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Sonicweld Diverter Review


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Hi folks, as I have had the opportunity to try the Sonicweld Diverter in my system, thanks to the generosity of a friend, I thought I would post some comments here.

First: this is the first time, in my system, that a computer based source equalled (or even outperformed) a CD transport going into the same DAC.

Here are the signal paths to the preamp I have tried:

1. bel canto CD-1 as transport-Stereovox XV2 BNC cable-PS Audio DL-III (modded)-Nordost Frey balanced-preamp

2. MacBook (4 Gb RAM, Itunes, aiff)-Revelation Audio Labs Firewire cable-RME FF400-XV2 BNC-DL-III

3. MacBook-glass toslink-DL-III

4. MacBook-various USB-DL-III

Of the above, the transport playing CDs always performed at a level well above any of the computer interfaces; the performance difference was such that I could not be happy listening to the computer as a source.

Enter the Diverter, new signal path:

MacBook (4 Gb RAM, Itunes, sometimes Amarra Demo, aiff)-Cryoparts Axis USB or Wireworld Starlight-Diverter-XV2 BNC-PS DL-III

The Sonicweld Diverter easily performed at least as well getting the music to my DAC as the bel canto used as transport, (some may be interested that the bel canto's SPDIF output is transformer coupled, and I have installed a transformer at the SPDIF input to the DL-III). I was very, very pleased with the sound of the Diverter in my system, over time it became apparent that I was getting better sound than with the transport.

I am not going to go into a full description here, but suffice it to say, that anyone who has an SPDIF DAC that they love (I would love to hear it with a PM Model 2, or a Weiss Medea) would not be disappointed in using the Diverter as a computer interface.

Additionally, during my 50 or so hours of listening I did not encounter a single glitch of any type, the Diverter played back all the 44.1 kHz and 96 kHz files I tried with absolutely no problems. Also note, that IMO opinion, pictures do not do the Industrial Design of the Diverter credit-the unit is absolutely beautiful, with jewell like construction quality.

If I had an SPDIF DAC that I loved, I would buy a Diverter and move all my music to hard drives-but I am in the market for a new DAC, as I know that the DL-III has some limitations that cannot be overcome (specifically the ASRC chip). At least now I am fully convinced that a USB approach can achieve a very high level of sonic performance, and I am one step closer to deciding on a USB DAC solution.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

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Cool, finally you get to conclude the other "hot" thread you triggered about the Diverter.

Thanks to your previous thread, I was pretty sure the thing would perform nice.

 

Great to read this report (maybe you could point to it from the other thread, so that Josh will know).

 

Thanks,

Elp

 

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I have used the FF-400 as a Firewire to SPDIF converter, and its performance is not even close to that of the Diverter. My CD transport easily outperforms the FF-400 as well-it is not even close.

Right now I am going to try and sell the FF-400, as I really do not even enjoy listening to it, either from its own analog outputs, or used as a Firewire interface to my DL-III.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Interesting. I too have a DLIII that I'm looking to move past. Any choices on your immediate horizons that you care to chat about? Your system is pretty sweet as it is, I for one would be very curious as to how and why you choose to upgrade it.

 

I honestly don't want to like a Diverter. Or a Bel Canto USB Link. Or a Pace Car. Or anything else. But you guys are pretty convincing. And USB really does seem to be the way to go (apologies to the Firewire Brigade). And as I can't for the life of me make this silly M2Tech hiFace work with my older G5 (driver is apparently forthcoming, but this is a familiar old song to me), I'm still interested in somehow improving my connection to my DAC whatever it may ultimately be (though at this point, it's looking more like an Ayre which should make the entire issue moot).

 

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It starts with the fact that I want to have the ability to play back high resolution files with the best quality (reasonably) possible. My system sounds great running the bel canto CD-1 as transport (and is good enough to justify top level source gear) into the modded DL-III, but this can handle CDs only. Also, my experience listening to some of the better DACs (Weiss Medea, PS Audio PerfectWave, Ayre QB-9, etc) has demonstrated to me that while the modded DL-III is very good, there are better DACs around, at still reasonable prices (for me).

My other point of view, is that I believe (hope) that we are on the cusp of the availability of large quantities of high resolution downloads (and not just classical titles), so I want to be prepared with a computer based system with no sonic compromise.

I look forward to the day when the front end of my system is just a small computer, hard drive, and DAC, and my CDs and DVDs are just used for backup/archiving.

Right now the products I am considering are the Ayre QB-9, the Weiss DAC2 and DAC 202, and the Decoder which is forthcoming from Sonicweld. I have nothing against Firewire-both Firewire and USB can offer top level performance when properly implemented: everything matters in interface/DAC design, and no possible solution should be overlooked.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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I don't understand the logic behind being comfortable that you can move to a USB DAC because of this experiment. If you go with a USB sync DAC that's not the same is what you just tried. Neither is an async DAC. What am I missing?

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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what you are saying. Here is my point of view. Until my experience with the Diverter, every computer based interface I have tried has produced poor results when compared to spinning CDs in my bel canto used as a transport (with the same DAC). While my experiences with other systems made me realize that a properly configured computer based system has the potential to outperform a traditional CD player based system, I had never experienced great results with computers in my system-so I was reluctant to make the commitment to computer audio.

Sound quality is the most important aspect to me, and I am not willing to accept a sonic compromise for the convenience of computer based playback. My experience with the Diverter had given me the confidence to go ahead and move my system to computer based playback, and my knowledge of DAC architecture reinforces this belief. The Diverter still uses SPDIF, while a dedicated USB DAC (or Firewire) will avoid the compromise of the SPDIF interface and as such has the potential to outperform what I have already experienced with the Diverter.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

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The product definitely looks funky but attractive.

 

it is not clear from what I found on the web whether this product is Async like the Weiss or the Wavelength/Ayre. The designer seems a it dodgy about this issue.

 

Macbook Pro/MacMini/dCS Debussy/Cambridge 650BD[br]Vitus Audio SS-010/Living Voice OBX-R2 Speakers/Ultrasone Edition 8 phones[br]Airport Express/Meridian AD88[br]

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barrows, I get what you are saying. I'm curious what DACs with computer interfaces are now on your short list of possibles that you think could give you the results you want. Also curious if you have much experience with Firewire DACs and if so, what did you think performance wise.

 

Bryan

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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The Diverter is interesting to look at, but I see two potential problems vis-a-vis sound. First, to pay $1200 for a piece of audio kit that is in essence a computer accessory is not my way of building a system. Seems to me to be another box in the audio chain that can decrease resolution. For another $1300 you can go to the Ayre QB-9; or a Wavelength Brick for less. Sell your current DAC and recoup some of the difference. Furthermore, if you are sold on the USB-SPDIF conversion in one "box" and the DAC in another, I would bet Gordon Rankin's new Wavelink will sound better (at what he has hinted will be the same price as the diverter) considering what his DACs and the QB-9 sound like. He says it should be released early this month in his discussion of the RMAF here:

 

http://www.usbdacs.com/News/News.html

 

I have no connection to Gordon or Wavelength, I just like his stuff at its price point.

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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interested in the Ayre QB-9, the Weiss DAC2 and new 202, and Sonicweld has a complete USB DAC coming out as well. Also, I would like to try the ULN-2, but as I would not be using many of the features, and I would want to mod the connectors (I really think TRS plugs have to do some damage to the sound with their high mass) I am leaning away from the pro products. I have no preference re USB vs Firewire, as I believe either system can work very well when properly implemented.

RE The Diverter, rlo, I find it interesting that you criticize this product for adding an extra component, as you are using a Lynx card? The Diverter is a product designed for someone who already has a great SPDIF DAC, and wants excellent performance with a computer. Sonicweld will be producing a DAC with the USB interface built in for those who are looking for a single box solution. If you see the Diverter in person, it is easy to understand why the price is what it is, in fact, it seems like a good deal for the build quality of the product. Every detail on the Diverter is built to the absolute highest standard-if you have ever had a close up look at an Ayre KX-R preamp (including the internals), or one of the DartZeel components you have an idea of the build quality of the Diverter. I am sure Wavelength's Wavelink will be another good option for those who already love their SPDIF DAC, but there is no way to compare the performance of the Diverter to that of the Wavelink at this time. I can only comment on what I have heard, and the Diverter sounds very, very good in direct comparison to my CD transport (into the same DAC, via the same SPDIF cable, playing the same music); the Diverter also blows away my RME FF-400.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

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Barrows,

Your point vis-a-vis the Lynx is well taken and appropriate. Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up to critical listening with my ears. The point (as I see it) of the diverter is to take a computer output (USB) not made for sound, and clean it up. The point of the Lynx is to give a computer output made for sound. I listened to my system with multiple transports driving the BADA, nothing compared to the G5/lynx combo. Not even close. My point is that if you want to use a usb out for convenience, (a good idea, BTW), I would rather do it in one box than two. If I went with two boxes, I would at least trial wavelength's asynchronous wavelink, as I have heard the Ayre QB-9 and Gordon's DACs and they are fabulous. I guess I consider the G5/Lynx "one box," and furthermore the best combo I have heard in my system. The only thing I don't like is the sixe of the computer box. Sound, control with iPhone, and ease of use are fabulous. If you want to stick with the Macbook, and have the $, I would personally try the BADA with their new "link" which is supposed to be out soon, or Wavelength's wavelink before buying anything else.

 

 

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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"Your point vis-a-vis the Lynx is well taken and appropriate. Unfortunately, it doesn't hold up to critical listening with my ears."

When did you hear the Diverter? I would be interested in hearing the results of a Lynx-BADA vs. Diverter-BADA actual listening test-but your (relatively uniformed IMO) inferences and speculations about what something might sound like are not helpful.

As stated, Sonicweld is also going to make a single box USB DAC, the Diverter is specifically for people who already have a SPDIF DAC that they love.

As for myself, I am not a fan of the BADA, not that it does not sound good, but any DAC using an SPDIF interface is compromised, and if I am buying a new DAC I would rather purchase a single box solution with a computer interface that is not compromised by an SPDIF transmission, externally or internally. I would love to see the Berkeley folks incorporate a well designed Firewire or USB interface internally in a DAC, that would be something interesting to me.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Barrows,

 

Re: I am not a fan of the BADA, not that it does not sound good, but any DAC using an SPDIF interface is compromised.

 

Does that make sense? Compromised and great sounding? Who cares? I was not trying to dis you or Sonicweld, I was offering advice. Don't like it? Don't take it. OTOH, I didn't insult you or Sonicweld, though you seem bent on proving something about me. Why are you so stressed? Forget what I said, ignore it. I'll keep listening to my compromised, great sounding system and you do what you want. Gordon Rankin feels the same way as you about SPDIF, and especially the 110ohm AES/EBU version, and I have been promoting his products to you. I don't know why you think I am attacking you or Sonicweld, I was only trying to tell you and CA lurkers what my experience has been. No, I have not heard the Diverter. I also didn't say it sounded bad. What I said was there are a number of other similar products coming out that I would audition prior to purchasing the Diverter.

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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no personal attack made or meant, sorry if I was not clear. I was trying to point out that SPDIF is compromised and will never be the best solution. I have heard the BADA, and certainly it sounds good, my interest would be in hearing how much better it could sound without the SPDIF interface and the necessary jitter increase that SPDIF entails. As stated above, I am sure that the Wavelength Wavelink will be a good product and offer a good solution for those looking to hook up a SPDIF DAC.

"Does that make sense?"

Exactly my point-to me it does not make sense to spend $6000.00 on a DAC/computer interface that is compromised in performance by the nature of its design (SPDIF). I am not saying that the Lynx/BADA combination sounds bad, I am saying the BADA could be better if it's ultimate performance was not limited by the additional jitter caused by the SPDIF interface, that is why I hope that the BADA folks will develop and incorporate a well designed USB, Firewire, or Ethernet interface for the BADA. With the reduction in jitter by getting rid of SPDIF the performance of the BADA could be taken to another level.

I am sorry as it appears that I misunderstood what you were saying re the Diverter? It appeared to me that you claimed the Wavelink would perform better, without having heard either component-to me that sounds like a criticism of the Diverter.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Orange Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Scot,

The Maggies IMHO, are great speakers, and have great bass provided the following caveats:

 

1. You have a good room, well bass trapped if necessary.

2. You listen to music that works well with the Maggies. I think they are great for what I enjoy, light Rock, 50s and 60s jazz, Folk, vocals. If you like heavy metal, get something with cones: Vandersteen would be my choice, though I haven't heard the 7s.

3. You have a VERY high current powerful amp(s), preferably SS. I cannot stress this enough- lots of power and lots of current. I have heard Maggies sound great with Ayre, Pass, Musical Fidelity and other amplification. The mistake I often see is somebody trying to build a Maggie system in stages, i.e. buy 3.6 or 20.1s and drive them with a low power amp until they can afford "a big powerful" amp, and get frustrated. I would do it the other way, buy the best amp you can afford for Maggies, and start with 12s or 1.6s, upgrade the speakers as income/spouse allows. I know two people who did just this and have lived with their 1.6s for years, though they can afford more.

4. Set up is easy, if you have control of WAF. Unfortunately, I think Maggies stage and image best when they look like a couple of front doors in the middle of the listening room. Now that I have a dedicated room, I can do that, in the past, I couldn't. A great place to start is George Cardas' site which has a calculator for both dipoles (Maggies) and traditional cone speakers. See:

 

http://www.cardas.com/content.php?area=insights&content_id=26&pagestring=Room+Setup

 

5. Nearfield listening is best, both because it widens and deepens the stage, and also because if the speakers are in the middle of the room, you can only sit so far back... :^)

6. I have tried multiple subs, JL audio, Paradigm, Hsu and others over the years. My favorite continues to be the Vandersteen 2WQ, though I generally use it only for home theater movie watching with a 7.1 all Maggie system. I don't think Maggies "need a sub," if set up well in a good room. Where a sub can help is if it has a very good crossover and can cross the Maggies a little higher at the low end. Unfortunately, most subs just can't keep up with the Maggies and are a poor match.

7. In general, don't toe in too much, if at all.

 

Aren't you glad you asked?

 

:^)

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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Sorry, Barrows.

I have not heard the Sonicweld, it may sound better than the BADA for all I know. What I do know is that I wanted a computer solution, and to my ears the BADA/Lynx sounded best. Would the BADA sound better with an asynchronous USB input? I have no idea. It would be easier for me to use a laptop or mac mini than a G5, yes, but I think the engineers at Berkeley think this thing sounds best with 110ohm AES/EBU even if you and Gordon think it is flawed. The only thing I have heard that was better was a DCS stack, but it was incredibly complicated to set up (IMHO) and I don't want a "stack," I want a box, and for now have settled for two boxes. Back to patients- I can't afford this stuff if I don't go make a living...

 

:^)

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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Yep, WAF is a problem -- but I think my room is more so. My back wall is only 13', though the speakers would be "shooting" down a 40' open basement room (which is actually the top bar of a capital letter "T") with 7.75' ceilings. Fun, fun.

 

Assuming that works, any feelings on Class D amps, like a Bel Canto or Wyred4Sound?

 

Apologies to Barrows for thread hijacking ....

 

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All the same caveats apply to my ET LFT8B planars too, which are better than maggies of course and so outboard sub required! Bruce knows about bass. The only difference is mine are phase aligned and one needs good toe in so that the outside mid range driver is more time aligned with the tweeter and the listening position. Makes a tremendous difference. Out of all the caveats for planar dipole setup I would rank speaker placement first. That backfiring wave needs the Cardas distance from the front wall or it will sound flat. After that, high current or voltage amps depending on planar driver type.

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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Scot,

Let me make sure I have this correct: Your basement listening area is 13 feet wide and 40 feet long with a 7.75 foot ceiling? If so, it might be great place to start. As dipole planars in essence radiate out in a figure 8 pattern as viewed from above or below, sidewall interactions are less important than ceiling height regarding reflections. The lower the ceiling, the closer the speakers can be to the wall behind them. As to the long length of the room, I would sit in an equilateral triangle position with the speakers, i.e. if the speakers are 8 feet from center of the right panel to center of the left panel, the listening position should be the same distance from the center of each speaker to your ears on each side. Use good diffusion behind the speakers, good bass trapping (buy or use Ethan Winer's panel trap recipe), and a combo of diffusion and absorption on ceiling and behind listening position. If I get a chance, I'll post pics or video of my room. (to really confuse all readers...)

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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