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Best Audiophile USB Card ?


Dean Shias
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1 hour ago, prinz said:

- after I red what one of our colleagues wrote about Taiko ATX - I decided not to proceed with the pre-order, as I am afraid it will make my gear sound too open and too detailed.

Interesting. This does not mirror my experience with the Taiko DC-ATX. To my ears it has been an upgrade from the HDPlex 800W device on all fronts. Nothing too open or detailed about the sound, but a step closer to live music. (My subjective feedback of course)

 

1 hour ago, prinz said:

I was really surprised to hear that ULTRA sounds: warmer, heavier, more like analog tape, with high 'foot tapping' factor, more organic, less digital, Little bit smoother, maybe even laid back a little (VS forward presentation of OCXO).

At this moment in time (so quite early) I need to say that Ultra has different sound signature than OCXO.

Maybe it improves OCXO strong points by ~20% (details, resolution etc) but whats even more noticeable - it shifts the type of presentation. OCXO was like LCD or LED, while Ultra OCXO is like Plasma TV :)

 

Thank you! If you don't mind my inquiry...which OS are you using?

 

Cheers,

-Rob

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Well, in this case I misunderstood what you've wrote few pages back under "Solution A". Talking about emotions and sound is never easy.

 

Windows 10 Pro AFAIK is installed on my PC.

 

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6 hours ago, prinz said:

O.K,

Few words of initial observation.

First of all I am kind of guy who hates spending money on audio :) I do so quite often in the pursuit of high musical experience, but I cannot say that my observations are usually in line with others. I don't care if a component costs 1EUR or 1kEUR, I try to stay neutral and judge the product mainly with price / performance ratio.

 

My roots are around DIY, so to put you in my shoes for a while:

A week or two ago I replaced ELNA cap on HDplex PSU with Mundorf Mlytic and even after 200hours of burn in I cannot say they are definitely my cup of tea. Sure, they sound linear with good bass response, but.. somehow.. It's harder for me flow and enjoy the music as with Elna's. People like to use Z-foil or tantalum resistors - while I don't. I do have a bunch of them, but I found my best all around resistor - russian MŁT :)

rarely, at least in my case - swapping components brings only the improvement, usually there are pros and cons, and as an another example of my preference and approach - after I red what one of our colleagues wrote about Taiko ATX - I decided not to proceed with the pre-order, as I am afraid it will make my gear sound too open and too detailed.

 

 

OK. To the point:

From what I remember OCXO (over stock TCXO) in my system improved resolution, dynamics, details retrieval. The overall improvement can be described like moving from SD into HD video playback.

With ULTRA I was expecting a step up in the same categories, which honestly made me also worried a bit as my intention is not to use my audio system like doctors use Roentgen's rays :)

 

I was really surprised to hear that ULTRA sounds: warmer, heavier, more like analog tape, with high 'foot tapping' factor, more organic, less digital, Little bit smoother, maybe even laid back a little (VS forward presentation of OCXO).

At this moment in time (so quite early) I need to say that Ultra has different sound signature than OCXO.

Maybe it improves OCXO strong points by ~20% (details, resolution etc) but whats even more noticeable - it shifts the type of presentation. OCXO was like LCD or LED, while Ultra OCXO is like Plasma TV :)

(if you know what I mean).

Let us know what are your thoughts in a little while after burn in (those clocks need a few days and stay on 24/7 during this period) but this is very valuable and fascinating indeed and correlate with Christian Puunter’s review on the hifi advice website. This is my type of sound. Must resist!!! :-))

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2 minutes ago, prinz said:

Will let you know after few days. 

Maybe I will again swap back to ocxo to double check my impressions

It will be great.

 

JCat XE Card needed, I think 4 days 24/7 play to start to sound correctly and the change was sharp, just after four days it was ready.

 

Nevertheless I'm still astonished how good Femto USB card sounds with Jcat Optimo LPS. Following your description of Ultra PF Card these two can be a dream team :)

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What settings are people using on their DACs RE: clocks.

For example, on the Rockna wavedream (which I ordered.. but waiting for.. boo.. 1 more month). It has the option to follow its own clock or the sources clock.

I have the Pink Faun i2s and usb bridge but the DAC i'm using now doesn't have options to play around which clock is going to be followed. (i'm using the yggy a2) - so i've just let sit the Pink faun cards sit till the Rockna comes. (there are two many unknowns, for me, using the schiit.)

 

If your DAC is ignoring source locks... then.. might they aren't really adding anything? (from a clock view. The card still might be feeding a clearing sig.)

To the people testing these addon clocks, which clock is your DAC following? It is useful to know what DACs you are using- not just the PCI-E card and LPS.

(i'm using the sbooster LSP.. but that is also just sitting in a box till the Wavedream comes in.)

 

Thanks! :)

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On 4/27/2021 at 2:40 PM, Topk said:

Let us know what are your thoughts in a little while after burn in (those clocks need a few days and stay on 24/7 during this period) but this is very valuable and fascinating indeed and correlate with Christian Puunter’s review on the hifi advice website. This is my type of sound. Must resist!!! :-))

 

hrmm.. they are clocks and the clocks should always be 100% the same. That is the point of them

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On 4/27/2021 at 8:40 PM, Topk said:

Let us know what are your thoughts in a little while after burn in (those clocks need a few days and stay on 24/7 during this period) but this is very valuable and fascinating indeed and correlate with Christian Puunter’s review on the hifi advice website. This is my type of sound. Must resist!!! :-))

Few days have passed and I am still impressed. I confirm my initial observations and actually we need to rely on them as in the meantime I made several other changes (as usual) and I am unable to track changes in Ultra OCXO performance :D

 

Life is to short to wait for burn in to finish ;]

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On 4/27/2021 at 2:37 PM, Topk said:

Maybe I’ll do a JS2 vs optimo review later but both are good.

 

I am curious in this comparison. have you gotten a chance yet ?

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3 hours ago, Topk said:

1) JS2: lively, exciting, lots of realism, a sensation of being there, powerful, great tone, a sense of rightness, warm. Full of life. Need to have the right power cable and DC cables - particularly the DC cables can break the sound - since the JS2 is very reactive. In my system, I like the JS2 a lot but only with the right combination of DC cables.

 

I agree that DC cables can make or break the sound. I have a JS2 sitting around but I haven't tried powering the JCAT XE with it yet. I am curious what DC cable worked for you ?

 

 

3 hours ago, Topk said:

Works very very well with pink faun and Jcat Femto. Slightly underpowered in my opinion for Jcat XE.

 

Not sure I understand. JS2 slightly underpowered for JCAT XE ? That psu can crank [email protected] continuous.  

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1 hour ago, Dev said:

 

I agree that DC cables can make or break the sound. I have a JS2 sitting around but I haven't tried powering the JCAT XE with it yet. I am curious what DC cable worked for you ?

 

 

 

Not sure I understand. JS2 slightly underpowered for JCAT XE ? That psu can crank [email protected] continuous.  

I use 2 different DC cables, one for the Jcat Femto Net and one for the Pink Faun. They are custom made by a friend. They are much better than the Belden/Oyaide (while having a balanced sound, those leave 30-50% of the sound quality on the table). I think mine are silver coated copper or tinned copper, I’m not sure but there’s a coating on at least one of the DC cables. I also tried at least 2 or 3 different silver DC cables, maybe 2 or 3  more in different types of copper, and I prefer copper in the end. The Optimo DC cables are top performance and don’t need to be changed. Not sure what they are made of.

 

In terms of being “underpowered”, I believe both JS2 and Optimo have 100VA transformers and both are well above specifications of what the Jcat XE needs in terms of amperage, so it’s not what is on paper. The JS2 has a r core and the Optimo has a Toroid which looks like it’s custom from Toroidy in Poland. That can explain partially the difference in sound signature. 
 

What I meant by “underpowered” is that when you put the JS2 to feed the XE USB, you can hear than the XE needs more to fully develop its sound. In contrast, the Optimo is perfectly suited for the XE. If you go to YouTube and the “pursuit of perfect system” channel, the reviewer has the same finding, ie you really need good power to feed the Jcat XE USB to release its full potential. Similar finding with Nenon: he used SR7 dual regulation (not single regulation) on his Jcat Femto to get the best sound, if i recall correctly. That mirrors my experience on the need for good power. It’s not a coincidence in my opinion that Jcat released Initio and Optimo power supplies along with the XEs. In contrast, Pink Faun is much less demanding in terms of power supply and is totally fine with the JS2 and probably many others.

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The JCAT XE requires 5V/1.5A. The Optimo is maxed out at 3A and JS2 is guaranteed at 5A continuos at any output setting. I can take that they will sound different, maybe the Optimo will sound better with JCAT XE but don't think it will be underpowered with JS2. Something isn't adding up here....

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30 minutes ago, Dev said:

The JCAT XE requires 5V/1.5A. The Optimo is maxed out at 3A and JS2 is guaranteed at 5A continuos at any output setting. I can take that they will sound different, maybe the Optimo will sound better with JCAT XE but don't think it will be underpowered with JS2. Something isn't adding up here....

It’s just terminology. What I meant by “underpowered” is subjective listening, not technical specifications which they both meet easily. So yes I meant than the Optimo sounds better than JS2 on XE. Underpowered means the sound is not full, you can clearly tell there’s some hollowness remaining. In the Naim world, it’s similar to the sound quality progression on a Naim source or preamp between Flatcap, Hicap and Supercap. While they all meet specs, the flatcap gives a more hollow sound that the Supercap, and many other sonic attributes develop in a big way with better power. The XE is pretty demanding on which power supply to use to release its full potential.
 

Optimo is just higher caliber overall than JS2, as it should since it’s more expensive, but it doesn’t mean it’s always going to be the best in your own system since they both have a different sound signature, combined with system synergies, the level of your system, personal preferences… are all very important too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Someone please take this seriously. I am thinking of spending a few thousand to recreate my present Audirvana music streamer which as of now resides on a stripped down version of Win10 (only runs a few services and Audirvana), in a fanless case with an external audio grade power supply.

 

Saying this...

 

If I was to build another newer Windows PC to serve as my new FLAC and DSF server based on an ITX motherboard, and I output my files directly to my DAC which has a jitter reducer/master clock/etc., inside of it already, why would I need this special USB card as part of my new computer music server? Especially since the USB data is already error corrected and buffered. 

 

Just don't want to spend my money for a small percentage sound quality return.

 

However if one of these $500 cards would make such a difference I am willing to move forward with the many purchases I would need to create a new music streamer.

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1 hour ago, mesonto said:

Someone please take this seriously. I am thinking of spending a few thousand to recreate my present Audirvana music streamer which as of now resides on a stripped down version of Win10 (only runs a few services and Audirvana), in a fanless case with an external audio grade power supply.

 

Saying this...

 

If I was to build another newer Windows PC to serve as my new FLAC and DSF server based on an ITX motherboard, and I output my files directly to my DAC which has a jitter reducer/master clock/etc., inside of it already, why would I need this special USB card as part of my new computer music server? Especially since the USB data is already error corrected and buffered. 

 

Just don't want to spend my money for a small percentage sound quality return.

 

However if one of these $500 cards would make such a difference I am willing to move forward with the many purchases I would need to create a new music streamer.

 

There is a lot of information here on forums about the cards and power supplies (linear ones especially). They do make a difference.

For example, the JCAT USB Femto (which I later upgraded to JCAT XE USB) is reviewed here

Some talk on JCAT forum: http://jplay.eu/forum/index.php?/topic/2189-jcat-usb-card-femto/

 

Someone more tech-savvy can go in depth of technical whys, but cleaner power and less computer sourced interference seem to matter in many types PC audio applications. 

In my humble humble opinion it's very important part of PC hifi and it just keeps getting better with good linear power supplies. Of course you need to draw the line somewhere budget wise but I would encourage to try those type of products. Some dealers / brands even might accept money back deal if asked nicely and you are very hesitant 🙂

You might find interesting stuff to read here too: 

 

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2 hours ago, mesonto said:

Someone please take this seriously. I am thinking of spending a few thousand to recreate my present Audirvana music streamer which as of now resides on a stripped down version of Win10 (only runs a few services and Audirvana), in a fanless case with an external audio grade power supply.

 

Saying this...

 

If I was to build another newer Windows PC to serve as my new FLAC and DSF server based on an ITX motherboard, and I output my files directly to my DAC which has a jitter reducer/master clock/etc., inside of it already, why would I need this special USB card as part of my new computer music server? Especially since the USB data is already error corrected and buffered. 

 

Just don't want to spend my money for a small percentage sound quality return.

 

However if one of these $500 cards would make such a difference I am willing to move forward with the many purchases I would need to create a new music streamer.

Because it sounds much much better. Everybody tried.
 

USB: budget is not $500 in most cases because you need good LPS. You can use either Jcat USB but you need a really good power supply (about $1000+) or Pink Faun USB. Even better: add Isoregen. Even better: add LPS on Isoregen. Even better: add DDC converter like Audio GD DI20. Even better: add good quality cables. Just try for yourself, and hear for yourself…


$500 USB budget? El Fidelity USB card with Allo Shanti LPS or Keces P3.
 

Another option: skip USB entirely and go with Pink Faun SPDIF or I2S. With good LPS. That’s my personal choice. Upgrade: add ultra OCXO clock (but $$$)…

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