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Need advice on best interfaces to use for a ULN2 and BDA shootout


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Server will be a Max Mini.

 

ULN2 interface will be Firewire 4/6 pin cable. I purchased the ULN2 from an out of town pro audio dealer and have a 30 day trial.

 

The BDA will be from a local dealer and he isn't much help with interfacing and cables so I'm on my own. For the BDA I was planning on using a mini optical cable and not USB because I have read that USB wasn't very good with the BDA. I don't have a mini to regular size optical cable so I was going to pickup a cheap cable from Radio Shack at the dealers suggestion. I think this could be a suspect interface and won't allow me to hear the BDA at its best. Someone suggested that I could use the ULN 2 as a Firewire to S/PDIF converter. Is this possible? And does it make sense? If it does, the dealer can probably supply me with a good digital cable.

 

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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Bryan, sorry....but what do mean by "BDA"? Are you talking about the Berkeley Alpha DAC or the Bryson DAC or something else all together?

 

 

Mac Mini / Pure Music > Firewire & USB > Metric Halo LIO-8 > Hypex NCORE 400 > Geddes Abbey Speakers > Rythmik Servo & Geddes Band Pass Subs // DH Labs Cables, HRS MXR Isolation Rack, PurePower 2000, Elgar 6006B

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you trying to compare? If you are just trying to compare the performance of the DAC and analog output stages, then you should run: Firewire to ULN-2, and SPDIF out from the ULN-2 to the Bryston (remember the quality of the SPDIF cable will make a difference, use something decent like the Stereovox XV2); this comparison will give the Bryston its best chance to sound good, but you will not be comparing the two DACs as computer interfaces.

The Bryston uses a sonically limited USB interface, if you were to decide to go with the Bryston, you would need an additional component to get its best performance from a computer, like a Weiss INT, Sonicweld Diverter, Wavelength Wavelink, etc.

To compare the ULN-2 and Bryston as computer DACs you would have to go USB to Bryston and Firewire to ULN-2, but I would expect this comparison to heavily favor the superior interface of the ULN-2 and be no contest.

In the end, to get really good performance form the Bryston with a computer you will need an additional interface component between the computer and the DAC to provide a good SPDIF feed.

 

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                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Yes, I'm trying to compare the two DACs using a Mac Mini computer music server only. There was a thread a while back where a number of DACs were compared including the BDA, UNL2, Ayre and I think the Berkley. The ULN didn't fair well. The Bryston, the posters reference, did better apparently. I would like to setup both DAC's to sound their best. The UNL2 setup is without question going to be Firewire. I do not want to use USB for the BDA because I hear it sucks. So I'm trying to get a good interface setup for the BDA given the tools I have on hand. If I get a good setup done and I do prefer the Bryston and I send back the ULN2 then I would probably get a Hiface USB adapter for the Bryston. I refuse to spend big bucks on interface boxes. I'd prefer to not use interface converters from a too much stuff in the signal path perspective too.

 

I should be able to add one more DAC in to the mix too, one that will be another no brainer interface. The Ayre. If I can get all three in my system in the next week, I will have a wonderful chance to listen some of the top contender DACs in the $1500 to $2500 range. I don't want my effort to be compromised because I didn't get a good setup for the BDA.

 

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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well to make an informed decision the interface is really going to matter a lot. If your plan is to go with the Hiface and Bryston in the end, you will need to do your shootout with the Hiface as the interface to the Bryston. I definitely think you should give the Ayre QB-9 a try as well at these prices it may be just what you are looking for.

In my experience, toslink output from Macs does not sound very good, and from what has been posted about the USB performance of the Bryston you should stay away from that as well.

With the ULN-2 on hand, you will likely get the best performance from the Bryston by running: Mac Mini-Firewire-ULN2-SPDIF-Bryston, but my suspicion is that the Bryston fed from a Hiface will not sound nearly as good as the Bryston fed from the ULN-2, so this comparison will not be accurate in terms of what you might end up with in your system.

 

 

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

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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Maybe I'll just demo the Ayre and not the Bryston. It's really an exercise in whether a detailed and transparent or a warmish DAC synergizes with my system and aligns with my personal preferences. From what I have read, I think the ULN2 and the Ayre are good examples of each type of presentation. But, maybe the Bryston is balanced between the two and would actually slot right in to that zone that works for me.

 

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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Bryston's lousy USB implementation would have me wondering about the rest of the circuit. That also means you have to add another piece of equipment to get good sound out of it. I wonder if anyone beside DCS can make a unit that works equally well from all inputs?

 

Though in my opinion, only one properly implemented input is needed since I plan to have only a computer as a source. I don't need a swiss army knife DAC.

 

I guess If I were were you, I'd be trying out the Ayre vs ULN-2 in the $2,000 price range. The Ayre will likely get a couple of improvements over time including 4X sampling rates. I'm still hoping the ULN-2 model will be upgraded or replaced.

 

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Why are you hoping the ULN2 will be upgraded or replaced? What is missing that you want?

 

My ULN2 was shipped today and will arrive early next week. The more I think about it the less likely I'll put the effort in to getting the BDA in. A ULN2 and Ayre shootout makes sense. Not sure what other DACs under $2K I'd want in my computer audio shootout. Maybe an Agogee which might be available from a pro audio store locally. Possibly a Lavry too. But a smaller market like Calgary and its pro audio retail stores don't have a lot of demo gear in stock.

 

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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For what I've read the ULN-8 sounds better than the ULN-2 and has better mic preamps. The ULN-2 also does not do 4x sampling rates. ie 24/176 or 24/192.

 

I don't believe the Larvy does 4x sampling rates either. Dan Lavry has written a paper on the subject on his web site. Evidently, he hasn't heard the ULN-8.

 

I can't recall any other DACs in the $2,000 price range which would compete with the ones you are considering.

 

 

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I agree with the above comments that the Ayre would be a great comparison. I own the Bryston, and its USB input is inferior, so the most fair (pricewise) way to compare it would be through its Toslink input, which I actually find pretty good. By "fair", I mean that the Bryston via Toslink is only $250 more than the ULN-2, whereas adding a USB > S/PDIF converter or Firewire > S/PDIF converter raises the total cost of the Bryston to Ayre territory. In my admittedly brief comparison, I thought the Ayre was much better than ULN-2 or Bryston, but not as good as the much more expensive ULN-8. My comments are at:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Amarra-4-based-ULN-8-Ayre-Bryston

 

The next notch up the price scale is the Weiss DAC2 for $3000. Like the ULN-2, its Firewire input obviates the cost of a S/PDIF converter. (I haven't auditioned it except in an unfamiliar environment.)

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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I should add that I used a Lavry DA-10 for at least a year before buying the Bryston DAC. It's not in the same league as the others you're comparing. It's tonally neutral but gently fuzzy, lacking in clarity.

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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Thanks for chiming in Bob. I'll get the ULN2 early next week and I'll give it a week and then bring in the Ayre. I have some Blue Jeans and Mogami TRS to XLR cables for it. I'll have to track down some XLRs for the Ayre as well. And a decent USB cable.

 

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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Hi Bryan,

 

>Someone suggested that I could use the ULN 2 as a Firewire to S/PDIF

>converter. Is this possible? And does it make sense?

 

I own both the Lynx AES16e and the ULN-2. IMHO, the S/PDIF output (routing) of the ULN-2 offers the lowest jitter among other S/PDIF interface devices I've tried, fed to my OMZ V4.1 DACs. The music is more detailed (clearer) and extended.

 

If you system is sensitive enough, then you can hear sonic differences from using the ULN-2 as a tranport. In addition, my Oritek X-1/D cable makes the sound more musical / pleasurable.

 

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Bordin, thanks for the information. If you have a ULN2, why not just use it as a firewire DAC? I don't follow why you're using it as an interface converter. Is the DAC section not good enough? My system is very sensitive you could say. I wan to make sure I do this computer DAC thing right.

 

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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I don't know much about Oritek DACs. Maybe it's a Non Oversampling DAC and he likes the sound of it so he has both. Comparing is part of this hobby.

 

I'm still using a modded CD player and a yamaha SACD player, watching the DAC thing play out before I jump into a computer based system. It seems like most good companies will shortly have products which work at 24/192 and use some sort of asynchronous interface.

 

The ability to upgrade is important to me too since I don't want to buy and sell several pieces before I find something good. It seems to me there's only a handful of the best designers and most of them are discussed on this forum.

 

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Bryan,

 

> I don't follow why you're using it as an interface converter

 

I just decided to get a ULN-2 last October, after reading user's impressions posted here. ;-)

 

I own a number of DAC players, but they all take only S/PDIF. My experiences make me realize in sonic improvement from using hi-end CD transports. As posted somewhere around here, the ULN-2's D/A converter sounds like using a hi-end CD transport with a decent DAC, combined.

 

Now, the ULN-2 is my computer-based DAC of choice. ;-) Nonetheless, if you choose the BADA and want to get the *best* sounds out of it, then you should try the ULN-2 (or audio interface devices in that class such as RME Fireface 400 or UC and Weiss INT202) as the S/PDIF converter.

 

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Hi labjr,

 

S/PDIF is among the "worst" technologies of our age. ;-)

 

However, it depends on the DAC manufacturers to offer which audio interface for your DAC. An AVR in your home theater system has only the S/PDIF interface for upgrading 2-ch music playback performance.

 

Now Firewire and USB are only available in computer-based players except some CDPs that employ the Firewire protocol (for the best proprietary transport connection as you mentioned) such as ones from dCS.

 

I2S is another choice the best digital audio interface.

 

?Bryan, I forgot to mention that you can pick the HiFace (Asynchronous) USB-2-SPDIF converter for your BADA. It does have a low jitter level. Many people have been surprised with its results.

 

 

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All this talk about the interfaces...I recently got the HiFace to use with my Bryston dac. Before, I had used the toslink and then the USB connections. Did it make a difference? Yes. Was it earth shaking? No. Would I hesitate to use the USB connection if I had nothing else? No. It still makes great music. I think that the overall build of the dac will come through no matter which connection you use. It will get incrementally better with better connections, but I wouldn't worry about it too much.

 

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Mr C. I am not sure I agree. I really think it has to do with how resolving the system is. And how good ones hearing is. There was a post a while back from a guy who was auditioning the BDA, I believe at a dealer (maybe one of those rare cases where the dealer actually had a good setup) and wasn't impressed with it using USB. I believe he was going to write it off and then realized he brought a an optical cable and tried that and the difference was a big improvement. I think to the point he bought it, otherwise he might not have. I can tell you this, I've listened to some systems, at dealers especially, where it just sucked and I probably could not tell the difference between a white van speaker and some top flight speakers. Certainly would have a hard time telling the difference in computer interfaces and converters.

 

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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