MSB DAC Experience

I had the chance to hear a DCS Bartok in my system this weekend and I was very impressed with it compared to my DSD. What was even more impressive was that it’s performance with Roon via its rj45 connection was very similar to when I used the auralic Aries g2.

This made me start thinking about getting a high end dacs to replace the dsd. I’ve read about MSB dacs in the past but never heard one before. To those of you that have heard the discrete, premier or reference, I would love to hear your thoughts on how it sounds.

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I’m actually in the DAC market and hopefully will have a MSB Discrete DAC in my system for demo soon. I have heard a MSB Premier in a dealer system (Magico, Gryphon Amp/Preamp, Aurender, MSB Premier) and thought it was outstanding. Very detailed, dynamic, and smooth (not edgy at all). Hopefully in a few weeks I can give you a better description of the Discrete after listening to it in my system.

Thanks and good luck, I hope your able to get a demo unit. If you could let us know your thoughts when you get it, that would be great. What DAC are you currently using?

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I’m currently using a PS Audio Directstream.

FWIW, we have a very singular and unique reviewer in Brazil. He is one of the main personalities of the Brazilian hi-fi world and is reviewing equipment for more than 20 years. He claims to have reviewed more than 1,000 components throughout these years.

What is unique in him is that he actually gives a score to each component reviewed. And the final score is the sum of the scores of 8 individual traits: timbre, texture, transients, soundstage, dynamics, harmonic “fullness”, organics and musicality.

In recent times, he has reviewed many of the main brands, including dcs, MSB, CH precision and Nagra pre, amps, and dacs.

And he scored the msb select 106 points (that is the score he would have given the vivaldi in a formal review, he told me). Nagra tube dac scored 105. Dcs rossini, 100. And the Nagra HD x, 110 (here is the link to the top 5 in each category).

And here is the link to the latest issues of the magazine (bear in mind, they are in Portuguese):

So, if you are thinking of buying a dac, at least take the Nagra for a serious listen.


What is a perfect score/what is the scale?

Enquiring minds (I) want to know. :slight_smile:

Thanks in advance.

I honestly don’t know. Should one ask him, my bet is that he won’t put a limit to the progress of the art of music reproduction What I do know is if it scores up to 70 is bronze, up to 70 silver, up to 90 gold. More than 90 is reference. More than 100 SOTA.

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Noted. Thank you.

All in all he is a very serious guy. I have seen him deny reviews, or make very bad remarks. I also saw him lose advertisement revenue for being honest about his perceptions. It is very rare a reviewer that uses a system that allows for direct comparison.

Thanks. Very interesting. Cool to see the BHK 300’s on there.

Missed them. What was their score?

Looks like it was 98,5 (“Reference” ?)

I don’t speak Portuguese but I was able to scroll through the back issues via the second linked page provided by the OP and found the review by looking at the pictures and flipping to the conclusion page.

These e-mags look top notch. Now, I wish I did speak Portuguese.


You can use Google Translate to translate to English or whatever language you like.

From the site:

  • PS Audio BHK Signature 300 - 98.5 points (State of the Art) - German Audio - Ed.224

This thread may be helpful to gain deeper insight, of other DACs from MSB from owners (of which I’m one) of the Select II:

I had a Bartok for a little over a month and sold it because it really wasn’t working, perhaps with my power cables etc. It was a bit harsh and artificial, although the DSD playback was great. I found that it sounded good with Transparent Audio cabling and it’s slightly easier sound, but was far too fatiguing with my Shunyata Sigma cables and actually quite brutal with my Double Helix Prion4 headphone cable.

I haven’t heard MSB or Nagra, although I know they are at the top of the heap, with some preferring Lampizator for a more tube sound.

I’m using an EMM Labs DA2 that I got at a nice discount, and I will say that it is a lot like the DSS sound. Maybe Ted will be able to outdo it when his signature DAC is released, but if you imagine the DSS overall sound, minus some distortion/warmth and low midrange thickness, but give it a lot more resolution and detail, width, extension and three dimensional image placement that’s basically what you get.

The Bartok is more in the ballpark in terms of brute resolution, detail, performance, but it isn’t quite there compared to the DA2 and is a sharper sound that can be harder on the ears. Some people compare the DA2 with the MSB Reference, but the technology is different (DSD-based), and I sense that the MSB stuff is a little more popular. I mention this because it seems to be the main top end DAC in the same sonic family as the Directstream, though Playback Designs is probably similar. With MSB you get both a jump in quality, but also a lateral shift in sonic character.

Windows Edge has a translation feature. For PC owners, browsing any site in any language is easy.

Thanks for your insights. It’s funny that we both basically had the same thoughts on the Bartok but came out with different outcomes. I did find that the bartok had a lot more resolution, clarity and I guess I would also say liveliness. Music felt a lot more engaging compared to the DSD. Even though I like the DSD, the bartok to my ears made it seem sluggish and distorted. I’m probably not using the best terms but that is what I came up with.

Looks like I need to also look into the DA2.

Definitely look into it, but if liveliness is what your system needed DCS (or MSB) might also be a good way to go. The DA2 (and DV2) don’t have the sluggishness or distortion of the DSS, but the EMM Labs sound has a similar soft/smooth top end (I’d almost call it a “fine powder”) and gently rounded edges. It’s like a DSS, but without the mud, and general performance that exceeds the Bartok. That’s actually why I got it, when I sold the Bartok I actually went back to the DSS because it was an easier listen, but I wanted performance and resolution more akin to DCS.

The Bartok does actually have more powerful and authoritative bass, but I found the DA2 to have a more dynamic, bouncy, and nimble sound. The Bartok is more uncompromising and sharp while the DA2 is more gentle, but they also have some similarities as well.

I’m using EMM Labs NS1 streamer box that has a proprietary optical connection that is about as noise free and dynamic as anything I’ve heard. With any of these DACS, comparisons are complicated by the digital source/connection.

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