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Article: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS2 MQA Update


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“I feel incredibly dense that I was unaware of the drum / cymbal roll that's so delicately played by Jones.”

 

Can you explain this comment a bit more. What are you trying to say about the DAC here?

Because of your reference, I queued up the track as I read. That Jones bit can be clearly heard listening to the track streaming from Tidal over my iPad and its internal speaker...

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: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Some high end DACs are bringing MQA now and this review is timely.

From your article You do not state if the improvements you heard were due to the firmware upgrade or due to MQA. 

In your review of the Meridian Explorer you did some PCM/MQA comparisons. Have you done anything similar with the Reference 2?

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9 hours ago, firedog said:

“I feel incredibly dense that I was unaware of the drum / cymbal roll that's so delicately played by Jones.”

 

Can you explain this comment a bit more. What are you trying to say about the DAC here?

Because of your reference, I queued up the track as I read. That Jones bit can be clearly heard listening to the track streaming from Tidal over my iPad and its internal speaker...

Very good question. 

 

It’s a tough one to explain because what you say is 100% true. This information has always been there and can be heard through an iPad speaker.

 

There’s just something about listening to it through this DAC that is special. It feels like my brain is in a totally different place that enables me to hear each musician as if he is playing a solo. 

 

I really wish I could explain this better. As it is, I sound like the classic audiophile cliche spewing writer :~(

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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6 hours ago, paglop said:

Some high end DACs are bringing MQA now and this review is timely.

From your article You do not state if the improvements you heard were due to the firmware upgrade or due to MQA. 

In your review of the Meridian Explorer you did some PCM/MQA comparisons. Have you done anything similar with the Reference 2?

The improvements I heard are entirely due to the firmware update. Of course I listened to some MQA material through the DAC but I purposely avoided using that in the review. The topic is too loaded and would distract from the real story that is the firmware update. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Excellent review.  Regardless of one's opinion of MQA at least all the big DAC manufacturers are at least now offering this option to their customers. MSB, DCS and Berkeley.

 

I've noticed the DA2 in Chris's signature but, where does EMM Labs stand on MQA? 

 

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Having previously expressed my love of the album Relaxin' with the Miles Davis Quintet, this friend made me a copy of his SAFETY MASTER tape of this album, at 24 bit / 192 kHz. Not only that, it was done on a Pacific Microsonics Model 2 A to D converter and HDCD encoded.

 

Hey Chris, from what I recall of my time with the Model Two, there are no actual HDCD processes @ 24/192 - they're simply not necessary at these depths & rates. But the HDCD indicator on your Berkeley will still light up, which is cool.

 

What's perhaps even cooler is that at 4fs, the Model Two does not over-sample, using instead a simple analogue filter. It's the only ADC that I'm aware of that does this.

 

I'm not surprised that you're happy with the sound of the transfers :).

 

Mani.

Phasure Mach III audio PC -> HQPlayer/XXHighEnd @24/705.6 -> Phasure NOS1 DAC -> First Watt F5-cloned mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horn speakers

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2 hours ago, mdp632 said:

all the big DAC manufacturers are at least now offering this option to their customers. MSB, DCS and Berkeley

I think your perspective is a bit off. Those are not the "big" DAC manufacturers, unless you are referring to price.

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: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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6 hours ago, mdp632 said:

Regardless of one's opinion of MQA at least all the big DAC manufacturers are at least now offering this option to their customers.

There are many more high end DAC manufacturers who are not offering MQA at this time.  Ayre, Bricasti, Jeff Rowland, etc.

NUC7PJYH/AL --> Berkeley Alpha USB --> Jeff Rowland Aeris --> Jeff Rowland 625 S2 --> Focal Utopia 3 Diablos with 2 x Focal Electra SW 1000 BE subs

 

i7-6700K/Windows 10 Version 2004/HDPLEX 300W/HDPLEX 400W DC-ATX --> EVGA Nu Audio Card --> Focal CMS50's 

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On 11/11/2017 at 10:08 AM, firedog said:

I think your perspective is a bit off. Those are not the "big" DAC manufacturers, unless you are referring to price.

No, Price doesn't dictate subjective taste but, at this price level a manufacture should offer it. The $100 AQ Dragonfly offers MQA.

 

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Hello,

I have the RS-1 and recently did the MQA firmware upgraded. I found that by becoming more aware of the facts and goals surrounding this new codec (Robert Harley's interview with Robert Stuart in TAS #253 & #263) has reassured me that the platform is solid in performing its task to deliver music like never before.

 

While streaming content from Tidal's Masters section which offers many MQA titles. The window on the DAC displayed 352. which for me is the highest its ever been listening to files from 2L's playlists sampler. But according to Berkeley specifications the envelope of performance only goes 192/24. I contacted Michael Ritter of Berkeley Audio Design to ask what's going on. He explained that the MQA process isn't a straight PCM process and that improvements (enhancements) to the Alpha DAC Reference platform whether one has the RS-1 or RS-2 of this new MQA firmware upgrade are only going to be perceived as beneficial to the musical expression and yet don't fall into the specifications laid down for the DAC as a rendering device in the two step process. But just how high can these benefits rise to, is yet to be seen or heard. I must write, these days I'm just  loving music even more and look forward to getting my RS-1 upgraded to RS-2 when Berkeley is ready to accommodate my need. This is indeed an exciting time for digital music enthusiasts. Cheers!

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Lydon: Are you using an Alpha USB into the DAC?  Or are you sending via another streamer?  And what are you using as you Tidal streaming platform (Mac or PC)?  

Steve Schaffer

Roon Nucleus/ dCS Vivaldi Upsampler - DAC - Clock / Spectral DMC-30SV preamp / Spectral Anniversary monoblocks / Wilson Audio Alexia 2 / Shunyata Everest / Shunyata interconnects & power cables & Ethernet / Uptone EtherREGEN switch / Cybershaft OP21A-D / Uptone JS2

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Stevebythebay,

 

        I don't used the Alpha USB. My Baetis Reference S (Windows 10) media server is my source using Tidal's desktop app. So it's AES connection through MIT's Oracle Digital to the Berkeley RS-1. Personally, I just like to keep things as simple & straight forward as possible. 

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Lydon-  your comments are interesting. I just spoke to Michael the other day and he was incredibly generous with his time. I use an Aurender S 10 with AES and he thought  that it would sound better going through the Alpha USB converter rather than straight AES into the RS2 MQA. 

 

 Personally I don’t really understand this-but he thinks the Alpha USB would even further isolate noise from the server. 

 

 My goal was to stay away from USB all together and go straight AES but he said it is a noticeable difference going with the alpha USB. 

 

 Does anybody else have any thoughts on that or has anybody tried it? I’m guessing many people here have 

Aurender S10--> Berkeley Alpha USB—> Meitner MA-1 --> Audio Research REF6 Pre --> Audio Research REF-110-->Vandersteen Quatro CT Speakers

 

Sonore UltraRendu with Uptone power supply —> Meitner MA1

 

AQ Sky XLR Interconnects, Audioquest Diamond USB, Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB, Nordost Heimdall 2 AES-EBU

 

AMG Giro Turntable w Lyra Delos Cartridge —> Audio Research Ref 3 PhonoPre

 

HRS RXR Rack with Isolation Bases

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Having tried out the Baetis years ago (though I passed on it), I did find that the AES output was best into my then Berkeley pre-Reference DAC.  However, that's not always the case as others may find.  All is in the implementation.  

 

The Alpha USB is really a great D-D converter, though it has "aged" some given that the technology (hardware) underlying its design is many years old.  Clocks have certainly gotten better.  

 

And as you know, Aurender has improved their products over time.  The S20 and even N10 are likely less "noisy" than the initial S10 (independent of either USB or S/PDIF output).  

 

I used the N10, but after trying both a Sonore microRendu with Signature Power Supply(better), and now using the dCS Network Bridge (no USB, yea!, and much better still), my Alpha USB is collecting dust.

Steve Schaffer

Roon Nucleus/ dCS Vivaldi Upsampler - DAC - Clock / Spectral DMC-30SV preamp / Spectral Anniversary monoblocks / Wilson Audio Alexia 2 / Shunyata Everest / Shunyata interconnects & power cables & Ethernet / Uptone EtherREGEN switch / Cybershaft OP21A-D / Uptone JS2

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Stevebythebay,

 

        I don't used the Alpha USB. My Baetis Reference S (Windows 10) media server is my source using Tidal's desktop app. So it's AES connection through MIT's Oracle Digital to the Berkeley RS-1. Personally, I just like to keep things as simple & straight forward as possible. 

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Blaven, 

           My choice resulted somewhat on the elimination or great reduction of common mode noise that can be had when using a dedicated music service that's purposefully build for two/multi channel playback. We all hear what we want to hear, but to the point, from our own personal experiences how we listen plays a strong role. Do we always do the critical listening routine or do we enjoy our music and listen with a less critical ear? Example, jRiver's (Media Center 23) recently starting offering a 64-bit version of their program that was said to offer a 5-15% performance enhancement over the 32-bit version. From the start, I immediately could detect it working as advertised. I suspect that a similar effect would be had with Berkeley's own Alpha USB, but I personally don't have that experience. Enjoy!

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Chris,

 

I cannot agree more on how big the improvement was from the RS1 to the RS2, and now even further to the RS2 MQA.  I have the same impression as if each instrument has its own track, amp and speaker.  The separation, silence and blackness between instruments is almost eerie.  The instruments just pop out into space as if they were in the room being played separately from the music you’re playing on your stereo.  My RS2 is driving directly Constellation Centaur Monos and the digital setup is Roon and an Audio Alchemy DMP1 AES output.  Every CD sounds different.  Every instrument has its own color and texture.  The level of detail and lack of digital artifacts is beyond anything I’ve listened to.  

Audio Alchemy DMP-1 / Roon / Berkeley Alpha RS 2 / Constellation Monos / TAD R1s

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