Berkeley V3.0 with MQA software upgrade

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
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What a great set of filters can do​

At the urging of a friend, I installed V3.0 with MQA support on my heavily modified DAC. Berkeley correctly says you need a bit-perfect means of transferring the .wav file hosting the software, and this was facilitated using a Macbook Pro laptop over USB to the Berkeley Alpha USB and using the AES/EBU or SPDIF output to my/any Berkeley DAC; output must be configured for 24/44.1k in the MIDI with that USB device, and the .wav file played with iTunes or the Music app (NOT the likes of Quicktime, which result in errors - a different story, but this software desecrates and cremates music).

The upgrade process involves a private download of the .wav file, putting the DAC in Upgrade mode (sequence of key presses), and playing the .wav, and takes about 2 minutes (Berkeley claims 15-30 with retries, to be safe); the software is transferred to RAM first, and if accepted (the display will say so or otherwise), you press a button to permanently burn it into the EPROM, an equally fast process. All in all, a flawless operation.

Sonics​

I DO NOT HAVE ANY MQA or 24/196 material, so nothing to say there, yet

BUT... I have a lot of redbook PCM and HDCD redbook PCM. As usual, there are the 1.16 & 1.24 plus 2.16 and 2.24 filters. The "16's" decode 16-bit HDCD and the "24's" decode 24-bit HDCD, while using different filters for core PCM in the "1" and "2" filter versions.

The updated Berkeley manual, included in the upgrade kit, suggests we use the 1.16 or 1.24 filters for best sonics; it also says the 2.16 and 2.24 are the minimum-phase-shift and minimum-pre-ringing (apodizing) filters, so I had to compare the 1.16 against the 2.16.

First and foremost, there is a plethora of claims on the internet that resolution improves with the V3.0 software. In my case, I went from v0.70 to v3.0, quite the jump. The truth of the matter is that resolution skyrockets with the V3.0 upgrade, in my case. The new filters - according to Berkeley - are claimed to increase resolution and timbre. Both of these have been easily confirmed in here...

Now here comes the interesting part... to these ears, the 2.16 filter - aka apodizing filter - sounds quite spectacular and superior to the 1.16; timbral accuracy - after all the extensive mods I have made to my Alpha 1 DAC as described under my system thread - matches or surpasses that of my heavily shielded Yggy2 DAC; and with HDCD material, it easily surpasses it. This modified Alpha DAC with the V3.0 software + 2.16 filter configuration and HDCD sounds really great. Where it still lags behind the shielded Yggy2 is in dynamic headroom when playing redbook, and the Yggy2's sophisticated Class-A output section is hard for Berkeley to beat.

All in all, the 1.16 filter sounds a little congested and distorting with demanding material, while the 2.16 just flows with ease, power and more purity, rendering even better timbral nuances, with finer micro-dynamics, less distortion and better overall presence.

I can't tell what exactly the upgrade would do to a stock Berkeley up and down the line, but in here, it is outstanding and brings out the best in my mods. I have to assume the consumer quotes with which Berkeley adorns their website (http://www.berkeleyaudiodesign.com/news-1) have a lot of merit.

From a pure PCM perspective and this point of view, this software upgrade is a serious assault on digital, and a very significant step forward, for a fairly reasonable amount of money, all things high-end considered. YMMV.

-ack
 
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