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UpTone/Swenson USB>Ethernet Audio Bridge


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From a much longer than intended answer/post I just made in another thread. I intend to go quiet about the project for a few months since we are busy and I have other important work to focus on. Plus, talking about unreleased products may be frowned upon by the kind management here at CA. :)

 

Superdad, can you confirm that your solution requires that the source computer has to be on all the time?

 

Yes, it does. Here is how it will be used:

 

a) The computer (anywhere in the house, and playing any locally stored, network stored, or web streamed files) gets a small dongle (about the size of your thumb) plugged into its USB port. An Ethernet cable--yes, a second one separate from the one already connecting your computer to your LAN--runs from the dongle to your Ethernet switch/router, or if you want, could run directly to your DAC.

 

b) The dongle looks like an async-USB2.0 XMOS-based 32/384 (and DSD128 via DoP) sound card--because that is what it is! Just as always for XMOS, no drivers needed under OS X, licensed Thesycon drivers provided for Windows. So just like with any USB-connected DAC, you can use ANY player s/w you like, and ALL streaming services, web browser, whatever can send audio out through it.

 

c) At your audio system end--anywhere else on the same LAN (can't cross Ethernet bridges without some special configuring) a DAC with another tiny module (consisting of Ethernet PHY, another XMOS chip, clock for those, ultra-low noise regulators, and special format isolators) pairs with the dongle via MAC address and not via IP address (we did not want to have to include a web page into the device for setting IP address, etc.--keeping it totally simple). This module (which can include a USB input if the DAC licensee wants that as well) accepts the master clock from the DAC and outputs to the DAC's main board a special format signal (sorry, important part of secret sauce, having broad implications for future), where it is received by isolators, run through a flip-flop and finally results in a I2S signal for the DAC.

 

d) Remote control of the user's chosen player s/w (since keeping the computer in a separate room is a typical application) can be via whatever of the many available means the user chooses. Anything from tablet/phone remote app (Apple's Remote app is fine on iOS if one is just using iTunes), to screen sharing/VNC, to whatever is available specifically for chosen player s/w.

We are staying out of the software business. The whole idea is to offer 99% compatibility with whatever s/w you use, and to not have any s/w support headaches.

And no, it is not multi-room, multi-channel, or anything fancier than what I have stated.

 

I hope you can all see how the UpTone/Swenson USB>Ethernet Audio Bridge solution will be very different from DLNA or other server/renderer models. There is no OS, no big giant processing chips, no s/w system, etc. We are just breaking apart the USB stack, putting the data into an Ethernet packet stream, receiving at the other end and finishing the USB protocol (not nearly as simple as I make it sound; lots of serious code written). And of course, this being a John Swenson affair, isolating, clocking (from DAC master clock), and PS regulation are all state-of-the-art. We, and our prospective OEM licensees, will be carefully comparing SQ of the Ethernet link to USB (both on the same DAC-side module, and versus the client's existing USB input). If it is a winner, then 2015 will be a very big and busy year for us.

 

To make this post the last word for a while about what is still a work in progress, let me preempt the obvious question about broader availability: After we get a few OEM licensees under our belt, we intend to offer a DIY version that capable users can install in their DACs in much the same way as they do with a typical USB>I2S board. Such a kit version will most likely include USB input in addition to the Ethernet (why not? the XMOS is there; just needs another PHY chip and a USB jack), and low jitter/phase-noise audio clocks--while still offering the line in to run from DAC master clock. And of course our required USB>Ethernet dongle will be included for the computer end (I guess if someone wanted our board set just for the USB input we would knock something off the price to omit the dongle from the kit).

A stand-alone, external box retail version does not make sense (unless we output I2S), but we have some radically different other ideas for when we get there--a long way down the road.

 

Thanks all for the interest. But please, no more questions on this for a while. We must first get it out there and prove the concept.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR,

--Alex C.

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I hope you can all see how the UpTone/Swenson USB>Ethernet Audio Bridge solution will be very different from DLNA or other server/renderer models. There is no OS, no big giant processing chips, no s/w system, etc. We are just breaking apart the USB stack, putting the data into an Ethernet packet stream, receiving at the other end and finishing the USB protocol (not nearly as simple as I make it sound; lots of serious code written). And of course, this being a John Swenson affair, isolating, clocking (from DAC master clock), and PS regulation are all state-of-the-art. We, and our prospective OEM licensees, will be carefully comparing SQ of the Ethernet link to USB (both on the same DAC-side module, and versus the client's existing USB input). If it is a winner, then 2015 will be a very big and busy year for us.

 

To make this post the last word for a while about what is still a work in progress, let me preempt the obvious question about broader availability

Ironically, this system seems to be far more complex than UPnP/DLNA as far as its network use is concerned. As opposed to the 'simple' streaming of non-realtime audio file data that UPnP makes use of, making clocking issues of the audio signal irrelevant (as far as the network is concerned), the UpTone/Swenson USB>Ethernet Audio Bridge is potentially introducing these issues by what appears to be its use of sending realtime audio signal data over the network. If this is so, for me the obvious question is how does its network hardware avoid these problems.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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Ironically, this system seems to be far more complex than UPnP/DLNA as far as its network use is concerned. As opposed to the 'simple' streaming of non-realtime audio file data that UPnP makes use of, making clocking issues of the audio signal irrelevant (as far as the network is concerned), the UpTone/Swenson USB>Ethernet Audio Bridge is potentially introducing these issues by what appears to be its use of sending realtime audio signal data over the network. If this is so, for me the obvious question is how does its network hardware avoid these problems.

 

No, that is NOT how it works. We are still using standard Ethernet packets--going through any Ethernet switch. You will just have to wait and see.

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My suggestion was not that you'll be using ethernet packets or not, via ethernet switches or otherwise. It's what appears to be the proposal that those ethernet packets will be carrying realtime audio signal data (so open to potential timing issues with the network). Normal UPnP streaming of audio file data has no such issues with the network, since playback to the DAC occurs at a later stage (ie the creation of the audio signal, by the UPnP renderer, is after the music file data has passed through the network).

Can you clarify this?

Does the dongle/DAC module hardware pair do the necessary 'magic' to avoid the potential network timing issues of sending a realtime audio signal (I'm not asking to know how, BTW)?

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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  • 2 years later...
There is a small buffer. Ethernet is PLENTY fast anyway. Really don't want to say more at this time, thanks.

 

Alex

 

I know this was two years ago. Is this what turned into the MicroRendu and if so, how come this ended up under another company's product line ?

 

Are there any plans of making a Ethernet to SPDIF Brigde ? John said it would be expensive, but can it be done below 1K ? (And it won't happen this year)

 

Any plans of developing an audiophile switch, or modify an existing one ?

Or spesify one, and have manufactures quote for it ?

Or start a joint venture with D-link or similar ?

 

Is it possible to take a NUC board and make a audiophile version of it. Or I probably should also ask is this within you and John's capabilities to do ?

 

What could such modifications be, or is it better to define the specification and have the motherboard manufacturers quote for it ?

 

How many boards would you think had to be made in order for a motherboard manufacturer to get interested.

 

Does anyone else have good suggestions for products not invented or made yet :)

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Alex

 

I know this was two years ago. Is this what turned into the MicroRendu and if so, how come this ended up under another company's product line ?

 

Are there any plans of making a Ethernet to SPDIF Brigde ? John said it would be expensive, but can it be done below 1K ? (And it won't happen this year)

 

Any plans of developing an audiophile switch, or modify an existing one ?

Or spesify one, and have manufactures quote for it ?

Or start a joint venture with D-link or similar ?

 

Is it possible to take a NUC board and make a audiophile version of it. Or I probably should also ask is this within you and John's capabilities to do ?

 

What could such modifications be, or is it better to define the specification and have the motherboard manufacturers quote for it ?

 

How many boards would you think had to be made in order for a motherboard manufacturer to get interested.

 

Does anyone else have good suggestions for products not invented or made yet :)

 

This is already available and at about that price. It is called a Focusrite Rednet RN3. It works brilliantly but for some reason has not gained much traction here. A couple of threads were started to explore it.

 

There is also the Rednet D16 which is a bit more capable and also costs a bit more. I have been using one for about a year and it bests my previous tricked out USB chain by a long way.

 

These devices are capable of many more that 2 channels. Some have criticized them for that stating that they will wait for a 2 channel version but considering the cost compared to a very good USB chain and the remarkable sound quality there is not much reason to wait.


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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I'm not sure if Rednet is the solution. 

It was discussed here before. : http://www.head-fi.org/t/806827/audio-over-ip-rednet-3-16-review-aes67-sets-a-new-standard-for-computer-audio

I'm impressed by Alex knowledge about network architecture and standards. As well as Miska. So there was a reason for him to create NAA. And I guess as well Roon with RAAT.  (Another discussion is why not HQPlayer support RAAT)

I've only read the first 5 pages. 

Anyway my question to Alex was more related to products and hardware, not an audio over internet standard (AES67).

 

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On 3/18/2017 at 4:00 AM, R1200CL said:

 

Alex

 

I know this was two years ago. Is this what turned into the MicroRendu and if so, how come this ended up under another company's product line ?

 

Are there any plans of making a Ethernet to SPDIF Brigde ? John said it would be expensive, but can it be done below 1K ? (And it won't happen this year)

 

Any plans of developing an audiophile switch, or modify an existing one ?

Or spesify one, and have manufactures quote for it ?

Or start a joint venture with D-link or similar ?

 

Is it possible to take a NUC board and make a audiophile version of it. Or I probably should also ask is this within you and John's capabilities to do ?

 

What could such modifications be, or is it better to define the specification and have the motherboard manufacturers quote for it ?

 

How many boards would you think had to be made in order for a motherboard manufacturer to get interested.

 

Does anyone else have good suggestions for products not invented or made yet :)

Our USB>Ethernet OEM Bridge Solution project was put on the back burner for a bunch of reasons I won't get into here.  It still would be a market-viable product, but we have other things brewing.

 

But no, this is NOT what turned into the microRendu.  The projects that I do with John versus what he does for Sonore have found a natural dividing line: SOFTWARE.  

I only want to do products that are not heavily dependent upon custom software, operating systems, drivers, etc.  Don't want the support headaches and while John writes plenty of code, doing custom drivers and stuff that has to be kept up with OS changes, etc. is a real turn-off for him. (You will note that he did only the hardware engineering for the microRendu--Andrew, Jesus, and the rest of the Sonore team do all the s/w stuff.)

 

As for an Ethernet>S/PDIF "bridge":

a) I am not an S/PDIF fan (would rather see a DAC done right with really good Ethernet>I2S or USB>I2S built in);

b) Until the perennially promised Ravenna OEM modules show up--with free or modest license virtual sound card (VSC) software (on all major platforms, supported well to changing OSs--and not sample-rate restricted)--I don't think we are going to see the Ethernet inputs on DACs move much beyond DLNA server/controller/player schemes.

 

With regards to our other active product development projects--for both this year and next--I don't make those plans public until we are very close to production.

 

Cheers,

--Alex C.

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1 hour ago, R1200CL said:

I'm not sure if Rednet is the solution. 

It was discussed here before. : http://www.head-fi.org/t/806827/audio-over-ip-rednet-3-16-review-aes67-sets-a-new-standard-for-computer-audio

I'm impressed by Alex knowledge about network architecture and standards. As well as Miska. So there was a reason for him to create NAA. And I guess as well Roon with RAAT.  (Another discussion is why not HQPlayer support RAAT)

I've only read the first 5 pages. 

Anyway my question to Alex was more related to products and hardware, not an audio over internet standard (AES67).

 

I was responding to:

"Are there any plans of making a Ethernet to SPDIF Brigde ? John said it would be expensive, but can it be done below 1K ? (And it won't happen this year)"

The Focusrite products/hardware are here and available now and sound a lot better than my tweaked out USB chain...at least in my system. They are not just concepts or products being talked about a year or more before they become available. I have been participating on that thread since it began. Read the thread for a while longer before drawing any conclusions. It is stunning to me that there is not more interest on CA for AOIP and that Head-Fi is the one breaking fresh ground in computer audio.

I would agree with John that ideally this technology would be built in to the DAC. My dream DAC would contain a Dante card build in with an ethernet input.

 


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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9 minutes ago, mourip said:

The Focusrite products/hardware are here and available now and sound a lot better than my tweaked out USB chain...at least in my system.

But in order to have this work, they would have to support RAAT (in order to act as an endpoint). Do they, or is there any plans to do ?

If no RAAT, how can I benefit from that product ?

 

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12 minutes ago, mourip said:

I would agree with John that ideally this technology would be built in to the DAC. My dream DAC would contain a Dante card build in with an ethernet input.

 

As you know I have been saying for years:  When both the Ethernet>I2S modules AND the VSC software become readily available, then you will see more Ethernet DACs.  

Dante is almost there, but you know the limitations.  I think it may take small, affordable Ravenna boards--and the leadership of someone giving away full-function VSC s/w with every board--before it will take off.

Every year is promised at the "Year of the Ethernet DAC."  Yet most are still waiting.  Your choice of the Focurite units is one of the very few choices available.  And as a pro-sound piece you know it has a learning curve beyond what most users expect.

Best,

--Alex.

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On 3/19/2017 at 5:43 PM, Superdad said:

As you know I have been saying for years:  When both the Ethernet>I2S modules AND the VSC software become readily available, then you will see more Ethernet DACs.  

Dante is almost there, but you know the limitations.  I think it may take small, affordable Ravenna boards--and the leadership of someone giving away full-function VSC s/w with every board--before it will take off.

Every year is promised at the "Year of the Ethernet DAC."  Yet most are still waiting.  Your choice of the Focurite units is one of the very few choices available.  And as a pro-sound piece you know it has a learning curve beyond what most users expect.

Best,

--Alex.

 

Thanks Alex. You are certainly right that the learning curve is a bit steep and that the Virtual Sound Card software needs to be openly available(read cheap or free) to encourage development. I wish that Focusrite would make a Dante OEM card that others could incorporate as a plugin to their own DAC designs.


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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On 21.3.2017 at 3:36 AM, mourip said:

I wish that Focusrite would make a Dante OEM card that others could incorporate as a plugin to their own DAC designs.

 

Why not just email them ?

https://global.focusrite.com/contact-us

 

If I know how to ask in a proper way, I could do myself, but it seem you and Alex fully understand what has to be requested.

 

You did not mention RAAT, but I suppose it would have to part of such a product?

Or would RAAT then be a competing technology?

 

Also, could not such a product be a stand alone product ?

Shall it output USB or SPDIF ?

I suppose SPDIF, unless it will has same functionality as the MicroRendu, right?

 

What is the VSC SW ? 

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On 3/20/2017 at 10:36 PM, mourip said:

 

I wish that Focusrite would make a Dante OEM card that others could incorporate as a plugin to their own DAC designs.

I would think that the perfect company to try this out would be Schiit, if the tech is workable and the price is right.  They have a good sized population of DACs in the wild at various price points with upgradable inputs: the USB boards on the Bifrost, Gungnir,and Yggdrasil DACs.

Jim

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10 hours ago, R1200CL said:

 

Why not just email them ?

https://global.focusrite.com/contact-us

 

 

 

9 hours ago, james45974 said:

I would think that the perfect company to try this out would be Schiit, if the tech is workable and the price is right.  They have a good sized population of DACs in the wild at various price points with upgradable inputs: the USB boards on the Bifrost, Gungnir,and Yggdrasil DACs.

 

Several of us have contacted Focusrite to no avail.

+1 for Schiit. I do know that they monitor the Rednet thread on Head-Fi...

It would be a perfect addition on the Yggy.


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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On 19.3.2017 at 10:43 PM, Superdad said:

As you know I have been saying for years:  When both the Ethernet>I2S modules AND the VSC software become readily available, then you will see more Ethernet DACs.  

Dante is almost there, but you know the limitations.  I think it may take small, affordable Ravenna boards--and the leadership of someone giving away full-function VSC s/w with every board--before it will take off.

Every year is promised at the "Year of the Ethernet DAC."  Yet most are still waiting.  Your choice of the Focurite units is one of the very few choices available.  And as a pro-sound piece you know it has a learning curve beyond what most users expect.

Best,

--Alex.

 

Alex

 

Can you or John explain what we as consumers should or could expect from AES67 & AES70 that we can't get today ?

 

If someone like to add the MicroRendu card into a DAC, you could call it a Ethernet DAC ?

 

And does not RAAT cover much of the same functionality?

 

Is it both a HW and SW standard?

 

If it's possible to have a somewhat simple explanation about what this really is, and how it's used today. Maybe some possible future use, or is it only a Ethernet DAC that is where these standards would or could apply for us homeusers ?

 

Mulitichannel, Multirom / zones ? Timing  and clocks ? Any limitations / benefits ?

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I've been asking Jesus about this on the Sonore microRendu thread - basically about outputting ALL Windows audio to the microRendu (not being tied to Roon or DLNA or Airplay/Shairport).

 

He says they are working on a solution but there is no ETA and sound quality will be very limited (similar to Shairports limitation).

 

I already have a solution working on Windows through Shairport but there is a 250ms latency - impossible to watch something on Youtube or any other video streaming website. Programs like VLC can correct this lag but it's not a working 'ALL Windows output' solution due to this latency and limited to programs that can correct the latency. Jesus said they've figured out the latency issue, which is cool. Again, no ETA.

 

I have a feeling that Alex @Superdadwill be the one to bring this to us first and properly (home audio) since he's been talking about it and keeping a close eye on it for a long time (seen his threads here and Head HiFi). And I like when Alex says he doesn't want to be tied down by software (like Roon and Airplay and DLNA players etc) which is what I want too - ALL PC/Mac audio sent over ethernet to an endpoint, with no latency issues etc.

 

Until then we have the ISO REGEN coming for a PC close to the USB Dac but full PC audio at 768 PCM / DSD512 over ethernet with no significant latency issues would be really nice

 

See JRs comments here: 

 

And yes I'm aware of Dante solutions too: 

 

 

 

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1 minute ago, Silly goose said:

Anything compatible with your computer. Just install the VSC, and the speakers will pop up as an option in sound devices whenever network connected and powered up. No different than if you plug in a USB DAC. The USB port also bridges into the AES67 network as well, if you want to connect them via USB. More details in my thread. 

 

So you're saying as an example Roon is no problem then ?

And HQPlayer ?

 

And I can even use the MicroRendu ?

Or a Pi ?

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14 minutes ago, Speed Racer said:

I'll look for the UpTone Audio Ethernet Audio bridge instead.....

 

Agree. 

And then just add VLC module to it or even to the SonicTransporter ?

 

@Superdad

What am I missing here, it just can't be that simple ?

 

I have a problem seeing how AES67 and AES70 will bring any benefits, unless we are all going to purchase new DAC's or active speakers etc. 

 

Even those monitors require SPDIF between them ?

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On 4/3/2017 at 9:57 PM, Silly goose said:

These guys make Ravenna/Dante input Active speakers. They even have a Ravenna/USB /AES/EBU bridge 

 

http://www.hedd.audio/en/hedd-bridge/

 

 

6 hours ago, Silly goose said:

I think Dante is limited to 24/96.

 

Thanks. The HEDD modules(cards) look like a step in the right direction for audiophiles. We just need some DAC manufacturers interested in integrating them. The only DAC I know of with build in AES67 is the Burl B2 Bomber pro audio DAC.

 

Focusrite makes two versions of their interface. One only goes to 24/96. The other called the Brooklyn goes to 24/192. That is the one that is found in the excellent Rednet RN3 and D16 units.


"Don't Believe Everything You Think"

System

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