Jump to content
austinpop

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

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

17 minutes ago, MrUnderhill said:

obviously a marmite issue

Hang on, I'm dusting off my Bill Bryson British to American English dictionary!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
33 minutes ago, lmitche said:

Yes, but consider trying low power mode as well as normal power mode. Turbo and hyperthreading are also optional.

 

Yes the NUC7i7DNHE is my first choice because of switchable/lower tdp but two of these is not cheap. Maybe the i5 version for streamer, I will see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, seeteeyou said:

For those of us who don't mind paying for a premium, they've got a fanless barebone / complete system with June Canyon here

Very nice find, they look great.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they ship to the USA.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, lmitche said:

Hang on, I'm dusting off my Bill Bryson British to American English dictionary!

Hi Larry,

 

Some love it others hate it; divides opinion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, lmitche said:

Hang on, I'm dusting off my Bill Bryson British to American English dictionary!

 

Marmite is the Brit’s version of that Aussie favorite Vegemite.  Sorry, yuck to both! :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Em2016 said:

 

Actually no manual shunting was needed by me...

 

The NetGear GS108 is happily powered by 7.5Vdc.. so this comes in handy (it's already internally grounded):

 

https://uptoneaudio.com/products/uptone-branded-7-5v-4-8a-36w-smps-with-internal-ground-shunt

 

 

That's good to know the GS108 works with the Uptone 7.5Vdc. I thought it required 12Vdc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MrUnderhill said:

Hi Larry,

 

Some love it others hate it; divides opinion.

 

marmite definitely hate it, it’s an acquired taste. ?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Rajiv! I wonder if I should go the same way as BigAIMC and buy a NUC as an endpoint for my Zenith SE. 

Just one question. When you are writing "With SR-7 power, the tX-USBultra again adds SQ to the path!" - was it with Ref-10 in place?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, yellowblue said:

Thank you, Rajiv! I wonder if I should go the same way as BigAIMC and buy a NUC as an endpoint for my Zenith SE. 

Just one question. When you are writing "With SR-7 power, the tX-USBultra again adds SQ to the path!" - was it with Ref-10 in place?

 

Yes, the Ref-10 always stays in the path for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recently won an ebay auction on NUC7i7DNBE in a Akasa case with 16GB ram for a great price. What a timely thing to do!

 

@austinpop As always, thank you for sharing your impression with us. Is it possible to discuss the best way to connect upstream server and NUC/AL endpoint? For example, @lmitche found wifi to have the best sound quality? Others have mentioned a OCXO switch by TLS. Any comparison of such solutions with AL/NUC as the endpoint will be very helpful.

 

I'll also be curious to hear NUC server and AL/NUC endpoint comparison with sCLK-EX'd server and AL/NUC endpoint. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, austinpop said:
  • PSUs for the NUC:
    • I ran the following: sPS-500, LPS-1.2, SR-4, and finally SR-7 DRXL.
    • The sPS-500 quickly was superseded by the LPS-1.2, which sounds wonderful. On careful listen, the SR-4 is subtly better. This is actually closer than when I ran these PSUs on my tX-U. With the NUC, the SR-4 provides an inky blackness and tames a bit of the harshness I alluded to earlier. The LPS-1.2 is more expansive, but just a smidge more fatiguing. Again - please remember, these are comparative statements only. The LPS-1.2 is by no means fatiguing.
    • Then came the SR-7 DRXL. Man - I am astounded every time I hear this PSU! How is it possible to improve on such excellence as the LPS-1.2 and SR-4?! But it is! With the SR-7, I finally understood what Roy has been hearing. There is clear daylight now between the NUC+SR-7 and my SE. The SR-7 adds even more dynamics, but along with it a refinement and ease, that is hard to describe, but easy to hear.

Great review as always, thank you for sharing.

 

Are all the PSU tests using the same voltage output at 12V?  Wonder if higher voltage output will perform better in your setup.

 

The quick test I ran between 12V and 19V show 19V is a tad better.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, austinpop said:

My NUC Impressions

 

Roy graciously lent me his NUC7CJYH encased in the Akasa Newton JC case, and I have been putting it through its paces. I am just amazed at the SQ out of this wee tyke. But let's step back and start at the top to set expectations. My expectations with this NUC were unclear. First of all, while many have found the SQ improvement astounding, they were not starting from the baseline of a Zenith SE, which is no slouch in its own right! On the other hand, Roy had found this NUC coupled with his SR-7 to be so good that he sold his SE? That gave me food for thought.

 

I've previously reported my findings with just the OS changed. AudioLinux headless in RAM raised the SQ of my SE by a notable amount, both running as a standalone Roon player, as well as a Roon Bridge. Here are my key observations. Unless noted, everything is running AL in RAM.

  • NUC vs. SE as an endpoint, Dell as server: 
    • With SE running AL/RAM: the NUC is a small but subtle improvement. This is with the NUC powered by the SR-4. The NUC is more dynamic, and open sounding. What is astounding is this from a < 300 box!!!
    • With SE running the original InnuOS, the difference is larger. This is consistent with the fact that running AL/RAM on the SE raised the SQ, closing the gap somewhat.
  • NUC endpoint+Dell server vs. standalone SE: 
    • The gap widens. The Dell as a server sounds more dynamic. I still feel this config is somewhat harsher (this purely a comparative statement - both configs sound gorgeous) than the all-in-one SE (not by much), but I think there are many paths now to tune that out, which I can explore.
  • PSUs for the NUC:
    • I ran the following: sPS-500, LPS-1.2, SR-4, and finally SR-7 DRXL.
    • The sPS-500 quickly was superseded by the LPS-1.2, which sounds wonderful. On careful listen, the SR-4 is subtly better. This is actually closer than when I ran these PSUs on my tX-U. With the NUC, the SR-4 provides an inky blackness and tames a bit of the harshness I alluded to earlier. The LPS-1.2 is more expansive, but just a smidge more fatiguing. Again - please remember, these are comparative statements only. The LPS-1.2 is by no means fatiguing.
    • Then came the SR-7 DRXL. Man - I am astounded every time I hear this PSU! How is it possible to improve on such excellence as the LPS-1.2 and SR-4?! But it is! With the SR-7, I finally understood what Roy has been hearing. There is clear daylight now between the NUC+SR-7 and my SE. The SR-7 adds even more dynamics, but along with it a refinement and ease, that is hard to describe, but easy to hear.
  • Whither clocks? tX-USBultra - in or out?
    • Until now, for the last 18 months, the tX-USBultra, powered by the SR-4 and disciplined by the Ref-10 has been the one component that has been "old reliable, old faithful" in my chain. What about with the NUC as endpoint?
    • With the NUC, powered by the LPS-1.2, I compared with and without the tX-U, wow - the tX-USBultra is now a bottleneck! I could not believe this when i heard it, but sure enough Roy and @Johnseye are spot on. The tX-U sapped the dynamics a little, and imparted a thinness to the sound! This is the complete opposite of what it has done in the past. Amazing.
    • But wait, there's more! With the NUC powered by the SR-7, AND the tX-USBultra powered by the SR-7 (both rails are DR), the situation reversed again! With SR-7 power, the tX-USBultra again adds SQ to the path! I've discussed this with Roy, and the main difference we have in our setups is that he has only one DR rail, which he applies to the NUC. We (Eric and I) had the luxury of 2 DR rails at our disposal.
    • Verdict: at the very least, the effect of the tX-USBultra is much smaller with this NUC than it has been with all my previous endpoints. Depending on power supplies, it could be either a benefit or a hindrance. If you have one already, try it and decide for yourself. If you don't, no FOMO here!

Conclusions

 

There really is something special about this 7th generation of NUCs. Whether this is a happy accident, or Intel actually focused on audio quality, the end result is something special. However, let's give credit - a lot of credit - to the SQ improvements due to AudioLinux. It's the combination that is truly spectacular. As always, PSU quality remains a critical requirement.

 

What I've heard has convinced me to try out this solution. I've sold my ZENith SE Mk II Std., and now have a NUC7i7DNBE and Plato X7D winging its way to me. Over time, I will also look at improvements on the server end, and the network.

 

But let me end on a note of appreciation for the Zenith SE. My decision to sell the SE (btw - demand is through the roof!) was highly personal, and based on my own urge to experiment. Not everybody likes to dabble and tweak. If you own one of these, don't feel you are missing out a lot with all this NUC euphoria. This is a seriously good piece of kit, and Innuos is an innovative company. Trust me, they are watching this space closely, and will very likely offer some of these improvements in their own way. And you can always dip your toes into the pool, like I initially did, by booting up your box with an AL/SE USB stick - the original config is just a reboot away - or by adding a NUC downstream of the SE.

 

There are many path to nirvana!

 

Glad you finally got to try the NUC.  I'm sure the wait was tough with all the activity going on here, but worth it.

Now add HQPlayer to the mix!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, austinpop said:

now have a NUC7i7DNBE and Plato X7D winging its way to me.

 

Great post Rajiv,

 

Out of interest can I ask why you selected this model and whether you're thinking endpoint, server or other? Endpoint with your Dell as server?

 

Cheers,

Alan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, BigAlMc said:

 

 

Endpoint NUC

 

Average to good CPU like the Celeron in NUC7CJYH - better is fine but will cost more

4GB to 8GB RAM - more is fine but will increase power usage

No SSD as will add noise 

More Cores and more CPU cache should sound better

Low power usage is better especially if you want to use an LPS1.2 on 12v or similar

 

 

 

I believe it has been found that i7 NUC also sounds better as an endpoint

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
25 minutes ago, BigAlMc said:

16GB Optane memory - in theory would the use of Optane memory for caching help with latency?

Also is it correct that you need normal RAM as well and cannot just use 32GB Optane as this is for caching and not a direct memory alternative?

Let me clarify about Optane memory.

 

When you see something about Optane caching, it's talking about using the Optane memory as a cache for data retrieved from a hard drive ... so it's like a hybrid (SSD/hard drive) storage device.  It isn't an alternative to memory (RAM).  Intel pitched this as a way to speed up systems in which an SSD of sufficient capacity would be too expensive.

 

On systems that don't use a hard drive or don't support Optane memory for caching, you can use Optane memory as if it were an NVMe SSD.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Alan,  i am sure there are many levels reading these posts. My level is in the basement  next to the washing machine...

Thanks always for good infomation..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, elan120 said:

Great review as always, thank you for sharing.

 

Are all the PSU tests using the same voltage output at 12V?  Wonder if higher voltage output will perform better in your setup.

 

The quick test I ran between 12V and 19V show 19V is a tad better.

 

I ran the sPS-500 at 19V. The other PSUs were at 12V. I think the SR-7 I have on loan has one rail that can go up to 19V, but I don't want to open up the unit to turn the little screw. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Johnseye said:

 

Glad you finally got to try the NUC.  I'm sure the wait was tough with all the activity going on here, but worth it.

Now add HQPlayer to the mix!

 

 

Orthogonal approach, to be honest.

 

I have always found the efficacy of HQPlayer to be dependent on the DAC. For the Terminator, it makes a big difference. For the Ayre QX-5, it likes native resolutions best. At least to my ears.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, BigAlMc said:

 

Great post Rajiv,

 

Out of interest can I ask why you selected this model and whether you're thinking endpoint, server or other? Endpoint with your Dell as server?

 

Cheers,

Alan

 

I am following in Roy's (and Larry's footsteps. This is the i7 NUC Roy found to sound even better than the NUC7CJYH. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×