures and gear list are about a year old. it's mostly the same......but soon i will be updating it regarding recent additions to the digital and vinyl.
@ricred1 have you heard MSB?

Also Denafrips ?
@yyzsantabarbara, your dealer quote is interesting, I suspected that the Mola Mola was that good.
I haven't heard MSB or the Denafrips DAC. I have great synergy in my system and see no reason to listen to every new DAC out there. At some point you have to be content in this hobby.  After a year of listening to various components I'm content.
@david_ten

Hi David

If you are looking for nice Dac close to the performance of MSB Select II at more affordable price, then I recommend you to try Lampiziator Pacific Dac.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9eh61-lampizator-pacific-da-converters

I had heard MSB Select II, Lampiziator Pacific Dac., MSB Premier with the same setting at dealer’s showroom.

Pacific sound full bodied and warm with 90% of the performance of MSB Select II at 1/3 cost.

It sounds much better than Premier on almost every aspects.

MSB Select II is slightly better than Pacific in somewhat relaxed analog texture.

But I was not willing to pay 100K$ for MSB Select II.

I had ended up buying Chord Dave and Mscaler which has more transparent soundstage than Pacific.

But I miss the full bodied and warm sound of Pacific.

https://positive-feedback.com/audio-discourse/lampizator-pacific-dac/

Thomas


@shkong78  Thanks for sharing your listening impressions of the Lampizator Pacific vs the MSB DACs as well as what you miss about the Pacific vs your Chord combo. 

The Lampizator Pacific is on my radar. Your post and feedback is appreciated. Thank you!
@ david_ten

One more thing!

If you want 3D holographic transparent soundstage with excellent details, Dave and Mscaler could be one of the best matching MSB Select II.

But it could sound analytical or hot coupled with bright combination of speaker and amplifier.

I drive Lansche 4.1 with SET amp.

Thus I could avoid bright or hot sound with careful selection of digital cables.

Recently I play musicals and operas very often enjoying excellent 3D soundstage.
@shkong78 how good is the dave + mscaler vs msb? I would have loved if you heard them in the same system for a direct comparison.
I would say go for one of the other MSB Models...The Reference is half of the Select dac and the premier and discrete dacs are stunning performers for their price level... 
Prices are on the MSB website. 
Just in case it's not obvious,  toetapaudio is a Mola Mola Dealer. I say take what everyone post when a grain of salt, because an individual's preference may be different than yours. When a dealer post something you have to take it with a enormous grain of salt. Dealer's should be required to state they're a dealer every time they post or have a disclaimer in their username. 
@ricred1, you’re right to point that out. I would,however, like to say we are highly selective over the brands we represent and believe they are excellent value. Since this forum is mainly USA based and we are in the UK, I have very little to gain business wise here. I’m participating to both learn and make suggestions where I have experience that may help.
toetapaudio,
"Since this forum is mainly USA based and we are in the UK, I have very little to gain business wise here."
From the perspective of someone that was in sales for over 20 years, to include teaching Professional Selling Skills I couldn't disagree more. Everytime you mention Mola Mola you are planting a seed. The bottom line is people should know you represent Mola Mola.
Hi,

We are the North American distributors for Rockna so I thought I would jump in on this conversation. To be 100% honest we have A/B tested most of the dacs mentioned in this forum and they are all very good dacs. I believe it comes down to personal preference. I do however like the i2S connection better than any other connection because it eliminates some parts and gets you closer to a direct connection to the dac chip. The main reason we took on Rockna was because their dacs and server competed against much more expensive dacs and servers sound wise and build quality is also excellent. The other stand out dacs that we like are the Mola Mola dac and the Total dac. Mola Mola is another well built great sounding dac at a reasonable price.

 

We feel that it is difficult to say you have the best in regard to dacs but Rockna is definitely up there with the best dacs in the world.


"To be 100% honest we have A/B tested most of the dacs mentioned in this forum and they are all very good dacs. I believe it comes down to personal preference." I agree with your statement. I would just add budget and the other components in the system are major factors to consider. I submit dealers use the statement "component X competes against much more expensive components" far too often. The only true way for the end user to know what they prefer is through listening in their own system.  
Post removed 
“The only true way for the end user to know what they prefer is through listening in their own system.”

+1, @ricred1.

Your experience with Rockna coincide with mine. I had bought the Signature version and as good as this DAC is, it wasn’t the right ‘fit’ for my listening preferences and overall system synergy.

Hi ricred1,

 

I agree with what you are saying but "far too often" the retail client forgets that most audio stores and audio distribution companies have had the opportunity to A/B many more pieces of equipment than any consumer will every hear. Personally we have A/B 76 different digital front ends.



Truth is if you want to get the absolute ultimate out of a Rockna dac, you need to run it i2S connection into the Rockna Wavedream Net. Again I know it sounds like sales but the Rockna streamer is the perfect match to the Rockna dacs. Also your i2S cable and Ethernet cable going to the Rockna Wavedream Net are super important. Every little detail makes a big difference, just like setting up a table properly.

Cheers,
I understand that audio stores and distribution companies have the opportunity to A/B a significant amount of equipment. Unless they have the exact same components as the end user, it's impossible to tell that customer how component X will sound in their system. The other issue is preference. What ice cream do you prefer? No matter what ice cream you prefer, I prefer something else. This hobby is "highly subjective", influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions; therefore you can A/B a million different components and come to a completely different conclusion on how it sounds compared to another listener. I hate to repeat myself, but there are no absolutes in audio, only preferences. The end users ears are the only ears that count.
“Personally we have A/B 76 different digital front ends.”

@worldwidewholesales, 

Is the number 76 comes from your life long exposure to digital front ends or direct comparison with Rockna DAC?

We would love to see your top 10 A/B comparisons with Rockna. Why not start a thread that details your impression about Rockna Sig vs other 9 DAC’s that are currently available and competing in $20-$5K range? 

Cheers! 

Hi,

 

First I want to say that I fully agree that the hobby is subjective to a point and that is why we do blind testing and A/B testing with 5 other people who only have 2 things in common with our system. The remainder of the 5 systems are completely different, our rooms are completely different and our ears are completely different. But the majority of the time all 6 of us, over a 2 day test period come to the exact same conclusion. Lots of time it comes down to knowing what you are actually trying to achieve in a high end home system and listening for that end result.

 

Our digital testing has been done over the last 20 + years and as I said earlier there is no "best" when it comes to dacs or digital front ends. Set up is key, cables are super important, server is also very important and our preference connection is an i2S connection.

 

It would be absolute suicide for an audio distributor to state his/her experience and preferences. It would only sound like sales so we prefer to keep our test results among ourselves. I hope you understand.

Cheers,


@worldwidewholesales did you hear MSB Select 2? How did Rockna compare?
Hi,
One of our stores in NY, Rhapsody Music, did do a direct comparison and here was his conclusion.

The reason that I wanted to see how the CEC compared to the Rockna DAC is that I had compared the CEC DAC to my MSB Select II $150K DAC.  I felt that the CEC was the equal of the MSB.

 

I thought the Rockna DAC might be a bottleneck and now I found that I was correct.

 

The Rockna DAC at the $11000 price point is EXCELLENT. No issue with it at all. But for “el Primo” sound connecting the Rockna server with the Inakustik USB cable takes everything to the next level. And the CEC is $33K. Now I have two reasonable and not crazy price point DAC’s running with the Rockna server. Good bye $20K Aurender! The Rockna server is 2nd to none!!!!

 

All good.

 

Bob Visintainer
Rhapsody Music and Cinema/Goldmund New York
27 West 24th Street, Suite 506
New York, NY 10010
Website- Rhapsody.audio

212-229-1842

 

Yesterday, 8:27 PM

Correction - After listening tonight with the exact same Inakustik cables, the Rockna Dac is actually quite a bit better (more transparent, better/more open top end, than the $33K (really good sounding) CEC Dac or $150k MSB.


Again this is all subjective and absolutely does not mean the Rockna dac is the "best" because in our opinion there is no best dac. But the Rockna dac is absolutely world class. Personally we did not do a direct A/B comparison  with MSB Select 2. We look for audio products that can compete with the super expensive audio brands but at a fraction of the price.

Cheers,
@worldwidewholesales  Wow, Rockna better than MSB Select 2 ?? For it to be even in the same converstaion as Select 2 is a huge accomplishment. Amazing. 

Did you hear Mscaler + Chord DAVE and compare to Rockna? What other dacs have you compared to Rockna? 

(sorry to all for semi-derailing my own thread).
Hi,
Again that was just one persons opinion and there is no "best" and I stress this because of the obvious. Different rooms, different ears, different pairing of equipment and different taste in music.

We did test the Mscaler + Chord DAVE and we thought it was very good. I truthfully don't want to get into the whole Rockna versus the rest of the world. Rockna really comes into it's own when paired with the Rockna Wavedream Net server and a great SSD in the server with your favorite music on that drive. There are a ton of factors that make a great digital system and in my opinion, you build it slowly and most importantly have fun doing it.

Cheers,
@smodtactical I would not take price as any arbitrator of quality, especially nowadays. It seems to me that manufacturers are jacking up the price for the perception of quality. Almost all gear I hear is pretty good and some are great but the most expensive ones are not universally the best to my ears.
yyzsantabarbara, 

I agree it seems manufacturers are jacking up the price. Several years ago I was told that manufacturers believe if a price isn't high enough,  some in this hobby won't take it seriously. In my experience sometimes the higher priced component sounds better and sometimes it doesn't. 
Good points by all. I agree price is necessarily indicative of quality or performance. But MSB Select 2 is regarded by many as the best thats why for something 1/10 of the price to compete in anyones eyes is quite an accomplishment.

I mean I don't think you'll find anyone who prefers the schiit modi over the schiit yggy2. But the price difference is similarly massive.
@worldwidewholesales 

here is what Bob (Rhapsody) said to me regarding the MSB, CEC and Rockna.

>>>i did not go into any drastic back and forth comparison. But once i got the CEC i just never went back to the MSB because i was just totally satisfied.<<<<

then he also added;

>>>the weird thing is a couple months later i got the Rockna and the same thing happend.<<<<

then;

>>>my digital really sounds good to me and it almost doesn't matter what dac i use.<<<<

what he doesn't say is that the MSB represented a chunk of cash sitting there and he is a dealer to sell stuff.

just putting Bob's comments in a bit of a context as it's hardly proof of any sort of ranking.....as you would then build your case with. i love Bob's casual attitude toward all this great gear, but is he who we use to determine which dac we prefer?

i guess it depends on what case you are trying to make.

have a nice day.
Hi mikelavigne,
We are not trying to make any case but rather stated very clearly the following;
Again that was just one persons opinion and there is no "best" and I stress this because of the obvious. Different rooms, different ears, different pairing of equipment and different taste in music.

We think there are are some other very good dacs available including Mola Mola and the Total dac. Rockna makes a great dac but we really like it when matched with the Rockna Wavedream server.
Cheers,
@worldwidewholesale 

when you, a distributor of brands (CEC and Rockna), are posting about them relative to other competing products and starting your post as follows;

Hi,
One of our stores in NY, Rhapsody Music, did do a direct comparison and here was his conclusion.

what are we, as end users, to conclude? that your intention is NOT to make a case? :-)

i do agree with your later post that we are speaking about one person's opinion. and this person is one of your dealers. 
Hi mikelavigne,

At any point did you hear me say Rockna was the best or put any other manufacture down? I think if you read my post very carefully you will read this is exactly what we do not want to get involved in.

There is no intent hear except to say "lots of good dacs" and sorry if you want to make it sound other wise. It does not matter if the person is in the audio industry or not, we should be allowed to have an educated opinion. Nothing that we said was hypothetical but rather based on real experience. 

Cheers and lets not side track this whole thing.