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Old 05-15-2021, 10:23 PM
gds7368 gds7368 is offline
Join Date: Feb 2016
Posts: 35

Originally Posted by ghasley View Post
Either version of the 866 has available USB ports for an aftermarket USB dongle based handheld remote control so no worries there.

I compared the digital section of the 866 versus my MSB Discrete DAC with dual outboard power supplies and utilized the pro usb input option fed by an Innuos Zenith mkiii. The 866 is connected to my network via ether regen switch. There were subtle differences but to my ears there were no meaningful differences. In the end, I sold my Discrete Dac setup with no reservations whatsoever.

Is the internal dac of the 866 better than a MSB Discrete? Probably not. But it is so superbly integrated and musical that 99% of the time no one could tell you which was playing. I had more invested in power cables and a usb cable to connect the Discrete to my 866 and thats not even including the interconnects which also exceeds the cost of the 866 digital upcharge.

I listened to music with which I am very familiar, switching between the Boulder digital section and the Discrete and I would be hard pressed to be able to point out any material performance differences other than the MSB did have a slightly larger soundstage if you were being very picky. If Boulder sold the digital/streaming section as a stand alone box it would be a bargain at $5k. I did not expect the Boulder digital section to be exceptional, heck I didnt care if it was frankly. I thought it would probably be just fine to handle my tv sound through it and I fully intended to keep the Discrete for “serious” listening. I eventually sold the Discrete, the Boulder digital section is that good.

The analog only 866 is an amazing integrated competing with anything under $30k to my ears. I wouldnt buy an 866 without the digital section though. It will shock you at how good the digital section actually is. I have purchased three digital 866’s and wouldnt personally choose the analog version to save a few grand.

Thanks for your thoughtful review! I had an all-Boulder system for about 5 years and respect its strengths. Glad you find the built in digital section strong. Every time I consider a new component I immediately tally up the cost of the uber-expensive interconnects to make it all happen.
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