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I used to use iPods (via direct line-level output) with a good Head Amp (The Max) to Headphones, Audio Technica ATH-ESW9 and Denon AH-D1001 for my work system. I recently switched from the iPod to a Music Streamer / Laptop / iTunes with the same amp and headphones. At first the sound was terrible... breakin needed. Noicy and harsh. So I left running and upgraded the interconnects to a high - end sheilded Harmonix (cost more that the DAC... extras) Over the last 150 hours the sound has improved. However, the noice floor is still annoyingly high... not specifically audible, but the kind that makes listening uncofortable for very long. I realise the advantage of the iPod was battery powered DAC / preamp. When I put on the headphones, the background was just dead quiet. Not as detailed a sound as with the Music Streamer, but soo comfy.


Anyone else have similar experiences... any hope for the future... or do I just need to cough up the money for the Ayre DAC?




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I had a similar experience with the Apogee Duet. It was very detailed, but there was something that I couldn't put my finger on until I compared it to a better dac. As it turned out, the difference wasn't in what sound it created, but the silence it created (noisefloor). The Duet couldn't get as quiet as the other dac. Unfortunately, I think the only solution is to switch to better electronics.


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I may be too much generalizing here, but use such a thing on a high sensitive speaker (and I mean HIGH sensitive), and you won't know where you'll be because of blasting noise.


Don't underestimate this kind of "testing", because with normal sensitivity (like 96 (huh ? yeah)) you won't hear a thing.


2c Peter


Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2.5      Ethernet^3     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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That has been my experience with other equipment as well. I just replaced our Meridian 561 (10 years old) with a Meridian G68 surround processor (new and twice the price). The first thing I noticed was the noice floor just disappeared... it is just spectacular. I had never noticed the noice floor in the other one, but it must have been there, cuz with the new one it was gone.


I was hoping someone would say something like, "Oh, I had the same issue, so I got a wizbang USB cord, or I wrapped aluminum foil around the DAC and the noice floor dropped. "


Well maybe someone else had that experience.


You know I was thinking, if I could find a way to cut the USB power wires and find a way to reconnect to batteries, I bet that would fix it. Hmmm.




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Let me see if I understand. You propose and experiment to raise the noice to the level I can hear it (presumably to verify it exists) by connecting to very efficient speakers? If so I suppose that could work, although I really just want o make it go away. Thanks, JD


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I now have over 250 hours on the Music Streamer +. It has settled down a lot and the noice floor is much lower. I also have it hanging off my desk and is physically located away from the computer and amp. I think both of these things helped. So, it sounds very good. As far as I can tell, the sound is still improving. In the mean time I ordered a Headroom Ultra Desktop Amp (DAC / AMP combo in one box). I did not get the newer ESS implementation of the ESS DAC since I believe it is more analytical sounding, which would not be my cup of tea. My office is looking like an engineering cube... only I am not currently working as an engineer. So, this should tidy things up. I am going to be interested in the performance. JD


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  • 3 weeks later...

You were correct. Then next brand DAC was nearly as bad, I swapped again (to even better DAC)... issue completely gone. Sound is an order magnitude better and dead quient background. I nearly talked myself into believing the problem was gone with the Music Streamer + it was going away. It was reduced. I have been confronted with this problem with preamps and phono stages, I should have learned the lesson you stated. Need to swap to better electronics. Thanks for the input. JD


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First, what was the winning dac? You can't tease us like that here. :) Also, were your streamers version II? I'm looking into the new ones, but info seems light right now.


PS Audio Quintet > Powerbook (iphone with apple remote app) > HRT Streamer II > Kingrex Pre-amp > Kingrex QS-01 > Devore Fidelity Gibbon 7.1\'s

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Sorry about that. I bought the Music Streamer + about 6 weeks ago, if that helps with which version. I tryed the Headroom Ultra Amp... which I believe had their older,high end DAC. That still did not work... really fatiguing. So I switched to their new Ultra DAC, which uses the ESS DAC, not sure which level implementation. The first two DACs sounded OK but the high frequency hash or distortion was terrible. I suspect the issue was, these sound OK under ideal condtions... in a lab with perfect jitterless signal, but in the real world with a real dirty audio stream they just couldn't hack it. The Ultra DAC is wonderful, no noise or fatigue and really fleshed out mid-range, I am hearing words in songs that I have never heard before, but this time without the crystaline trebly quality that usually exposes vocals you hadn't heard before.


I have bought highly regarded cheap products before (Rotel Phono Stage f about 15 years ago, and a couple others) and had the same result... horible hash distortion along with a tolerable sound. When I got to the $2,500 A/R phonostage it went away and sounded great. Good seems to require lots of money. Don't know if I will ever learn to just skip the first step and jump to expensive right away, its cheaper. JD


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