dCS Vivaldi vs MSB

Who assessed a MSB Dac before buying a Vivaldi Dac ?

MSB has the clock option inside, and power feeding in a second box…So very different from dCS, but in a more compact package .So for what reasons you chose a dCS Vivaldi ?

  • List item
1 Like

I already had my Vivaldi stack when I brought in a MSB Reference DAC for a A/B in my set-up. At the time my dealer had the 77 clock in the unit which had now been upgraded to the 33. It was a very interesting comparison and each set-up had it strengths. If I was starting from scratch I “might” lean towards MSB for a couple of reasons. 1) it requires a lot less cabling expense 2) I believe MSB does vocals better as there is some missing “hash” around voices that you do not realize is there 'till it is gone. My dCS stack was able to better pull all of the detail out of the music. For example some bird sounds were not as apparent on the MSB when compared to Vivaldi.

My dealer would like me to perform another A/B this time with the better 33 clock. I’m not sure I will since I usually only borrow products I am actually considering for purchase.


I own both, but I did it the other way around. I have a Vivaldi 4-box stack in my speaker system (Upsampler, DAC, Clock, and reference clock), and an MSB Select II (DAC and single power base + MSB UMT) in my headphone rack. At the time I purchased the MSB in 2017, I had a PS Audio DirectStream DAC in my speaker system and was much more focused on headphone listening. When I made the decision to upgrade the speaker system beginning in late 2019, I specifically chose not to get another MSB. This was not because of any dissatisfaction with the MSB; I absolutely love the DAC. I simply wanted another top tier DAC with a different artistic vision and engineering approach. I considered EMM/Meitner, CHP, Berkeley, and a couple of others. I even managed to listen to a Pacific Microsonics Model Two and was on the hunt for one of my own, when I decided to audition Bartok as a way to upgrade my system and add headphone enjoyment to the living room. That experience set me irreversibly on the dCS path.


Thanks Greg and Jim,

You have both stunning stereo that very few people can own. Interesting feedback, every time people talk about improvement for such high-end system, the clocking is invariably mentioned…I shall eventually buy a Vivaldi clock…somewhere this year…
But…only one clock… :slight_smile:

1 Like


1 Like

Intriguing. Jim’s experience is almost 180 the opposite of mine. And I wonder if a large part of this differential perception may relate to our transducers. In my headphones, I have several electrostats, ribbon, and planar transducers, all known for their detail. To my ears, the MSB Select can sound hyper-detailed (I often use the word “ruthless” to describe it)—but less so through the Trafomatic Primavera amp and Susvara headphone than through the T2 amp and Stax 009S—while the Vivaldi stack seems to have a more organic wholeness to it (for want of a better term). The Vivaldi is driving the Legacy Valor speaker system, and there simply is not a headphone that can compete with it, including the Warwick APERIO, Senn Orpheus, and Hifiman Shangri-La. there really is no direct comparison possible for me between the two DACs.

Before anyone asks, I have never swapped the Select and Vivaldi between the systems. Jim’s observation about cables is one reason, but the truth is I am not interested, because I am so happy with both exactly where they are. Teddy Roosevelt once observed, in a completely different context and with different meaning that “comparison is the thief of joy.” While his admonishment was oriented toward how to live life, I have often found it very apt in this hobby or any other where one is besieged with equipment choices. Forget about anyone else’s system that we might admire—“man, those Von Schweikert Ultras at $300k put my Valors to shame”—we can easily drive ourselves crazy inside our own homes just comparing cables or DACs or turntables, speakers, etc., and robbing ourselves of musical joy in the process. Both the Vivaldi and Select are exquisite. They are not the same, and yet they are almost not different. Not to trivialize parenting, but like my four daughters, who are all distinct, remarkable individuals and magically alike.


<Mashes heart icon repeatedly>

There are times when I find myself itching to try something new. I look at the recent reviews, the new classifieds.

I put on a new album instead. The beast recedes.

I’ll improve this system further, but there’s no rush — it sounds fantastic as it is :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


Four daughters…Now I understand much better why you need such a headphone set up, and a stereo that can play loud in your living room :slight_smile:


Interesting points Greg. First, I never listen with headphones. Just not interesting in listening that way. Amazing that you (can) allocate MSB Select type dollars for a headphone rig.

When I commented on another site after comparing the Reference and the Vivaldi my description was almost the opposite of yours. I noted that the MSB might be favored by analog types while dCS might be preferred by digital fans. MSB was smoothed things out while dCS pulled more details from the recordings.

I am very happy with my current set-up and could easily live with it for a long time. I have drawn a arbitrary line in the sand and am not willing to move to a Select II or whatever dCS decides to replace the Vivaldi with especially if it will be a four box set-up as rumored sans Transport. (I never used the transport when I owned a Rossini nor in the Meridian 808v6 before that). The cost for good interconnects and power cords for a Vivaldi stack is already crazy before adding another box to the next generation product. MSB saves one a lot of money there.

1 Like

I hear you. I have a somewhat similar line in the sand and likewise could live with this rig for a very long time. I am intrigued to see what dCS comes up with as the Vivaldi successor. It would have to be something more than incremental sound and/or casework. I love the Vivaldi stack, and could see opportunities for clocking improvement, increased FPGA horsepower for the RingDAC, higher DSD rates, maybe network integration. All those would be great, but I am not at all sure they would impel me to make the upgrade, even with very generous terms. What we have now is so good. OTOH, dealers seem to have some machine behind the curtain that elicits goosebumps . . …

1 Like

Hi Greg,

All you mentioned as possible improvements of the Vivaldi, could be Vivaldi 3.0 instead of a new line.

Outside pricing considerations the industrial design of the Vivaldi is a piece of art. There are things exposed at the MoMa that have a poorer design :laughing:
Another thing is that we entered, I hope so, in an area of sustainable development/design/consuming and as such we should better upgrade products instead of replacing it…I don’t know what dCS people think about all that, but on the long run, most of the companies should have a “sustainable” strategy for their product lines.
We see that in the future! Or not !


Greg, I hope that you don’t mind me butting in.

ChrisK, I think it needs to be explained that although new versions of firmware are developed by dCS during the product’s life eventually the available road runs out because new technology and/or revised thinking cannot be retrofitted to the existing platform. So a new platform has to be engineered incorporating new hardware components and coding. This leads to the introduction of a new line.

dCS has followed this way of doing things since the earliest days. So what is in the Scarlatti series ( and its lower priced relatives) could not be retrofitted to the preceding Elgar or classic series. The progress that resulted in Vivaldi and its lower priced relative products could not be fitted to Scarlatti.

Vivaldi has been in production for 8 years now. A long time for the digital world and I am sure that the engineers at dCS will have been working on developments that inevitably will require a new platform due to technological change over that period. After 8 years I would not expect any major upgrade to Vivaldi and would anticipate a new model running a new platform.

When dCS make these big changes they have, so far, respected the up-gradability of their products. However instead of the upgrade being a CD-ROM or download it is a new box with advantageous terms offered as a replacement for its predecessor.



I understand that sometimes you have to change everything to further develop your products. But my whish is more on the ability to design something the more sustainable as possible, like a Linn LP12…Now, if like Linn or Hasselblad, dCS shall have a kind of replacement program, that would be nice…but as said by some contributors on this forum…the design, inside, and the box(es) itself must be stunningly brilliant…they set such a high level standard with the Vivaldi…

1 Like

I would be willing to pay a reasonable “update” price if dCS was to significantly update Vivaldi to a version 3.0 if some parts needed to be replaced. Much better than having to pay for new casework or additional boxes. I liked that D’Agostino offered updates in the Momentum line for a reasonable price. I actually decided to replace both my amps and pre-amp rather than having them updated since I wanted to change colors and have the slightly newer styling. That is the type of choice I hope dCS will offer us.


Jim, I concur. I don’t think the FPGA can get “more horsepower” without a hardware upgrade. The other stuff, as @ChrisK noted could probably be done in firmware.

I would personally love to keep my Vivaldi boxes forever—they are just beautiful, and yes, there is plenty in MOMA that is significantly less so—while maintaining their SOTA performance. Not just for sustainability, which I wholeheartedly endorse and support, but also for the benefit of my own wallet [funny how those can go hand in hand]. But I think Pete is probably correct: significant improvements over current Vivaldi, whatever they might be, will probably be in a new box, new platform, and offered on very fair terms. That was in fact a large part of my calculus in choosing Vivaldi last year over Rossini.

1 Like

Well, good idea, I will try to explain my wife that buying a dCS Vivaldi was a long term strategy, if it does not work, I will tell her it was your idea :rofl:


I can take that one for the team.

1 Like

ok then, I changed my strategy, I won’t buy any Vivaldi product this year, I shall wait for the next generation. If I understand well it should show up this year, or the next one…
A Mahler (better Vivaldi DAC + better Vivaldi Upsampler + as nice as the Vivaldi box(es) + plug- in options, like CH Precision or MSB, a clock at start, other later on)…I stop here, before dCS hires me as product manager, I can’t, I have a full time job somewhere else :slight_smile:

1 Like


Looks like I picked the wrong time to order a Vivaldi DAC. I wonder if I can cancel it?

Well, each of us has to make this decision based on our circumstances. But your dealer can probably provide you the assurance you need that your purchase price will provide a certain level of credit toward the new stack, if and when it shows. I went through this same calculus last year before we knew the pandemic would be severe. My dealer provided the assurances I needed, so I could pull the trigger for Vivaldi, enjoy the best possible sound, and if and when the successor arrived, I would not be disadvantaged unfairly. I specifically thought about Rossini from the perspective of “longer shelf life,” but decided that was much less important than immediate SQ. And I am now coming up on a year enjoying the Vivaldi.

Has dCS announced a Vivaldi successor, let alone a delivery time frame? I don’t think they have. So, only you can decide at what point in the future you might look back and say: “Damn, wish I had been listening to a Vivaldi all this time.”