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Article: Review: Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3

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GREAT write-up Chris. I love how they are sticking to their guns, despite no doubt losing sales to those who need/want the latest and greatest three letter acronym flavor of the month. Not an easy thing to do - similar perhaps to Einstein's insistence that running more than 4 transistors per channel mucks up the sound and thus lowers the resolution and transparency to the source. I'm sure there's many other similar companies that chose to stay on their straight and narrow path.

 

Good for them!

 

 

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40 minutes ago, ted_b said:

?  DSD is hardly a flavor of the month.  Been around for years, and a recording format chosen by some very accomplished folks in the industry.  Just sayin'.  :)

Unless it uses a R2R ladder or similar multi-bit scheme which I don't believe it does, whatever chip it uses is converting incoming PCM data to a one bit stream and then modulating it. This would be internal DSD conversion. Best not to get caught up in an acronym discussion. I know this is an over-simplification but my guess is that the sound quality is more in the power supplies, analog components and engineering implementation.

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48 minutes ago, ted_b said:

?  DSD is hardly a flavor of the month.  Been around for years, and a recording format chosen by some very accomplished folks in the industry.  Just sayin'.  :)

 

You can sum up DSD in two words. Nobody cares.  That being said I applaud them for sticking to their guns. After all lots of us still get good results with a Pacific Microsonics Model One.

 

Chris did a nice job here.

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29 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Don't be a jerk.

 

Chris on March 4th I made a 25 minute presentation to a Southern California marketing company about high resolution audio. Part of the presentation was the numbers aren't there for DSD.

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Quote

I could hear not only the drum head but I heard deep down into the shell of each drum. 

 

Often times when I have a revelation like this it turns out I can hear it with other components, not just the one where I discovered it. So do you hear this on your Rossini now?

 

BTW, I hear not only down into the drum, but also the echo from the floor below so I can tell how far it is off of the floor 😃

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17 minutes ago, Rt66indierock said:

 

Chris on March 4th I made a 25 minute presentation to a Southern California marketing company about high resolution audio. Part of the presentation was the numbers aren't there for DSD.

None of that matters with respect to your comment. Ask Chad (Acoustic Sounds) about how many of his customers want DSD. In the grand scheme of life it’s a small niche, but then again so is golf, given that a tiny percentage of Earth’s 7.7 billion people care about it. 


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Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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38 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

None of that matters with respect to your comment. Ask Chad (Acoustic Sounds) about how many of his customers want DSD. In the grand scheme of life it’s a small niche, but then again so is golf, given that a tiny percentage of Earth’s 7.7 billion people care about it. 

 

Just the golf equipment market is over $8 billion annually worldwide. 

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1 hour ago, ted_b said:

Nice comment...thanks for quoting me. 

 

I use DSD sometimes as a sound effect for some harmonicas and a few resonator banjos. But it is very hard to work with in a studio.

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2 minutes ago, Rt66indierock said:

 

I use DSD sometimes as a sound effect for some harmonicas and a few resonator banjos. But it is very hard to work with in a studio.

Ummm, lemme think....I don't care.

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18 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

You can sum up golf in two words. Nobody cares.

Them’s fighting words around these here parts. LOL🤪

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@The Computer Audiophile --

 

Do you see DAC's on a broader scale ever (still) progressing sonically over the years, and if so what in general do you assess to be the reason(s) for this - DAC chip development, jitter suppression, the analogue output stage, PSU, other, a combination of all/overall implementation? 

I guess a follow-up question to this could be: would you rather acquire an older, used "reference" DAC, or a new mid-level priced DAC (that, just for the sake of simplicity and to support this thought experiment, we assume costs about the same as an older, used reference DAC)?


Source: Synology NAS > DIY Mediaserver • Software: JRiver MC26 DLNA/Fidelizer 8.4/DRC Designer USB to S/PDIF converter: Audiophilleo 2 + PurePower • DAC/preamp: Blue Cheese Audio Roquefort DSP: Xilica XP-3060 • Poweramp: Belles SA-30 • Speakers: Simon Mears Audio Uccello • Subwoofers: 2 x lilmike's MicroWrecker (tapped horn) • Subs amp: Crown K2 • Speaker cables: Mundorf Silver/gold + Duelund DCA16GA (shotgun config.) - IC: KaDo Sound XLR-RCA/Mogami 2549 XLR-XLR • Power cables: 15AWG Solid-core wire w/IeGo pure copper plugs (DIY)

 

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Chris, I find it interesting you made no mention of MQA playback and how the DAC handles it. Berkeley were big promoters of MQA and how wonderful they said it sounded a few years ago-essentially they agreed it sounded as good as the original, or even better. Even to the extent of coming online and arguing with MQA detractors about it.

They also emphasize their implementation of MQA in the product description. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup and a RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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3 minutes ago, firedog said:

Chris, I find it interesting you made no mention of MQA playback and how the DAC handles it. Berkeley were big promoters of MQA and how wonderful they said it sounded a few years ago-essentially they agreed it sounded as good as the original, or even better. Even to the extent of coming online and arguing with MQA detractors about it.

They also emphasize their implementation of MQA in the product description. 

My thoughts on MQA, both the technology and company, are well known and needn't be discussed in this review. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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Chris,

 

I assume that you fed the DAC with the AES from the W20SE?  Did you use the Alpha USB from another source?  Just curious about architecture.  

 

Bob

 

PS thanks for the links to the music!  

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32 minutes ago, bobfa said:

Chris,

 

I assume that you fed the DAC with the AES from the W20SE?  Did you use the Alpha USB from another source?  Just curious about architecture.  

 

Bob

 

PS thanks for the links to the music!  


Here are three common ways I used the RS3. 

 

Sonore Signature Rendu SE optical > USB > Alpha USB > AES > RS3

 

W20SE > USB > Alpha USB > AES > RS3

 

W20SE > AES > RS3


Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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10 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

My thoughts on MQA, both the technology and company, are well known and needn't be discussed in this review.


Great review Chris and I’d love to audition, but from the prices you quote, why the huge price jump from series 2 to 3?

 

But given the prominence given in the review to 1. the fact that Berkeley eschew USB, DSD and Ethernet and 2. their technical and sonic chops, their inclusion of and advocacy for MQA is surely worthy of comment.  One simple conclusion that could be drawn from this is that their expertise tells them MQA is worthy of inclusion.  There are alternate conclusions of course, but the inclusion of MQA by engineering led companies like Berkeley and DCS is a powerful counterpoint to forum opinion.

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2 hours ago, Norton said:


 There are alternate conclusions of course, but the inclusion of MQA by engineering led companies like Berkeley and DCS is a powerful counterpoint to forum opinion.

Maybe. Or it just means they had customers demanding it and decided to include it. Not everything carries a special meaning.

 

In any case, even if a company like Berkeley likes it, I don't give their opinion any more or less weight than that of any other experienced audiophile. There's one or two people at such a company that make such a decision, and I don't see any reason to automatically defer to their opinion. Especially when there are other "engineering led" companies that have come to the opposite conclusion....Dueling experts....


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Audiolense DRC>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup and a RB Pi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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