The Music Streamer II (MS2) is the little brother to the Music Streamer II Plus (MS2+). If you’ve read the review of the Plus model, then you know that these HRT DACs are solid performers as I found the Plus model to perform better than the Cambridge DacMagic, which was my previous favorite $300+ range DAC.
The MS2 is the entry level model to the High Resolution Technologies DACs, and it offers 24/96 asynchronous USB DAC capability for as little as $149.95. For $200 less than the bigger brother, the MS2 comes with lesser THD, SNR, and noise floor figures. But of course the question is how the MS2 performs on real world situations. Like the MS2+, I received the MS2 from Scot Markwell of EliteAV, who’s the North American agent for High Resolution Products. But since the MS2 differs from the MS2+ by $200, I thought that I should write two different reviews, with two different comparisons for the two DACs, just based on the price bracket. Throughout the review, it’s important to separate the two DACs as they only differ by a plus sign in the model number: MS2 is the $149.95 model, and the MS2+ is the $349.95 model.
Hadi has been very impressed with the performance of the MS2 DAC. Previously he was using the Nuforce uDAC with his Stax SR-404 Signature set up (poor Hadi, I know), and after changing to the MS2, he told me over the phone that the MS2 opens up the sound of the SR-404 Stax in ways that he never thought possible.
I played around with the MS2 as well, and I do think that the sound output is superior to what the Nuforce uDAC is capable of. The sound is much more transparent, and there is no bottom end coloration the way you get from the uDAC. What’s interesting, however, is to pitch the MS2 (a $145.95 DAC) with the Audinst HUD-MX1 (a $179.00 USB DAC + Amp), which has been our favorite sub $200 DAC unit.
Like the MS2, the Audinst also does 24/96 over USB. But that’s as far as the similarity goes. The MS2 is equipped with a PCM1793 D/A chip, which is the lesser version of the PCM1794 chip used in the MS2+. The Audinst on the other hand is equipped with the WM8740 D/A chip. Although D/A chips do matter, ultimately you can’t predict a DAC’s sound quality just by knowing the chip it uses, as there’s a lot of variables in the design of the circuitry.