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A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming

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17 hours ago, austinpop said:

Given how that thread went off the rails, I hope you come back and post here, Roy!

 

Seeing that Roy (Romaz) has gone with a USB only stream and found it superior to any added Ethernet leg.  It's probably a good time to move on from this thread.  No wonder Sonore is so vehemently against the master clocked SOtM components.  Basically it renders their Ethernet achievements meaningless.  There is still room for someone to build a proper mobo. 

Really the solution has gotten much simpler with the SCLK EX board.  I hope SOtM comes up with a fix on my NUC.  Then my system becomes much simpler.

NUC w/TXBEXP PCIe card, 4 sclk ex clocks, direct to Chord 2Qute.  All powered by Paul Hynes SR7 or LPS-1.  Master clock upgrade to follow.

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20 minutes ago, ElviaCaprice said:

 

Seeing that Roy (Romaz) has gone with a USB only stream and found it superior to any added Ethernet leg.  It's probably a good time to move on from this thread.  No wonder Sonore is so vehemently against the master clocked SOtM components.  Basically it renders their Ethernet achievements meaningless.  There is still room for someone to build a proper mobo. 

Really the solution has gotten much simpler with the SCLK EX board.  I hope SOtM comes up with a fix on my NUC.  Then my system becomes much simpler.

NUC w/TXBEXP PCIe card, 4 sclk ex clocks, direct to Chord 2Qute.  All powered by Paul Hynes SR7 or LPS-1.  Master clock upgrade to follow.

+1 

I think it's a good idea if we move on to a new thread that focuses on optimizing USB audio. It is still relevant to those who use ethernet renderers as they still need usb to connect to a dac.

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On 9/16/2017 at 8:14 PM, romaz said:

Like many of you, I value simplicity whenever I can get it which is one of the reasons I went away from Ethernet endpoints like the sMS-200ultra.  As a minimum, I know I could be very happy using a single sCLK-EX board (and its 4 clocks) and forgo reclocking the modem/router/switch, Iso-Regen and tX-USBultra.  This means that with a single box server with integrated sCLK-EX board, a 4-rail SR7, and a REF10, I would feel I was in end-game territory but I will say that adding the reclocked modem/router/switch, ISO-Regen and tX-USBultra definitely improves things further.  

 

Hi Roy,

 

Fascinating report, as always. I did have a few questions - especially regarding reclocking the modem/router/switch. 

  1. Where do the two sCLK-EX reside in your system now? One is in the tX-USBultra. But the other? In your server enclosure?
  2. Is your ISP ingress close to your audio setup? My issue is that my ISP ingress is a 100 feet away in the opposite end of the house on a different floor. So modem/router clock mods would be tricky.
  3. What would you recommend for a Roon server that didn't require a from-the-ground-up custom build, that could still be modded to have the system clock, USB and ethernet clocks delivered from an sCLK-EX board? And be powered by a 12V LPSU?

Appreciate your thoughts.

 

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Hi, sorry for the delay in posting.  It was always my intention to post my ultimate findings here and that will still happen but it will take a few days.  Despite how big this thread is, Rajiv has done an excellent job indexing it and curating it and so much thanks to him!

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1 hour ago, ElviaCaprice said:

 

Seeing that Roy (Romaz) has gone with a USB only stream and found it superior to any added Ethernet leg.  It's probably a good time to move on from this thread.  No wonder Sonore is so vehemently against the master clocked SOtM components.  Basically it renders their Ethernet achievements meaningless.  There is still room for someone to build a proper mobo. 

Really the solution has gotten much simpler with the SCLK EX board.  I hope SOtM comes up with a fix on my NUC.  Then my system becomes much simpler.

NUC w/TXBEXP PCIe card, 4 sclk ex clocks, direct to Chord 2Qute.  All powered by Paul Hynes SR7 or LPS-1.  Master clock upgrade to follow.

 

I find the Ethernet approach to have (long) reached its "saturation point" in regards to the growing slew of cables, clocks, PSU's and what not, almost all of them ever upgradable over short intervals. Even with the sonic refinements here made (in which this thread has been truly inspiring with all the contributions from its posters and the willingness in particularly from SOtM to participate on the basis of this with product development and individual wishes) the complexity and relative expense of many components can seem daunting and over the top (yet still cheaper than the all-out music servers like Aurender and others). Of course it's up to each one to assess when to say "enough is enough," and still be able to achieve great SQ through this solution with a simpler, less ambitious setup. Initially my interest with the Ethernet approach came with the advent of small network players (mR and sMS-200) and their simplified, dedicated audio-only computers and lesser power need, but it soon branched into a more sophisticated development with many areas to attend care to; in itself a fascinating process to follow (at least viewed from a distance). From my chair I'll stay with the current state of my Ethernet-based setup for a longer while (save for a few tweaks within it), simply for the reason being that it now sounds rather natural and uninhibited - while still being relatively simple component-wise - and that it has an easy, reliable and no-fuss use. Any development from this point in the future ahead would necessitate the outlook for more simplicity and an obvious advance in SQ - a combination of which may not be easily attained. One should not be blinded by the care needed within a one-component, USB-only streaming setup (what would be the OS to use here?), but the "downsizing" of cables and other separate components here is certainly a winning trait. However, it hardly "renders their [SOtM's] Ethernet achievements meaningless," on the contrary I'd say. The developments here have been more than worthwhile. 

 

And btw, any act of Sonore being "vehemently against" a component choice of SOtM would seem to have only something to do with SOtM being a very competitive company. 

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10 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

How about we change the title to "A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming"? Are people OK with that?

 

:D I like it.

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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

I'm OK with whatever you decide. You've done great work in this thread!

Will the old link still work?

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I'm paying attention to this thread for the first time, the concept of having the music server route traffic direct to renderer sounds worth playing with. The NAS I have doesn't supply 2 Ethernet ports to bridge router and renderer. What do folks see as a least cost music server hardware solution  capable of testing this out using minimserver?

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2 hours ago, Lebouwsky said:

Will the old link still work?

 

Gulp! :S Never thought of that.

 

But - I just checked the links in the index, and it looks like all is good.

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Listening Impression with the Cybershaft OP-14 Reference Clock - Part 1

 
As I mentioned a few days ago, I was very fortunate to recently acquire a Cybershaft OCXO Premium OP-14 reference clock. The current OCXO Premium line is sold out. A few weeks after my initial inquiry, Kenji @ Cybershaft informed me he had produced a unit that passed the OP-14 classification (more on this below), and would I be interested in buying it? 
 
Yes I would! 
 
Of course, my initial hope was to find a used unit - my budget is limited, after all. But this unit is rare to find used, and probably commands a resale price close to retail anyway. So I ordered it, along with their under-$20 0.5m 50 ohm clock cable.
 
Before I get into the listening impressions, a word about this device. Here is the web page: http://www.cybershaft.jp/a-products/premiumop.html. To view, allow Google to translate it for you. Some general comments:
  • As I understand it, Cybershaft classifies units with OP-11 to OP-14 designations based on a process of curation of OCXO's by actual testing and calibration. The OP-14 has the lowest phase noise characteristics (Offset 1 Hz) of -114.0 to -114.9 dBc / Hz.  
  • My unit came with its own calibration certificate showing it measured at -114.8 dBc / Hz at 1Hz, and -132.4 dBc / Hz at 10Hz.
  • In comparison, the Mutec Ref 10's phase noise ratings are:
    • 1 Hz:               ≤  -116 dBc/Hz
    • 10 Hz:             ≤  -142 dBc/Hz
  • The Mutec Ref 10 has much more impressive numbers. In addition, it has 8 galvanically isolated clock outputs, to the OP-14's single output. So these units address different needs, and the feature differences go a long way toward explaining the price difference. NOTE - I don't really have a deep knowledge of how these numbers relate to SQ, so please don't ask me! I am curious, of course.
  • Still, for my trifecta, requiring a single reference clock input, the OP-14 seemed a perfect fit. 
  • A note about availability. Kenji @ Cybeshaft told me they are very soon going to roll out a new product - the OCXO Platinum - which will have a phase noise rating of -109dBc/Hz. He would not say whether they would offer curated lower phase noise offerings like the OPxx. Regardless, if you are interested in these, do contact Kenji Hasegawa and let him know your interest.

 

But how does it sound? That comes next. I'll try to post that tonight so as not to keep y'all on tenterhooks for too long!

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1 hour ago, austinpop said:

But how does it sound? That comes next. I'll try to post that tonight so as not to keep y'all on tenterhooks for too long!

Ok I am waiting :)

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15 hours ago, Cornan said:

 

The isolation transformer with floating secondary is the same as the CA famous Topaz that I am sure that you have heard about a lot. It will isolate the grounds completely between ac mains and your deives. The mains are unbalanced (for example 120v/120v or 60v/60v). A balanced isolation transformer with grounded secondary will ensure a balanced ac mains (se above) but the secondary is connected to ground and therefore the isolation is not as good between the ac main and the connected devices, but it is safer.

 

To give you a simple advice. If you are using mainly a digital chain with not too powerful analogue devices in the chain look for a isolation transformer with floating secondary for starters. If you have big amps and subs look for a isolation transformer with grounded secondary, such as the balanced isolation transformer. 

 

Now, I do not want to make this complicated, but there are another great option as well. A balanced isolation transformer can be turned into a balanced isolation transformer with floating secondary as well. However, this option is much more unsafe than other options since both primary and secondary are live and secondary winding not grounded. You are not very well protected if anything goes wrong. Anyway, IMO this in absolutely not an option for a beginner.

There's a little difference between the Altair and (some) Topaz. The difference is the capacitance between primary and secondary windings in the isolation transformer and makes a big difference to stop noise.  

 

At 50Hz, the hum maker, can cross the windings according to this formula. 

 

I= V/Z

V= 230V, Z = 1/(2 PI f C) 

f = 50Hz C = capacitance in Farad.

 

I saw on YouTube a video where leakage capacitance for a simple isolation transformer was 160pf. This allows 12uA of noise to pass to the amplifier and can create hum.

The Topaz has 0.0005pf an order of leakage current thousands less, which inverts to thousands of ohms higher. 

For higher frequencies, the opposition is even more. 

The Topaz then is chosen more for its killing of hum, common mode noise rather than isolation methods. It's possible to use ungrounded or grounded secondaries and keep the noise out. 

If you could please publish the capacitance of the Altair to plug into the formula. 

If the CA member is in Japan, the neutral floats above ground, which avoids the grounded neutral problem of the West. Another topic! 

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53 minutes ago, austinpop said:
Listening Impression with the Cybershaft OP-14 Reference Clock - Part 2
 
Since my clock chain is hard to visualize from what's in my signature, I've updated my system topology picture to give you a clearer idea of how things wire together. Hopefully, it helps understand the flow better. See the diagram below.
 
59c1eb19b4590_UltraTopology.thumb.png.46e5108e136c57968d181cb0ce6554ee.png
 
And here is a photo of the latest "spaghetti chain." I would characterize this more as a pasta medley - a hearty mix of linguine, pappardelle, and penne. :D
 
IMG_0107.thumb.JPG.30fa544851805484e29c1d65f7297eed.JPG
 
I've been doing a lot of listening since my Cybershaft arrived. However, I waited (im)patiently until about 50 hours of burn-in, and then again at 100 hours, to do any comparisons, or draw any conclusions.
 
Roy tells me that on his Ref 10, it is easy to turn each clock output on/off, which makes A/B comparisons of with/without reference clock really easy. On the OP-14, there is no switch. Also, it's important not to power cycle the unit, as it can take at least an hour for the OCXO to stabilize. The tX-USBultra continues to function if the reference clock is hot plugged in or out. My technique was to disconnect and reconnect on the OP-14 output, as it was easy to reach from my listening chair.
 
The first time I did this, I went from ref clock connected to disconnected. It took my brain a few seconds to register, but then it hit me. WOW - what a difference! It was like deflating a balloon. Some of the magic died. And yet - this was what, just a few days ago, I thought was the best my system had ever sounded. Connect the OP-14 back, and the goosebumps were back!
 
How to describe the improvement with the OP-14? I'll talk about it in the context of these pieces of music I happened to use while comparing:
  • IMG_0006.thumb.JPG.b17065e624d66326c4513a7cd6ec7cb6.JPGMahler Symphony 3: Sehr langsam "O Mensch"
     
  • folder.thumb.jpg.fe938f2a3688238e3aebccc9b95f2d7c.jpg Sibelius Symphony 6: 1st movement
     
  • 51aFVLvGPRL.jpgBuena Vista Social Club: Pueblo Nuevo
     
  • 51wR81RBGKL.jpgMahler Symphony 5: Scherzo
     
  • IMG_0597.JPG.8bd80b22ceb4f014c89ef2c250c97eba.JPG Gorecki Symphony 3: 1st movement
     
  • 51AgMTl-xfL.jpgBeethoven Piano Concerto No.5 "Emperor": 1st movement
 
The improvement comes in these major areas:
  1. Rock solid image
    • The sonic image seemed bigger in all 3 dimensions, but also had a sense of solidity and stability to it.
    • This was especially noticeable in the big orchestral Mahler and SIbelius pieces
  2. Dynamic
    • It seemed like the music had a greater dynamic range.
    • There was a perceived reduction in the noise floor.
    • In the Mahler 3rd, the movement begins with an extremely low level harmony in the strings. I'd never heard this so clearly and so dramatically before.
  3. Dimensionality of individual instruments
    • In Pueblo Nuevo, the piano sounded more real than before
    • Ditto in the Beethoven piano concerto
  4. Incredible resolution and detail
    • What I love about the Mahler pieces in my list is how small groupings of instruments play with and against each other to really bring out the emotion. In sonic terms, it allows individual instruments to shine. With the OP-14, these instruments - like the french horn, the oboe, the strings had incredible texture and dimension.
  5. Improved bass
    • The Gorecki starts with a minimalist melody in the double basses and cellos. With the OP-14, I really felt the growl in the pit of your stomach.
  6. Smoother tonality
    • Overall, there was a further reduction in harshness, brightness, and fatigue. There was a richness, a smoothness, and an incredible sense of ease.
 
Just when I thought my trifecta couldn't sound any better, along comes another improvement that raises the bar further. I am just gobsmacked by the sheer magnitude of this improvement. And all this without any change to my DAC. Frankly, after the last round of improvements, I was pretty convinced that to achieve significant gains past this point, I'd have to upgrade my DAC first. But the Codex keeps scaling up to reach new heights. Pretty darn impressive.
 
And finally, a word about cost benefit. The OP-14 isn't cheap, so is the incremental benefit worth the cost? For me, the answer is yes, because of two reasons:
  1. I find it difficult to go back to the prior configuration without feeling a sense of profound loss.
  2. The SQ jump with the OP-14 is much greater than what I heard when I replaced the Codex with the DAVE in an earlier listening session. That price delta was HUGE, much higher than the price of the OP-14.
Clearly, in my system, the investments in the front end of the digital chain seem to pay bigger dividends in SQ than just in the DAC. Eventually, I'm sure everything matters, but at this point, I feel like the investment in the OP-14 is giving me excellent value.
 
As always - every system is different, so YMMV!

 

Awesome findings Rajiv! Enjoy! ?

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2 hours ago, One and a half said:

There's a little difference between the Altair and (some) Topaz. The difference is the capacitance between primary and secondary windings in the isolation transformer and makes a big difference to stop noise.  

 

At 50Hz, the hum maker, can cross the windings according to this formula. 

 

I= V/Z

V= 230V, Z = 1/(2 PI f C) 

f = 50Hz C = capacitance in Farad.

 

I saw on YouTube a video where leakage capacitance for a simple isolation transformer was 160pf. This allows 12uA of noise to pass to the amplifier and can create hum.

The Topaz has 0.0005pf an order of leakage current thousands less, which inverts to thousands of ohms higher. 

For higher frequencies, the opposition is even more. 

The Topaz then is chosen more for its killing of hum, common mode noise rather than isolation methods. It's possible to use ungrounded or grounded secondaries and keep the noise out. 

If you could please publish the capacitance of the Altair to plug into the formula. 

If the CA member is in Japan, the neutral floats above ground, which avoids the grounded neutral problem of the West. Another topic! 

 

Great info as usual @One and a half! ?

I'll guess you are referring to Peaktech and not Altair though. I would be surprised if Peaktech 2240 had the same low inter-winding capacitance as the Topaz. I have asked Peaktech support a couple of times for that figure without respons. However, I have stopped worrying about it since the Peaktech 2240 sounds so good and is dead silent. For notes I use a DC blockers trap filter pre my Peaktech and have just ordered a AC mains voltage regulator that will also be connected pre the Peaktech. Post the Peaktech there will quite soon be a star-earthed and starquad wired power distributor without filters and MOVs that I hope (fingers crossed) will improve things further.

 

Micael

 

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7 hours ago, austinpop said:
Listening Impression with the Cybershaft OP-14 Reference Clock - Part 2
 
Since my clock chain is hard to visualize from what's in my signature, I've updated my system topology picture to give you a clearer idea of how things wire together. Hopefully, it helps understand the flow better. See the diagram below.
 
59c1eb19b4590_UltraTopology.thumb.png.46e5108e136c57968d181cb0ce6554ee.png
 
And here is a photo of the latest "spaghetti chain." I would characterize this more as a pasta medley - a hearty mix of linguine, pappardelle, and penne. :D
 
IMG_0107.thumb.JPG.30fa544851805484e29c1d65f7297eed.JPG
 
I've been doing a lot of listening since my Cybershaft arrived. However, I waited (im)patiently until about 50 hours of burn-in, and then again at 100 hours, to do any comparisons, or draw any conclusions.
 
Roy tells me that on his Ref 10, it is easy to turn each clock output on/off, which makes A/B comparisons of with/without reference clock really easy. On the OP-14, there is no switch. Also, it's important not to power cycle the unit, as it can take at least an hour for the OCXO to stabilize. The tX-USBultra continues to function if the reference clock is hot plugged in or out. My technique was to disconnect and reconnect on the OP-14 output, as it was easy to reach from my listening chair.
 
The first time I did this, I went from ref clock connected to disconnected. It took my brain a few seconds to register, but then it hit me. WOW - what a difference! It was like deflating a balloon. Some of the magic died. And yet - this was what, just a few days ago, I thought was the best my system had ever sounded. Connect the OP-14 back, and the goosebumps were back!
 
How to describe the improvement with the OP-14? I'll talk about it in the context of these pieces of music I happened to use while comparing:
  • IMG_0006.thumb.JPG.b17065e624d66326c4513a7cd6ec7cb6.JPGMahler Symphony 3: Sehr langsam "O Mensch"
     
  • folder.thumb.jpg.fe938f2a3688238e3aebccc9b95f2d7c.jpg Sibelius Symphony 6: 1st movement
     
  • 51aFVLvGPRL.jpgBuena Vista Social Club: Pueblo Nuevo
     
  • 51wR81RBGKL.jpgMahler Symphony 5: Scherzo
     
  • IMG_0597.JPG.8bd80b22ceb4f014c89ef2c250c97eba.JPG Gorecki Symphony 3: 1st movement
     
  • 51AgMTl-xfL.jpgBeethoven Piano Concerto No.5 "Emperor": 1st movement
 
The improvement comes in these major areas:
  1. Rock solid image
    • The sonic image seemed bigger in all 3 dimensions, but also had a sense of solidity and stability to it.
    • This was especially noticeable in the big orchestral Mahler and SIbelius pieces
  2. Dynamic
    • It seemed like the music had a greater dynamic range.
    • There was a perceived reduction in the noise floor.
    • In the Mahler 3rd, the movement begins with an extremely low level harmony in the strings. I'd never heard this so clearly and so dramatically before.
  3. Dimensionality of individual instruments
    • In Pueblo Nuevo, the piano sounded more real than before
    • Ditto in the Beethoven piano concerto
  4. Incredible resolution and detail
    • What I love about the Mahler pieces in my list is how small groupings of instruments play with and against each other to really bring out the emotion. In sonic terms, it allows individual instruments to shine. With the OP-14, these instruments - like the french horn, the oboe, the strings had incredible texture and dimension.
  5. Improved bass
    • The Gorecki starts with a minimalist melody in the double basses and cellos. With the OP-14, I really felt the growl in the pit of your stomach.
  6. Smoother tonality
    • Overall, there was a further reduction in harshness, brightness, and fatigue. There was a richness, a smoothness, and an incredible sense of ease.
 
Just when I thought my trifecta couldn't sound any better, along comes another improvement that raises the bar further. I am just gobsmacked by the sheer magnitude of this improvement. And all this without any change to my DAC. Frankly, after the last round of improvements, I was pretty convinced that to achieve significant gains past this point, I'd have to upgrade my DAC first. But the Codex keeps scaling up to reach new heights. Pretty darn impressive.
 
And finally, a word about cost benefit. The OP-14 isn't cheap, so is the incremental benefit worth the cost? For me, the answer is yes, because of two reasons:
  1. I find it difficult to go back to the prior configuration without feeling a sense of profound loss.
  2. The SQ jump with the OP-14 is much greater than what I heard when I replaced the Codex with the DAVE in an earlier listening session. That price delta was HUGE, much higher than the price of the OP-14.
Clearly, in my system, the investments in the front end of the digital chain seem to pay bigger dividends in SQ than just in the DAC. Eventually, I'm sure everything matters, but at this point, I feel like the investment in the OP-14 is giving me excellent value.
 
As always - every system is different, so YMMV!

Great post with a lot of detail!  Your listed points parallel with what I've heard out of an OP14 level curated unit from Cybershaft with my Esoteric stack and are also what I'm hearing with my new Cybershaft OPxx curated unit that was custom-build with several features that may make it into other units in the future. The improvements are extremely noticeable and when I remove the clock from the circuit, my experience is the same, i.e. that I miss it dearly and the transformation low-phase noise OCXO 10 mHz clocking brings to my system.  These clocks effectively upgrade my transport-DAC combo "in place" and allow everything to achieve its full potential. As you say,...YMMV; this has been a very interesting trip to say the least!

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Thanks for posting your impressions @austinpop it is really amazing that there is no limit to SQ improvements. I share your findings that improvements in the digital front end pay generous dividends without costing rediciulous $$$.

I am very intrigued by the upcoming SOTM master clock, I trust what these guys are doing. Most importantly it will be more affordable than the Ref 10.

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3 hours ago, zephyr24069 said:

Great post with a lot of detail!  Your listed points parallel with what I've heard out of an OP14 level curated unit from Cybershaft with my Esoteric stack and are also what I'm hearing with my new Cybershaft OPxx curated unit that was custom-build with several features that may make it into other units in the future. The improvements are extremely noticeable and when I remove the clock from the circuit, my experience is the same, i.e. that I miss it dearly and the transformation low-phase noise OCXO 10 mHz clocking brings to my system.  These clocks effectively upgrade my transport-DAC combo "in place" and allow everything to achieve its full potential. As you say,...YMMV; this has been a very interesting trip to say the least!

 

Thanks, and that is good to hear you reinforce my impressions. I am also intrigued to hear of the OPxx unit you're using. You've clearly known this company a lot longer than I.

 

I didn't get any clarity from Kenji about whether the new Platinum line, which is not yet out, will also have a curated OPxx variant, like the Premium line did. It sounds like that is still going to be the approach? Or am I reading too much into this?

 

2 hours ago, mozes said:

Thanks for posting your impressions @austinpop it is really amazing that there is no limit to SQ improvements. I share your findings that improvements in the digital front end pay generous dividends without costing rediciulous $$$.

I am very intrigued by the upcoming SOTM master clock, I trust what these guys are doing. Most importantly it will be more affordable than the Ref 10.

 

Hi Moussa,

 

Yes this really sets the stage for the entrance of the SOtM clock. Will it have multiple outputs? What are the specs, in comparison to the Cybershaft and the Mutec? And most importantly, how does it compare sonically!

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