I have been using the MSB Technology Select DAC as my reference-level digital audio front end for several years. MSB Technology Select has emerged from superbly researched and refined technologies based on nearly thirty years of continuous exploration of the submarine depths of digital and it still represents one of the best, if not the most sonic signature-free ultra-high-end audio DAC on the market.
Over the past few years, the high-end audio brands that produce top-of-the-line digital front ends have put tremendous effort into developing and bringing top-of-the-line DACs to market. The MSB Technology Digital Director comes at just the right time to balance the momentum created by these updates and upgrades.
The competition is fierce and everyone is fighting to serve what appears to be a niche but is in reality highly attractive part of the high-end audio market. This is the segment where everything is pushed to the extreme technologically and sonically is reflected in pricing.
MSB Technology could not and did not rest on its laurels either. They have been quietly working on what has proven to be a breakthrough for the entire MSB Technology digital platform and ecosystem.
MSB Technology Select DAC already held a prominent position among high-end audio DACs, but with the introduction of the Digital Director, the MSB technology team, led by Daniel and Jonathan Gullman, has taken everything to a new stratosphere.
Simply put, Digital Director takes the processor load off the Select DAC. What was processed in the MSB Technology Select DAC is now moved to Digital Director.
This also includes the relocation of all digital inputs, the proprietary Pro USB, MSB Renderer, and so on. The Digital Director and Select DAC are connected via the proprietary MSB Technology Pro ISL protocol as well as an optical link. This ensures complete, instant control back and forth, and all Select DAC, as well as Digital Director functions, are controllable via remote control as before.
So the most important question is what the digital director brings to the table sonically. The first, and precisely what I wrote down repeatedly in my listening memoranda, was dynamism.
There is simply more energy and more depth in the music, and fatigue-free playback gives the music a new sense of reality.
Music can be played back much louder without dynamic congestion or compression, which is something that even some of the “end game” DACs cannot flee from.
These newfound positives also open up a more enticing listening experience, where more of the music is presented at lower volumes and everything is laid out more deeply without relinquishing sonic density.
The music is much more layered and the perception of the spatial horizon is elevated to a new level with Digital Director. The music flows freer, the listening experience is much more engaging, and the interaction with the music becomes more intimate and fulfilling.
Pro ISL has already proven with the Pro USB module that it is more than just a simple sonic step up. The Digital Director provides a significant elevation in terms of music reproduction that becomes ingrained in the subconscious with each listen, guiding and guarding the path and trajectory of the music. Digital Director technical advances slip under the radar, but in practice, music intelligibility excels both at lower volumes and at higher volumes.
Too often, the event top DACs can create an adaptive aural fiction that differentiates from objective reality. Oppositely, MSB technology creates a musical tapestry in which instruments and performers are not confined and pinched, but are tangible and music momentum is not anchored independently of the harmonical structure.
Even at the highest level of pricing, digital audio can sound discordant and make notes succinct and terse. In contrast, the Select DAC and Digital Director manage to bring out subtle nuances that, through the higher number of acoustic anchor points, result in a spaciousness that reflects real life. On top, the visceral and emotional internalization of music with a Digital Director allows for a deeper, more consistent experience of the music
This kind of profound “efficiency” of the digital core leads to music reproduction on its own higher rate terms, allowing the music to inhabit the listening auditorium with greater expansiveness without hindering the transients or making them dependent on the DACs or the inner core of the digital processing.
There is this newly introduced, non-specific joy and gladness to the music listening, that escapes the numbing and insentient phenomenon that is a byproduct of incompetent DAC/digital crux.
Digital Director lets the music float and levitate in its orbit, elevating things to another level where it can be felt that the music is woven into a sonic canvas and made of the same sonic fabric. It simply sounds right.
This quality must be seamlessly present without dazzling, and the Digital Director introduces a sweet (natural), spontaneous connection that adds an unexpected broadening of the already impressive Select DAC aural aperture.
With the addition of a Digital Director to the Select DAC, there are no sonic blips nor miss-timed interjections, which can be often found with various digital hardware or software upgrades regardless of the price.
I certainly expected an increase in sound, but not exactly at this level. The Select DAC and Digital Director combo requires a transparent and potent streamer and music server to be at its best, and the Taiko Audio Extreme Server, in particular, fits the role perfectly in combination with the latest Extreme Card connected to the Extreme Switch.
The Digital Director turned out to be a staple and a stand-out for MSB Technology. I am thrilled with the new approach to music reality, which is both refreshing and compelling and makes me want to listen to my favorite albums and tracks again.
At the very top level of digital reproduction, there is a challenge to overcome. How close does the product in question come to reproducing real events captured in digital form?
The MSB Technology Digital Director combined with the Select DAC in its current configuration represents the very pinnacle of ultra-high-end digital audio. Especially when combined with the Taiko Audio Extreme combo, there is a special synergy that immediately shows what state-of-the-art digital audio is capable of.
The genuine top-of-the-line ultra-high and audio solutions are far from affordable. But what you can achieve with them, once set, configured, and habituated in a superbly balanced system, is extraordinary.
For the sake of evening with the reference point, there is still something unique about master tape playback, but once an ultra-high-end DAC is properly implemented and integrated into the audio system, it has a fixity and repetitive quality that is hard to beat, with not exactly glitch-free tape playback that among many things included tape density deterioration by each replay, needed repeated calibration, azimuth adjustment, etc. An extensive and utterly expensive lesson learned by yours truly not only over the past three decades but especially in the past few years.
All high-end audio DAC brands go to great lengths to keep their loyal customers as part of the “family”, and MSB Technology has stepped outside the anticipations and comfort zone with its Digital Director to ensure this for their client base.
With seeds germinated a long time ago MSB Technology Digital Director fulfil most of the key points in the brand’s roadmap. MSB Technology under the baton of Daniel and Jonathan Gullman met expectations by taking MSB’s already recognized and cherished laser-sharp focused, cutting-edge high-end audio reproduction to a new level by expanding it even further. The newly introduced sonic difference is beyond expectations, simply remarkable, and the result could be perceived on both subtle and deeper levels.
The tandem of MSB Technology Select DAC and Digital Director certainly makes life very easy for the user, but I have no doubt whatsoever that it was extremely complicated for the manufacturer to put into practice and that it took a while to come to fruition. But the gall was more than worth it and the result seemingly re-confirms MSB Technology’s role as one of the foremost ambassadors of digital audio.
MSB Technology Digital Director and Select DAC deliver one of the best, if not the most rewarding music listening experience of the audio data conversion from zeros and ones, whether the music is streamed or played locally. The MSB combo represents a unique blend of technology and art, where the high-tech rhymes with music and not the other way around that is too often the case even at the upper plane of digital audio.
For what it represents technologically and especially how seamlessly and potently it works with the Select DAC and how far it is pushing the threshold of what’s possible within the digital domain, how it reveals and reproduces music without its own sonic fingerprint, and paves a completely new way to the fatigue-free and natural music intake I’m more than happy to grant MSB Technology Digital Director the Mono And Stereo 2023 Editors Choice Award.
And yes, despite the end-game pricing, one can forget about cognitive dissonance with this MSB Technology Digital Director and Select DAC. The luxurious pricing for a change meets real-world expectations with what is the very meaning and often forgotten leitmotif of luxury, the actual performance.⧉
Supported Formats (Input dependent)
- 44.1kHz to 3,072kHz PCM up to 32 bits
- 1xDSD, 2xDSD, 4xDSD, 8xDSD
- Supports DSD via DoP on all inputs
Digital Inputs: 4x Advanced isolated input module slots
- IR remote control
12 Volt trigger
- Power button
- Power control mode switch Display brightness wheel
Fuse: 2.5A 250V SLO BLO – 5 mm x 20 mm fuse.
- Width: 17.5 in (444 mm)
- Depth: 17.5 in (444 mm)
- Chassis Height (Without Feet): 3 in (79 mm)
- Stack height: 3.625 in (92 mm)
Weight: 35 lbs (16 kg)
Product Feet: M6X1 Thread
- Width: 23 in (585 mm)
- Depth: 23 in (585 mm)
- Height: 7 in (178 mm)
- Weight: 53 lbs (24 kg)
- Pro ISL input module
- Pro ISL cable
- Control Link module
- Control Link toslink cable
- User manual
- IEC power cable
- 3.5mm Mini jack cable
MSB Technology Corp
15 Brennan St.
Watsonville CA, 95076
Phone: (831) 662-2800
European Sales Manager
Phone: +32 472 42 5775