MSB is an unconventional company, so why not make our review page a little unconventional. What follows is a blog style series of reviews, comments and emails that we receive from reviewers, distributors and customers. Last names are removed to protect the privacy of the submitter. Unlike most companies, we do not exclusively on formal reviews, rather depend primarily on word of mouth to spread the news. Any comments printed here are reproduced as received.
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September 2013 - MSB Technology Universal Media Transport PLUS + Signature Transport Power Base
"AB COMPARISON - On the first step of our evaluation, we used the most basic UMT Plus (without Clock, without Signature Transport Power Base) to compare with Oppo BDP-105. The UMT Plus appears closer to reality and more dimensional. Never is there a hint of noise or banding in the blackness. It does not modify nor alter the image detail, however, it does raise the quality of the image by removing the image noise. The higher the quality source, the better it will perform.
I think we all know that a separate power source will have a positive effect on the sound source. The Signature Transport Power Base not only gives stability and power to the sound image; it completes the whole sound performance. "
HIFI Review, Issue 327
Full Review in Chinese with an English Translation
November 2012 - Diamond DAC IV and Universal Media Transport
"The sound of this DAC is so effortless; so natural; so invisible - that the old cliche "there are simply no words..." is perhaps the most honest thing I can say."
"I suspect that the most impressive thing I can say about this DAC is that since becoming an owner, I have been going to concerts far less frequently - It is truly that good!"
"If you are serious about state-of-the-art sound and are looking for a no-holds-barred top-end DAC, then the MSB line deserves your highest consideration."
David Solomon, Reviewer,
Headphones.com, November 2012
October 2012 - Platinum Data CD and Diamond DAC IV
" I tried one of my favorite torture-test albums, Propellerheads' Decksanddrumsandrockandroll (CD, DreamWorks SKG 50031), and was surprised at how smooth its previously harsh upper midrange had become. Detail and bass galore, with pinpoint imaging and depth. "
"I had a goofy smile across my face as I pondered that if the MSB stack sounded this good after only 15 minutes, I was in for a real treat in the coming weeks. "
"The next day I talked to Michael Fremer, who had a similar MSB stack on loan, also fronted by a Meridian Sooloos Control 14. 'It's ironic that I'm starting a new analog website (www.analogplanet.com) when I've finally found great digital!' he exclaimed. We agreed that our first impressions of the Sooloos-MSB combo were exceedingly positive. MF said that it was the best digital sound he'd heard. "
"(But) Bruce noted that the MSB had better focused imaging, and I felt it brought us a generation or two closer to the original master. "
"We listened to 'Ram On' and 'Heart of the Country' back and forth a dozen times, marveling at the MSBs ability to hang each instrument and voice in space. "
"Switching gears, we also pulled up a set of remixes of Mono's trip-hop noir classic 'Life in Mono,' as well as 'Bilbao Song,' from Gil Evans's Out of the Cool. Same results. Images were better defined and appeared more naturally in space with the MSB compared with dCs. "
"The MSB stack gave me the best digital sound I've ever heard in my system. I know it's a cliche, but I was digging out music from all corners of my collection, just to hear it 'real' before the MSBs had to go back. The best recordings were a sheer pleasure to listen to. I spent many long nights going from track to track, feeling closer to the truth of each recording than I had previously imagined possible. "
" In most ways, MSB Technology's Diamond Platinum DAC IV offers the best measured performance in the digital domain that I have encountered. " --John Atkinson
Jon Iverson, Reviewer,
John Atkinson, Measurements
Stereophile Magazine, October 2012 Issue
October 2012 - MSB Platinum DAC IV and Power Base
" The Platinum DAC IV (including Platinum Power Base) reviewed here cost a smidgin over $15,000 and delivers performance that's as good--or better--than any other high-end DAC I have ever heard, even models selling at twice the price and more."
" ...as you'll see from the graphs, even the DAC IVs 'worst case' results are so exceptionally good -- in most cases better than any other DAC I've ever seen -- that this just won't be an issue.
To conclude, I have to say that I was gob-smacked by the incredibly high level of performance from the DAC: it truly and very effectively represents the state-of-the-art in digital-to-analogue conversion technology. "
Greg Borrowman, Reviewer,
Steve Holding, Measurements,
Australia HiFi Magazine, October 2012 Issue
Oct. 2012 - MSB Universal Media Transport
" I had to write and tell you how much I am enjoying my MSB universal media transport. I don't think most people realize how much a high quality transport will do for their system. All the hype is about DAC's and rightfully so, however if the DAC is not receiving the proper signal, all is a waste of time. Right from the first song I started laughing with excitement at how much of a change there was in my system. Big sound, the stage just opened up. Powerful, piano was in the room. Very resolving, detail in voice originated from the chest and piano notes just seem to go on forever. I was missing lots of detail and the UMT has solved the problem. I have a very tough time walking away from the music. All I can say is it is a shame if people do not get a chance to hear what one piece of equipment can do. After hearing this unbelievable change it is time to start to build my MSB stack piece by piece with great anticipation. Love your products. People really need to experience MSB. "
Sept 2012 - Impressions of an MSB System
" Now that I have lived with my MSB digital front end for the past 6 months, I wanted to give you a view of what I have been hearing. My complete MSB digital front end configuration consists of the following:
1. MSB Signature CD IV Transport
2. MSB Signature Transport Power Base
3. MSB UMT Transport
4. MSB Diamond DAC with FemtoSecond Galaxy clock and Pro I2s input board
5. MSB Diamond Power Base
The CD IV transport is powered by the Signature Transport Power Base and is connected to the Diamond DAC via the Pro I2s interface. The UMT is powered by the Diamond power base and is connected to the Diamond DAC via the MSB Network interface.
I went through a long auditioning process of digital front ends trying to find a digital front end that I could enjoy listening to as much as I enjoy listening to my analog front end. My previous digital front end, the Esoteric P03 transport, D03 DAC and G0s word clock was very good and served me well for almost 4 years, but once I added an analog front end and the more I listened to my analog front end, I found it hard to go back to listen to my Esoteric digital front end. So, I started on my quest to upgrade my digital and I was fortunate enough to be able to listen in my room to the MSB Diamond DAC with the FemtoSecond Galaxy clock powered by the Diamond power base partnered with the MSB Signature Data CD IV powered by the Signature Transport Power Base. I also auditioned in my room the ARC DAC8 (driven by a Windows based music server) and the EMM Labs XDS1. I also have had the opportunity to listen on many occasions to the DCS Scarlatti 4 box digital stack in a friends system.
The conclusion that I came to after this lengthy process, is that the sound of most of the digital playback front ends that I was able to audition is fundamentally a variation on a similar theme and were very much in the same family of sound as my Esoteric front end with the exception of the MSB digital front end. Other than the MSB, none of the the other digital front ends would allow me to really relax and enjoy listening to music the way that I wanted to.
To my ears in my system, the MSB digital front end presents an extremely low noise floor, a very harmonically dense and rich sound, with deep, powerful and textured bass. Overall, the MSB digital front end presents a very high resolution sound but it presents all of the musical detail and subtle nuances that are in a recording in a very natural and coherent fashion. It does all of this better than any of the other digital front ends that I have had the opportunity to audition. When I combined the sound that I was hearing, with the ability to play both redbook CD's as well as high resolution PCM from a DVD all via the Pro I2s interface, the MSB digital was an easy decision for me. But as you know, there was still more. I needed the ability to play back SACD's.
To playback my SACD's, I decided to use the MSB UMT transport, powered from the transport power supply section from the Diamond power base and connected to the Diamond DAC via the MSB Network input. After using the UMT for the past 6 months for SACD playback, I found it to be a good SACD solution but I always felt MSB could do better given what I hear from PCM playback via the Signature CD IV. So in early August, I happened to be looking at the MSB web site and I noticed that they had posted some firmware updates regarding DSD. I read through what those were and I immediately did the upgrades to my Diamond DAC and UMT transport. I warmed up my system, popped in an SACD, pressed play and I was startled by what I heard. SACD now sounded magnificent. The sound had all of the wonderful attributes that I hear from the best redbook CD's from the Signature CD IV but with the much more natural and relaxed sound that I have been expecting from the best mastered SACD's. With the UMT now feeding the native DSD data stream to the Diamond DAC there is absolutely no comparison to the previous sound that I was hearing with SACD.
The bottom line to me is that I now feel I have the best possible digital playback sound for all formats - Redbook CD, High Resolution PCM and SACD/DSD. Now, all I want for Christmas from MSB is a 'Signature level UMT!' "
Arnie (Austin Texas)
September 2012 -
MSB Data CD IV Transport
" Martin Appel had just reviewed the MSB Technology's Data CD IV Transport and its upgraded power supply, and added them to the system. The improvement in sound compared to last year was very noticeable in the first four bars of a GRP CD. Detailed and specific imaging with lots of air and sparkle. The MSB gear is a fabulous discovery. I would own them in a heartbeat. "
July 2012 -
MSB Technology's Data CD IV Transport
" My listening started out with standard Redbook CDs. I went through my usual list and was immediately struck by the improvement in the quality of the reproduction. The improvement in detail across the board was most obvious. In CD after CD I was enjoying the increase in low level information that previously had been somewhat obscured. Subtle cues and textures were making themselves felt adding more to the realism of the presentation. Some audiophiles assume that an increase in detail rides along with edginess and/or hardness. In this case it is happily not so. This was detail done right. It added to the completeness of the listening experience.
Instrumental timbres were accurately portrayed and with an increase in air around instruments. We seemed to have gained more space and separation accompanied by greater focus and more body. This was an observation that was clearly noticeable and appreciated.
Another area where a noticeable change occurred was in bass performance. The bass had always been satisfactory in my system and most people who've heard it want to know where my subwoofer is. The IV produced a more defined, tighter bass with equal impact and an increase in overall power. It wasn't just a 'thud' but a defined musical note derived from a real instrument, with full overtones.
The CD IV transport and the Signature Transport power base will be my new CD reference playback source. I can't let them go back. I'm nominating them for an Audiophilia Star Component Award. "
April 2012 - MSB Platinum DAC and Universal Media Player - Symphony from the New World
" This high-tech digital combo creates a new hi-fi world. You can stream music, play Blu-rays and upsample to dizzying heights. STEREO has taken it on a trip across the formats and discovered a fascinating sonic cosmos.
The Ideal High-bit Combination
... with the software update to version 4.0.2., the Platinum DAC IV had great detail, was extremely and fantastically open, authentic and moving, but also blessed with a rich range of warmth between tones. From the depth of the room each instrument has its place. This control dominates the MSB from the inside out.
With the lightest hand it conducts complex music, down to the smallest nuance and detail, yet maintains a credible whole... Like no other D / A converter the MSB is then able to present the promise of high-bit files. But normal files - whether from CD, USB device or streamed offer tight bass without any fat, and differentiate detail like fine powdered sugar. "
Matthias Bode, Editor-in-chief of Stereo
Full Review (In German)
Dec 2011 - MSB Signature DAC IV and Data CD IV
"I often listen to the Telarc CD 'Braggin in Brass' (CD-80249), and it is a great test CD. The brilliance of brass can often sound very harsh as this CD usually does. With the MSB system the brass was light, and charming, not at all harsh, kind of easy like the artist playing in the street, it sounded so true...
With the brass sounding so good I wondered about strings and percussion. I pulled out RR's 'First Sampling' (RRS1CD) to test. This CD is a long time favorite I know very well, and with the MSB system, again I was surprised. The big strong bass, the warm broad mids, and the highs are not thin, but nicely rounded. Such an orchestral performance I have never heard before. Oh God, I am becoming overjoyed with MSB!
Then I listen to the piano. I heard Saint-Saens Piano Concerto first, second, third number (Decca Charles Dutoit conductor, Pascal Roge steel Piano). Hey, the mood sounds very pleasant, the original orchestral sounds are so appealing, piano wood is there, the texture is so real I can reach out and touch the keys...
Next, I want to hear woodwind and piano so I chose to play the piano in Tianguang Zai, Jeffrey Tate directed the English Chamber Orchestra Mozha Special 'No. 22, Piano Concerto No. 26' (Philips UCCP 7064). What I heard was the 'round' sound of the wooden tube in particular instead of the 'flat' sound I normally hear. This is one of the charming characteristics of the MSB and in this CD it was clear...
There is no doubt, MSB's Platinum Signature DAC 4/Data CD 4 / Signature Power Base is the best digital systems I have heard in the world. Why? Because everyone likes the sound even if not exactly the same characteristics. But many people still find this system among their 'best'. I believe you and I would agree that this system is the best one. Yeah!"
Full Review (In Chinese)
Nov 2011 - MSB Technology Universal Media Transport
"...the MSB UMT clearly delivers reference levels of sonic performance suitable for driving the most exalted electronics and listening rooms, while simultaneously embracing just about all of today's new digital lifestyles.
The MSB UMT clearly stakes out new territory with respect to performance, consumer friendliness, and connectivity. Think of it as a universal digital 'front end' that integrates just about every content source and transport protocol in common use today, and does so are reference quality levels. This is quite cool. While some recordings are more equal than others, and encoding techniques have their inherent characteristics and limitations, the UMT at least makes sure absolute fidelity - meaning low noise, jitter and bit-perfect transmission - is maintained between any source, and the downstream equipment. "
Full Review (In English)
Oct 2011 - MSB Technology Signature DAC IV and Data CD IV Transport
"...the MSB Technology Platinum Data CD IV Transport and Platinum Signature DAC IV sound as good as digital gets.
Dynamics were better straight-in than with my Parasound JC-2 preamp in the chain.
While listening to 176.4-kHz/24-bit hires music from Reference Recordings' HRx Sampler 2011 DVD-ROM disc, the sound was nothing less than astounding.
The MSBs let me hear more low-level (quiet) sounds in my CDs. Reverb, whether natural or added in the mix, seemed newly apparent in recordings I'd heard hundreds of times. It's always been there, but no digital playback system I've had at home boasted the resolution to reveal it. Having worked on a number of Chesky Records sessions, including dozens recorded at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in NYC, I can state for certain that the MSB Transport and DAC resurrected more of the 173-year-old building's sound than I've ever heard from the CDs, SACDs, or DVD-As."
Full Review (In English)
Sept 2011 - MSB Technology Universal Media Transport
"There was real power from the bass drum, good pitch definition, which revealed that bass was well integrated into the overall musical tapestry ... Melodies flowed energetically and percussion intruments maintained good definition throughout ... The soundstage was quite realistic without any dimension being exaggerated ... There was tons of energy, with deep bass and realistic instrumental detail ... The music on (Ottmar Liebert's One Guitar) flowed with lots of energy, dynamics were both powerful and precise, the sound was spacious without being cavernous. (Rebecca Pidgoen) sounded pristine and detailed through the UMT, which revealed nuances not usually obvious. The sound was relaxed and natural, and the leading edges of transients were well defined but not unnaturally emphasized ... (Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue) instrumental detail was plentiful and realistic. Instruments seemed just a bit more harmonically fleshed out than usual, and macro and micro dynamics were precisely rendered. Overall the sound was effortless and relaxed, with no strain or distortion. ... (Tallis Scolar's) Vocal nuances were subtle but detailed: I could hear the characteristics of each singer's voice, but they weren't unnaturally highlighted. It was if someone had turned on the lights in a darkened room. ... the sound was relaxed with none of the hardness that goes with overemphasized highs ... the UMT has an internal computer-audio file player that let's you play files stored on an attached hard drive or streamed from a home network. And it doesn't just play them, it plays them superbly."
Full Review (In English)
Sept 2011 - Signature DAC IV and Data CD IV with Signature Power Base, UMT and M202 Amplifier
"The MSB system - consisting of the Signature Platinum DAC IV Platinum Data CD IV, the Universal Media Transport and the Signature Power Base - is so far the only digital source system that has managed to give me weeks of listening without languishing for my favorite LPs. A greater compliment I can not give a digital source. Even without the CD player the DAC creates a reference level set that can handle all the existing digital formats. The modularity and the ability to download new software updates makes a guarantee for the future that sets a very high standard. I'd almost forgotten them, the mono amplifiers from MSB. Probably because they, like their digital relatives, completely disappeared when the music sounds."
Full Review (In Dutch)
August 2011 - Signature DAC IV and Data CD IV with Signature Power Base and M202 Amplifier
"The MSB system shows a very natural sense of the whole, whether chamber music or symphony, with a clear account of each instrument and its location. On a whole, the listening experience is very similar to a concert hall. The overall three dimensional sound field and character is very close to the top vinyl system with all the ‘digital sound’ disappearing without a trace. The MSB system took me into another realm."
Tao Zhonghao ,
Audio Art, Taiwan, Issue #275
Full Review (In Chinese)
April 2011 - Platinum DAC IV and Data CD IV with Platinum Power Base
"For digitally oriented audiophiles, who seek a complete digital package, MSB is the indisputable choice. This sonic combination tested is the best available on the market today, and with its inexhaustible choices for upgrades and devoted development gives the user a unique opportunity to enjoy high resolution music, and a perfect platform with which to follow the direction digital audio technology will go in the future. In any case, this MSB combination represents one of the best and most complete digital sources which I had the chance to listen."
HiFi Media, Croatia, Issue #85
Full Review (In Croatian)
February 2011 Data CD Transport and DAC IV
" This is an uncannily revealing player that exposes the vast differences between recordings like no other digital source I've encountered."
"I very much enjoyed the way you can follow individual instruments within a mix."
Jason Kennedy, HiFi+ Magazine, UK, UK, Issue 78
January 15, 2011
I heard a lot of good sound at the 2011 CES and T.H.E. Show. But my joint best sound must go to the room at the Venetian where Convergent Audio Technology was demming the new Ken Stevens Statement tube monoblocks with a CAT SL1 Legend preamp, Vandersteen 5A loudspeakers and MSB digital front-end, with cabling from Stealth and AC supplied by The Essence Reference system.
John Atkinson, Stereophile Magazine, CES 2011 Report
January 13, 2011
What a sound reproduction, or I should say, 'recreation' of the musical event...!!! Congratulations to MSB, and thank you for giving us the unique opportunity for a unique experience!
Leonidas, Obscure Audio, Greece
January 3, 2011
This year I bought a Data CD IV/DAC IV Diamond (Monster ethernet link between the 2 units). This system is really fantastic and I enjoy hearing music like 'live music' (I told you that I go often to concert, sometimes 2 or 3 times a week). The DAC IV Diamond is huge in terms of musicality Yesterday, I ordered the 'volume option' to get rid of my Lamm L2 Ref preamp and I intend to replace my Lamm M2.2 with your Platinum 202 mono amps. Bravo and best wishes for 2011.
Philippe - Paris/France
August 2009, Published in Hi-Fi Choice
June 27, 2009
I have been putting down digital recorded music since the early digital-to- vinyl days of the early 1980s. The idea of using the iPod, iTunes, and a common, household computer to deliver a near bit-perfect data stream to a DAC intrigued me, so I took the leap. I never had a chance to audition the iLink before purchasing. It seemed to me that spinning CDs had to go from high end.
The bold boasts by MSB that it matches or betters any other data stream source seems to hold up. Even using my modest, old X-24 DAC, the clarity and precision of the music is obviously improved. Spacial cues from the recording venue are more present than I have ever heard, even from my upgraded LP-12 playing new Speakers Corner, Chesky, or Classic re-issued LPs. Instrument separation, even in large, complex ensembles is also the best I have heard. The greatest surprise has been the enhanced beauty of massed strings in symphonic music,and the richness and weight of concert grand pianos. My speculation is that harmonic overtones are much better preserved through the iPod-iLink system than reading off a spinning disc on the fly.
The device that transmit wirelessly from the iPod to the iLink station works better than you could believe until you use it. Try it, you'll LOVE IT!
I agree with MSB that a head-to-head comparison with dCS, Wadia, Theta, Meridian disc spinners would be fascinating.
The only downside with this innovation is that the iPod-iTunes component does not handle any of the higher resolution (NO, NOT HIGH REZ - I'M STILL A VINYLPHILE) digital formats. I would love to try it with DVD-As which my X-24 can decode.
NEXT INNOVATION I WOULD LIKE TO SEE FROM MSB - A PCICIA card for laptops that will take the digital data stream directly from Music Giant premium downloads on the laptop's harddrive and transmits them wirelessly to the iLink docking station. Now that would be beyond a Killer Application. Such a product could cause my Linn LP-12 to gather dust.