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

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To add to the confusion, as I have mentioned before, I have a Paul Pang switch with TXCO clock and this "reclocking" switch resulted in a very small improvement in my previous configuration (between router and Mac Mini) but when placed in the direct connection path (between Mac Mini and sMS-200/mR), the improvement is considerable, enough so that I have ordered another switch with a much better clock just to see where it leads me.

Romaz, am I correct in saying that your finding the above tweak and improvement in SQ for data only (USB) being sent from control PC to Renderer? But the Renderer is playing/streaming (UAC2) the sound to the DAC?

Edited by ElviaCaprice

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Thanks!

Can you please post the required configuration? I have tried this but without success. Each time I wasn't able to see the SMS200 in the network.

Sorry, I don't own the QNAP any more so have no screenshots to post. Just Google Qnap network virtual switch, there are guides out there for sure. Make sure you are running the latest version of the OS.

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my answer easy ,short,clear.

sms 200,m rendu sound without soul.

So you don't like the sound without a switch between the server PC and renderer?

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Thanks for sharing your findings. It seems the less things in this direct path, the better. It would appear that RF doesn't play much role in this "direct" pathway as none of my RF fighting devices (FMCs, isolation transformer) no longer result in any favorable impact and can result in worse SQ for some systems. Is it because these extra devices are adding some form of impedance to the path?

 

To add to the confusion, as I have mentioned before, I have a Paul Pang switch with TXCO clock and this "reclocking" switch resulted in a very small improvement in my previous configuration (between router and Mac Mini) but when placed in the direct connection path (between Mac Mini and sMS-200/mR), the improvement is considerable, enough so that I have ordered another switch with a much better clock just to see where it leads me.

 

Without a doubt, this direct connection is much more transparent to upstream changes. This direct connection is essentially the same thing as a dual box JPLAY/AO setup where you have a control PC and an audio PC (mR or sMS-200) although in this configuration, JPLAY has been replaced by "bridging." But with previous dual box setups I've heard, you always threw everything you had into the audio PC (ie AO in core mode, Fidelizer Pro, Control Lasso, etc) whereas you could get away with AO in GUI mode alone in the control PC as it didn't seem to matter so much.

 

In my setup, with my control PC (Mac Mini), the difference between AO in GUI mode and AO in minimal server mode is significant enough that I would never recommend GUI mode if given the choice (unfortunately, core mode is not an option for me as a Roon user). Moreover, as I switch from one sonic signature and digital filter to another within AO, it's amazing how clear the differences are (my current preference with the mR as the playback unit is 1C) and yet when I revert back from direct connection to standard connection (with mR connected directly to my router), I can barely tell the difference between any of the sound signature modes and digital filters. Just yesterday, I added Process Lasso to the mix and it would appear the focus has improved even further (the improvement is smaller and so I will have to blind test to see if I am imagining this difference). Tomorrow, I will add Fidelizer Pro to the mix and will see what happens. Because I already own these things, it makes sense to try them but in no way are they absolutely necessary. The SQ I am currently getting is just fantastic.

 

Thanks so much, I had not touched my AO signature/filter settings in some time. You are absolutely correct, where changes to these two settings prior to the Bridging tweak were subtle and hard to distinguish, now changes result in large changes in SQ. I tried changing to 1c and I really was surprised by yet another step up in detail and overall SQ (I was running 1b). Thank you.

 

BTW, adding my wifi adaptor to the USB adaptor/ Ethernet port Bridge seems to bump SQ a bit also.

 

I am running a HQ Player/AO/Process Lasso/MR NAA setup and it's the best I have ever heard it.

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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Latest system upgrade VO.3.3 for sMS-200 now available:

 

Version : V0.3.3

- Date : 06-02-2017

- Optimize bootloader to impove sound quality

- Fix samba mount bug

- Add defence code for abnormal cases

- Modify APIs for audio cards

- Modify user manual link

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Latest system upgrade VO.3.3 for sMS-200 now available:

 

Version : V0.3.3

- Date : 06-02-2017

- Optimize bootloader to impove sound quality

- Fix samba mount bug

- Add defence code for abnormal cases

- Modify APIs for audio cards

- Modify user manual link

 

I prefer the sound before .. the latest upgrade kill the sound. :(

Can i come back before this update?

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Romaz, am I correct in saying that your finding the above tweak and improvement in SQ for data only (USB) being sent from control PC to Renderer? But the Renderer is playing/streaming (UAC2) the sound to the DAC?

Hmmm, I'm not sure I understand your question. My control PC passes data to my renderer via ethernet (not USB) but yes, the renderer, in this case my mR or sMS-200, streams directly to DAC via USB 2.0.

 

If you are referring to my "reclocking" switch, I am finding that it seems to make a much larger difference when I place it directly between my Mac Mini and sMS-200 or mR versus placing this same switch before my Mac Mini. The only logical conclusion I can draw is that since my Mac Mini has no special clocks and as there are at least 3 points of clocking that occur with my Mac Mini once a music signal enters from my Thunderbolt hub, these clocks must somehow degrade the signal enough that reclocking post-Mac Mini makes a significant difference. This is obviously the concept behind audiophile grade USB ports such as those made by Paul Pang or SOtM as they incorporate much higher quality clocks.

 

It was also theorized by many (including myself) initially that maybe this switch was actually causing harm in my previous (conventional) setup but it's clear the switch was never the problem. At this point, I believe the router is the culprit but why does even an unoptimized Mac Pro (which I would guess is just as noisy as a router) sound better when directly connected to the mR or sMS-200? I have no clue.

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Hmmm, I'm not sure I understand your question. My control PC passes data to my renderer via ethernet (not USB) but yes, the renderer, in this case my mR or sMS-200, streams directly to DAC via USB 2.0.

 

If you are referring to my "reclocking" switch, I am finding that it seems to make a much larger difference when I place it directly between my Mac Mini and sMS-200 or mR versus placing this same switch before my Mac Mini. The only logical conclusion I can draw is that since my Mac Mini has no special clocks and as there are at least 3 points of clocking that occur with my Mac Mini once a music signal enters from my Thunderbolt hub, these clocks must somehow degrade the signal enough that reclocking post-Mac Mini makes a significant difference. This is obviously the concept behind audiophile grade USB ports such as those made by Paul Pang or SOtM as they incorporate much higher quality clocks.

 

It was also theorized by many (including myself) initially that maybe this switch was actually causing harm in my previous (conventional) setup but it's clear the switch was never the problem. At this point, I believe the router is the culprit but why does even an unoptimized Mac Pro (which I would guess is just as noisy as a router) sound better when directly connected to the mR or sMS-200? I have no clue.

 

Yes, of course, thanks Romaz. Sometimes I wonder where my head is.

Is the renderer saving the data via Ethernet to memory first and then streaming UAC2? Just trying to determine what the renderer is exactly doing.

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So you don't like the sound without a switch between the server PC and renderer?

No, I think it sounds great even without the switch but the soundstage opens up further and bass and treble appear even more extended with the switch but the magic is in the clock and not the switch per se.

 

This inexpensive Zyxel 100Mbit switch that Paul Pang went with (value of about $20) can be powered by any 5V/1A PSU (but consumes much less than 1A) and has a 48k buffer and so like all switches, it will accept an ethernet signal, reclock it and output a newly generated signal to the component that it feeds. It is the exact same concept as a USB Regen. With this switch that I bought used from another CA member, Paul Pang replaced the stock clock with a TXCO clock, which has lower phase noise and better clock stability than the stock clock and so while the sMS-200 and mR both have 2 high-quality clocks already built-in to provide reclocking, it would appear that feeding either unit a freshly reclocked signal benefits both of them further. John Swenson has frequently suggested that it can never hurt to feed an audio component a signal of the highest integrity which is what his USB Regen and mR are supposed to accomplish and I believe that is what is happening here.

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Yes, of course, thanks Romaz. Sometimes I wonder where my head is.

Is the renderer saving the data via Ethernet to memory first and then streaming UAC2? Just trying to determine what the renderer is exactly doing.

John Swenson could answer this better but I believe both of these renderers accept data via ethernet and emit data via USB as packets although the data stream within the renderer is a continuous stream. Generally, there is a system clock that clocks CPU/OS processes and sometimes, this same clock will also clock the incoming ethernet stream but there are instances when the ethernet PHY will have its own independent clock. The USB PHY will always have its own clock and so there are potentially 2-3 clocks in the data path and each clock has the potential to degrade SI. With the mR, I believe there are 2 clocks. With the sMS-200, I know for certain there are only 2 clocks as this is what SOtM has told me. Of course, anything the CPU processes is first stored/buffered in RAM but between RAM and when the signal leaves the USB port, there are potential stumbling blocks where SI can be compromised.

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Thanks so much, I had not touched my AO signature/filter settings in some time. You are absolutely correct, where changes to these two settings prior to the Bridging tweak were subtle and hard to distinguish, now changes result in large changes in SQ. I tried changing to 1c and I really was surprised by yet another step up in detail and overall SQ (I was running 1b). Thank you.

 

BTW, adding my wifi adaptor to the USB adaptor/ Ethernet port Bridge seems to bump SQ a bit also.

 

I am running a HQ Player/AO/Process Lasso/MR NAA setup and it's the best I have ever heard it.

 

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

It's interesting how these little improvements can add up to something quite significant and very meaningful.

 

Some have suggested there's no reason that two music players that have bit-perfect output should sound any different and these filters definitely counter that theory. These AO sound signature/filters are not in the music path at all. According to AudioPhil, they merely affect CPU/memory handling and yet from 1A to 4D, you go from a more precise sound to a warmer and lusher sound and with this direct connection, in my system, there is no mistaking the difference.

 

The common strategy that AudioPhil had always suggested was to use setting 4D for the Audio PC (renderer) as it resulted in a smoother and "tube-like" presentation and to consider something like setting 1B for the control PC as this resulted in a more precise and detailed presentation. I believe these are his personal preferences for a dual PC setup. Well, we have no option to impact the sound signature of either the mR or sMS-200 but what I have found in my own comparisons is that the mR has greater body and maybe a touch more organic bloom to it while the sMS-200 has greater detail clarity and precision. Which is better is up to the user but as for my personal preferences, the sMS-200 has a slight edge since it just sounds more resolving. With my mR, I first went with 1A on my Mac Mini and detail clarity with the the mR went up considerably which I found very much to my liking. In fact, it felt as if my mR had become transformed into the sMS-200 as far as detail clarity but 1A resulted in a fairly flat and almost mechanical presentation. 1B improved soundstage depth and fluidity but 1C was my preferred sweet spot in the end. Still plenty of detail clarity but much more depth. These filters alone are worth the price of admission of AO for me in this setup.

 

My sMS-200 is still out but upon its return, I will be surprised if I prefer the same signature and filter settings.

 

I have now proven to myself through blind testing that Process Lasso adds a small but still meaningful improvement, especially when Roon is run in Bitsum Highest Performance mode. I am not yet convinced Fidelizer Pro is adding anything further.

Edited by romaz

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I prefer the sound before .. the latest upgrade kill the sound. :(

Can i come back before this update?

This is very interesting. I am always afraid this could happen and so I have resisted firmware upgrades with the sMS-200 because of fear that it could somehow impact my bridge which would be a tragedy. As far as I know, you can't roll back your sMS-200 to an older firmware because if I could, I would roll back to version 2.0 since that version allowed you to assign the sMS-200 a static IP!

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SOtM is installing their new superclock, the sCLK-EX, into it. I'm not yet sure what to expect except that May Park has suggested the improvement will be "huge." I will be their first guinea pig...we'll see. I'll report what I hear once I get it back. I'm sure Sonore has similar upgrades up their sleeves also. Competition is good and I love where this is all going!

 

Hi Roy,

Is this a one off, or do they plan to offer this as an optional add-on to the SMS-200?

 

I would be very interested to hear your observations of this change in terms of SQ?

 

What's the price, do you know?

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Hi Roy,

Is this a one off, or do they plan to offer this as an optional add-on to the SMS-200?

 

I would be very interested to hear your observations of this change in terms of SQ?

 

What's the price, do you know?

What they are creating for me is a "one off" but they plan to offer this super clock as an optional add-on for future sMS-200 customers. I'm guessing there will be an option for current owners to send in their units for an upgrade but it will require a new larger chassis and a slight reworking of the internals. The price with the new clock + sMS-200 has not been established. I believe they are having some problems sourcing components (the proper chassis) and so their timeline has been delayed but April is what I am hearing.

 

Just how good this clock is, I'm not sure. Chan King Girand Michel, owner and maker of Pachanko cables based in France, who I have used to make me UP-OCC grade SATA cables (highly recommended, btw) uses this new clock now and he said it makes TCXO and OCXO like "child's toys" which is a pretty bold statement. SOtM is telling me this is the best clock they have ever made and considering how good the clock in the sMS-200 is, I felt it was worth the risk to try.

 

My situation is unique and will be different from what SOtM will be offering but there's no reason you couldn't approach SOtM with your own custom requests which is what I have done.

 

In my correspondence with May Park, she stated that she has a prototype sMS-1000SQ with the new clock at the USB output and that the improvement was significant. She decided to add their new tX-USBUltra (expected release date in April) to the chain which is essentially a USB relocker using this same super clock. This USB-regenerator with superclock sits between their music server and their DAC just like a USB Regen would and since both the server and USB-regenerator use the exact same clock, she wasn't expecting much improvement (if any) but was quite surprised by just how much more detailed and dynamic the SQ had become. In effect, she is hearing the same thing that I am with my reclocking switch in my direct connection path.

 

So in my situation, since their super clock can reclock up to 4 components (for $1150), I used 2 clocks for the sMS-200, 1 clock for a LAN switch and 1 clock for their USB-to-SPDIF converter. While my Chord DAVE sounds best via USB compared to SDPIF, I will see what triple reclocking will offer. I have no reason to doubt that this clock will improve the sMS-200 and the switch using this direct connection but it remains to be seen if going SPDIF and triple reclocking will yield any further improvement in my situation. There is the possibility it could be a mixed bag and somehow negatively impact the wonderful balance I have achieved with this direction connection. I am in uncharted territory for sure.

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This inexpensive Zyxel 100Mbit switch that Paul Pang went with (value of about $20) can be powered by any 5V/1A PSU (but consumes much less than 1A) and has a 48k buffer and so like all switches, it will accept an ethernet signal, reclock it and output a newly generated signal to the component that it feeds. It is the exact same concept as a USB Regen. With this switch that I bought used from another CA member, Paul Pang replaced the stock clock with a TXCO clock, which has lower phase noise and better clock stability than the stock clock and so while the sMS-200 and mR both have 2 high-quality clocks already built-in to provide reclocking, it would appear that feeding either unit a freshly reclocked signal benefits both of them further.

 

Just last night I inserted a Paul Pang modified Zyxel switch between my Mac Pro and microRendu. I wasn't hearing the level of improvement you reported hearing, so I wondered if my switch included the TXCO clock. The gigabit switches he currently sells do appear to have this clock.

 

I'll have to reach out to see if he'll upgrade the clock in mine.

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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Just last night I inserted a Paul Pang modified Zyxel switch between my Mac Pro and microRendu. I wasn't hearing the level of improvement you reported hearing, so I wondered if my switch included the TXCO clock. The gigabit switches he currently sells do appear to have this clock.

 

I'll have to reach out to see if he'll upgrade the clock in mine.

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

I have noticed Paul now only uses gigabit switches. He has mentioned he believes there is no difference whether it is 100Mbit or 1000Mbit and I have no reason to doubt him as he uses gigabit switches even in his more expensive OCXO version but for sure this switch that I have is a real gem. Also note that users of Paul's clocked switches report a lengthy burn-in time for the clock and so you might want to give it time. Since I bought mine used, this didn't apply to me.

 

With the new switch that I am having modified, it is an inexpensive Trendnet 5-port, 5V 1000Mbit switch that I paid $20 for. It won't be an apples to apples comparison but if my cheap TCXO 100Mbit switch betters my new switch with SOtM's super clock, it will certainly make me wonder if 100Mbit sounds better with the sMS-200. While the sMS-200 can handle 1000Mbit input, it actually utilizes a native 100Mbit ethernet PHY. I recall reading that SOtM has suggested that 100Mbit sounds better (less noise?). This means a conversion has to take place although I'm not sure this should necessarily result in SQ issues.

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Also note that users of Paul's clocked switches report a lengthy burn-in time for the clock and so you might want to give it time. Since I bought mine used, this didn't apply to me.

 

I bought mine used, but the seller said he never got around to using it. Thanks for letting me know that it might need some time to burn in.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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I prefer the sound before .. the latest upgrade kill the sound. :(

Can i come back before this update?

 

Can you describe in more detail how the sound has changed? As romaz replied earlier you can't revert updates.

 

Try contacting May Park from SOtM and address your problem: [email protected]

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A question for those who made a network bridge under W2012R2.

 

I have a discussion with Audiophil, who states that in W2012R2 a network bridge is not possible in minimal server mode or core mode, only in GUI. I agree with Core-mode, but not with minimal server mode : I happily listen at the moment to minimal server mode optimized with AO's script and the network bridge I made in GUI mode is intact. Or are we talking about different types of network-bridge?

 

Who else got the network-bridge setup working in W2012R2 minimal server mode?

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It's interesting how these little improvements can add up to something quite significant and very meaningful.

 

Some have suggested there's no reason that two music players that have bit-perfect output should sound any different and these filters definitely counter that theory. These AO sound signature/filters are not in the music path at all. According to AudioPhil, they merely affect CPU/memory handling and yet from 1A to 4D, you go from a more precise sound to a warmer and lusher sound and with this direct connection, in my system, there is no mistaking the difference.

 

The common strategy that AudioPhil had always suggested was to use setting 4D for the Audio PC (renderer) as it resulted in a smoother and "tube-like" presentation and to consider something like setting 1B for the control PC as this resulted in a more precise and detailed presentation. I believe these are his personal preferences for a dual PC setup. Well, we have no option to impact the sound signature of either the mR or sMS-200 but what I have found in my own comparisons is that the mR has greater body and maybe a touch more organic bloom to it while the sMS-200 has greater detail clarity and precision. Which is better is up to the user but as for my personal preferences, the sMS-200 has a slight edge since it just sounds more resolving. With my mR, I first went with 1A on my Mac Mini and detail clarity with the the mR went up considerably which I found very much to my liking. In fact, it felt as if my mR had become transformed into the sMS-200 as far as detail clarity but 1A resulted in a fairly flat and almost mechanical presentation. 1B improved soundstage depth and fluidity but 1C was my preferred sweet spot in the end. Still plenty of detail clarity but much more depth. These filters alone are worth the price of admission of AO for me in this setup.

 

My sMS-200 is still out but upon its return, I will be surprised if I prefer the same signature and filter settings.

 

I have now proven to myself through blind testing that Process Lasso adds a small but still meaningful improvement, especially when Roon is run in Bitsum Highest Performance mode. I am not yet convinced Fidelizer Pro is adding anything further.

 

I agree, I don't think Fidelizer does much more that you can't set manually in Process Lasso. I set HQP/Roon/RAATServer to real time using PL and it is a step up in SQ.

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A question for those who made a network bridge under W2012R2.

 

I have a discussion with Audiophil, who states that in W2012R2 a network bridge is not possible in minimal server mode or core mode, only in GUI. I agree with Core-mode, but not with minimal server mode : I happily listen at the moment to minimal server mode optimized with AO's script and the network bridge I made in GUI mode is intact. Or are we talking about different types of network-bridge?

 

Who else got the network-bridge setup working in W2012R2 minimal server mode?

 

Hi Peter,

 

Did you make the bridge before applying AO?

 

Or is it still possible after a machine has been AO'd?

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