Spectral

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
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373
Hi all,
can someone, preferably with first-hand experience enlighten me on the difference in quality ánd sound between the SDR-4000 Reference and the latest CD-spinner, the SDR-4000 SL?
Thank you!
Cheers,
Wim
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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6
Hi all,
can someone, preferably with first-hand experience enlighten me on the difference in quality ánd sound between the SDR-4000 Reference and the latest CD-spinner, the SDR-4000 SL?
Thank you!
Cheers,
Wim

I currently own both players. I can try to help you if you give me the context of your question. Do you currently own a SDR-4000 Reference and are looking to upgrade? Are you looking to buy one or the other? Are you just curious? Please be patient if I do not answer immediately, as I am very time constrained.
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
492
92
373
I currently own both players. I can try to help you if you give me the context of your question. Do you currently own a SDR-4000 Reference and are looking to upgrade? Are you looking to buy one or the other? Are you just curious? Please be patient if I do not answer immediately, as I am very time constrained.

Thank you for your response! I have been an avid dCS user for years. Still love my Elgar plus / Verdi combination but...my Verdi is seemingly that old that even dCS stopped servicing the unit. I am also a big Spectral fan (have the 360s version one and love them). So I was thinking...maybe it is time for a decent Spectral CD player. There is a second hand version on the market of the 4000 Reference. Hence my question. Again, thank you for your input.
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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Thank you for your response! I have been an avid dCS user for years. Still love my Elgar plus / Verdi combination but...my Verdi is seemingly that old that even dCS stopped servicing the unit. I am also a big Spectral fan (have the 360s version one and love them). So I was thinking...maybe it is time for a decent Spectral CD player. There is a second hand version on the market of the 4000 Reference. Hence my question. Again, thank you for your input.

Greetings Nirhoda,

I will do my best to answer this for your needs. Yes there is a sonic difference between the older and newer Spectral players. The "SL" is quieter and more detailed. This is a result of the lower jitter from the memory buffer/industrial disc drive. How much better? 10-15%. Tonally both players are the same. As is typical for Spectral the higher frequencies shimmer and are very detailed. Both players are very listenable!

I suspect that Spectral could no longer get any of the custom TEAC drives for their players, so they had to create a new model with a new drive. I have been told by my dealer that Spectral made a commitment to stock a new drive mechanism for every SL CD player that they have sold.

So, the newer "SL" player is not only quieter and more resolved in its sound, but there is a long term inherent reliability, by use of a better drive mechanism and a back up of that mechanism, but this comes at a much higher cost that a used, older "Professional" model.

That being said, I have recently used the newer player as a transport to audition the new Berkeley Reference DAC, and I have never been more blown away by an audio component! I have one on order due to arrive in about four more weeks. There is no going back!

In the mean time, I am in the process of burning in a Shunyata Anaconda digital cable, using my Berkeley Alpha II DAC (Used previously for my digital tuner's output). I am very pleased with this sound combination, and I think that it sounds better than my SL player! (I am using the SL player, again as a transport.)

Bang for the buck - start with the older Spectral Professional model - stand alone. Live with it a while. Enjoy it. Get to know it and its sound. That TEAC mechanism is very reliable, and at the price difference to an SL model, you may want to take a chance. (I would also call Spectral, before pulling the trigger, to find out if they can repair/replace that TEAC drive and at what cost.) I would then latter add a Berkeley DAC (preferably the Reference - this DAC is the most amazing audio component that I may have ever heard.) for a serious bump up in performance.

I still have my older Professional player. It is currently in storage. I am going to be using it as part of an office audio system that I am putting together. It is a fine player and sounds great.

I hope that serves to enlighten and not confuse you. Audio, as in anything in life is a compromise. It is up to you in the end to make the best compromises for your tastes and your budget, but at this level, it is hard to make a wrong decision!

Best regards,
Rob
 

ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
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Boston, MA
Very enlightening comments Rob, thanks. Interestingly, I A/B'd the Berkeley Reference with the SL a while ago, using the SL as the transport for the Berkeley - the levels were matched, and A/B was easy on the preamp. My impression was that the Berkeley came 99% close to the SL's performance, but only played 16-bit HDCD (the SL's limit). What did you hear in your A/B?
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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6
Very enlightening comments Rob, thanks. Interestingly, I A/B'd the Berkeley Reference with the SL a while ago, using the SL as the transport for the Berkeley - the levels were matched, and A/B was easy on the preamp. My impression was that the Berkeley came 99% close to the SL's performance, but only played 16-bit HDCD (the SL's limit). What did you hear in your A/B?

ack,

I find your comments about your experience interesting, to say the least. Our findings could not be further apart. Before I go on, and I do not want to came across as arrogant, as I do not know the context of your A/B comparison. I do not know how many hours were on the Berkeley DAC, what power conditioning/cabling was used, nor if the IC cables were identical. I also believe that the Spectral player sounds its best with only one cable/set on the back. If IC's are used, then do not use the digital cable and vise versa.

In the context of my audio system in my listening room (Both extremely familiar for me, not a strange setting or equipment in a dealer's showroom), with a Shunyata King Cobra CX power cord on a well broken in Berekely Reference DAC, and a Shunyata Alpha digital power cord on the Spectral SL, both plugged into separate Typhon/Triton stacks, both using MIT-Oracle MA-X SHD IC cables, the sonic difference was as extreme as could be - and this was using a low end "Tributaries" loaner digital cable!

The Spectral player sounded like great "Hi-Fi" digital, while the Berkeley sounded like a live microphone feed. There was not only a wealth of information that was masked by the Spectral, but the way that the Berkeley presented this information was outright spooky! This sonic chasm between the Spectral and the Berkeley became even larger the longer that I had listened. Bob Harley was right. The Berkeley Reference DAC does not sound like analog, nor does it sound like digital. I believe that the lower noise floor on the Berkeley combined with the absence of any perceived jitter makes for a presentation with more information, that cannot be matched by analog, with its inherent noise limitations. The sound is DYNAMIC, smooth, articulated, organic, coherent, relaxed, and soooooooo easy to listen to.

I had borrowed the Berkeley for fun, to hear it in the context of my audio system. I had visited with Robert Harley several weeks before at a dealer event, and he had mentioned to me that he was living with this new Berkeley DAC, and that he was blown away by it. It was he that suggested that I audition it when I had the chance. About a month ago, I had some time freed up in my schedule, so I took that chance.

I have been involved in our hobby for about forty years. In that time, I have never been so blown away by any audio component than this DAC. After listening to this for several days, I ordered one. It is expensive. I am not one to blow money for the sake of blowing it. (The fact that I put my money where my mouth is should tell you what I think!) When my dealer came over to pick up the DAC, he listened to it in my system/sound room and he was also blown away. We then uninstalled it and hooked up the Spectral player by itself. The sound was astringent, brash, and veiled in comparison - and the Spectral is a damned good sounding player!

I was on the verge of tears when he left with that DAC. I am not kidding. I have never been so sad to see a component leave my audio system. Ever.

I am in the process of breaking in a new Shunyata Anaconda digital cable. This may very well be a game changing cable, as well. I am so impressed with it, that I am in the process of getting another one (AES/EBU) to compare against my MIT Oracle MA-X digital cable that I use for my tuner.

I cannot wait to receive my own Berkeley Reference DAC, as my system is now virtually unlistenable in comparison to what I had enjoyed with the Berkeley. It's not subtle at all.

I highly suggest that you borrow the Berkeley from your dealer for a weekend. Listen to it in your system. After doing so, I do not see how you could not agree with my findings, my dealer's findings, and others who are discovering and reporting the same genuine, watershed advancements that this spectacular DAC makes!
 
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ack

VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
6,783
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Sure, I can bring it home... during my audition, the interconnects were the same MIT for both (though much lesser than your MA-X SHD), I can't recall the digital cable, and I think the power cords were the same as well; no idea about power conditioning and such, but I would think they were plugged into the same circuit. Your comments have me intrigued. I either wasn't getting the best out of the Berkeley, or you are not getting the best out of your SL (and I can't see how that could be); or else, we simply hear differently in this particular case. Very interesting and contrasting points of view... I wonder what I am missing, and it can't be the speakers (the Q7 are resolving enough)... it could be that the SL was driving both itself and the digital out, if that's indeed a bad thing to do as you say...

Keep us up to date on the Anaconda vs MA-X digital
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
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North Shore of Boston
Bob Harley was right. The Berkeley Reference DAC does not sound like analog, nor does it sound like digital. I believe that the lower noise floor on the Berkeley combined with the absence of any perceived jitter makes for a presentation with more information, that cannot be matched by analog, with its inherent noise limitations. The sound is DYNAMIC, smooth, articulated, organic, coherent, relaxed, and soooooooo easy to listen to.

I read Harley's review in TAS and don't recall him writing that he preferred the Berkeley to his analog. I do recall that he commented on their differences but I don't think he actually stated a preference for one or the other.

Coopersark, what analog source have you compared to the Berkeley Ref DAC to be so certain that its level of information retrieval can not be matched by any analog? That is quite a declarative opinion and mighty impressive if true.
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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I read Harley's review in TAS and don't recall him writing that he preferred the Berkeley to his analog. I do recall that he commented on their differences but I don't think he actually stated a preference for one or the other.

Coopersark, what analog source have you compared to the Berkeley Ref DAC to be so certain that its level of information retrieval can not be matched by any analog? That is quite a declarative opinion and mighty impressive if true.

You are right about Harley's assessment. He did say that the DAC sounds like a mike feed, and that is what I am hearing - spooky real. Currently no analogue on my setup. I ditched my Goldmund table years ago. Always found records too noisy, no matter how "quiet". There was always a small "tick" somewhere that put me on edge for the whole time that I had listened to record albums. Had to do so in the days where there was no other choice.

How this DAC compares to 30 ips half track, I cannot say, but lets face it, that is impractical. Both from an equipment and availability of software standpoint.

You must listen to this DAC for yourself. It is mind blowing, and for me, makes the analogue/digital argument moot. It sounds so good, so organic, so lifelike, that I have no desire for an analogue source ever again. (Okay, I still use my Day-Sequerra 25th Anniversary Reference tuner.)

You have a good 'table (SME is great equipment!) and record collection, enjoy it! Most of my software is digital. At my age, I am not about to change my software (I have way too much of it!), and I am sure that is the same for you and your music collection!
 
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coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
85
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Sure, I can bring it home... during my audition, the interconnects were the same MIT for both (though much lesser than your MA-X SHD), I can't recall the digital cable, and I think the power cords were the same as well; no idea about power conditioning and such, but I would think they were plugged into the same circuit. Your comments have me intrigued. I either wasn't getting the best out of the Berkeley, or you are not getting the best out of your SL (and I can't see how that could be); or else, we simply hear differently in this particular case. Very interesting and contrasting points of view... I wonder what I am missing, and it can't be the speakers (the Q7 are resolving enough)... it could be that the SL was driving both itself and the digital out, if that's indeed a bad thing to do as you say...

Keep us up to date on the Anaconda vs MA-X digital
Bring it home with an open mind. You will see! As another reviewer had commented "Game changing".
Don't bring it home, and you will save money!
I will keep you up to date on two things - The Shunyata/MIT and the Shunyata/Berkeley after I have mine running in the stem for a while. (I am counting days like a kid before Christmas!)
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
85
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6
Sure, I can bring it home... during my audition, the interconnects were the same MIT for both (though much lesser than your MA-X SHD), I can't recall the digital cable, and I think the power cords were the same as well; no idea about power conditioning and such, but I would think they were plugged into the same circuit. Your comments have me intrigued. I either wasn't getting the best out of the Berkeley, or you are not getting the best out of your SL (and I can't see how that could be); or else, we simply hear differently in this particular case. Very interesting and contrasting points of view... I wonder what I am missing, and it can't be the speakers (the Q7 are resolving enough)... it could be that the SL was driving both itself and the digital out, if that's indeed a bad thing to do as you say...



Keep us up to date on the Anaconda vs MA-X digital
Also, try to do some of your comparative listening on reference grade headphones, taking out the speaker/room interactions. I find headphone listening very instructive for critical equipment evaluations.
 
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PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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North Shore of Boston
You are right about Harley's assessment. He did say that the DAC sounds like a mike feed, and that is what I am hearing - spooky real. Currently no analogue on my setup. I ditched my Goldmund table years ago. Always found records too noisy, no matter how "quiet". There was always a small "tick" somewhere that put me on edge for the whole time that I had listened to record albums. Had to do so in the days where there was no other choice.

Thanks for the clarification. Analog just is not for you for a variety of reasons. I had thought your opinion was that when it comes to information retrieval, digital is superior to analog. I misunderstood you. I will try to hear the Ref DAC. Congratulations on your new purchase.
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
492
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373
Thank you Bob, Ack and Peter for your information! A lot to consider. My funds are limited so I won't do anything rash.
Cheers,
Wim
 

lydon

New Member
Jul 10, 2011
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Hello,
Coopersark I have a question for you. When you had the Alpha DAC Reference in your system, did you remove your pre-amp from the presentation during the audition? I ask this because Robert Harley remarked in the past that doing so made an improvement in sound quality during his time auditioning Wilson's Alexanderia X-2 and was being driven by Spectral amplification system, as well as Berkeley's Alpha DAC. I understand that this kind of action could possibly violate the warranty with Spectral for your 400 RS monos, but it is something that is being done by other users of both products. BTW, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience with Berkeley's Reference DAC with all of us. I realize its an incrediable componet and will likely change the future of digital music reproduction for generations to come.
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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Hello,
Coopersark I have a question for you. When you had the Alpha DAC Reference in your system, did you remove your pre-amp from the presentation during the audition?

No I did not remove the Spectral preamp to audition. Bob Harley did not remove his preamp for his review of the Reference DAC either. He ran the DAC at an output level of "59" into his Constellation Virgo preamp. I ran the output of the DAC at "54" into my Spectral DMC-30SSII preamp, as per the recommendation of Mike Ritter of Berkeley Audio.

I still like to have and use the functions of a preamp, such as an output to my headphone amplifiers (I do serious evaluation/listening through my headphone setups), and the ability to play analogue components, such as my Day Sequera 25th Anniversary Signature Reference tuner. (I live in a great FM area.)

My system sounded fantastic using the Berkeley through the Spectral pre into my DMA 400's.

If you want to save money/have the ultimate sound, then bypass the preamp at your own peril, or use another brand of amplification than Spectral. There are lots of great sounding amplification electronics in the marketplace that don't have Spectral's restrictions or limitations.
 
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nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
492
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373
If you want to save money/have the ultimate sound, then bypass the preamp at your own peril, or use another brand of amplification than Spectral. There are lots of great sounding amplification electronics in the marketplace that don't have Spectral's restrictions or limitations.

I have used my dCS Elgar plus converter with my Spectral 360 for almost 10 years: never had spot of trouble! Anyone blowing up their Spectral power amps by ommiting a Spectral preamp please speak up. 1 thing though: I have never used any other cabling than the top MIT line.
 

lydon

New Member
Jul 10, 2011
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Although its an owners ultimate responsibility to choose how they want listen thourgh their gear. I find that even dangerous things can be accomplished safely as long as all of the elements are understood and account for; but as you know there are no garranties in life. With respect to Berkeley's Alpha DAC Reference, you have the very best recommended interconnects & speakers cables from MIT to protect your amplifers. On the power side its very likely you have Shunyata's DCP-6 digital noise reduction filter box feeding all the appropreiate front end componets. So all the grounding & noise covered there. What's possibly missing? Huh. i would hate to think that just because someone percieves a danger in damaging there amplifers by removing the pre-amp in this situation as a safeguard, would actually take away from the ultimate experience of enjoying the music they love.
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
492
92
373
Although its an owners ultimate responsibility to choose how they want listen thourgh their gear. I find that even dangerous things can be accomplished safely as long as all of the elements are understood and account for; but as you know there are no garranties in life. With respect to Berkeley's Alpha DAC Reference, you have the very best recommended interconnects & speakers cables from MIT to protect your amplifers. On the power side its very likely you have Shunyata's DCP-6 digital noise reduction filter box feeding all the appropreiate front end componets. So all the grounding & noise covered there. What's possibly missing? Huh. i would hate to think that just because someone percieves a danger in damaging there amplifers by removing the pre-amp in this situation as a safeguard, would actually take away from the ultimate experience of enjoying the music they love.

Couldn't agree more! Still haven't heard from anyone who removed his pre (in a sensible way!) and blew up his/her Spectral power amp.
 

edorr

WBF Founding Member
May 11, 2010
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Bring it home with an open mind. You will see! As another reviewer had commented "Game changing".
Don't bring it home, and you will save money!
I will keep you up to date on two things - The Shunyata/MIT and the Shunyata/Berkeley after I have mine running in the stem for a while. (I am counting days like a kid before Christmas!)

Coopersark, are you done counting days yet and did you get your reference DAC? I am extremely close to pulling the trigger and ordering one myself (4 months wait I believe) so I'll be eagerly reading user reports during the wait.
 

coopersark

Member
May 24, 2013
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Coopersark, are you done counting days yet and did you get your reference DAC? I am extremely close to pulling the trigger and ordering one myself (4 months wait I believe) so I'll be eagerly reading user reports during the wait.

Berkeley has had a problem with the supplier who performs the CNC machining of their Ref DAC's chassis. The chassis being produced were not flawless in their appearance. Mike Ritter of Berkeley is accepting nothing less than perfection in his units' appearance. I believe that this production problem has been resolved this past week, as my dealer had informed me just today that my unit will be shipping in two week's time. The delay has been so long that I will believe it when I see it. Yes, I'm skeptical, but hopeful. I have been waiting for my unit to be built and delivered since the end of the summer. Yes, I am counting the days, but there has been no end in sight. I know that my unit is in their second week of production run. I believe that my unit is number 7 in line.

I would think that a 4 month wait for you at this point in time would seem to be very optimistic and I truly hope that I am wrong in my thoughts. Please remember, this is an extremely "hot product" with highly complimentary press and word of mouth, and Berkeley has basically been at a standstill of their production of this DAC for well over five months time. Production is very slow at only two units per day. That is also assuming that there are no supply bottlenecks or problems with any internal parts along the way. Orders have been pouring in to them and none have come out of their production.

That being said, the overall improvement to my system was so great, that since my dealer's demo DAC has left my main system, I have not spent much time listening to it. Additionally, I have found myself inordinately busy and distracted the past several months with my business and other matters. I have been listening to my secondary system (Audio Research Reference gear, Transparent Opus MMII cabling, Shunyata Triton/Typhon/Anaconda Zitron power conditioning, and small Maggies) while I work, and that has satisfied my need for listening to good music. I truly cannot wait until I receive my copy of the Reference DAC. After I burn it in for a thousand hours or so, I promise to report on my findings. (Since the DAC is always on and will be receiving the digital output of my always on Day-Sequerra HD tuner, it will only take about a month to five weeks from its receipt for me to report!) I anxiously want to do so, as much as you want to hear about it!

Patience is, and will be, a virtue - for both of us!!!;)
 
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