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Berkeley Alpha 2 Still a Good Value?


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I am interested in purchasing a new DAC for my speaker system. Currently I have Naim NDX-->Chord Hugo --> Naim SuperNait2. Curious about the well reviewed Berkeley Alpha 2. I understand it is nearly 5 years old and wonder if it is still a good value? [i listen mostly to Redbook , about 100 hires albums and 0 dsd]

 

My local dealer does not stock the Alpha but recommends the Playback Design as a better sounding dac.

 

Any help is appreciated.

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Unfortunatly I can't comment on the sound difference between the two units you mention but will say that I've always had a passing interest in the Berkeley but it not having a USB Input was a killer for me. I was also not a fan of needing to spend an additional $2K give or take in order to add their external box that does add USB capabilities.

 

I feel that if someone is interested in spending that kind of money on a DAC then why limit yourself on connectivity options when others that are just as good dont have such limitations. From a SQ standpoint I'm sure the Alpha is a fine choice but it again has limitations on the content one can play with the unit. Even though you may not have any DSD content now it would be a shame to miss out on certain recordings that could come later down the road that are in DSD.

 

Long story short, I would have to agree with your dealer on the Playback Design unit at least from a connectivity standpoint. As an added bonus, it offers more choices for playing music content that is hard to ignore as well.

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I am interested in purchasing a new DAC for my speaker system. Currently I have Naim NDX-->Chord Hugo --> Naim SuperNait2. Curious about the well reviewed Berkeley Alpha 2. I understand it is nearly 5 years old and wonder if it is still a good value? [i listen mostly to Redbook , about 100 hires albums and 0 dsd]

 

My local dealer does not stock the Alpha but recommends the Playback Design as a better sounding dac.

 

Any help is appreciated.

Hi katzky - Value, of course, is very subjective. I consider the Alpha DAC Series 2 a great value. Don't think too hard about the fact it's nearly five years old. That doesn't have much to do with anything. The end result is what matters. Newer means newer, not better.

 

The Alpha and Playback DACs have very different sound. You are likely to prefer one over the other and possibly dislike one of the two. Only you can decide that for yourself.

Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Hi katzky - Value, of course, is very subjective. I consider the Alpha DAC Series 2 a great value. Don't think too hard about the fact it's nearly five years old. That doesn't have much to do with anything. The end result is what matters. Newer means newer, not better.

 

The Alpha and Playback DACs have very different sound. You are likely to prefer one over the other and possibly dislike one of the two. Only you can decide that for yourself.

I second your praise for the Alpha DAC having had mine since new. Unfortunately, i was a few months outside of the upgrade window to move to the second series.

As of late, I, too, am starting to look around for a possible upgrade and suspect the Alpha 2 must be in line for a refresh but to the OP's possible advantage, one can find some good pricing on used series two.

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I think Chris is right. I have the Series 1 Alpha DAC and also the Alpha Reference. The Series 1 is now a few years old but remains capable of stellar performance and can be picked up used very reasonably. The Series 2 does offer some improvement over Series 1 but I certainly wouldn't rule out either if you get the chance to listen or purchase.

 

I bought the Alpha Reference after reading Chris' review (I am in UK so couldn't get a demo) and it is every bit as good as the review states.

 

Happy listening with whatever way you go.

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Welp... I just decided to gamble and purchased an Alpha Dac Series 1. It set me back a bit less than 1,700 USD so not a huge problem if it does not work out in my system.

 

Anything special I should know while integrating into my current system? I have a full Naim system so no power conditioner. Is this a problem? I play to use the BNC input and single ended out. Any cables with significant synergy with the Alpha? Should I use a fancy power cable?

 

[i have some Transparent Audio digital and power cables]

 

Any help greatly appreciated.

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Welp... I just decided to gamble and purchased an Alpha Dac Series 1. It set me back a bit less than 1,700 USD so not a huge problem if it does not work out in my system. Anything special I should know while integrating into my current system? [...]

 

The weakest spot on the Alpha 2 for me is the rubber feet under the box. I suspect the Alpha 1 would be more or less the same. If you have children's toy wood blocks handy, try bypassing the rubber feet by putting the chassis on 3 of those blocks. Once the unit has been powered for a while, there are two warm spots on the left side that you can feel through the top cover. Put a wood block under each. And then put the last block some where on the right side. See if that makes a difference for you. If it does, try putting the whole thing on a bamboo platform like IKEA Aptitlig. If that still works and you want to go even further, consider putting a reclocker like Mutec MC-3+ between your source and the Alpha, and go AES/EBU between the Mutec and the Alpha. That would really unleash what's inside the unit.

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The weakest spot on the Alpha 2 for me is the rubber feet under the box. I suspect the Alpha 1 would be more or less the same. If you have children's toy wood blocks handy, try bypassing the rubber feet by putting the chassis on 3 of those blocks. Once the unit has been powered for a while, there are two warm spots on the left side that you can feel through the top cover. Put a wood block under each. And then put the last block some where on the right side. See if that makes a difference for you. If it does, try putting the whole thing on a bamboo platform like IKEA Aptitlig. If that still works and you want to go even further, consider putting a reclocker like Mutec MC-3+ between your source and the Alpha, and go AES/EBU between the Mutec and the Alpha. That would really unleash what's inside the unit.

 

Thanks for the advice. I am planning on putting 3 StillPoints Ultra SS under the DAC.

 

So AES is really that much better than BNC? I might sell my Naim streamer and get a (Aurlaic Aires or Aurender N100) + Alpha USB -> SPDIF converter combo. Fortunately I already own a high quality AES cable.

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Hi katzky - Value, of course, is very subjective. I consider the Alpha DAC Series 2 a great value. Don't think too hard about the fact it's nearly five years old. That doesn't have much to do with anything. The end result is what matters. Newer means newer, not better.

 

The Alpha and Playback DACs have very different sound. You are likely to prefer one over the other and possibly dislike one of the two. Only you can decide that for yourself.

 

Thanks Chris. I just bought an Alpha Version 1. Having heard all three Alphas... do you think the Alpha 1 should allow me to extrapolate a preference for the Alpha Reference DAC vs the similarly priced Playback Designs dac? [i live in the middle of nowhere and it is unlikely I'd ever get to hear the new Berkeley prior to purchase :(]

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Thanks for the advice. I am planning on putting 3 StillPoints Ultra SS under the DAC.

 

That's even better :)

 

So AES is really that much better than BNC? I might sell my Naim streamer and get a (Aurlaic Aires or Aurender N100) + Alpha USB -> SPDIF converter combo. Fortunately I already own a high quality AES cable.

 

Well Ok, using the reclocker allows you to go AES into the Alpha. But that's secondary. The important thing is the reclocker itself. It will take the Alpha to the next level. Try listen to one if you have a chance.

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That's even better :)

 

 

 

Well Ok, using the reclocker allows you to go AES into the Alpha. But that's secondary. The important thing is the reclocker itself. It will take the Alpha to the next level. Try listen to one if you have a chance.

 

Interesting. I have always wanted an Atomic Clock in my HiFi. This would make a great excuse to buy one....

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That's even better :)

 

 

 

Well Ok, using the reclocker allows you to go AES into the Alpha. But that's secondary. The important thing is the reclocker itself. It will take the Alpha to the next level. Try listen to one if you have a chance.

 

Totally agree with the reclocker recommendation. I had the BADA 1 when it first came out and ran numerous experiments to optimize performance including silent PC, modded LYNX AES card, USB/SPDIF, etc. The reclocker easily made the most significant improvement.

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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