Berkeley Audio Design – Alpha DAC Reference Series 3

Product Description

Berkeley Audio Design – Alpha DAC Reference Series 3

Breakthrough DAC Technology Redefines Digital Audio Quality

  • Unequaled PCM audio quality from 32 kHz to 192 kHz
  • Unequaled MQA Rendering audio quality to 384 kHz and above
  • Ultra low phase noise conversion clocking
  • Ultra low distortion variable output attenuator
  • Outputs can connect directly to power amplifiers


Product Highlights

The Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 has breakthrough technology that redefines the potential of digital audio quality.

Experienced industry listeners who have heard the Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 are unanimous in their praise,

saying that the Reference Series 3 clearly outperforms any other DAC they have heard, including those with six figure retail prices,

and even the much admired DAC portion of the Pacific Microsonics Model 2 studio ADC/DAC.

In addition to its unprecedented PCM audio quality, the Alpha DAC Ref. 3 also features MQA Rendering of unequaled audio quality.

Manufacturing each Alpha DAC Ref. 3 to its full performance potential required development of a new hyper-accurate test

and alignment procedure that is unique in the industry.

This new test and alignment procedure allows extremely precise and repeatable production of the Alpha DAC Ref. 3.

The original Alpha DAC Reference Series was a breakthrough product that reduced noise, particularly in the time domain,

to levels significantly lower than any audio D to A converter previously available.

The result was an immediacy and presence of music reproduction  that was closer to the microphone feed than ever before.

The unprecedented resolution of the original Alpha DAC Reference Series allowed and demanded further development

and perfection of digital algorithms and analog circuitry that otherwise would not have been possible.

Now, the unmatched time domain resolution, low noise digital processing and highly accurate analog circuitry of the

Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Ref. 3 combine to provide unprecedented audio quality with all PCM and MQA recordings.

The presence and sonic reality of the Reference Series 3 is also made possible by tremendous electrical and mechanical noise isolation

coupled with extreme time domain stability. Ceramic aerospace circuit board materials are used in all critical areas and the enclosure

is carefully engineered to minimize electrical noise and maximize mechanical and thermal stability.

The Reference Series 3 weighs 30 pounds and the entire enclosure is precision machined from solid billet 6061-T6 aluminum alloy.

A high output metal IR remote control with direct input source selection is provided with the Reference Series 3.

Careful consideration was also given to providing the highest possible fidelity reproduction of DSD files by the Alpha DAC Ref. 3.

99+% of modern DAC’s, including the Alpha DAC Ref. 3, use multi-bit D/A converters because they provide better performance

than 1-bit converters – even DAC’s who advertise “native” DSD compatibility. So, at some point,

the 1-bit DSD stream must be converted to multi-bit for all of those DAC’s.

We could, like many other manufacturers, convert 1-bit DSD to multi-bit within the Alpha DAC Ref. 3

and show “DSD” in the front panel display. That would be the easiest approach from a marketing standpoint and would also be very simple

and low in cost to implement. But that approach would also mean increasing the amount of processing in the DAC during playback

which would degrade audio quality, and audio quality is the reason the Alpha DAC Ref. 3 exists.

Virtually all reproduction of DSD files using external DAC’s is with a computer based music server as the source.

If 1-bit DSD to multi-bit conversion is done first in the computer it can be performed with extremely high precision and superior filtering

that preserves all of the content of the DSD file. Computer DSD to multi-bit conversion can be at least as good as that performed in a DAC

and without adding processing noise near or in the D/A converter chip. Also, conversion of DSD to 176.4 kHz, 24 bit AIFF or WAV files

can be done ahead of time using a software app. as JRiver Media Center  resulting in no conversion processing occurring during playback.

Another advantage of computer based DSD to PCM conversion is that if higher performance

DSD versions such as DSD 4X appear in the future, they can be easily supported with a software upgrade.



  • Input sampling rate:  32k Hz to 192 kHz
  • Input word length:  24-bit
  • Ultra low phase noise Precision Clocking;  at 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz sampling rates ± 100 ppm
  • Two channel analog stereo outputs:  XLR balanced with pin 2 positive and RCA unbalanced
  • Digital Inputs:  AES – XLR, 110Ω; SPDIF1 – BNC, 75Ω; SPDIF2 – BNC, 75Ω; TOSLINK – Toslink optical connector
  • MQA rendering:  automatically detects MQA Core decoded signals and performs MQA rendering to 384 kHz and above
  • HDCD decoding:  detects 16-bit flag at 44.1 kHz or 24-bit flag at all sampling rates
  • Multiple digital filter options
  • Balanced analog output level:  +18 dBu (6.15 Vrms) maximum, +12 dBu (3.1 Vrms) or lower recommended
  • Unbalanced analog output level:  3.25 Vrms maximum, 2 Vrms or lower recommended
  • Digital volume & balance control:  0.1 dB/step with .05 dB/step L/R gain trim, 60 dB range
  • Frequency response at ≥ 88.2kHz sampling rates:  ± 0.1 dB from < 0.1 Hz – 35 kHz,  – 3 dB – 59 kHz for 176.4 kHz & 192 kHz
  • Distortion at recommended levels:  all products ≤ -120 dBFS
  • THD+N at maximum level:  < -110 dBFS
  • Firmware is upgradeable through signal inputs
  • Enclosure dimensions:  9 cm.H x 44.5 cm.W x 32 cm.D
  • Weight: 14 kg.
  • Mains power:  100/120/240 VAC, 50/60 Hz
  • Power consumption:  25 W



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