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MSB’s Cascade DAC Costs $95,000: High End Munich 2024

The MSB Cascade is a cost-no-object fully balanced ladder DAC which separates functions into three units for the ultimate in signal purity.

MSB Cascade DAC Top

Has the high-end DAC jumped the shark? Our friends at MSB have a very different idea about that and what they are bringing to High-End Munich 2024 might shock a few people based on the current state of the DAC market which is heavily focused on entry-level Dongle DACs and desktop models aimed at the headphone market.

There are thousands of DACs in use, some are embedded with products such as portable music players, laptops, PCs, AVRs, and more, but it is not uncommon to use an external DAC to get the job done. 

However, the challenge has been how to do this efficiently with quality results. This is where the true workhorse of audio systems in the present-day audio landscape the DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) comes in.

An external DAC might be an inexpensive dongle or a standalone component and prices range from the very affordable to the very expensive. In this article, we take a look at what might be the most expensive DAC so far, the $95,000 MSB Cascade.

MSB Cascade DAC Stack

MSB Cascade DAC 

The Cascade DAC was developed by MSB Technology to provide uncompromising digital-to-analog conversion and associated processes for those looking for the best possible solution for their audio system and not concerned about how deep they have to dig into their wallet. 

The MSB Cascade DAC is comprised of three components that are combined into a single system: The Digital Director, the Analog Converter, and the Powerbase.

Cascade Digital Director

MSB Cascade DAC Digital Director Front View

All digital sources, processing, and interfaces are provided by the Digital Director. Placing these functions in its own chassis reduces any noise and interference with the rest of the system. You could say that the Digital Director is the central brain of the system. 

Since the digital portion of the Cascade resides in the Digital Director it is the first stop for signals coming from digital players, transports, renderers, servers, and computers. It can identify, configure, and process nearly any digital format using advanced algorithms for quality reproduction. It features a low-noise linear power supply, easy-to-use controls, and a visual status display combined with four digital input modules (which can be configured by the user). 

MSB Cascade DAC Digital Director Input Modules

Digital input module options include Balanced XLR (AES/EBU).Optical/Coaxial (S/Pdif), MSB USB or ProUSB, MSB ProISL Interface, MSB Dual ProI2S Input, MSB Network Renderer V2 (MQA and Roon Ready).

All this support enables the Digital Director to output a conversion-ready digital signal over the optical Cascade-Link to the next component in the system, the  Cascade Analog Converter.

MSB Cascade DAC Cascade Link

Digital Director Cascade Specifications

  • 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
  • Power Consumption: 24W on 17W Standby
MSB Cascade DAC Remote and Power Cable

Included Accessories

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  • User manual
  • MSB Remote
  • USB charging cable
  • IEC Power cord
  • 4x Cascade base

Cascade Analog Converter

MSB Cascade DAC Analog Converter Connections

All critical low-noise analog electronics are incorporated into the Cascade Analog Converter. Equipped with 8 New Hybrid DAC MKII modules, a Femto 33 MKIII Clock, passive analog stages, and 75-ohm volume controls, the Analog Converter can perform its assigned task to provide the best possible analog digital-to-analog conversion for audio listening. The signal path is balanced and differential to prevent any ground currents from interfering with the signals. Additional inputs include two analog balanced XLR and two single-ended RCA connections for feeding analog source signals directly to the unit (instead of going through the Digital Director first), as they don’t need conversion preparation.

MSB Cascade DAC Analog Converter Modules

Analog Converter Cascade Specifications

  • XLR Analog Inputs: 50kΩ Balanced, 6Vrms Maximum, Isolated when not selected
  • XLR Analog Outputs: 3.32Vrms Maximum (Digital Input) 6Vrms Maximum (Analog Input), 75Ω Balanced
  • Volume Control: Purely passive constant impedance analog attenuation, 1dB steps
  • Power consumption (DAC + Powerbase): 78W On, 48W Standby
  • Included Accessories: 4x Cascade Base 

The Cascade Powerbase

MSB Cascade DAC PowerHouse Inside

To further ensure the best possible performance of the Cascade, completely overhauled power supply technologies are incorporated into the remaining component of the system,  the Cascade Powerbase. There is an additional layer of protection with internal AC filtering. After being converted to DC by discrete silicon carbide rectifiers, power is filtered by optimized banks of inductors and capacitors to remove the majority of the residual noise from the raw DC power signal. This is then regulated by discrete, ultra-low noise linear power supplies. 

Cascade Powerbase Specifications

Power Consumption (DAC + Powerbase): 78W On, 48W Standby

Included Accessories

  • IEC Power Cord
  • Summit Power Cable
  • 4x Cascade Base
MSB Cascade DAC Rear Stack

Chassis Dimensions (each component)

  • Width: 17.5 in (444 mm)
  • Depth: 15.5 in (393.7 mm)
  • Unit height: 3.125 in ( 79.38 mm)

System (All Three Units)

  • 3 Unit Stack Height: 8.5 in (215.9 mm)
  • 3 Unit Stack Weight: 30.2 lbs (13.7 kg)

Finishes

Starting with either a silver or black anodized unibody chassis, the Cascade is accented with stainless steel accents. Custom accent finishes are also offered for a more personal touch. The Cascade DAC fits easily into just about any system.

Price & Availability

The Cascade DAC will debut at the Munich High End Show May 9-11, 2024. The first customer units will begin shipping in July 2024 with a $95,000 price tag. 

Warranty: MSB includes a 3 Year standard +2 additional Years with  Registration

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