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Dean Shias

Best Audiophile USB Card ?

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It's an interesting question I have been wondering myself too. Here is the list

 

- SOTM - https://www.sotm-audio.com/sotmwp/english/portfolio-item/tx-usbexp/

- JCAT - https://jcat.eu/product/usb-card-femto/

- Matrix Audio - https://matrix-digi.com/en/products/333.html

- The Linear Solution - https://thelinearsolution.com/usbcble.html

- PPA - http://ppaproduct.blogspot.com/2013/07/audio-grade-usb-30-pcie-card.html

 

It would be amazing if someone can compare those 5. If you have any others to add to the list, please let me know.

 

I am quite interested in USB cards with OCXO clock. But with a good OCXO clock and implementation, not just an average one. The only USB cards with OCXO clock I am aware of are PPA and The Linear Solution. I have read in various places (not sources I know/trust) that the PPA OCXO clock is mediocre. I don't know if that is true or not.

Also, I have heard that Innuos is planning to package their OCXO USB reclocker with a dual rail power supply, but I expect that would cost $2K-$3K (my guess is closer to $3K).

 

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3 hours ago, Nenon said:

I am quite interested in USB cards with OCXO clock. But with a good OCXO clock and implementation, not just an average one. The only USB cards with OCXO clock I am aware of are PPA and The Linear Solution.

Take a look at Pink Faun's USB bridge with their new 'ultra OCXO' clock, it comes at a price though.

https://www.pinkfaun.com/

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can't the OPPO directly stream by itself?


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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SoTM tX-USBexp = $USD 350

JCat USB Card Femto = €435

Matrix Audio Element H = $USD 249

The Liner Solution OCXO Audiophile USB Card = unknown

PPA (v3 or v4) = $USD 429

Pink Faun USB Bridge = €325.00

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12 minutes ago, lucretius said:

SoTM tX-USBexp = $USD 350

JCat USB Card Femto = €435

Matrix Audio Element H = $USD 249

The Liner Solution OCXO Audiophile USB Card = unknown

PPA (v3 or v4) = $USD 429

Pink Faun USB Bridge = €325.00

 

The Liner Solution OCXO Audiophile USB Card = $USD 449

Pink Faun USB Bridge with Ultra OCXO = €1,575.00

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The sotm Tx-USBexp with the sclk-48 clock sounds very good in my server. It costs around 750 dollar/euro with and 350 without clock. You can power the USB card and or clock externally to lift it up even more.

 

I’ve red that the jcat (750 euro, no external clock) is better then the sotm card without the sotm clock, not sure how it compares in combination with clock to the jcat.

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As a manufacturer, I tested a lot of these cards. Let's go a little technical.

It seems there are 3 variations of USB cards:

1) a real PCI express card, where the card acts as a xHCI, so a usb host controller which is a real separate device visible in the OS

with 2 main variations:

- xHCI is not bus powered so does not work when inserting in a PCIe slot, but needs 12V or 9V (e.g. SOtM)
- xHCI is bus powered, 5V for USB output can be taken from a molex or external input (e.g. JCAT)

and with or without superclock
superclock on the card, or separate board
and with or without seperate power for the superclock


2) a USB hub card, which basically connects to the USB headers on the motherboard

- there's a SOtM card doing this

This shows up as a HUB to an existing xHCI on the motherboard, e.g. visible with lsusb
Also has similar variations like (1) but it's a usb hub instead of an xHCI and therefore does not connect to the PCIe bus.

3) a USB card without HUB, which is like a USB breakout cable going from the header to the chassis, with some extra power cleanup going on or replacing the power from an external source and cleaning it up, and they can be had very cheap:

https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/pc-htpc-modules/elfidelity-axf-100-pro-iii-internal-usb-power-filter-for-pc-p-9056.html

Dutch based Alpha Audio really liked this card, we never tried them. But for the price it's a bargain.

The third variation is invisible to the host OS.

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5 hours ago, FredericV said:

As a manufacturer, I tested a lot of these cards. Let's go a little technical.

It seems there are 3 variations of USB cards:

1) a real PCI express card, where the card acts as a xHCI, so a usb host controller which is a real separate device visible in the OS

with 2 main variations:

- xHCI is not bus powered so does not work when inserting in a PCIe slot, but needs 12V or 9V (e.g. SOtM)
- xHCI is bus powered, 5V for USB output can be taken from a molex or external input (e.g. JCAT)

and with or without superclock
superclock on the card, or separate board
and with or without seperate power for the superclock


2) a USB hub card, which basically connects to the USB headers on the motherboard

- there's a SOtM card doing this

This shows up as a HUB to an existing xHCI on the motherboard, e.g. visible with lsusb
Also has similar variations like (1) but it's a usb hub instead of an xHCI and therefore does not connect to the PCIe bus.

3) a USB card without HUB, which is like a USB breakout cable going from the header to the chassis, with some extra power cleanup going on or replacing the power from an external source and cleaning it up, and they can be had very cheap:

https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/pc-htpc-modules/elfidelity-axf-100-pro-iii-internal-usb-power-filter-for-pc-p-9056.html

Dutch based Alpha Audio really liked this card, we never tried them. But for the price it's a bargain.

The third variation is invisible to the host OS.

 

That's a good categorization. Thank you. 

 

If I can summarize, it comes down to:

- USB power clean up

- USB reclocking

- Both - reclocking and clean power

 

I am guessing the OP is asking for the best card that does both. So I think the card needs to take clean power from an external LPS and have a good and well implemented clock.  My ideal USB card would have a OCXO clock with separate power rails for the clock and the rest and would not take any power from the motherboard. It sounds similar to what Innuos has done. But that's not available yet.

 

If I was to pick based based on specs, I would speculate that the Pink Faun USB bridge with Ultra OCXO (€1,575) looks best on paper. But until someone actually compares them we are only speculating. 

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On 5/13/2019 at 7:17 PM, FredericV said:

As a manufacturer, I tested a lot of these cards. Let's go a little technical.

It seems there are 3 variations of USB cards:

1) a real PCI express card, where the card acts as a xHCI, so a usb host controller which is a real separate device visible in the OS

with 2 main variations:

- xHCI is not bus powered so does not work when inserting in a PCIe slot, but needs 12V or 9V (e.g. SOtM)
- xHCI is bus powered, 5V for USB output can be taken from a molex or external input (e.g. JCAT)

and with or without superclock
superclock on the card, or separate board
and with or without seperate power for the superclock


2) a USB hub card, which basically connects to the USB headers on the motherboard

- there's a SOtM card doing this

This shows up as a HUB to an existing xHCI on the motherboard, e.g. visible with lsusb
Also has similar variations like (1) but it's a usb hub instead of an xHCI and therefore does not connect to the PCIe bus.

3) a USB card without HUB, which is like a USB breakout cable going from the header to the chassis, with some extra power cleanup going on or replacing the power from an external source and cleaning it up, and they can be had very cheap:

https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/pc-htpc-modules/elfidelity-axf-100-pro-iii-internal-usb-power-filter-for-pc-p-9056.html

Dutch based Alpha Audio really liked this card, we never tried them. But for the price it's a bargain.

The third variation is invisible to the host OS.

 

Correction: JCAT USB Card is not bus powered IF a PSU is connected to the card. 

 

Regards,

Marcin


JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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10 hours ago, Marcin_gps said:

 

Correction: JCAT USB Card is not bus powered IF a PSU is connected to the card. 

 

Regards,

Marcin

 

For DAC's that don't need 5V, this card always works with the xHCI being bus powered (e.g. connected to the motherboard, and no external or molex power applied).

So you are saying when you connect a 5V supply, the Renesas chip is using the same 5V?

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13 hours ago, FredericV said:

 

For DAC's that don't need 5V, this card always works with the xHCI being bus powered (e.g. connected to the motherboard, and no external or molex power applied).

So you are saying when you connect a 5V supply, the Renesas chip is using the same 5V?

Correct. That's how it works in the latest FEMTO revision of the card. 


JPLAY & JCAT Founder

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