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Price: $21,425 as described (base price, $9950; Premier Powerbase, $7500; Pro USB module, $1980; Network Renderer V2 module, $1995).
Website: www.msbtechnology.com

Design: The MSB Technology Discrete DAC incorporates two of the company’s Prime DAC modules, which are discrete-ladder DACs manufactured in-house at MSB’s California factory. The function of the Primes is to accept raw digital data and output a continuous voltage, optimized to drive power amplifiers directly. The fully balanced Discrete, like other MSB DACs, is modular; you order it with the input and output modules of your choice.


Although the base Discrete comes with a single Discrete Power Supply, it can be upgraded to a pair of power supplies, or the Premier Powerbase—a full-sized component and the ultimate option for the Discrete. The MSB remote allows volume adjustment via a thumbwheel, and the LED readout on the Discrete’s faceplate displays information such as the input and sample rate. Speaking of sample rate, the Network Renderer V2 input on my Discrete is specified to accept signals at resolutions up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSDx4, while the Pro USB input accepts up to 24/768 and DSDx8. The Discrete is available in black or silver anodized finishes.


Why I chose it: The Discrete is versatile in that it can be ordered with just the options you want. On my particular Discrete I chose to max out the power supply with the Premier Powerbase, while choosing a network input module and the company’s most advanced USB input module. The balanced XLR outputs (RCAs are optional) and the integral volume control allow me to directly drive any power amplifier I slot into in my system, giving me exactly the capabilities I need for a reference system. The sound is as natural as I have ever heard from a digital source.


All of the problems you might have heard with other digital sources—harshness, peakiness, and so on—are simply not present in the Discrete. I’m constantly amazed at the complete transparency this DAC possesses, and the stunning soundfields it allows my system to produce.

. . . Jeff Fritz