USB Nervosa Thread Decrapifiers, pro interfaces, and bears oh my

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by zerodeefex, Sep 28, 2015.

  1. Kattefjaes

    Kattefjaes Mostly Harmless

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    Oh goodness- looking at the pics of the guts of that thing here, I have to admit that it looks interesting. Damn you ;)
     
  2. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Can't say I did.

    I don't use USB for audio unless I'm forced to, and the situations in which I'm forced to preclude the use of things like that (laptop on the go).

    The only reason I have the SU-1 is for it's I2S output (which will be replaced with a box of my own design here shortly) - I have other interfaces I prefer (And that work better for how I listen to music for pleasure) for AES.
     
  3. tomtan

    tomtan Rando

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    I'm curious. What is wrong with optical on mac? I tried using it with the Fiio e17 and I think it sounded slightly better than when connecting it to USB (to take with a grain of salt, my ears may not be very sensitive since I can't discern the difference between flac and 320kbit/s mp3).

    EDIT: Ok, I've looked the thread and found my answer, there's a lot of jitterbug on the optical connection from the mac and USB on mac is also crap...
    So, what would be good for someone who uses a macbook pro most of the time? Currently I use my fiio as a dac and send that to my Audio technica AT-HA22TUBE but I'm curious what the best choice would be instead.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2016
  4. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Elaborating a bit ...

    Depending on which Mac you have, there is a quite a range of variance in the tolerances of the optical emitters (iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Book Pro are the principal offenders here, where as the Mac Pros have more consistent hardware there) and then the clocking scheme is less than ideal (single rate clock, so you wind up with non-integer clock scaling for one sample rate series) coupled with some issues on the software side when it comes to using an external clock input.

    It's typically (not always) better than the USB output on the iMac, Mac Mini and Mac Book Pro (all of which use more heavily integrated implementations, which results in higher noise levels/EMI on the output, than the Mac Pro models, or at least the classic line), but still not ideal.

    ...

    Personally, I wouldn't bother trying to address it with the FiiO e17 though as any meaningful improvement is likely to cost more than your DAC. At most I'd consider something like the Schiit Wyrd. In other words, at this point the money is probably better spent elsewhere.
     
  5. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    As an aside I had a BA-USB for a about a year. At the time the OR5 was the competition and to me, there was a clear winner. I personally can't say enough good about the Berkley unit.
     
  6. tomtan

    tomtan Rando

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    Thanks Torq for the clear explanation!

    I have a macbook pro from 2013. I'm eventually planning to buy a better DAC than the Fiio. So far I've only tried the Dragonfly and the AT-HA90USB from Audio Technica but didn't really hear any real improvement...

    So, if I bought say a Modi 2 from Schiit would the optical jitters or the USB noise be a problem? Or should I just relax and not spend too much money on DACs/Amps for a while since I enjoy my headphones :)
     
  7. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    @zerodeefex's first post in this thread pretty much answers your question.

    I'd absolutely echo his advice not to worry about any of this nervosa stuff this side of $1,000 or so DACs. Generally it is just not going to give as big a return vs. spending the same amount elsewhere in your chain. For example, if I was spending $250 on a source, I'd buy a Modi MB long before I'd go with a Modi 2 Uber + Wyrd. Then, if I was going to be sticking with the Modi MB for a decent period, I might try a Wyrd with it.

    We're talking about last-few-percent improvements here (or, at least, I am).

    I've seen some really bizarre setups with multiple levels of clocks feeding clocks feeding interfaces/AOIP boxes feeding re-clockers, and then stuffing that into an input on a DAC (that costs less than the bloody clocks) and that is then going to re-re-clock that input internally at potentially lower precision anyway!

    As an example, the chances of getting a cost-effective return even on something at the level of Gungnir with this sort of stuff is marginal unless the clock-mode LED is lit. I'm not saying there's no potential improvement, and it certainly depends on both the source and the specific DAC, but I think the gains here are, generally, substantially exaggerated and, for the most part, not that interesting at all until you're dealing with Hi-Fi level DACs.
     
  8. Madra

    Madra Acquaintance

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    I go straight from my computer to the DDC to feed active digital speakers via SPDIF, so all connections (USB, Ethernet using Rednet 3 and Spdif out of a Lynx card) would work for me. The question is which one is more likely to have better SQ. The Berkely USB is almost twice as expensive than the other 2 solutions. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the other two, short of buying for testing.

    @bigfatpaulie , what did you replace the Berkely USB with, and how do they compare sonically?
     
  9. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    A lot would depend on what speakers you're actually using.

    If it's something on the order of the Meridian DSP 5200.2 units then something like the Berkley might make sense. If you're closer to something like the Elac AM150, then spending $1800 to fix USB issues would be rather daft.

    What's your setup?

    And, while you're at it, posting an introduction (if you have, that's fine, but I don't see it) along with some idea of your gear would make addressing such questions a lot easier/more productive.
     
  10. The Killer Piglet

    The Killer Piglet Rando

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    Replaced MF Vlink-II with the Berkeley, there is no going back.

    I'd also suggest using Windows Server 2012 r2, ideally in core mode. Core mode is not all that difficult to run once you have your drivers and media player setup.
    But no wifi in core.
     
  11. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    What's your chain?

    Recommending $1800+ DDCs and expensive (and out-dated) server operating systems is pretty "off" without proper context.

    Especially if you're running Windows 2012 just to host a player directly into a USB DDC vs. a myriad of other options where the software cannot matter and the hardware is cheaper than the software ...
     
  12. bigfatpaulie

    bigfatpaulie Tried to screw other friends while playing victim

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    At the time I was using a Lampizator and their USB implementation (at the time) was embarrassing (hence the need for the BA unit). I changed my DAC to a Bricasti M1 and the USB on that sounded so similar to the BA unit via AES I sold the M1. I ended up with a DAVE and I have a microRendu en route.
     
  13. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Get a microRendu or Sonicorbiter SE, for better effect.
     
  14. The Killer Piglet

    The Killer Piglet Rando

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    @Torq

    Out dated in what way? Not running games on it. It is a proven stable system which can be configured to run with minimum services. Like most things in audio, it should not matter but it does. Running MC22, control via Jremote or Remote Desktop.

    I followed the threads at computer audiophile on and off for the last year before taking the plunge.

    Chain:
    Fanless PC > SotM USB > Cardas USB Cable > Berkeley Alpha > Kimber Orchid XLR > Audio Note 3.1x balanced (various amps) > Utopia
     
  15. Madra

    Madra Acquaintance

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    You were close enough ;), It is a Meridian DSP 6000, the 24/96 version. The Meridian, while being an older design, is still good enough to make differences between the Audiophilleo 2 vs Berkley DDC, the Nordost Blue Heaven vs Audioquest Diamond USB cable, and a Van DenHul vs Nordost Odin digital cable, clearly audible. The Sonic gains brought by each upgrade were significant.

    As for the introduction, this is something that i have yet to write, guilty as charged.

    For the computer end, I run a standard Mac mini with Audirvana+ and stream from either a NAS or from Tidal HIFI.

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I would like to keep the mac for the time being. Any change would probably be towards either a dedicated player or a linux machine running Roon server.

    A couple of months ago, I recommended to a friend and helped him install a linux Roon server with a MicroRendu and I have to say I love the Roon interface. Unfortunately, this does not eliminate the need for a DDC since the Meridian DSP 6000 has an SPDIF input only. So for me, a Berkely USB or a Rednet 3 make more sense.
     
  16. Madra

    Madra Acquaintance

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    As a side note concerning the Berkely USB, I have recommended it along with a dedicated windows server (running JRiver) to a friend. It was installed in a system consisting of the following:
    - Burmester 069 CD player/DAC
    - Burmester 808 mk5 preamp
    - Burmester 911 Power amp
    - TAD CR1 speakers
    - Nordost Odin cables
    There were differences between CD and computer playback, but I would not say one is better than the other.

    The quality of the Berkely is undeniable, the question is how do more recent devices like the Rednet, or cheaper devices like the SU-1, compare.
     
  17. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    I have both of these and they're quite cost effective - however, after playing with a bunch of streamers/NAIs and AOIP interfaces, I have to say that the SonicOrbiterSE is best used via it's USB output (assuming an Async USB Audio compatible DAC). It lacks dedicated clocks for 44.1 and 48 KHz timebases and it seems to suffer for it via it's optical output. This doesn't really matter when using USB as the isochronous packet transfer isn't slaved to any audio-centric clock and the DAC will have to re-clock the data from its input buffer anyway.
     
  18. Torq

    Torq MOT: Headphone.com

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    Outdated as in "not current".

    If running the minimum amount of services (i.e. code), presumably to get the minimum possible load/activity on the machine, is the goal, you can get even skinnier with a pared down Linux instance. Better yet, you can do that with even more minimal hardware to the point that you're running a few dozen KB of software rather than the mass of crap that even a minimally configured Windows 2012 instance forces on you.

    You can even still run JRiver, I believe (though I've not tried it).

    Just a thought ...

    Anyway, I'm mostly trying to get people to add appropriate context to posts that recommend fiddly and/or expensive configurations (and especially expensive USB-sourced DDCs) since there's a fascinating trend among the nervosa-afflicted to focus on upstream gadgets that give last-few-percent improvements instead of focusing on where really big steps up in quality can be made.
     
  19. e.schell

    e.schell Friend

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    Just want to make sure no one accidentally tries to use that firmware to update their SU-1. (not sure if that was it's original intention here but since the SU-1 was being talked about at the time i'm making the assumption) It's for the Singxer F-1, attempting to update an SU-1 with it will "brick" the SU-1.... i know because someone suggested it to me, i didn't do my homework before hand and turned my FIRST SU-1 into a paperweight until the chip that holds the firmware is removed and replaced on the board, which apparently can be done by the end user if you have those skills, i currently do no trust myself so it is on the way to china to be replaced. Ha...that was a bad sunday afternoon!

     
  20. Madra

    Madra Acquaintance

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    Context is everything. I agree that it does not make any sense to add an expensive DDC, usb sourced or otherwise, to a lower resolution lower end system. It won't make as big a difference as upgrading to a better DAC, speakers, amps...

    I recommended a while ago the Berkely USB to a friend who owns a highend system, and it earned its place by being competitive with his CD playback, and we are talking about a CD player/DAC with a price tag of a Mercedes.

    While I can't say i tested any of these devices, I have an issue (just do not like it intellectually) with adding multiple devices to try to fix a USB source. I read about setups with multiple devices in series, such as USB ethernet extenders, intona, Mutec, UpTone regen....with their respective power supply upgrades. I would always prefer a more elegant solution with fewer boxes and better implementation, USB sourced or otherwise.

    I need an SPDIF signal to feed the Meridians DSP 6000, this could come from a Mac>Berkely DDC, a Mac>Rednet 3, or a dedicated player like the Aries. The Berkely is a known entity for me, and was tested to good effect with the Meridians. but a Berkely with a good USB cable will be almost 3x the price of the Rednet 3, and more expensive than the Aries.
     

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