Valin's new MSB Reference dac & transport review, AS Product Year Award

Al M.

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#21
Elliott,

Please read again: "Best as *I HAVE EVER HEARD THEM*. I, me. Alex. That's my opinion, my stance, not a statement of fact.

While I haven't heard the C1 mono, I've had the regular C1 in the store for a good while, in our regular system, and I've heard Vivaldi extensively in client's as well. Both good products, and I completely understand if folks are happy and truly satisfied with either. But, to MY EARS, the MSB products are in a different league altogether, for the reasons I exposed.

Thanks,
Alex
Unfortunately, Alex, "best as I have heard them" stood completely loose from "it's the best digital", as it was far towards the end of your sentence. Your statement was at the very least ambiguous, and Elliot was right to criticize it.
 

Al M.

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#22
Having just read Valin's report, I see that he mentions something that I think is actually very important..and yet he skims this issue. He states that digital fails to deliver 'depth of image' like analog, which IME is absolutely 100% correct. The MSB falls down here, like ALL digital! ( Yes, Valin acknowledges this).
Sorry, Davey, this is just not true. Even my $ 2,300 Yggdrasil DAC does depth amazingly in my room (with speaker drivers 7 feet from the front wall). Just yesterday I had a friend over, and we listened to a Redbook CD with choir music, with the singers in a large venue at a distance, portrayed far behind the speakers. We listened in the dark where you couldn't see the speakers, and my friend said this was one of the best illusions of being transported into another venue, much larger than my listening room, that he had ever experienced.

Perhaps my room is particularly suited, but I have never heard better depth of imaging from vinyl.
 

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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#23
Having just read Valin's report, I see that he mentions something that I think is actually very important..and yet he skims this issue. He states that digital fails to deliver 'depth of image' like analog, which IME is absolutely 100% correct. The MSB falls down here, like ALL digital! ( Yes, Valin acknowledges this). While Valin goes on to say that this issue doesn't really bother him that much, i would suspect for others it might. ( it does for me!)
Question becomes, why is that digital still fails to deliver this aspect of reproduction, one that analog gets so very right?? Maybe a question for a new thread?
Davey, I don't know about generalizing between analog and digital with regard to portraying a sense of depth. I just don't have the experience with enough of either format. However, I have heard depth of image portrayed very convincingly in Al M.'s digital only monitor/sub based system. Perhaps this is an exception, but in my experience, it is certainly possible because I have heard it. I share this because depth of image is important to me also for contributing to a convincing presentation.
 

Scaena1

Industry Expert
Sep 14, 2010
10
5
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#24
I have been debating about whether to walder into the frey on this conversation.(excuse the GOT reference- I‘ve just concluded re-watching the entire 7 magnificent seasons). But here goes . I do not think it possible to easily conclude that any of the digital SOTA contenders are “Best”. I don’t think JV says that, only that the MSB is the best he has heard in his current “best “system, and I think we need to add the caveat- in a system that at present includes all the parts he also thinks are better than all the parts he had assembled when he listened to the much older dCS Vivaldi ( and not the vastly improved version 2.0) and any other prior component part of his system that he has now replaced with his new references. Variables- the bane of reliable test results.

By way of disclosure, we use the dCS Vivaldi ( with a Mutec Ref 10 - 10Mhz clock) because in our system and to our ears-it provides a wonderful balance of detail , bloom, depth and three dimensionality. The MSB Reference or Select and the CH Precision, all superb, which I have heard on several occasions in several different systems, to my ears, favor detail. I can understand people preferring them as well as understanding an opposite preference for the dCS stack. Having not heard the other digital contenders in our system, I can also acknowledge that my comments are limited by my own outside comparisons with other variables. However, I believe our brains process sonic information differently and we all value certain performance characteristics in all things ( women, cars, food, etc ) with different priorities of importance in chasing the absolute. I think it of utmost importance to identify the characteristics of most import to you , and when weighing on reviewers opinions, knowing their individual preferences as well.

For example, in the same TAS issue, Don Saltzman in reviewing the ARC Ref 750 SE amplifier acknowledges the former 'whitish " quality of older ARC amplifiers. A quality , first described by HP in his yin-yang dichotomy and later acknowledged by JV. I found that quality to be disqualifying with our loudspeakers and later wonderfully vanquished by the newer ARC circuits with the KT-120's and then KT-150's replacing the 6550's. Others bought the older "whitish" ARC amps in great quantities. C’est la vie.


Alan


________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Industry Affiliation- Co-owner, Scaena Loudspeakers
 

Al M.

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#25
Davey, I don't know about generalizing between analog and digital with regard to portraying a sense of depth. I just don't have the experience with enough of either format. However, I have heard depth of image portrayed very convincingly in Al M.'s digital only monitor/sub based system. Perhaps this is an exception, but in my experience, it is certainly possible because I have heard it. I share this because depth of image is important to me also for contributing to a convincing presentation.
Thanks Peter, you must have written your post while I posted mine. From our conversations I know how important depth of imaging is to you, and in your system I also have heard amazing examples, like the Cantate Domine choir LP.
 
Likes: PeterA

DaveyF

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Aug 1, 2010
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#26
Gents,I think if you read JV's comments in his review about the MSB, he is stating that digital in general does NOT do bloom and depth as well as analog, that is my experience as well. Apparently, he adds this statement to the MSB review, because the MSB DAC is the only DAC that he has heard that he actually really likes, but it still falls short of great analog. This would make sense to me, as to my ears when I have heard the MSB DAC's, great that they are, they still fall short of good analog! To my ears, YMMV.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#27
. . . also, our resident analog tube-only audiophile, Ron Resnick thinks MSB is the only digital he can listen to for a period of time.
I stay off the digital threads because I have almost nothing to contribute on digital topics. I came away from my tag-along with Keith to Alex at Alma a few months ago with two small thoughts:

1) I continue to think that piano is the most difficult instrument for digital to reproduce realistically and naturally. Even the MSB Reference fell short on piano versus the Bergmann Galder/Odin/Opus1. Of course I appreciate that that vinyl system is a lot more expensive than the MSB Reference. But we all heard the differences on piano.

2) I posted after the visit that while I have no idea how the MSB DACs work, I came away with the generic and unspecific and untested view that it was the least offensive sounding digital I have ever heard. (That may sound like I am damning MSB with faint praise, but I am not. For me that is a pretty significant statement.) I think MSB DACs are doing something good I have never heard from any other digital component. The MSBs are doing something right. That much is clear to me.

At Keith’s would I ever prefer to listen to an analog recording on the MSB rather than on the Brinkmann? No. But can I listen with some contentment to Keith’s MSB? Yes.

From what I heard from the MSB Reference at Alma, and extrapolating from that to MikeL’s ultimate MSB Select with all options, I can imagine why Mike is listening to digital much more often than before he built his MSB system.

3) Between what I heard at Alma and knowing MikeL’s journey with digital and Keith’s journey with digital if I ever were to investigate digital in a lazy way I would not bother to listen to a solid-state DAC other than MSB. I would compare directly MSB to Lampizator, and then make a decision.

4) Jeff Tyo also is vinyl plus tape only (zero digital) and tube only.
 
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Al M.

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#28
Sorry, Davey, you are engaging in a not very convincing attempt at backtracking. Your statement was pretty black and white:

Question becomes, why is that digital still fails to deliver this aspect of reproduction, one that analog gets so very right?? Maybe a question for a new thread?
"Fails to deliver"....hmmm...
 

steve williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#29
I continue to think that piano is the most difficult instrument for digital to reproduce realistically and naturally. Even the MSB Reference fell short on piano versus the Bergmann Galder/Odin/Opus1.
Ron

for my ears the best digital recording I ever heard of piano was at an audio show a few yers ago when Vince gave me a private listening session of the Select ll. It was that session that convinced me that the Select ll DAC was the best DAC at the time the I have ever heard. The pano was the most realistic that I have ever heard on digital
 

Al M.

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#30
I stay off the digital threads because I have almost nothing to contribute on digital topics. I came away from my tag-along with Keith to Alex at Alma a few months ago with two small thoughts:

1) I continue to think that piano is the most difficult instrument for digital to reproduce realistically and naturally. Even the MSB Reference fell short on piano versus the Bergmann Galder/Odin/Opus1. Of course I appreciate that that vinyl system is a lot more expensive than the MSB Reference. But we all heard the differences on piano.
Sorry, Ron, if I remember correctly, this was a comparison on just one track. Hard to draw conclusions from there. Digital, including Redbook CD, can do amazing piano, and when the recording allows, in a big and bold way (you said something like it sounded like a "toy piano", if I remember correctly).

And yes, I know that piano can sound amazing on analog as well.
 

Ron Resnick

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#31
Davey, I don't know about generalizing between analog and digital with regard to portraying a sense of depth. I just don't have the experience with enough of either format. However, I have heard depth of image portrayed very convincingly in Al M.'s digital only monitor/sub based system. Perhaps this is an exception, but in my experience, it is certainly possible because I have heard it. I share this because depth of image is important to me also for contributing to a convincing presentation.
I, too, heard depth portrayed convincingly in Al’s system.
 

DaveyF

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Aug 1, 2010
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#32
Sorry, Davey, you are engaging in a not very convincing attempt at backtracking. Your statement was pretty black and white:



"Fails to deliver"....hmmm...

Sorry, maybe I should have stated 'in general' Digital to my ears fails to deliver this aspect of reproduction as well as great analog. If we are going to get picky, personally I think there is a hierarchy that is still a factor in this hobby. That hierarchy is- first comes tape, then vinyl and lastly digital. Why is digital inferior to great analog and tape, why is great analog still inferior to tape?
I know you are all in on digital, unfortunately that is where we will always differ, because to me it still has a long way to go before it competes with the best analog. Yes, I have heard the MSB Select 11 DAC and the Dcs gear and Esoteric etc., I have NEVER in all my years as an a'phile heard any digital that to my ears can surpass great analog in several areas, depth of image and bloom are amongst them.So, we will have to say YMMV.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#33
Sorry, Ron, if I remember correctly, this was a comparison on just one track. Hard to draw conclusions from there. Digital, including Redbook CD, can do amazing piano, and when the recording allows, in a big and bold way (you said something like it sounded like a "toy piano", if I remember correctly).

And yes, I know that piano can sound amazing on analog as well.
Yes, Al. The scope of my observation is very limited. I am comparing simply piano on one track on Alex’s analog system to piano on the same track on Alex’s MSB system. But we all preferred, on that track, the piano on vinyl.
 

Al M.

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#34

PeterA

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#35
Sorry, maybe I should have stated 'in general' Digital to my ears fails to deliver this aspect of reproduction as well as great analog. If we are going to get picky, personally I think there is a hierarchy that is still a factor in this hobby. That hierarchy is- first comes tape, then vinyl and lastly digital. Why is digital inferior to great analog and tape, why is great analog still inferior to tape?
I know you are all in on digital, unfortunately that is where we will always differ, because to me it still has a long way to go before it competes with the best analog. Yes, I have heard the MSB Select 11 DAC and the Dcs gear and Esoteric etc., I have NEVER in all my years as an a'phile heard any digital that to my ears can surpass great analog in several areas, depth of image and bloom are amongst them.So, we will have to say YMMV.
Davey, I appreciate now that you are adding qualifications to your previous absolute statement. Now we are talking about "great" analog and restricted it to our experiences and "in general". Well, the stage has now shifted.
 

Al M.

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#36
Sorry, maybe I should have stated 'in general' Digital to my ears fails to deliver this aspect of reproduction as well as great analog.
Fair enough, Davey. I haven't heard enough direct comparisons to make a pronouncement (I am not sure you have either, other than with your own digital, which is just one sample). However, regardless of comparisons with analog, it is obvious that digital is capable of great depth of imaging. And that includes Redbook CD, which allegedly was weak in the processing of low-level signals, including spatial ones. Well, we've come a long way since such claims were made.

I know you are all in on digital, unfortunately that is where we will always differ, because to me it still has a long way to go before it competes with the best analog. Yes, I have heard the MSB Select 11 DAC and the Dcs gear and Esoteric etc., I have NEVER in all my years as an a'phile heard any digital that to my ears can surpass great analog in several areas, depth of image and bloom are amongst them.So, we will have to say YMMV.
Aah, but I have never said that digital *surpasses* analog in depth of imaging. And while I may be all in on digital, I know quite well how great analog can be...
 

the sound of Tao

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Jul 18, 2014
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#37
With respect to JV writing on digital with regard to analogue not only is his bias respectfully well known but also his experience in working with and optimising a system for digital is clearly very, very limited. Swapping over to the other horse is much like asking an expert to change disciplines, it takes a while for anyone to get up to speed.

I’m sure he may eventually get there if he is willing to give more time over to it.

But did Mike mention that JV was streaming his music over wifi? Is that from the sound as you like it school or fidelity to the master tape approach... I’m not sure what wifi is in that regard but any absolute sound that you get over wifi might not actually be the last word in depth.
 
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DaveyF

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Aug 1, 2010
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#38
Ok, so let's put it this way. JV stated and I quote again: “ The MSB gear doesn’t sound real in all the same ways that my Walker Proscenium Black Diamond V turntable does ( and vice versa). For one thing, like every other digital source component the MSB DAC doesn’t do bloom or the third dimension like the Walker”.
This statement jives with my opinion on digital. It is NOT a diss against MSB in particular ( Alex), it is a general statement that JV believes is correct in regards to digital--in general. Al M may not agree with it, but I guess neither JV or myself has heard Al M's system...:)
 
May 30, 2010
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#39
Ok, so let's put it this way. JV stated and I quote again: “ The MSB gear doesn’t sound real in all the same ways that my Walker Proscenium Black Diamond V turntable does ( and vice versa). For one thing, like every other digital source component the MSB DAC doesn’t do bloom or the third dimension like the Walker”.
This statement jives with my opinion on digital. It is NOT a diss against MSB in particular ( Alex), it is a general statement that JV believes is correct in regards to digital--in general. Al M may not agree with it, but I guess neither JV or myself has heard Al M's system...:)
Do you have the JV full review? As quoted, without any context, it implies JV has listened to all the digital sources in all the systems in the planet ...
 
May 30, 2010
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Portugal
#40
I stay off the digital threads because I have almost nothing to contribute on digital topics. I came away from my tag-along with Keith to Alex at Alma a few months ago with two small thoughts:

1) I continue to think that piano is the most difficult instrument for digital to reproduce realistically and naturally. Even the MSB Reference fell short on piano versus the Bergmann Galder/Odin/Opus1. Of course I appreciate that that vinyl system is a lot more expensive than the MSB Reference. But we all heard the differences on piano.

2) I posted after the visit that while I have no idea how the MSB DACs work, I came away with the generic and unspecific and untested view that it was the least offensive sounding digital I have ever heard. (That may sound like I am damning MSB with faint praise, but I am not. For me that is a pretty significant statement.) I think MSB DACs are doing something good I have never heard from any other digital component. The MSBs are doing something right. That much is clear to me.

At Keith’s would I ever prefer to listen to an analog recording on the MSB rather than on the Brinkmann? No. But can I listen with some contentment to Keith’s MSB? Yes.

From what I heard from the MSB Reference at Alma, and extrapolating from that to MikeL’s ultimate MSB Select with all options, I can imagine why Mike is listening to digital much more often than before he built his MSB system.

3) Between what I heard at Alma and knowing MikeL’s journey with digital and Keith’s journey with digital if I ever were to investigate digital in a lazy way I would not bother to listen to a solid-state DAC other than MSB. I would compare directly MSB to Lampizator, and then make a decision.

4) Jeff Tyo also is vinyl plus tape only (zero digital) and tube only.
Ca we know what were the recordings you are addressing? Apologies if you already referred to them and I missed it.
 

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