The Analog DAC

The Analog DAC

The Most Technologically Advanced DAC in the World!

  • 80 bit Digital processing
  • Femto Second Clock Technology
  • 384 kHz. Discrete Ladder DACs
  • 64x, 128x and 256x DSD played native (.DFS, .DFF and .DXF files)
  • Simple To Use and Integrate
  • Advanced Inputs include Premier Quad USB and Network Renderer.
  • Optional Analog Volume Control
  • Separate Analog Power Supplies
  • Modular Inputs With Advanced High Resolution I2S Technology
  • Internet Controllable From Your Mobile Device
  • Sound Quality That Challenges the Best Analog Sources
MSB Analog DAC

Sounds like an Analog Source!

Lets face it. What music lovers really care about more than anything else is the naturalness of reproduced sound.

Despite limited dynamics and distortion, analog sources are still loved and respected. Digital has just never met the challenge - until now.

"a 'reach-out-and-touch-it' quality, creating the illusion of someone standing in front of me singing." Vade Forrester, The Absolute Sound, January 2014
"With a DAC like the MSB, you get a sense of someone hitting Play on a big reel of wide-track analog tape, after being fed by live mikes in a room." Jon Iverson, Stereophile, April 2014

We started the development of this product with just one simple very focused goal. We started with the name. The Analog DAC. Lets take everything we know about digital audio and evaluate every aspect of the technology as it relates to the characteristics of analog sound. Lets build a DAC from the ground up to be as analog-like as possible. Lets ignore all other features and requirements and just focus. Not only Analog sounding, but analog in function - simple to use.

So we picked bits of technology from our advanced DAC designs and integrated them together. The Analog DAC is the breakthrough product that resulted. Unlike our DAC IV line, it is not as upgradable. The Analog DAC offers the integration of our most advanced clock, digital filtering and ladder DAC technology in a simple but incredibly advanced package.

In our many years of experience building DACs we noticed that the most common feature to change is the input formats. The Analog DAC has adapted a revolutionary concept. It is equipped with three high resolution I2S input bays. Input modules such as USB2, MSB ProI2S, and standard AES/EBU and S/PDIF inputs can be selected by you and plugged in as needed. You can mix and match, and change inputs as new formats are developed.

Several advanced input modules have been developed. The QUAD USB input allows very high resolution DSD, up to Quad rate, to be streamed directly to the DAC as DSD or to be input as DSD by DOP as usual. This premier USB input has lower noise and better resolution than the standard 384k USB. Another exciting input is the MSB Renderer. The Renderer brings the critical part of a music server inside the DAC. Now you can play music (including quad rate DSD) directly from your computer over the network with programs like JRiver, or can play music from your NAS or HDD directly with a mobile device. In both cases you will have sound quality that will most likely beat any computer or server you have tried. Check the users manual for detailed operation.

The second area of rapid change is the user interface. Again we provide a general purpose RS-232 and CAN BUS interface module that can accommodate a range of internet based control options, and can be changed and updated as needed, without ever taking the cover off the DAC.

Speaking of cover, there is none. Another innovation designed to get the most analog-like sound is the unique packaging of this DAC. Individual pockets are milled from a solid plate and the DAC components are potting into the plate for perfect temperature uniformity and long life, as well as unprecedented isolation. As most audiophiles have learned, part of good analog sound is good power supplies. Again we designed fully analog linear power supplies with many isolated transformers providing every part of the DAC with clean power.

"It was a pleasure to measure such a good-performing product as MSB's Analog DAC. And I loved the top-mounted volume control, the display, and the ergonomics. It is rare to encounter an audio component so well thought out and so well engineered." John Atkinson, Stereophile, April 2014

Finally, to maximize the analog qualities of this DAC we integrated a high quality analog stepped attenuator for volume control. To accommodate other analog sources we also incorporated our analog inputs and switching, eliminating the need for a preamp in most systems.

"This volume control stage is exceptionally transparent, and only extraordinary pre-amplifiers will prove comparable. The addition of this optional extra is clearly very good value for money." Chris Bryant, HiFi Critic, December 2013

But the most irritating part of most digital products is the plethora of digital controls. Although incredibly advanced, the Analog DAC is super simple to use. It has one button and one knob. Press the button to change inputs and turn the knob to change volume. Simple. Need a few more features? The MSB remote provides some favorites like mute and phase invert. Want even more control. Every conceivable setting is available via the internet from your mobile device.

You can have it all. Simple to use. Incredibly advanced with a stunning faithfulness to analog sound.

How does this DAC compare with the DAC V?

This is the first question we are usually asked. The answer is not simple. Its like comparing a Mini and a Prius. Both are very good at doing what they were designed for, but they are designed with a different goal in mind.

So lets start at the beginning. When a DAC reproduces a digital sample there are two independent components. The precision of the analog level and the precision of the placement in time. The DAC precision determines the exact voltage created. The jitter of the clock determines the precision of the placement of that sample. The graph shows that shifting the reproduced audio signal in time or amplitude creates an error that effects the sound BASED on the nature of the signal. Test tones are not important here, we are talking about music. So the perceived change in the music is defined by the nature of the music and the type of error introduced.

So in our perception, and in simple terms, the amplitude precision provides the realism of the instrument and voice. It contributes directly to accurate harmonic structure. Jitter on the other hand primarily contributes to the 'digital harshness' effect and focus. Jitter for me takes the pleasure out of the music and creates fatigue over time. For me its deadly. In a single bit, Delta Sigma DAC, you find yourself trading off resolution and harshness. You just don't get both. The only way to control harshness is to filter detail.

The Ladder DAC gives you an opportunity to adjust both parameters independently. The DAC V family provides two levels of DAC precision, both of which exceed the Analog DAC precision. But the Analog DAC provides time performance eqivalent to the basic DAC V, (without the Galaxy or Femto 33 Clock installed). The Analog DAC is optimized for time stability on a budget.

So you will love the natural sound of the Analog DAC. You will love the lack of digital harshness. You will think you are listening to an analog source. But when you compare with the DAC V you will realize that you are missing precision and absolute accuracy but you might not care.

Depending on your budget and listening priority, the Analog DAC may be perfect for you or the DAC V may be perfect. Also remember that the DAC V offers years of upgrades and improvements, and the Analog DAC does not. Again, the value of that depends on your lifestyle and priorities. So if the DAC V is out of your budget, and you are considering ANY other Delta Sigma DAC, than you must give the Analog DAC an audition before deciding.

Control Options*

Control Option One - Standard Remote included. The remote offers the following basic features:

  • Volume control
  • Mute
  • Input switching
  • (*not available without volume option)

Control Option Two - Optional Aluminum Remote (standard with MSB Transports). This remote offers an expanded feature set:

  • Volume control
  • Mute
  • Input switching
  • Phase Invert
  • Reclocking on/off (for use with video)
  • Display on/off
  • (*not availible without volume option)

Control Option Three - Optional Control Interface. The versatile control port allows control modules to be plugged in for direct connection to a system controller via RS-232. Several additional features are available only by this method. The complete feature set is:

  • Volume control
  • Mute
  • Input switching
  • Phase Invert
  • Reclocking on/off (for use with video)
  • Display brightness
  • Digital Filter Selection
  • Ground Connect (default is isolated)
  • Technical settings such as level and dither
  • (*this option works with or without volume option)

Power Supply Options

The Analog DAC requires an outboard power supply. It's available with two power supply options. The Basic Desktop supply is really not basic at all. It is a fully linear supply with two transformers. One is for digital processing and one for the analog circuits. It is housed in a sturdy aluminum enclosure. It is included with each Analog DAC.

An upgraded power base is also available and is shown in all the DAC photos. This thin but solid base contains 5 transformers for complete isolation of digital processing, clocks and analog DAC modules. It is machined out of a solid plate of aluminum and provides shielding and vibration control. It also contains a 12 V power trigger for remote operation. Both are voltage switchable and have a power switch.

The Analog DAC can also be operated from any of the DAC IV power bases. This can be useful when combined with an MSB Transport. The DAC IV power base can power both a DAC and a Transport.

Looking for a change? How about a custom color? The Analog DAC can done in any color to match your taste.