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Would you recomemnd an audiophile USB card?


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I've dipped in and out of Computer Audio for the last 6 years or so. Generally I try for a while, remain unconvinced and then go back to my vinyl or SACD player.

 

I'm currently using a HDplex LPSU powered fanless i7 running Windows 10, Fidelizer and HQP direct to the USB input of my Esoteric SACD player, via Esoteric's ASIO driver. With the Esoteric's own upsampling and filters turned off, I'm mostly outputting everything as raw quad DSD, poly sinc, DSM7 256+ and getting some of the best digital results I've heard to date. I believe the Esoteric's USB input has galvanic isolation.

 

My PC has a free PCIe slot. Would a USB card from the likes of SoTM, PPA or JCat be a significant and cost-effective upgrade to SQ? And if so, could you explain what it does to achieve this? Once imported to UK any of these would be a significant cost, without ability to audition or return, so your recommendations gratefully received. Also interested as to whether any clashes/incompatibilities with what I already run might result.

 

My PC supplier advises against anything internal that will generate significant additional heat, for that reason I was quite interested in the external SoTM hub too.

 

By way of context, I'm lukewarm abut the various DLNA and NAA set ups I've tried to date and want to concentrate instead in getting the best from direct to DAC replay.

 

Thoughts? Thanks.

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Hi,

 

I'm currently using a SoTM USB card and can definitively say that the sound is much better with the card in my system. Before I was sending the signal out via the mobo USB port but after switching to a USB card, the difference has been night and day for me.

 

Bigger sound stage, better music tone and lower noise floor. Also it seems that the lower frequencies have more presence in the sound and more detail.

 

I haven't tried the others (yet) but from what I've been reading the last few years, it seems that you can't go wrong with any of them and all can improve a USB based chain.

 

Sent from my HTC One M9 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

Hardware:

JCAT NET Card FEMTO -> SOtM tX-USBexp -> iFi iUSB 3.0 > iFi Gemini USB -> Schiit Yggdrasil -> Emotiva Stealth DC-1 (temporary preamp) -> Airmotiv 4s

Software:

Fidelizer Pro 7.3 -> Tidal -> Roon

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I've dipped in and out of Computer Audio for the last 6 years or so. Generally I try for a while, remain unconvinced and then go back to my vinyl or SACD player.

 

I'm currently using a HDplex LPSU powered fanless i7 running Windows 10, Fidelizer and HQP direct to the USB input of my Esoteric SACD player, via Esoteric's ASIO driver. With the Esoteric's own upsampling and filters turned off, I'm mostly outputting everything as raw quad DSD, poly sinc, DSM7 256+ and getting some of the best digital results I've heard to date. I believe the Esoteric's USB input has galvanic isolation.

 

My PC has a free PCIe slot. Would a USB card from the likes of SoTM, PPA or JCat be a significant and cost-effective upgrade to SQ? And if so, could you explain what it does to achieve this? Once imported to UK any of these would be a significant cost, without ability to audition or return, so your recommendations gratefully received. Also interested as to whether any clashes/incompatibilities with what I already run might result.

 

My PC supplier advises against anything internal that will generate significant additional heat, for that reason I was quite interested in the external SoTM hub too.

 

By way of context, I'm lukewarm abut the various DLNA and NAA set ups I've tried to date and want to concentrate instead in getting the best from direct to DAC replay.

 

Thoughts? Thanks.

 

Which PCIe slot is it that is free? If it is slot 1, then it sits on north bridge. That makes for a shorter signal path than if it is any of the other slots (if you have any), as they all sit on southbridge.

 

To clarify, any consumer Intel (and AMD) motherboard of the past few years has two areas: northbridge, which consists of one PCIe slot, the memory banks and the CPU. Everything else (SATA, PCIe, standard USB ports, etc.) sits on south bridge. They are connected via a pipeline. The parts that sit on northbridge communicate much more directly with each other over shorter connections and are, minimally, less prone to various types of interference. As a consequence, PPA recommends their cards are used on port 1 for best result.

 

Secondly, there is a school of thought that says you should not (just) clean up the signal when it comes out of the PC, but before it goes into the DAC (UpTone Regen is an example of this). As a consequence we now see people with a hifi USB card in the PC and a Regen or Intona on the other end of the USB cable going into the DAC.

 

Lastly, nice that you have galvanic isolation but it seems the quality of implementation varies and it is not full proof anyway. For a full explanation, check the UpTone Audio webpage under "John Swenson explains". So, seemingly, there are gains to be made even for devices with galvanic isolation.

 

As to what works best, lots of people are still looking for a proper shoot out between the various models of PPA, JCAT, UpTone, Audioquest, Sonore and SOtM. They all seem to bring improvements, but they all also have their own sound signature, which means they fit better in one system than in another.

Synology DS214+ with MinimServer --> Ethernet --> Sonore mRendu / SOtM SMS-200 --> Chord Hugo --> Chord interconnects --> Naim NAP 200--> Chord speaker cable --> Focal Aria 948

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In my experience they do make considerable difference (and generate ZERO heat, if that is your concern).

 

I have went from SOtM PCI, to SOtM PCIe (the current model), to Jcat USB 1.1 and now to Jcat 2.0 'Femto' card.

 

Each step between those resulted in a significant improvement in SQ. I have just upgraded to the Jcat 2.0 'Femto' USB card, but I didn't have the time to install it just yet.

Adam

 

PC: Hot rodded CAPS v4 Pipeline: Teradak ATX linear PSU, Jcat Femto USB card, UpTone Audio JS-2 + 2x LPS-1.2 combo, Jcat SSD battery PSU, Jcat SATA cable, TotalDAC D1 USB cable, SOtM sMS-200, W4S Recovery USB, Jcat USB Isolator, Win 2012, AO v2.10

Digital: Lampizator Pacific DAC

Amp: Dan D'Agostino Momentum Stereo

Speakers: Magcio M3

Cables: AudioQuest WEL Signature IC / Shunyata Anaconda Z-Tron SC

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You might want to also think about the external SOtM USB card, or one of the other external USB devices from W4S, Uptone, iFi, Schiit, etc.

 

External devices are easier to use (or add in/take out) and I'd think easier to resell should you decide to do so.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>RPi4 (dietpi)>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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You might want to also think about the external SOtM USB card, or one of the other external USB devices from W4S, Uptone, iFi, Schiit, etc.

 

External devices are easier to use (or add in/take out) and I'd think easier to resell should you decide to do so.

+1

 

Sent from my HTC One M9 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

Hardware:

JCAT NET Card FEMTO -> SOtM tX-USBexp -> iFi iUSB 3.0 > iFi Gemini USB -> Schiit Yggdrasil -> Emotiva Stealth DC-1 (temporary preamp) -> Airmotiv 4s

Software:

Fidelizer Pro 7.3 -> Tidal -> Roon

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Well, I must admit that I'm not knowledgeable enough to say exactly what they do differently.

 

But I can say, that at the very least these cards are adding their own sound signature. Also, from what I can tell, the majority of these cards have built in filtration modules to lower the noise floor, as well clock modules to lower jitter.

 

Jitter and noise filtration I think are the key aspects of USB cards.

 

Sent from my HTC One M9 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

Hardware:

JCAT NET Card FEMTO -> SOtM tX-USBexp -> iFi iUSB 3.0 > iFi Gemini USB -> Schiit Yggdrasil -> Emotiva Stealth DC-1 (temporary preamp) -> Airmotiv 4s

Software:

Fidelizer Pro 7.3 -> Tidal -> Roon

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Thanks to all for feedback. Can anyone explain what these cards are doing that makes them a significant improvement over a standard USB port?

 

 

1) They connect to RAM on northbridge (if used on slot 1), not south bridge, so the signal path shortens.

2) They allow for the use of a custom power supply with low ripple and noise, which bypasses the noisy motherboard power supply.

3) If you do use motherboard power, these cards clean it up.

4) They re-clock the signal with a much better clock before the signal is send out.

5) They allow you to turn off the current on the USB port, which means less distortion on the USB cable and at the DAC port.

6) For cards with two USB ports, there is insulation between the two ports so there is no issues with "feedback" between ports. Standard USB ports on motherboards come in pairs, which means that the use of the one device can cause currency fluctuations on the other port. Other cards only have one port, which achieves the same effect.

Synology DS214+ with MinimServer --> Ethernet --> Sonore mRendu / SOtM SMS-200 --> Chord Hugo --> Chord interconnects --> Naim NAP 200--> Chord speaker cable --> Focal Aria 948

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