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

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54 minutes ago, firedog said:

Maybe. Or it just means they had customers demanding it and decided to include it.


That could well be a general case for the inclusion of MQA, but it’s an unconvincing one in the specific case of Berkeley who seem not that interested in responding to customer demand in the case of USB, DSD or Ethernet, although I guess at this rarefied level “demand” for anything is likely to mean a handful of individuals.  Inclusion of MQA is an odd outlier, given Berkeley’s approach, unless they see something of genuine merit in it, or else a more cynical explanation is attributed.  The former seems the simplest and therefore most likely explanation.

 

 

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I wouldn't worry too much about any of this. With portfolios crashing worldwide, I doubt sales of this type of equipment will be healthy for a very long time. Sadly, a sign of the times. Hope I am wrong.

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21 hours 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'.  :)

 

True story. That said, one could argue that 1-bit delta sigma has been around since the mid 60s when Denon first started futzing with it... I have yet to hear - conclusively - that DSD or PCM or MQA or any of these formats sound "superior" to each other, nor that it matters even if they did because hardly any mainstream recording takes advantage of even 16 bit resolution, dynamics and innate transparency. So this to me is the equivalent of pixel peeping: it's completely irrelevant in the real world. 

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Great review Chris. I always love reading your reviews, even if the gear you are reviewing isn’t on my radar. Good reference points. 
 

Where would you place the sound profile of the Lumin X1, compared to the three DAC’s you listed in the review?

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25 minutes ago, Geoff13 said:

NO I2S? strange

Given the number of DACs that support I2S externally and the benefits, I’d say not strange at all. 


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3 hours ago, Geoff13 said:

NO I2S? strange

Someone who can afford this DAC is probably not very interested in messing around with USB to I2S converters or I2S PCie cards.

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16 minutes ago, bobflood said:

Someone who can afford this DAC is probably not very interested in messing around with USB to I2S converters or I2S PCie cards.

If there was an advantage I’m pretty sure all DACs would use it. Heck, even without an advantage manufacturers implement things because change = $ oftentimes. I2S (externally) just hasn’t caught on. 


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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

If there was an advantage I’m pretty sure all DACs would use it. Heck, even without an advantage manufacturers implement things because change = $ oftentimes. I2S (externally) just hasn’t caught on. 

I have tried it and I found no advantage. I doubt there is any. A DAC with poor USB or SPDIF implementation might be a candidate but if that was the case then the I2S probably isn’t very good either.

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Really enjoyed this. 

 

I've only heard the Series 2 but the reason I found the article interesting is the company's approach. Almost reminds me of what's been said or written about Spectral which I've been able to hear a few times.

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I don’t have a lot of experience with high end DACs, but I own an SME 30/2 turntable + SME V with mono crystal wiring and Koetsu Onyx Platinum.

 

I packed away the turntable into its packing case with the idea that if a Lumin X1 could sound close to it, I’d be done with vinyl and could move over completely to streaming digital.

I sold my digital system;

Berkeley DAC Series 2 + USB

Sonore Optical Rendu

Sonore Optical Module

UpTone Audio JS-2 linear supply

Duelund DC and AC cables

Curious USB

 

Not too shabby, but not top flight and noticeably different from the analog front end.

 

First things first.

 

The Lumin X1 needs a lot of break-in.

I’ve  been running mine 24/7 since receiving it on March 5th and its starting to sing now.

Personally I prefer native PCM over upsample, but maybe I’m alone in that opinion.

 

Music has been a huge part of my life since at 13 years old in 1977 the punk scene erupted around me in the UK.

I was at University in Sheffield in the UK when the rave scene came in.

Before that we were going to Jamaican blues parties with wall to ceiling speakers and alternating to clubs blasting hip hop.

My musical tastes are all encompassing and my system needs to be able to play anything I throw at it and and sound amazing

 

How does the X1 play music?

incredibly involving and musical.

Mellow, spacious, fast, articulate, dynamic, ground shaking, gob smacking...

I could go on and on, but it really is that special.

 

Special thanks to Peter Lie of Lumin for spending personal time to answer my questions.

 

 

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7 hours ago, EvilTed said:

I don’t have a lot of experience with high end DACs, but I own an SME 30/2 turntable + SME V with mono crystal wiring and Koetsu

 

Nice one, keep it. I have returned to vinyl after 40 + years without. It's a welcome change to see something moving other than pixels.

 

 

7 hours ago, EvilTed said:

 

The Lumin X1 needs a lot of break-in.

I’ve  been running mine 24/7 since receiving it on March 5th and its starting to sing now.

Personally I prefer native PCM over upsample, but maybe I’m alone in that opinion.

 

You're not alone! HQpPlayer is the king of upsampling, various methods depended on what type of material was being played. It was all too much of a bother, and hassle. Music played at the format's sample rate is pretty darn good, been like that for years now . 😄

Enjoy the X1!


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LOL, this got posted in a review of the BADA Series 3 DAC by mistake.

My bad, but the BADA Series 3 was a top contender, but I chose the Lumin X1 instead.

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Hey @The Computer Audiophile, nice review, thanks.  I wonder about the logic which allows pFlash to suggest that putting in a USB interface would add too much noise when they have an AD SHARC DSP chip in there for running their oversampling/filtering algos???  Seems a bit contradictory to me as the SHARC chip is more powerful (read noisy) than an XMOS...

I know you have a good relationship with Pflash and Michael Ritter, any chance of an interview with them, perhaps fielding questions from members ala your interview with the Purifi folks?  Could be an interesting discussion considering their experience level with digital products, both ADC and DAC.

 

As for DSD, well, I only play DSD these days.  To me, pretty much everything sounds better converted to DSD.  I do not think is because the format itself is better, but because DSD x4 can be converted by a much simpler process than PCM.  If you only compare DSD to PCM using a standard SDM DAC, you are often missing the point though, try something discrete or with an AKM chip which allows for AKM's "direct" DSD conversion mode.


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Interesting post, Barrows.

 

What are you using to convert your files to DSDX4?

 

Joel

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@The Computer Audiophile, "Moving along to track four, titled To Rome, the Alpha DAC RS3 presented me with something incredible that I haven't heard previously. When Ted Poor hit his drums, I could hear not only the drum head but I heard deep down into the shell of each drum."

 

My system is not as detailed as yours but, wow, I see what you mean with this recording, those drums sound incredible! I used Qobuz as well to play the tracks that you mentioned in your review.

 

In regards to the reference DAC. I demoed it in my system and it blew me away. I might be the exception here, based on some of the comments but I do love DSD's sound and I do have a large (at least to me) collection of about 200+ Hybrid/SACDs so I decided to go with the DAVE. If I wasn't so much into DSD I would definitively gone with the Reference.

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On 3/19/2020 at 5:44 PM, phusis said:

@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)?

 

On 3/19/2020 at 5:59 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

Neat questions @phusis

 

 

Yes and no. It's hard to say something for the group of DACs as a whole. 

 

 

In my view it's all down to implementation by talented designers. These guys can squeeze more from less than the average guy can from the newest chip or highest spec PSU available. Usually with enough time, a talented designer can dream up new ways of doing things and figure out how to make it work in a commercial product. Some times this means working with other companies to figure out how the heck to manufacture the product that works in the laboratory. 

 

It all comes down to people using the tools at their disposal and having the time to do it. 

 

 

To dovetail off my previous answer. I wouldn't select anything because it was new or had the newest version of a DAC chip etc... I always look at the company and designers creating the product. Some "designers of the month" are so far off into the weeds it's crazy. I wouldn't buy a new or old version of their products. Others are magicians with the given tools and I'd buy a used "anything" from them rather than something else just because it was new. Many concepts in audio aren't new, but many ideas and the means to implement these ideas are new. 

 

I always ask people, would they rather see photographs from Ansel Adams using a disposable camera or an amateur using a 150 megapixel digital camera. While this isn't a realistic scenario, it's illustrative of my point that some people want products that are new and where the model number is 2 versus 1. I'd go with the master of his craft using whatever tools he had because much of the end performance comes down to intellectual property and know-how. 


That’s a great set of questions @phusis and thoughtful answers @The Computer Audiophile.
 

I’ve actually been snatching up some good deals on older, usually professional, reference DACs recently (hence the use of the BDA-1 comparison in my Airist review). One motivation for my purchases is that it seems almost every DS DAC today uses either Sabre or AKM chips (the Berkeley obviously being an outlier), while a lot of not-too-vintage (5-10 years old) DACs (that can handle 24/192 or better!) used a wider variety of chips.
 

Maybe I’ll have to write up something on my semi-vintage DAC adventures. 

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