I hear that MSB is taking off in Asia and the far east. I can’t say I’m surprised. This is a brand that has stuck to its guns and pushed the envelope of digital audio to a greater extent than most. Usually there is at least one technical wizard in every successful company, but they are in the minority and have to do what marketing thinks will be most profitable. That MSB takes a different approach is evident in a total commitment to technological excellence... and a website that’s best described as ‘down to earth’.
The dedication to the cause can be seen in the Signature Data CD IV, the unwieldy name given to MSB’s top ranked transport. There is a standard Platinum Data CD IV at half the price and a Universal Media Transport Plus for 25% less but the Signature has more bells and whistles than the former and is a dedicated disc spinner unlike the latter (which also streams audio). The Signature requires a 12volt power supply, which MSB provides in the form of a Power Base, a unit that matches the style and size of the transport and sits underneath it. The Power Base will power both an MSB transport and DAC, and you can get a Signature version of the Power Base.
There are few similarities between the Data CD IV and other CD transports. For a start it’s not limited to mere CDs but will spin data discs encoded with WAV files at word/bit rates up to 32/384, including the HRx discs from Reference Recordings that possibly inspired the move. So you can burn hi-res files onto CD-R or DVD-R and play them back at rates beyond the capability of existing computer audio or network streaming systems. Interesting no?
How does it do this? Well not by playing the disc in real time for one, rather its ROM drive reads the data at high speed and sends it to a buffer or solid state memory from whence it’s clocked to the outputs (but not always clocked, read on). The MSB has no connection between the disk drive and the output; everything goes through the buffer and is clocked asynchronously (independently) at the outputs that are designed for non-MSB DACs. When using one of the latter, the recommended route is via the MSB Pro I2S output. This allows the clock in the converter to take control and minimise jitter. The socket for this connection is an RJ45, the type used with Ethernet cables and as no cable is supplied and I used a standard CAT6 cable to try it out.