Subjective grading of DAC that I had heard during last one year period.

thomask

Well-Known Member
Dec 9, 2018
610
449
75
60
Washington State, US
My first serious audio system was Garrard turntable, Fisher Int(SS), ADS bookspeaker bought on 1978.

I bought Technics CD player on 1984.

It sound harsh and bright compared with vinyl.

I gave up vinyl when I moved from Berkeley to Chicago on 1988 since I had no room to carry in my small car.

I upgraded to California Audio Mark2 on 1989.

It was way better than Technics CD player with refined treble and better dynamics.

I had used passive pre, Krell KSA 150 to drive Apogee Duetta Sig.

On 1999, I upgraded to DCS Elgar and upsampler using CEC Tl0x transport.

Wow, I got the feeling that it could match good vinyl system.

But after using DCS Elgar for 6 years, it got out of order and I gave it up with uncertain repair cost and shipping to UK.

CEC Tl0x transport also had kept failing to read some CDs.

Thus I had changed to Accustic Arts CD transport and Dac which was a downgrade from DCS Elgar and upsampler using CEC Tl0x transport..

On 2010, I had got EMMLab Dac2 to replace Accustic Arts Dac.

It had excellent dynamics, details and soundstage which made me enjoy the music again with Lansche 4.1 speaker and Silbatone 300B SET amp.

On 2018 I had got Jay Audio CDT2 and Lyngdorf 2170 to use it as Room correction, Dac.

But after using it for 4 months, I found that Lyngdorf 2170 falls slightly short of EMMLab Dac2 on bass slam and details.

Thus I had auditioned several Dacs to upgrade from EMMLab Dac2.


Point 100
There is nothing to criticize over MSB Select II except its high price around 100K$.
It has magical relaxed texture similar to top grade vinyl.

Dynamics, details, soundstage are all excellent.

Point 95
Kalista Dreamplay transport and Dac
It is excellent matching MSB Select II on almost every aspects.

The only down side is that it does not have relaxed texture similar to top grade vinyl although it still sounds silky.

Point 91.
Trinity Dac
This one is also all round player with hard to criticize.
But it falls slightly short of MSB Select II on details and relaxed texture.

Point 90
Lampiziator Pacific Dac
I had auditioned this Dac with same setup with MSB Select II.

This one is also all round player with hard to criticize.
It falls slightly short of MSB Select II on dynamics and relaxed texture.
But this one has a nice bloom and full bodied sound,
which make some people prefer this one to MSB Select II



Point 85
Chord Dave and Mscaler(or Blue II transport)
This one give transparent and 3D soundstage with excellent details.
But it need good system matching.
It could sound analytical or hot coupled with bright combination of speaker and amplifier.
Without upscaling using Mscaler, its sound is mediocre around 75 points.

Point 84
MSB Premier with one more basic power supply
I had auditioned this one side by side with Lampiziator Pacific Dac.
It matches Pacific Dac with Dynamics, details, soundstage but fall short of Pacific Dac in magical bloom and full body.
With improved power supply or clock, its performance have room to improve further.

Point 80
Formula XHD Dac
I auditioned this one side by side with Trinity Dac
This one is a very musical player with full bloom.
But it falls short of Trinity Dac by one notch in dynamics and bass slam.

Point 79
TotalDac 6 tube version
This one is also a very musical player.
But from the point of audiophile, its dynamics, details, soundstage are all one notch below the standard set by MSB Select II.


Point 78
MSB Discrete Dac with one additional basic power supply.
This one has similar sound signature to MSB Premier
But it is half notch below MSB Premier on dynamics, details, soundstage.

Point 75
EmmLab Dac2
I paid 9K$ for this on 2010.
It matches Chord Dave and Mscaler on dynamics with slightly more bass slam.
But Chord Dave and Mscaler give more transparent and deeper soundstage than EmmLab Dac2 while soundstage width are comparable to each other.
This one has slightly fuller sound than Chord Dave and Mscaler.
It is still working fine after 10 years of use.


Point 73.

Lyngdorf 2170
This one has Dac, pre and power amp, active crossover and room correction functions.
It's Dac sounds very similar to EmmLab Dac2 but with slightly less details and bass slam.

There are many Dacs to audition but I could not audition all of them.


I had bought Chord Dave and Mscaler late May.

Recently I play musicals and operas very often enjoying excellent 3D soundstage.

But I do not believe that I can live with Chord Dave and Mscaler for my life.


If some innovative Dac better than MSB Select II come out under 50K$ in the future, then I will upgrade to it.

Otherwise, I expect to use Chord Dave and Mscaler for 3 years or longer.

I open the possibility of upgrading to excellent music server like SGM Extreme in the near future.
 
Last edited:

thomask

Well-Known Member
Dec 9, 2018
610
449
75
60
Washington State, US
Aries Cerat Kassandra II could possibly match the performance of MSB Select II but also with high price.

Aries Cerat launched the Helene DAC at Munich show this year with expected price tag of 20k$.

I had better wait for it before pulling the trigger for Chord Dave and Mscaler.

But now, I have no intention to switch to Helene Dac since I expect it to be just below 90 points.

It is not worth the hassle.
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,280
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Hong Kong
Thanks Thomask for using the MSB Select DAC as the Point100 yardstick.
:D
 
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kimurastanley

Well-Known Member
Mar 16, 2019
113
119
50
Singapore
Thanks for the grading and explanation!

Just have a question, was the tested formula xHD with the new 2019 update including the new analog board?
 

christoph

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2015
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Principality of Liechtenstein
Point 90
Lampiziator Pacific Dac
I had auditioned this Dac with same setup with MSB Select II.

This one is also all round player with hard to criticize.
It falls slightly short of MSB Select II on dynamics and relaxed texture.
But this one has a nice bloom and full bodied sound,
which make some people prefer this one to MSB Select II

Hi Thomas
Thanks for your elaborate write up :)

Do you happen to remember what tubes were used in the Pacific DAC when you auditioned it?
The tube combination can make a big difference and is also an excellent possibility to "tailor" the sound to your liking and/or System synergy :cool:
 
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thomask

Well-Known Member
Dec 9, 2018
610
449
75
60
Washington State, US
Hi Thomas
Thanks for your elaborate write up :)

Do you happen to remember what tubes were used in the Pacific DAC when you auditioned it?
The tube combination can make a big difference and is also an excellent possibility to "tailor" the sound to your liking and/or System synergy :cool:
It was 300B.

Another reason that I had not chosen Pacific is that I wish to have a break from hardware change and enjoy the music.

If I had chosen Pacific, I would have spent lot of time and money on tube rolling.

Fortunately after selection of right digital cables, Dave and Mscaler also sounds full enough to be musical.
 
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Esotar

VIP/Donor
Mar 28, 2016
355
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South Korea
www.digituslabs.kr
I think DAVE rating is too high.
 

wisnon

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2011
3,264
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It was 300B.

Another reason that I had not chosen Pacific is that I wish to have a break from hardware change and enjoy the music.

If I had chosen Pacific, I would have spent lot of time and money on tube rolling.

Fortunately after selection of right digital cables, Dave and Mscaler also sounds full enough to be musical.
Almost NOBODY likes Pac with 300b and when they do, it tends to be EML 300b XLS or Takatsuki.

You should have tried PX25 or 242, the current fan favourites. No need to spend a lot of money on tube rolling and DONT get Balanced, get SE. Also make sure you gave a good transport and FTA cables. LoL

On another note, try also the cheaper Atlantic GA TRP with engine53 with RK 5u4g recti and GEC KT66 vintage tubes!

Whatever you choose, I hope you are happy long term!
 

Hieukm

Well-Known Member
Oct 2, 2016
270
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113
Dave without Mscaler is just so so.

But Dave with Mscaler deserves 85 points.

After selecting right digital cables, I am happy with its holographic 3 D soundstage.

It also works well with headphones.
What digital cable did you choose??
 

howiebrou

Well-Known Member
Jun 29, 2012
1,777
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Thomask, could you elaborate on the Trinity dac at all? Did you use their PSU as well?
 

dctom

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Jan 28, 2015
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Wales, UK
Very interesting, I have a Lampi GG which sounds great with 242s. I have recently been experimenting with ways to send music files to the Lampi through USB. This can affect the result as much as a change of dac
 

christoph

Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2015
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Principality of Liechtenstein
Very interesting, I have a Lampi GG which sounds great with 242s. I have recently been experimenting with ways to send music files to the Lampi through USB. This can affect the result as much as a change of dac
Please elaborate
 
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