MSB Universal Media Transport plus

My primary focus this month was MSB's Analog DAC, but since it needed some software updates, MSB suggested that the easiest way to install them was with their Universal Media Transport plus ($5995). Turned out the updates were easier via my regular Meridian Sooloos system, but since they'd sent me a sample of the UMT+, I hooked it up.

The UMT+ is built around Oppo's BDP-103 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray player—a great place to start, and a player I'd already had in my video system for a year. All of the Oppo's playback abilities are retained (including the ability to apply Oppo update patches), which means you can hook up the UMT+ to your Network Attached Storage and USB drives, and network streamers, and play CD, DVD-Audio, or SACD discs.

To say that MSB has hot-rodded the Oppo is an understatement. The UMT+ starts with four options of external power supply: Outboard Desktop Supply ($595), Signature Transport Power Base ($3495), Dual Signature Transport Power Base ($4995), and Diamond Transport Power Base ($5995). Each of these can have up to two 12V DC feeds: one for the Oppo's normal operations, and one exclusively devoted to the digital audio circuits. The UMT+ can also run on a single 12V feed, and has an internal sensor that determines if you're using one or two supplies. The unit I used came with the Dual Signature Transport Power Base with two 12V feeds.

Once read off a disc or network, the digital audio data are fed into a buffer and transmitted as closely as physically possible to MSB's solid-state memory playback section. MSB says this solid-state memory playback is hyper-isolated from everything (hence the separate power feed), then directly output to MSB's Pro I2S connector, where it's clock-synced to the Femto Clock in MSB's DACs.

Listening
Since I was used to the Oppo BDP-103, setup was a snap—I instantly had my NAS drive playing hi-def PCM and DSD files through the UMT+. I was also able to stream music from a USB stick and the disc player with ease. Oppo has a new iPad/iPhone/Android app that makes controlling the player easy in this regard, though as of this date, it still can't directly control an NAS source-file structure; I used the Kinsky app to cue up and play tracks from the NAS. You can directly control USB drives from the Oppo app, and, of course, control the UMT+ playing discs.

I popped in a few DVD-A and SACD discs—see the review of the MSB Analog DAC for details of my system—and noted right away that, when playing an SACD, the Analog DAC's display said "DSD," indicating that I was getting an unconverted stream straight out of the UMT+. It should be noted that the UMT+ outputs a two-channel stream via the MSB's Pro I2S output; for surround-sound discs, you'll still be using the HDMI output connected to a 5.1-channel preamp of some sort.

With a DAC like the MSB Analog DAC driven by the Meridian-Sooloos as a data source, you get a sense of someone hitting Play on a big reel of wide-track analog tape, after being fed by live mikes in a room. When I added MSB's Universal Media Transport plus to the mix, that "thereness" notched up a nanotad. I could easily live with the sound from the Sooloos, but the UMT+, via the MSB Pro I2S, put the Analog DAC in the best possible light.

COMPANY INFO
MSB Technology Corporation
625 Main Street
Watsonville, CA 95076
(831) 662-2800
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