Schiit Unison USB

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Gaspasser, Aug 31, 2019.

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  1. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    Now that the cat is out of the bag with Bifrost 2, I wanted to create a thread where we can specifically discuss and provide impressions of the Unison USB input and the various devices hooked up to it.

    There is a lot of good info and comparisons in the Club Room Thread especially from @rlow, @earnmyturns & @rtaylor76 to name a few.
    If I neglected to mention anyone else, I apologize.

    A little background: I owned Bifrost multibit (OG), Gungnir A1 (multibit) and Yggdrasil A1 and A2. I rarely used USB until Bifrost and got and installed Gen 5 USB cards in Bifrost and Gungnir. Through SBAF, I had the opportunity to beta test Unison and self-installed into Yggdrasil A1 and then the firmware was upgraded when I sent the DAC for the A2 upgrade.

    I previously used and favored disc spinners (because the majority of my music is on CD) trying a Denon DCD-2560 and then getting an Emotiva ERC-3 (both not true high end spinners). I tried SPDIF and AES inputs into the applicable DACs.

    I also previously tried and was not satisfied (long term) with non-spinner digital transports in my main system. See https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/super-cheap-digital-transport-comparo.3056/
    These include RPi + Pi2Media 502DAC and the above.

    I ended up using Bifrost with Gen 5 USB in a secondary system and liked it for that.
    Needless to say, I was skeptical of Unison beating my mid-fi ERC-3 AES into Yggradsil A1.

    I'm copying my impressions from the Club Room thread here:
    In the interim, my system is stabilized at (digital) Roon ethernet --> Allo USBridge --> Yggdrasil A2 Unison --> Af --> Verite

    I am reasonably confident that my system is now revealing enough to say that the Allo USBridge into Unison combo is a high-end source. I think you could easily insert any purpose-dedicated transport that outputs USB, not just Allo's version.
    Unison is that good. Granted, I haven't heard true high-end spinners in my system (like Marv and k4rstar) to definitively say, but Unison, at least via Yggradsil is the best I've heard in my system.
    I can easily hear the digital shortcomings of all the dynamically compressed music I own.

    I would strongly consider waiting until the Unison card release before making major transport purchase decisions. There are many reasonably-priced USB solutions that should work well with Unison.

    Edit: Standard CAT-5 ethernet cable and Schiit PYST USB cable used
    Edit 2: Allo USBridge with SOLA SLS-05-030-1T LPS powering and stock switcher powering the Sparky.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  2. Soups

    Soups Sadomasochistic cat

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    Would really appreciate hearing more comparisons between Unison and Allo DigiOne Signature's SPDIF. Seems like the latter was occasionally preferred in the Club Room Thread, and maybe enough time has passed for more seasoned opinions?
     
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  3. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I suspect this has more to do with system matching and power supplies.

    A very rough guide may be SPDIF for more mellow, rounded edges and softer transients versus USB with more etched, maybe strident transients. Unison is important because it sounds like neither and, to me, has the best attributes of both.

    Your post reminded me that I neglected to mention that I am running Allo USBridge with SOLA SLS-05-030-1T LPS powering and stock switcher powering the Sparky.

    I know the DigiOne Signature can be run off of a battery in addition to the switcher.
     
  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Good SPDIF should be less rounded and sharper than USB, barring a possible couple exceptions. It’s generally clearer, less grey, less hazy, has less hash, and has better micro and/or macro dynamics.
     
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  5. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I guess I haven’t heard good SPDIF then.
    What source are you referring to here, Digione Signature?
     
  6. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    It’s up there. I don’t know why, but the LPSU and batteries I tried made it somewhat mushy sounding.

    We may also be using terminology differently to describe similar findings.
     
  7. e.schell

    e.schell Friend

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    One thing I have not read any comments / comparisons to are the Lynx cards. Based on everything I have read in the past about Lynx Vs. Eitr, AoIP, etc. and now currently about Unison I can sort of guess. Yet I would still love to hear a direct comparison from one of the members around here I enjoy reading posts from that is still using a Lynx card.

    Either way I see myself sending in my Gungnir MB A1 for a Unison upgrade when the time comes!
     
  8. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    @Clemmaster left this in the Lynx thread
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...rfaces-aes16-and-e22.2762/page-26#post-255260
     
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  9. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I moved back to the Unison since then and actually prefer it now.
    Also, because I could not get WASAPI to work in Roon, I had to use Direct Sound (“System output” or something) which itself was causing distortion in some instances.
    I had windows set to 24/44.1, thinking it would leave my red book tracks untouched, but I recently discovered it’s not always the case!
    While testing my Andro Gold, I noticed high frequency noise/distortion when playing bass-centric tracks, which sounds like bad resampling to me.
    Switching to 24/192 fixes the issue and sounds really good with the Yggdrasil A2.
     
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  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Unison > Lynx cards. This using my tower PC. The Lynx cards offered a nice natural fluid presentation, but wasn't the last word in resolution and focus, e.g. the technical qualities found in Gen 5. The Lynx is like a better version of Eitr, one that does smear things over as much.

    Think of it this way:

    Eitr
    Lynx = Super Eitr
    Gen 5
    Unison = Gen 5 + Eitr + magic pixie dust (or super Eitr).

    This is how I described the Unison to @zerodeefex via text when he asked.

    Some of the complex AoIP setups with @misterears modified Mutec reclockers running specific firmware and Rednets sounded better than Unison. Those were on par with my TOTL CD transport. On par meaning close, but different sounding.

    An example, in order or "better", but also noting presentation differences.
    1. Theta Data III - stately, grand, and focused
    2. @misterears(TM) Mutec and Rednet (maybe like Unison)
    3. Marantz (modded} - open and spacious
    4. Unison - enchanting and bloomy
    5. Very good CD transports
    6. Lynx - natural and fluid
    7. Good CD transports
    8. Gen 5 - resolving and focused
    9. Mediocre CD transports
    10. Lesser CD transports
    Note that all transports or sources will have their own sound. They will dictate 20% to 60%+ of the sound depending on how it interacts with the DAC.

    Now if all these seems too daunting, just get Unison and reduce your chance of dying a lonely dude with nothing but your audio tower of power.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  11. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Non Voting Friend

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    The PCIe cards are dying like FireWire too. Thunderbolt is the future but there are still hiccups.
     
  12. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF Gearmaster

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    I'm curious how something like the XMOS USB compares to Unison and the other USB types.
     
  13. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

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    Lynx requires fuckery to max out quality. I have gotten closer to my theta in my passive system. Will do a side by side with unison later this weekend on my Yggdrasil A2.
     
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  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    XMOS seems to work great with Sabre DACs, about the equivalent of good/mediocre CD transports. Doesn't seem to be as good as non-Sabre DACs, but still better than Cmedia. The Cmedia on gear other than Schiit is horrible, e.g. Solaris Crane Song.
     
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  15. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    How much of Unison's magic is dependent on the quality of the USB input? I'm not gonna get all obsesso nervoso, just curious how much cleanup capability they designed in.
     
  16. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    did this experiment today for grins:
    in morning put an original USB Regen (iFi 9v power), USB male/female adapter in between my 2018 mac mini and Unison USB Yggdrasil A2.
    let it warm up all day, went outside and travelled around, saw people, spent lunch money, saw family etc.

    returned home and let Af warm up for 1hr. then music started, and W T F.
    bass was all bloated, round and murky. thought a damn tube had blown.
    get this: the L and R signals were also REVERSED! my ears were confused.

    immediately yanked out the Regen and adapter. Mac mini right into Unison and clarity, bass definition returned. L / R back to proper.
    I blame the damn M/F converter between Regen and USB input of Unison mostly?

    TL;DR
    goes to show, the Unison usb can't perfect every piece of source junk sent into it.
     
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  17. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    I am all I2S to SPDIF after fooling with USB for so long. One for my Pi3 at home, and one on my laptop docking station. I almost forget what USB sounds like anymore. Unison was pnly one that sounded as good as those, and Unison probably better.

    I put my Gen2 card back in my Bifrost 1...soupy, blurry, collapsed soundstage, bland...gimme back my Bifrost Mulibit.

    I tried Unison on two computers an my RPi3, Unison all sounded very close to the same. Can't say the same for Gen 2 or other USB DACs.

    I have also had two XMOS solutions including the Peachtree X1 USB to SPDIF adapter. Those required drivers even on Windows 10. Not really USB audio 2.0 compliant. It still was not as good as Etir, and the X1 is transformer coupled.

    I am certaon that someone will try to put a USB decrapifier on Unison, but essentially, what it is doing is nearly eliminating all the USB crap that plagues USB audio so there is no need for all that crap. I doubt this would happen without Windows 10 USB audio 2.0 support since Mac and Linux use something similar, but it is still all magic to me. Mike and Jason will likely not reveal what is under the hood lest spill secrets.

    Bottom line, Unison over USB anything = cleaner, detailed, fast, wide, spacious. So at least we know USB can't be holding the DAC back anymore. This is not just one notch above Gen 5, this is a new level that is on par with S/PDIF IMHO.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  18. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Reposting a few of my impressions from the beta test thread (not putting inside a quote though, I hate those blue expander boxes):

    “[comparing] Eitr vs. Gen 5 USB previously, I noticed a difference, but not that significant. A little softer and rounder, but a bit less etched than the Gen 5. Now however, Eitr compared to the new USB sounds WAY softer and bloomy, bass bloaty and warm, definitely more compact staging, greyer blackground, less dynamic and detailed. The clarity with the new USB is something else.”

    “With Yggdrasil, comparing the new [Unison] USB to Eitr/SPDIF, you lose some of that warm glowing hug. Fans of smooth warmpoo and bloomy tube sound may not find the new USB favourable, at least initially, since it seems to strip away all of that artificial fuzzy warmth. It seems to relay only the pure music from the recording without being wrapped in an SPDIF Snuggie [should have called it an “Eitr Snuggie”, not SPDIF specifically]. Still, if the recording is soft and warm, you do get that. If it’s hard/thin, you get that too. In other words, it seems more transparent and there’s less coloration being applied to all your recordings than with Eitr.

    I know others including @purr1n have said that Yggdrasil A2 to be somewhat bass boosted/bloated and I find this only appears on Eitr/SPDIF now - USB seems more even tonally through the bass region, but it also comes with even more low end slam/dynamics.

    Going back to Eitr shrinks the stage and congeals the instruments and vocals together and makes them softer and less distinct/separate, especially in complex passages. You do lose the immediacy and sense of realness that connects you more emotionally to the music, especially on great recordings. Solo vocals, piano and other acoustic instruments are just stunning on the new USB because they are so distinct, clear and dynamic (both micro and macro dynamics). But picking out individual instruments on the stage, even with complex passages, is way easier as well and really makes you feel like you’re watching the band perform live.

    I was surprised that even on poor recordings, the new USB doesn’t seem to overemphasize the nastiness like the previous Gen 5 USB does. With certain recordings and certain speakers that tend towards brightness, I found had to switch from using Gen 5 over to Eitr because the USB would scrape at my ears and cause fatigue. But some of those not-so-great recordings are simply the best music. Arcade Fire’s first couple albums for instance are not the best recordings, but man they kick ass musically. They don’t cause me fatigue on the new USB like they did with Gen 5.”

    “On a sound quality / impressions note - when I had taken out the card to send it back to Schiit for the firmware update, I had initially started back using the Gen 5 card. But I quickly found that it started to cause fatigue, so I put Eitr back in the chain. Eitr made it much more enjoyable to listen to, especially for long sessions, even though it has a bit softer and more rounded presentation. Gen 5 just had this underlying harshness and etch in the mids and highs that just became grating fairly quickly, esp at high volumes.

    With Unison however, I have no fatigue whatsoever.I’ve listened to it solid now for almost 2 weeks with zero desire to go back or even try Eitr/SPDIF. Eitr is now unplugged and put away in a drawer. Unison is awesome. I’m pretty pumped to see what Mike can do with his CD transport.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
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  19. Cellist88

    Cellist88 Afraid someone will shit on his opinions

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    I remember the unison being such a big step up, when I sent the card back for a firmware upgrade, I couldn't listen to gen 5. I stopped listening to the Yggdrasil altogether....although in my current situation, I'm not really listening much with the unison card either.
     
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  20. RatSalad

    RatSalad Facebook Friend

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    Anyone use an OS besides Windows 10 or mac that tested unison? I'm not to keen on using windows 10 (I would for unison) don't have a mac. I've been messing with linux here and there but I don't really like any of the players for it. Until a couple years ago just used tweaked out foobar2k on windows 8.1.
     

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