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Unable to detect any changes to digital output from HTPC


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Greetings.

 

I am a frequent lurker and have read many of the posts on this forum, especially related to music servers.

I have the following system which I am essential very happy with but being an eternal fiddler, I am always looking to see on how I can improve the sound, especially with it comes to playing around with the PC side of things.

 

System

Dual core HTPC running win7+JRMC 20

Sources are redbook FLAC with a few 24/96/192 as well.

Asus Essence ST sound card with Teddy Pardo SPDIF cable.

John Kenny JKSPDIF MkIII - USB to SPDIF converter with Tellurium Q Blue USB and Naim DC-1 BNC cable.

Naim DAC w/ TeddyXPS

Tellurium Black DIN>RCA cable

Naim XS Amp with Teddycap MKIII

Naim A5 speaker cable.

proac tablette reference 8 signature (wall mounted, not ideal but cannot be changed at this time)

Rel T1 sub

 

I am feeding the SPDIF output from the Asus card into the DAC and as well as the output from the JKSPDIF MkIII. I have both devices (zones) linked within JRMC so it outputs to both simultaneously. I can then switch input channels in the DAC to compare the sound. Bottom line is that both outputs from the PC sound absolutely identical to me.

 

I read that Windows server 2012 apparently sounds better out of the box that win7 so with excitement, I installed WS2012 RC2 (GUI mode) onto a spare laptop and used the JKSPDIF to output to the DAC. No difference whatsoever compared to the main PC. Tried Fizelizer on both PCs, no difference.

 

All a bit disappointing and seems to fly in the face of much of what I read on this forum of the experience of others and suggests to me either:-

 

1. The Naim DAC is getting as good a signal as it needs from any of these devices and (perhaps) the Naim DAC's ring buffer/reclocking is rendering any jitter inaudible.

2. The amp and speakers are not of sufficient quality to reveal the differences.

3. My hearing is not good enough to reveal the differences.

 

I know that there are many folks on here with much much better (and more expensive) systems than mine and possibly with better hearing as well. However, when I read about people spotting differences in SATA cables, SDD power supplies, USB cables, operating systems, it puzzles me that I cannot hear any differences between the Asus Essence and JKSPDIF or laptop with WS2012.

 

This makes me suspect that I would be wasting my time and money experimenting further with ideas such as an external PSU for the SSD, WS2012 in core mode, LPSUs and other such tweaks when I can't even tell the difference between (what I assume others here would consider) devices that should all "sound" different.

 

Are perhaps most folks here running USB DACS which are far more susceptible to what comes out of the PC?

 

I would be interested in the opinions of others as to whether there is anything that I can on the PC side to improve the sound of my system.

 

Or am I just trying to play with the big boys here when i am clearly out of my depth!

 

thanks!

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Or am I just trying to play with the big boys here when i am clearly out of my depth!

 

thanks!

No I don't think that is the case at all, you have tried an option and not heard a difference which is fine but try and compare like for like on the same hardware.

 

Some of the major differences people report I don't hear particularly regarding linear v smps PSUs where I think the latter do a great job in my builds. Having said that I do run a dual server set up with Jplay and linear PSUs with the audio PC in core WS2012 with Pang cables etc. as I do prefer that set up and have spent a lot of time listening to various configurations. I built a wireless Vortexbox (installed the gui) on an old notebook which I could have happily listened to for years which cost me less than £100.

 

If you are enjoying the music from your set up that's the main thing. There are a ton of variables in play and all you can do is listen to the options and buy what you think makes a difference and what you consider is good value for money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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snip...

 

 

All a bit disappointing and seems to fly in the face of much of what I read on this forum of the experience of others and suggests to me either:-

 

1. The Naim DAC is getting as good a signal as it needs from any of these devices and (perhaps) the Naim DAC's ring buffer/reclocking is rendering any jitter inaudible.

2. The amp and speakers are not of sufficient quality to reveal the differences.

3. My hearing is not good enough to reveal the differences.

 

snip

 

thanks!

 

Ah, the Emperor has no clothes. I think that is what you have seen.

 

Yes, flies in the face of most forum posts describing such things these days. You haven't heard wrong. Much of the extra hub-bub and products for computer audio benefit you not at all. They don't improve the analog signal out of the DAC which is what you are hearing in the end. Would you not like to see the difference in analog signal when these various digital tweaks are done? Telling that you don't see them.

 

DACs, amps, speakers. Those along with room placement will make a difference for you. Sending a computer file onto a DAC is trivial in the extreme for even lowly modern computers. Timing is in the DAC. Give it the data without corruption (which to repeat is trivial) and you will get good sound quality.

 

Ignore all the snake oil and put your time and resources into things that matter.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Asus Essence ST sound card with Teddy Pardo SPDIF cable.

 

John

Your results aren't surprising. The Asus Essence Soundcard, IIRC, like my Xonar D2X also uses a supplementary small 4 pin molex plug which supplies cleaner power to the card. The result is better than average coax SPDIF out compared with any onboard solution.

If your music files are saved to an internal SSD, try giving the SSD improved power by using a low noise +12V to +5V voltage regulator. You can cut a 4 pin molex to SATA power lead in half to use with the voltage regulator. (use only the red and black wires) There are some good quality low noise voltage regulators available quite cheaply on ebay. If it doesn't give a noticeable improvement in your situation, you won't be much out of pocket.

 

Regards

Alex

 

Ultra LOW Noise 40

(You will need a digital meter to set the voltage output to +5V)

 

Are perhaps most folks here running USB DACS which are far more susceptible to what comes out of the PC?

 

They do indeed appear to be. Well implemented coax SPDIF can be every bit as good as the better USB implementations with the never ending quest for ways to improve it with expensive USB cables, Regens etc.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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John

Your results aren't surprising. The Asus Essence Soundcard, IIRC, like my Xonar D2X also uses a supplementary small 4 pin molex plug which supplies cleaner power to the card. The result is better than average coax SPDIF out compared with any onboard solution.

If your music files are saved to an internal SSD, try giving the SSD improved power by using a low noise +12V to +5V voltage regulator. You can cut a 4 pin molex to SATA power lead in half to use with the voltage regulator. (use only the red and black wires) There are some good quality low noise voltage regulators available quite cheaply on ebay. If it doesn't give a noticeable improvement in your situation, you won't be much out of pocket.

 

Many thanks for all the feedback so far everyone, it is appreciated.

 

I have the OS on an SSD (for boot and application load speed) but all my music is on a mechanical drive. Anything to be gained from using a regulator on a mechanical drive or moving music over to SSD (obviously I could experiment quick and easy with the later).

 

I just spend an hour with my laptop connected to my Yulong D100 II DAC/headphone amp and Denon D7000 'phones. I'd like to think this is a reasonably transparent setup.

 

I tried comparing music on remote server/SD card/USB stick (having read a post that claimed SD card sounded better) but couldn't spot any difference. I spend ages swapping Tellurium Q Blue USB for cheap (but decent) Lindy USB cable. I keep trying to believe that there is a bit more weight and slam in the Tellurium but I need to get my son to swap the cables around and do a DBT b/c at 20 times the price, the Tellurium really needs to stand out!

 

Whilst (obviously) at the same time, not forgetting to just enjoy the music. :-)

 

cheers.

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One thing you could try that is a different source all together is a streamer. Since you are in the Naim family, perhaps you can borrow one from your local dealer to try.

 

Well an NDS is completely out of my price range but yes, I have pondered whether an NDX might sound better (than the PC) feeding the DAC. However, even a second hand NDX is a hell of a lot of money just to feed my DAC a "cleaner" signal than my PC is capable of doing. (on the basis that the Naim DAC is considered a better DAC than that in the NDX).

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Well an NDS is completely out of my price range but yes, I have pondered whether an NDX might sound better (than the PC) feeding the DAC. However, even a second hand NDX is a hell of a lot of money just to feed my DAC a "cleaner" signal than my PC is capable of doing. (on the basis that the Naim DAC is considered a better DAC than that in the NDX).

 

Yeah, they are pricy, especially with the separate power supply! Perhaps a UniQute all in one? Might surprise. Another one I was impressed with was the Auralic Aries.

 

I have a ridiculously stripped Mini with all the bells, and the Aries came very close, without the computer hassle and multiple boxes and power supplies that I am dealing with. Would love to simplify it all myself. :)

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No I don't think that is the case at all, you have tried an option and not heard a difference which is fine but try and compare like for like on the same hardware. .

 

Other than changing the digital output from the Asus Essence vs the JKSPDIF MkIII, everything else is the same.

 

There are a ton of variables in play and all you can do is listen to the options and buy what you think makes a difference and what you consider is good value for money

That's kind of my problem. I have already tried to but what I thought might make a difference when I bought the JKSPDIF and the Tellurium Q Blue USB. Neither make any difference to my ears, compared to the SPDIF output from my £140 Asus Essence ST card.

This obviously makes me feel reticent about going down the dual PC/CAPS/Mac Mini route to feed my DAC when I can't even tell the difference between the JKSPDIF and the Asus or the £180 Tellurium Q USB and a £10 Lindy cable.

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Yeah, they are pricy, especially with the separate power supply! Perhaps a UniQute all in one? Might surprise. Another one I was impressed with was the Auralic Aries.

 

Having bought a Naim DAC (second hand) and teddy XPS, I suspect that this is as good a DAC as I am likely to ever to be able to afford in the next few years. I plan to hang onto it for the time being and I believe that the Naim DAC+XS combo should outperform the Unitiqute, especially as they (together) cost more than twice as much as the Unitiqute.

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Having bought a Naim DAC (second hand) and teddy XPS, I suspect that this is as good a DAC as I am likely to ever to be able to afford in the next few years. I plan to hang onto it for the time being and I believe that the Naim DAC+XS combo should outperform the Unitiqute, especially as they (together) cost more than twice as much as the Unitiqute.

 

Could be, but always let your ears be the judge, not the price tag. Plenty of times where I was shocked at high priced items sounding far less than much cheaper ones. Also, I have found it difficult to have computer be a non-fatiguing source.

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I have the OS on an SSD (for boot and application load speed) but all my music is on a mechanical drive. Anything to be gained from using a regulator on a mechanical drive or moving music over to SSD (obviously I could experiment quick and easy with the later).

 

John

My own setup, including a Class A headphone amplifier, AT W1000 headphones , a highly modified Musical Fidelity X-DAC V3 fed via coax SPDIF from an Asus Xonar D2X is highly revealing, and I do get a small but worthwhile improvement from using a better PSU with a HDD. However, this route isn't too easy for the average person, as you need both +12V and +5V supplies regulated, and all ebay offerings only have a single +VE output voltage , as well as needing a higher voltage than +12V for regulation purposes.

Many members prefer the sound of SSD over HDD, most likely due in part to less loading of the power supply.

I am presently using a 120GB Samsung 840 SSD for my highest quality .wav files. It is powered by a very low noise , (around 4uV) and low impedance, +12V to +5V regulator.

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Many members prefer the sound of SSD over HDD, most likely due in part to less loading of the power supply.I am presently using a 120GB Samsung 840 SSD for my highest quality .wav files. It is powered by a very low noise , (around 4uV) and low impedance, +12V to +5V regulator.

 

Certainly I can go and experiment for free with moving some music files from HDD to SSD (and powering down the HDDs) so nothing to loose there and for sure the regulator doesn't cost too much to experiment with. However I confess I don't yet understand the rationale as to why this should make any difference.

 

An SSD uses ~1-2W and a HDD ~6W. I presume the regulator burns up a few watts (judging by the heatsink) so the difference in power draw can only be a very small number of watts. If folks can hear a difference between a HDD and SSD, (to my mind) it must be more complex that just the drain of a couple more watts of power from the PSU which in itself shouldn't matter at all unless it results in the PSU generating additional jitter inducing noise / EMI. Or is there a direct correlation between power draw and sounds quality?

 

Clearly the media on which the music files reside or the quality of the power fed to an SSD cannot have any bearing whatsoever on the data that ends up in RAM ahead of being processed by ones playback software of choice (I'm assuming folks load to RAM before playback?). If this were not true, computers simply wouldn't work because at this level of I/O block-reading operation, bits really ARE bits and wrong bits cause computer failure.

 

This leaves the notion that SSDs and HDDs inject differing levels of noise back into the power supply which induced jitter elsewhere in the system. (something that someone with a scope should be able to measure easily enough). Again perhaps this affects folks with USB DACs rather than SPDIF.

 

My current machine is a HTPC with a decent corsair 500W PSU, 2 x HDD, 1 x SSD, Asus essence, mid-range 7750 graphics card (with fan) to video playback, Blackgold TV tuner, bluray, 6 year old 775 mobo (toasty chipset) and intel core2duo E7200 cpu, 1 CPU fan and 1x120mm Noctura case fan. It was originally build for video recording and playback, the music playback came afterwards.

 

If I could be sure that a CAPS-type computer would feed my DAC a better signal and sound demonstrably better that my current PC I'd run off and build one in a flash as I love building PCs and could do with a little project. However based on my current inability to spot any of the differences such as folks report here, I guess I'm feeling doubtful that I would hear any benefit from a custom audio PC until I can identify any changes on the PC side that make any difference (good or bad) to the sound from the DAC.

 

thanks for the feedback.

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This leaves the notion that SSDs and HDDs inject differing levels of noise back into the power supply which induced jitter elsewhere in the system. (something that someone with a scope should be able to measure easily enough). Again perhaps this affects folks with USB DACs rather than SPDIF.

Actually, that is what I meant to say , but tried to keep it simple. The voltage regulator isolates the SSD from the rest of the PC as far as it's PSU generated noise is concerned. The varying power demands of a HDD are much greater, but reducing it's interaction via the PSU with voltage regulators (difficult to implement) or even a dual C-L-C filter ( capacitance-Inductance-Capacitance) may result in a small audible improvement. I use a C-L-C filter in line with the power for my "C" drive, but will soon be putting the OS on a 240GB Samsung 850 SSD powered via a small +12V to +5V regulator PCB incorporating a John Linsley Hood designed PSU Add-on (a type of Shunt Regulator) instead.

 

3rlXEg.jpg

 

fwut.jpg

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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Actually, that is what I meant to say , but tried to keep it simple. The voltage regulator isolates the SSD from the rest of the PC as far as it's PSU generated noise is concerned. The varying power demands of a HDD are much greater, but reducing it's interaction via the PSU with voltage regulators (difficult to implement) or even a dual C-L-C filter ( capacitance-Inductance-Capacitance) may result in a small audible improvement. I use a C-L-C filter in line with the power for my "C" drive, but will soon be putting the OS on a 240GB Samsung 850 SSD powered via a small +12V to +5V regulator PCB incorporating a John Linsley Hood designed PSU Add-on (a type of Shunt Regulator) instead.

 

many tx. I don't know much about electronics but all the same, good to still see references to JLH designs after all these years.

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many tx. I don't know much about electronics but all the same, good to still see references to JLH designs after all these years.

 

BTW, the C-L-C filter does a similar job to the more recent internal SOtM SATA filter, but because Surface Mount components aren't being used , the capacitor values can be MUCH larger at it's output.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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So hypothetically speaking (really just to help me understand the issues at play here related to EMI) rather than using filters on all SSD/HHD to block noise being injected back into the PC which is assumed to add jitter to the digital output device (soundcard or USB output), would you get the same result from just adding a dedicated external computer PSU to power just the SSD/HDD's. By doing this, any noise from these disks will not affect the PSU in the playback PC. Alternatively, in my case, as I use the Asus Essence SPDIF output, surely the only clean power line I need (to isolate my digital output from any noise) is that powering the Asus card itself?

 

Or is it thought that EMI from SSD/HDD ends up on the PCI/PCIX lanes and this causes sound quality issues (even if it obviously doesn't affect the operation of the card).

 

Alternatively, could one obtain the same elimination of EMI by having a disk-less playback PC (booting from USB stick or SDcard) and using a NAS for storage?

 

I'm just try to better understand the impact that EMI has on the creation of jitter on the digital output and as a result, the decisions (and associated expense) that people are making to eliminate EMI from their PCs.

 

many thanks.

john

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John

It may help to have a dedicated external Linear PSU to power just the peripheral devices, but you may then run into earth loop issues, and possibly mains related noise. IMO, It is best to avoid any additional mains supplies.

I have actually seen a report that a JLH PSU add-on did give a further small improvement when used with an Asus Xonar card, but didn't follow that up as I don't use Analogue Out from the card, which is the area it would appear to benefit most.

IME, squeaky clean power to all peripheral devices, INCLUDING internal Optical devices used for ripping CDs results in SQ improvement, and to hell with "bits are bits," as I have been able to demonstrate that .wav files with identical checksums, ripped using very clean power to the Optical device sound better. I still have a spare of a comparison CD-R that I sent to the U.S.A. several years ago.,with sets of comparison .wav files on the same CD, that were created using different power. Both versions are on the same CD-R, yet the one created using a very low noise Linear PSU for the LG BR writer sounds better than the one made using a USB powered portable writer, when played using a better than average CD player or an Oppo 95 or 103 ,through a revealing system.When both sets of comparison files are ripped to HDD again, they still have identical check sums !

Hi Fi Critic Vol.6 No.1 also confirmed these findings via my uploaded .wav files, and 6 separate Blind A/B/A/ 3 minute sessions. Even using Windows 7 in Safe Mode resulted in better sounding rips, and I verified this after a report from a DIY Audio member from Melbourne Au.

 

This area has previously been done to death on many occasions, so I will not be going further with this in any posted replies.

 

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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I still have a spare of a comparison CD-R that I sent to the U.S.A. several years ago.,with sets of comparison .wav files on the same CD, that were created using different power. Both versions are on the same CD-R, yet the one created using a very low noise Linear PSU for the LG BR writer sounds better than the one made using a USB powered portable writer, when played using a better than average CD player or an Oppo 95 or 103 ,through a revealing system.When both sets of comparison files are ripped to HDD again, they still have identical check sums !

Hi Fi Critic Vol.6 No.1 also confirmed these findings via my uploaded .wav files, and 6 separate Blind A/B/A/ 3 minute sessions. Even using Windows 7 in Safe Mode resulted in better sounding rips, and I verified this after a report from a DIY Audio member from Melbourne Au.

 

This area has previously been done to death on many occasions, so I will not be going further with this in any posted replies.

 

Alex

 

Thanks for making time to respond Alex.

 

I could imagine that a cd burned using a cd writer with a clean power feed vs a standard feed could potentially write neater (more uniform) pits in to the surface of the cd, thereby making it easier for the cd reader to read the data with less stress on the cd reader. In the same way that folks used to suggest that cd's written at low speed sounded better than those written at high speed; the pits appear more rectangular under a microscope. Secure reading of these disks would still result in identical checksums. However the notion that 2 wav files with identical checksums might sound different is one that I could imagine triggered debate...! thanks again.

 

I think I should go and enjoy some some more music and stop getting too hung up about computers.

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John

It may help to have a dedicated external Linear PSU to power just the peripheral devices, but you may then run into earth loop issues, and possibly mains related noise. IMO, It is best to avoid any additional mains supplies.

I have actually seen a report that a JLH PSU add-on did give a further small improvement when used with an Asus Xonar card, but didn't follow that up as I don't use Analogue Out from the card, which is the area it would appear to benefit most.

IME, squeaky clean power to all peripheral devices, INCLUDING internal Optical devices used for ripping CDs results in SQ improvement, and to hell with "bits are bits," as I have been able to demonstrate that .wav files with identical checksums, ripped using very clean power to the Optical device sound better. I still have a spare of a comparison CD-R that I sent to the U.S.A. several years ago.,with sets of comparison .wav files on the same CD, that were created using different power. Both versions are on the same CD-R, yet the one created using a very low noise Linear PSU for the LG BR writer sounds better than the one made using a USB powered portable writer, when played using a better than average CD player or an Oppo 95 or 103 ,through a revealing system.When both sets of comparison files are ripped to HDD again, they still have identical check sums !

Hi Fi Critic Vol.6 No.1 also confirmed these findings via my uploaded .wav files, and 6 separate Blind A/B/A/ 3 minute sessions. Even using Windows 7 in Safe Mode resulted in better sounding rips, and I verified this after a report from a DIY Audio member from Melbourne Au.

 

This area has previously been done to death on many occasions, so I will not be going further with this in any posted replies.

 

Alex

 

http://www.genesisloudspeakers.com/whitepaper/Black_CD_Paper_Ultimate.pdf

 

:)

 


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Hi Alfe

I will have a good read later in the day after I return from a Doctor's appointment.

IIRC, the 2 CD-Rs that I sent to The Bronx were MAM. The backup CD-Rs were only Verbatim from a Supermarket , and the differences aren't quite as obvious, although "Audiophile Neuroscience" (David L.) and his friends could still hear them O.K.

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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I think I should go and enjoy some some more music and stop getting too hung up about computers.

Best advise I've heard here recently...

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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If your dac does indeed reclock, that may be the cause. Reclocking tends to homogenize the sources- helping a poor one while hampering one that would have been superior.

 

1. The Naim DAC is getting as good a signal as it needs from any of these devices and (perhaps) the Naim DAC's ring buffer/reclocking is rendering any jitter inaudible.

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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To quote 6moons re: Naim DAC

 

Audio data extracted from the bit stream enters a buffer. The speed whereby this data exits the buffer for subsequent D/A processing is determined by one of 10 ultra-accurate fixed frequency oscillators. To match the speed of entering and exiting data, the DAC constantly tracks the former by switching in the oscillator which most closely matches it (or adds an asynchronous sample rate converter should none of the 10 fixed-frequency oscillators match). This converts S/PDIF into an asynchronous protocol that is properly de-slaved from the sender and its inherent jitter.

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No I don't think that is the case at all, you have tried an option and not heard a difference which is fine but try and compare like for like on the same hardware.
Other than changing the digital output from the Asus Essence vs the JKSPDIF MkIII, everything else is the same.

I was referring to your ws2012 laptop v dual core HTPC and W7.

I read that Windows server 2012 apparently sounds better out of the box that win7 so with excitement, I installed WS2012 RC2 (GUI mode) onto a spare laptop and used the JKSPDIF to output to the DAC. No difference whatsoever compared to the main PC. Tried Fizelizer on both PCs, no difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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