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Article: Reality Quest: Going to Extremes with the Taiko Audio SGM Extreme (Part 3 of 5)


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@Archimago has done tremendous work to measure and identify any differences (to say the least). I read and learn from everything he posts on his blog, and always have much to reflect on and reconcile.  Yet, I clearly hear differences (and much more importantly for me, I react differently to the music).

 

I accept all of @Archimago's findings 100% at face value.  The biggest challenge for me during all this whole journey on digital optimization (which actually started with a Raspberry Pi built with his recipe!) is "how the hell can I be hearing any of this?"  At best I have the smallest shred of a hypothesis, based on inference and loose correlation and desperation, but it has been helpful to me to at least have something as I've stumbled Mr Magoo like across this digital optimization minefield. 

 

My sincere thanks and respect to folks like @Archimago who state the obvious plain truth ("there is no possible difference") in a way that informs the conversation, and do incredible work to understand why that is or why it may not be.  

 

(as an aside, the network tweak impact I describe in part 4 is even more maddening to my engineer brain than USB stuff)

 

ATT Fiber -> EdgeRouter X SFP -> Sonore opticalModule -> Taiko Audio Extreme -> Chord DAVE -> Voxativ 9.87 speakers w/ 4D drivers

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2 minutes ago, bbosler said:

 

that was Bob

 

Woops... Thanks for the clarification. Read the name too quickly. Lots of "b" in the name :-).

 

2 minutes ago, bbosler said:

So that answers the question.. which despite all of the fun we all may be having playing around with this stuff and the idea of "wasted money" may not be the exact way to say it, if USB has no issues as you say then anybody spending money to solve a non-existent issue is by definition,  spending money they don't have to to achieve the same result.

 

 

Surely I hope nobody here is "spending money they don't have" whether on $26k computers or $100k speakers!

 

2 minutes ago, bbosler said:

 If USB has no issues, then one way to say it would be they are wasting money to solve this non-existent issue. If there isn't an engineering issue, then this highly engineered product is not needed.

 

We can still spend money on machines and upgrades for one reason or another. Who said it had to be about USB issues?!

 

2 minutes ago, bbosler said:

BTW I'm not arguing. I'm asking legitimate questions that I obviously can't answer or I would be making statements, not asking. 

 

 

Right, which is where I started... My question is why does anyone think there is an issue with the USB interface (in regard to fidelity) in 2020 that ostensibly needs to be fixed in engineering? A concrete example that can be reproduced so that an explanation can be found and "fixed" would surely help.

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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9 minutes ago, ray-dude said:

@Archimago has done tremendous work to measure and identify any differences (to say the least). I read and learn from everything he posts on his blog, and always have much to reflect on and reconcile.  Yet, I clearly hear differences (and much more importantly for me, I react differently to the music).

 

I accept all of @Archimago's findings 100% at face value.  The biggest challenge for me during all this whole journey on digital optimization (which actually started with a Raspberry Pi built with his recipe!) is "how the hell can I be hearing any of this?"  At best I have the smallest shred of a hypothesis, based on inference and loose correlation and desperation, but it has been helpful to me to at least have something as I've stumbled Mr Magoo like across this digital optimization minefield. 

 

My sincere thanks and respect to folks like @Archimago who state the obvious plain truth ("there is no possible difference") in a way that informs the conversation, and do incredible work to understand why that is or why it may not be.  

 

 

Good writing on this series @ray-dude with great pictures.

 

Hope you enjoy the music and have lots of fun with all the processing you can do with it! In time you should really give DSP room correction a try if not already. You've got plenty of power under the hood  and I can imagine you'll have fun playing with filter designs and such :-). Furthermore, over the next few years, I'll be transitioning my multi-TB server machine to full SSD like what you've done here - I'm sure you're enjoying the speed very much and well ahead of the curve for most of us with large libraries!

 

To be honest, I would not be too direct and say "there is no possible difference"; certainly there are always "possible" differences we can test and reject if not substantiated. At times, I have certainly run into differences in some of what I have tested and I am generally open to hear of issues and test out myself if I can. It's just that I suspect most issues are idiosyncratic and related to specific devices or software. This is why I ask for "concrete examples" where people can specify the equipment and the issue itself. I think this is more useful than blanket statements like suggesting there is some significant flaw in the (USB) interface generally...

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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2 minutes ago, Archimago said:

In time you should really give DSP room correction a try if not already.


Absolutely! I have single driver speakers, so i have a bigger need than most.  This is actually next in the pandemic projects queue and should be a lot of fun.
 

I’m hoping to spend some quality pandemic time with @pkane2001’s DISTORT package as well. I’d really like to understand what’s audible and not audible in a more quantitative way. 

ATT Fiber -> EdgeRouter X SFP -> Sonore opticalModule -> Taiko Audio Extreme -> Chord DAVE -> Voxativ 9.87 speakers w/ 4D drivers

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1 hour ago, Archimago said:

 

Quote

 If USB has no issues, then one way to say it would be they are wasting money to solve this non-existent issue. If there isn't an engineering issue, then this highly engineered product is not needed.

 

We can still spend money on machines and upgrades for one reason or another. Who said it had to be about USB issues?!

 

 

 

"Who said it had to be about USB issues?!"

 

 

to put it very simply, since the sole job of the server is to deliver packets of data to the DAC over USB, and these servers deliver the same data yet sound different, how can it be about anything but USB ? If, as you say, USB has no issues, then all USB servers running the same bit perfect software must sound the same.

 

Perhaps we are talking past each other so I will try to clarify my point. First a few givens or at least what I believe to be givens after reading the review to this point. 

 

  1. the method of delivering data to the DAC has not changed (USB)
  2. the DAC and speakers have not changed
  3. As far as we know the new server is not changing the data in any way i.e. the packets of data coming from the new server are the same as the packets of data from previous servers. I say this because Ray says one of his goals is bit perfect and he is using the same software.

 

so if all of that is true, and this Extreme server sounds significantly different than previous servers, the only thing that could have possibly changed is how this new server delivers these packets to the DAC. Therefore, USB must have some inherent issues that this server deals with differently than the previous servers. I am open to the possibility I am missing something, but I see no other possibility.

 

which brings me full circle to how I got started on this. If different USB servers sound different, how would the DAVE sound via the spdif inputs from the Extreme compared to the USB? This far into the game why not try an obvious, at least to me, possible way to improve things by trying spdif.

 

I do agree on the suggestion for DSP. I worked with Mitch Barnett who configured some Audiolense filters for me that I use inside Roon to great effect.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, ray-dude said:

I clearly hear differences (and much more importantly for me, I react differently to the music).

 

I accept ..........the obvious plain truth ("there is no possible difference")

 

 

 

I  accept that you hear a difference (although I obviously have no way to confirm this) but cannot reconcile it with other assertions that "there is no possible difference". The way I see it, you are hearing a difference or not, and if not, it is explained by other means such as expectation/confirmation bias.

 

All I would humbly suggest is to be initially less concerned with what you're supposed to hear or not hear. Bias can work both ways and there should be room for doubt in either direction but only you know if you "react differently to the music"

 

 

Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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16 minutes ago, bbosler said:

 

 

 

"Who said it had to be about USB issues?!"

 

 

to put it very simply, since the sole job of the server is to deliver packets of data to the DAC over USB, and these servers deliver the same data yet sound different, how can it be about anything but USB ? If, as you say, USB has no issues, then all USB servers running the same bit perfect software must sound the same.

 

Perhaps we are talking past each other so I will try to clarify my point. First a few givens or at least what I believe to be givens after reading the review to this point. 

 

  1. the method of delivering data to the DAC has not changed (USB)
  2. the DAC and speakers have not changed
  3. As far as we know the new server is not changing the data in any way i.e. the packets of data coming from the new server are the same as the packets of data from previous servers. I say this because Ray says one of his goals is bit perfect and he is using the same software.

 

so if all of that is true, and this Extreme server sounds significantly different than previous servers, the only thing that could have possibly changed is how this new server delivers these packets to the DAC. Therefore, USB must have some inherent issues that this server deals with differently than the previous servers. I am open to the possibility I am missing something, but I see no other possibility.

 

which brings me full circle to how I got started on this. If different USB servers sound different, how would the DAVE sound via the spdif inputs from the Extreme compared to the USB? This far into the game why not try an obvious, at least to me, possible way to improve things by trying spdif.

 

I do agree on the suggestion for DSP. I worked with Mitch Barnett who configured some Audiolense filters for me that I use inside Roon to great effect.

 

 

 

 

There is a post from Taiko Audio about this topic::

 

https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/taiko-audio-sgm-extreme-the-crème-de-la-crème.27433/page-114#post-617806

 

Matt

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2 hours ago, bbosler said:

 

So that answers the question.. which despite all of the fun we all may be having playing around with this stuff and the idea of "wasted money" may not be the exact way to say it, if USB has no issues as you say then anybody spending money to solve a non-existent issue is by definition,  spending money they don't have to to achieve the same result. If USB has no issues, then one way to say it would be they are wasting money to solve this non-existent issue. If there isn't an engineering issue, then this highly engineered product is not needed.

 

BTW I'm not arguing. I'm asking legitimate questions that I obviously can't answer or I would be making statements, not asking.

 

Could it be that the server is more than just a USB interface and there are other components to consider. Some of those other components are to optimize the implementation of the USB interface for audio.

 

USB to my ears originally sounded crap. Not so these days.

 

Also, don't forget that to make CDs sound good back in the 90's it took IMO very expensive gear like the Levinsons using AES/EBU or spdif or optical ST glass.

 

All I am saying is that USB is not unique in needing to be well implemented and it has been a journey.

 

The cost is a choice someone makes to get cutting edge gear but I am not saying you always get what you pay for or that there is not a law of diminishing returns. Whether its worth it is subjective.

Sound Minds Mind Sound

 

 

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Nice write-up.  I had to re-read your set up several times over to fully realize that you are going DAC direct into high sensitivity speakers using just the preamp in the DAC and no amp?  That's certainly interesting - though quite unusual.

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, matthias said:

 

thanks for the link. I'm not going to read all 200 or so pages of it, but the page you linked points directly to what I am saying. from Taiko who apparently agree with my point i.e. USB is not simply USB, different implementations yield different results.

 

 

Quote

A big difference with server technology is the interface. These transport/dac stacks all use/used AES or a proprietary variation on that to transport I2S between them. It may come as no surprise that the AES or SPDIF output we can optionally fit into the Extreme sounds closer to a CD transport than USB or Ethernet. Generally speaking it can give you a somewhat softer / more laidback presentation. But USB or Ethernet are the interfaces of the future. On the DAC end these are not always very well executed, as strange as it may sound it's a different technology then Digital to Analogue conversion so it's often just fitted because manufacturers have to, but not always well implemented. 

 

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2 minutes ago, bbosler said:

thanks for the link. I'm not going to read all 200 or so pages of it, but the page you linked points directly to what I am saying. from Taiko who apparently agree with my point i.e. USB is not simply USB, different implementations yield different results.

 

Welcome,

BTW, when you read the thread completely you get a lot of useful info about digital audio.

 

Agree, it is all about implementation, every detail matters and because of that the Extreme is superior.

 

Now it seems to be that USB is getting ahead of SPDIF or AES. Even Mike Moffat from Schiit Audio who so far did not like USB now prefers the SQ of USB over the other interfaces. Go figure!

 

Matt

 

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9 hours ago, bbosler said:

"Who said it had to be about USB issues?!"

 

to put it very simply, since the sole job of the server is to deliver packets of data to the DAC over USB, and these servers deliver the same data yet sound different, how can it be about anything but USB ? If, as you say, USB has no issues, then all USB servers running the same bit perfect software must sound the same.

 

Hmmmm... As someone who has observed the discussions over the years among those who base decisions almost exclusively on hearing, isn't it true that "everything matters"? You're talking to a "more objective" guy so you can imagine what I might say... However, since this series of posts is in the domain of subjectivism, I don't think we can be too reductionistic and focus only on the USB port.

 

9 hours ago, bbosler said:

Perhaps we are talking past each other so I will try to clarify my point. First a few givens or at least what I believe to be givens after reading the review to this point. 

 

  1. the method of delivering data to the DAC has not changed (USB)
  2. the DAC and speakers have not changed
  3. As far as we know the new server is not changing the data in any way i.e. the packets of data coming from the new server are the same as the packets of data from previous servers. I say this because Ray says one of his goals is bit perfect and he is using the same software.

 

Yes. Those are givens.

 

9 hours ago, bbosler said:

so if all of that is true, and this Extreme server sounds significantly different than previous servers, the only thing that could have possibly changed is how this new server delivers these packets to the DAC. Therefore, USB must have some inherent issues that this server deals with differently than the previous servers. I am open to the possibility I am missing something, but I see no other possibility.

 

Well, I assume the belief here is that the Extreme's heavy and thick case reduces external RF interference from getting in. Maybe the way the unit as designed has reduced RF/EMI emission that could affect the DAC. Maybe the optical network itself influences the sound regardless of bit-perfection due to noise. Maybe it's the tweaked OS that changes some of the above. Perhaps the power infrastructure has something to do with this. Perhaps having 2 CPUs and process affinity will affect some of the above and again overall noise.

 

These are some of the attribution theories typically put forth, right?

 

9 hours ago, bbosler said:

which brings me full circle to how I got started on this. If different USB servers sound different, how would the DAVE sound via the spdif inputs from the Extreme compared to the USB? This far into the game why not try an obvious, at least to me, possible way to improve things by trying spdif.

 

Yeah, I agree with this. Certainly worth listening to the DAVE's S/PDIF (coax, TosLink, XLR) if there's a way although limitations like very high samplerate would be unavailable beyond 96kHz for the XLR and TosLink based on the DAVE specs. Also no DSD.

 

9 hours ago, bbosler said:

I do agree on the suggestion for DSP. I worked with Mitch Barnett who configured some Audiolense filters for me that I use inside Roon to great effect.

 

 

Sounds good.

 

Ultimately, like I said, I appreciate the hard work being done here and can enjoy the content. I hope @ray-dude has fun with this "extreme" project and can say at the end of the adventure that he has accomplished what he set out to do with full satisfaction.

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

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14 hours ago, ray-dude said:


Absolutely! I have single driver speakers, so i have a bigger need than most.  This is actually next in the pandemic projects queue and should be a lot of fun.
 

I’m hoping to spend some quality pandemic time with @pkane2001’s DISTORT package as well. I’d really like to understand what’s audible and not audible in a more quantitative way. 

I highly recommend working with @mitchco. He worked wonders with my room. And, the beauty is you can enable/disable it with the tap of a finger. No swapping out cables to see if A is better than B for any type of music. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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17 hours ago, all300b said:

Nice write-up.  I had to re-read your set up several times over to fully realize that you are going DAC direct into high sensitivity speakers using just the preamp in the DAC and no amp?  That's certainly interesting - though quite unusual.

 

 

Close!  The Chord DAC's actually don't have preamps.  Volume control and input control is done digitally before the analog conversion stage.  Analog conversion stage is a very small component count amp/analog stage combined.  The incredible transparency of Chord DACs at least partially comes from this topology.  I go direct from DAC to single driver speakers (no pre amp, no amp, no cross overs, only wire between analog output stage and speaker coil) to try and preserve as much of this remarkable transparency as possible.

 

Decidedly unique, but once I heard Chord DACs drive single high efficiency speakers direct, it turned my audio world upside down, and I've never looked back.

 

 

 

ATT Fiber -> EdgeRouter X SFP -> Sonore opticalModule -> Taiko Audio Extreme -> Chord DAVE -> Voxativ 9.87 speakers w/ 4D drivers

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Ray, quick question from this section (part 3): why show the DSD Source settings from HQPlayer, as those are only relevant for DSD-to-PCM conversion (which I don't think you do).  Right?

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14 hours ago, ted_b said:

Ray, quick question from this section (part 3): why show the DSD Source settings from HQPlayer, as those are only relevant for DSD-to-PCM conversion (which I don't think you do).  Right?

 

Absolutely correct Ted.  Since I talked about preferring DSD->DSD (vs DSD -> PCM) with HQP+Extreme+DAVE, I thought it worthwhile to show the settings I was using in the comparison.  

 

With the main settings with the [source] Default Output Mode, those DSD Source settings aren't used at all

 

Thank you for the clarifying question (I know how much I struggled to figure out all the HQP settings...newbies to HQP can ignore that panel if they are using the same main settings that I posted)

ATT Fiber -> EdgeRouter X SFP -> Sonore opticalModule -> Taiko Audio Extreme -> Chord DAVE -> Voxativ 9.87 speakers w/ 4D drivers

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Wrong place.

Roon server (Mac Mini/i7/SSD/16GB/Uptone DC mod/external SDD via firewire/Uptone Audio JS-2 LPS) Streamer dCS Network Bridge DAC Chord DAVE Amplifier / DRC Lyngdorf TDAI-3400 Speakers Lindemann BL-10 | JL audio E-sub e110 Cables CAT6 UTP ethernet, Transparent premium AES/EBU, Nordost Leif Red Dawn analog RCA, Kimber 8TC speaker cables, custom star-quad power cables with Oyaide termination Head-fi and reference Bakoon HPA-21 | Audeze LCD-3 (f) | Audio-technica ATH-M50 Software High Sierra | Roon | Tidal | Qobuz Power and isolation Dedicated power line | Xentek extreme isolation transformer (1KVA, 0.0001pf, balanced) | Vibex one 6R power distributor | Uptone EtherREGEN | Emo Systems EN-70HD network isolator | Jensen CI-1RR isolator

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I recently compared the USB output of a LattePanda Delta with a NUC 8i3BEH and the NUC was noticeably worse (both in fanless cases but not linear power supplies). I know you've got a lot clocking and cleaning on the USB line, but the NUC does seem to be particularly poor in that area.

 

Interestingly I also find the stock audio out on the LattePanda to be cleaner than the audio out on the NUC, so I wonder if it is just a poorer overall motherboard design.

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