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

The Computer Audiophile

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Most important: please realize this thread is about bleeding edge experimentation and discovery. No one has The Answer™. If you are not into tweaking, just know that you can have a musically satisfying system without doing any of the nutty things we do here.

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12 hours ago, Nenon said:

Here is an update from me.

 

CPU/Motherboard - I am joining the club of faster CPUs sounding better with Euphony. 

After listening to the Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard with the i9-9900K CPU running Euphony, I don't think I can go back to the stock Innous MK3 Supermicro motherboard and low power/low performance CPUs. 

There is more of everything - more dynamics, clearer highs, more liquid sound, better soundstage, more layers, more alive, etc. I thought I would just get some parts from Microcenter and go back to return within two weeks, but I don't think so. This one is a keeper. There is something that the Supermicro motherboard does a little better, but I am still trying to figure out what it is. And my experience with digital sources has been that there is a long break-in process (probably caused by the oscillators), so it might be just that this motherboard needs more break-in time. 

Thank you @romaz and @austinpop

 

Power supply cables - I have recently cabled everything with the Mundorf MConnect SilverGold SGW115 covered with JSSG360 shielding, and I can say I am very happy of the results. I don't know how much the JSSG360 shielding contributes to the positive result, because I did not try with and without the shielding. The wire is not cheap. It's a little bit thicker than 15AWG. The key is to keep the wires as short as possible. My ATX connector uses 4 inch wire from the DC regulators, the CPU connectors is a couple of inches longer. And I have the oversized toroidals and the AC to DC conversion modules in separate chassis, Innuos Statement distributed power supply style. It all pays out at the end.

Other wires I have tried - Neotech UPOCC 7N, VhAudio V-Quad Cu21, Canare 4S6 Star Quad, multiple runs of 24AWG solid silver, military grade silver plated copper in teflon, and a Duelund tinned copper wire. From my experience with short cables the cable geometry is less important than the cable material. With longer cables, the geometry becomes nearly as important as the cable material. 

 

USB cables - I am using the JCAT Signature USB cable. This cable is so much better than anything else I have tried before (Curious cable, AudioQuest Diamond, Transparent Audio Premium USB, etc.) that I have no desire to even try anything else at this point. 

 

Vibration isolation - this matters in my room/my system for my digital source. I tried Stillpoints Ultra 6. They definitely have their sound signature and do something very interesting. Given that my computer has two chassis, $8,000 was not an option. Then I tried the Critical Mass Systems Center Stage footers at $2,000 for two sets. Those were probably even better than the Stillpoints, but still too expensive.  For now I settled on the Isoacoustics orea. Those made a significant difference without breaking the bank. All three models of vibration isolation footers worked very well. I will probably get the Center Stage down the road and move the Orea to my network equipment with a DIY solid maple or baltic birch stand. 

 

Next - the next thing I am going to try is the Furutech NanoLiquid. I always thought that was BS / snake oil, but so far everything @romaz has said turned out to work in my system, so I will pull the trigger. 

 

Nice.

 

Can you say more about the case, the PSUs, and which Net and USB cards you used?

 

Were you comparing to the ZENith Mk 3?

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26 minutes ago, Nenon said:

Also, speaking of Innuos one of the things they did with the custom BIOS was controlling SSC. The ASRock motherboard has SSC (on the CPU at least) disabled by default and an option in the BIOS to enable. There are many BIOS settings I need to play with. I just disabled everything I did not need (i.e. sound card, net card, wifi controller, thunderbolt, etc.). There will be a lot more small tweaks to do, but I can say that I am happy with the initial results. It can only get better from here. 

 

Thanks for reminding me about SSC (spread spectrum clock). I'll have to go back into the BIOS of my H370-ITX/ac and see if it's exposed, and enabled/disabled. As I recall now, @lmitche had found it doesn't always help to disable it everywhere - for example: PCIe.

 

If you wouldn't mind - please post a pointer to where in the Z390 BIOS the SSC controls are.

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10 minutes ago, austinpop said:

If you wouldn't mind - please post a pointer to where in the Z390 BIOS the SSC controls are.

I believe it was one of the options under CPU Configuration, called "Spread Spectrum" or something similar and quite obvious. I can check tonight. Did not catch any other SSC-related settings, but I only browsed quickly over the BIOS settings. 

 

BTW, this reminds me something else. I have not done any research on RAM. Just grabbed whatever RAM Microcenter had on sale that day. It was discounted from $220 to $95, and that looked like a good deal to me. It happened to be this one - "G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB 2 x 8GB DDR4-3200 PC4-25600 CL16 Dual Channel Desktop Memory Kit F4-3200C16D-16GVKB".

 

Any recommendations on RAM? If not, I might just follow what Marcin did:

On 5/30/2019 at 11:14 PM, austinpop said:

Apacer DDR4 ECC UDIMM 2x4GB server/workstation extended temp. range RAM. Again, these industrial wide-temp UDIMMs sound better to my ears.

 

 

 

 

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20 hours ago, seeteeyou said:

 

I dunno man, it kinda depends on what kinda CPU + motherboard combo you're going for. And then whether you're getting the M.2 version or the AIC NVMe PCIe version of Optane.

 

We want our Optane drive(s) to occupy PCIe lanes that are directly connected to the CPU itself instead of going through the PCH. Unlike Supermicro, most manufacturers don't like to provide the block diagram of each motherboard so we've gotta do our homework

 

 

Thanks. This is more complicated then I was expecting it to be .

what configuration would be your cost no object server ?

could please you point every piece of that configuration and comment of what it does?

I understand selection of the mobo , ram and cpu .

i just dont get the optane option fully.

Is the main benefit avoiding ssd / sata connection and gaining short latency ?

if so 

should we use m2 / optane mb slot for optane chip with OS System / Euphony

and

pci express optane card for library ?

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After some poking around, the SSC controls vary by motherboard:

Something to keep an eye on, depending on which mobo is used, but for me, since it's not exposed on my H370M-ITX/ac, I can now only hope it is disabled by default.

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22 minutes ago, cool_chris said:

 

Thanks. This is more complicated then I was expecting it to be .

what configuration would be your cost no object server ?

could please you point every piece of that configuration and comment of what it does?

I understand selection of the mobo , ram and cpu .

i just dont get the optane option fully.

Is the main benefit avoiding ssd / sata connection and gaining short latency ?

if so 

should we use m2 / optane mb slot for optane chip with OS System / Euphony

and

pci express optane card for library ?

Yah, can someone explain again the benefit of optane drive for Euphony OS, aside from its lower noise floor in passive & active mode compared with regular SSD. But would it be beneficial running non-intel CPU? I have AMD for e.g., I thought its main benefit is speed. Also is the M 10  Optane 32 GB we are talking about that avoids SATA that is the benefit or actually the Optane itself ? Note Euphony's own ready made PC runs on SATA drive only, no M2 etc... so would they think it won't matter what drive to use ???....

Has anyone compared an optane to regular SATA SSD e.g Samsung (supposedly noisy!) . 

 

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5 hours ago, austinpop said:

 

Thanks for reminding me about SSC (spread spectrum clock). I'll have to go back into the BIOS of my H370-ITX/ac and see if it's exposed, and enabled/disabled. As I recall now, @lmitche had found it doesn't always help to disable it everywhere - for example: PCIe.

 

If you wouldn't mind - please post a pointer to where in the Z390 BIOS the SSC controls are.

My Asus server motherboard has three SSC controls and I've disabled all of them.


nuckleheadaudio.com

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6 hours ago, Nenon said:

 

I have. Did it on an Intel Atom board that does not have official support for Optane memory.

 

To my ears Euphony running on Optane sounded better than the Samsung 860 EVO 1TB with external LPS I was comparing with. A friend of mine who was listening with me definitely heard the difference but had a hard time picking which one he liked better.  Also, with Euphony you can utilize the "Use cache" option, which would copy your music to your Euphony drive (i.e. your Optane drive) before loading to memory. I think that's a good option to use with an Optane. 

 

I was considering trying expensive SATA cables, but the Optane memory was cheaper (and freed up one SJ DC rail) and sounded better to me.

I have x370 board for AMD with Ryzen CPU, not intel., so it means as mentioned above, that Optane won't run as cache, and some of its features would be disabled, correct ? But it can still as  euphony OS ? In other would benefits still apply if one uses non-intel based motherboard/CPU ?

 

Edited by Chopin75
error, not Z370, but X370

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18 minutes ago, Chopin75 said:

I have z370 board for AMD with Ryzen CPU, not intel., so it means as mentioned above, that Optane won't run as cache, and some of its features would be disabled, correct ? But it can still as  euphony OS ? In other would benefits still apply if one uses non-intel based motherboard/CPU ?

 

Yes,  it is highly likely the benefits of running the Optane as SSD will work in an AMD board. I've not tested it, so can't guarantee anything.


nuckleheadaudio.com

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5 minutes ago, austinpop said:

 

Sounds like it may be worth once again reiterating the rationale for Optane for streaming audio. Optane and its underlying 3-D X-point storage technology have 2 main characteristics that interest us audiophiles:

  • Potentially better SQ than other (SLC/TLC/QLC) NVMe SSDs due to much lower power consumptions - per specs:
    • Idle power: 8mW
    • Active power: 2.5W
  • Potentially better SQ than other (SLC/TLC/QLC) NVMe SSDs due to much lower latency for random I/O at small queue depths. I say potential as there is no proven correlation between SQ and the latency characteristics of the OS disk.

Note that both of the above characteristics are available when the Optane disk is just used as a NVMe SSD in an M.2 PCIe slot. This use case should not limited to Intel CPUs. This is the same caveat as Larry's above - I have not tested this.

 

There is another use case, that we audiophiles don't care about, which is to use the Optane drive as the caching layer of a 2-tier storage hierarchy. In this topology, the Optane drive acts as a cache for a slower SSD or HDD. This particular use case does in fact need certain Intel CPUs and certain OSes (Windows) to work. Confusing matters further, this is the use case most often associated with the use of Optane in the media, so that's why people get the mistaken notion this storage only applies to Intel (on Windows).

Thanks so much again for the excellent explanation ! Certainly the optane M2  is a cheap upgrade and free up my more expensive Samsung 860 that currently hold the Euphony OS to just hold more music (which I would of course won't attach to the PC when music is being played). There would be less much space on the optane (vs 1 TB) but I have > 2 TB of music so it won't matter much as large portion would be stored externally anyway.  

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30 minutes ago, Chopin75 said:

I have z370 board for AMD with Ryzen CPU, not intel., so it means as mentioned above, that Optane won't run as cache, and some of its features would be disabled, correct ? But it can still as  euphony OS ? In other would benefits still apply if one uses non-intel based motherboard/CPU ?

 

 

12 minutes ago, lmitche said:

Yes,  it is highly likely the benefits of running the Optane as SSD will work in an AMD board. I've not tested it, so can't guarantee anything.

 

As another data point, I have 900P Optane drive in my server with X399 mobo that is being used to boot OS as well as some music files, so AMD CPU likely not an issue.

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5 minutes ago, elan120 said:

 

 

As another data point, I have 900P Optane drive in my server with X399 mobo that is being used to boot OS as well as some music files, so AMD CPU likely not an issue.

Thanks!

 

Now there a bunch of different non-SATA optane - e.g M2, M10 etc,  what are the major differences ? which one is best for audio you guys reckon ?

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On 6/3/2019 at 6:57 AM, seeteeyou said:

I dunno man, it kinda depends on what kinda CPU + motherboard combo you're going for. And then whether you're getting the M.2 version or the AIC NVMe PCIe version of Optane.

 

We want our Optane drive(s) to occupy PCIe lanes that are directly connected to the CPU itself instead of going through the PCH. Unlike Supermicro, most manufacturers don't like to provide the block diagram of each motherboard so we've gotta do our homework.

Do I read it correctly that M.2 version of Optane will go through PCH and performs poorer than AIC NVMe PCIe version of Optane?

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51 minutes ago, lateboomer said:

Do I read it correctly that M.2 version of Optane will go through PCH and performs poorer than AIC NVMe PCIe version of Optane?

no, Optane M.2 is PCIe, it depends on the M.2 slot. Some MoBo can have PCH based PCIe M.2 slot . Most newer MoBos have ''CPU direct'' PCIe M.2 Slot.

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1 hour ago, numlog said:

no, Optane M.2 is PCIe, it depends on the M.2 slot. Some MoBo can have PCH based PCIe M.2 slot . Most newer MoBos have ''CPU direct'' PCIe M.2 Slot.

Thank you for the info, as Iving pointed out I need to read from 500 page onward to find out the info. I also wonder have any audiophile companies thought of producing one i2s pcie AIC card? Or could the JCAT femto usb card be further upgraded to output direct i2s? Would this solve and avoid the need to come out an audiophile mobo?

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17 hours ago, cool_chris said:

This is more complicated then I was expecting it to be .

 

The only surprise with this statement is that you ever, in your wildest dreams, expected it to be simple 🙂

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8 hours ago, lateboomer said:

Thank you for the info, as Iving pointed out I need to read from 500 page onward to find out the info. I also wonder have any audiophile companies thought of producing one i2s pcie AIC card? Or could the JCAT femto usb card be further upgraded to output direct i2s? Would this solve and avoid the need to come out an audiophile mobo?

 

https://www.pinkfaun.com/shop/bridge/69-2502-i2s-bridge.html

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PCIe Riser Ribbon Cable Data Point

There has been talk about the motherboards with more than one PCIe slot, and the conflict with the passive cooling cases.  I had a CAPS Pipeline built for me by one of our favorite reputable suppliers/Gurus.  He said that he liked the HDPlex H5 case better than the Streacom case, also I was one of the first to use the HDPlex 300w ATX LPS and he said that it would match.  When I opened it and saw SOtM tx-USBexp PCIe card mounted sideways with the giant ribbon cable, I scratched my head. (see attached picture)  I thought that has to degrade sound quality.  I decided to put the card into the slot.  While I had the Pipeline server pulled out, I did a couple of no cost power upgrades.  I unplugged the internal ATX harness and pulled the harness from the ATX LPS directly into the server, making the internal harness obsolete.  I also re-routed all of my power cables to the outsides of the rack, leaving the data and interconnects behind the rack.  The USBexp card had a full height back plate on it, I tried to get a half size plate, but I did not want to wait for it to get shipped from Korea.  There are 3 PCIe slots and only one lined up with a slot on the back of the case.  The slot is extra short, the USB jack sits on the bottom of the slot, but the card seats fully.  If I had the back plate I do not think it will fit.  I was very upset.  I thought that the builder of the Pipeline did not do proper research to coordinate the PCIe slots.  I was thinking that if I went with the case that Chris recommended, then the slots would line up.  Is this a common problem??  If I wanted to add other PCIe cards am I S.O.L.?  I was thinking that I would have to chop a big hole in the back of the case?  I do not have a Dremel and I am afraid of the metal filings….  What do others do?

OK  - to the punch line: (unfortunately I did 3 things at the same time so I can’t attribute the effect to one thing, but I think that removing the two sided riser and the ribbon cable was the major upgrade)

The improvement was very noticeable.  (I did a few upgrades, which I will list, but this was the one I was compelled to take notes) “Music sounds like music. Instruments had more body. The piano sounded like a whole piano, there was more texture and bass notes, it was easier to listen to. You could hear that singers were further away from you because they had depth and from the acoustics in hall.”

Other upgrades:

My QNAP HS253dx (slient-audiophile) NAS has two Ethernet jacks, which I bridged, it was a big improvement. But I was short one quality Ethernet cable to my Cisco switch.  I bought a Ghent JSSG Metz Ethernet cable.  The harmonics in the music were improved.

Sean Jacobs built me a regulator (12V) to power my NAS, it is being fed from the 19V of the HDPlex.  I got it hardwired with cable glands to cut down on cables and connectors and lower impedance.  He said it will take 4-6 weeks to break in.  My NAS has my music on HDD, no SDD and is running Roon.  (has anyone else tried this? This NAS was suggested by lmitche, but I do not know if he has one?) Sean said that the regulator is equal to the DC2, but with higher amperage.  When I replaced the 12V from the HDPlex with the new power, the sensation was AHHHHHHHHH, that is how it should sound.  This will only get better.

I replaced the LPS-1 feeding my Iso-Regen with LPS-1.2.  It was a nice improvement, not as huge as I was hoping for.  My intent was to move the LPS-1 over to the SOtM tx-USBexp PCIe card but the DC jack would not fit.  Rather than force it I ordered a Gotham JSSG 360 DC cable from Ghent.  I was joking that the improved power to the USB card should not make a difference because it was feeding the Iso-Regen.  When the Gotham cable came in I put it on the LPS 1.2 and moved the Ghent DC cable with the Oyaide plugs to the USB card with the LPS-1.  It made a very nice improvement, I was surprised. Smoother, fuller, more relaxed.  More of an impact than the upgrade from the LPS-1 to the 1.2.  Alex suggested that it may be because I was feeding the 1.2 with HDPlex 12V and I should try the power supply it came with, plugged directly into the wall.  I currently am and I think that it is more dynamic, I did not listen critically because it is a new power supply.

I am really enjoying how all of this sounds and things are still burning-in.

So I have paid my dues with data point, listening impressions.  I have a few questions, please.

(Bridging-how this thread started) -The QNAP NAS has two Ethernet jacks, it was easy to bridge them because there is a utility, I assigned the 10GB to the FIOS router and the 1GB to the server.  (I think I am going direct to the server, I cant remember.) Path: FIOS Router – GS108 – Cisco Switch- NAS- Pipeline Server/Player.  The Pipeline Supermicro X10SLH-F (data server) Motherboard has two Ethernet jacks.  Should I bridge them? I am not using a NUC or other endpoint.  The Pipeline is running Audio Linux and HQPe only.  If I bridge the Ethernet jacks in the pipeline, do I continue to have a direct connection from the NAS?  Do I set it up with two cables from the NAS to the switch and two cables from the Pipeline to the switch?  Will the Pipeline use one cable for input and one for output??  Will this increase the POE noise in the Pipeline?  Will you please help me think this through?  A.L. has a bridging utility, can I assign input and output?

I am going to purchase the Uptone EtherRegen when it comes out.  I wonder how this will effect things?

I have more questions, but I will wait for the answers on this one, please?  Thank you

PCIe ribbon.jpg

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