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captfidel

Bricasti's Best DAC isn't a DAC?

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I am a little confused by the positioning of the new M12 Source Controller from Bricasti. I do not own a Bricasti, but was about to pull the trigger on one to replace my current DAC when I learned of the new M12 – which left me a little confused and believing that Bricasti’s best DAC is now not actually their DAC, but rather their new “source controller.” The new M12 would seem to be far superior for D-to-A conversion for DSD files and also features some new tech in the form of a network adapter to use the device as a streamer (something I presume will ultimately trickle down to the M1 – hopefully with support for the same range of file resolutions offered in their USB interface).

 

I saw a video with Bricasti’s president (Brian) saying they created the M12 to meet a need in the market, specifically, the person who enjoys both analog and digital and wants a minimum number of discrete components. Hence, with the M12, no separate pre-amp needed. Certainly understandable, I imagine there is a real need for this in the marketplace. HOWEVER, in my view this leaves behind the person who chooses to operate a multi-component system as the M12 would not appear to be a reasonable choice to use strictly as a DAC.

 

In my case, I have a sophisticated high-end tube preamp which I want to continue to use as my source and volume control. It appears there is no “line level/unity” out on the M12 which would be suitable for connecting to an input source on my pre-amp. This doesn’t really make sense to me from a product positioning perspective. A company offering a stand-alone DAC should reserve their best DAC technology for that unit and offer similar or lesser capabilities in their all-in-one integrated products. After all, is not the buyer for separates likely to be the most demanding of functionality? Buyers for integrated units are willing to trade a little bit of capability for convenience.

 

I am interested in thoughts or opinions. Am I missing something? Are there others thinking about using the M12 with a pre-amp? Or pre-amp users who don’t care about the missing higher quality DSD and Ethernet connectivity?

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MikeJazz   
I am a little confused by the positioning of the new M12 Source Controller from Bricasti. I do not own a Bricasti, but was about to pull the trigger on one to replace my current DAC when I learned of the new M12 – which left me a little confused and believing that Bricasti’s best DAC is now not actually their DAC, but rather their new “source controller.” The new M12 would seem to be far superior for D-to-A conversion for DSD files and also features some new tech in the form of a network adapter to use the device as a streamer (something I presume will ultimately trickle down to the M1 – hopefully with support for the same range of file resolutions offered in their USB interface).

 

I saw a video with Bricasti’s president (Brian) saying they created the M12 to meet a need in the market, specifically, the person who enjoys both analog and digital and wants a minimum number of discrete components. Hence, with the M12, no separate pre-amp needed. Certainly understandable, I imagine there is a real need for this in the marketplace. HOWEVER, in my view this leaves behind the person who chooses to operate a multi-component system as the M12 would not appear to be a reasonable choice to use strictly as a DAC.

 

In my case, I have a sophisticated high-end tube preamp which I want to continue to use as my source and volume control. It appears there is no “line level/unity” out on the M12 which would be suitable for connecting to an input source on my pre-amp. This doesn’t really make sense to me from a product positioning perspective. A company offering a stand-alone DAC should reserve their best DAC technology for that unit and offer similar or lesser capabilities in their all-in-one integrated products. After all, is not the buyer for separates likely to be the most demanding of functionality? Buyers for integrated units are willing to trade a little bit of capability for convenience.

 

I am interested in thoughts or opinions. Am I missing something? Are there others thinking about using the M12 with a pre-amp? Or pre-amp users who don’t care about the missing higher quality DSD and Ethernet connectivity?

 

Well this M12 makes a lot of sense. It's a dual dac with a PCM dac and a DSD "converter" in separated boards. Pluse streaming, pluse analog volume regulation.

 

It's wonderful to be able to input ethernet together with a turntable, for example, past and future in the same machine. Great vision!

 

Of course if you want to keep your preamp, M12 has a lot of redundant functionality and maybe you should be looking for their DAC instead...

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Well this M12 makes a lot of sense. It's a dual dac with a PCM dac and a DSD "converter" in separated boards. Pluse streaming, pluse analog volume regulation.

 

It's wonderful to be able to input ethernet together with a turntable, for example, past and future in the same machine. Great vision!

 

Of course if you want to keep your preamp, M12 has a lot of redundant functionality and maybe you should be looking for their DAC instead...

 

Are you using one?

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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ecrimjr   

A lot of embedded assumptions which might be in era. An audio enthusiast who is really into music might desire both a high quality dac and a high quality phono stage. And be limited w budget such that they need the value of a piece that does both. McIntosh preamps have both as does dac preamps such as those by Mytek.

 

 

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bmoura   
I am a little confused by the positioning of the new M12 Source Controller from Bricasti. I do not own a Bricasti, but was about to pull the trigger on one to replace my current DAC when I learned of the new M12 – which left me a little confused and believing that Bricasti’s best DAC is now not actually their DAC, but rather their new “source controller.”

My understanding is that the M12 gives the listener the option of listening to music via a DAC circuit or via a direct approach. Along the lines of what Lampizator does with their DSD "direct filtered" design or other DAC makers that use custom FPGA chips vs. using a DAC chip.

 

As the M12 reaches the market, we will find out which option listeners of the M12 prefer - DAC or direct.

Edited by bmoura

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The M12 is a M1 with an analog board to allow you to connect the output of analog devices like phono pre-amp, tape deck ,etc to the same unit.

The DAC inside is the same DAC as the latest version of the M1 which also now can have the Ethernet network option to stream directly from your network.

 

If you have analog devices the M12 is an awesome piece that integrates your hole system and driving directly a pair of M28 monoblocks makes an incredible sounding system.

 

 

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bmoura   

Here's how Part-Time Audiophile describes the DSD options on the M12

 

"Where things get wacky — there’s another path through the M12. If you happen to be a DSD file, you get to bypass the DAC.

 

Yes. Bypass the DAC.

 

award-sighting-sm.png?w=215&h=203The M12 has a new, fully-separate, pathway just for DSD (up to quad-rate), which is fully analog. There will be more on this in the future as I’m getting one when they’re ready to ship this summer. In the demo, Brian flipped the bit during a live DSD stream (yes — this thing is fully networked, bitches — oh yeahhhh!), from “normal” processing via the ΔΣ processor to the analog path, and bliiiiiip my mind stopped working. Okay, that’s too strong, but a sense of space just leaped backwards.

 

I want I want I want I want.

 

Again, the M12 is pre-pro at this point, so there will be some topology changes as the circuit layout and rear panel get finalized. Stay tuned for more.

 

But for those of you wondering, I did ask about the network module and the DSD module — and the good news is that they are modules. Modules that very well might find their way into the next version of the M1 — or your old one. And that could happen soon. Stay tuned."

 

 

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2016/04/19/axpona-2016-bricasti-design-dials-it-to-12/

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During RMAF I Brian upgrade a M1 whit the network module. It took no more than 10-15 minutes including replacing the back plate since a new opening for the connector is needed. My two M1 are at the lates level including DSD decoding and can easily be upgraded with the network module too.

 

That is the benefit of the great modular design in the Bricasti line of equipment.

 

 

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cjf   

I'm a big fan of what they are offering with the M12. The Ethernet Input, DAC and true analog volume control. All that's missing is certifying it as a ROON endpoint. I'm seriously considering this as my next purchase and offloading my current Pre (which does the same thing as the M12 offers, but probably not as well) and my external DAC.

 

I think anyone considering this device and not intending to use it standalone are picking the wrong tool for their job. Mixing a colorful tube Pre and other Salt/Pepper inducing gear in front of or after this box totally defeats its purpose.

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During RMAF I Brian upgrade a M1 whit the network module. It took no more than 10-15 minutes including replacing the back plate since a new opening for the connector is needed. My two M1 are at the lates level including DSD decoding and can easily be upgraded with the network module too.

 

That is the benefit of the great modular design in the Bricasti line of equipment.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

 

Thanks for the reply. This is very interesting, that the network module will be available in the future on the M1. Thank you for sharing.

 

To bring the M1 up to the M12 level of DAC, it would also have to offer the superior DSD decoding of the M12. As I understand it, that would also require some additional hardware. Is the analog DSD decoding of the M12 in a module form that can be added to the M1?

 

 

 

 

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I'm a big fan of what they are offering with the M12. The Ethernet Input, DAC and true analog volume control. All that's missing is certifying it as a ROON endpoint. I'm seriously considering this as my next purchase and offloading my current Pre (which does the same thing as the M12 offers, but probably not as well) and my external DAC.

 

I think anyone considering this device and not intending to use it standalone are picking the wrong tool for their job. Mixing a colorful tube Pre and other Salt/Pepper inducing gear in front of or after this box totally defeats its purpose.

 

Agreed on the missing Roon endpoint. I have reason to believe that at least for now Roon is even on Bricasti's radar. Unfortunately.

 

 

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I think anyone considering this device and not intending to use it standalone are picking the wrong tool for their job. Mixing a colorful tube Pre and other Salt/Pepper inducing gear in front of or after this box totally defeats its purpose.

 

Agreed. But per the original posting, that means that the most capable DAC offered by Bricasti isn't really a DAC and is not suitable for those wanting a stand-alone DAC.

 

 

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Here's how Part-Time Audiophile describes the DSD options on the M12

 

 

 

 

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2016/04/19/axpona-2016-bricasti-design-dials-it-to-12/

 

Yes, I saw this, thank you for sharing. I am however suspect of the accuracy of several items in that article. For example, the author claims that DSD is supported up to quad rate, while the Bricasti website in detailing the specs for the M12 clearly states that is not so. Perhaps it's just a case of Bricasti not being clear in the marketing material, but that leaves it up to us to sort out.

 

 

 

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cjf   

Here is a snippet from the User Manual that may be useful to know for those using HQ Player or other similar software to Upsample the music before sending it to their DAC:

 

The M12 uses delta sigma 8 x oversampling conversion so it is not recommended to “up-sample” the digital audio that is being sent to the M12 with in a media player option. Defeat all up-sampling features in your media player or CD transport. Up-sampling the data before the M12 will yield poor results and always use the original source audio bit and sample rates, so for example if the source is 44.1k then have the media player send this data unprocessed to the M12 and let the M12 reconstruct the data correctly.

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cjf   
If the M12 had a feature to bypass the active line stage and provide unity out while still allowing for the new decode path for DSD files, the unit would be much more flexible for today and future proof.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

It sounds to me like you would be better off waiting until the new Analog domain handling of DSD feature found within the M12 trickles down to a new version of the M1, assuming it ever does.

 

Read the manual online there is wording in there that would lead me to believe that its not likely that feature could be easily enabled on an M1 without first swapping many parts:

 

The M12 features 2 digital audio conversion paths, one for PCM which utilizes the ADI 1955 converter, and the

other is a true one bit modulator of our own design and unique to the industry. This DSD conversion is done on the

M12s analog level boards and is a true 1 bit analog converter followed by an analog post noise filter.

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cjf   

One other point,

 

I dont think its that out of the ordinary for a company to implement new technology into a new dual purpose device that from a price standpoint costs X2 more then a previously released product that just so happened to be more purpose built. This happens all the time in audio and elsewhere.

 

I dont see how Bricasti can be blamed for "leaving anyone behind" or abandoning those who choose to operate a multi component system. From what I see of most of their products they seem to have always been focused on the Less is More concept of audio compared to someone like McIntosh or Audio Research or "fill in the blank here" who need you to have a whole audio rack full of equipment in order to hear sound playing out of the speakers.

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I just spent part of my afternoon listening to my system (Aurender N10 feeding my Bricasti SE through its AES digital input and driving directly my pair of M28)

 

I have a 19 years old pair of B&W 801 Matrix S3 that have been driven by several amplifiers (Threshold S550e, Sonic Frontiers Power 3 monoblocks, pair of Threshold T400 bridged to monos and McIntosh MC601 monoblocks) but never have sounded this good as driven by the M28. The speakers upgrade bug went away when the M28 came to my system...

 

 

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Yes, I saw this, thank you for sharing. I am however suspect of the accuracy of several items in that article. For example, the author claims that DSD is supported up to quad rate, while the Bricasti website in detailing the specs for the M12 clearly states that is not so. Perhaps it's just a case of Bricasti not being clear in the marketing material, but that leaves it up to us to sort out.

 

No, I think I screwed that up. The M12 plays 2x DSD over USB and 1x DSD over the new Network feature. Not quad.

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If the M12 had a feature to bypass the active line stage and provide unity out while still allowing for the new decode path for DSD files, the unit would be much more flexible for today and future proof.

 

I disagree: if you don't want the linestage (or want to bypass it), just get the M1. It's cheaper and better. At least, better for most digital playback file types -- I'll come back to that.

 

One reason why the "linestage version" of their DAC (that is, the M12) is in the lineup is that not everyone is only-digital. Take me, for example. I love my digital, but I also have a turntable and a reel-to-reel machine. With the M12, I can use those analog sources without fussing with an A-to-D on top of a D-to-A -- the analog sources just "pass through" and hit the attenuator.

 

Another reason -- the output of that alternative one-bit modulator path (for DSD only) is at unity. Which means that there must be an attenuator somewhere downstream. Given that there must be one, I suppose that Bricasti might have concluded that they'd better not leave that to chance.

 

Sure, they could have made another converter product that has no attenuator at all, but remember that the M1 routinely gets used as a DAC + attenuator, or "DAC-direct" into their amplifiers. That's how they demo. Given that their M28 amps have the clever feature of a high-quality analog "attenuator" built into their input, that means that you can run the M1 (or any DAC or pre or source) directly into the amps and not have to use the digital volume control for anything other than "fine tuning" (<12dB, say) or muting. This arrangement is extremely transparent, and "up there" with the very best and most revealing I've heard in any demo anywhere.

 

But that alternative one-bit modulator path makes that arrangement untenable. The digital volume control is not available here. So, they'd need an off-board analog attenuator (which tends to sound better than digital volume controls, most especially when we're past the "fine tuning" stage). Given that one box is almost always better than two, they combined the M1 with the best attenuator they felt like making into a single box, the M12, which let them do both "traditional" DAC and that alternative one-bit modulator path at the same time. Ta da!

 

If that sounds like a lot of effort, it's because it is. Which is why the M12 is more expensive. But for those that have heard it, that alternative one-bit modulator path is extraordinary. Even with "only" 1x DSD. A back-to-back demo of the M1SE and the M12 was eye opening. For all DSD material, the M12 was clearly superior, with more 3-D depth and tonal richness. Now, for everything else, I'm pretty sure that I prefer the M1SE direct into the M28 amplifiers, though I'll have to get that gear in-house before I can do more than wave my hands at it.

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I am extremely impressed with the performance and feature set of the M12. Especially the way it handles DSD in the analog domain. It's up there with some of the best one-box Preamp/DACs that I've heard. Bricasti has taken tremendous care to keep the analog and digital circuitry separate with each getting their own power supply and grounding. I also like how it uses a R2R resistor ladder for analog gain control. The USB interface is electrically isolated from the host computer, eliminating any grounding or power induced noise issues that could be transmitted to the M12 from a USB source. After spending a bit of time with it and going over the M12 in detail with Brian Zolner, I think they knocked it out of the park with this one.

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If the M12 had a feature to bypass the active line stage and provide unity out while still allowing for the new decode path for DSD files, the unit would be much more flexible for today and future proof.

 

If I'm not mistake, I believe you can use the "Reference Level" setting feature to set/recall the gain at a specific level. This should accomplish the unity gain you're looking for.

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