Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 with MQA

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Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 with MQA

Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 with MQA


Not available online, please call to order.
210-805-9927

Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 with MQA


Not available online, please call to order.
210-805-9927

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Berkeley Audio Alpha USB Interface
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  • Description

     

    INTRODUCING THE REFERENCE DAC SERIES 3 -
    A NEW BENCHMARK IN DIGITAL AUDIO REPRODUCTION

     

    MY TAKE: Without doubt, the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 from Berkeley Audio is the very best sounding DAC I've heard. Paired with a good dedicated music server, the Reference will re-establish your benchmark for digital reproduction. - Galen Carol



    Breakthrough DAC technology redefines digital audio Quality -

     

    • Unequaled PCM audio quality from 32kHz to 192kHz

    • Unequaled MQA Rendering audio quality to 384kHz and above

    • Ultra-low phase noise conversion clocking

    • Ultra-low distortion variable output attenuator

    • Outputs can connect directly to power amplifiers


    Comments by experienced third party industry listeners after hearing the Reference Series 3: "It's like a transparent window on the microphone feed because the DAC is so transparent. The resolution of the ambient halo of air around instrumental outlines is astonishing. Even Red Book has bloom and dimensionality."

    "I sat down to evaluate the DAC. Two hours later, I realized I had forgotten the task at hand and was completely lost in the music, captivated by the artistry of the performances. I can give no higher compliment."

     

    Product Highlights -
     

    The Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 contains breakthrough technology that redefines the potential of digital audio quality. Experienced industry listeners who have heard the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 are unanimous in their praise, saying that the Reference Series 3 clearly outperforms any other DAC they have heard, including those with six-figure retail prices, and even the much-admired DAC portion of the Pacific Microsonics Model 2 studio ADC/DAC. In addition to its unprecedented PCM audio quality, the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 also features MQA Rendering of unequaled audio quality.


    Manufacturing each Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 to its full performance potential required the development of a new hyper-accurate test and alignment procedure that is unique in the industry. This new test and alignment procedure allows extremely precise and repeatable production of the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3.


    The original Alpha DAC Reference Series was a breakthrough product that reduced noise, particularly in the time domain, to levels significantly lower than any audio D to A converter previously available. The result was an immediacy and presence of music reproduction that was closer to the microphone feed than ever before. The unprecedented resolution of the original Alpha DAC Reference Series allowed and demanded further development and perfection of digital algorithms and analog circuitry that otherwise would not have been possible. 


    Now, the unmatched time domain resolution, low noise digital processing and highly accurate analog circuitry of the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 combine to provide unprecedented audio quality with all PCM and MQA recordings.


    The presence and sonic reality of the Reference Series 3 is also made possible by tremendous electrical and mechanical noise isolation coupled with extreme time domain stability. Ceramic aerospace circuit board materials are used in all critical areas, and the enclosure is carefully engineered to minimize electrical noise and maximize mechanical and thermal stability. The Reference Series 3 weighs 30 pounds, and the entire enclosure is precision machined from solid billet 6061-T6 aluminum alloy.


    A high output metal IR remote control with direct input source selection is provided with the Reference Series 3.


    Careful consideration was also given to providing the highest possible fidelity reproduction of DSD files by the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3. 99+% of modern DAC’s, including the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3, use multi-bit D/A converters because they provide better performance than 1-bit converters - even DAC’s who advertise “native” DSD compatibility. So, at some point, the 1-bit DSD stream must be converted to multi-bit for all of those DAC’s.  


    We could, like many other manufacturers, convert 1-bit DSD to multi-bit within the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 and show “DSD” in the front panel display. That would be the easiest approach from a marketing standpoint and would also be very simple and low in cost to implement. But that approach would also mean increasing the amount of processing in the DAC during playback which would degrade audio quality, and audio quality is the reason the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 exists.


    Virtually all reproduction of DSD files using external DAC’s is with a computer-based music server as the source. If 1-bit DSD to multi-bit conversion is done first in the computer, it can be performed with extremely high precision and superior filtering that preserves all of the content of the DSD file. Computer DSD to multi-bit conversion can be at least as good as that performed in a DAC and without adding processing noise near or in the D/A converter chip. Also, conversion of DSD to 176.4 kHz, 24 bit AIFF or WAV files can be done ahead of time using a software application such as JRiver Media Center resulting in no conversion processing occurring during playback. Another advantage of computer-based DSD to PCM conversion is that if higher performance DSD versions such as DSD 4X appear in the future, they can be easily supported with a software upgrade.

     

     

    SPECIFICATIONS -
     

    Input sampling rate: 32kHz to 192kHz

    Input word length: 24-bit

    Ultra-low phase noise Precision Clocking at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz and 192kHz sampling rates ± 100 ppm

    Two channel analog stereo outputs: XLR balanced with pin 2 positive and RCA unbalanced

    Digital Inputs: AES - XLR, 110Ω; SPDIF1 - BNC, 75Ω; SPDIF2 - BNC, 75Ω; TOSLINK - Toslink optical connector

    MQA rendering automatically detects MQA Core decoded signals and performs MQA rendering to 384kHz and above

    HDCD decoding detects 16-bit flag at 44.1kHz or 24-bit flag at all sampling rates

    Multiple digital filter options

    Balanced analog output level: +18dBu (6.15Vrms) maximum, +12dBu (3.1Vrms) or lower recommended

    Unbalanced analog output level: 3.25Vrms maximum, 2Vrms or lower recommended

    Digital volume & balance control: 0.1dB/step with .05dB/step L/R gain trim, 60dB range  

    Frequency response at ≥ 88.2kHz sampling rates: ± 0.1dB from < 0.1Hz to 35 kHz,  - 3dB at 59kHz for 176.4kHz and 192kHz sampling rates

    Distortion at recommended levels: all products ≤ -120dBFS

    THD+N at maximum level: < -110dBFS

    Firmware is upgradeable through signal inputs

    Enclosure dimensions: 3.5”H X 17.5”W x 12.5”D

    Weight: 30 lbs.

    Mains power: 100/120/240VAC, 50/60Hz

    Power consumption: 25W

    Price: $21995


    REVIEWS - Series 2:
     

    The Absolute Sound: "The Alpha DAC Reference Series 2 delivers significantly better sound quality than its predecessor, and in ways that matter the most to musical enjoyment. After listening to music through the Alpha DAC Reference nearly daily for the past two years, I’m shocked that the Series 2 can push the state of the art that much further. The fact that owners of the original can upgrade for the price difference between the two models, and that Berkeley will offer MQA capability as a software update later this year, is icing on the cake.

    The Series 2 seems to have crossed an important threshold in digital’s long slow march toward musical realism. This DAC’s sound is open, airy, transparent, highly detailed, lively, and fast, yet at the same time smooth, liquid, relaxed, and non-fatiguing. Throw in a newfound dynamic fidelity, ultra-high resolution, and a stunning rendering of spatial cues, and you’ve got the recipe for maximum musical engagement. - Robert Harley


       The Absolute Sound 50 Greatest Bargains in High-End Audio


    REVIEWS - Series 1:


    The Computer Audiophile: "The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series is a DAC for the ages. Delicacy, detail, and unparalleled transparency are hallmarks of the RS. Reproducing soft yet present background instruments as clearly as the lead guitar is something only the Alpha DAC RS has done in my system. This DAC is capable of hooking the listener in to hours long listening sessions even at the expense of getting other work done. In other words, the Alpha DAC RS reproduces addicting sound. The Reference Series is what the term "game changer" was meant to describe. It's a PCM only DAC that renders most other universal DACs on the market irrelevant. Irrelevant because they cost more and don't sound as good. A DAC that can make standard resolution (16/44.1) material sound as good as high resolution is a true game changer. The advanced digital filtering algorithms created by Berkeley Audio Design do exactly that with 16/44.1 music. I know of no DAC available today that can reproduce Redbook CD content as well as the Alpha DAC RS. Period. If I could afford it and my job allowed it, the Alpha DAC RS is the only DAC I'd use for the foreseeable future." - Chris Conaker


    The Absolute Sound: "I'll have a lot more to say about this extraordinary new product in my review next issue, but for now you should know that Berkeley's Alpha DAC Reference redefines what we can expect from digital playback. The Reference is simply stunning in its ability to render instruments as real-sounding objects in three-dimensional space. This startling - and I mean startling - quality is made possible not just by the Reference's spatial precision, but also by the timbral vividness and extraordinarily high resolution of the tinniest micro-details. What's more, the Reference performs this magic trick on all instruments simultaneously, even in the most dense and complex passages. This unprecedented (for digital) quality allowed me to easily follow individual musical lines in a way I never thought possible from digital. The build-quality is many steps up from the original Alpha DAC, including a chassis milled from a solid aluminum black. The Alpha DAC Reference is an unqualified triumph." - Robert Harley


    The Absolute Sound: "The Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference Series is not only the absolute state of the art in digital-to-analog conversion, it also goes far beyond even this superlative to redefine what’s possible in digital playback. This is a landmark product in that it crosses a threshold of sound quality and musical expressiveness that renders moot the idea that digital can only aspire to mimic analog rather than offer its own set of virtues.

    "I won’t reiterate the Alpha Reference’s merits, but can guarantee that you’ve never heard digital audio sound like this. This is a product that you have to hear for yourself to believe just how far digital has traveled. I’m also heartened by the Reference’s price. Although not inexpensive, $16,000 for the unquestioned state of the art in digital playback makes it seem like a bargain.

    "On a personal level, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to experience an entirely new and unexpected level of musical involvement from my library of standard-resolution CDs and files. After one particularly rewarding session, I reflected on how Berkeley Audio Design epitomizes the highest ideals of high-end audio.

    "Ritter and Pflaumer toiled for years, researching the finest minutia of design details that affect sound quality to create a product that has allowed me to experience a deeper level of musical involvement and appreciation. Their single-minded pursuit of performance above all else exemplifies the ethos behind the landmark breakthroughs in the history of high-end audio.

    "And breakthrough the Alpha Reference is. I’m confident in saying that the Alpha Reference will be remembered decades from now as a turning point in digital audio sound quality." - Robert Harley

     

     

     

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Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 with MQA


Not available online, please call to order.
210-805-9927

Add Recommended Accessories

Berkeley Audio Alpha USB Interface
$1,895.00 Free Shipping!
Loading...

Description

 

INTRODUCING THE REFERENCE DAC SERIES 3 -
A NEW BENCHMARK IN DIGITAL AUDIO REPRODUCTION

 

MY TAKE: Without doubt, the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 from Berkeley Audio is the very best sounding DAC I've heard. Paired with a good dedicated music server, the Reference will re-establish your benchmark for digital reproduction. - Galen Carol



Breakthrough DAC technology redefines digital audio Quality -

 

• Unequaled PCM audio quality from 32kHz to 192kHz

• Unequaled MQA Rendering audio quality to 384kHz and above

• Ultra-low phase noise conversion clocking

• Ultra-low distortion variable output attenuator

• Outputs can connect directly to power amplifiers


Comments by experienced third party industry listeners after hearing the Reference Series 3: "It's like a transparent window on the microphone feed because the DAC is so transparent. The resolution of the ambient halo of air around instrumental outlines is astonishing. Even Red Book has bloom and dimensionality."

"I sat down to evaluate the DAC. Two hours later, I realized I had forgotten the task at hand and was completely lost in the music, captivated by the artistry of the performances. I can give no higher compliment."

 

Product Highlights -
 

The Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 contains breakthrough technology that redefines the potential of digital audio quality. Experienced industry listeners who have heard the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 are unanimous in their praise, saying that the Reference Series 3 clearly outperforms any other DAC they have heard, including those with six-figure retail prices, and even the much-admired DAC portion of the Pacific Microsonics Model 2 studio ADC/DAC. In addition to its unprecedented PCM audio quality, the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 also features MQA Rendering of unequaled audio quality.


Manufacturing each Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 to its full performance potential required the development of a new hyper-accurate test and alignment procedure that is unique in the industry. This new test and alignment procedure allows extremely precise and repeatable production of the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3.


The original Alpha DAC Reference Series was a breakthrough product that reduced noise, particularly in the time domain, to levels significantly lower than any audio D to A converter previously available. The result was an immediacy and presence of music reproduction that was closer to the microphone feed than ever before. The unprecedented resolution of the original Alpha DAC Reference Series allowed and demanded further development and perfection of digital algorithms and analog circuitry that otherwise would not have been possible. 


Now, the unmatched time domain resolution, low noise digital processing and highly accurate analog circuitry of the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 combine to provide unprecedented audio quality with all PCM and MQA recordings.


The presence and sonic reality of the Reference Series 3 is also made possible by tremendous electrical and mechanical noise isolation coupled with extreme time domain stability. Ceramic aerospace circuit board materials are used in all critical areas, and the enclosure is carefully engineered to minimize electrical noise and maximize mechanical and thermal stability. The Reference Series 3 weighs 30 pounds, and the entire enclosure is precision machined from solid billet 6061-T6 aluminum alloy.


A high output metal IR remote control with direct input source selection is provided with the Reference Series 3.


Careful consideration was also given to providing the highest possible fidelity reproduction of DSD files by the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3. 99+% of modern DAC’s, including the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3, use multi-bit D/A converters because they provide better performance than 1-bit converters - even DAC’s who advertise “native” DSD compatibility. So, at some point, the 1-bit DSD stream must be converted to multi-bit for all of those DAC’s.  


We could, like many other manufacturers, convert 1-bit DSD to multi-bit within the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 and show “DSD” in the front panel display. That would be the easiest approach from a marketing standpoint and would also be very simple and low in cost to implement. But that approach would also mean increasing the amount of processing in the DAC during playback which would degrade audio quality, and audio quality is the reason the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 exists.


Virtually all reproduction of DSD files using external DAC’s is with a computer-based music server as the source. If 1-bit DSD to multi-bit conversion is done first in the computer, it can be performed with extremely high precision and superior filtering that preserves all of the content of the DSD file. Computer DSD to multi-bit conversion can be at least as good as that performed in a DAC and without adding processing noise near or in the D/A converter chip. Also, conversion of DSD to 176.4 kHz, 24 bit AIFF or WAV files can be done ahead of time using a software application such as JRiver Media Center resulting in no conversion processing occurring during playback. Another advantage of computer-based DSD to PCM conversion is that if higher performance DSD versions such as DSD 4X appear in the future, they can be easily supported with a software upgrade.

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS -
 

Input sampling rate: 32kHz to 192kHz

Input word length: 24-bit

Ultra-low phase noise Precision Clocking at 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz and 192kHz sampling rates ± 100 ppm

Two channel analog stereo outputs: XLR balanced with pin 2 positive and RCA unbalanced

Digital Inputs: AES - XLR, 110Ω; SPDIF1 - BNC, 75Ω; SPDIF2 - BNC, 75Ω; TOSLINK - Toslink optical connector

MQA rendering automatically detects MQA Core decoded signals and performs MQA rendering to 384kHz and above

HDCD decoding detects 16-bit flag at 44.1kHz or 24-bit flag at all sampling rates

Multiple digital filter options

Balanced analog output level: +18dBu (6.15Vrms) maximum, +12dBu (3.1Vrms) or lower recommended

Unbalanced analog output level: 3.25Vrms maximum, 2Vrms or lower recommended

Digital volume & balance control: 0.1dB/step with .05dB/step L/R gain trim, 60dB range  

Frequency response at ≥ 88.2kHz sampling rates: ± 0.1dB from < 0.1Hz to 35 kHz,  - 3dB at 59kHz for 176.4kHz and 192kHz sampling rates

Distortion at recommended levels: all products ≤ -120dBFS

THD+N at maximum level: < -110dBFS

Firmware is upgradeable through signal inputs

Enclosure dimensions: 3.5”H X 17.5”W x 12.5”D

Weight: 30 lbs.

Mains power: 100/120/240VAC, 50/60Hz

Power consumption: 25W

Price: $21995


REVIEWS - Series 2:
 

The Absolute Sound: "The Alpha DAC Reference Series 2 delivers significantly better sound quality than its predecessor, and in ways that matter the most to musical enjoyment. After listening to music through the Alpha DAC Reference nearly daily for the past two years, I’m shocked that the Series 2 can push the state of the art that much further. The fact that owners of the original can upgrade for the price difference between the two models, and that Berkeley will offer MQA capability as a software update later this year, is icing on the cake.

The Series 2 seems to have crossed an important threshold in digital’s long slow march toward musical realism. This DAC’s sound is open, airy, transparent, highly detailed, lively, and fast, yet at the same time smooth, liquid, relaxed, and non-fatiguing. Throw in a newfound dynamic fidelity, ultra-high resolution, and a stunning rendering of spatial cues, and you’ve got the recipe for maximum musical engagement. - Robert Harley


   The Absolute Sound 50 Greatest Bargains in High-End Audio


REVIEWS - Series 1:


The Computer Audiophile: "The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series is a DAC for the ages. Delicacy, detail, and unparalleled transparency are hallmarks of the RS. Reproducing soft yet present background instruments as clearly as the lead guitar is something only the Alpha DAC RS has done in my system. This DAC is capable of hooking the listener in to hours long listening sessions even at the expense of getting other work done. In other words, the Alpha DAC RS reproduces addicting sound. The Reference Series is what the term "game changer" was meant to describe. It's a PCM only DAC that renders most other universal DACs on the market irrelevant. Irrelevant because they cost more and don't sound as good. A DAC that can make standard resolution (16/44.1) material sound as good as high resolution is a true game changer. The advanced digital filtering algorithms created by Berkeley Audio Design do exactly that with 16/44.1 music. I know of no DAC available today that can reproduce Redbook CD content as well as the Alpha DAC RS. Period. If I could afford it and my job allowed it, the Alpha DAC RS is the only DAC I'd use for the foreseeable future." - Chris Conaker


The Absolute Sound: "I'll have a lot more to say about this extraordinary new product in my review next issue, but for now you should know that Berkeley's Alpha DAC Reference redefines what we can expect from digital playback. The Reference is simply stunning in its ability to render instruments as real-sounding objects in three-dimensional space. This startling - and I mean startling - quality is made possible not just by the Reference's spatial precision, but also by the timbral vividness and extraordinarily high resolution of the tinniest micro-details. What's more, the Reference performs this magic trick on all instruments simultaneously, even in the most dense and complex passages. This unprecedented (for digital) quality allowed me to easily follow individual musical lines in a way I never thought possible from digital. The build-quality is many steps up from the original Alpha DAC, including a chassis milled from a solid aluminum black. The Alpha DAC Reference is an unqualified triumph." - Robert Harley


The Absolute Sound: "The Berkeley Alpha DAC Reference Series is not only the absolute state of the art in digital-to-analog conversion, it also goes far beyond even this superlative to redefine what’s possible in digital playback. This is a landmark product in that it crosses a threshold of sound quality and musical expressiveness that renders moot the idea that digital can only aspire to mimic analog rather than offer its own set of virtues.

"I won’t reiterate the Alpha Reference’s merits, but can guarantee that you’ve never heard digital audio sound like this. This is a product that you have to hear for yourself to believe just how far digital has traveled. I’m also heartened by the Reference’s price. Although not inexpensive, $16,000 for the unquestioned state of the art in digital playback makes it seem like a bargain.

"On a personal level, I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to experience an entirely new and unexpected level of musical involvement from my library of standard-resolution CDs and files. After one particularly rewarding session, I reflected on how Berkeley Audio Design epitomizes the highest ideals of high-end audio.

"Ritter and Pflaumer toiled for years, researching the finest minutia of design details that affect sound quality to create a product that has allowed me to experience a deeper level of musical involvement and appreciation. Their single-minded pursuit of performance above all else exemplifies the ethos behind the landmark breakthroughs in the history of high-end audio.

"And breakthrough the Alpha Reference is. I’m confident in saying that the Alpha Reference will be remembered decades from now as a turning point in digital audio sound quality." - Robert Harley