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Looking for comparison: Ayre QB-9 to Weiss Dac2


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My goal is to get a DAC/computer setup that performs equal, or better to my CD player/DAC setup. Currently I am running a bel canto CD-1 as transport, into a highly modified PS Audio DL-III (bnc cable, SPDIF, Stereovox XV2). My computer setup is: MacBook (2.4 g, 4 G RAM) via FW (Revelation Audio Labs FW cable) to RME FF 400, SPDIF out to DL-III. The playback from the transport is currently better sounding than the computer setup, most likely due to the jitter on the SPDIF output from the RME (the RME has relatively high jitter).

I am considering either the QB-9, or the Weiss DAC2, and am quite aware of the technical differences between these two units. I cannot figure out anyway to get both of these units into my home for a true comparison in my system, so I am wondering if anyone here has had an opportunity yet to compare the sound of these two DACs. I am leaning a little toward the Weiss, especially considering that it can currently play up to 24/192 files; but I am also very confident that the Ayre will sound great, and may be able to be updated in the future to handle data rates above 24/96.

 

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Hi Barrows - certainly the Weiss and the QB-9 are fine products. I you are going to drop that kind of coin why dont you give the Transporter a try. The jitter issue is largely solved with the WiFi. The sound is "very good" IMHO. I have Magneplanar (modified) MMG's with Winsome Labs t-amp. For a reference - the Transporter "blows away" the Rega Apollo, in terms of lack of distortion, black background, quick precise reproduction of transients. Very "real" sound. I chose it because I wasnt happy with the jitter/clocking issues with what is available today. Wavelength has an interesting asynchronous technology for USB that I would tend to trust. SPDIF if full of issues!

 

If you like resolution and clean sound I think you may like it! Does a $2K music server/DAC compare with $10-15K high end products? Unknown! Perhaps you could answer that for us! You can always send it back.

 

Eric

 

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Eric,

 

Thanks for the feedback. I am an paranoid audiophile, and as such I do not believe that having wifi in my home is good for the sound of my system, or, perhaps my long term health. I am lucky enough to live in a rural area, that is relatively free from outside sources of RF energy. That said, I know that the Transporter can be set up with a wired ethernet connection, and I have considered it in the past, but it has the limitation to 24/96 as one problem (I believe that there will be an upgrade available for the QB-9 eventually that will allow for up to 24/192 operation). Additionally, while I do believe that the Transporter sounds very good, Wes Phillips (Stereophile) reported that his Ayre C5-xe sounded ever so slightly better than the Transporter. I have it on the authority of ears that I trust, that a properly configured QB-9 sounds as good, or better, than the C5-xe.

I definitely believe that ethernet connected streaming players are a great way way to go when properly designed, but they do pose many problems that make it difficult for most audio companies to develop them. I have heard the Linn Klimax DS, and it produces as good digital sound as anything out there, but it is $20K, and the user interface is fundamental a best. Logitech, as a non audio company has been able to mostly overcome the interface problem, but I believe they cannot quite equal the performance of a product designed by the masters of digital and analog audio circuits, like Daniel Weiss and Charles Hansen.

I agree entirely on SPDIF: both the Ayre QB-9 and Weiss DAC2 (via firewire) do not rely on SPDIF communications. HiFi News has confirmed very low jitter in the Minerva (same as DAC2) and I suspect that we will see tests of the QB-9 via USB that also confirm low jitter. Both these products use an architecture that makes the internal clock the master clock for the system, allowing for very low jitter operation when properly implemented.

 

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You wrote... "I am an paranoid audiophile"

 

Your name isn't Marvin isn't it?

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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For clarity of users on the forum - can you clarify how you are related to www.puriteaudio.co.uk who say they are a dealer for the Weiss DAC2 but not the Ayre as far as I can see. No problem with you posting or anything, I just think you should make it clear if you have a commercial interest in the product talked about.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Don't get me wrong, I'm sure the qb-9 is a great dac for it's price range, but i think people are focusing way too much on jitter issues. Just because a DAC has a claimed SOTA interface, does not mean that dac is SOTA.

 

Many things make up a great DAC: jitter management, DAC chip, Analogue stage, power,

 

I haven't seen specs on the QB-9, but if we look at their Ayre's flagship CD player we can see that it uses a "PCM1738 was the best part available at the time we designed the CX-7, apart from the PCM1704 which cost 10x as much" (quoted from Charles Hansen, founder of ayre: http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/digital/messages/14/146112.html). THey also use opamps for their analoge stage, which is one of the more conventional, cost efficient solutions. So if the dac is built anything like the cd player, why would you expect this dac to be a giant killer if it's not using the best Dac chips and output stages?

 

Plus i'm very skeptical if an async usb solution will indeed sound better than a well implemented spdif solution. Unfortunately the Async usb dacs (Ayre and wavelength) don't come with a spdif option so we can never try it out.

 

What i do know is that reviews of the Benchmark USB have commented that they believe the spdif interface to sound superior to the usb interface (admitedly not async usb).

 

My own experience in fighting jitter has told me that it's an essential tweak, but not on the same level as clean power or better ic/speaker cables. It's the icing on the cake.

 

 

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Do not know Marvin, I am Barrows.

I am in the front range of Colorado, US.

 

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You can't dissect a unit and tell how it will sound based solely on the specs of the chips it uses. The final implementation is just as or more important. Listen to the music not the data sheet.

 

\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

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If the QB9 is using the same dac chip as the cd player, which the president of Ayre has admitted isn't the best out there, then yes, i think I can make the conclusion that the QB9 does not have uncompromising sound.

 

It will not be a giant killer. It's probably a very good dac, but not the latest greatest thing just cause it has Async USB.

 

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60, I agree with most of your points. My system is very well optimized, with excellent cabling (Nordost Frey ICs and speaker cables, very good DIY power cables with Oiyade terminations) and a very good DIY power conditioner, built to specifically address the noise that is present on my AC supply. I have also payed special attention to the effect of vibration on my system.

I used to work for a high end audio company, and have a great deal of knowledge of DAC design, and the effects of different DAC chips, upsamplers, power supply design, and I to V conversion and analog output stages. I am entirely in agreement that all factors of DAC design are very important. I have a great deal of respect for both Charles Hansen, and Daniel Weiss when it comes to digital design. The effect of the DAC chips in overall sound of these two DACs will be minimum, as they both use proprietary upsampling math and digital filters, and bypass that part of whatever DAC chip they are using. I do not know which chip is in the Ayre, but I am certain its D to A performance is excellent. The Weiss uses the BB1792, which is a SOTA chip. As long as the DAC chip offers low noise and distortion (which are basically below audible levels in all high end chips these days) and the designer is doing the upsampling and digital filtering externally (to the DAC chip) different DAC chips will have little to no effect on the overall sound.

I have heard the Ayre QB-9, but not in my system. Right now these are in short supply, but I hope to be able to get a demo unit to my home soon.

My experience in helping with the product development of DACs, especially when trying to interface with a hard disk, has shown that jitter is the current primary problem with digital audio: everytime we reduced jitter in our designs, they sounded noticeably better. Recent research (sorry, I forgot exactly where I read this, but they are AES papers) has suggested that jitter is audible even at levels previously considered to be very low. SPDIF is a very jittered interface, and requires that very special attention be paid to jitter reduction methods to achieve good performance. The problem is, that the usual method of jitter reduction in a DAC, asynchronous sample rate conversion, while effective at reducing jitter, harms the sound in other ways. I am in favor of designs that start out with low jitter in the first place, rather than accepting low jitter and then trying to clean it up later (the Weiss actually does both methods, cleans up the jitter on its SPDIF inputs via a dual loop PLL).

I made this post to get feedback from anyone who may have had the chance to listen to these two DACs in comparison, as I was looking for the differences in sound, rather than all the technical speculation I am making here which is admittedly based on opinion and inference only (while still being very interesting speculation at that!)

 

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We'll just have to disagree on this one. While claims are one thing, and can and should be questioned, it is pretty much indisputable that a properly done async USB interface is measurably better in jitter performance than any other USB implementation or SPDIF. Usually much, much better. Firewire potentially can be as good as async USB, but it does require dedicated drivers specially written for the task.

 

Whether you find low jitter performance a desirable characteristic in a DAC is something you and every other user has to decide for themselves.

 

On the Ayre dac chip question... The PCM1738 and the PCM1704 were/are on balance very similarly performing dac chips. Both have their own limitations. A problem with the 1704 is that it is based on an older architecture that may or may not be in TI's long term plans. That is partially why it costs 10X of the other. But, if two parts on balance are similar in performance, just why wouldn't you go with the more modern part that is less money? I also read that posting by Charles Hansen, and I didn't come away with the idea that the 1704 was better, only more expensive. But, you'd have to ask him just what he meant.

 

Ayre doesn't use any opamps in their products. They have gone on record as saying that they use a particular part from Analog Devices, the AD844, in this application but not as an opamp. The AD844 is not the classic topology voltage feedback opamp. Rather than tie up this forum with a detailed description of how it can be used as a simple matched transistor array without feedback and not as an opamp, I suggest that anybody interested Google the topic and look at the AD844 data sheet. I'm not sure exactly how Ayre is using this part (I don't own an Ayre product nor work for them), but based on other comments that Hansen has made on line, it's not too hard to get a good idea of what they probably are doing.

 

BTW, are opamps always a bad thing? Boulder Amplifier's entire product line is based around opamp topologies. None of it is cheap, and every review I've read has been positive. The opamps are build from discrete components, but are opamps just the same. Some of the other "big guys" use opamps right from the reels of TI, Analog Devices, and a couple others.

 

It's way too easy to jump to conclusions on how a product is designed and how it performs based on some snippets from the literature and what's considered to be "common knowledge."

 

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"The Weiss uses the BB1792, which is a SOTA chip... My experience in helping with the product development of DACs, especially when trying to interface with a hard disk, has shown that jitter is the current primary problem with digital audio"

 

Hmmm... I'm not sure about this. It actually seems to me that we're going backwards in digital. THe BB1792 is a delta sigma chip. From my travels in the forums, many people and famous Dac designer's seem to list multi bit dac's as their favourites (http://www.diyhifi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=719&hilit=pcm63+gordon). My understanding is that the move from multi bit to delta sigma was a costs savings move by the chip manufacturers at the detriment of sound.

 

I also haven't had great experiences with upsampling dac's: the Emm labs dcc2 and Weiss Minerva specifically.

http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/vt.mpl?f=digital&m=145592

 

I'm of course biased, but I think i was able to find a gem of a dac. You can see my system here: Audio Porn

 

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"

If the QB9 is using the same dac chip as the cd player, which the president of Ayre has admitted isn't the best out there, then yes, i think I can make the conclusion that the QB9 does not have uncompromising sound.

"

 

Well that is a matter of opinion.

 

Just because a chip costs more, or is of a no holds barred design, does not mean the sound coming out of a unit will sound better.

 

Much more is involved, power supply, all other components in the signal path, the routing of signal paths, the analogue stage topography, etc, etc.....

 

The sound of any unit is dependent on the complete design and optimization of that design.

 

You can even have 2 DAC's using the exact "SOTA" chip as you put it, and each can have a different design, and they can sound completely different.

 

Chips alone can't tell you what a product will sound like.

 

You just have to listen and decide what you like to hear at the end of the day.

 

\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

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Lets make an emphasis on keeping things clear as this thread is interesting. When we say "opamp" I believe most of us a referring to single chip IC opamps, as used in the majority of CD player and DAC output stages, and not opamps circuits built of discrete transitors and resistors.

60, nice system: how does the Pass do at driving the ribbons? I love my X 150.5.

While I mostly agree that I would prefer a DAC with a well designed discrete, FET input bipolar output design (which I believe is what is used by Ayre, as above they only use an IC as a transistor array, rather than as a complete opamp), I must admit that there are now some very good sounding designs that do use IC opamps: dcs, Berkeley Audio's Alpha, Meridian, etc... So the presence of some opamps is not a deal breaker for me-if it sounds right. I have not heard the Weiss Minerva or DAC2, but so far, from the descriptions, it does not sound like these DACs have the "bad" sound I would typically associate with poorly implemented upsampling math, or IC opamp output stages (harsh HF reproduction, cymbals that sound like a bunch of hash, truncated decays, etc.). 60, since, apparently you have had the Minerva in your system, could you please comment on what aspects of its sound bothered you?

RE DAC chips, while I understand the criticism of delta sigma designs, so far none of my listening has confirmed that the Delta Sigma chips are too blame for DACs that sound "bad" to me. When a Delta Sigma chip like the BB1792 is put in a well designed circuit, without an Async SRC, it results in a very sweet sounding DAC. Ultimately I do believe traditional resistor ladder chips have the potential to be better sounding than Delta Sigma, the BB1704 is apparently the only old style chip around these days, and my understanding is that it is NOS, and as such very, very expensive, and therefore is not used in many designs with the exception of products priced well beyond my reach.

SPDIF is not an option for me at this point, it is just too compromised to accept when there are quite a few alternatives available-my experiences testing products with very low jitter has confirmed to me that reducing jitter to the lowest possible levels is critical to getting good sound with high resolution. One thing I would like to note-sometimes, in some designs or systems, higher jitter actually sounds better (one might say smoother)-I believe this happens becuase the low level noise that is the result of jitter can mask problems (distortion artrifacts) that would otherwise be unpleasant.

In theory, I am not against upsampling at all, I believe it can allow for much less obtrusive digital filters to be used, and it can push nasty digital artifacts out to frequencies where they no longer cause any problems. But, all upsampling is not created equal, the math used is totally beyond me, but it is quite obvious when one listens that there is a difference between the upsampling done on a stock chip, like the TI 4192, or similar devices from Crystal, and the proprietary upsampling done in DACs from companies like Linn, Chord, Ayre, etc. Companies that have the experience and skill to write their own upsampling algorythms have the ability to make upsampling work to make their products sound the way they want them to, rather than being at the mercy of TI or Crystal's engineers. Thanks to the advent of relatively affordable programmable chips with high levels of capability, a lot of the better designers are writing their own code. The other cool thing about proprietary upsampling/digital filters, is that the hardware can be designed to be easily reprogrammed, at low/no cost, when advances in umpsampling/filters are made.

 

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“how does the Pass do at driving the ribbons? I love my X 150.5.”

 

This pass labs is the only amp that could create imaging on my ribbons. They kick as vs the Krell’s and Sim audio’s I’ve tried. Very musical and not solid state sounding at all.

 

“ 60, since, apparently you have had the Minerva in your system, could you please comment on what aspects of its sound bothered you?”

 

I wasn’t able to try the minerva on my system. Instead I was able to bring my Pass Labs D1 DAC to the dealer for a comparison. I wasn’t impressed at all to be honest. I thought it was digital sounding, uninvolving, with an overemphasized mid range. But this is my own personal opinion, so take it for what it’s worth. I also had the chance the try the Emm Labs dcc2 in my system for a week and thought it was better than the Weiss, but still suffered from the same basic faults. Read my post on audio asylum for the details.

 

 

“the BB1704 is apparently the only old style chip around these days, and my understanding is that it is NOS, and as such very, very expensive, and therefore is not used in many designs with the exception of products priced well beyond my reach.”

 

The 1704 is not a nos chip. You can oversample on it. Here’s a link that lists what dacs use what dac chips http://www.marantzphilips.nl/the_complete_d_a_dac_converter_list/

If you’re not opposed to buying used, lot’s of these dac should be in your price range.

 

 

“SPDIF is not an option for me at this point, it is just too compromised to accept when there are quite a few alternatives available-my experiences testing products with very low jitter has confirmed to me that reducing jitter to the lowest possible levels is critical to getting good sound with high resolution. One thing I would like to note-sometimes, in some designs or systems, higher jitter actually sounds better (one might say smoother)-I believe this happens becuase the low level noise that is the result of jitter can mask problems (distortion artrifacts) that would otherwise be unpleasant.”

 

Is this from personal experience? I’m not in love with spdif. I don’t care what interface I use. Spdif, aes, usb, firewire, whatever. I would prefer one that has less jitter, but it is not the #1 priority for me in a DAC. As many people mentioned, it’s the sound that matters. The Benchmark DAC is a great example of a DAC that is supposedly jitter free, but is not the most musically involving. The interface is only one component of the DAC. But I do want to note that from my personal experience, perfect galvanic isolation is extremely important for dacs, which is something that cannot be achieved with USB. As well, if USB is supposed to be so jitter free, I wonder why more expensive usb cables will improve the sound. This is something Charles Hansen has admitted to me in the forums, but was not able to explain why.

 

 

“In theory, I am not against upsampling at all, I believe it can allow for much less obtrusive digital filters to be used, and it can push nasty digital artifacts out to frequencies where they no longer cause any problems. But, all upsampling is not created equal, the math used is totally beyond me, but it is quite obvious when one listens that there is a difference between the upsampling done on a stock chip, like the TI 4192, or similar devices from Crystal, and the proprietary upsampling done in DACs from companies like Linn, Chord, Ayre, etc. Companies that have the experience and skill to write their own upsampling algorythms have the ability to make upsampling work to make their products sound the way they want them to, rather than being at the mercy of TI or Crystal's engineers.“

 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but oversampling is the thing that helps digital filters. Upsampling is used for other purposes. I’ve tried software upsamplers (SRC) and have heard upsampling from Meridian (which could be turned off), Weiss, and Emm labs dacs. It may be a personal preference but I prefer no upsampling.

 

 

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Plus, just look at Wavelength's Async USB DAC offerings:

-Proton: $900

-Cosecant: $3500 - $10,000

-Crimson: $7000-$15000

 

It's very apparent from Gordon's pricing scheme, that even though all these dac's have async usb, he believes that the cosecant is worth $2600 more, because of the other parts inside it.

 

I'm just saying, don't expect the $2500 Ayre dac to be a giant killer just because it's got jitter figured out.

 

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"

I'm just saying, don't expect the $2500 Ayre dac to be a giant killer just because it's got jitter figured out.

"

 

69'r, I would agree with your statement, that one measure of a component such as jitter can't be used to judge the sound quality.

 

Having heard the QB-9 in a system I would describe as the best sounding system I have heard to date, I would say that it is very capapable.

 

The system was: Mac Mini > QB-9>KX-R Pre>MX-R monos> 802 Diamonds.

 

Simply stunning. Given it was in a professionally built room etc. , it was easy better than anything I heard at RMAF last year.

 

\"It would be a mistake to demonize any particular philosophy. To do so forces people into entrenched positions and encourages the adoption of unhelpful defensive reactions, thus missing the opportunity for constructive dialog\"[br] - Martin Colloms - stereophile.com

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I've had it in here a couple times; AFAIK it doesn't upsample, just takes anything from redbook to 24/192 and produces a beautiful (nonupsampled) sound. The chip is an 8 times OVERSAMPLING chip but that doesn't mean upsampling.

 

I can see where you think the midrange could get a bit exaggerated, but in my system it is perfectly balanced, yet organic and musical as hell. Anyway, sorry, this is not to question your hearing, just why you put the Minerva/DAC2 in the upsampling category.

 

I haven't heard the Ayre DAC yet; my dealer is getting one in a couple weeks and will let me "break it in" for him, so I will have more to say soon. :)

 

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60, I think we agree more than disagree. By NOS, I was referring to new old stock; my understanding is that the 1704 is not manufactired anymore, and as such existing supplies command a premium price-if anyone knows something different than this, please correct me.

Yes, my opinion on the effects of jitter are based on experience when working for a high end audio company, developing new DAC/CD transport products. Looking at your system, I would definately suggest that you might be interested in trying some kind of re-clocker like the Empirical pace car-I am fairly confident that the SPDIF stream from your sound card could benefit from some jitter reduction. I agree on the Benchmark products-very high resolution, but not what I would call good sounding at all. I believe they use an asychronous (not to be confused with asynchronous USB connection) upsampler, in a well designed DAC my experience is that asynchronous SRCs do not sound good. I think you are right on with the galvanic isolation idea-one of the mods I did to my PS DL-III was to add a Lundahl isolation transformer on the SPDIF input, it definately improved the sound, removing some glare most notable on female vocals. The Ayre QB-9 uses optocouplers to completely isolate the USB receiver from the DAC and output stages. I do not know if the Weiss decouples the firewire interface from the rest of the DAC2 somehow, but I do know they do not use any power from the firewire bus-the jitter and noise measurements of the Minerva, made by HiFi News (very low) would suggest that noise interference from the computer is well dealt with. The Weiss products do appear to have transformers at their SPDIF/AES inputs.

Oversampling and upsampling are really no different from one another. Manufacturers coined the term "upsampling" to distinguish data conversion done on a separate chip from the DAC chip: in current marketing speak, upsampling refers to upconversions made in a SRC chip, and oversampling refers to upconversions made in the DAC chip itself, either, or both in many cases, chips can have digital filters as well. Designers who want to do their own conversions can choose to up (or over) sample the data with their own math, apply a digital filter of their own design, and then input this stream into the DAC chip bypassing the built in oversampling and digital filter-this way they control the data going to the DAC itself, rather than engineers at TI, etc.

Thanks for your impressions on the sound of the Minerva, I have not yet heard it. I have heard the EMM gear sound very good in a couple of systems, musical to my ears, and not "digital" at all so I will just have to disagree with you on that account.

Thanks for the link on the 1704, I will definately check that out.

And thanks so far for everyone's input, hopefully I will get a chance to listen to these guys for myself at some point soon.

 

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I guess we should soon have at least one direct comparison between the Ayre and the Weiss, as Chris has a QB-9 in for review right now and I'm sure will give his impressions versus the Minerva he had a while back.

 

FWIW, on the DAC chip issue, here's what Charles Hansen has to say:

 

"In my experience, the analog circuitry, power supply, digital filter, and clock are all more important than the DAC chip itself. FWIW, the QB-9 uses the DSD1796. It is the "little brother" to the DSD1792 used in our C-5xe MP. There are only two differences. The first is a "less good" digital filter, which does not matter in this case as we bypass it and use our own custom digital filter. The other is the amount of output current. In theory this will reduce the ultimate S/N ratio but since we are using a new analog circuit, this does not appear to be a factor. We actually listened to both chips in this product and heard no difference."

 

For myself, I've been using a QB-9 for a couple of months now and remain very pleased with it. I got a chance to hear a bunch of good DACs and players (Spectral, Assemblage, Esoteric, Berkeley, Reimyo, Amarra, Luxman) at an enthusiast event a few weeks ago and didn't think anything jumped out at me immediately as in a different class.

 

Your mileage may vary! :)

 

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Sorry if i'm hijacking your thread.... I think i went about it the wrong way.

 

I just have a lot of questions about usb-async and pc implementations in particular.

-why do better/audiophile usb cables make wavlength and Ayre dacs sound better as they admit they do?

-Why do ssd hd's make the dac's sound better as Gordon (owner of Wavelength) admits it does.

 

I suspect usb-async is not as jitter proof/galvanically isolated as claimed.

 

 

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Personally, I have not been able to discern any significant sonic differences between different USB cables -- from the throwaway 5c variety up to about $50. Nor have I tried an SSD hard drive in my computer setup.

 

These would be good questions for the Digital Drive forum over at Audio Asylum, where such perceptions are fervently debated and both Charles Hansen and Gordon Rankin post regularly.

 

 

 

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"I just have a lot of questions about usb-async and pc implementations in particular.

-why do better/audiophile usb cables make wavlength and Ayre dacs sound better as they admit they do?

-Why do ssd hd's make the dac's sound better as Gordon (owner of Wavelength) admits it does."

 

These are two separate issues in some ways.

 

Computers are noisy. Electrically, they are probably close to the noisiest device you'll find in your house. Not only are there a bunch of internal clocks banging away at various frequencies - if not spread over a portion of the spectrum - but the digital devices themselves are churning out tons of digital switching noise. This is all added to whatever switching power supplies are used internally, and externally in some cases as well.

 

USB cables connect the ground of your computer to your DAC. How great is that? You then have a common mode noise path through the power supply, the ac mains connection, and your audio system. Noise *will* find its way into your audio equipment or test equipment. You are right - these systems are not totally galvanically isolated nor are they isolated at higher frequencies. The manufacturers probably do the best they can.

 

This is very often the case with SPDIF based systems as well.

 

Solid state drives may generate less electrical noise that finds its way into the system. Personally, I haven't ever made these measurements. But, if I am correctly interpreting what people have reported, they find that the performance with an SSD improves when one is installed for the system drive. External drives carrying the music files don't seem to matter very much. I could be wrong and would appreciate being corrected on this.

 

That suggests that something else is going on within the computer that has to do with the use of the system drive during playback. I can only speculate what that could be.

 

Please note that none of this has anything to do with whether a USB interface is async or not.

 

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