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The Select DAC II: MSB Technology’s $90,000 D/A converter


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Yes, but no more ridiculous than many other expensive products made for the very wealthy.

And from the possible point of view of a truly poor person, no more ridiculous than all of audiophilia and it's components.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Yes, but is it also no less "ridiculous than many other expensive products made for the very wealthy"? And doesn't your second statement relativize all audiophile expenditures as radically perspectival, leveling any meaning assigned to a broad spectrum of pricepoints and any question of value? This seems merely dismissive to me.

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Yes, but is it also no less "ridiculous than many other expensive products made for the very wealthy"?

 

Probably not. But what does ridiculous mean in this case? I don't have any personal experience with this DAC nor with anything even close to this price level. However, my understanding is the DAC has some rather jaw dropping technology in it. For example, it has no analog stage at all--there are enough stacked R2R ladder banks to drive the output directly. The only other currently available DAC that I know of with this type of layout is the Totaldac d1-twelve.

 

Discrete R2R is a rather expensive way of doing things, even at a small scale. I do have some personal experience at the lower end of things, and the result speaks for itself. The general opinion of those who have heard the various stages of scaling is that things do scale up quite well, with the associated performance level and also the associated cost. So even though the whole thing is not all that relevant for me at the end of the day, I have a feeling for those in this price range, they probably do get they moneys worth.

 

In a common sense way, a $90k DAC is quite ridiculous. But you can say the same to the Totaldac d1-twelve at around half that. Then you can go down the Totaldac line and every level can justifiably be called ridiculous. Most people at work think an Oppo 105 is ridiculous. In fact, a lot of them think Oppo 103 is ridiculous. Where would one draw the line? My personal solution is to not go down this road in the first place. Whatever rocks your boat, good for you :)

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Perhaps my response points more toward my own limitations in ability to conceive a legitimate scaling of performance up to a price like this.

 

It is also grounded in a concern that the ultra high end is one of the most harmful things to this hobby, at least to its image. And perhaps I'm still conditioned by a consumer advocacy ethos that wants to voice resistance to the seemingly endless escalation of prices for reference quality gear, and rest my hope in a clearer commitment to excellent value at realistic prices. One sees this tension clearly in the audiophile headfi market. I think the attention that the Schiit Yggdrasil is receiving speaks volumes regarding the kind of honest value audiophile consumers really appreciate. And I think the Chord Mojo does as well, but, oddly, not on this site so far. And Massdrop is developing and marketing some very interesting, high quality/high value audiophile products.

 

Trickle-down does lend some value to some ultra high end products if and when it happens. In a way, I think it is a main source of the Chord Mojo's quality. But the company also made a decision and commitment to explore this more affordable market, while also working on the DAVE at $12K. The price of the Dave does not bother me. It is simply beyond my consideration, but it does bother some. The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series price does not bother me, even though it is well out of reach, but it also has bothered some. It is hard to imagine how a dac could be worth almost 6 times the Berkeley dac, that its performance would scale that well in comparison. But perhaps I'm too suspicious. For me, it defies common sense in a way that an Oppo does not.

1070957250_Imprimatur.NihilObstatSepia3Crop(2).jpg.2162a44365e84a5df7d456bf8026ed67.jpg

 

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But at the same time there is plenty of equipment like iFi and Audioengine, that continually up the ante on the lower end.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Perhaps my response points more toward my own limitations in ability to conceive a legitimate scaling of performance up to a price like this.

 

It is also grounded in a concern that the ultra high end is one of the most harmful things to this hobby, at least to its image. And perhaps I'm still conditioned by a consumer advocacy ethos that wants to voice resistance to the seemingly endless escalation of prices for reference quality gear, and rest my hope in a clearer commitment to excellent value at realistic prices. One sees this tension clearly in the audiophile headfi market. I think the attention that the Schiit Yggdrasil is receiving speaks volumes regarding the kind of honest value audiophile consumers really appreciate. And I think the Chord Mojo does as well, but, oddly, not on this site so far. And Massdrop is developing and marketing some very interesting, high quality/high value audiophile products.

 

Trickle-down does lend some value to some ultra high end products if and when it happens. In a way, I think it is a main source of the Chord Mojo's quality. But the company also made a decision and commitment to explore this more affordable market, while also working on the DAVE at $12K. The price of the Dave does not bother me. It is simply beyond my consideration, but it does bother some. The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series price does not bother me, even though it is well out of reach, but it also has bothered some. It is hard to imagine how a dac could be worth almost 6 times the Berkeley dac, that its performance would scale that well in comparison. But perhaps I'm too suspicious. For me, it defies common sense in a way that an Oppo does not.

 

I think there are many more important and urgent matters in this crazy upside down world of ours to get your balls in an uproar over than the money people choose to pay for their audio equipment or the health and welfare of this audiophile industry in general. Guess what, I know plenty of people that would think you were crazy to "not be bothered by the price of the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series". Your arbitrary points of reference are really meaningless.

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I think there are many more important and urgent matters in this crazy upside down world of ours to get your balls in an uproar over than the money people choose to pay for their audio equipment or the health and welfare of this audiophile industry in general. Guess what, I know plenty of people that would think you were crazy to "not be bothered by the price of the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series". Your arbitrary points of reference are really meaningless.

 

Thank you. Your kindness always pays dividends.

1070957250_Imprimatur.NihilObstatSepia3Crop(2).jpg.2162a44365e84a5df7d456bf8026ed67.jpg

 

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I certainly favor development of good, affordable equipment. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with an attempt to advance the state of the art regardless of price, if you can get someone to pay for it.

 

Regarding any image problem this might create: Ultraexpensive cars, guitars, wine, or whiskey are not seen as ludicrous, even by those who don't participate in those hobbies. In fact they are often the subjects of media treatments specifically aimed at generating interest from outsiders. Often I think scorn for our hobby is more felt than real.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Being dismissive of anything purely based on its price is rather biased IMHO. At least not without having a listen and then assessing it.

 

All said and done, a Ferrari is a Ferrari. You cannot compare it to public transport or a Toyota with the rationale that's all you need to go from point A to point B.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series price does not bother me, even though it is well out of reach, but it also has bothered some. It is hard to imagine how a dac could be worth almost 6 times the Berkeley dac, that its performance would scale that well in comparison. But perhaps I'm too suspicious

 

I'm guessing the law of diminishing returns applies. Further, the Select DAC does DSD and you can get it in any color you want. So there you go: Price difference justified. (Not so easy to find out about the DSD capability — had to download the manual. Given their market niche, it seems to me as though MSB should have a much better website.)

 

As an aside, I'll note that the oh-so-affordale MSB monoblocs would visually complement a Mac Pro very nicely.

 

Random thoughts on stratospheric price points:

 

Maybe one's attitude toward a really high price for a given item isn't based so much on how much money one has but on how much one would be willing to spend for that kind of product.

 

If you have the kind of f-you money that facilitates serious consideration of the purchase of this kind of item, why would you get defensive if someone thought that US$90K for a DAC was "ridiculous"?

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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  • 4 months later...
I certainly favor development of good, affordable equipment. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with an attempt to advance the state of the art regardless of price, if you can get someone to pay for it.

 

Regarding any image problem this might create: Ultraexpensive cars, guitars, wine, or whiskey are not seen as ludicrous, even by those who don't participate in those hobbies. In fact they are often the subjects of media treatments specifically aimed at generating interest from outsiders. Often I think scorn for our hobby is more felt than real.

 

Well, I do think that wretched excess can cause some people to be derisive of how others spend their money. But that's their problem. And if one is defensive about how one spends one's money, then I think that's a different personal problem. But I do believe there are a lot of ways to advance the SOTA in this hobby, and I have yet to see a model that doesn't require capital. Capital either in large chunks from small numbers of sales or smaller chunks from larger market penetration. Audio, like photography, bicycling, espresso, etc., seems to have both. So I think Jud is correct.

 

When I first got into audio, a pair of Sennheiser HD414 headphones were thought of as extravagant by anyone who listened to "records" on a console. 8-tracks were still common and cassettes were still making and would continue to make for a few years a "high fidelity" play. At the end of the 20th century, I was ripping CDs, and looking for effective compression to maximize my storage space. In between, I had experimented with some ridiculously expensive audio systems, commissioned some builds, and even learned to build my own. Audio was where I spent my discretionary dollars; others spent their $ on other hobbies. I didn't feel defensive about it, and I don't think they did either. My friends enjoyed my stereo, and I their cars/boats/etc.

 

When I lost all my CDs, I soon learned that my compressed files sounded pretty terrible as I returned to audio, having discovered how bad computer audio was. Still, it wasn't hard to see and hear that digital was getting better, and it would soon just be a matter of time [for me] that analog would be a rear-view mirror item. This year, I just finished installing a Synology 2416RP+ in my server closet with four bonded gigabit connections to my switch. This server and the dedicated PC that runs Roon are on a separate VLAN with QoS settings to ensure they have priority over all the other stuff going on over the LAN. This portion of the rig serves my headphone listening station and our primary home audio/theater. There are two other servers for providing video and audio to "less audiophile locations" around the house.

 

I have spent way more on all this than I planned, but the SQ is just amazing. And everyone who listens loves it. Of all the pieces of the systems, the DACs seem most critical to the musicality of playback. Of course, the speakers and headphones are important, but having chosen those devices because of how they sound, the greatest improvement in reproduction has come from the increasingly sophisticated DACs I have tried. And now, I am waiting for delivery of my Select II. Will it be worth it? Won't know for sure until I hear it in my system. But I do believe the obsessive engineers at MSB—who really could use a better website—are pushing the limits And I happen to believe that their development makes its way into lower priced products of their own and, through competition, into other products. That's not why I am waiting for mine, but it is a part of the hobby's evolution.

All the toys are in my profile.

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