MSB Cascade DAC

I was fascinated by the latest announcement by MSB, presented at the recent Munich show. The new Cascade DAC is apparently the first of a new generation of units (there are rumours of a higher end Sentinel coming later this year) but the implication is that this outperforms their current flagship, the Select, at a considerably lower price point.

I found this technical walk through very interesting (IMO Frank Vermeylen is wasted in high end audio, he should have pursued a TV career).

Ticks a lot of boxes for me:

  • Modular design, you only need to buy the inputs you need, also provides some degree of future proofing
  • Manic attention to noise minimisation (conducted, radiated, etc.)
  • Fiber-based umbilicals between units provide massive bandwidth with full galvanic isolation at minimal cost
  • Support for 32/768 and 8xDSD (with current input modules)
  • Environmentally conscious design decisions (form factor determined by aluminium billet size to maximise yields, ditto display size etc)
  • Attractive and compact packaging
  • etc.

I will be really interested to hear how the sound stacks up against my Vivaldi.

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Interesting…
Very impressive design and technology.

If you manage to arrange a demo session, please let us know your impressions.

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Will do. Although I expect the first round of reviews will be out long before I am able to organize a home audition.

I’m sure that’ll be the case but, whilst reviews are informative up to a point, there’s no substitute for hearing for one’s self…

do they scratch the 100k€ price tag with that?

Yes, I believe so.

As I understand it, the price is 95,000 (US$/EUR), but that escalates as options are added…

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Not quite so soon. “The first shipping units are at least 2 years out.”

But the other interesting aspect is MSB provide up to 90% credit when trading in the Cascade for the Sentinel in future.

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That is interesting…

I agree with @struts001 that this is a compelling architecture.

In one important regard, MSB is following dCS’s lead with the Upsampler, moving more functionality into the new Digital Director.

Connecting the DD to the DAC via fiber makes a lot of sense and also eliminates the (eternal?) Ethernet noise debate.

There is (at least) one major difference between the platforms (beside the DAC architecture, of course): dCS is committed to a separate master clock; In contrast, MSB states it is better to put the clock directly inside the DAC, and prefers to dedicate the separate box to isolating power.

This raises the question: does sound quality from a complex DAC system benefit more from dedicated clocking, or dedicated power? I don’t know the answer to this, and at this level I imagine it is a personal preference.

Perhaps because MSB does not even offer a transport, they reason they only need to worry about synchronization between the DD–>DAC, which is less complex than between the transport, upsampler and DAC.

IMHO, at this time, dCS and MSB are the two leading DAC platforms.

Cheers,
R

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A Ladder DAC for double the price against a Ring DAC ?
Gimme a break !

Same with dCS. The internal clock inside each dCS DAC is very close to the Ring DAC. The external dCS Clock is acting as a reference to the internal clock by PLL.

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I agree with many of your points Richard.

However I am not sure MSB is copying dCS (or vice versa). I think they are going in their own directions which are slightly different. The principal goal of the dCS Upsampler is to provide upsampling functionality, the principal goal of the DD is to provide input modularity/flexibility and isolation. Similar, but still different. Despite having no master word clock in their architecture the Cascade DAC has no word clock out and the DD has no word clock in. Likewise no separate power supplies for the dCS units. Different philosophies.

I don’t believe there is a theoretical “best answer” here, it is all about execution, “everything matters”. IMO it is impossible to attribute ultimate SQ to one (or two) design decision(s), one can only judge the resulting wholes. Similarly, while I believe the Ring DAC is a theoretically better solution, in practice it is all about the final result.

Btw, the $95k price (iiuc) is for the full 3-box solution (DAC, DD & PowerBase), so same price as a Vivaldi short stack almost to the dollar (not double @meltemi).

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Understood @Ermos , however MSB goes further than that. They even dedicate a section of their website to this topic:

“Why external clocks are sub-optimal for digital audio”

This is the disagreement I was alluding to. If you are interested, MSB shares their perspective in the link below. I don’t have the technical knowledge to critique this view. I share for informational purposes only.

Cheers,
R

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Understood @struts001, I simply meant to they are moving more functionality out of the DAC and into the DD.

Again, I agree with you that this is a compelling architecture.

Hi Richard,

Thanks, but I doubt that MSB goes further than dCS regarding clocking.

If you did not read it before, please see this:

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Hi Ermos,
Believe it or not, I think I have read all of the clocking posts on this forum (!)

What I was trying to communicate, apparently unsuccessfully, was not which company has greater technical depth on the subject of clocking, but simply that this is a source of disagreement between the two companies/platforms.

To me, your helpful links further illustrate this point.

Cheers
R

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With dCS I’m not forced to buy the entire stack. I just can make do with the DAC alone.
With MSB I’m forced to buy all three boxes, and this would cost me double the price of a Vivaldi APEX DAC.

Indeed, and we had the same discussion before, and @James concluded:

You probably have explained it before, but sorry, I forgot. Why do you not use a Rossini Clock, together with your Rossini APEX DAC?

I’ve been waiting for a good deal on a used Vivaldi clock, so I can be like @all2ofme ! : ) Unfortunately, such deals have not been forthcoming… : /

Re: above, in James’s helpful explanation that you reference:

“However, as has been written elsewhere, the absence of any DAC, CD mech, networking etc. means that those crystals inside the Clock have less impacting them and can naturally run more accurately.”

I note, echoing @struts001, if you have no transport, put all digital in the Digital Director, and have no network noise since you are using a clean fiber connection from the DD to the DAC, and further isolate the DAC with its own dedicated analog power supply (ie. the new MSB architecture), you do not have a noisy DAC box, this seems to challenge the key points above.

@keiserrg There is a used one on canuckaudiomart from a dealer should you want one.

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