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 RANGE CONSISTS OF:
DACs - DISCRETE / PREMIER / REFERENCE  & world leading, top-of-range SELECT DAC
TRANSPORTS (multi format) - REFERENCE & SELECT
HEADPHONE AMPS - REFERENCE & SELECT
MISC - RACKS, ISOLATION BASE & SUB ISOLATOR

Located in Silicon Valley, our dedicated engineers and production specialists work to bring you the best in high-end audio. Combining elegant design thinking with a passion for lifelike reproduction, our close-knit team, led by brothers Jonathan and Daniel Gullman, build and curate a wide array of hifi products—DACs, transports and amplifiers—setting an industry benchmark. By relying on tight integration between electrical, mechanical and consumer needs, we strive to push the listening experience further. At the end of the day, our joy comes from innovation and sharing our leading-edge technologies with the world.

Designing DACs for more than 25 years has given us keen insights for future ready products. Now, more than ever, our product range has the most flexible architecture yet. California based in-house development and manufacturing has evolved the digital front-end to a new level of playback.

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Featured

MB 05 DC DIS DAC
NZ$ 16,995.00 (incl. GST)
The Discrete DAC - Refined sound. Elegant design. The Prime DAC
The DISCRETE DAC Includes: Balanced or Single-Ended Analog Outputs 2x Optical inputs Coaxial...
MSB has released a new Discrete DAC which replaces the MSB Analog DAC in MSB’s line-up. It uses two...
MB 08 DC PRE DAC
NZ$ 33,995.00 (incl. GST)
The Premier DAC - Exceptional sound. Unparalleled performance. The Prime DAC
The PREMIER DAC Includes:Optical and Coaxial Input Module Optical and Coaxial Input Module...
MB 12 DC REF DAC
NZ$ 67,995.00 (incl. GST)
The Reference DAC - Setting the reference for Digital to Analog Converters. Four Hybrid DACs
The REFERENCE DAC Includes: Optical and Coaxial Input Module Base Volume control Output...

All Products

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

MB 01 CT REF TRA
NZ$ 31,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
  The Reference Transport Includes:
The Reference Transport Includes: Desktop Supply IEC Power Cable Transport Remote Stock...
MB 03 CT SEL TRA
NZ$ 39,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Select Transport Includes:
The Select Transport Includes: Desktop Supply IEC Power Cable Transport Remote Stock Colours...
MB 04 CT SEL TPB
NZ$ 27,995.00 ea (incl. GST)

DACs

MB 05 DC DIS DAC
NZ$ 16,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Discrete DAC - Refined sound. Elegant design. The Prime DAC
The DISCRETE DAC Includes: Balanced or Single-Ended Analog Outputs 2x Optical inputs Coaxial...
MSB has released a new Discrete DAC which replaces the MSB Analog DAC in MSB’s line-up. It uses two...
DACs
MB 06 DC DIS 2PS
NZ$ 2,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 08 DC PRE DAC
NZ$ 33,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Premier DAC - Exceptional sound. Unparalleled performance. The Prime DAC
The PREMIER DAC Includes:Optical and Coaxial Input Module Optical and Coaxial Input Module...
DACs
MB 09 DC PRE PS
NZ$ 12,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 09 DC PRE PSL
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 12 DC REF DAC
NZ$ 67,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Reference DAC - Setting the reference for Digital to Analog Converters. Four Hybrid DACs
The REFERENCE DAC Includes: Optical and Coaxial Input Module Base Volume control Output...
DACs
MB 14 DC REF PB
NZ$ 26,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 14 DC REF PBL
NZ$ 29,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 15 DC REF PRE
NZ$ 9,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 15 DC REF PRL
NZ$ 15,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 16 DC REF 140
NZ$ 8,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 17 DC REF 77
NZ$ 8,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 17 DC REF 77L
NZ$ 16,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 18 DC REF 33
NZ$ 25,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 18 DC REF 33L
NZ$ 33,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 20 DC SEL DAC
NZ$ 144,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
                                                 Redefining what is...
The SELECT DAC Includes: Optical and Coaxial Input Module Standard Output Preamp Module Femto...
DACs
MB 21 DC SEL PS
NZ$ 33,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 21 DC SEL PSL
NZ$ 40,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 22 DC SEL 77
NZ$ 16,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 23 DC SEL 33
NZ$ 16,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 23 DC SEL 33L
NZ$ 33,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 40 DC OM BASE
NZ$ 5,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 41 DC IM DIG
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 42 DC IM RCA
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 43 DC IM XLR
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 44 DC IM USB
NZ$ 2,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 45 DC IM REN
NZ$ 2,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
The NEW Renderer has arrived!  - Version 2 of the MSB Renderer Module for the Select DAC, the Reference DAC, the Premier DAC, the Discrete DAC, DAC [IV, IV+, V], and the Analog DAC. The MSB...
32 bit – 768kHz playback capableMQA hardware based decoding*Roon EndpointUp to 4X DSDUPnP...
DACs
MB 46 DC IM ISL
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 47 DC IM 12S
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 48 DC OM RCA
NZ$ 2,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 49 DC OM XLR
NZ$ 2,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 50 DC REMOTE
NZ$ 500.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 51 DC ISOBASE
NZ$ 3,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 52 DC SW RCA
NZ$ 1,750.00 ea (incl. GST)
DACs
MB 53 DC SW XLR
Price on application
DACs

Headphones & Headphone amps

MB 30 HA REF HA
NZ$ 26,995.00 ea (incl. GST)

Sub Woofers

MB 55 SW ISOL
NZ$ 2,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Sub Woofers

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.

Audio Reference 1st in the world to receive new MSB Discrete DAC
Greg Borrowman

MSB has released a new Discrete DAC which replaces the MSB Analog DAC in MSB’s line-up. It uses two Prime DAC modules for a true balanced output derived from four stages of digital-to-analogue conversion and an ultra-low jitter integrated clock. A modular architecture allows for two digital input modules, accommodating any format or connector type available, either now or into the future.

It adopts the aesthetic, build quality, and cutting-edge in-house technology of the MSB’s Select DAC and Reference DAC and, like all MSB DACs, is built entirely in-house in the company’s facility in Santa Cruz, California. ‘The tradition of building in-house continues with these new DACs, we have not compromised build quality, and we never will,’ said Daniel Gullman, MSB Product Designer. Daniel and his brother Jonathan took over MSB in 2016 from their father, Larry Gullman, who founded MSB in 1985 with Mark Brasfield. ‘Under Jonathan and Daniel’s leadership MSB Technology has taken on a new lease of life with a fresh direction marked by a family of bold new products which push the envelope in terms of both sonic performance and elegant design languageSince taking the reins at MSB, they’ve added more in-house tech including CNC lathes and surface-mount technology (SMT). Coupled with an uncompromising eye for detail and unrivalled finesse, they are continuing to push the envelope in high end audio.’

The Discrete DAC is built around the newly developed Prime DAC module which is the result of trickle down technology from the Hybrid DAC modules used in both the Reference DAC and Select DAC. MSB now has a range of four state-of-the-art digital-to-analogue converters which are able to drive the analogue outputs directly. ‘This means that there are no op-amps, transistors, or vacuum tubes between the collective DAC modules’ output and the input of your power amplifier or your active loudspeaker’s electronic crossover,’ said Ralston. ‘The result is the most natural, life-like, high-resolution audio available from any digital source. In fact, the overwhelming observation from listeners is that these digital products sound uncannily like the very best analogue sources.’

The new MSB Discrete DAC is powered by a completely separate external power supply (pictured below). A true balanced design, the Discrete DAC has an in-built volume control, no analogue output buffer and a 300Ω output impedance. Measuring only 50×300×450mm it has a four-character LED front panel display and is now available in New Zealand at Audio reference, the 1st in the world to receive one.

Videos

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