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

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55 minutes ago, kennyb123 said:

Roon got really flaky on me recently.  The culprit turned out to be something I wouldn’t have expected.  I thought I’d share the details here.

The flakiness initially pointed to a networking problem.  Roon had a tough time playing tracks from Tidal.  Playback would halt and I’d see messages indicating that the song was no longer available from Tidal.  Occasionally Roon would also lose control of the output device (microRendu).  And occasionally there’d be hiccups when playing songs from my NAS too.

Roon runs on a Mac Mini that boots off an SD card.  I ran Speedtest.net and was shocked to find upload speeds a fraction of what every other device on my wired network reported.  Like 7 mbps vs 150 mbps.  I substituted my MacBook Air for the Mini to see if there was an issue with the physical network.  Test was fine so I was able to rule that out.

Next I deleted and recreated the bridge on the Mini.  Upload speeds still stunk.

Next I cloned the SD card onto the internal HD of the Mac Mini and then booted off the internal HD.  Upload speeds back to normal. So the problem was the SD card?

Next I cloned the SD card onto a spare SD card and booted off that.  Upload speeds now 75 mbps - half of what they should be, but 10x what was reported off the other SD card.  

I’ve not experienced a single hiccup with playback since swapping SD cards.  Tidal playback is back to normal.

The former SD card had been the boot drive on my Mac Mini for almost exactly a year.  I guess it was starting to fail.  Interesting the ways that it adversely impacted music playback.  

Interesting outcome and great troubleshooting technique! 

Now would an industrial SD card with specified read / write and increased temperature range work better?

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What's happening when they switched to an industrial mSD card with SLC chips? Let's find out

 

http://www.usaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=1172&start=1395

Quote

I just started playing music from the mSD SLC card for the first time, and Wow! This is different and much better. A major jump up. I would've spent $1000s and been happy with this upgrade. The detail doesn't hit you first, that sneaks up on you a little later. It's hard to describe, maybe it's the tonal density that Rob spoke of. Electric guitar is just incredible, but so is everything. Well, dynamics might be neutral, no gain or loss. Perceived increase in bass as treble noise goes down more. Vocals are more clear. Everything is more natural sounding, more complete, more musical. I stop typing because I'm distracted by the music. My wife danced!

 

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19 minutes ago, One and a half said:

Now would an industrial SD card with specified read / write and increased temperature range work better?

 

Possibly, but the card I used was cheap enough and I did get a full year out of it.  It’s this one:

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01J5RHBQ4/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_FJwRAbAK8H84V

 

I keep a backup card handy and occasionally create an image of the SD card.  Mac OS makes it easy to push that image onto another card.

 

I’m pretty sure that faster cards than this aren’t supported on my 2011 Mac Mini. 

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Yes, a common sense approach to gear analysis - but ‘uncommonly’ ‘dedicated’, putting stuff in/out + listen-testing ...

 

Question: a dedicated circuit - is this also on another phase?

Which might not mean much, where-you-be, in the US.

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1 hour ago, jamesg11 said:

Yes, a common sense approach to gear analysis - but ‘uncommonly’ ‘dedicated’, putting stuff in/out + listen-testing ...

 

Question: a dedicated circuit - is this also on another phase?

Which might not mean much, where-you-be, in the US.

 

The phase issue only arises if your gear is plugged into multiple circuits - by circuit, I mean a home run back to the breaker panel, with its own circuit breaker. As I understand it, if you have multiple dedicated circuits, you should ensure they are all on the same phase - in practical terms, on the same side of the breaker panel.

 

I don't have this issue, as all my gear plugs into the same circuit.

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8 hours ago, austinpop said:

Other than the internally shunted SMPS for the LPS-1.2, I've removed all the grounding shunts and adapters in my system. Obviously, all this is highly system dependent, so please do not read anything more into my post other than the message - try it on YOUR system and see. And revisit your tweaks from time to time. I'm glad I did!

 

 

As a side note perhaps something that is known to the users of SOtM equipment but the -0V on the input of both sMS-200ultra and the tX-USBultra are connected to the chassi and the metallparts of the ethernet and usb ports. In a case where the DAC:s USB sheild is grounded to safetyground inside the DAC this ground will travel through the USB sheild to the SOtM product and ground the -0V.

 

In my case this grounds both my SR4 -0V through the USB cables connecting my system to the DAC.

 

I dont know how this will affect things or if it affects anything, I suppose this also is system dependent how the ground travel through the system.

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10 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

The phase issue only arises if your gear is plugged into multiple circuits - by circuit, I mean a home run back to the breaker panel, with its own circuit breaker. As I understand it, if you have multiple dedicated circuits, you should ensure they are all on the same phase - in practical terms, on the same side of the breaker panel.

 

I don't have this issue, as all my gear plugs into the same circuit.

If you have multiple "home runs" to the master panel, they either need to be diagonal if on two sides of panel or they must be separated by a breaker if on one side of the panel to be in phase...

 

<https://www.homecontrols.com/homecontrols/content/Blog/CircuitBreakerConfig1.pdf>

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31 minutes ago, BigGuy said:

If you have multiple "home runs" to the master panel, they either need to be diagonal if on two sides of panel or they must be separated by a breaker if on one side of the panel to be in phase...

 

<https://www.homecontrols.com/homecontrols/content/Blog/CircuitBreakerConfig1.pdf>

 

Ah! Thanks for clarifying. 

 

I'm sorry I misspoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

Ah! Thanks for clarifying. 

 

I'm sorry I misspoke.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey, I only learned years after wiring two home runs for my audio system.  Had to get electrician back to rearrange breakers!

Can't say I heard any difference but it will avoid ground loops.

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5 minutes ago, Confused said:

So on Sunday morning I pulled the SOtM kit out of the rack in a way that would make cable swapping quick and easy.  I was also in a much better frame of mind than I was last week when I tried this comparison, on that occasion I was quite simply trying to cram too much into one day, today I was relaxed and far more focused on the task.  Furthermore, I now had a better idea as to what exactly was niggling me about the SOtM kit, there were some very specific parts of some recordings that were troubling me.  So to the listening, this time I was taking notes, and if I noticed something that was not quite right, I was making a note, marking the time, going back, rechecking, you get the idea.  I could write for hours about some of the observations, but I do not have time so go to the key issue.  What I have found is that the SOtM kit is better than the microRendu, and it is better in every aspect right the way through the frequency range with much better dynamics on top.  OK, this will probably not win the shock revelation of the week prize.  The interesting thing though is that there appears to be a difference in the treble balance between the microRendu and the SOtM kit, with the SOtM kit being the brighter of the two.  As a double check on this point, I ripped a CD of a couple of the tracks I was using in the comparison and played them through the Mutec MC3+USB / REF10 combo direct from my BlueRay player.  This was worthwhile doing because in terms of this treble balance issue, this indicated that it was the microRendu that is a little dull, rather than the SOtM kit being too bright.  OK, here I am lucky to have a Devialet amp that good old-fashioned tone controls.  Subjectively, I was finding that tuning the treble up maybe +2 or +3 dB on the Devialet brought the microRendu on a par with the SOtM in terms of treble balance, or you could go -2dB down to take the SOtM to microRendu levels.  With this established, I revisited some of the sections of music that were troubling me with the SOtM kit, the result being that these sections became even more troubling via the microRendu.  It would appear that I was simply picking up on characteristics inherent with the recording themselves, with the microRendu, these are masked to a degree, with the SOtM, they are not.  Take the same section of music with the slightly niggling section, treble down -3dB on the Devialet, the aspect that was niggling me is no longer apparent enough to bother me.  To take a specific example, the sound of a snare might sound a touch distorted, with the SOtM you can clearly hear a touch distorted snare, with the microRendu, more distorted, less snare, take the treble down 3dB, you can still hear it, but it ceases to become a niggle.  With this understood, and indeed a way to equalise the issue, things fell into place and I could start to concentrate on other aspects of the presentation without being niggled by one thing, and yes, the SOtM kit can pull out some real magic in terms of textured bass, atmosphere, realism and all the rest of it.

 

Kudos for doing this. You've  described the scientific process at work. I know it's tedious, but when you get these "aha" insights, it makes it all worthwhile. Or maybe we're just geeks! 

 

5 minutes ago, Confused said:

This leads me to an open question, I am sure we can all agree that both the microRendu and SOtM kit are capable of receiving an Ethernet input and creating a 'bit perfect' USB stream from this.  No bit are being lost or changed, this would surely result in pops, clicks and similar.  So, both devices are feeding the same bits to the MC3+USB.  How then is it possible for one device to sound like the treble is turned down 3dB?  I could speculate on answers to this, but it would just be speculation.  Can anyone offer a decent explanation of this?  I am thinking noise, but how does 'noise' in the system specifically blunt treble?  Curious, but I would appreciate any better explanations of this.

 

Yes, I agree that "noise" is the most plausible explanation for why these things matter in the entire digital chain. It's not about the bits, or the "correct" operation of the digital gear. It's the generation and propagation of good old analog noise along the entire chain, via cables, the power supplies, the ground plane, etc. This is an area that needs a lot of research and analysis, before it can be demystified, understood and harnessed into products. Until then, we just take the empirical listening approach, so we can enjoy better SQ sooner, but we have to be comfortable with the fact that we don't necessarily understand why we're haring the SQ improvements that we are. 

 

As to why the combined effect of one set of gear tips higher in treble than another, that just falls into the "needs investigation" bucket. Once could speculate all day, but I won't. :)

 

5 minutes ago, Confused said:

As one last point, with the one month sale or return date approaching fast, the SOtM bundle is staying in my rack!

 

Nice!

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30 minutes ago, BigGuy said:

Hey, I only learned years after wiring two home runs for my audio system.  Had to get electrician back to rearrange breakers!

Can't say I heard any difference but it will avoid ground loops.

 

I was trying to remember where I read that all breakers on one side are the same phase. It was here: http://www.msbtechnology.com/faq/how-to-wire-your-house-for-good-power/

 

Usually, every other breaker in the stack is the same phase. In other words, starting at the top (first) breaker in the left column you will have ‘A’ phase. The next breaker down (second) will be ‘B’ phase, and then the next (third) will be ‘A’ phase again, etc. So the two dedicated lines should be spaced one breaker apart to be on the same phase. Some newer panels may have one phase all on the left, and the other phase all on the right. Some newer panels may have one phase all on the left, and the other phase all on the right. 

 

think, but can't be sure, that when my electrician was doing the actual wiring, he said my panel was setup that way.

 

In any case, the best advice is don't assume - make sure to check your specific panel to determine how the 2 phases are distributed, and place circuits on the same phase accordingly.

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22 hours ago, seeteeyou said:

What's happening when they switched to an industrial mSD card with SLC chips? Let's find out

 

http://www.usaudiomart.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=1172&start=1395

 

 

Thanks for sharing this link.  I’m dubious that the difference could be that significant, but you never know.  Worth trying at some point.  (Though maybe not given the prices I’ve been seeing for SLC cards.)

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2 hours ago, Confused said:

To take a specific example, the sound of a snare might sound a touch distorted, with the SOtM you can clearly hear a touch distorted snare, with the microRendu, more distorted, less snare, take the treble down 3dB, you can still hear it, but it ceases to become a niggle. 

 

Interesting finding with respect to the differences in treble.  I wonder if this had something to do with me being less enamoured than SOTM owners with the Lush cable; favoring the USPCB instead with my microRendu.  The Lush seemed to make more evident that distorted sound you describe - while the the USPCB brought things back into focus.  Which USB cable were you using for this comparison?  I wonder if the microRendu might be more picky about the impedance match of the USB cable, which might explain the treble difference.

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32 minutes ago, kennyb123 said:

 

Interesting finding with respect to the differences in treble.  I wonder if this had something to do with me being less enamoured than SOTM owners with the Lush cable; favoring the USPCB instead with my microRendu.  The Lush seemed to make more evident that distorted sound you describe - while the the USPCB brought things back into focus.  Which USB cable were you using for this comparison?  I wonder if the microRendu might be more picky about the impedance match of the USB cable, which might explain the treble difference.

The USB cable is an AudioQuest Carbon.  How it ranks with respect to USB impedance matching I have no idea!

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One of those "evil" reviews that might not be necessarily a good thing to read? LOL

 

https://audiobacon.net/2018/03/13/synergistic-research-active-ground-block-se-review-going-low-get-high/

Quote
  • SOtM tX-USBultra (BNC): Seems to be much better than grounding the USB port. The HD grounding cable connected to the BNC of the tX-USBultra USB conditioner provided enormous gains with the passive block. It’ll drop the noise floor considerably and provide better outlining. Most importantly it adds body and removes this annoying glare I thought was caused by other components in the system. I suspect it would benefit external master clocks in the same way if you’re connecting one to the tX.

 

Quote
  • SOtM sMS-200 (USB): The sMS-200 on the other hand, benefits enormously (more than the tX) from both the passive Grounding Block and AGE SE (with the SE sounding more focused, detailed, and cleaner). Without the passive block, everything just flattens, sonically smears, and acoustic cues are muted. I would recommend trying out the passive Grounding Block to start for SOtM owners. It’ll reduce some of the haze.

 

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On 1/27/2018 at 1:59 AM, austinpop said:

Here's something. Someone I know got their Oppo 205 modded with upgrade PSU and OCXO by this guy: http://www.oppomod.com/ He can't stop raving about how good it's sounding - and this is someone who has the trifecta. Very intriguing, but I should caveat, I have no personal knowledge of this outfit or the resulting SQ.

 

 

1 hour ago, seeteeyou said:

 

BREAKING NEWS! It's game over because of this game changer according to @romaz

 

Now you know who I meant by "someone I know." :D

 

Several caveats, before people start tearing their hair out:

  1.  the Oppo does not have a digital USB out, only Toslink
  2. you're limited to PCM 24/192 and no DSD, so if you have a lot of DXD and DSD content like me, this is a nonstarter
  3. Roy's observations were with the Toslink input of the Blu2, which may be of higher quality than the Toslink inputs of other DACs.

For me, this was interesting, but does not negate the SE + modded switch + tX-USBultra + reference clock path I've taken. Maybe if I ever get on the MScaler train in the future, I can simplify, but I'd still need to decide if I want to transcode my DSD content down to 24/192 to fit the optical link. That doesn't exactly thrill me.

 

The thing that's interesting here is that his Oppo chain has components each with their own OCXO's: Adrian's switch, and modded Oppo. Now I doubt either of these is of the same quality as the Ref 10 OCXO. So perhaps this suggests that by the time you distribute a Ref-10 quality clock via an sCLK-EX, with cables and connectors, you can achieve the same or even better with a lower quality OCXO in the component, where the clock only has to travel a few inches. Something to ponder.

 

It's an exciting time... :D 

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1 hour ago, austinpop said:

Roy's observations were with the Toslink input of the Blu2, which may be of higher quality than the Toslink inputs of other DACs.

 

Blu2 used to have Toslink input but Chord had to replace that with USB input due to feedback from their customers. In other words, only Rob Watts brought his "special edition" Blu2 to visit Roy with Toslink input recently.

 

Even Roy's Hugo 2 seemed to work synergistically with Oppo UDP-205 via Toslink, most likely that should be applicable for something else such as the latest DAC Quetest from Chord. (i.e. A power-efficient DAC that could be fed by LPS-1.2 @ 5V 1A.)

 

1 hour ago, austinpop said:

It's an exciting time... :D 

 

Indeed, at first I didn't believe what Roy said but maybe a properly powered OCXO clock that's tightly integrated (an unshared clock with no clock cables involved) into Oppo itself might have an edge? We just kept reading all about the importance of clock cables, especially the impedance matching as well as its length plus the quality etc. Now we've got everything that's installed inside Oppo and we don't have stuff like BNC connectors to deal with, does it mean that signal reflections should be no biggie?

BTW, we could only speculate what would happen if that 27MHz clock from SBtron were actually replaced by something else like Morion or Neutron Star 2 etc.


http://pcaudio.tistory.com/519
http://www.sbtron.co.kr/english/product/product_ocxo.html
http://www.sbtron.co.kr/korean/product/pdfs/ocxo_sboc_25_sine.pdf
esGL8Lw.jpg


Since Oppo UDP-205 does work as USB DAC, maybe we might also use that just like USB DDC? In other words, we could always try something like ZENith SE → tX-USBultra → Oppo UDP-205 → Toslink output → DACs with Toslink inputs.

Not really all that exciting but Oppo actually announced their BOA UE Series for the local market here in Hong Kong recently

http://store.oppodigital.com.hk/index.php?lang=big5&p=6&id=18
http://www.hiendy.com/hififorum/forum.php?mod=viewthread&tid=115032

That didn't seem to be all that impressive since they're actually asking $2,250 for an "official" version of modified UDP-205. Definitely not worth it since we could do much better with 3rd party mods.

Finally I'd like to remind us that even http://www.oppomod.com didn't use any kinda "decent" cables or fancy caps at all. In other words, we could definitely learn something from that PSU inside ZENith SE or even talk to Sean Jacobs about making something for Oppo.

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22 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

Yes, I agree that "noise" is the most plausible explanation for why these things matter in the entire digital chain. It's not about the bits, or the "correct" operation of the digital gear. It's the generation and propagation of good old analog noise along the entire chain, via cables, the power supplies, the ground plane, etc. This is an area that needs a lot of research and analysis, before it can be demystified, understood and harnessed into products. Until then, we just take the empirical listening approach, so we can enjoy better SQ sooner, but we have to be comfortable with the fact that we don't necessarily understand why we're haring the SQ improvements that we are. 

 

As to why the combined effect of one set of gear tips higher in treble than another, that just falls into the "needs investigation" bucket. Once could speculate all day, but I won't.

 

I was doing a bit of 'net surfing yesterday and noticed these words in Steve Plaskin's Sonore vs SOtM review:

 

The microRendu’s somewhat dark sound was replaced with greater clarity and detail coupled with superior bass control. The Signature Rendu SE was fast, dynamic, and quite alluring in its sonic presentation.
 
Somewhat dark sound?  I could easily interpret this as being exactly what I was experiencing as a bit more treble roll off.  I am repeating myself here, but I would love to know what is causing such phenomena in a 'bit perfect' system.
 
EDIT:  Is there any way to get REW running on a PC to stream via the mR and SOtM kit?  I could do an objective test on what I am perceiving as a difference in treble.

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Obviously a tightly controlled space.  I've never before seen a custom hood to cover Dave's wires.

 

Martin.

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