Comparing MSB Reference to Select DAC

Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
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Interested in what you hear, as I have the deconstructed Dave now
 
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Alpinist

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2014
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USA
I have owned the Select for several years and have listened to the Select and Reference in the exact same system but in different locations. Both models employ the same hybrid DACs, the main difference being that the Select has 8 hybrid DACs and the Reference has 4 hybrid DACs. The main difference sonically is greater and more effortless dynamics with the Select than the Reference. But the sonic signature is very similar. If you go with the Reference, you will get that same analog-like presentation as the Select, very similar to listening to master reel to reel tapes but without the noise. If the Reference is all that’s in the budget, you won’t be disappointed, unless you spend all day comparing the two head to head. Any model below the Reference results in a significant drop off in performance as this is where the compromises begin.

Ken
 

Jeffy

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Apr 27, 2014
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Orchard Lake, MI
I have owned the Select for several years and have listened to the Select and Reference in the exact same system but in different locations. Both models employ the same hybrid DACs, the main difference being that the Select has 8 hybrid DACs and the Reference has 4 hybrid DACs. The main difference sonically is greater and more effortless dynamics with the Select than the Reference. But the sonic signature is very similar. If you go with the Reference, you will get that same analog-like presentation as the Select, very similar to listening to master reel to reel tapes but without the noise. If the Reference is all that’s in the budget, you won’t be disappointed, unless you spend all day comparing the two head to head. Any model below the Reference results in a significant drop off in performance as this is where the compromises begin.

Ken
Ken, I did go ahead and purchased the Select and it is fantastic. It's so good that I am spending more time with it than my analog. Don't get me wrong the analog is better, but I enjoy listening to the Select.
 

Alpinist

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2014
519
128
280
USA
Ken, I did go ahead and purchased the Select and it is fantastic. It's so good that I am spending more time with it than my analog. Don't get me wrong the analog is better, but I enjoy listening to the Select.
Hi Jeffy,

Congratulations on your Select DAC! It never ceases to thrill me with its musicality. My favorite purchase in 30 years of enjoying high end audio.

Best,
Ken
 

skids929

Active Member
Dec 31, 2020
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twice at audio shows (before they were shut down) i did hear both in the same system for a few cuts. can't recall if both had one or two power supplies.

mostly less a sense of reproduced sound. you hear farther into the music......all other things being equal. also a bit more dynamic snap, ease and authority; 4 dac chips per side does develop twice the output. my 4 years with the Select II would then equate it to a higher degree of involvement and desire to listen more. the Reference dac is very good. like a step up in cartridges from the same maker.

these differences between the Ref and Select are not 'poke you in the nose' differences, at this level all the dacs are very good. in my system i want a dac that can hold it's own against my analog. the Select does that.

with MSB the most optimal way to listen is with the Pro USB interface/module and a good USB cable. i have the Renderer v2 and it is also very good, but the USB is better. and most servers are optimized for USB; it's the least compromised interface at the moment.


Not in my experience it's not, AES has repeatedly been better in my set up, having used 3 server/players at this point in the time I've owned my Dac. I agree with your point overall, said differently, most people identify with USB for obvious reasons therefore they think it's the best. MSB also will tell you over and over the Pro USB is the greatest thing ever, but all you have to do is look at the very nature of the connection what they developed for it to sound good with all sorts of augmentation. Separate box/galvanic isolation, fiber etc..USB is Async, two way, has power rails as opposed to the synchronous path of AES and SPDIF and overall more robust connection of AES.

Yes, USB does DSD, I don't listen to it, mainly because it sounds awful to me. Yeah USB is the universally adopted connection but I have literally TRIED to like the Pro USB because like you, MSB told me it was the best. Again, I disagree 100% after hours of listening to both over the course of months and months. Same for their renderer module, my k50 player sounds MUCH better than the MSB renderer module, which again makes sense for obvious reasons.

I am a huge MSB fan for better or worse, and by no means saying the Pro USB and Renderer are bad, they're some of the best (quasi) onbaord implementations I've listened to in a DAC. But they are definitely not the optimal way to listen to their DACs, people need to know this so they experiment with the other wonderful inputs in MSB Dacs. Wish I saved the money and didn't pay the extra $2k for it quite honestly AES is audibly better by a decent margin.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Apr 25, 2010
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Not in my experience it's not, AES has repeatedly been better in my set up, having used 3 server/players at this point in the time I've owned my Dac. I agree with your point overall, said differently, most people identify with USB for obvious reasons therefore they think it's the best. MSB also will tell you over and over the Pro USB is the greatest thing ever, but all you have to do is look at the very nature of the connection what they developed for it to sound good with all sorts of augmentation. Separate box/galvanic isolation, fiber etc..USB is Async, two way, has power rails as opposed to the synchronous path of AES and SPDIF and overall more robust connection of AES.

Yes, USB does DSD, I don't listen to it, mainly because it sounds awful to me. Yeah USB is the universally adopted connection but I have literally TRIED to like the Pro USB because like you, MSB told me it was the best. Again, I disagree 100% after hours of listening to both over the course of months and months. Same for their renderer module, my k50 player sounds MUCH better than the MSB renderer module, which again makes sense for obvious reasons.

I am a huge MSB fan for better or worse, and by no means saying the Pro USB and Renderer are bad, they're some of the best (quasi) onbaord implementations I've listened to in a DAC. But they are definitely not the optimal way to listen to their DACs, people need to know this so they experiment with the other wonderful inputs in MSB Dacs. Wish I saved the money and didn't pay the extra $2k for it quite honestly AES is audibly better by a decent margin.
fair enough.

i would point out that you list the MSB Discrete dac in your signature, which could mean you did not spend your "hours of listening" with the MSB Select 2 which is what i did. the USB and Renderer performance of the Select 2 might be superior to the Discrete. it's a question we don't know the answer to. and the other side of things, the server side, might also change the equation, my Taiko Extreme compared to your Antipodes K50.

i think it's good to get an alternate viewpoint, but i don't really agree. but i have never considered the AES since it's got limited bandwidth. a non starter for me as i love dxd files.

as imperfect as USB might be, Emile of Taiko has optimized it and unless you have his custom USB card tweaked for the MSB dacs, which boosted things with USB even further.

finally, i have moved on from my much loved MSB.
 
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skids929

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Dec 31, 2020
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fair enough.

i would point out that you list the MSB Discrete dac in your signature, which could mean you did not spend your "hours of listening" with the MSB Select 2 which is what i did. the USB and Renderer performance of the Select 2 might be superior to the Discrete. it's a question we don't know the answer to. and the other side of things, the server side, might also change the equation, my Taiko Extreme compared to your Antipodes K50.

i think it's good to get an alternate viewpoint, but i don't really agree. but i have never considered the AES since it's got limited bandwidth. a non starter for me as i love dxd files.

finally, i have moved on from my much loved MSB.

Good points, Taiko (I believe) does optimize for USB so maybe better results. I can't speak for the implementation differences of USB on the two DACs, I can only say it's the same Pro USB module. I mean the Select sounds better for sure, but I'd love to try out the AES on one. There is always the Ear factor, what sounds good to me may not to someone else etc etc...I have a Premier here for audition now and getting the same results. AES is just overall sounds better.

Im mainly addressing the fact MSB often touts the Pro USB as the best way to listen. Just not true in my experience.
 
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MarkusBarkus

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Feb 7, 2021
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In the interest of readers who may be considering MSB and/or the Pro ISL solution, I have found it to be an excellent option from the Taiko Extreme to the MSB Reference dac.

My configuration has the "upgraded" USB card in the Extreme, and the USB cable into the MSB module is a Shunyata Omega.

I had previously demo-ed the Premiere dac with the Pro ISL and a Straightwire USB cable (and the Omega), which also sounded great here.

I have *not* compared ProISL to an AES implementation.

The fiber input to the Extreme from the ProUSL module would allow me to isolate the server in another room (actually to another neighbor), but I cannot bear to move it out of its audio room location.

There was discussion of the ProISL in a WBF thread from 2019, wherein Emile Bok of Taiko ( @Taiko Audio ) quoted a post on Audiophile Style:

"I’m from MSB Technology and I would like to share a few of the technical advantages the Pro ISL interface (and Pro USB) has over other digital audio interfaces. The only downsides of the Pro ISL interface are 2W of power consumption and compatibility only with MSB DACs.

DAC syncronous scrambled streaming data. Clocking of the data stream is syncronized to the DAC with a separate clock feedback link in a second fiber. Unlike block based protocols like Ethernet or USB, the Pro ISL interface does not generate electical noise in the audible band upon reception.

Strong forward error correction (optionally traded for more audio data channels) instantly corrects most errors including up to 1024 bit gaps in the audio data stream upon reception.

Very strong CRC based error detection (an HD8 CRC polynomial protects each 64 bits of audio data, an HD10 CRC polynomial for misc data). Allows quick identification of failing links and prevents playback of erroneous data.

Less than 10 milliseconds to lock to an active data stream.

Very low noise reception due to very low noise hardware decoding, data stream scrambling and balancing. Ethernet for example requires a complex operating system and usually an electrically noisy general purpose processor for reception and decoding. Ethernet, even optical Ethernet, also uses large asyncronous data blocks that generate much low frequency noise during decoding.

Perfect isolation from the non conductive single mode glass fiber.

Greater than 1km cable lengths are possible. Also no EMI radiation or conduction due to non conductive cabling. Cabling is safe safe to run anywhere because it is non conductive.

Much lower received jitter than any other digital audio interface. Cabling even at extreme lengths adds almost no jitter because single mode glass fiber cable has nearly zero dispersion and extreamly low attenuation of the modulated infrared laser light.

Supports 12 channels of 32bit/768Khz PCM data with forward error correction or many more channels without. Supports up to 32bit/3Mhz 2 channel PCM data. Supports 8 channels of 16x native DSD. Support for data stream format extensions for future data formats. Simple mailbox style communication channel for misc information. Strong CRC based error detection for all data. The Pro USB uses just a subset of the complete capabilities of the Pro ISL interface so it is ready for future expansion.

The Pro USB is as easy to install and configure as any other of our USB interfaces."

AS Post: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/...-for-msb-pro-isl-input-module/#comment-937005

WBF Thread:
 

bryans

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Dec 26, 2017
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The best option in my opinion is to reach out to MSB (Vince Galbo in the US) and have him let you demo whatever interface you like. This way one can decide which option works best for them. The first MSB dac I ever heard was using AES input via Aurender and it was outstanding. I also feel the Pro ISL/USB option is outstanding. Hard to go wrong with someone trying it in their setup and deciding what they like best.
 

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