MSB REFERENCE or SELECT II - SEEKING AMP SUGGESTION

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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I am on the verge of purchasing an MSB Dac: probably the Reference and possibly the Select II. I intend to feed the MSB directly to the amp(s), but I will experiment with also using a PreAmp (I currently have a VAC Master and will consider other PreAmps). I am settled with having Rockport Cygnus speakers, gently supplemented by a pair of REL No. 25s and have had good experience with Shunyata (signal cables as well as power cords to devices and power conditioners) and Audioquest (for power cords from the wall to the power conditioner and to the Amp(s). The current room size is 18' wide x 16' deep x 10' high (2,880 cubic feet). Eventually this gear will end up in a slightly larger room. I listen to all types of music via but prefer classic Rock & R&B at various volume levels. I access music via streaming.

I am seeking suggestions for amplifier(s) to mate with an MSB (Ref or Select II). I have always used monoblocks but, based upon the size of the investment as well as the efficiency rating and ohm load of the Cygnus, I am confronted with the decision between purchasing monoblock amps or a stereo amp. I have a separate tube system with a modest vinyl front-end, so for the MSB rig I would prefer SS amp(s). I am not interested in finding a hyper-detailed, transparent sound. I hope to achieve a more "natural/organic" sound that replicates the real thing (a live show or the master recording). Unfortunately, due to current circumstances, I have not had the opportunity to travel to hear different amps. So, I would greatly appreciate hearing about your own experience with:
(1) What is the real distinction between the REF and the SELECT II - from the point of view of a buyer?
(2) Matching and MBS (Ref or Select II) with an end-game amp in the $50k-$70k range
(3) Will a Pre-Amp enhance the sound or just get in the way?

The following amps that are on my short-list...but I am interested in any other amps that have withstood initial purchase enthusiasm and have endured the test of time:

Stereo Amps
MSB S500 (I presume that the S500 will be a perfect match with MSB Dacs - I am sure that it will be uber-precise but will the S500 sound "organic" enough?)
BOULDER 2160
GRYPHON MEPHISTO

Monoblock Amps
PASS LABS (X600.8 or XS 150)
D'AGOSTINO M400
 

HughP3

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Apr 25, 2019
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Subscribed. I have the Reference, waiting for new femto 33. Interested in opinions about the 2 msb’s. Fwiw My dealer suggested not to direct couple and no i have not tried it yet. Its not about the dollars as i would have spent it elsewhere, he knew that.
 

rbbert

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Dec 12, 2010
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This is one of my questions also. Particularly for the (relatively) high voltage balanced outputs MSB seems to suggest that amps can be driven directly with no sonic compromise
 

asiufy

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Jul 8, 2011
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I believe that the total budget for this endeavor will be the main factor here!
Either DAC will sound great direct to the MSB amps. The combo will sound organic and very natural, BUT it'll also be "hyper detailed and transparent". Actually their level of transparency and their ability to decode low-level details and information in recordings is just uncanny.
I believe all these amps will work great with the speakers as well as the MSB's volume control, but I would definitely check with your dealer what his preference is...
 

Ultrafast69

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Aug 28, 2018
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I agree in pairing a MSB DAC with MSB amps will offer a detailed, transparent sound, but also have a bias towards D’Agostinos M400’s.

If you plan not to have any sources, then going direct is a great place to start, you can always try a preamp later. If you have sources or plan to have sources,, than a Momentum HD preamp should be a strong consideration.
 

sbnx

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Mar 28, 2017
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I must admit that the MSB amp would be very temping if you own the reference or select DACs. But all the amps you mention are outstanding. You can't really go wrong with Gryphon, MSB, Boulder, D'Agostino or Pass. Each will have its own sonic signature and would ultimately come down to how each mates with your speakers and your personal taste. Since you mentioned the concern of stereo vs mono amps driving your speakers I would add that the Mephisto or even Antileon Evo stereo will drive anything. I'm sure the Boulder stereo or MSB stereo would also drive the Rockports comfortably.

Regarding Shunyata...I have shunyata power and really like what it does. Although a lot of people also like the AQ Niagara products. Again, it would come down to which you prefer. Either way, taking care of AC line noise will help a lot with your Transport/DAC. Digital noise leads to a not so good sound.
 

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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Ultrafast69: The only source that I could possibly add is a mid-level VPI turntable which, although not the best method, I will route the TT through an optional "Input Module" on the MSB. I am not sure what Pre-Amp would mate with the M500, although I currently have a VAC Master & AYRE (which I will sell) to try.

The real question is not one of convenience but which will sound better: MSB REF/Select Il (1) direct to a S500 amp; (2) direct to any other amp to which I may add a PreAmp. Interestingly, the input impedance on the M400 is extraordinarily high (1 million ohms), so it just might mate well with the MSB "sans" preamp.

btw: You have a fantastic rig.
 

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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HughP3: Your fantastic set up is relevant to my journey. On my shortlist, I should have also included the Antileon Evo. Have you ever sent the MSB REF directly into the A EVO? I am interested to hear how the soundstage is different with vs without a preamp. What was the reason why you chose to purchase a Pandora? This is the essence of this thread. Did your Gryphon combo precede the MSB REF?
 

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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sbnx: Man, 5 dedicated 30 amp lines. Your place must get really "lit up" for Xmas! But I do agree. btw: Where to do you use the Typhon in the system?
 

sbnx

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sbnx: Man, 5 dedicated 30 amp lines. Your place must get really "lit up" for Xmas! But I do agree. btw: Where to do you use the Typhon in the system?
I have a short (3’) run of 10 ga romex running to an outlet connected to the subpanel that feeds my room. I plug the typhon into that outlet. It reduces the line noise going into all the 5 outlets by 50%.
 

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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sbnx: So, the Typhon is running "in parallel" with all of the dedicated lines served by the sub-panel. What a great trick. I, too, have a dedicated sub-panel only serving 3 dedicated 20A lines to my A/V room. Thanks for the tip.
 

Mobiusman

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May 25, 2010
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I have an MSB Reference DAC and totally love it, being driven by a Taiko Audio Extreme and totally love the combo. I do have tubes throughout the rest of my system (all VAC) to offset the SS aspects of my digital arm. I too have a VAC Master preamp and a 450 Statement stereo amp which sounds incredile, but it is being replaced by 2 VAC Statement 452's for more power and newer design and way superior sound. You could easily buy one 452 and run it stereo or for much less find a used 450 Statement Stereo, possibly the best stereo amp I have heard.
 

Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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I tried an unusual amp (on loan) with my Select II with spectacular results: it's called "Beyond Frontiers Audio" and it's a high-power integrated. I had more dynamcis going thru this amp's pre than the Select's inbuilt one, albeit, the result direct was nothing to sneer at.

Just highlighting the fact that you might wish to consider the integrated route for the sake of conveniency without SQ compormise; Dartzeel comes to mind and there are many others, for sure.

This said, my own setup includes a pre, anyway :)

As a side comment, I find the d'Agostino amps I've heard, outstanding though they are in every respect, just a tad dry-ish sounding.
I'm sorry I no longer have that "BFA" device to give more info.
 

HughP3

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HughP3: Your fantastic set up is relevant to my journey. On my shortlist, I should have also included the Antileon Evo. Have you ever sent the MSB REF directly into the A EVO? I am interested to hear how the soundstage is different with vs without a preamp. What was the reason why you chose to purchase a Pandora? This is the essence of this thread. Did your Gryphon combo precede the MSB REF?
Gadzooks i have not tried the Evo directly to the MSB and yes I should do that just to put it to bed. My dealer Joseph Cali Designs has experience trying that and highly suggested I have a preamp in the chain. This was a complete system replace So all equipment done at once. Fwiw another dealer i know also highly suggested I not do without a pre. This was for my old krell/dcs/arc chain.
 

Gadzooks!

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Nov 29, 2020
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Although, I am looking for a amp for the MSB, this may require a preamp. So, your answer is appreciated. From my limited experience in feeding a DAC directly to an amp, I noticed that typically there is more resolution by eliminating a device in the chain. That's a no brainer. However, albeit with more resolution, sometimes the soundstage becomes much larger but with less dimension (i.e. depth of field). Recently, I was at a friend's place when he added a beautiful non-MSB DAC to a high grade system without a preamp. He gushed at how detailed and big the soundstage was. I felt as though I was in the land of the giants where the vocalist's mouth stretched from the speaker-to-speaker. It did sound great, but was not natural.
 

HughP3

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Apr 25, 2019
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Although, I am looking for a amp for the MSB, this may require a preamp. So, your answer is appreciated. From my limited experience in feeding a DAC directly to an amp, I noticed that typically there is more resolution by eliminating a device in the chain. That's a no brainer. However, albeit with more resolution, sometimes the soundstage becomes much larger but with less dimension (i.e. depth of field). Recently, I was at a friend's place when he added a beautiful non-MSB DAC to a high grade system without a preamp. He gushed at how detailed and big the soundstage was. I felt as though I was in the land of the giants where the vocalist's mouth stretched from the speaker-to-speaker. It did sound great, but was not natural.
Interesting i will have to try at some point. Good luck and enjoy the hunt! Whichever way your gonna have a terrific system
 

CKKeung

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Jun 18, 2011
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There are pros and cons in omitting the preamp for MSB Select/Ref DACs, even if pairing them with MSB's own poweramps.

I did test the MSB poweramp with and without preamp :
1. Select DAC direct
2. Reference DAC via a Nagra HD Preamp

Although the comparison was not in the same syatem nor with the same dac, I got a glimpse of the effect of both of the ways.

I personally prefer using a preamp : the sound got better dynamics/authority/stability.
If without preamp, there was more transparency.

Therefore I use my Select DAC with a Bespoke Ultimate Silver passive preamp and a pair of Totaldac D1-Driver xlr version.
:)
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
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Last year in Munich Show, MSB used Select direct to M500 driving a pair of Magico M6.

I sat down and listened for some time, 15 minutes or so which was quite a lot of time given there were some many rooms to go to. My impression at the time was very detailed sound but rather plain and gentle. Dynamic could certainly be better. I use a pair of Magico M6 in my home, so I have a good idea of what M6 can do.

A good preamp will certainly enhance the dynamic.
 

Kingsrule

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Feb 3, 2011
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There are pros and cons in omitting the preamp for MSB Select/Ref DACs, even if pairing them with MSB's own poweramps.

I did test the MSB poweramp with and without preamp :
1. Select DAC direct
2. Reference DAC via a Nagra HD Preamp

Although the comparison was not in the same syatem nor with the same dac, I got a glimpse of the effect of both of the ways.

I personally prefer using a preamp : the sound got better dynamics/authority/stability.
If without preamp, there was more transparency.

Therefore I use my Select DAC with a Bespoke Ultimate Silver passive preamp and a pair of Totaldac D1-Driver xlr version.
:)
Which MSB power amp did you test with?
 

CKKeung

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Jun 18, 2011
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Which MSB power amp did you test with?
The M500 :


20190825_143230_HDR_2.jpg

The another encounter of the M500 was at the Hiendy Club of the audiophile website/forum Hiendy.com of HK during which I compared it with and without a Nagra HD Preamp.
 
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