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Bricasti M1SE Stereo DAC Review

Rate this DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 113 29.6%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 139 36.4%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 113 29.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 17 4.5%

  • Total voters
    382

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Bricasti Audio M1SE balanced stereo DAC. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $10,000:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Review.jpg

The indication says M1 but owner tells me it has the "SE" upgrade. I have been a fan of the industrial design of Bricasti audio products since I first saw them. They remind me of Mark Levinson designs (I believe the industrial designer is the same). While a bit old fashioned with that dot matrix display, it still screams "high-end" to me. The interface is easy to navigate by pushing a button and then selecting things.

The box itself is very heavy and dense. It has an independent linear power supply for each channel which likely is responsible for much of that. It uses an Analog Devices DAC combined with external filtering.

Here is the back panel:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC back panel toslink AES EBU Review.jpg

Nice to see S/PDIF provided both as RCA and BNC.

Bricasti M1 SE DAC Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard using XLR output:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC measurement.png

I would have liked to see the output level be 4 volts. Manual says there is an internal jumper that causes the output to be variable and then you can set it to a higher value. But why is the default this odd number? I looked the AD DAC they are using and it has a SINAD of 110 dB so they are short a bit in that front. Still what I measured perfectly matches company specifications and lands the DAC in our competent category:
Best high-end audio dac review 2024.png


Best high-end audio dac review zoomed 2024.png


RCA output is a bit worse as is typically the case:

Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC RCA measurement.png


The issue here is high level of distortion as noise performance is excellent:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC dynamic range measurement.png


They could do better though as indicated by our IMD level sweep:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC IMD measurement.png

Linearity test shows power supply noise lowering accuracy at very low signal levels:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Linearity measurement.png


Jitter performance is very good, albeit with a couple of spikes that should not be there:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Jitter measurement.png


Multitone test results are better than I expected in critical audio bands (1 to 5 kHz):
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Multitone measurement.png


One channel is worse than the other in the dashboard and we see the same here with 50 Hz stereophile test:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC 50 Hz measurement.png


There are crazy number of filters here. I demand overtime pay for having had to measure them! :D
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Linear Filter measurement.png

Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Minimum phase filters measurement.png


The implementation is the best I have seen for minimum phase where there is essentially no ripple or early roll off:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Frequency Response Minimum phase Filters measurement.png


And you have multiple choices in linear filters as well to get the best attenuation and widest bandwidth:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC Frequency Response Linear Filters measurement.png


The filters are so good that the recommended ones above didn't make a difference in our wideband THD+N test:
Bricasti M1SE high-end balanced stereo DAC THD+N vs Frequency measurement.png

Alas, we have rising distortion with frequency. Even at lower frequencies, a high-end DAC should do much better.

Conclusions
Many times when I measure a high-end DAC, it lacks measurements. And almost in all cases we wind up with poor measured performance as well. Not so here. The company specifications are very accurate and speak the truth. And that truth lands the M1SE in the category of "competent." Alas, we can buy this level of performance for less than 5% of the cost of Bricasti! You won't get the distinctive and nice look of Bricasti. Only you can decide if you want to pay 95% more for that.

I should note that I think they are being held back by their choice of DAC silicon. The rest of the design seems better than what that chip allows.

I personally can't recommend the Bricasti M1 SE. It is too much money for the level of performance, despite how much I like its looks. But if you have one, you can take comfort in knowing you got what the company promised. And audible performance should be good enough.

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Bleib

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Pretty horrid considering the price
 

3125b

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Manual says there is an internal jumper
For ten grand they couldn't come up with something better? From an circuit design standpoint that is just so lazy.
It's a bit weird that balanced output is 3.6V and unbalanced more than half at standard 2V.
Underwhelming, but at least it's not broken.
 
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Waxx

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You can't say it's bad with those specs, but that price ... it's not worth it. You can have much better for a fraction of that price, and the looks is not worth the money it costs extra compared to that. But the specs are good enough to be in the "it does not matter anymore in reality" department, contrary to many other high priced dacs that suck. For that price i expect much better, like a sinad of 125dB and no other minot flaws, this one has some minor flaws.
 

_thelaughingman

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$10k dollars?? Depreciation of this within the year would be equivalent to a Maserati.
 

SuicideSquid

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If they sold this for $1,000, they might have a compelling case - transparent performance, great look and seemingly excellent build quality.

$10,000 is just stupid ludicrous money to ask for any DAC though.
 

Rhamnetin

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$10,000 is just stupid ludicrous money to ask for any DAC though.

Especially when you can get performance that far outperforms our hearing capability for $80, and with all the connectivity one needs from a stereo DAC (possibly even with subwoofers) for $200-300.

$10k dollars?? Depreciation of this within the year would be equivalent to a Maserati.

These things have actually held their value quite well over the years (not at $10k but still very high). I think the successor to this (which uses the same DAC IC...), plus the upgrade path Bricasti offers, is keeping it relevant on the used market.
 

Sokel

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Not bad at all for a 12 years old DAC,I trust it was top at it's prime.
At that time only a few measured stuff and it's admirable that the company is true to them.
Filters are a joy to look at,I think many of the today's DACs should take lessons.

Thanks Amir!
 

Fidji

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Here we go, again … Expensive stuff measuring worse than dongle. And usual set of comments.
Yep, it measures worse than Topping, so what? Still audibly transparent, Still working after 12 years.

What’s not to like?
 

phoenixdogfan

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All I can think is you could buy a better $100 dac, a pair of Neumann KH 150's + dual 750 subs AND a very nice BDI cabinet for the rest of your junk which will make a far stronger impression on the decor of your room than a single box 'o DAC. So should be a piggybank panther.

BDI-Corridor-8175-Modern-Corner-TV-Stand-Cabinet-Natural-Walnut-Hero.jpg
 
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OP
amirm

amirm

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Rhamnetin

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It is hard to sort through what they are offering. But looking at the specs you linked to, it is identical to tested unit: "THD+N @ 1k: .0006% @ 0dbfs / .0004% @-30dbfs PCM sigma delta<"

Yeah, it uses the same two Analog Devices AD1955 DACs each operating in mono mode according to them. I'm unsure if the Sharc DSP is updated.
 

holdingpants01

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All I can think is you could buy a better $100 dac, a pair of Neumann KH 150's + dual 750 subs AND a very nice BDI cabinet for the rest of your junk which will make a far stronger impression on the decor of your room than a single box 'o DAC

View attachment 354428
why would you even need a $100 dac for digital monitors?
 
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