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How my new hard drive makes my sound better!


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Greetings all,

 

I am writing this post to let you know how much better your performance can be, based on my experiments.

 

We all use our computers (CA readers) as transports going to a DAC. We know how great this is for getting better sound quality and easier use.

 

My system was down for a while so I used the time to research how I can improve the performance by changing the way the computer reads the files. I can switched over and now use a Mac laptop, G4 PowerBook Model A1138. This 15 inch, late 2005 model was a top of the line unit, which features an all aluminum case and dual 1394 ports.

 

I have been using an external 1TB hard drive connected to the computer using USB. This solution was good as the drive (Cavalry) uses an aluminum case and keeps the function simple.

 

I am fortunate that I have the guidance from my mentor who I look to refer to as my Guru. He has told me that you should not keep the files on the internal hard drive as computers make too much noise. I agreed with him on this so I got the 1TB hard drive.

 

Prices are dropping and technology allows us to use what was very hard from most people just a short time ago. My guru told me that an external drive that uses bus power will sound better than my external powered drive due to the lack of a switching power supply.

 

I use the M2tech Hi-Face (wonderful device) which occupies the left USB port of my laptop. In theory, the guru tells me that by using a different interface for the drive, you will not have data going over the USB bus. New drives are now on the market yet they are made for data not for Audio type use. For audio playback, you want the less is more theory also can be called K.I.S.S. I was told that the smaller external 2.5inch drives sound better than the 3.5-inch external drives based on his tests. He also tells me that the slower 5400-rpm drives sound better than the faster 7200-rpm drives.

 

I took all of this and added my own beliefs that an external, aluminum enclosure that could be bus powered (non-USB) could be what I wanted, a better sounding drive.

 

Now that my Mac is dedicated to my audio system as a transport, I looked into using fire wire. This interface was designed for Audio/Video so naturally; I looked around to see what I could find. I am NOT one who feels a fire wire dac is a better choice that USB, esp., since I am using the M2Tech Hi-face now with a top level BNC digital Coaxial cable. Using the fire wire connection in theory will lower the CPU cycles and that is good for Audio.

 

Once I knew what direction I was looking for, I set out to find the right drive to improve the sound of my system and simply the process.

 

I have a high-end system so I am able to hear the changes that I make, even if they are small changes. The Computer/Dac is IMHO, the way to be!

 

So who makes an external drive that meets my criteria? I looked around in the retail market and was not happy with what I found. High End Audio is not in great demand these days so you must look around harder to find what you are looking for.

 

I am so pleased to write you that I have found the solution s I wish to share my findings with all of you.

 

I found two companies that make drives that are external, aluminum enclosures that use 2.5-inch drives that have fire wire. Both looked good yet I decided (glad that I did) to go with Oyen Digital. This Midwestern company caters to the pro AV market so after I found them I did my research and got there guidance to figure out the drive for me. I realized that the Western Digital Scorpio Blue was the drive for me. This seems to be the drive of choice for many Audio uses in the studio and out in the field. Oyen sells these drives with the WD 3 year warranty and they have the best prices. I went with the brand new 750 GB drive. This drive is SATA with a 9.5-inch form factor.

 

The tech support rep at Oyen Digital is a good guy who is helpful and knowledgeable. I spoke with him several times and he told me about the WD drive and the company was about to release a larger one (750 GB) so I waited for this drive to be in stock.

 

Oyen Digital makes several enclosures that I looked at and I chose the EBS-2. This drive has twin Fire wire 1394B ports, an ESATA / USB combo port, a DC input and all the cables and power supply included. The case uses the famous Oxford Semiconductor 924 chip which is a classic Audio chop, no longer made. The Oxford Company was acquired so the 934 chip has replaced the 924. So finally, I have a source for drive and enclosure.

 

I was lucky to be able to get this enclosure so I am pleased and I feel happy about that. The drive and enclosure are easy to work with. It took me about 5 minutes to put it together and so I was ready to go. The supplied 1394B 9 pin – 9 pin cable is a solid, shielded cable that is well made. The enclosure will be upgraded in the future so I was able to get a refurbished unit in perfect condition.

 

Now for the feedback: I am so pleased to report that my expectations have been exceeded! I am enjoying better sound quality and I am very pleased that my efforts have been rewarded. The drive is connected to the Mac using the 1394B port with the supplied cable.

 

I was hoping for a subtle difference and what I got was a noticeable difference.

The images is tighter and has better focus. The depth perception is better and the separation of voices and instruments has improved. The tonality seems more organic to me and less like hi-fi, more like music. Background vocals, the rear sections of an orchestra are now easier to enjoy. The background is blacker and quieter. The resolution has improved with no loss of body. I find myself wanting to listen more and be excited by my library and not just a few cut choices.

 

 

So there you have it. The choice for me was a choice the right direction. I am pleased so now I share my findings with you. I hope my posting helps others out there who share my passion yet maybe are not as savvy as me with this.

 

Enjoy.

 

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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:-)

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Firstly - I am delighted that you have engineered an improvement.

 

The good news is that I think that you can improve it more...

 

Playing audio out of a modern computer does not stress the computer at all. The CPU power required is less than 5% - the DMA transfers from the disk have a low bitrate (compared to what the disks can deliver).

 

The computer however is a minefield of noise - everything in it contributes to a pretty foul EMC environment - especially hard drives.

 

To hear what you are hearing - Isolation (from the computer) is the name of the game. You have achieved it by moving a noise source.

 

The noise coupling is interesting - it muddies things.

 

Your next experiment could be to isolate your DAC from your computer - they shouldn't share the same power source. A small hospital grade isolation transformer would do the trick - you will be amazed.

 

I have experimented with many setups - my current is computer (Lynx) to the Antelope DA then to the Berkely Alpha Dac. The DA provides some isolation - this works extremely well - both the DA and Alpha DAC are powered by a balanced power isolation transformer - the computer from the wall.

 

I then moved the sources of music to

(1) RAM

(2) Internal Hard drive

(3) External locally attached hard drive

(4) GE attached NAS

(5) 100M attached NAS

(6) GE attached iscsi device

 

No difference.

 

I then used the USB-Hiface directly into the Alpha DAC - subjectively 40% degredation along the lines that mention. Note that the Lynx directly into the Alpha DAC is 30-40% degraded.

 

The DA is technically aging now - this year I hope to see more USB-AES devices with proper isolation (with proper isolation is doesn't matter what the computer does - as long as it is not modifying the bits).

 

I am interested to see the new Antelope DACs - Perhaps they will clock properly, re-clock and isolate the bit source (computer).

 

The best could be yet to come...

 

 

/Paul

 

 

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Hey Happy,

 

I really like your response. I am well aware about noise which Is why I use shielded power cords and I may get better ones. I use a Furutech E-TP80 unit and the computer and the DAC are plugged into the Digital/Accessories outlets which us filters and have excellent shielding! I use the might Omega Micro Active Power cord to plug the Furutech into a variac so I can control the voltage.

 

Your idea about a hospital grade isolation transformer seems good so can you please convey more information about that?

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I dug up an older firewire hub thread here and referred to your AC post. Doh!

 

Anyway, since I use a FW DAC and therefore have my FW port used up I have the option of:

1) staying with my powered wall warted USB external drive

2) using a FW hub that some believe could be sonically compromised

3) I guess I could go the Oyen route and use the same HD as you, but with USB power rather than noisy AC power?

 

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Very interesting piece this. Is there any more information you or your 'guru' could share on the 924 vs it's replacement the 934 chipset issue.

 

I have for some time been toying with The G Drive Mini SSD which provides 256 GB of SSD memory - I checked this and it uses the 924 chipset which is clearly disappearing - this may be the excuse i need to buy now!

 

Regards

 

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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Ted asked if he should... "2) using a FW hub that some believe could be sonically compromised"

I don't think the issue of FW hubs (and daisy chaining) is the belief that the sonics may be compromised, it's more that introducing the FireWire hub and sharing the interface between multiple devices may introduce incompatibilities between devices. Just simpler to stick with USB for the drive if using FireWire interface.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I have no need for a 1394 hub at this time. Unibrain make some really fine ones.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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I am told the 924 chip is an Audio Classic and the 934 is fine. I suggest you call Oyen tech support, he will guide you and he did help me.

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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As I am looking for an external storage this thread definitely pique my interest. Although I already have a NAS but I am bound to wireless network for my setup and the very few and rare occasions of wireless issues left me wanting a foolproof connection.

 

Can anyone advise me why the Oxford chipset is of any importance in this scenario?

 

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Where were you get the firewire drive? How much is it? I'm a HiFace user too. I'm also searching a storage as my music warehouse which has lower noise. Do you think that a SSD drive for operation plus an external firewire drive for storage is the way we go? Thanks!

 

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Your next experiment could be to isolate your DAC from your computer - they shouldn't share the same power source. A small hospital grade isolation transformer would do the trick - you will be amazed.

Chris recently recommended a USB->optical->USB converter for isolating a USB DAC from the computer. If this is done in combination with a power filter on the computer's power plug, it wouldn't matter how much noise the computer generates, right?

 

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However the details are important; is the USB converter truly isolating - you don't want the isolator skewing the signal or adding jitter. Then you get to the point (discussion) of streaming across a USB interface.

 

Also power filters are by no means all equal. As an example part of my testing is often to degrade a device and see if it makes a difference.

 

With this is mind I replaced my Balanced Power Equi-tech (which drives the DAC and AMP) with a PS Audio Power Plan Regenerator. Now you would expect this to be pretty good - after all it rectifies the mains and creates 'shaped' AC power with isolation. The result was truly awful - it felt as if someone had taken a baseball bat to my cd tracks.

 

If you ever have had to get Class B compliance on a product you will realise how difficult it is - EMC is very insidious.

 

Insufficient attention to the power distribution will result in little changes in the system propagating around the system - the audio equivalent of patching a dam with your fingers - then we have discussions relating to the patches rather than real systems engineering. - Confusing cause and causation.

 

/Paul

 

 

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Hi,

 

I bought the drive from Oyen digital. http://oyendigital.com/ A SSD in a laptop will bring you better SQ. Get the external , portable drive and use Fire wire.

 

Liz

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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Lizard wrote: " I was told that the smaller external 2.5inch drives sound better than the 3.5-inch external drives based on his tests. He also tells me that the slower 5400-rpm drives sound better than the faster 7200-rpm drives."

 

Do more people have the experience the smaller (2,5 inch) drive is better ?

 

linux musicserver, jeff rowland aeris da, jeff rowland coherence series II, pass x250.5, audio physic caldera mkII & acoustat spectra 22 & Genelec 8050

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  • 1 month later...

The warm weather is here and already I can tell the AC lines are filling up with Noise and voltage swings. Based on a conversation with a buddy who also uses a Mac laptop like me, I am now running the mac with the New tech battery when I am listening seriously. I will warm the system up with the mac powered by AC yet remove the cord when I listen. I am hearing a cleaner sound.

 

I may go with some heavy shielded power cords so see if that helps. My power cords are find yet as more AC are running, generations, etc the noise is affecting the SQ.

 

Liz

 

I have switched my Power cords to Pangea which use great shielding and they make my sound better!

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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  • 3 weeks later...

the 2.5 Inch drives sound better that 3.5 inch!

 

Powerbook G4 15 inch Aluminum, \"Fidela,\" M2tech EVO (BNC)with RF attenuator,dedicated PSU, Stereovox XV Ultra (BNC) Audio Note Dac Kit 2.1 Level B Signature Upgraded to 12AU7 tubes, ARC SP-16L Tube preamp , VAC PA100/100 Tube Amp), Vintage Tubes, Furutech ETP-80, (Alon 2 Mk2, (upgraded tweeters, Usher Woofers), Pangea Power cords, Omega Micro Active Planar PC. Signal Cable Silver Resolution ICs.

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