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

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I wish that this was true and if it were, then replacing the clock in the sMS-200 should have sufficed but in my system, with each clock upgrade, the improvements continued.

 

In my simplistic way of looking at this, there is no clock that is perfect as even the finest atomic clocks will have some level of phase noise (clock jitter) and instability over time and so the best that a clock can do is to not cause harm to a signal but in reality, all clocks will degrade a signal.

 

Where a really good clock seems to make a difference is in recovering some of the damage made by a bad clock that preceded it. Can it completely undo damage by a bad clock (or a series of bad clocks)? My guess is no but that with repeated reclockings, it would appear that each reclocking can further refine or restore the signal and there are many posts here on CA of how people have reported improvements by placing several USB Regens in series. I used to own a TotalDac d1-monobloc DAC and this DAC includes a very good reclocker and this DAC seemed to benefit as well from having several of these reclockers in series. As such, TotalDac's best "twelve" DAC actually has 2 reclockers.

 

What I am thinking is that it would be best to have as few bad clocks as possible in your chain making it less important to have so many great clocks at the end of the chain to rescue the signal timing. Lastly, I am guessing that if you have an entry level DAC with a mediocre clock, all of these efforts may not make as much of a difference because it should be the very last clock that matters the most. When you look at your digital front end, I believe strongly that the DAC is the most important piece but your DAC can only be as good as the quality of the signal it is fed.

 

Thanks for your input.

I guess someone needs to try chaining several FIFO cards :)

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Hi Romaz,

 

I did read very carefully the post which is stock sMS-200 vs mR with LPS-1. I am asking sMS-200 Ultra vs mR with LPS-1 impressions.

 

Regards

Ok, sorry I misunderstood.

 

Right now, because I have to power my tX-USB HD with my SR7, I am forced to use my LPS-1 for both my sMS-200 Ultra and my mR and so my comparisons of the two NAAs are solely with the LPS-1 powering them. Unfortunately, the tX-USB HD + the sCLK-EX with 4 clocks active seem to require more than the 1.1A that the LPS-1 can provide.

 

If I was forced to live with the LPS-1 powering either of these NAAs, I know I wouldn't complain because the LPS-1 powers either one very well but once you directly compare the two, there's an unmistakeable improvement with the SR7.

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With the upgraded clock, with only 2 days of listening thus far and with this clock probably requiring further burn-in, there is no longer any debate about which sounds better.

is actually sMS-200 Ultra vs mR both powered by LPS-1.

 

Thank you very much for the info.

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is actually sMS-200 Ultra vs mR both powered by LPS-1.

 

Thank you very much for the info.

Yes, see post #727.

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Hi GreenLeo,

 

I stated my LPS-1 experience with both of these NAAs in my post:

 

With the stock sMS-200 vs the mR and with each powered by a switching 9V iFi PSU, I actually prefer the mR. The sMS-200 sounds more detailed but the presentation is quite thin and anemic whereas the mR has nicer body. When powered by the LPS-1, this thinness improves considerably and while both the mR and sMS-200 benefit greatly from a superior low-impedance PSU like the LPS-1, the sMS-200 scales better to my ears -- it is more resolute.

 

I want to reiterate that while the Paul Hynes SR7 is something very special (and not as expensive as you might think given the performance it provides), by no means is the LPS-1 something to look down on. With the exception of Paul's SR-7, I have yet to hear a PSU sound as good as my LPS-1 with either the sMS-200 or mR. In fact, I have a 2nd LPS-1 on order and so it will continue to play an important role in my chain. I would wholeheartedly recommend the LPS-1 for either of these NAAs to anyone.

 

Thanks for your sonic impressions, romaz.

 

Have you tried out SOtM's battery supply (or any other battery PSU) with the sMS-200? I'm using it myself, but am considering Paul Hynes' SR5, for a couple of reasons (to also power an upcoming NUC for bridged LAN-connection).

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Hi romaz,

as there is no information about the PH SR-7 on the internet, can you provide some basics as price, dimensions, voltages etc?

Thank you.

 

Matt

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I wish that this was true and if it were, then replacing the clock in the sMS-200 should have sufficed but in my system, with each clock upgrade, the improvements continued.

 

In my simplistic way of looking at this, there is no clock that is perfect as even the finest atomic clocks will have some level of phase noise (clock jitter) and instability over time and so the best that a clock can do is to not cause harm to a signal but in reality, all clocks will degrade a signal.

 

Where a really good clock seems to make a difference is in recovering some of the damage made by a bad clock that preceded it. Can it completely undo damage by a bad clock (or a series of bad clocks)? My guess is no but that with repeated reclockings, it would appear that each reclocking can further refine or restore the signal and there are many posts here on CA of how people have reported improvements by placing several USB Regens in series. I used to own a TotalDac d1-monobloc DAC and this DAC includes a very good reclocker and this DAC seemed to benefit as well from having several of these reclockers in series. As such, TotalDac's best "twelve" DAC actually has 2 reclockers.

 

What I am thinking is that it would be best to have as few bad clocks as possible in your chain making it less important to have so many great clocks at the end of the chain to rescue the signal timing. Lastly, I am guessing that if you have an entry level DAC with a mediocre clock, all of these efforts may not make as much of a difference because it should be the very last clock that matters the most. When you look at your digital front end, I believe strongly that the DAC is the most important piece but your DAC can only be as good as the quality of the signal it is fed.

 

@romaz - I agree with you about the fact that it is not sufficient to simply add reclocking (and for that matter, galvanincally isolation, and high-quality LPS) to just the component upstream of the DAC. This is where I started, since it seems to be a logical premise. But like you, empirically, I have found that improvements continue as you move further upstream. I'll be honest - I wish it were not true!

 

Second, the idea of high-quality clocks on streamers is not new. The Auralic Aries Femto also claims to use high-precision FemtoClock in their streamer. It would be interesting to see how the sMS-200 Ultra and the Aries Femto stack up. Do you know what the metric of goodness is for external clocks like the sCLK-EX? You made an important point that the benefit of reclocking is ultimately gated by the quality of the DAC's clock itself. My DAC, the Ayre Codex, has scaled very well so far with the addition of reclockers and isolators, but I have seen no published specs regarding the accuracy of its internal clocks. So I suspect, it may be hard to find these metrics for DACs.

 

Now, regarding the idea of minimizing bad clocks. One way would be to shorten the chain. What about an experiment attaching a USB data store to the sMS-200 (Ultra) directly? My initial thought was a USB flash drive, although there too, I'm sure the "clock" on the controller is probably pretty crappy. Not sure there's any such thing as an externally clocked USB drive in the SOtM catalog, is there? Of course, even if there were, this would hardly be the Roon-like music playback experience. It would have to be controlled by MPD, but could be a proof of concept of end-to-end high-quality clocking.

 

The reason I ask about flash drives is that I just did this experiment in my recent comparion of the sMS-200, mR, and Aries Mini, as someone requested it. Have a look here - http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f22-networking-networked-audio-and-streaming/auralic-aries-mini-vs-sonore-microrendu-vs-soul-music-sms-200-listening-impressions-31499/index3.html#post637708 . Of course, in my case, I did not have the sCLK-EX improvements in place on the sMS-200.

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I'd like to thank bit01 for posting about the Tera Grand Cat-7 Ultra flat Ethernet cable. I greatly prefer it to my Audioquest cinnamon between computer and SMS-200. Try it out! It is cheap to try. I know off topic a little, but it makes the most of bridging.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

 

You are welcome - glad you tried it and liked it! Amazing performance for silly money!

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Ok, sorry I misunderstood.

 

Right now, because I have to power my tX-USB HD with my SR7, I am forced to use my LPS-1 for both my sMS-200 Ultra and my mR and so my comparisons of the two NAAs are solely with the LPS-1 powering them. Unfortunately, the tX-USB HD + the sCLK-EX with 4 clocks active seem to require more than the 1.1A that the LPS-1 can provide.

 

If I was forced to live with the LPS-1 powering either of these NAAs, I know I wouldn't complain because the LPS-1 powers either one very well but once you directly compare the two, there's an unmistakeable improvement with the SR7.

 

Related to the sMS-200:

 

I am curious if anyone has compared or found a comparison between the LPS-1 & Sbooster BOTW powering the sMS-200?

 

Additionally, I note that the Sbooster home page recommends the 12v BOTW vs the 9v BOTW for the sMS-200, yet I read somewhere that sMS-200 max input power should be 9v. Any further information here?

 

thanks

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Hi romaz,

as there is no information about the PH SR-7 on the internet, can you provide some basics as price, dimensions, voltages etc?

Thank you.

 

Matt

Here are some excerpts I've collected from Paul's e-mails to me over the past months. Hopefully, you'll find them useful as you make your own decisions. I've never personally met Paul (he is based in Scotland and I am in California) but based on numerous e-mail correspondences over the past year, I feel like I've gotten to know Paul pretty well and he has been a wonderful source of education for me. As you'll see from his correspondences, he is very articulate. He is also one of the nicest human beings I have met on my audio journey. I have spoken much of his SR7 on this thread and his power supplies really deserve a dedicated thread of their own but since this thread is about the things that "massively" improve either the microRendu or sMS-200 and since I consider his SR7 as the single most important component that I own that literally massively improves either of these NAAs, I feel it appropriate to to respond to your question comprehensively. Full disclosure -- I have no business relationship with Paul and I am a paying customer like anyone else.

 

Here is his response to me more than a year ago as I was comparing my HD Plex and its LT1083 regulators to Paul's own PR3 regulator design:

 

"The PR3 regulator topology used in the SR7 power supplies is my

proprietary discrete component design optimised for high quality audio

use. All the important audio related performance parameters of the PR3

regulator modules are considerably better than the LT1083

specifications.

 

The PR3 series voltage regulator noise measurements using an HP3561a

spectrum analyser specialized for low frequency measurement down to the

sub 1Hz region

 

The noise floor of 3561A is typically 15nV/sqrt Hz and the PR3 series

regulator was around 44nV/sqrt. When the 3561A noise floor is factored

into the measurement the PR3 series regulator would display lower noise

than 44nV/sqrt.

 

The ALW version of the Walt Jung ultra low noise regulator, which is the

lowest noise of the generally available DIY regulator circuits, was also

tested.

 

Here are the NF at 10Hz to 100 KHz:

PR3 series reg – 44nV/sqrt. Hz

ALW series reg – 70nV/sqrt. Hz

(40 nV/rtHz = 5 uVrms).

Measured from DC to 100 KHz the output impedance remains below 3

milliohms

 

Regulation operating bandwidth is from DC to >300 MHz allowing for device

tolerances.

 

Transient response for a 5A load current change is typically

<100nanoseconds and the settling time is also <100nanoseconds.

 

Transient current delivery for PR3HD modules >30A.

Supply line rejection >80dB DC to 100Khz (>150dB DC with double regulated PSU)

I use Panasonic FC, FM and FR low ESR high ripple current, high

temperature energy storage capacitors for excellent transient current

delivery and long working life. Alternatives can be fitted but it is

very important to ensure adequate power rating of power supply

capacitors in high current linear power supplies like the SR7. The

Panasonic capacitors are very well built and give consistently high

sound quality in capacitor tests on various audio forums."

Many have privately approached me with questions about how best to improve SQ and then stop me once I start talking about power supplies. Their response typically goes like this: "You don't have to convince me of the importance of good power, I already know this because I own an HDPlex." These folks have no idea. No offense to HDPlex but the model I own is nowhere in the same vicinity as the performance of my SR7. I also have a Teradak, Kenneth Lau, Paul Pang, iFi, and various DIY battery supplies that are now collecting dust. The only thing that comes close (that I own) is the LPS-1.

 

As I started to talk to Paul about the importance of the output impedance of a PSU, here was his informative response:

 

"Power supply output impedance is an important parameter, as are transient response, settling time, operating bandwidth and noise. For exceptional power supply design it is important to consider all of these parameters and optimise them to the best of your ability. This is what I do. The ideal power supply would have zero impedance at all frequencies of operation as you cannot develop any voltage into zero impedance no matter how much current passes through it. In the real world all circuits have some level of impedance and any current passing through this impedance will generate a voltage fluctuation, which in reality becomes an additional noise source in the system, which degrades signal integrity. It is therefore important to minimise the impedance to reduce this disturbance to the lowest level. This impedance reduction is usually achieved by an error amplifier using high levels of negative feedback, which introduces all manner of problems with operating bandwidth, transient response and settling time. This is a big subject to consider so I will not go into detail here. Suffice to say I do not use typical circuit topologies in my voltage regulator designs to achieve low impedance over a very wide operating bandwidth."

 

As you've seen above, Paul lists his measurements for these parameters. No one else seems to do this either because they don't have the measuring equipment to do so or they don't believe these parameters are even important. Without measurements, it's hard to even know how to shop for a good PSU and so the end user is forced to do his/her own listening comparisons or else make a purchase based on speculative comments.

Here is his response regarding the importance of using high quality, expensive discrete components. Paul's supplies are not inexpensive but it's not because it's all going into his pocket. Most importantly, IMO, the performance for the dollar is there:

 

"Some industry participants have been minimising the importance of “expensive” discrete component high performance voltage regulators in their marketing and concentrating their marketing stance on other parameters. I have to disagree here as I have conducted extensive testing in these areas over many years. Everything you use to build a power supply will have a sonic signature that will imprint on the achievable sound quality. Using low cost industrial voltage regulators with limited performance will just bottleneck the overall performance that is achievable and no amount of attention to detail in the other areas will override this."

Paul makes 3 lines of PSUs, from the SR3 to the SR7 and here is how he describes them:

 

"The SR3 was originally custom designed for a customer to improve on the performance offered by the Optima Red Top car battery used for the Altman Attraction DAC. As I foresaw additional sales for the SR3 for a wider variety of equipment I wanted it to be small enough and light enough to ship world wide via the Royal Mail small packet rate (under 2Kg) and of reasonable price. The mains transformer was the best of the “off the shelf” transformers available in the UK and the “off the shelf” chassis limited the transformer size to 60VA. The current PHD SR3 is rated at 30W continuous delivery and 240W transient delivery.

 

The SR5 was designed in response to requests for Mac Mini rated power supplies. The power rating had to be 80W continuous and it can also provide 350W transient delivery. This is achieved by increasing the mains transformer rating to 160VA, additional energy storage capacitance for robust power delivery with large dynamic load transients and the design of a custom chassis to house this and the electronics and heat sink required for this power upgrade. I also increased the power ratings of the Schottky Barrier rectification and the output stage device to provide the power rating with comfortable margins for safety and long life. More space within the chassis allowed me to design a mains transformer that would address the shortcomings of “off the shelf” mains transformers. In particular, core saturation is a big issue as the transformer operation stalls when this happens. Other big issues are electrical and mechanical noise. The SR5 and SR7 mains transformers are carefully wound on manually operated winding machines using over sized grain orientated silicon steel cores and high quality wire to minimise these issues. They are designed for low impedance operation and can deliver very large transient currents to the load.

 

The SR7 is essentially a higher power version of the SR5 with increased ratings for all power devices and a larger 250VA mains transformer giving a 125W continuous power rating and a 480W transient power rating for the more power hungry applications.

 

Many customers asked for a “Multirail” power supply to reduce space requirement for multiple power supplies in systems and also to reduce overall cost so I then designed the SR7 Multirail with up to four galvanically isolated supply rails to avoid interaction between the various items of equipment to be powered. The SR5 can also be configured as a Multirail but space limits the number of rails to two.

 

The best way to describe the performance between the three power supply levels is to use the car engine analogy. A small runabout with a 1.2 litre engine, a hot hatchback with a 1.6 litre fuel injected engine, a larger family saloon with a 3 litre fuel injected engine and a sports car with full engine management. Braking systems for these cars will be suitably rated to cope with the engine power. All four cars will get you from A to B but the ride will be progressively more responsive, dynamic and stable as you go up the range of cars. The runabout is the equivalent of a low cost power supply upgrade, the SR3 is the hot hatchback with acceptable all round performance and a lively drive, the SR5 is the 3 litre family saloon with a more stable but responsive drive and the SR7 is the sports car with even better performance.

 

As you go up the range in power supplies this translates into the traits you were hearing at the listening trials. The musical performance in all areas just improves with a more stable three dimensional presentation that is more robust when the going gets busy with the better power supplies."

More recently, he stated it to me this way:

 

"The SR range of high performance power supplies were designed for powering both analogue and digital audio and video equipment. The same proprietary ultra low noise high performance discrete component voltage regulator circuit topology is used in the SR3, SR5 and SR7 power supplies. The SR3 uses a standard 50VA mains transformer, the SR5 uses a custom manufactured 160VA mains transformer and the SR7 uses a custom manufactured 250VA mains transformer. The SR7MR uses a custom manufactured mains transformer with up to 500VA rating depending on the overall rail requirements. The custom manufactured mains transformers use oversized grain orientated silicon steel cores and are wound to avoid core saturation in use and to operate quietly both electrically and mechanically. Schottky Barrier rectifiers are used throughout the range, as they do not generate reverse recovery transients and their associated harmonic distortions.

 

The error amplifier used in the voltage regulator modules has the following specification :-

 

Noise voltage < 0.5 nanovolts root Hz

Operating Bandwidth > 300 Mhz

Supply line rejection > 80 dB DC to 100 KHz

Output impedance < 3 milliohms DC to 100 KHz

Transient response and settling time < 100 nanoseconds

 

As the SR3, SR5 and SR7 all use the same high performance regulator circuit topology they all have a similar sonic signature musically. Moving up the range allows better quality lower impedance mains transformers and up-rated rectification and regulator output stage providing a reduction in power supply output impedance, which in turn reduces interaction with the load. The increased energy storage capacitor bank also reduces rectifier ripple noise and RFI break through from the mains supply. Another benefit of the increased energy storage capacitance is with transient response and settling time. The net effect musically is to provide progressively larger, more stable and more robust soundstage particularly where large dynamic load current swings occur, as well as, a lower noise floor and improved timbre and temporal accuracy.

 

These power supplies are available with fixed voltage output from 1.6v to 30v or variable voltage output with a 10 volt span on voltage setting, within this range, using the precision adjustment potentiometer internally situated on the regulator module.

 

Continuous power output ratings – For fixed output voltage versions the SR3 provides 25W, the SR5 provides 80W and the SR7 provides 125W and the SR7MR chassis can support up to 250W spread across the rails. The SR5 can support one 6A module and the SR7 can support one 10A module. The output voltage and output current can be specified within this power rating using the formulae :-

 

V = W/I

I = W/V

 

Where V is output voltage, W is the available power in Watts and I is the output current in Amps.

 

If you require help with power supply specification I will be pleased to help you.

 

For variable output voltage versions of the power supplies, set at the maximum output voltage of the range, the SR3 provides 25W, the SR5 provides 80W and the SR7 provides 125W. Lower voltage settings than maximum will increase the voltage across the regulator output device, which will increase the heat generated in this device. To maintain safe operating temperatures and long term reliability the current rating should be de-rated by 8% per volt when reducing the output voltage level on variable output voltage versions.

 

The SR5 and SR7 power supplies are available in Multirail versions SR5MR and SR7MR with galvanic isolation between the supply rails to avoid ground return current intermodulation (ground loops) where more than one item of equipment is powered from the same power supply. The SR5MR can support one 6A regulator module and one 3A regulator module or two 3A modules. The SR7MR can support one 10A module and up to three additional 3A modules or two 6A modules and up to two additional 3A modules.

 

XL ultra low impedance (< 1 milliohm) connectors and fine silver internal wiring between capacitor banks, regulator modules and the output connectors, can be fitted to the SR5 and SR7 power supplies.

 

The SR3, SR5 and SR7 single rail supplies are also available in DR versions where two of the high performance voltage regulators are cascaded to a give supply line and rectification interference rejection exceeding 150 dB from DC to 100 KHz. This provides lower overall noise levels than the standard power supplies.

 

Current Prices 200117

 

SR3 £300

SR3DR £500

 

SR5 £600

SR5XL £678

SR5DR £800

SR5DRXL £885

SR5MR2 £800

SR5MR2XL £970

 

SR7 £750

SR7XL £870

SR7DR £950

SR7DRXL £1080

SR7MR2 £950

SR7MR2XL £1190

SR7MR3 £1150

Here is his pricing for his DC leads:

 

Current Prices 200107

 

All prices are for1 metre lengths with a Switchcraft DC plug. Alternative lengths and connectors can be quoted for if required. Cable impedance reduces with higher current rating. XL ultra low impedance (< 1 milliohm) connectors can be fitted to the SR5 and SR7 DC Leads.

 

3A current rating :-

DC3C annealed copper with Teflon insulation £050

DC3FS annealed fine silver with Teflon insulation £085

 

6A current rating :-

DC6C annealed copper with Teflon insulation £075

DC6FS annealed fine silver with Teflon insulation £145

DC6FSXL annealed fine silver with Teflon insulation £186

 

10A current rating :-

DC10C annealed copper with Teflon insulation £100

DC10FS annealed fine silver with Teflon insulation £229

DC10FSXL annealed fine silver with Teflon insulation £270

There is also the option for Paul to make you a double regulated PSU (with cascading regulators) and this can be discussed with Paul for those who want his very best. I cannot yet tell you what this sounds like because I haven't received mine yet. Considering the performance I am getting from his SR7, it is my opinion that this is some of the best money I have ever spent on audio. Without question, quality is the foundation of anything that is good in audio. Paul does not have a presence here on CA and for those who wish to correspond with him, you can do so via e-mail at [email protected].

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What's the sotm sms200 "ultra"?

Soon to be upgraded the sms200?

Yes, the sMS-200 Ultra will be an sMS-200 with their new superclock.

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Related to the sMS-200:

 

I am curious if anyone has compared or found a comparison between the LPS-1 & Sbooster BOTW powering the sMS-200?

 

Additionally, I note that the Sbooster home page recommends the 12v BOTW vs the 9v BOTW for the sMS-200, yet I read somewhere that sMS-200 max input power should be 9v. Any further information here?

 

thanks

I haven't personally tried the Sbooster with the sMS-200 but based on the opinion of trusted sources, I believe this to be an excellent PSU and a good friend suggests that it compares very favorably to Paul's SR5. How it compares against the LPS-1, I'm not sure. The sMS-200 can be powered by anything from 6.5-14V. Sbooster believes that 12V sounds better than 9V which sounds better than 7V because the higher the voltage input, the less current the sMS-200 draws. In my own listening comparisons, I have to agree. I believe 12V actually sounds a little better than 9V and so my incoming SR7 will have a 12V lead specifically for my sMS-200. Of interest (and contrary to what others suggest), even though my mR runs a touch warmer, I believe that 9V sounds slightly better than 7V with my mR and so that is how I prefer to power my mR with my SR7.

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Thanks for your sonic impressions, romaz.

 

Have you tried out SOtM's battery supply (or any other battery PSU) with the sMS-200? I'm using it myself, but am considering Paul Hynes' SR5, for a couple of reasons (to also power an upcoming NUC for bridged LAN-connection).

SOtM has a new battery supply coming out called the sPS-500. I'm not sure that anyone outside of SOtM has heard it yet.

 

I haven't tried SOtM's current battery supply (mBPS-d2s) but Elberoth has and he has compared it against Uptone's JS-2, LPS-1 and the iFi and he preferred the LPS-1.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f27-uptone-audio-sponsored/ultracap%99-linear-power-supply-1-listening-impressions-thread-30172/index17.html#post634487

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Yes, the sMS-200 Ultra will be an sMS-200 with their new superclock.

 

Can the "regular" sMS-200 be upgraded with the new clock or it's a all different product? Do you know?

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romaz said:
Here are some excerpts I've collected from Paul's e-mails to me over the past months.

 

Just double checking - none of the SR3/5/7 are ultra-capacitor designs, correct?

 

I have no doubt that these are superb power supplies, as they should be, given the component quality, design, and attention to detail that is evident.

 

I do want to stress that there may be situations where the LPS-1 is the better supply to use, your experience to the contrary notwithstanding. It all depends on whether the LPS-1, at the location it's deployed, breaks up a ground leakage loop. In that situation, its effect can be massive. So beware - the LPS-1 is either just a very good LPS, or a truly transformative component. Which will it be for you? Unclear. You'll have to try it and see.

 

I posted about this on another thread, so rather than repeat myself, have a read:

 

 

 

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Can the "regular" sMS-200 be upgraded with the new clock or it's a all different product? Do you know?

Yes, I sent in my regular sMS-200 and had it upgraded. The official Ultra version will be housed in a larger chassis and will accommodate the new clock in that same chassis. It should look cleaner than the setup that I have where there are external clock cables connecting my sMS-200 to the clock that is housed in the tX-USB HD.

 

For those who are committed to their mR but would like to take advantage of the new SOtM clock, you could purchase their soon to be released tX-USB Ultra which is essentially their version of a USB Regen but with their superclock. I am told that anticipated release will be in April:

 

https://www.sotm-audio.com/sotmwp/english/portfolio-item/tx-usbultra/

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Just double checking - none of the SR3/5/7 are ultra-capacitor designs, correct?

 

I have no doubt that these are superb power supplies, as they should be, given the component quality, design, and attention to detail that is evident.

 

I do want to stress that there may be situations where the LPS-1 is the better supply to use, your experience to the contrary notwithstanding. It all depends on whether the LPS-1, at the location it's deployed, breaks up a ground leakage loop. In that situation, its effect can be massive. So beware - the LPS-1 is either just a very good LPS, or a truly transformative component. Which will it be for you? Unclear. You'll have to try it and see.

 

I posted about this on another thread, so rather than repeat myself, have a read: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f22-networking-networked-audio-and-streaming/auralic-aries-mini-vs-sonore-microrendu-vs-soul-music-sms-200-listening-impressions-31499/index3.html#post637538

No, none of Paul's supplies use ultracaps. They are connected to ground.

 

You are absolutely correct, we each have different listening environments and so you will need to figure out what part of my listening experience will be applicable to your own. Having said that, I have had other DACs come through my system recently (brought in by members of our local audiophile society) for comparison against my DAVE that don't have USB galvanic isolation and regardless of the DAC used, there has been unanimous consensus of which is better.

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No, none of Paul's supplies use ultracaps. They are connected to ground.

 

You are absolutely correct, we each have different listening environments and so you will need to figure out what part of my listening experience will be applicable to your own. Having said that, I have had other DACs come through my system recently (brought in by members of our local audiophile society) for comparison against my DAVE that don't have USB galvanic isolation and regardless of the DAC used, there has been unanimous consensus of which is better.

Actually my DAC (Ayre Codex) too seemed to be fairly immune to the charms of the LPS-1 directly upstream of it.

 

Here is my optimal chain. Notice the LPS-1's optimal location at the FMC upstream of the Aries Mini.

 

  • Aries Mini: W10 bridge > FMC (Teradak) > FMC (LPS-1) > Aries Mini (Auralic LPS) > Intona > Vbus2 > RUR (el cheapo LPS) > Ayre Codex DAC

I remember while my LPS-1 was still on order, Alex was convinced that in my chain, the LPS-1's ideal location was powering the RUR, and I was completely sure he was right. After all, logic dictates that the combination of GI on the USB provided by Intona, and the GI from AC provided by the LPS-1 would create the perfect storm of goodness for me.

 

Instead, I found the LPS-1 quite underwhelming at that location. In fact, I found the el cheapo to sound better! It wasn't until someone (this was on the Overall Isolation thread) suggested that I try it upstream at the FMC did I have that WOW experience with it. See - http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f22-networking-networked-audio-and-streaming/overall-isolation-network-universal-serial-bus-industry-standard-cables-connectors-and-communications-protocols-between-computers-and-electronic-devices-and-power-29916/index23.html#post611383

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No, none of Paul's supplies use ultracaps. They are connected to ground.

 

You are absolutely correct, we each have different listening environments and so you will need to figure out what part of my listening experience will be applicable to your own. Having said that, I have had other DACs come through my system recently (brought in by members of our local audiophile society) for comparison against my DAVE that don't have USB galvanic isolation and regardless of the DAC used, there has been unanimous consensus of which is better.

Probably the overall system isolation would have more to do with individual results of power supplies isolated or not. Hoping my new Topaz isolation transformer may make my HDPlex a much better power supply.

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With the stock sMS-200 vs the mR and with each powered by a switching 9V iFi PSU, I actually prefer the mR. The sMS-200 sounds more detailed but the presentation is quite thin and anemic whereas the mR has nicer body. When powered by the LPS-1, this thinness improves considerably and while both the mR and sMS-200 benefit greatly from a superior low-impedance PSU like the LPS-1, the sMS-200 scales better to my ears -- it is more resolute.

 

That is interesting to say at least. I came to the exact ... opposite conclusions after auditioning both in my system !

 

Therefore I must conclude they are very system dependent.

 

BTW - the very best combination in my system was:

 

sMS-200 powered by Js-2 -> Intona -> Wyred Recovery powered by LPS-1 (itself powered by JS-2 via the second rail) -> DAC

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@romaz -

 

I've been thinking about these new experiments of yours. We as a community are fortunate to have someone with your curiosity, financial means, highly resolving audio equipment, and most of all, your ears going down this path. Thanks for doing this.

 

It's also important to place this in the context of the taxonomy that @JohnSwenson and others have postulated about system optimization. For example, here is just one of John's posts: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f22-networking-networked-audio-and-streaming/overall-isolation-network-universal-serial-bus-industry-standard-cables-connectors-and-communications-protocols-between-computers-and-electronic-devices-and-power-29916/index12.html#post597250

 

He talks about timing, signal integrity, and leakage loops.

 

So far, while leakage loops have been explored in both the Ethernet and USB domain, the focus of timing and signal integrity has been primarily on the USB side.

 

Your experiments with applying a high-precision clock on the network switch is the idea that timing and signal integrity matter very much on the Ethernet side too. To be honest, this one seems hard to reconcile with the fact that network propagation is inherently buffered and error-correcting, so should be insensitive to these things.

 

But as always, the empirical results precede the science that explains them.

 

I for one will be watching your clocking experiments with great interest. In your case, you are starting with a DAC with outstanding clocks. So far, you've cleaned up the clocks on 3 of the upstream components from the DAC, by my count: the Trendnet switch, the sMS-200, and the dX-USB-HD, and you noticed an incremental improvement with each step.

 

I admire your intent to clean up "all noisy clocks!" The key finding will be - how far upstream does this cease to matter?

 

<Tongue firmly in cheek> - Maybe you'll find yourself shipping precision clocks to your ISP to deploy at their headend directly upstream of your house. Just kidding!

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Second, the idea of high-quality clocks on streamers is not new. The Auralic Aries Femto also claims to use high-precision FemtoClock in their streamer. It would be interesting to see how the sMS-200 Ultra and the Aries Femto stack up. Do you know what the metric of goodness is for external clocks like the sCLK-EX?

Knowing how a "femto clock" will benefit a component is not easy to gauge on paper. It seems everyone and their uncle is promoting a femto clock these days. I used to own the Aries with the femto clock and LPS upgrade and to be honest, compared against the base Aries without the clock, the difference was never night and day. I used to own a W4S DAC 2 and having owned it for a few months, I decided to send it back to W4S for their femto clock upgrade. While there was an improvement, it wasn't anything to write home about. During my evaluation of dCS's $13k master clock, I was somehow expecting this incredible improvement given the expense of that clock but found myself disappointed once again.

 

There are obviously many things to consider when looking at a clock upgrade. I am not a clock expert but as I see it, the two parameters most look at are phase noise (which is a measure of a clock's jitter) and stability (both short term and long term) with good short-term stability being much more important in audio. Here is a very helpful comment from John Swenson regarding the pros and cons of an atomic clock (which many consider as the reference standard when it comes to clocking) vs a good OCXO. Note also that he states that it isn't just the clock's characteristics that you have to consider but what your DAC must be capable of to benefit from this clock:

 

"A rubidium standard offers NO advantage over the very good OCXO. The rubidium standard has two systems, a rubidium oscillator, which has high jitter but very good long term stability and an OCXO with very low jitter but not as good long term stability. Some complex circuitry in side there reads both and every so often slowly tweaks the OCXO to match the long term averaged frequency of the rubidium oscillator.

 

Because the OCXO is an adjustable oscillator it actually has slightly higher jitter than the fixed OCXO. Audio could care less about absolute frequency accuracy over tens of years time frame so the rubidium version has higher jitter and costs more, not particularly a good combination for audio use. (unless it is all about bragging rights, but that is something else!)

 

The phase noise specs for those cybershaft OCXOs are actually very good for the price. The big issue with any such external frequency reference is how it gets into the DAC and what happens to it in there.

 

First off, many frequency standards are sine wave output, a lot of DACs that have external inputs want a square wave not a sine wave. Make SURE the reference and the DAC will work together before spending any money.

 

Almost no DAC or audio device uses 10MHz directly. In order to use it the frequency has to be converted. What that conversion does to the phase noise of the input can vary wildly. The absolute best systems out there are at about on par with the phase noise from the premium. So with a premium you would be getting about twice the jitter inside the DAC. With the limited the internal jitter is going to be several times higher than the reference, hence there is not going to be much of an actual difference in the DAC, for a much bigger cost.

 

The above assumes your DAC has a state of the art frequency conversion circuit, these are pretty rare and expensive but COULD exist in one or two audio devices. The problem is that any device with such a conversion circuit probably already has a REALLY good local oscillator, so using one of these OCXOs going through the conversion is not necessarily going to give you lower jitter in the DAC. It may, but it may not.

 

John S."

 

 

I have come to appreciate that devising a good clocking scheme for a DAC is not an easy thing to do, that there are many challenges to to consider and overcome and that throwing a super duper femto clock with excellent characteristics into the mix is hardly ever enough to fix a much more complex problem. This is what Rob Watts, designer of my Chord DAVE had to say about femto clocks:

 

"The issue of clocks is actually very complex, way more of a problem then in simply installing femto clocks. People always want a simple answer to problems even if the problem is multi-dimensional and complex. I will give you a some examples of the complexities of this issue.

 

Some years back a femto clock became available, and I was very excited about using it as it had a third of the cycle to cycle jitter of the crystal oscillators we were using. So I plugged it in, and listened to it. Unexpectedly, it sounded brighter and harder - completely the opposite of all the times I have listened to lower jitter. When you lower jitter levels in the master clock, it sounds smoother and warmer and more natural.

 

So I did some careful measurements, and I could see some problems.

 

The noise floor was OK, the same as before, and all the usual measurements were the same. But you could see more fringing on the fundamental, and this was quite apparent. Now when you do a FFT of say a 1 kHz sine wave, in an ideal world you would see the tone at 1 kHz and each frequency bucket away the output would be the systems noise floor. That is, you get a sharp single line representing the tone. But with a real FFT, you get smearing of the tone, and this is due to the windowing function employed by the FFT and jitter problems within the ADC, so instead of a single line you get a number of lines with the edges tailing of into the noise. This is known as side lobes or fringing. Now one normally calibrates the FFT and the instrument so you know what the ideal should be. Now with a DAC that has low frequency jitter, you get more fringing. Now I have spent many years on jitter and eliminating the effects of it on sound quality, and I know that fringing is highly audible, as I have done many listening tests on it. What is curious, is that it sounds exactly like noise floor modulation - so reduce fringing is the same as reducing noise floor modulation - they both subjectively sound smoother and darker with less edge and hardness.

 

So a clock that had lower cycle to cycle jitter actually had much worse low frequency jitter, and it was the low frequency jitter that was causing the problem and this had serious sound quality consequences. So a simple headline statement of low jitter is meaningless. But actually the problem is very much more complex than this.

 

What is poorly understood is that DAC architectures can tolerate vastly different levels of master clock jitter, and this is way more important than the headline oscillator jitter number. I will give you a few examples:

 

1. DAC structure makes a big difference. I had a silicon chip design I was working on some years back. When you determine the jitter sensitivity you can specify this - so I get a number of incoming jitter, and a number for the OP THD and noise that is needed. So initially we were working with 4pS jitter, and 120dB THD and noise. No problem, the architecture met this requirement as you can create models to run simulations to show what the jitter will do - and you can run the model so only jitter is changed, nothing else. But then the requirements got changed to 15 pS jitter. Again, no problem, I simply redesigned the DAC and then achieved these numbers. So its easy to change the sensitivity by a factor of 4 just by design of the DAC itself - something that audio designers using chips can't do.

 

2. DAC type has a profound effect on performance. The most sensitive is regular DSD or PDM, where jitter is modulation dependent, and you get pattern noise from the noise shaper degrading the output noise, plus distortion from jitter. R2R DAC's are very sensitive as they create noise floor modulation from jitter proportionate to the rate of change of signal (plus other problems due to the slow speed of switching elements). I was very concerned about these issues, and its one reason I invented pulse array, as the benefit of pulse array is that the error from jitter is only a fixed noise (using random jitter source with no low frequency problems). Now a fixed noise is subjectively unimportant - it does not interfere with the brains ability to decode music. Its when errors are signal dependent that the problems of perception start, and with pulse array I only get a fixed noise - and I know this for a fact due to simulation and measurements.

 

3. The DAC degrades clock jitter. What is not appreciated is that master clock jitter is only the start of the problem. When a clock goes through logic elements, (buffers level shifters, clock trees gates and flip-flops plus problem of induced noise) every stage adds more jitter. As a rough rule of thumb a logic element adds 1 pS of more jitter. So a clock input of 1pS will degrade through the device to be effectively 4 pS once it has gone through these elements (this was the number from a device I worked on some years ago). So its the actual jitter on the DAC active elements that is important not the clock starting jitter.

 

The benefit I have with Pulse Array is that the jitter has no sound quality degrading consequences - unlike all other architectures - as it creates no distortion or noise floor modulation. Because the clock is very close to the active elements (only one logic level away), the jitter degradation is minimal and there are no skirting issues at all. This has been confirmed with simulation and measurement - its a fixed noise, and by eliminating the clock jitter (I have a special way of doing this) noise only improves by a negligible 0.5 dB (127 dB to 127.5 dB).

 

This is true of all pulse array DAC's even the simpler 4e ones. In short the jitter problem was solved many years ago, but I don't bleat on about it as its not an issue and because it's way too complex a subject to easily discuss.

 

Pulse Array is a constant switching scheme - that is it always switches at exactly the same rate irrespective of the data, unlike DSD, R2R, or current source DAC's. This means that errors due to switching activity and jitter are not signal dependent, and so is innately immune from jitter creating distortion and noise floor modulation and any other signal related errors. The only other DAC that is constant switching activity is switched capacitor topology, but this has gain proportionate to absolute clock frequency - so it still has clock problems.

 

I plan to publish more detailed analysis of this, but from memory all of my DAC's have a negligible 0.5dB degradation due to master clock jitter, so its a non issue.

 

And yes you are correct, the absolute frequency is quite unimportant, so forget oven clocks, atomic clocks etc. Also the clock must be physically close to the active elements,with dedicated stripline PCB routing with proper termination. Running the clock externally is a crazy thing to do, as you are simply adding more jitter and noise and an extra PLL in the system."

 

So, to answer your question, you can go around asking about the phase noise and stability measurements of various clocks and they will serve as a useful starting point of reference for comparison but will they guarantee that they will sound good? Based on the above comments by John and Rob, I think you know the answer to this already as there is so much more to consider. What I will say is that where all my other "clock upgrade" experiences from the Aries to the dCS Master clock have been underwhelming, this quad clock board by SOtM has been anything but and it has expanded my horizons of just what a good clock can accomplish when implemented properly.

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That is interesting to say at least. I came to the exact ... opposite conclusions after auditioning both in my system !

 

Therefore I must conclude they are very system dependent.

 

BTW - the very best combination in my system was:

 

sMS-200 powered by Js-2 -> Intona -> Wyred Recovery powered by LPS-1 (itself powered by JS-2 via the second rail) -> DAC

Agreed that so much of a listening experience is system dependent but of course, personal preference also comes into play.

 

Should you decide to try SOtM's new clock for your sMS-200, you may wish to also try their upcoming tX-USB Ultra after your Intona as SOtM's clock will likely surpass the performance of the Crystek clock in the Recovery. My time with the Recovery even when powered by the LPS-1 never lead to this level of step change.

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