MSB Select Digital Director and Westminster Lab upgrade dc cables : The throne of MSB Select DAC secured!

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2011
3,043
3,152
1,410
Hong Kong
During the past 3+ years of pandemic, hi-end audio manufacturers have not stayed status quo.
There are either new lines or new upgrades launched for their flagship models :
CH Precision - C1.2 Upgrade.
dCS - Apex Upgrade.
Totaldac - the new series of Unity/Triunity/Sublime DACs.
Lampizator - the Horizon DAC.

I've auditioned all of them and also the most expensive Wadax Ref DAC, (except the Horizon). All are outstanding!

I disclaim that I'm a diehard fan of MSB dac. The MSB Select DAC has been my favorite dac for years.
However, can it meet the challenges and secure the throne?

The answer is Affirmative!
Two upgrades/add-ons are essential for the defence and I have auditioned them carefully to arrive at this conclusion :

(1) MSB Select Digital Director.
I won't go into the details of the design of DD. There is much discussion and some user comments on this WBF thread :

The supply of DD cannot meet the demand. In Hong Kong even the local MSB dealer can't afford to have a demo unit. There are only a few DD owners in HK at this moment, maybe two or three only.

The first two local DD owners are my friends and I home-visited one of them. This is Ricky's audio system :

IMG_20230227_152536.jpg

The DD & Select DAC are stacked together. He employs an Extreme Server as source, connecting to DD via home network & a Renderer V2 module.

IMG_20230227_152350.jpg

The operation of DD with the Extreme Server and Select DAC is smooth and faultless.

The sonic improvement per sac is instantaneous and ear-opening, exactly as what other DD owners have mentioned on the WBF DD thread.

Let me elaborate more about the sonics after I talk about the 2nd essential upgrade.

(2) Westminster Lab Upgrade DC Cables for Select DAC.
Angus Leung, boss & designer of Westminster Lab is a good friend of mine. He is also employed by Lumin as chief designer to tune the sound of the streamers.

Angus makes upgrade dc cables for Lumin streamers under his own Westminster Lab brand for some time already but the upgrade dc cables for MSB Select DAC is much less well-known.
There isn't much marketing/advertisement. Another reason is that they are expensive. The msrp is around usd10k per set! o_O

I did question Angus about the price and he argued that the Select DAC dc cables are difficult to make because there are several dc voltages/rails.
The internal wires are alloy of copper+silver (not silver-plating), each mirror-polished by hand then individually shielded.

After arguing, he lent me a set and said that I would understand and accept the pricing. Really?

This is the packing :

IMG_20230120_090039.jpg

IMG_20230120_090130.jpg

The craftsmanship is impeccable :

IMG_20230226_094633.jpg

There is a metallic node near the Powerbase side :
IMG_20230226_094456.jpg

The installation was not easy, because of lack of space and that the two Powerbases were placed 90degees turned to one side.
One of the original dc cables was on the floor.

IMG_20230227_155012.jpg

(3) The Sonic Improvement - together & separately.

I must say that the above two gadgets are able to keep the Select DAC to be my favorite dac amongst all the flagship grade dac I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
The DD & Westminster dc cables have got rid of any thought of mine to switch camp. :p

IMHO after installing them, each of the sonic aspects are significantly improved but most importantly, they are able to "transport" me into the concert halls, recording studios ...etc.

To be frank, I'm a very picky music lover. I'm very particular about the artists, interpretation and recording quality when purchasing discs & files.
In the contrary, when I attend live concerts, I find myself enjoying almost every one of them. The music is live & real and I'm part of the happening.
Any WBF brothers have similar feeling?

This is exactly what DD and Westminster Lab dc cables brought about in that evening.
My friend and I listened to recordings both of mediocre and audiophile recrding quality and all of them were 100% enjoyable.
It seemed that we are in the venues. The music was no longer canned music but became real & live!

Could DD alone do that?
Ricky and I initially thought that DD could do so.
However when we added the Westminster Lab dc cables, the music became even "realer".

Perception/audition experience is subjective but if I'm asked to give a numerical estimate, I would like to say that the dc cables contributed at least 30% of the accomplishment.

Angus was right : it's not the look but performance which justify the high price of the dc cables.
:rolleyes:

My humble suggestion is that every MSB Select owners MUST audition & consider both of them.

How about me myself? Will I take the plunge and get one or both of them?
Please guess.
;)
 
Last edited:

koalakoala

Well-Known Member
Aug 10, 2017
38
16
113
Interesting review...

BTW I received my DD 3 weeks ago. First impression - it blew me away with its deep bass, clean sound and high clarity...
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2011
3,043
3,152
1,410
Hong Kong
Interesting review...

BTW I received my DD 3 weeks ago. First impression - it blew me away with its deep bass, clean sound and high clarity...
Congrats!
 
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gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
740
1,182
235
CK, it looks like folks are loving the DD upgrade! Congratulations on your new addition. On behalf of Angus, myself and Westminster's other global partners I wanted to thank you for taking the time to put the DC cable for the Select and Reference through their paces. Angus, being a fan of MSB's digital designs took the project on as a challenge and a labor of love to see if he could make an already outstanding product even better. I'll be candid we have had pushback from other MSB fans on the price, however upon hearing what they can do and explaining what goes into hand building this cable it begins to make sense.

I hope to meet you when I visit Hong Kong later in 2023. Between Axpona, Munich and the revitalized SHOW in Southern California this June the next few months are going to be exciting and busy:)

My very best, Gary
 
Last edited:
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lscangus

Industry Expert
Oct 23, 2018
164
156
130
36
During the past 3+ years of pandemic, hi-end audio manufacturers have not stayed status quo.
There are either new lines or new upgrades launched for their flagship models :
CH Precision - C1.2 Upgrade.
dCS - Apex Upgrade.
Totaldac - the new series of Unity/Triunity/Sublime DACs.
Lampizator - the Horizon DAC.

I've auditioned all of them and also the most expensive Wadax Ref DAC, (except the Horizon). All are outstanding!

I disclaim that I'm a diehard fan of MSB dac. The MSB Select DAC has been my favorite dac for years.
However, can it meet the challenges and secure the throne?

The answer is Affirmative!
Two upgrades/add-ons are essential for the defence and I have auditioned them carefully to arrive at this conclusion :

(1) MSB Select Digital Director.
I won't go into the details of the design of DD. There is much discussion and some user comments on this WBF thread :

The supply of DD cannot meet the demand. In Hong Kong even the local MSB dealer can't afford to have a demo unit. There are only a few DD owners in HK at this moment, maybe two or three only.

The first two local DD owners are my friends and I home-visited one of them. This is Ricky's audio system :

View attachment 105730

The DD & Select DAC are stacked together. He employs an Extreme Server as source, connecting to DD via home network & a Renderer V2 module.

View attachment 105731

The operation of DD with the Extreme Server and Select DAC is smooth and faultless.

The sonic improvement per sac is instantaneous and ear-opening, exactly as what other DD owners have mentioned on the WBF DD thread.

Let me elaborate more about the sonics after I talk about the 2nd essential upgrade.

(2) Westminster Lab Upgrade DC Cables for Select DAC.
Angus Leung, boss & designer of Westminster Lab is a good friend of mine. He is also employed by Lumin as chief designer to tune the sound of the streamers.

Angus makes upgrade dc cables for Lumin streamers under his own Westminster Lab brand for some time already but the upgrade dc cables for MSB Select DAC is much less well-known.
There isn't much marketing/advertisement. Another reason is that they are expensive. The msrp is around usd10k per set! o_O

I did question Angus about the price and he argued that the Select DAC dc cables are difficult to make because there are several dc voltages/rails.
The internal wires are alloy of copper+silver (not silver-plating), each mirror-polished by hand then individually shielded.

After arguing, he lent me a set and said that I would understand and accept the pricing. Really?

This is the packing :

View attachment 105732

View attachment 105733

The craftsmanship is impeccable :

View attachment 105734

There is a metallic node near the Powerbase side :
View attachment 105735

The installation was not easy, because of lack of space and that the two Powerbases were placed 90degees turned to one side.
One of the original dc cables was on the floor.

View attachment 105736

(3) The Sonic Improvement - together & separately.

I must say that the above two gadgets are able to keep the Select DAC to be my favorite dac amongst all the flagship grade dac I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
The DD & Westminster dc cables have got rid of any thought of mine to switch camp. :p

IMHO after installing them, each of the sonic aspects are significantly improved but most importantly, they are able to "transport" me into the concert halls, recording studios ...etc.

To be frank, I'm a very picky music lover. I'm very particular about the artists, interpretation and recording quality when purchasing discs & files.
In the contrary, when I attend live concerts, I find myself enjoying almost every one of them. The music is live & real and I'm part of the happening.
Any WBF brothers have similar feeling?

This is exactly what DD and Westminster Lab dc cables brought about in that evening.
My friend and I listened to recordings both of mediocre and audiophile recrding quality and all of them were 100% enjoyable.
It seemed that we are in the venues. The music was no longer canned music but became real & live!

Could DD alone do that?
Ricky and I initially thought that DD could do so.
However when we added the Westminster Lab dc cables, the music became even "realer".

Perception/audition experience is subjective but if I'm asked to give a numerical estimate, I would like to say that the dc cables contributed at least 30% of the accomplishment.

Angus was right : it's not the look but performance which justify the high price of the dc cables.
:rolleyes:

My humble suggestion is that every MSB Select owners MUST audition & consider both of them.

How about me myself? Will I take the plunge and get one or both of them?
Please guess.
;)
Thank you so much for your post and sharing!

Let me add a bit of insight to the design behind the MSB cable. First of all, CK is right about our cables are hand made. Of course the conductor itself is extruded with a machine from our supplier, then the materials are being heat treated, hand polished, hand coated with resin ( we do it by hand as we think the machine process can induce more stress to the conductor ), then hand twisted with a variable degree of rotation to form part of the cable. The variable degree of rotation is a unique feature of WestminsterLab and it is one of the reason why our cables are quite different. The complexity of the power supply of MSB and also the needed pins and rails makes this cable one of the most challenging to manufacture to date.
 
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CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2011
3,043
3,152
1,410
Hong Kong
Thank you so much for your post and sharing!

Let me add a bit of insight to the design behind the MSB cable. First of all, CK is right about our cables are hand made. Of course the conductor itself is extruded with a machine from our supplier, then the materials are being heat treated, hand polished, hand coated with resin ( we do it by hand as we think the machine process can induce more stress to the conductor ), then hand twisted with a variable degree of rotation to form part of the cable. The variable degree of rotation is a unique feature of WestminsterLab and it is one of the reason why our cables are quite different. The complexity of the power supply of MSB and also the needed pins and rails makes this cable one of the most challenging to manufacture to date.
Thanks Angus for sharing with us the design details.

I guess this is what VariTwist is on the website?
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2011
3,043
3,152
1,410
Hong Kong
BTW is the dc cable applicable to both MSB Select & Reference DACs?
 

divertiti

Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2021
208
188
113
CK, thank you for the write-up. What input method was your friend Ricky using before getting the DD?

... then the materials are being heat treated, hand polished, hand coated with resin ( we do it by hand as we think the machine process can induce more stress to the conductor )...
Iscangus, are you saying you are hand polishing the bare conductors you're getting from your supplier?
 

lscangus

Industry Expert
Oct 23, 2018
164
156
130
36
CK, thank you for the write-up. What input method was your friend Ricky using before getting the DD?


Iscangus, are you saying you are hand polishing the bare conductors you're getting from your supplier?
Yes we do. Of course we use power tools to help. But the process is mostly by hand.
 
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RHMMMM

Well-Known Member
Feb 29, 2020
25
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80
41
Austin, TX
It’s amazing that DC power cables like this can make a difference and are also worth that price. I’d love to hear them sometime. I have a Ref DAC.
 
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gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
740
1,182
235
It’s amazing that DC power cables like this can make a difference and are also worth that price. I’d love to hear them sometime. I have a Ref DAC.
RHMMMM, if you are in the US please DM me and we will arrange an in-home demo.
 

divertiti

Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2021
208
188
113
Yes we do. Of course we use power tools to help. But the process is mostly by hand.
Thanks for the confirmation, that's very interesting. Wouldn't polishing the conductor create small imperfections and abrasions that would impede the performance? My understanding is that high quality conductors rely on purity of material and crystal structure to create high quality electrical current conduction.
 

lscangus

Industry Expert
Oct 23, 2018
164
156
130
36
Thanks for the confirmation, that's very interesting. Wouldn't polishing the conductor create small imperfections and abrasions that would impede the performance? My understanding is that high quality conductors rely on purity of material and crystal structure to create high quality electrical current conduction.
We found out that the process of the extrusion of the conductor causes a lot of imperfections on the surface of the conductor, we suspect because of all the pulleys and spooling machines that is needed for the machines to do its job. A careful and fine polishing actually helps in our case.
 

divertiti

Well-Known Member
Jan 12, 2021
208
188
113
We found out that the process of the extrusion of the conductor causes a lot of imperfections on the surface of the conductor, we suspect because of all the pulleys and spooling machines that is needed for the machines to do its job. A careful and fine polishing actually helps in our case.
That's interesting, I didn't know quality copper wire came with so many surface imperfections.
 
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CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 17, 2011
3,043
3,152
1,410
Hong Kong
The Mono And Stereo 2023 Editors Choice Award :


editor choice (1).png
 

Young Skywalker

Well-Known Member
Apr 30, 2012
109
74
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Does the use of these aftermarket DC cables make void any warranty claim on an MSB Technology Reference or Select DAC?
 

gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
740
1,182
235
Does the use of these aftermarket DC cables make void any warranty claim on an MSB Technology Reference or Select DAC?
Young Skywalker, I cannot respond regarding MSBs warranty policy but did want to respond on behalf of the factory. I can however offer that Westminster for MSB DC cables were tested by the MSB factory before going into full production and deemed 100% compatible for use with both their Reference and Select DACs.

We use the exact same terminations as MSB (connectors) as to ensure their further compatibility. Our cables are a solid-core design so we advise our customers not to bend the cable (except modestly) near the terminations as this can cause them to lock in place. Otherwise they are quite flexible, easy to work with and have been in use in client systems for some time without issue.

As is WestminsterLab, MSB, is a company known for their dedication to their customers. Given our design has been vetted our friends at MSB, in the event of an issue both firms would work closely to determine the cause and resolve it for the customer in the most expeditious and least disruptive manner possible.

Thanks!
 
Last edited:

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