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From the makers of the VALAB/Teradak: TeraLink-X USB audio converter


Mr.C
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This looks pretty interesting for all those of us who want a low cost interface. USB to s/pdif BNC, RCA, and TosLink. AND i2s. I wonder how it sounds. The VALAB dac is a "giant killer", could this be another? Or was the VALAB dac just a fluke?

 

TeraLink

 

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Yes, I'm curious as well. If the clock and implementation are good then this would be great. I read a review of the Pop Pulse version of this which I suspect to be from the same people and it was rated in between the Hagerman converter and the Off-ramp II. If only jitter were easy to quantify...

 

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I can speak for experience with an Off Ramp 3 with a Superclock module. It's a very good example of getting what you pay for. I consider it to be the reference part against the rest of these USB converters. I first used it with a Cambridge DacMagic and one of its very well (Stereophile) measured SPDIF channels. The combination projects an amazing, well focused 3D sound field. Right now I have it connected to a cap modded Valab (March 09 version minus the new second clock) well past the 200 hour mandated burn-in. It sounds nice but the synergy isn't happening like with the DacMagic, at least not yet. There's another small mod to try in the SPDIF channel that should reduce inherent jitter but I suspect the implentation isn't of similar quality to the DacMagic.

 

BTW, the Valab and DacMagic both use the same USB receiver but they aren't implemented the same. I never even tried the USB input on the Valab because I assumed the Off Ramp into SPDIF on the Valab was going to be much superior.

 

I expected the Valab DAC to replace the DacMagic for Red Book and similar content but it's yet to prove itself. So far I consider the DacMagic to be more of a giant killer than the Valab.

 

- Rand

 

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Gang,

 

This uses the Cmedia USB Controller which has very high jitter in my testing. Looks to me but I cannot be sure that they extract the I2S from the Cmedia and then it goes to an I2S to SPDIF converter and is transformer coupled to the RCA/BNC and Toslink outputs. The I2S are buffered and then output.

 

The I2S would not have any jitter reduction.

 

The SPDIF would have some if the converter does.

 

Thanks

Gordon

 

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Nuke Yuler wrote:

 

"....I never even tried the USB input on the Valab...."

 

I think you should give it a try. From what I have read it was supposed to have the best sound from the USB input.

 

Best Regards,

 

Per

 

Families and music are forever

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  • 2 months later...

I wish there was a special forum for the "jitter fetishest" where all three (or is it four?) wierd jitter fettish people could get together and complain endlessley in circles about various jitter levels of various ICs and never mention jitter on a general forum again.

Most people care about what a device actually sounds like.

The CM108 sounds good. Its a good IC. End of topic. Stop complaining about it.

 

For the rest of the people who are interested, I have the teralink x and use the i2s output>DAC. Its the best souning digital playback i have ever heard.

I highly recomend it. It is in every way a giant killer.

 

 

 

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The whacked thing about that often discussed and very real element is it's likely someone use to a somewhat jitter prone system doesn't know what a significant reduction of it will do for improving audio quality. I was pretty sure my system was lacking due to the presence of jitter. I added a very high quality reclocker and the difference was very evident. Clarity, focus, and stereo projection greatly improved. Discussing it here at CA can help someone planning a system to begin with equipment designed for very low jitter.

 

Gordon can talk about jitter and there are many people here that will pay careful attention. He's an authority and his observations are usually greatly appreciated.

 

- Rand

 

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Besides wasn't Gordon's response a reply to a number of inquiries regarding the quality of the clock?

 

Gordon's comment was on topic about the Teralink-X and its USB chip. The Cambridge Audio DacMagic, Valab/Teradac NOS DAC and the Teralink use the same C-Media USB receiver chip that Gordon said exhibited very high jitter in his tests. He's not the only pro tester with poor results on that chip and I had my own bad experience with it in the DacMagic. The Teralink-X has one of those inexpensive clocks behind the C-Media receiver. It's probably a decent interface for 45 USD but I still haven't seen test data validating the cheap clocks.

 

Since my June 26th comment on the DacMagic vs the Valab, I've had the Valab running almost constantly (with several newer mods including the SPDIF channel mod I mentioned). Fed by an Off Ramp through a silver coax SPDIF cable. I still haven't bothered trying the Valab's USB input. I have no interest in spending time sampling audio through that receiver and one of the cheap clocks when I know I have greatly reduced jitter from the Off Ramp's Superclock and a clear path to the Valab's DAC chips.

 

- Rand

 

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Hi Guys,

the point that i was trying to get across was that I dont appreciate a product being bagged out because of the specifications. I think that audio products need to be heard before commenting on them. Frankly the teralink X is a top product. for the peanuts that it costs, why not buy one so that you can comment. I would personally never speculate or comment on a product that I have not heard. Gordon may have been mentioning some factual information, but a product is more than one component, rather the implementation, quality of parts, layout and MOST importantly, the end result, the sound. To me it just sounded like he was trying to subtlety knock a competitors product, and disguise this as factual information, it was the tone of his comments which i have picked up on.

I chose to join and write on this topic as I own the product. i find it to be very good and i often read forums to gauge the opinions of others prior to making a purchase. I thought my positive comments regarding the product would be of use to anyone considering purchasing the same product.

 

"Since my June 26th comment on the DacMagic vs the Valab, I've had the Valab running almost constantly (with several newer mods including the SPDIF channel mod I mentioned). Fed by an Off Ramp through a silver coax SPDIF cable. I still haven't bothered trying the Valab's USB input. I have no interest in spending time sampling audio through that receiver and one of the cheap clocks when I know I have greatly reduced jitter from the Off Ramp's Superclock and a clear path to the Valab's DAC chips.

 

- Rand"

 

Rand, I tried to look up your comments and not sure that i could find exactly what you mean by "a clear path to the Valab's DAC chips"

 

I use i2s from the teralink x which i personally have found in my system to sound vastly superior to any SPDIF reciever. Are you using the Off ramp spdif output and Valab spdif input? FYI i use to own a Valab, but sold it.

 

Hopefully someone else who owns this Teralink X will come forward and make some comments.

Also as a tip to anyone who owns one, If you have downloaded the CM108 driver, If you choose to use the i2s output, turn the spdif output off using the software, I found it sounds better this way!

 

Best regards to all :-)

 

 

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You wrote earlier "I was pretty sure my system was lacking due to the presence of jitter"

 

Well since using the Teralink x with i2s i have no such worries about my system. In fact it sounds so good that i seriously question if jitter measurements have anything to do with sound quality. How could my system sound so good when the CM108 has such high jitter? it just doesn't make sense. Just like NOS and filterless DAC's have terrible THD figures but sound sublime. Frankly I really think its all in the implementation of the product.

 

and mate I'm not having a go at you as we both have NOS DACs, so we must both be super cool people and have excellent hearing!

 

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I've enjoyed the Valabs single clock, dual clock and GigaLabs Dual Clock over the last 6 months. None of them is remotely a high end DAC. They all present an easy analogue type sound and decent performance. All have no bottom and no top. They are ill distinct and average. Listen to a Valabs and then listen to a dCS. There is no comparison. For $200 or so you will not buy better. Giant killer? nonsense. You get what you pay for.

As far as NOS dac's sound I have heard an Audio Note Sig 2 (circa 2k) that KILLS the Valabs - I guess I make the point that the Valabs is good fun and decent sounding - but don't confuse it with high end.

 

Andrew

ps ...my current dac is a Valabs.

 

 

Best Wishes

Andrew

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I've enjoyed the Valabs single clock, dual clock and GigaLabs Dual Clock over the last 6 months. None of them is remotely a high end DAC. They all present an easy analogue type sound and decent performance. All have no bottom and no top. They are ill distinct and average. Listen to a Valabs and then listen to a dCS. There is no comparison. For $200 or so you will not buy better. Giant killer? nonsense. You get what you pay for.

As far as NOS dac's sound I have heard an Audio Note Sig 2 (circa 2k) that KILLS the Valabs - I guess I make the point that the Valabs is good fun and decent sounding - but don't confuse it with high end.

 

Andrew

ps ...my current dac is a Valabs.

 

 

Best Wishes

Andrew

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  • 2 months later...

Erin,

this thread is rather old, but I would like to ask you a few questions, if you don't mind:

which DAC with I2S input are you using. since there are very few I'd like to know if it might be the same that I have. I'm using a North Star 192 MkII DAC fed by a Duet receiver with spdif. I'm under the impression that I'm drastically sub-utilizing my DAC, since it has the I2S input. Does it make much of a difference?

are there other usb-I2S converters around besides this one and the Offramp that you know of?

Thanks a lot for you help in advance

best regards

André

 

LDMS Minix Server>Lampizator TRP w/ VC>Gryphon Diablo>Heil Kithara

Cables: Douglas Cables 'Mirage'', (Power); Douglas Cables 'Mirage' (XLR); Douglas Cables "GLIA" (speaker cables & jumper); FTA Callisto (USB)

Accessories: Furutech GTX-D (G) with cover, MIT Z Duplex Super; Equitech Balanced Power, Sistrum (for Diablo & TRP)

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Hi Andre,

I dont use the same DAC as you do.

 

There is the poppulse USB > i2s converter http://www.cryo-parts.com/pclink.html

I dont know for sure, but i think that the poppulse is also designed and built by teradac, the maker of Valab and teralink x. Personally i would just use the Teralink x, but purchase it from Valab's ebay shop as his version has the 1ppm TCXO inside.

 

I found when using i2s that the shortest cable run sounds best, and a long cable run gave worse sound than SPDIF, so if you are going to use i2s, you really must keep the cable from the converter to the DAC as short as possible, try to keep it to 20cm or under. If you cant do this then probably keep using SPDIF.

 

My experience has been that i2s gives a bigger soundstage in width and height, frequency extremes sound better, and timing is better. - Your milage may vary, but Im not going back to SPDIF anytime soon.

 

 

 

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Hi Erin,

thanks for the feedback. I have been researching this possibility for quite a while now, but only today I got a link sent by a colleague showing me someone who actually did it. Here's the link: http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/t.mpl?f=pcaudio&m=64378. I intend to keep the distance short, so it should work. People say my DAC works best with I2S, but I'm not able to confirm it, since I haven't had the chance do give it a shot.

I'm in contact with Hans now and hope that he can help me to try and get the I2S directly from the SB Receiver.

Thanks for answering. If I can't muscle up the courage to mod my SBR (which would be great, because I could sell my digital cable) I'll probably give the Teradak-X a shot, since it costs way less than my other cables.

best regards

André

 

LDMS Minix Server>Lampizator TRP w/ VC>Gryphon Diablo>Heil Kithara

Cables: Douglas Cables 'Mirage'', (Power); Douglas Cables 'Mirage' (XLR); Douglas Cables "GLIA" (speaker cables & jumper); FTA Callisto (USB)

Accessories: Furutech GTX-D (G) with cover, MIT Z Duplex Super; Equitech Balanced Power, Sistrum (for Diablo & TRP)

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North Star I2S and the Pop Pulse box:

 

The North Star apparently uses a different pinout on the RJ-45 connector than the Pop Pulse converter. Read this short thread. North Star uses a configuration that's been adopted by a number of audiophile hardware makers (including Empirical Audio) but there's no standard. There are a few cable manufacturers that make RJ-45 I2S cables. The ones I've seen are expensive boutique cables. Given the I2S spec, what Erin says about cable lengths makes very good sense. Shorter = better.

 

I've followed several Valab/TeraDak forums and I've never seen mention that Pop Pulse has an affiliation with TeraDak. There's quite a bit between Valab and TeraDak that would suggest that anything TeraDak would make for another vendor would probably be sold as TeraDak and possibly Valab products too.

 

The Valab DAC again:

 

On what others have said about the Valab DAC in this thread, I respectfully and completely disagree. I've made a number of the relatively inexpensive mods discussed in the HeadFi Valab forums and my Valab has progressively blossomed into an excellent yet inexpensive DAC. Michael at TeraDak is about to start selling another version of the design called 'Chameleon' that's apparently designed specifically for modding (given the huge popularity of modding potential on the design). I'll mention one more time that the first time the Valab was mentioned here at CA was by Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio and he gave it HUGE props when installing a relatively simple output cap mod.

 

The TeraDak TeraLink X:

 

There is a new device on the market that's been mentioned here in the CA forums a couple of times called the M2Tech Hiface. M2Tech is in Italy. It's an async USB to SPDIF bridge with a proprietary driver that remains in development. Currently supporting kernel streaming and Directsound under Windows (including 7 x86 and x64) with Mac implementation coming. The bridge uses a couple of internal clocks that allow the Hiface to play up to 24/192. RCA or BNC options. There's been quite a bit of discussion about it in hifi forums although it's still not much discussed here at CA. (Google it.) Keep in mind that kernel streaming (from players that utilize kernel streaming) is currently the best option according to talk in the audio forums. $150 USD and available "mid-November" in the US at Tweek Geek under portable computer-audio.

 

- Rand

 

 

 

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Hi Rand,

thanks for filling me in with this precisou info. The way I understand it is that I wanted to use the Pop Pulse converter I'd have to have a specific cable made for it in order to match the I2S input on my North Star DAC. Is that correct?

The other options would be the TeraDak-X or the rather expensive Empirical Audio Offramp converter.

Is there any other solution ir order to use my I2S input?

Thanks again

best regards

André

 

LDMS Minix Server>Lampizator TRP w/ VC>Gryphon Diablo>Heil Kithara

Cables: Douglas Cables 'Mirage'', (Power); Douglas Cables 'Mirage' (XLR); Douglas Cables "GLIA" (speaker cables & jumper); FTA Callisto (USB)

Accessories: Furutech GTX-D (G) with cover, MIT Z Duplex Super; Equitech Balanced Power, Sistrum (for Diablo & TRP)

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Hi Andre,

 

I just used a pre-made ethernet cable and choped it to lenth and soldered the cable with the i2s signals to the DAC and plug the RJ45 into the Teralink. If your North Star Dac has an RJ45 input that is not compatible with any other i2s output you could just solder to the board as i have done...

 

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USB to SPDIF converters shoot-out : EMU 0404 USB vs. Musiland Monitor 01 USD vs. Teralink-x vs. M2Tech hiFace

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/usb-spdif-converters-shoot-out-emu-0404-usb-vs-musiland-monitor-01-usd-vs-teralink-x-vs-m2tech-hiface-449885/

 

Well like i wrote on that thread, the test was done without using an external power supply on the Teralink x - which in my opinion makes a huge difference.

I suspect that if that review was done again with the external power supply then the results may be different.

 

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Holy cow... Erin, which one is you in the shoot-out thread at HeadFi?

 

This is kinda funny... Did you know Kevin at Valab has a link to the HeadFi shootout on the TeraLink auction page?

 

These converter boxes we've been discussing are for SPDIF or USB sources. The TeraLink is strictly USB-in. Not sure that's understood here. I'm not really familiar with the Duet but I can't imagine plugging one of these boxes into it. Taking that into consideration, the only option for the North Star DAC is to wire I2S from inside the Duet to the RJ-45 on the North Star.

 

Ignoring that for a minute....

 

The way I understand it is that I wanted to use the Pop Pulse converter I'd have to have a specific cable made for it in order to match the I2S input on my North Star DAC. Is that correct? The other options would be the TeraDak-X or the rather expensive Empirical Audio Offramp converter.

 

I don't think it's that simple. The North Star's I2S pinout is more complicated. I'm not technically proficient to get into the details. Wish I were. Seems the way to use the Pop Pulse would be to supply it via SPDIF from the Duet and then out to the North Star by custom cable terminated by correct pinout RJ-45, if that's even possible. Doing it that way completely defeats the purpose of using I2S in the first place.

 

I compared the I2S pinout on the TeraLink to the Pop Pulse and they appear to be a little different too. The Off Ramp can probably be considered a high end device, possibly a reference device considering how it works, but it will definitely plug straight into your North Star. I love the heck out of my Off Ramp. It plays an essential part in my system that allows the rest of the components to meet their potential. It would very likely do the same for your North Star. (You have to plug it into a computer.)

 

Come to think of it, some time ago Steve Nugent told me (in a discussion about wiring my Valab for I2S from the Off Ramp) that the mod would be easy but he didn't have time for it and recommended Cullen Circuits. Getting this sort of thing done is possible. It depends on how much you want to spend to have it done if you can't do it yourself.

 

- Rand

 

 

 

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