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When a Software Upgrade Renders Your Equipment Useless (Rant)


ksjeff
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I have an ALO Audio Island headphone amplifier. Once I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, The Island no longer worked. So I went to the ALO website, hoping that there is an upgraded driver for Windows 10. But there's nothing on their website regarding tech support, downloads, etc. So, I searched around and found a contact phone number. I called multiple times and got no answer, each time leaving a voicemail and my number. Never got a return call. So I kept calling, and finally today, someone picked up the phone, and it went like this:

 

Me: I have The Island headphone amp, and when I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, my Island stopped working.

ALO: The Island had been discontinued, and isn't supported for Windows 10.

 

Me: Are there plans for developing a driver that will work with Windows 10?

ALO: No.

 

Me: Do you know of any 3rd-party driver solutions, or any solution at all I can look for?

ALO: No, I'm afraid not.

 

Me: So, basically what you're telling me is, this piece of equipment I bought from you not all that long ago is now just a paperweight.

ALO: I'm sorry, but yes.

 

This is so infuriating to me. I realize The Island isn't a very expensive piece of equipment. I love this hobby, but I'm not a wealthy person, and I'm not one who updates my equipment every time a new product comes to market. I also have what I think are reasonable expectations regarding the lifespan of audio equipment. But I purchased this headphone amp only about two or three years ago, and for it to be rendered useless because the company chooses to not develop a driver for a Windows upgrade is very frustrating.

 

I, for one, won't be considering any future purchases from ALO Audio. In the computer audio age, if your company won't update drivers to keep up with Windows upgrades, to keep the equipment operable, you won't get my business in the future.

 

Am I being unreasonable here?

 

Also, is there a solution available of which I am unaware? Thanks.

Jeff

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It's not entirely their fault though I agree they could have handled their response to you much better. That device uses a Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip which was introduced in 2003 (Win XP era). It would appear that Cirrus Logic has decided not to provide a driver for Win 10. I was going to suggest finding a Win 8/8.1 driver but I see other people complaining that this is not a solution.

 

Here's a long shot: FiiO makes a unit that uses the same chip. They have an updated driver for Win 10 here:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/askxen28xk8rf5j/FiiO%20DAC%20driver%20for%20Windows%2010%20ver.1607.zip?dl=0#

 

I suggest you download this installer and read the instructions. It looks like it extracts into a folder before the installer runs. I'd stop the installer at that point and try to update the Island driver from that location using Device Manager. Good luck.

 

UPDATE: I had a chance to extract the files in the installer and found that FiiO uses proprietary names for their drivers. Making this work is not going to be easy.

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"Also, is there a solution available of which I am unaware? Thanks."

 

It should work with Linux. Run it off a live distro so it can be used until you find a suitable replacement. Or, if you like it under Linux, just install it to your HD. Its no problem to set up a dual boot for both OS's. If you haven't tried Linux yet, you'll probably want to use it for more than just your dac.

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I'm always hesitant to upgrade OS's. My Mac Mini music server is still running Yosemite. No problems, no reason to risk an upgrade. However when I do, I always make a back-up prior to upgrading. Obviously upgrading to Win10 is a bit different with the "Free Upgrade" expiry this year.

 

I'd say sell the Island and head over to Massdrop, they seem to specialize in reasonably priced headphone amps.

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OP has described a recurring problem with our hobby. In short, we are at the mercy of the OS upgrade cycle. We never know when our machines will turn on us. One more reason to avoid downloads and to keep all your music on physical media.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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I have an ALO Audio Island headphone amplifier. Once I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, The Island no longer worked. So I went to the ALO website, hoping that there is an upgraded driver for Windows 10. But there's nothing on their website regarding tech support, downloads, etc. So, I searched around and found a contact phone number. I called multiple times and got no answer, each time leaving a voicemail and my number. Never got a return call. So I kept calling, and finally today, someone picked up the phone, and it went like this:

 

Me: I have The Island headphone amp, and when I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, my Island stopped working.

ALO: The Island had been discontinued, and isn't supported for Windows 10.

 

Me: Are there plans for developing a driver that will work with Windows 10?

ALO: No.

 

Me: Do you know of any 3rd-party driver solutions, or any solution at all I can look for?

ALO: No, I'm afraid not.

 

Me: So, basically what you're telling me is, this piece of equipment I bought from you not all that long ago is now just a paperweight.

ALO: I'm sorry, but yes.

 

This is so infuriating to me. I realize The Island isn't a very expensive piece of equipment. I love this hobby, but I'm not a wealthy person, and I'm not one who updates my equipment every time a new product comes to market. I also have what I think are reasonable expectations regarding the lifespan of audio equipment. But I purchased this headphone amp only about two or three years ago, and for it to be rendered useless because the company chooses to not develop a driver for a Windows upgrade is very frustrating.

 

I, for one, won't be considering any future purchases from ALO Audio. In the computer audio age, if your company won't update drivers to keep up with Windows upgrades, to keep the equipment operable, you won't get my business in the future.

 

Am I being unreasonable here?

 

Also, is there a solution available of which I am unaware? Thanks.

 

No, you are not unreasonable. Thank you for the info. It seems I also probably won't buy anything from ALO audio either. I mean, by looking at it, it is only three years old device, and it is simply inexcusable to not support like that.

 

 

For solution, if you have access, currently the latest Windows 10 beta now supports USB Audio Class 2.0 natively. Get latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build and see if this beta patch helps you out.

 

See this link : https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/matthew_van_eerde/2016/09/15/installing-the-microsoft-class-drivers-for-usb-audio-devices/

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OP has described a recurring problem with our hobby. In short, we are at the mercy of the OS upgrade cycle. We never know when our machines will turn on us. One more reason to avoid downloads and to keep all your music on physical media.

 

That's overly dramatic. This is just a Windows problem with USB connections, that will be solved quite soon when Windows will no longer require specific drivers for USB audio devices.

Claude

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Heck, not really unreasonable, but it isn't really all ALO's fault - though it is their fault they chose a long out of date hardware implementation for their device. And you can't really blame Cirrus Logic for not wanting to support a 13 year old device forever. And you can't really blame Microsoft for upgrading their OS, as developers like Cirrus Logic have the newest Microsoft OS's to test their stuff on long before the general public.

 

As other's have mentioned though, like Apple and Linux, Microsoft is finally getting off their duff and providing decent USB support for audio, so the problem may be (probably will be) self correcting. You can try downloading the "Insider Preview" of the latest version of Windows 10 and see what happens. I cannot promise good things, but it is a distinct possibility. ;)

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I have an ALO Audio Island headphone amplifier. Once I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, The Island no longer worked. So I went to the ALO website, hoping that there is an upgraded driver for Windows 10. But there's nothing on their website regarding tech support, downloads, etc. So, I searched around and found a contact phone number. I called multiple times and got no answer, each time leaving a voicemail and my number. Never got a return call. So I kept calling, and finally today, someone picked up the phone, and it went like this:

 

Me: I have The Island headphone amp, and when I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, my Island stopped working.

ALO: The Island had been discontinued, and isn't supported for Windows 10.

 

Me: Are there plans for developing a driver that will work with Windows 10?

ALO: No.

 

Me: Do you know of any 3rd-party driver solutions, or any solution at all I can look for?

ALO: No, I'm afraid not.

 

Me: So, basically what you're telling me is, this piece of equipment I bought from you not all that long ago is now just a paperweight.

ALO: I'm sorry, but yes.

 

This is so infuriating to me. I realize The Island isn't a very expensive piece of equipment. I love this hobby, but I'm not a wealthy person, and I'm not one who updates my equipment every time a new product comes to market. I also have what I think are reasonable expectations regarding the lifespan of audio equipment. But I purchased this headphone amp only about two or three years ago, and for it to be rendered useless because the company chooses to not develop a driver for a Windows upgrade is very frustrating.

 

I, for one, won't be considering any future purchases from ALO Audio. In the computer audio age, if your company won't update drivers to keep up with Windows upgrades, to keep the equipment operable, you won't get my business in the future.

 

Am I being unreasonable here?

 

Also, is there a solution available of which I am unaware? Thanks.

Hi @ksjeff - Your raise an issue that has long been lurking in our hobby. High end manufacturers and their ability to support products that contain components outside of their areas of expertise. It's tough to use the word "blame" in this situation. Yes, ALO elected to use a chip that is no longer supported. Maybe the company didn't think about long term support, maybe it did and just said oh well. I don't know. But, you also purchased the product, thus voting with your wallet that ALO made the right product. I lean more toward placing "blame" on ALO because the company is in a better position to talk to chip manufacturers about future support and to continue its own support for a reasonable life of the product. Part of high end audio, I believe, should also be long term support. For example, I could send in my Grado RS1 headphones from ~16 years ago and get them reconditioned. It'll probably cost me money, but I could get it done if needed. Also, companies like dCS have SACD/CD drives sitting in storage for nearly all product ever sold, in case the drives break in a customers transport purchased long ago.

 

Maybe questions about long term support for digital devices should be raised more often, than it currently is, in reviews.

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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That's overly dramatic. This is just a Windows problem with USB connections, that will be solved quite soon when Windows will no longer require specific drivers for USB audio devices.

 

Not exactly. I had the same problem with OSX and a W4S DAC2.....twice. Had to sell the DAC it took the Wizards in Atascadero months to field a new driver.

 

I like our our hobby but this type of pain demonstrates why "computer audio" is best left to computer experts. Digital audio will be best enjoyed with dedicated plug and play solutions.

In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake ~ Sayre's Law

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I have an ALO Audio Island headphone amplifier. Once I upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, The Island no longer worked. So I went to the ALO website, hoping that there is an upgraded driver for Windows 10...Also, is there a solution available of which I am unaware? Thanks.

 

Personally, I think you have a reasonable complaint and you are far from being the first person dissatisfied with ALO support. They are a very small company. The new Windows 10 driver may very well not be ready for prime time.

 

There are a couple of Island owners who have used a driver for Windows 8.1 successfully with Windows 10, so you might try it: https://yadi.sk/d/MbP0SFgfg4rJ8 YMMV.

 

I found the link in post #59 of this Head-fi thread: ALO The Island USB DAC! - Page 4 I also think you are more likely to get support/response/empathy from posting on Head-fi on this issue.

 

Good luck. If all else fails, think about an AudioQuest Dragonfly red or black. May very well sound better and I think you may find more responsive support. Not knocking ALO, good company overall from what I've read and heard. And with a little luck, Microsoft will have their solution ironed out in the next few months.

1070957250_Imprimatur.NihilObstatSepia3Crop(2).jpg.2162a44365e84a5df7d456bf8026ed67.jpg

 

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Just a comment...

 

That the Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip doesn't have anything to do with Windows or any other OS for that matter. It is a normal DAC chip with I2S and DSD interfaces and works fine still today in many products (many new products too). It doesn't know anything about USB in first place. The problem is most likely related to the USB interface feeding data to the DAC chip.

 

I still have one almost full tube of those CS4398 chips, because it has a Direct DSD mode that works up to DSD128.

 

So please don't blame Cirrus Logic for that.

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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Just a comment...

 

That the Cirrus Logic CS4398 DAC chip doesn't have anything to do with Windows or any other OS for that matter. It is a normal DAC chip with I2S and DSD interfaces and works fine still today in many products (many new products too). It doesn't know anything about USB in first place. The problem is most likely related to the USB interface feeding data to the DAC chip.

 

I still have one almost full tube of those CS4398 chips, because it has a Direct DSD mode that works up to DSD128.

 

So please don't blame Cirrus Logic for that.

 

It's an XMOS interface.

 

500x1000px-LL-3df3d4ef_IMG_20150114_204220.jpeg

1070957250_Imprimatur.NihilObstatSepia3Crop(2).jpg.2162a44365e84a5df7d456bf8026ed67.jpg

 

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[clipped really good commentary..]

 

Maybe questions about long term support for digital devices should be raised more often, than it currently is, in reviews.

 

Part of the issue is that digital anything has at least until recently, had a short shelf life. Computers were out of date in 12-18 months, as well as the digital creations based upon them. One reason to stay away from devices like digital players - they will inevitably, go out of date long before the comparable analog components. Turntables for instance, often have production and competitive lifetimes measured in decades.

 

Recently, computers and devices have gotten fast enough and capable enough to not go out of date very quickly. And the ones that are built cheaply are now so cheap it doesn't matter if you have to replace them every couple years. ($39 for a Chrome device, for example.)

 

I don't know where that will land, but I think most of the hardware issues will evolve into software issues, and virtualization is the next big step in digital audio.

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Part of the issue is that digital anything has at least until recently, had a short shelf life. Computers were out of date in 12-18 months, as well as the digital creations based upon them. One reason to stay away from devices like digital players - they will inevitably, go out of date long before the comparable analog components. Turntables for instance, often have production and competitive lifetimes measured in decades.

 

Recently, computers and devices have gotten fast enough and capable enough to not go out of date very quickly. And the ones that are built cheaply are now so cheap it doesn't matter if you have to replace them every couple years. ($39 for a Chrome device, for example.)

 

I don't know where that will land, but I think most of the hardware issues will evolve into software issues, and virtualization is the next big step in digital audio.

 

-Paul

The lifespan is definitely something to keep in mind! Makes me wonder why anyone would fork over 5 figures for a DAC in this day and age, whether you can afford it or not!

 

Sent from my KYOCERA-C6745 using Computer Audiophile mobile app

Jim

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The lifespan is definitely something to keep in mind! Makes me wonder why anyone would fork over 5 figures for a DAC in this day and age, whether you can afford it or not!

 

USB-only DACs are rare, almost all have S/PDIF (coaxial and optical) inputs in addition.

 

Suppose you have an older $10.000 DAC for which no Windows 10 USB driver is available. In that case, you could always buy a high quality USB-S/PDIF converter (in the $200-500 range) and connect it to a coax input of the DAC. It might even be better than the original USB input of the DAC, as there has been progress in this area.

 

Is there a >$5.000 USB DAC which does not have drivers working under Windows 10?

 

The biggest recent risk of obsolescence with DACs has been lack of support for DSD input, but that only concerns a niche (DSD downloads and SACD rips).

Claude

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Well, Chord Electronics is one such high end company that stopped USB driver development very shortly after their Qute EX was discontinued, only to be replaced by the 2Qute which is 2.0 compliant. The QuteHD was released in 2012 btw, followed by the EX in 2014. Pretty shitty for those of us stuck with a Yosemite driver.

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I don't know where that will land, but I think most of the hardware issues will evolve into software issues, and virtualization is the next big step in digital audio.

 

What are you thinking?

 

Regarding issue, yeah sh*t happens -- perhaps @Paul R is suggesting running Windows 8 in a VM?

 

I rip CDs on my mac laptop using EAC running in a VM... I find the sound starts out boxed in but then opens up after it has had a chance to burn in on my NAS :wink:

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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I know it's frustrating but every time systems are upgraded something doesn't work the way it used to, or doesn't work at all. It has been this way since my first home computer in 1985.

 

To keep computer audio working the solution is simple--don't upgrade--or at least don't upgrade without checking first.

 

Worst case: keep a backup and revert to what works.

 

Greg

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This old Luxman PD-121 hasn't needed a software upgrade in over 30 yrs. Seems to still work fine.

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]29590[/ATTACH]

 

What about needle/cartridge replacement? Without the vinyl revival, that could have become a problem, if all the manufacturers stopped making them.

Claude

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This old Luxman PD-121 hasn't needed a software upgrade in over 30 yrs. Seems to still work fine.

 

[ATTACH=CONFIG]29590[/ATTACH]

 

At some point it got a hardware upgrade. I had that TT and that's not the original arm; it looks like a Premier MMT. Nice combo!

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