Your opinion members of the sonics of the Bricasti M21 and Berkeley Alpha Reference 3

Hello Audiogon members and I hope all is well and you are staying safe. I have looking at some DAC's over the past few months and looking at these two. I have a couple of other threads here on Audiogon on the Berkeley's and my research continues. I do not stream music at this time....I will in the future but not now and that from what I am learning does have an effect on what DAC is best for that option, but that is down the road. I just have my own Redbook library at this time. I have set up a system to my ears that is both musical as well as detailed and we all know that there were ultimately concessions made on trying, trying to obtain that balance. When you add a DAC you are adding a lens or adding a '' flavor '' if I may, so looking for a DAC that has both of those characteristics if possible. Let me know if you have possibly auditioned either one of the se DAC's and your responses would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

I have a Bricasti M12, not the M21 but very similar other than the M21 has an additional processing pathway that may be of interest to you. I came from a Shitt Yggy and the Bricasti was a big upgrade. More importantly, Bricasti customer service is top rate and very responsive. They know what they are doing. Give them a call or send them an email to learn how their units may help solve your questions.

Hello lxgreen and I hope all is well and thank you for your response. How would you describe the sound of your Bricasti ? …...let me know and thank you


I have the Berkeley alpha ref 3 fed by a blue node 2i.

It performs well.  It does a nice job with Tidal MQA but also sounds great with spotify low res.

I also tried the lumin X1 but lumens multiroom does not sync which is a joke.  I also had the DCS Bartok which is great as well.  

I have never done an A B on any of these.

Good luck in your search,

@garebear, I cannot answer your question if you should purchase the Bricasti M21 DAC or the Berkeley Alpha Reference 3. The answer depends on your budget, audio goals, what you are trying to accomplish, your existing equipment, your listening room and many other complex factors. I have no listening experience with the Berkeley Alpha Reference 3.

My Bricasti M21 DAC (MDx board installed) is outstanding, and I highly recommend it IF you have the budget, supporting high quality equipment and you want state fof the art sound quality. The addition of the M21 substantially improved the sound quality of my audio system. To my ears, everything sounds truly outstanding. The music is clearer, less dark, better bass and sounds more like music.

Bricasti says "The M21’s “advanced architecture means you can select, evaluate and enjoy three independent digital to analog converter signal paths: 24-bit delta sigma, 20-bit ladder DAC and true 1-bit DSD for DSD content. Engineering autonomous conversion paths creates an efficient platform for you to enjoy your music and explore the advantages of each”.

I experimented back and forth between the delta-sigma DAC and the ladder R2R DAC. Two weeks later, I set the DAC to the ladder R2R setting and rarely move it. To my ears, the music sounds better.

The M21 is a world class DAC and is highly recommended. I have no experience with the Berkeley Alpha Reference 3.

As was posted above, I agree that Bricasti customer service is excellent. Bricasti is a top-notch company.  Bricasti supports its products and offered the MDx board upgrade.  I installed the Bricasti MDx digital in my M21 DAC and the sound quality substantially improved.  The MDx board is an outstanding upgrade and is included with all current Bricasti models.   




@garebear, Another advantage of the Bricasti M21DAC is that it can be connected to the Internet.   Once detected by your network via a wired ethernet, the M21 is recognized as a DNLA device and becomes a powerful media renderer offering pristine data transmission over long distances, without loss of signal or degradation. This means your server can be placed anywhere on the network and run remotely lending to a clutter-free listening environment.


You mention your source for your DAC is a Bluesound Node 2i.  I’m curious if you’ve tried a better streamer.  While there is a wide variety of opinions on the importance of source, in my own experience, I enjoyed a bigger performance gain by improving my source than I did by moving to a better DAC.  While my own DAC isn’t as well regarded as yours, it’s still very good.  I’ve auditioned some that were in the price range of yours but didn’t feel it enough of an improvement over what I have to merit the spend.

I should note that there are some here who say source makes little to no difference (either out of belief, but some from experience) and/or that their DAC is immune to jitter.  Regardless, some of of us have experienced significant improvements with a better source.  FYI - I started with a Node 2.  It was very good for what it is, but I wouldn’t go back.  Of course, YMMV and perhaps you’ve already explored this, but I’d be curious as to your experience.  



Hi Mgrif,

I had a DCS bartok with a built in streamer.  The performance was better than the Node plus Berkeley Alpha 3.  I do multi room so I also had a node going through the Berkeley for the multiroom.  I sold it all to go to Lumin but had sync issues with the lumen multiroom.  So I am now back to square 1.  I am going to use the node Berkeley combo till someone comes out with a High end streamer that does multiroom.

NAD just discontinued the M50.2 so I am hoping that they will replace it with something that does not have CD ripping and storage which I do not need.

If NAD comes out with a higher end streamer I would try that and plug it into my BlueOS system.

If anyone has any suggestions I would be interested to hear everyones thoughts.

I need a high end streamer with multi room capability to feed my Berkeley Alpha 3. Then I need something to run the 2 other zones.  Price is not really an issue but I would like to keep it under 15K for the 3 zones.


I hope everyone is having a nice Holiday Season....we are getting a little off track here as the OP, but just following up to see if anyone has done any direct comparisons on the two DAC's I have mentioned. I currently do not stream and the transport will be an Esoteric K-01xd. I would like to hear from any Bricasti M21ownersif possible.

@garebear just curious why no streaming especially if you go with the M21? I've listened to the M12 at my dealers over a dozen times via streaming or via a transport and feel it is such a wonderful piece that I'm saving for one myself. I find it full bodied with a top end that extends as far as my hearing allows and has all the details of anything I've ever heard. The focus, depth and plain musicality is nothing short of foot tapping. 

Good luck in your quest and Happy New Year.

The DAC in the Esoteric CD player is probably awesome. If you aren't going to stream I have my doubts if it would make a big difference. I know there will be people that will disagree.

I purchased the M1 a few months ago and decided to upgrade to the M21 while I was in the return window. The M21 is worth the extra $$. The analog volume stage makes a difference. More detail, impact and dynamics plus just nice to listen to for hours. No complaints whatsoever.


Where did you get your Bricasti? Considering the m21 or an Audio Note DAC. What else did you listen to?