|MSB Digital Director Router|
|Home Theater Accessories Accessories|
|Written by John Sunier|
|Monday, 01 February 1999|
With the growing dependence on digital sound from sources like Compact Discs, DVD, DSS, Laserdisc, DAT, Mini Disc and other sources, the high end audio and home theater industry has a newly found shortage of digital inputs. You see, most A/V receivers and lower - to mid-priced A/V preamps, can not accept more than one or two digital inputs. Redesigning all of the A/V receivers on the market is going to take the better part of a year, if not longer. So what do you do if you want to have all of the best digital audio and video has to offer without investing in a big dollar high end A/V preamp? Enter the MSB Digital Director.
If you have already experimented with configurations of your DAC and CD transport you probably realize that you can't just use any old audio cable or adapters to route digital data streams from one component to another. You need cables designed for the job, and the Digital Director is the first input selector designed especially to route digital sources. While doing that it also cleans up the digital sources by reducing that dreaded high end menace... jitter.
The Digital Director comes equipped with four coax (RCA) and two Toslink inputs plus two coax and one Toslink outputs. The Toslink inputs are great for most consumer grade inputs particularly Sony products i.e. CD changers, DSS dishes and more. The coax inputs will work with just about any other source. The two outputs allow you the luxury of easily setting up two separate systems or cascading units in complex multi-room installations. An added benefit for the multi-room configuration is that the more Digital Directors the signal is run through, the cleaner the signal will be at the other end.
The first view of the Digital Director shows that no operable controls are on the unit. The front display is basically a pair of amber and green LED's for each of the inputs. Each green LED shows that a digital source is hooked up to it and that power is on. The amber LED lights up when that particular source is selected and fed through to the outputs. Controls are eliminated by the Digital Director's prioritization of the sources. Input No. 1 has the highest priority, so that would be the appropriate jack into which your most-used source would be plugged. If you then have a second digital source plugged into jack No. 2 and it is playing, the moment the component plugged into jack No. 1 is turned off, the music or sounds from the second source will be heard on your system. Just putting the CD, LD or DVD in pause or stop won't cause the Director to switch, the unit must be completely turned off.
You could run a regularly-used source such as your DSS receiver into the lowest-priority input, which would be No. 6. Then the moment your LD or DVD player was turned off after watching a movie, you would have your background music from DMX or Music Choice, or an on-air program on whatever channel you had selected. The only digital signal the Director cannot accept is the Dolby Digital RF from a Laserdisc player, that has to go directly into your separate processor.
In my system I don't use Toslink for anything, but I tested all the RCA coax inputs and outputs and everything worked as claimed. The moment my Laserdisc player in input 1 was turned off, the music on the DAT in input 6 was heard, without popping or noise of any sort. I then tested the jitter reduction feature using one of my DAT decks as well as my old Philips Laserdisc player. It is well known that many DATs and LD players suffer from worse jitter than even the lowliest CD players.
My previous professional DAT deck was famous for its jitter, and the addition of my (highly modified) Audio Alchemy DTI jitter filter plus DAC, enhanced the sonics to the point that a pre-recorded DAT version of an album I also had on CD matched the CD very closely, whereas before it wasn't even close. My present Sony R500 pro DAT deck, however, boasts excellent jitter figures, and my Laserdisc player sits on one of the massive MSB isolation platforms with a Little Foot on top, so its jitter is also tamed in the mechanical/physical domain.
I ran both sources alternately through the Digital Director, directly to the DAC an Audio Alchemy DAC-In-The-Box. I then ran the analog outputs from both sources into the jacks on my Fosgate surround processor. The signals then were directed to my two amps and five-speaker surround sound system with powered subwoofer. I have often found that subtle differences in sonic purity can be detected most easily in the information that is sent to the surround channels by a good ambiance processor (one that doesn't roll off at 7 KHz or add artificial reverb. For instance most HDCD recordings usually have a stronger and cleaner surround signal than non-encoded recordings.)
Using the remote control I could switch back and forth between the digital and the analog sources for both units, and then I manually bypassed the Digital Director to test its effect on the signal. As expected, the analog signal for both sources suffered in comparison to the digital. Even before listening at length to the digital sources, the analog ones sounded dulled and closed-in. Both digital sources sounded cleaner and more spacious using test discs with solo instruments and full orchestra. I also tried a bit of the soundtrack of the THX WOW Laserdisc. Though the explosions, crashes and generally continuous roar seemed slightly more spacious through the Digital Director, only when the orchestra playing the soundtrack came to the fore of the sound-mass was it clearly noticeable that a veil had been lifted from the dull analog sonics.
I found there was very little difference between the signal going through the Digital Director and bypassing it. This is fine since I didn't really have any serious jitter-producing sources on hand. My main CD transport is a belt-drive Parasound, also on an MSB platform with a Little Foot on top, and the DTI jitter filter makes very little improvement in its sonics. Also, bear in mind there was an additional digital cable involved in each case when passing through the Digital Director. Not many audio components, digital or analog, can be inserted into an audio chain and found not to cause the slightest change in the resultant signal...whether viewed as a positive or negative change.
If you need to take control of several digital sources and do it simply, inexpensively, and without degrading the signal at all, the Digital Director is the way to do it. The MSB Digital Director is an innovative product that easily solves a complex new system configuration problem while at the same time improving the performance of your digital sources.