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Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS - Impressions and Information

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Rather than continue the older, speculative, pre-release thread I started a new thread for impressions and information now that the Alpha DAC Reference Series is shipping.

 

I received mine this morning. It's a special DAC. I've never heard better sound in my system. Period.

 

Much more to come.

 

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Do you know if they have it CE certified so it can be distributed in Europe?

 

Also... I notice it's made you give up your preamp? Though also perhaps you have new power amps not Spectral any more?

 

There's another article you need to update ... Your listening room!

 

Eloise


Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Must be a very new unit. No info on it yet on their web site. Says "Coming Soon".

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this should be interesting.


System: SB Touch (w/ Welborne PSU & EDO for USB output)>Resolution Audio Cantata>Gryphon Diablo>Evolution Acoustics MMMicroOne

Cables: Douglas Cables 'Mirage'', ASI Liveline w/ Oyaide 004-079 (Power); Douglas Cables 'Hair Angel' (XLR); Crystal Cable 'Standard' (Speaker); Light Harmonic 'Lightspeed  (10G)'USB

Accessories: Furutech GTX-D (G) with cover, MIT Z Duplex Super; Equitech Balanced Power, Sistrum (for Diablo)

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It's a special DAC. I've never heard better sound in my system. Period.

 

Oh dammit, Chris...I knew you'd say that!

What's a poor boy to do? Great to hear that Berkeley Audio still knows how to get it done!

Awaiting your further comments with great interest.

Cheers,

Warren

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Oh dammit, Chris...I knew you'd say that!

What's a poor boy to do? Great to hear that Berkeley Audio still knows how to get it done!

Awaiting your further comments with great interest.

Cheers,

Warren

 

I'm sure Robert Harley will be saying the same thing shortly...


Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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Hey Chris,

 

Thanks for your early impressions.

 

If you were to use this as your primary DAC, how would you handle DSD files? Would you just downsample them?

 

Is there a need or benefit to using this DAC with Berkeley's USB converter?

 

Also, just for clarity, the Berkeley sounds as good as the entire Vivaldi stack or just as good as the Vivaldi DAC alone? I realize you might not want to be that direct in your comparison.

 

Do you have as great job or what? :)

 

Joel

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I thought this was pretty direct! LOL

 

Kudos to Chris for laying it out there plainly...

I received mine this morning. It's a special DAC. I've never heard better sound in my system. Period.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]13665[/ATTACH]


Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

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Hey Chris,

 

Thanks for your early impressions.

 

If you were to use this as your primary DAC, how would you handle DSD files? Would you just downsample them?

 

Is there a need or benefit to using this DAC with Berkeley's USB converter?

 

Also, just for clarity, the Berkeley sounds as good as the entire Vivaldi stack or just as good as the Vivaldi DAC alone? I realize you might not want to be that direct in your comparison.

 

Do you have as great job or what? :)

 

Joel

Hi Joel - Yes, times like these I have the best career in the world. I've listened to more music since receiving the Alpha RS than I have in the last few weeks.

 

"If you were to use this as your primary DAC..." I am and I will be using it as my primary DAC as long as Berkeley Audio Design will let me use the unit. When something sounds this good I won't take it out of my system voluntarily.

 

I have two versions of al my DSD material. 1. The original DSD albums. 2. PCM versions converted to 24 bit / 176.4 kHz offline with JRiver Media Center.

 

Depending on one's source there may be a need for the Alpha USB. So far I'm leaning toward using the Alpha USB as an added layer of isolation to feed the DAC as pristine of signal as possible. When one can remove noise it just makes sense to do so.

 

This is the best sound I've ever heard in my listening room. Period.


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I wonder how this compares to the Lampizator L7 One-Box. I know they have different levels of manufacture, so in that sense aren't comparable, but they are comparable from the sense that one could actually buy one or the other :).

 

The Alpha RS is 14k according to early estimates, not sure if that is still correct, and the L7 is, let's say 11.5k with options. Would be an interesting comparison.

 

Also, after establishing how the players compare on 24/96 or 24/192 PCM, this would be an interesting place to then compare, for example, the Opus recordings as 'JRiver converted PCM' (per above comment) playing on the Alpha vs playing real native DSD on the Lampizator. Note I have no preconceived notions here, honestly just interested in how this would go.

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I wonder how this compares to the Lampizator L7 One-Box. I know they have different levels of manufacture, so in that sense aren't comparable, but they are comparable from the sense that one could actually buy one or the other :).

 

The Alpha RS is 14k according to early estimates, not sure if that is still correct, and the L7 is, let's say 11.5k with options. Would be an interesting comparison.

 

Also, after establishing how the players compare on 24/96 or 24/192 PCM, this would be an interesting place to then compare, for example, the Opus recordings as 'JRiver converted PCM' (per above comment) playing on the Alpha vs playing real native DSD on the Lampizator. Note I have no preconceived notions here, honestly just interested in how this would go.

Hi lightminer - Yes, very interesting idea.

 

P.S. The Alpha DAC RS is $16,000 now. Early buyers got the DAC for $14,000.


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Thanks for the great information, Chris.

I'm trying to picture you sitting there, listening to Pearl Jam, enraptured, when your wife walks in to ask you to run an errand for her.

Your response: Honey, please, can't you see I'm working?

How many other people on the planet get to give an answer like that?

Joel

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Depending on one's source there may be a need for the Alpha USB. So far I'm leaning toward using the Alpha USB as an added layer of isolation to feed the DAC as pristine of signal as possible. When one can remove noise it just makes sense to do so.

Chris... I'm slightly confused with this statement. I was of the impression that the new Berkeley required a Alpha USB (or alternative USB interface) operating only with SPDIF or AES; am I correct?

 

What is your primary source these days? A CAPS or are you using the Aurender (or something else)?

 

Eloise


Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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This post was initially placed in the other BADA DAC thread and I have copied and updated some of the information. Please feel free to skip this if this is a rehash for you! I thought it would be best placed in this thread.

 

I received the new Alpha reference approximately 10 days ago, serial#1002 courtesy of Maier Shadi of the Audio Salon. I thank him much for the hard work and guidance he has given me in getting this DAC. Those who are familiar with the previous Alpha series 1 & 2 will be right at home as most controls and inputs are similar except 2 SPDIF inputs are present on the new DAC. The remote is also new and of course the unit itself is very well constructed and much heavier than the other alphas.

I previously used the BADA series 1 with and without the Alpha USB box. The combination of the Aurender 20>USB> alpha USB > AES > reference works extremely well & the isolation given to the system with this approach seems to contribute to the lack of height frequency harshness I mention in the next paragraph (it seemed the Alpha USB helped in this regard with the series 1 also).

The Constellation Audio Perseus is my reference for analogue playback & its ability to mainatin detail and clarity and at the same time great tonality is the hallmark of the Perseus and I have noted the same for the new reference BADA. Upper frequency harshness is minimal to non existent & again the lower frequency punch is easily noted particularly in HDCD files!

Conclusively this has been a major improvement in SQ for my system and look forward to more long term listening!


thanks

Francisco

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Hi Francisco,

Thanks for your report.

So do you believe the Berkeley Alpha USB converter offers an improvement to the RS or is unnecessary?

Joel

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Good for you if you like it .

But permit me to strongly doubt that a 16000 dollar DAC that can only play pcm files up to 24/192 can outperform say a Horus A/D D/A which sells for less and is actually used to make both DXD and DSD 128 and DSD 256 native recordings.

It would not surprise me if the amazing little HUGO from Chord sounds better and closer to the master and live studio sound playing a native DXD or DSD 128 file than the Berkeley playing the same files downconverted to 24/192!

Hugo sells for roughly 2000 dollars .And you can get Professional mch A DAD AX 24 or Horus both for less than the price of a stereo only limited to 24/192 consumer Berkeley DAC. I just fail to see any good reason to buy one in the context of what that kind of money can actually buy!

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chrille,

You certainly have the right to be amazed or doubtul, but I'm equally surprised that someone who (presumably) has never heard the device can have such strong feelings about how it will perform.

Joel

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I received mine this morning. It's a special DAC. I've never heard better sound in my system. Period.

So it is better than the DirectStream?

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Chris... I'm slightly confused with this statement. I was of the impression that the new Berkeley required a Alpha USB (or alternative USB interface) operating only with SPDIF or AES; am I correct?

 

What is your primary source these days? A CAPS or are you using the Aurender (or something else)?

 

Eloise

I use several sources including the Aurender W20, CAPS, and streamers.


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Good for you if you like it .

But permit me to strongly doubt that a 16000 dollar DAC that can only play pcm files up to 24/192 can outperform say a Horus A/D D/A which sells for less and is actually used to make both DXD and DSD 128 and DSD 256 native recordings.

It would not surprise me if the amazing little HUGO from Chord sounds better and closer to the master and live studio sound playing a native DXD or DSD 128 file than the Berkeley playing the same files downconverted to 24/192!

Hugo sells for roughly 2000 dollars .And you can get Professional mch A DAD AX 24 or Horus both for less than the price of a stereo only limited to 24/192 consumer Berkeley DAC. I just fail to see any good reason to buy one in the context of what that kind of money can actually buy!

Some people go for features. Some go for sound quality. Some go for a mix of both. I've heard the Horus and Hugo and neither are close to sounding as good as the Alpha DAC RS.

 

A drag rag racing car may go 300 miles per hour but it will handle terribly around corners. The race to the highest speed usually means a reduction in other items.


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Hi Chris,

You mentioned before that BA is also planning to make some improvements to the regular Alpha DAC 2. is it still happening? Any idea whether it is just a new firmware or hardware related? Thanks!

 

Eric


Main system: iMac A+ -> LH Lightspeed USB -> Schiit Yggy DAC -> Nordost TYR XLR IC -> Pass Labs XP20 Preamp -> Nordost TYR XLR IC -> Pass Labs XA60.5 Mono Amps -> MIT ACT MA SC -> Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy 8

 

Second desktop system: iMac A+ / TIDAL -> LH Lightspeed USB -> LH Labs Geek Pulse Infinity -> Nordost TYR RCA IC -> Firstwatt J2 -> MIT AVT2 SC -> Omega Super 7 mini

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Hi Chris,

You mentioned before that BA is also planning to make some improvements to the regular Alpha DAC 2. is it still happening? Any idea whether it is just a new firmware or hardware related? Thanks!

 

Eric

I don't remember mentioning that :~)


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I don't remember mentioning that :~)

 

sorry, my bad. i swear that i have read it somewhere. maybe not from you. anyway, thanks for the quick reply.

 

Looking forward to your Alpha DAC RS review especially comparing to the Alpha 2. Other than extra digital inputs i think they are the same feature wise, so curious to know what they have done to improve the sound quality. Some internal pictures would be great. :-)


Main system: iMac A+ -> LH Lightspeed USB -> Schiit Yggy DAC -> Nordost TYR XLR IC -> Pass Labs XP20 Preamp -> Nordost TYR XLR IC -> Pass Labs XA60.5 Mono Amps -> MIT ACT MA SC -> Wilson Audio Watt/Puppy 8

 

Second desktop system: iMac A+ / TIDAL -> LH Lightspeed USB -> LH Labs Geek Pulse Infinity -> Nordost TYR RCA IC -> Firstwatt J2 -> MIT AVT2 SC -> Omega Super 7 mini

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Would be interested to see it stack up against a pure ladder DAC like the MSB Analog.

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