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Anwar

Optimizing NUC + Euphony Stylus + iFi into SA-10

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I really like this approach of using a dedicated hifi source component which you enjoy and then trying to configure & optimize network/streaming/file playback to beat it....   I’ve been doing same with a Cyrus CDi recently.

 

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I would like to share additional updates I have done which resulted is much better sound from NUC + Euphony Stylus combo that matches the sound quality of playing discs or music files directly from Marantz SA-10.

  • I added iFi DC iPurifier2 between Zerozone LPS and Intel NUC
  • I changed the stock cable from NUC to USB SSD enclosure to WireWorld Starlight 8 USB3 A-M

There were also a few updates to Euphony (including new kernel, ramroot and dynamic native DSD support) that brings up its quality to different level.

image.thumb.png.1be76f8276fcf32bceca4817c434cb31.png

 

The iFi DC iPurifier2 reduces background noise with more details can be heard.  I tried bypassing iFi Micro iUSB3 - the difference in SQ with and without Micro iUSB3 is a lot less compared to not having iPurifier2.

Even though Euphony Stylus reads the current track into memory and before it plays from memory, I am really surprised that the USB cable to SSD enclosure can make that big difference.

 

The total costs of all components in the picture above is about the same price I paid for the used Zenith Mk2 with 2TB internal SSD (paid SGD3k for it).  But the SQ NUC + Euphony Stylus with the accessories above is at different class.  Yes, it's messy, not a 1-box solution, but I am fine with that.  There are a few problems I need to mention:

  • iFi DC iPurifier2 runs hot
  • When Euphony Stylues is set to Native DSD with SA-10, there are problems when switching from PCM to DSD, sometimes the SA-10 DAC locks up.  Using DoP is okay.

I wish one day I can compare my DIY solution with high-end streamers that cost a lot more.

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Hi Anwar, 

Have you ever tried switching off and unplugging everything, then plug in just the Zenith and Marantz, rip a CD to the Zenith’s internal SSD and send that directly into the Marantz via your best USB cable?

 

I implemented a Zenith SE which sounded pretty damned good, even with a cheap Chord C USB cable. Implementing a TX-USBUltra + sPS-500 was always a downgrade and even just plugging in the TX’s standard wall wart PS robbed the system of some of its magic. 

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Hi Blackmorec,

 

Yes, when I first bought Zenith Mk2, it was connected directly to Marantz SA-10 using Curious 1.0m USB cable.  I tried again recently (direct USB connection from Zenith to Marantz) when my hifi friends visited me - they were all surprised Zenith Mk2 was bested by NUC combo.  The Zenith Mk2 internal SSD and NUC+Euphony external SSD both have the same music files, which include CDs ripped by Sony HAP-Z1ES, SACDs ripped by Oppo 105D, and high-res files in both PCM and DSD formats.  I've tried ripping some CDs with Zenith and I don't hear any difference in SQ compared to Sony's rip, but metadata by Sony with Gracenote database is always more accurate.  Some CDs ripped as WAV files by Zenith will not play inside my car, but no problem with CDs ripped by Sony.

 

Zenith SE is a much better product compared to Mk2 - the power supply is different.  I think SE is still better than Zenith Mk3.  One day after the warranty expires, I would like to tweak my Mk2.

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On 8/8/2019 at 3:07 AM, Anwar said:

iFi Micro and iSilencer fixed the NUC issues of missing details, digital sound especially with decays, and poor bass control.  All those digital glares were replaced with smooth, analog sounding music.  

 

 

Could you elaborate on the value added by the iSilencer? When added in between NUC and SSD drive compared to being added to a spare port? How big is the impact compared to, say, the DC ipurifier or iMicro?

 

My NUC/Stylus has a USB stick holding the music files. With Optane caching, ramroot and 100% play buffering, this USB stick is not being accessed during music playback. And I don't hear much difference when the USB stick is removed altogether. 

 

Nevertheless, I'm open to the possibity that it is impacting SQ is some subtle way. As well as the possibility that plugging iSilencers into the spare sockets could also improve SQ. Were there diminishing returns as you progressively added more iSilencers?

 

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I recommend start with iFi DC iPurifier2 and 1 unit of iSilencer3.0.  Micro iUSB3.0 needs another good quality USB3 A-B cable, so it will be the most costly upgrade.

 

The iSilencer reduces background noise.  My preference is not to put it between NUC USB port and USB Audio cable - it feels like iSilencer has its own sound.  I plugged in 2 iSilencers in series into the USB port next to the USB port used by USB Audio cable.

 

I learnt about iSilencer from here: 

Go to page 15

 

Let me copy some music files into USB stick and plug the stick directly vs through iSilencer - I will report out the SQ difference.

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@TheAttorney, I have tried playing from USB stick with and without iFi iSilencer3.0.  Pretty big difference.  When playing music from USB stick directly attached to NUC, it feels flat (collapsed soundstage), shorter decays, with missing micro details.  Putting iSilencer3.0 in between USB stick and NUC brings it back to the reference sound.  I use regular speed Transcend USB3 stick.  Due to not very high speed reads (110MB/s sustained read speed), when playing very high res files like DSD256, sometimes the SQ is not good, especially when the file is huge.  This is despite "buffer before play" turned on.

 

So my updated recommendation: start with iFi DC iPurifier2 and 2 units of iSilencer3.0.

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Thank you @Anwar

 

I may well give the iSilencer a try in due course, after my sytem has settled down with my current round of cable trials.

 

But I'm unlikely to bother with the DC IPurifier because the designer of my high quality PH SR7 (with short silver DC cables) has gone to great lengths to minimise the output impedance of this power supply. So adding anything to that path will impact that low impedance to some extent. There are other ways of reducing DC line noise, such as JSSG360. So even if I'm missing out here, I have to draw the line somewhere: I'm not going to try every tweak in the world - and this will be one of them.

 

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This may not be exactly on topic with what you are doing but it does involve the use of the Intel NUC. I'm curious if you've tried turning off (in BIOS) the "Turbo Boost" feature on the CPU? I recently discovered this "feature" was hindering/throttling the CPU on my own NUC. I was seeing pretty high CPU utilization all the time while running ROON with DSP and Convolution enabled on my Windows 10 based NUC.

 

The tell tale sign other than the obvious high usage seen in Performance Monitor was in the Windows Event Log where there would be a regular entry about CPU Core 0-4 running at a reduced power level. It took awhile to find the culprit but it turned out the Turbo feature of the CPU was the reason. One would think something called Turbo would do the opposite but in this case not so much.

 

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it. As soon as I disabled this on my NUC CPU usage dropped by almost half. There are of course other things to "tweak" in the BIOS which also help but I'll leave that for another time unless you are interested in hearing more about it.

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Thanks for sharing.

 

In my NUC7i5BNH setup, turbo boost is turned off.  Hyper threading is turned on.  BIOS power management was set to high performance and this makes a difference to SQ (in terms of dynamics).  I control CPU speed directly from Euphony advanced settings, typically at 2/3 of max CPU speed without turbo boost, resulting in CPU temperature at 50 C or below (depends on room temperature).  CPU load is pretty low since the NUC is only running Euphony Stylus.

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Hi all and @Anwar,

 

I am running the euphony trial atm and so far so good on a single Celeron NUC.

 

I have had the ifi iDefender isilencer when they came out but only got a little to nothing in increased/perceived fidelity on an old PC/ phone transport.

As i have an external SSD i tried both in series, as before i had on the upstream usb cable to an intona/ iso regen...  (played around experimenting 😉) maybe something there??, hard to tell easily.

I searched Euphony and found yours thread below bobs great experiments thread and saw you had two isilencers.

 

I really am suprised at the second in the unused back port that came today.

 

A quick isopropyl clean and deoxit then in but what a change, it really has snapped back into focus the outer detail in my music, sounds shaper and more defined.

I didnt expect much if anything but wow really happy.

Not sure if the idefender i am using to port 5v from a phone battery bank is helping reduce noise from the ssd/reducing bus noise?

Normally I at least try and get a few more results from others before endorsing anything so if you have these in a draw or secondary system try it.

I may be tempted to by a third to see if it scales or diminishing returns or nothing.

Magic factor x2 for me? ifi state double for double noise reduction

I know the big boys dont use NUCs as it has no ATX connections for separate clean rails and the NUC uses DC to DC converters. So this is maybe reducing that noise but whats more important clean DC or packet noise? 

 

Just a big thank you all and if i push for a third ill chime in on any changes.

 

A silly question have you also removed the monitor keyboard  mouse. It helps as much as going to a fanless case...

(Or those considering going trying a NUC or Euphony)

 

Good luck 

Dave😀

 

Ps my system is a bit more than mentioned ;

Chord Quest powered by

Uptone LPS1 7v to Ldvr DXP LT3045 regs 5V out to DC ipurifier2

 

Intona feeding ISOREGEN lps1 to DAC

 

To head amp Gilmore lite MK2 

MrSpeakers Ether and Ether2 headphones

 

Modded 13v Sbooster: new low ESR Caps, quad core canare replaced cable with older DC Ipurifier hard wired in feeding the NUC

 

Balanced isolation transformer to 230v sinewave regenerator. 

X1 AC I purifier..

Alot when you actally write it down... if the wife realised..

 

 

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Interesting idea to connect the SSD externally via iFi Micro iUSB3.  I run Euphony on a DNHE NUC with a SOTM tx-USBultra.  The USBultra makes a significant difference, but presently I only use a USB single port to connect to my DAC.  Of course this model has two ports, so I wonder what the difference will be for SSD connected via tx-USBultra vs local playback on M.2 optane or SATA?

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Sorry i never asked is the NUC in its original case or in a fanless one?

Going fanless does add a bit more detail again. Lots of detail on doing it here or a PC ahop can do it quick i imagine for very little...

Trying one more isilencer as i was so impressed with the improvement. Detail and new 3 dimensional aspect made me stay up late re listening to my favourite tracks. For me it was almost as big a leap from original NUC /windows to Linux euphony +fanless case. Comes tomorrow  from Amazon.. so fingers crossed

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The third I silencer added maybe a little more but this was added to a front usb port with the Memory stick. Last being free for the usb out.

I am still not sure if the original is broken as the leap in SQ was so profound.

I cant see another way to filter the switching voltage noise on a NUC mobo. You can add clean power in with expensive PSUs or reclock outward usb DATA signal out with custom hardware. 

The modded 13v Sbooster is staying, cant afford a Sean jacobs Paul Haynes or UPtone LPS1.2. My cash went on the new Dan clark Ether2 headphone. 

 

I can't remove any hardware to reduce this and give Euphony a chance to shine, so i will try the Apacer DDR3  ram as a last tweak as this is meant to help especially as this is where its stored in ramroot.

I hope it lives up to its reputation as it was more expensive than my second hand NUC.

 

No big experiments but so far the 2 i silencers near the power supply yielded the magic. The third maybe helped more..

Ill report if the top end Apacer Ram makes a difference.

 

Cheers

Dave

 

 

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