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Berkeley USB review- upcoming?

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I look very forward to comments from folks like Chris with a larger frame of reference than mine but after living with this box for going on a week I am floored. Honestly, I thought my system was close to maxed out on resolution, dynamics, imaging, clarity, S/N ratio etc. I was more just tweeking to get that last drop but inserting the Alpha USB and moving to a wired transport (JRiver/Windows 7 laptop/OWC external HD via eSATA) I am astounded at the performance of my system. In 30 years I have never been happier with sound. I do believe one must use extremely resolving gear to really experience the benefits (Spectral/Wilson/MIT in my case). It's really hard to understand the ability of the Berkeley products without them. Not that they will not sound good on moderate level gear but they will not be performing near what they can.


Again, I am stunned at what is going on in my listening room. I was trying to articulate this to an audiophile friend yesterday in an email and it's hard to explain in words. Basically...it sounds better than any digital reproduction I have ever heard.


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I have also recently taken delivery of the Alpha USB and I echo the previous comments.


I had been using a Hiface USB converter and was happy with the sound from the Alpha DAC. However, using the Alpha USB has taken the system to a whole new level - vastly syuperior to my hi-end vinyl rig and, with the right recordings, as near to 'live' as I've yet heard from my system (Atmasphere OTL amp/Avantgarde Duo horns).


I did hesitate at the price of the unit but I'm really impressed with the results and happy that this was money well spent.


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Hi Chris,

I am very curious how the Berkeley Alpha Series 2 with the USB Interface will compare to the Weiss DAC202. I am very intrigued by the reports about the quantum leap the Alpha DAC makes when connected through the Berkeley USB Interface. Both the Alpha DAC and the Weiss are engineered to be quasi immune to jitter and I wonder why the link to the PC would make such a big difference (as long as it is of sufficient quality). So I am really hoping for us all to gain some insight into the key factors driving the final audio quality from your review. Specifically I would be very interested to have some insight into how different high quality DACs (Alpha DAC Series 1 and Series 2, Weiss) react to different links (e.g. Weiss Int202, Berkeley USB Interface, WaveLink HS 24/192) or different sources (e.g. CAPS2, Auraliti, Squeezebox).

Thanks a lot for your work, it is a continuing source of inspiration for a beautiful passion.


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So the Berkely Alpha has a Quantum Leap attached to the Alpha USB... That mean it replaces the DAC used to master great compositions in the past and beats up (the ears of) the Mastering Engineer till (s)he gets it right and with huge dynamic range!??




...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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WDW - I use an MIT Oracle MA-X AES3 cable between the Alpha USB and DAC. I have tried many MANY digital cables from home made to way beyond anything reasonable and the MIT sounds the very best to me. I know that many on this site are not too keen on expensive cables such as the MA-X but from my experience they make a very significant impact. Having said that, I did all of my cable trials long before the Alpha USB so I cannot comment much on how adding this device changes cable interaction.


For USB, I have been using a freebie that came with my hard drive. I recently ordered an Acoustic Revive USB cable which should be here in 2 weeks. I did this sort of blind, I have never heard it. I have used many Acoustic Revive products and liked all so I figured why not go with their USB. It seems most around here like the Wireworld (or have cable issues) but I have not liked the WW stuff I have had in the past so that was out.


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Well... That would depend on what interface one was using previously...


As to various DAC's so called "immunity" to jitter, this is all just marketing BS in most (perhaps all) cases. I have listened to many DACs, many of which claimed to be "immune" to jitter, or to have "superb jitter rejection" and every single one responded with better sonic performance when supplied with a very low jitter feed (SPDIF or I2S).

I am personally convinced that jitter "rejection" and/or "immunity" is no substitute for low jitter from the source if one is interested in exceptional sound.


SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 512-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical with Well Tempered Clock--DIY DSC-2 DAC with SC Pure Clock--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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[email protected] for your comments...I have MIT analogue cables. I have only heard good things about MIT digital. Will have to check them out.


...after reading some of the comments posted on this thread, I called a dealer in my country, Canada; he on the east coast and me on the west, and his passionate description of the improvements wrought by the Alpha USB on his Spectral/Avalon system was heartfelt and enthusiastic. I believed him completely. I will likely be ordering from him very shortly. Cheers, WDW


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...I understand that the Alpha USB was submitted for review with some, relatively speaking, low priced but worthy cables from Straight Wire. The one item I noted was, accordingly, Berkeley's suggestion that one or the other, USB or AES, can't recall which, be 1.5 metres in length..not 0.5, not 1.0 but 1.5..: perhaps some of the brighter lights in this company can comment on that particular dictum.

Enjoy, WDW


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1.5m length is a common suggestion for digital cables. I'm sure someone with more knowledge than I will chime in here for an explanation but there is some science to it. I honestly do not hear much difference in the comparisons that I have done between 1 and 1.5m.


As for the Straightwire, I took that suggestion when I got my dac and included it in the little cable trial I conducted. It's a decent cable, especially for the price point, but compared to some of the better cables I had it did not offer near the dynamics, imaging or the general realness I was looking for. It's amazing how different digital cables can make a system sound. To me, it was one of the most important links in the chain to get correct.


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So, I think the idea is that there are standing-wave type of things running up and down the cable, and if they are able to be at full wavelength when they hit the end, then the cable is a bit better than otherwise.


I had a chance to talk to Kimber folks about this and they said that for their excellent D60 cable, they can measure a difference at 1 and 1.5, but the guy said he couldn't actually hear the difference. But he suggested the 1.5 anyhow since it does measure better.


But, what he said that kind of makes the whole thing tough, is that for other cables they measured differently, and for some 1.0 M was the best. So, if you absolutely really want the best length, perhaps call the manu of the cable you are using. Of course, many companies will just squint at you if you ask about this, its got to be very very high end for them to know about this.



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To make matters more confusing, the nature of both the SPDIF transmitter and receiver will affect which length cable will perform best. The problem is the arrival times of reflections running on the cable, if the reflection arrives at the receiver close to/during the rise time of the waveform representing the signal, it can distort the timing of the edge trigger in the receiver (resulting in an increase in jitter).



SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 512-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical with Well Tempered Clock--DIY DSC-2 DAC with SC Pure Clock--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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ahhh... my music server hardware is dying. I could try to fix it... or take the opportunity to UPGRADE!!! (when in doubt, always upgrade!! what's the point of an insatiable hobby if you don't at least try to satiate it every now and then?)


So my Berkeley Alpha DAC (series 1) might sound better thru an Alpha USB than thru my current Lynx AE16? And an Alpha 2 might sound better than amy Alpha 1 DAC? I'd love to know. Christmas is just around the corner...


Test cases I'd request:


- Alpha DAC 1 vs Alpha DAC 2 (all else being equal)


- Lynx AE16 vs Alpha USB (all else being equal (as much as possible) - including using Alpha DAC 1 as the output for both


- Alpha USB thru standard USB port, vs thru SOTM USB port (all else being equal (my theory would be the Alpha USB would mitigate the need for the expensive SOTM USB filter and interface - and let me use an off the shelf Netttop (Acer Revo 3700 vs a custom made CAPs server)


Just my wishlist... looking forward to whatever insights you provide us.




out: Windows 7 > jriver mc14 > asio4all > Lynx AES16e > Redco custom Gotham AES/EBU cable (70ft) > Antelope DA Clock > Harmonic Technologies Magic Digital 1 AES/EBU cable > Berkeley Alpha DAC > AudioQuest Cheetah RCA interconnects > NuForce Ref 9 v2 SE amps > Nordost Red Dawn II speaker cables > Magnepan 3.6R speakers.[br]vinyl in: Lucid AD9624 > Redco custom Gotham AES/EBU cable > Lynx AES16e > Windows 7 > Goldwave

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Just wondering if anyone has any experience or hunches on the Weiss INT202 vs Alpha USB. I've pushed those two to the top of my list, unless one of the following is just as competitive:


- SotM dx-USB-HD

- Audiophilleo 2

- Jkenny Hiface MK3

- Wavelength Wavelink


Wavelength WaveLink HS -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> Audio Space Reference 2 -> Woo GES -> Stax SR007A

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