Pi2AES Impressions only thread

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by rhythmdevils, Dec 6, 2020.

  1. dllmsch

    dllmsch Friend

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    Never knew gumgnir and yggdrasil have reclocking function built in, would it be possible that the Gungnir Multibit reclock thing actually holding back the performance of both sources? I know certain Chinese audiophiles are obsessed with clocks, especially the expensive crystek CCHD-957 and some even more expensive OCXOs. I also remember reading some measurement on a Singxer or Gustard DAC, showing objective improvement of an external OCXO clock. Gungnir essentially forcing them all through a same clock.

    A lot of BF2 impressions saying that their performance is close to Gungnir Multibit or Yggdrasil, I wonder would it be because most of us use Pi2AES as source? So the differences between DACs narrowed as it became Source(better clock eg. Pi2AES)>BF2 vs source(not so good built in VCXO)>gumgy/Yggdrasil.

    Guess Gungnir Multibit and Yggdrasil can achieve even higher performance if the internal reclocking system is bypassed + having a better source.
     
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  2. Woland

    Woland Almost "Made"

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    I was wondering that too. Hypothetically a source could be hobbled by reclocking.

    But I can't yet answer the smaller questions along the way.. questions like what is the internal clock, how good is it, how much better is possible using an external source, and would closing that gap make any audible difference.

    After reading a bit more, it seems the Bifrost and Modi also reclock. The difference is that they don't have the two-speed Adapticlock mechanism, and always do a PLL. The Gungnir uses a dragged crystal (VXCO) with a fall-back option of PLL.

    Source


    Edit & Warning: do not Google "dragged crystals" on your work computer!
     
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    Last edited: May 16, 2021
  3. Woland

    Woland Almost "Made"

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    My best guess on this is that there is a ranking of Schiit inputs..

    SPDIF into VCXO >> Unison USB >?> SPDIF into PLL/VXO >> USB Gen 5

    With a ? because there's some difference of opinion about that pairing. I don't have any direct experience with BF2, this is just based on what others have said.

    Perhaps the only thing holding Unison back from top performance is if the Unison board uses a lower tier clock. Schiit could bring out a Unison Crystal card, of course, or a Unison card that allows for external exotic accu-jack clocks. Has anyone identified the clocks on Unison boards?
     
  4. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    So, PI2AES came at my door. I instantly plugged it in instead of the 502DAC, which I thought I killed by my experiments with the power. That turned out not to be the case. rPi 3B+ was dead over GPIO, but was playing fine over USB. Strange thing. I needed to order PI2AES to figure that out. So 502DAC is alive and kicking and it will go to my father's system, which I'm quite happy about.

    So I obtained rPi 4, plugged the PI2AES in, with Mean Well GS90A24-P1M that I had at hand. First of all, I wanted to thank @Michael Kelly for the great device (Edit: correct name spelling)! Straight out of the box it exceeded my expectations even with the switcher! That was so much better than USB (from rPi powered with sbooster to Gungnir Multibit A1, Gen5).

    Then I tried 502DAC powered with sbooster. I seemed to like the PI2AES (over BNC) more than the 502DAC. Not conclusive, but I switched my attention to the new toy.

    I decided to try and power it with the sbooster. Both rPi and the hat was still feeding from a single PSU.
    Before continuing with my thoughts, I wanted to say, that I have a custom OS with almost everything switched off - radio, USB, etc. And minimal services enabled. Network is fed from a separate router powered with a Mean Well and slightly filtered with iFi ipurifier thingy, then through a switch on linear power.

    So, I plugged 5V sbooster to the pin 1 and pin 3 instead of the Mean Well and made the ABA session. If you know a better way to do it - please let me know. What I got is actually more "analog" sound compared to the switcher:
    - less of digital haze
    - better prat, I found myself tapping foot
    - instruments gained weight and body
    - drums got the balls, yeah)
    - the iron got more distinguishable and conclusive trailing ends
    - better separation, individual instruments depicted more clearly on the scene
    - echoes and aftersounds became more distinguishable
    - stage became deeper, more see-through, maybe not as wide as with Mean Well, but I could be mistaken here, because of added depth
    - maybe a bit more forward sounding

    And I have no intention of coming back to the Mean Well :) I must say, I'm totally happy with the purchase and with the sound of my system at the moment! I'm just curious, which source you need to have to get even better results? But I need a big pause and enjoy what I have before that)
     
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  5. Qstik

    Qstik Rando

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    In the continuous game of whack-a-mole with my audio system, I have continued to add components which address various shortcomings, only to find that the system is now more revealing of other shortcomings. To address those shortcomings I have added the RPi4b / PI2AES to add higher fidelity output streams to my Onyx DAC (currently I2S), an Uptone Audio EtherREGEN with an UltraCAP LPS-1.2 to clean up the ethernet stream just ahead of the Pi2AES, a 10MHz master clock from AfterDark with LPS to externally clock the EtherREGEN and thereby reduce jitter. It's been reported to me that the Onyx is not particularly good at input jitter rejection.

    However, I have been wondering if the Meanwell SMPS powering my Pi2AES might now be the weak link in my system. I had been holding off buying an 24v LPS since I was concerned about the price-benefit ratio. If I bought it and found that it was not noticeably better, I'd have a expensive brick I probably would never find a use for, or a buyer.

    Then I became aware of the Ferrum Hypsos LPS, which has infinitely variable voltage between 5v and 30v at a maximum of 6 amps. It is a slick device that I just had to try (especially so since I could use it elsewhere at other voltages if it didn't help the Pi2AES much), so I bought one and plugged it into my system to power the Pi2AES at 24v. It's been burning in continuously for 36 hours now. I hesitate to say much while it is still burning in - but WOW, huge improvements. This is a complement to Michael Kelly, who has designed an excellent DDC, and now I know limited by the inexpensive SMPS used to hit the intended market price. OK, the Meanwell SMPS costs what, $30? And the Hypsos costs $1000. For me, it is well worth it - YMMV. I will post a more detailed review after more burn-in and a couple of further upgrades. I also plan to invite good friends (one is a Grammy Award winning recording engineer and studio owner) for a listen. A word of caution - unless you have exactly the same system as me, you may not get the same results! I encourage others to power their Pi2AESs with a quality LPS and report back to get a bigger database of results.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021
  6. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    @Qstik Although I think the Hypsos is waaay overkill for the stock rPi based device, with all it's built in switching regulators, you're digging in the right direction. I also got quite noticeable improvements with mere sbooster. Edit: From my experience with different cheaper PSUs, I guess your result with Hypsos is even better. But for that money we could talk about another streamer level (used market).

    And the network - is very, I mean Very important part of the chain. Try also changing stock PSUs on the network devices and put some filtering on that PSUs. It would be nice to move network equipment to the other power line, not the one your main rig is plugged into. Cheap way to check if it's worth it - buy some batteries. Sound wouldn't be as dynamic and open as on LPSU, but it would be cleaner, enough to get the idea.

    And as I described in my above post, it's nice to have a separate network segment bridged to the main network over Wi-Fi, where you only have a router -> switch -> streamer. It cleans up some shit (supposedly EMI/RFI), that network catches from both power and LAN wires.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021
  7. Qstik

    Qstik Rando

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    My network equipment is in my basement on another circuit of the house. I have ethernet EMI/RF filters at the start and end of a 75 ft run of BJC CAT6a to my EtherREGEN. I haven't done an A-B with and without the filters since installing the Hypsos, but I plan to.

    Agreed, the Hypsos is way overkill, but there are limited options for other 24v LPSs. And, other than your post, there are very few reviews of LPSs with the Pi2AES. Your post pushed me over the edge and convinced me that there was some opportunity there with a good LPS, although an Sbooster is not cheap at $400US, nor is an SOtM sPS-500 at $500US. I did not want to risk trial and error purchases - so I went for maximum effect. After burning in for 2.5 days, my system is sounding better and better - absolutely new heights for soundstaging, precision localization, analog-like total absence of grain or strain, freakishly good reproduction of reverberant sound fields - totally worth what I spent for the Hypsos. Plus, as my system evolves over the years, I can reuse the Hypsos for other devices/voltages.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2021
  8. Qstik

    Qstik Rando

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  9. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    the reason to have an extra router is to omit the long ethernet lines that cross or go along to the power lines (6 inches is close enough). However, the filters should help a bit. It would be interesting if you compare that as well and tell what u think. I used to have slightly harsher sound when used long ethernet lines, but I didn't use any filters at the moment. What filters do you use btw?

    Sorry about that! :D
    I also thought, that I wouldn't want to part with half of the price or end up with a piece of equipment in the box. That's why I went with latest sbooster on the used market. And it's tiny bit cheaper in Europe.

    As you already have the Hypsos, I would suggest to relax and enjoy what you have. Network neurosa hits hard!)) I'm so jaded now :drunk: But it's a consequence of the attempt to modify the switch by myself. Power and clocking that is. Besides, the Hypsos should be great and reusable as you said. I need 5 psu's in my system at the moment : D

    I don't have experience with those and not an electrical engineer, so I can't tell if it's worth it. I however read some good reviews on the Zerozone, but in the end people say that it's not a brand and more like a franchise. Parts quality may vary. And Chinese PSU is like a lottery. It can be good for your application, or not. Anyway, if I decide to try some Chine, this would probably be the case. And it's upgradeable if you know what you're doing. At least the caps and (omg) the dc cord (starquad cables tend to be good for this application, with nice impedance-capacitance levels). But again, YMMV depending on the application.

    Edit: P.S. Most noticeable improvement was changing/tweaking the PSUs so far.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
  10. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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  11. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    Yeah, rlow’s made a great comparison. It pretty much motivated me to upgrade the power supply on the streamer long time ago.

    Thanks for the tip on power supplies! I need more power, so will do some search. Hope it’d reduce expenses a bit :rolleyes:
     
  12. Qstik

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  13. Qstik

    Qstik Rando

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    Thanks @Biodegraded. I went back at your suggestion and reread the Pi2AES power discussions by @rlow and others. Let me be clear - I believe I have a very unique configuration which few others have in front of their Pi2AES ethernet wired input; which is an EtherREGEN and LPS-1.2 from Uptone Audio coupled with a 10 MHz Master Clock and a separate LPS to power it. This is a very pricey front-end to the Pi2AES. I can only hypothesize that the reduced jitter, filtered and isolated ethernet signals to the Pi2AES in my case allow a really clean LPS to truly let it shine and show its full potential. I don't think my positive results with using an LPS to power my Pi2AES contradicts previous discussions if you think about it. Unless you have the same front-end, you probably won't get the same results. The devil is in the details...
     
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  14. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    I wasn't meaning to imply they did. Just wanted to point you to others' experiences of lower-cost alternatives in addition to the ones you'd already found.
     
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  15. TupuHumuhumunukunukuapuaa

    TupuHumuhumunukunukuapuaa Rando

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    Just wanted to say that I am thoroughly pleased with this product. Michael has sprinkled a little something extra special in these boards. This is the best my system has ever sounded!

    I'm running Room Server (ThinkPad Windows 10 Music on SSD)-->Ethernet on the same switch--> Pi2AES with a Rpi 4 4GB (stock Meanwell PSU)-->I2S (1.8ft HDMI cable from Amazon) -->Topping Dx7 Pro with SparkOS 3602 op-amps-->XLR-->D-Sonic m3a 800S-->Tekton Moabs. OMG the level of detail, coherence, dynamics, soundstage depth and width, tonality, bass definition, the ease of it all, it's insane!

    Now throughout the life of this system build the sound has never been bad. Neither I or anyone else has been like "nah that's not it". But with each upgrade I've been lucky and have been rewarded with more detail and refinement. But with this last change, switching the Windows based Roon endpoint via USB (with an iFi 3 USB de-crapifier) to the Pi2AES build with Ropieee over I2S, something happened that I wasn't expecting. I still had that great sound with no harshness and all the dynamics, but now, things were more delineated, elements of recordings have more presence, layering became more distinct. In those situations where the passages become a bit complex you can still weave your way through and understand what is happening, the texture and tones are heard so clearly. Bass has more detail, depth and presence.

    I thought I had maxed out my DAC and was hearing the best it could do, wow, was I wrong! Recordings that I haven't been too impressed make more sense, I found myself tapping my feet and enjoying them. Clown me if you must, but ABBA Dancing Queen from the Gold Collection release sounds really good. Nothing irritating or edgy about that recording through this setup. My wife and I have been stunned over the past few days going through the Roon catalogue and picking things at random. "Wow, it didn't sound like this with the Windows computer over USB. Everything is so much clearer and I thought it was great before!", that's all I needed to hear from her, lol! We were up until 2AM last night listening to Miles Davis and then Puccini. We enjoy a WIDE range of music, I mean I can be listening to classical one minute, and then play some Future, then some Bjork, IZ, Na Palapalai, Sophie Hunger, Ani Difranco, Xiu Xiu, it varies A LOT! And I must say, 44.1/16 sounds fantastic!

    A couple of things I noticed, I couldn't use any old HDMI cable, only a couple specific cables out of my box of random cables worked with I2S, otherwise the unit would either shut off or crash after boot (the NIC led goes out), or it would crash/shutdown after playing music for some period of time. I want to throw this out there and see if anyone else noticed something similar where the sound improved a bit after a couple hours of running. I would describe it as things opening up a bit, presentation being a bit smoother. I figured the boards were already run in a bit from their initial testing prior to shipping. Maybe I'm bugging. The rest of this post though, no way, I'm very serious about what I experienced! :)

    Anyway, the pandemic sucked but in the process I've obtained some really cool American made gear (Pi2AES, Roon, SparkOS, Tekton) which as a whole REALLY makes my ears happy! Between the PI2AES, RPi4, and FlLiRC, it was $350 well spent. I think I'm going to listen to a little more music before I hit the hay. I've been too busy to get some time in with the system where I can really crank it, but I think tomorrow I'm going to have to block out time and do some mid-day listening at uhm "spirited" levels. I can't wait! Thanks again Michael Kelly!
     
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  16. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    Another round of experiments. Please note, that I made this mostly out of curiosity and would consider such experiments a bit crazy at full MSRP from financial standpoint. Maybe rPi modification with Ian's products would be better option. But I found a used usbridge signature for a good price and here I am.

    For the next comparison I installed pcp 8 at both devices and made as similar settings as I could. I wouldn't spend one more day for picking optimal CPU settings for rPi4. To put it simple, I disabled everyghing I could, hooked it up to highly tweaked network segment (with all LPSUs at that moment and slight filtration), disabled compressed swap in RAM at Tweaks -> pCP Kernel Tweaks -> Advanced Overclock -> Bootcodes. The LMS was running on my PC.

    So, let's talk business. (sBooster -> pi2aes -> rPi4) sounds pretty nice actually, but compared to the (sBooster -> pi2aes -> usbridge signature)
    - it sounds slightly fucked up, like there's some fog/veil/small dust particles and slight-very-little grain all over the spectrum. It's less obvious than changing Meanwell SMPS (24V) to sBooster (5V). The veil was of the similar character, but with larger grain and haze in that case. So the background is not as black with the rPi4. Micro-details are a tiny bit obscured. Voices/instruments sound slightly less natural. You hear not as deep in the music.

    In my system, that I seems to be pretty resolving (at least for it's price bracket) I consider it to be a meaningful improvement. Well, it sounds clean at last! It stopped bothering me and became the streamer that I don't want to change to a CDT any more (unless I AB it with some really nice one along the road :D). I'm quite happy with the result, and plan to stay with this configuration for quite a while. Maybe it'd be nice to try different PSUs, I need one more 5V for the switch anyway. And the network is the whole other thing that contributes more than I thought it would.

    For the systems with less resolving/more romantic/safe-side speakers like vintage/Elac UB5 (that I actually hear a lot), rPi3 (that should be less hazy with the HAT to my knowledge), less resolving cables than say Oyaide 510, the difference would going to be so minute that I probably wouldn't bother too much.

    (a bit later) after another round of ABA, no more stock rPi for me guys :"-( Some time ago I wouldn't believe that a source would mean that much.

    From downsides: you need to make a custom case. Screwing a board to usbridge was not quite smooth. Not very precise places for screws. Not all operating systems that I tried support usbridge.
    Edit: and Squeezelite stops running occasionally. That’s really annoying. Hope it’s going to be fixed with some update.

    Edit2: here’s a pic
     
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    Last edited: Jul 25, 2021
  17. stevej

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    It looks like from your pic that you powered the pi2aes via pin 1 and 3 using 5v vs it’s 24v power port. Did the usbridge sig power from this as well or did you use another power source?
     
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  18. ofilippov

    ofilippov Acquaintance

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    Same source. The jumper on pi2aes in on.

    And that’s actually my fault. Had to unscrew it from below in the first place. Fits well.
     
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  19. haywood

    haywood Friend

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    Cool project @ofilippov. I’m curious about the xlr-to-bnc transformer when people have measured the native bnc as minutely cleaner? I wouldn’t expect a big difference but trying is free. ;)
     
  20. Woland

    Woland Almost "Made"

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