MSB DACs

The Most Technologically Advanced DACs in the World! - "Sounds like an Analog Source!"
Creators of the world's most technically advanced DACs
With a legacy of designing and manufacturing high-end CD players and D/A converters spanning more than twenty years, MSB continues to exhibit leadership in audio technology. MSB has many firsts to our credit including:

* demonstrated first AC-3 output for LaserDisc to Dolby
* designed and built first THX approved LaserDisc Player (LJR II)
* first out board AC-3 demodulator
* first digital output on a DSS receiver
* first out board DTS processor (Millennium 2.4.6)
* first mass marketed 24 bit 96K DAC (LINK DAC)
* first discrete sign magnitude ladder DAC (Platinum DAC)
* first discrete asynchronous upsampler (Platinum Plus)
* first 80 bit DSP based digital filter (Platinum DAC III)
* first iPod based digital music server
* first CD transport that could play data files up to 32 bit, 384 kHz
* first USB DAC that could play all sample rates up to 384 kHz bit-perfect.
* MSB Technology is a world-class multimedia company, dedicated to bringing cutting-edge technologies and innovative ideas to market.
* MSB Technology: The legacy continues.

MSB DAC V SERIES HOME PAGE 

Simplicity

The DAC V is the heart of a simple but incredibly high performance system. It was designed in a way to act as both a DAC and a pre-amplifier.  With many digital inputs and up to two Analog inputs our integrated analog volume control may outperform your preamp. You may connect your turntable through the analog input and all your digital sources directly to the DAC V.   The Analog Output is a stepped attenuator purist volume control design (if the optional Volume Control is installed).  It's simplicity provides amazing transperency. 

The Package

The DAC V comes in an exciting streamlined package. The clean lines of this are simple and elegant. The entire chassis is machined in-house in California. The classic design of the DAC IV is a bold "tech" look in keeping with the technology found within and can still be special ordered. Both have integral heat sinks to keep component temperatures stable and both use an external DC power base. Integral in both designs are our amazing MSB Isorack Damping Feet as well as a clean front panel, with a full suite of programmable features. All DAC V's are offered from stock in Matt Black or White, as well as a huge range of Custom Colors.

Two Models

The DAC V is sold in two models. Both include ground breaking technology. A DAC Comparison Chart details the differences between the models and the other MSB DACs. DAC technology is complex. Vince, our US Sales Manager has put together a simple Ladder DAC explaination. For a better understanding check this more technical tutorial.   How DACs Work! A simple but accurate explanation. All DAC V's are fully upgradable. Check our Firmware Upgrade Files here.

The Signature DAC V incorporates the best of the MSB DAC technology including four 25 bit Signature DAC modules and a Signature Volume Module.

The Diamond DAC V is the best DAC V and includes four of our best 26 bit Diamond DAC modules and a Diamond volume control.

Computer Music Server?

The varous MSB USB2 inputs allow a DAC V to interface seamlessly with any computer using the USB 2.0 output and play bit-perfect audio to 384 kHz and up to quad rate DSD with no hassles or confusion. You are provided with the highest quality computer based playback in the industry with the least difficulty. Who says the best must be expensive or complex. The MSB USB2 offers a simple solution with amazing performance. Does your music server have a clock input? MSB DACs now offer a clock output for greatly reduced noise from that music server. MSB also offers an Audio Renderer option for the DAC V. Now you can stream music directly to the DAC V without a computer - always bit-perfect.

Femtosecond Clock

Both DAC V models include the MSB Femto 140 clock. This amazing clock offers less than 140 Femtoseconds of jitter for your DAC and MSB Transports. Nothing contributes more to natuaral sound than low clock jitter and MSB offers the worlds lowest jitter audio clocks! The select DAC includes the Femtosecond Galaxy Clock. This clock is an upgrade option for all DAC and ADC models.

Superior DSD playback

The DAC V are able to accept DSD in all of its digital inputs, not just the USB input like most DACs. You can play .DFF and .DFS files and can play 64x DSD, 128x and 256x DSD. Please note, you must have a 192 kHz USB input rate for 64x DSD and a 384 kHz USB input rate for 128x DSD and the Quad Rate USB input for 256x DSD. (You have been wondering why MSB has been shipping 384 kHz inputs for years now!) The extreme speed and resolution of our DACs provide a DSD experience unlike any in this world. You must hear it to believe it.

Control

The MSB aluminium remote offers complete controls for the DAC V transport family.

Transports

Many amazing transports fit perfectly in the DAC V family.
Our basic Data CD IV Transport plays CDs and high resolution audio files on DVDs.
The ultimate CD playback is accomplished with the Signature Data CD V Transport. It includes the PRO I2S interface and a metal drawer.
The versatile Universal Media Transport V plays just about everything on a disc, on a USB memory stick, on a Hard Drive or on a computer network. Wow!
The Signature Universal Media Transport V is the ultimate transport, with dual power bases, provides the same bit-perfect jitter-free quality as the best of our transports.

The Sound

The performance of DAC V series is amazing. Immediately you'll notice the beauty of the voices and the lack of congestion and harshness that often accompanies massed voices and massed instruments with complex harmonics like violins and saxophones. This new level of clarity is also noticeable in instruments of all frequencies. This DAC also dramatically increases the resolution of the performance. Fine detail that was once hidden and "smeared" in the background is now clear and obvious. There is a perception that each fine harmonic is individually revealed giving new definition and separation to the instruments. The sense of space where the recording was done is intricately revealed with wider and deeper soundstage. Each instrument is more singly placed and positioned. Our engineering and listening team have always noticed that when genuine fine detail is further revealed (without harshness), there always seems to be an increase in the sense of space. This makes sense because spatial cues are the original sound of the voice or instrument with the reflections from the walls of the recording space added, and are therefore complex harmonics themselves.

The dynamics are significantly improved giving the drummer's expression a convincing "hit" that cannot be ignored. Bass attack is convincing and scaled to what the artist intended. This new level of dynamic reproduction is a critical ingredient in convincing us we are listening to the live performance, and drawing us deeply into the music. Once it is heard, it is hard to live without.

The Measurements

The DAC V outperforms by far all other competitors with a noise floor and jitter measurements that are out of this world. The DAC V includes all of our propriatary technology prevously reserved for the MSB SELECT DAC.

The Signature DAC V contains all the elements of the MSB Select DAC of 2014 except for Signature DAC modules and Signature DAC Volume Controls instead of Diamond Modules and Volume Controls.

The Diamond DAC V contains all the elements of the MSB Select DAC plus some extra technology recently developed. You can expect to hear a level of detail and realism you would not expect to be possible from digital.

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MB 06 DAC ANA
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We started the development of this product with just one simple very focused goal. We started with the name. The Analog DAC. Lets take everything we know about digital audio and evaluate every aspect...
ANALOG DAC is an integration of our most advanced technologies with the single purpose of producing...
EXTENDED REVIEW - Back in high-end audio's golden days—for the purposes of this story, the mid- to...

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CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

DACs

MB 06 DAC ANA
NZ$ 13,200.07 ea (incl. GST)
We started the development of this product with just one simple very focused goal. We started with the name. The Analog DAC. Lets take everything we know about digital audio and evaluate every aspect...
ANALOG DAC is an integration of our most advanced technologies with the single purpose of producing...
EXTENDED REVIEW - Back in high-end audio's golden days—for the purposes of this story, the mid- to...
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MB 06 DAC ANA PB
NZ$ 20,304.76 ea (incl. GST)
We started the development of this product with just one simple very focused goal. We started with the name. The Analog DAC. Lets take everything we know about digital audio and evaluate every aspect...
ANALOG DAC is an integration of our most advanced technologies with the single purpose of producing...
EXTENDED REVIEW - Back in high-end audio's golden days—for the purposes of this story, the mid- to...
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MB 09 DAC SIG V
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Simplicity The Signature DAC V was designed in a way that it can be used as the last component in your system before the amplifiers.  With the added convenience of having multiple digital inputs...
SIGNATURE DAC V - OPTIONAL EXTRAS:DIAMOND Platinum Power Base with digital supply and Diamond Power...
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MB 10 DAC DB
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Simplicity
DIAMOND DAC V - OPTIONAL EXTRAS:DIAMOND Stepped Attenuator Volume control = RRP $4250Isolation Base...
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Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

MB 12 AS S201
Price on application
The S201 is a 200W stereo Amplifier built along the same design approach as our world renown M203 monoblocks. Never has so much Class A power been packed into such an amazingly compact and attractive...
MB 14 AM M203
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M203 replaces M202 - More fins for cooler operation - Bigger transformers for better sound - User replaceable power module for better reliability! “MSB's Platinum is, quite simply, the best amplifier...

MB 15 HT TMS
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Reviews

It notched my system up to a place where almost all digital sources had an organic, natural presence without sacrificing the accuracy and detail present in the best recordings—no small feat.
Jon Iverson

REVIEW SUMMARY - with a DAC like the MSB Analog, you get a sense of someone hitting Play on a big reel of wide-track analog tape, after being fed by live mikes in a room". 

".......the MSB again better separated all the parts and anchored them all down,"

."......the first one "more focused." "I prefer the first one," she finally stated. The first one was the MSB, and she was exactly right. The Benchmark produced a greater sense of ambient space, but Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor's voice floated more cohesively between the speakers with the MSB".

"I'm seriously considering how to swing the basic model with no volume control, one input, and Basic Desktop power supply (can be upgraded later), You should too."

EXTENDED REVIEW - Back in high-end audio's golden days—for the purposes of this story, the mid- to late 1980s—my audio store, Audio Ecstasy, had a service tech named Tom Hewitt. Were he still with us (and I wish he were), Tom would appreciate the radical case design of the MSB Analog DAC. Tom loved not only to fix things, but to see what happened when things were violently stressed. He tested the limits of component construction.

Tiring of dropping receivers off our building's roof or ramming TVs (tied to the back of a pickup truck) into the shop's brick wall, Tom soon discovered that one of our customers owned a machine shop with an industrial press. Pay dirt. Somewhere there are camcorder cassettes of what transpired, but let's just say that even the best casework was no match for this giant squishing machine. Tom's videos would first show the component being crushed. Then he would gleefully pan to the pressure gauge, as it rose higher and higher. Then back to the metal pancake.

Which brings us to MSB Technology's Analog DAC.

This product's design and shape suggest a typical MSB component that has been squeezed tight in an industrial press, then sanded and buffed to a smooth finish. Call it an audiophile pancake. In fact, it resembles in size and thickness the bigger-than-plate-size blueberry pancakes at Hoover's Beef Palace, just up the road from me in Templeton, California (yes, this is true!). I'll bet Tom would be challenged in trying destroy the Analog DAC, and appreciate how well it's made.

I reviewed MSB's Diamond DAC IV (since renamed the Diamond DAC IV plus) in the October 2012 issue, with Diamond Power Base and other upgrades (US$43,325), and it remains the best digital I've heard in my home system. When I spied the new Analog DAC at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas, and was told that it's their new, lower-cost product, I was interested before I'd even heard any specifics. And when I did hear those specifics, they were interesting.

Best-case scenario

Let's start with that enclosure. The stealthy-looking Analog DAC is CNC-machined from a solid hunk of aircraft-grade aluminium and comes in matte silver or black, with custom colours available for $699. They leave much of the metal in, removing it only where they need to stuff electronics—what's left feels like a solid plank of 7/8"-thick metal. The case is 17.5" wide and 12.5" deep and sports curved sides, with a semicircular bulge at each corner for a little spike foot. Underneath is a hatch to gain access to the main electronics, and there are three slots on the back for the inputs. It looks like something that would fly if tossed like a Frisbee.

On the back, starting at the left, are the balanced and unbalanced analog outputs and analog input, grouped by channel. MSB recommends using the unbalanced outputs if possible—they claim that the DAC is "fundamentally single-ended." Unless the optional volume control is installed, the single-ended analog inputs are passed directly to the outputs. With the volume control, this input can be either volume controlled or not, depending on the menu settings; MSB suggests that it's ideal for adding a vinyl input, if you're using the Analog DAC as a preamp. This input should be shorted when not in use, as it was during my testing.

To the right of the output/analog input section are three slots for the various digital input options. The five possible choices for the three spots are: Optical and coax S/PDIF inputs (on one input block), XLR balanced AES/EBU input, MSB network input (it looks like an Ethernet jack, so is coloured bright green), Pro I2S input, and a 32-bit/384kHz PCM/DSD-compatible USB input. I'll go over the prices of these options later; it can be a bit perplexing. My review sample came with the Optical/Coax, MSB network, and USB options.

To the right of the inputs is a jack for the DC power supply. There are two power-supply options: the linear Basic Desktop supply, with two transformers, is included in the basic price and gets the job done; a more advanced supply, the Analog Power Base, is housed in a case that looks just like the Analog DAC and makes a nice stacking companion (yes, like pancakes). It contains five transformers—for complete isolation of digital processing, clocks, and analog DAC modules—as well as a 12V power trigger for remote operation. On the back of the Power Base are an IEC AC power receptacle, a DC out jack, trigger jacks, and a teeny-tiny power switch that glows red when off, green when on. I'm wise to MSB products, so I quickly found this unmarked switchette and figured how to turn it on without help. I had only the Analog Power Base upgrade on hand for listening, so can't remark on what improvements, if any, it makes over the Basic Desktop supply.

Back to the Analog DAC. The front of its case is bare, smooth metal, but on top, at right front, the volume control and input selector sit flush with the surface. The volume selector is puck-sized with the input button a small circular indent in the volume puck and held in by gravity. How do I know about the gravity thing? When I first turned the review sample over to check out the bottom, the heavy volume knob and small input button fell out and bounced on the floor. Oops. Luckily, no dents.

To the left of the volume control is a small grid of pinholes in the aluminium; under these is the white LED display. The large letters and numbers are quite bright and let you know the software version on startup, the input selected, the sample rate, and, as you spin the knob, the volume setting. The interaction between the volume and input selector and the display have a great feel, and there's a very satisfying little clicking sound as you bounce the volume up and down. At the rear of the top panel are the MSB logo, and labels for the outputs in light coloured type.

This arrangement, with the volume control on top, worked great when I perched the Meridian Sooloos Control 15 (with its small stand) atop the DAC. However, this might prove problematic with a normal component on top, as I found when I added to the stack the MSB Universal Media Transport plus. With the UMT+ underneath, the feet lined up perfectly, and the volume control was visible again. The one ergonomic issue I had with the Analog DAC's controls was when I switched inputs in low light: I would invariably also tick the volume knob a bit. It took some skill to push the barely visible input switch and not hit the volume by mistake.

Filter King

The Analog DAC includes MSB's Femto Clock technology, as well as 80-bit digital processing and 384kHz ladder DACs. When I asked MSB's Vince Galbo for some details about the digital filter used in the Analog DAC, he said that even though the DAC IV has several filters to choose from, "while everyone wants to play with these [filters in the DAC IV], they all come to the same conclusion, that one of the default filters is the best. So the default filter is the same in the Analog DAC as that DAC IV series default filter." Which means they're using a custom-designed, linear-phase apodizing filter designed for minimal pre-ringing. Galbo explained that this is "MSB's definition of the term apodizing in that it has a stop band that starts before the Nyquist limit of the source's sample rate (for example, 22.05kHz for 'Red Book'), therefore avoiding aliasing caused by the Nyquist limit."

The Grand Total

The Analog DAC is MSB's "lower-priced" DAC, but of course that's only relative to their pricy products as noted above. The Analog DAC' includes one input module, basic remote control, and the Basic Desktop power supply. This is all some folks will need to get up and running.

You can add the volume control, turning the DAC into a preamp (if you do this, don't forget that it has just that one analog input!). Next, you can add a remote-control upgrade , RS-232 input, or WiFi control. Additional digital inputs (you can add two more). Finally, you can upgrade to the Analog Power Base supply. The review sample had three inputs, volume control, and Power Base. Note: Unlike the other inputs and power supply, which can be upgraded down the line, the volume-control option cannot be added later—it must be ordered with the Analog DAC itself.

First Attempt

I set up the short stack of Analog DAC and Analog Power Base on my cabinet and ran it overnight to settle it in. It didn't get very warm—a balmy 94.5°F was the hottest spot near the display (MSB's Diamond DAC IV ran so hot I couldn't put it in a cabinet)—so I proceeded to set the Sooloos Control 15 on top and fed the MSB via its S/PDIF input. The two products look great together, and the Control 15's smallish base left the Analog DAC's volume control and input switch right where I wanted them.

I cued up a few albums—standard rips from CDs—and settled in for some first-impression listening. Then I cued up some high-definition music. Silence. I restarted the MSB. It powered up, selected the right sample rate (96kHz), and played. No problem. I switched back to a lower sampling rate. No problem. I went to a higher rate and it locked up again.

I e-mailed Vince Galbo, who noted that a dealer had reported the same problem with the Sooloos, as had users of Logitech Transporters. According to Galbo, "some sources do not switch perfectly clean, and the sample-rate transition may contain a bit of noise. Our inputs have a fairly stringent 'window of acceptance,' so to speak." I put the MSB to one side and reviewed some other DACs.

A couple months later, an update to the Analog DAC's firmware became available and I downloaded it from MSB's website. Updating was simple with the Sooloos: I downloaded the WAV file, added it to the Sooloos, and played it through the MSB once. The DAC rebooted, showed the new firmware number on its display, then played a short snippet of music to show that all was well.

You can also update the Analog via MSB's transport, your computer, or by burning the file to a CD. The only requirement, according to MSB, is that playback of the update must be bit-perfect, with no upsampling, volume, or any other filtering added. This update fixed the problem, but there was still one small glitch: Every time the Analog DAC switched to a higher sampling rate, the volume dropped one dB increment. A second update was soon posted and fixed that.

In his e-mail, Galbo had said this about the updates: "Because the MSB DAC modules are not format specific and can convert any format, now and in the future, such firmware updates make our DACs 'all new' in any way we choose. As an example, late last year we enabled DSD 64x and 128x in all MSB DACs, even though the DAC was never specifically designed for DSD." Cool.

Serious Listening

First things first: I wanted to establish the proper volume setting for listening and all of my comparisons. John Atkinson had recently sent me Benchmark's new, highly regarded DAC2 HGC, which has a volume knob on the front, as well as the ability to operate, via a fixed output level, with a preamp. To make sure I was listening to all DACs at the same level, whether compared through the preamp or connected directly to my amps, I ran the pink-noise track from Stereophile's Test CD 2 (Stereophile STPH004-2) and found that the Analog DAC needed to be set at "–3" to match the DAC2 HGC at fixed output, and the MSB at "–2" to match my older Benchmark DAC1 USB, which was also on hand and is a tad louder than the DAC2 HGC.

That out of the way, I spent over a month using the MSB as my main DAC, driven by the Meridian Sooloos, by computer, or by MSB's own Universal Media Transport plus. I applied the MSB updates mentioned above and commenced serious listening.

I began with the Bee Gees. No, not those albums—I grabbed the ones before disco, when the band was a serious Beatles clone (which qualifies several of their songs for my ever-expanding "Not the Beatles" playlist of Beatles sound-alikes). The first half-dozen or so albums, from 1966 to 1971, were well recorded, packed with great tunes, and most have been reissued with extra tracks.

Starting with the standout song "Massachusetts," from the Horizontal CD, the Analog DAC placed everything in space perfectly, with a nice, rich bottom end and a nonaggressive midrange. One thing I love about good, honest transfers of these older albums is that you get the sound of the minor recording artefacts pretty much intact—back then, they couldn't just edit, filter, and EQ everything to perfection. The result is that, with a DAC like the MSB Analog, you get a sense of someone hitting Play on a big reel of wide-track analog tape, after being fed by live mikes in a room.

Other DACs that have been able to re-create this sense of "thereness" include the MSB's bigger Diamond brother and Ayre Acoustics' original QB-9 (unfortunately equipped only with USB). When I added MSB's Universal Media Transport plus to the mix, that "thereness" notched up a nanotad. I could easily live with the sound from the Sooloos, but the UMT+, via the MSB Pro I2S, put the Analog DAC in the best possible light.

Against the Benchmark

I moved on to some other great, early Bee Gees cuts, and brought the new Benchmark DAC2 HGC out for head-to-head comparisons. From the Bee Gees' 1st (Reprise), from 1967 (actually their third LP, if you count the Australia-only releases), "Holiday" and "To Love Somebody" are semi-lost gems of the era, complete with full orchestral arrangements—when I swapped in the Benchmark DAC2 HGC, everything lost a bit of focus. The top-to-bottom balance felt right, but Barry and Robin Gibb's melancholic voices didn't sound as solid as with the MSB.

A more recent release—Midlake's latest, Antiphon (ATO)—features thick slabs of guitar and fabulous vocal harmonies, but it's a tangled recording. Though it couldn't entirely unravel the mass of sound, the MSB again better separated all the parts and anchored them all down, compared to either Benchmark. The older Benchmark DAC1 USB, in particular, had a tougher time with the album's title track, adding a slight gloss to the voices.

Finally, a guilty pleasure (as if the Bee Gees weren't enough): Lorde's Pure Heroine (CD, Virgin 3751900). I didn't connect with this album at first, but after Corrina had played "Royals" a half-dozen times (and I watched Puddles the Clown's version on YouTube), I wanted to hear it again. And again. Tired of audiophile female-voice lounge-jazz Krall demos? Here's a rich female voice with a subtle electronic backing track that will test your system from top to bottom.

Corrina sat in the sweet spot as I played "Royals" through both DACs (Analog DAC and DAC2 HGC), back and forth, twice. She didn't know which DAC was which, but commented that the second DAC sounded a bit "bigger," the first one "more focused." "I prefer the first one," she finally stated. The first one was the MSB, and she was exactly right. The Benchmark produced a greater sense of ambient space, but Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor's voice floated more cohesively between the speakers with the MSB. The Benchmark was slightly more ghostlike in this regard.

Conclusion and Au Revoir

I started to write up more musical examples, but realised I was just repeating myself. Every comparison with the DACs mentioned above, and a handful of others that passed through my system in the past several months, yielded the same results: a more focused sound with the MSB, coupled with the ability to match the best qualities of any other DAC in the hot seat. There was simply more there there.

I was sad to have to send another MSB DAC to JA's Brooklyn lab for testing. It notched my system up to a place where almost all digital sources had an organic, natural presence without sacrificing the accuracy and detail present in the best recordings—no small feat. Fully decked out, it is not cheap by any measure except other MSB products. I'm seriously considering how to swing the basic model with no volume control, one input, and Basic Desktop power supply (can be upgraded later), You should too.

Videos

The long awaited SELECT DAC is shipping. Here is a video about how it is made with a facto