MSB Premier/Powerbase Modular DAC Lab Report

Lab Report

Tested via its balanced XLRs in variable 'Low Output' mode, and with the volume set to '100', the Premier delivers a maximum 1.675V from a moderate 36ohm source impedance. Although volume extends to '106', digital clipping occurs at '101' with a full scale 0dBFs input, so I would recommend '100' as the maximum setting. While the output is 1.5dB below the de facto 2V standard for digital sources, its A-wtd S/N ratio is still a very generous at 108dB and low-level linearity good to within ±0.2dB over a full 100dB dynamic range. Distortion is low enough, but not vanishingly so, at 0.0016-0.014% (0dBFs, 20Hz-20kHz) with a minimum of 0.0015-0.006% occurring at –10dBFs. However, it's only our distortion versus digital level measurements [see Graph 1] that reveal the unique behaviour of the Prime DAC's R-2R network with its characteristic 'ripples' between –18dBFs and –32dBFs. We saw something very similar with MSB's Power DAC [HFN Apr '08] – it's certainly a 'fingerprint', albeit of uncertain subjective impact!

One feature that does make a huge difference, however, is the Premier's world-class jitter rejection [see Graph 2]. Not only is any correlated jitter suppressed to <2psec (all sample rates, all inputs) but the exquisite sharpness of the test signal – free of any spectral leakage – proves the absence of any decorrelated (noise-like) jitter. I have not seen this level of performance even with the best implementations of the ESS Sabre DACs. This, in part, is a function of MSB's long linear phase digital filter which also delivers a full >130dB stopband rejection and sets the ultimate freq. response of the various incoming sample rates. Files at 44.1/48kHz extend to –0.06dB/20kHz, 96kHz files reach –1dB/27kHz and 192kHz inputs roll-off at –1dB/30kHz. PM


Distortion vs. 48kHz/24-bit digital signal level over a 120dB dynamic range (1kHz, black; 20kHz, blue)


High resolution 48kHz/24-bit jitter spectrum via S/PDIF/USB/network inputs. Jitter is <2psec

Maximum output level / Impedance 1.68Vrms / 36ohm (low o/p)
A-wtd S/N ratio (S/PDIF / USB) 108.0dB / 108.0dB
Distortion (1kHz, 0dBFs/–30dBFs) 0.0016% / 0.0073%
Distortion & Noise (20kHz, 0dBFs/–30dBFs) 0.014% / 0.026%
Freq. resp. (20Hz-20kHz/30kHz) +0.0 to –0.06dB/–0.8dB
Digital jitter (48kHz / 96kHz) <2psec / <2psec
Resolution (re. –100dBFs / –110dBFs) ±0.2dB / ±0.6dB
Power consumption 20W (3W standby)
Dimensions (WHD, each) / Weight (+PSU) 432x68x305mm / 20.5kg
Prices £19,500/£7500

MSB Technology Corp
California, USA
Supplied by: Hi-Fi Traders Ltd, Guestling, UK
020 3714 7236