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Foggie

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  1. hqp
    HQPlayer Linux Desktop and HQplayer embedded

    I am a long time user (and BIG proponent) of HQPlayer. I find it to be the best upsampling engine going.

     

    I have been saying for some time that a combination of using JRemote as a control point or remote, into HQPlayer, would be the best of both worlds, as I spent quite a bit of time getting JRIver to be a very friendly GUI. Since Jussi's Linux product called HQplayer embedded (or hqplayerd for short) can be a renderer, I thought I would begin a new thread about how this new world seems to me. I am a Linux idiot. (Note: CA forum member shadowlight is not a Linux idiot; he has generously helped me try to get acquainted with Linux and hqplayerd. I huge thanks to him).

     

    One thing about Linux: it is many things. Some use Debian, some Ubuntu, and others a host of different forms of Linux. Before I settle on one version I thought I would take up shadowlight's recommednation to install a full plug-n-play version called Audiolinux. It resides on a 32GB bootable USB stick, plugged into a USB2 port on my HQP server (Windows 10, i7 6700k, 32GB, Nvidia cuda support, etc). Simply reboot the machine with USB inserted....Audiolinux comes up. Remove and reboot and I get Winwods 10 back. Pretty simple first step into the world of Linux audio.

     

    The "regular" HQplayer that many of us use is called HQPlayer Desktop, and Audiolinux has one of those too (as well as MPD, JRIver, Roon, and many other audio products). So this thread's beginnings is to unclutter the normal HQPlayer thread and focus on hqplayerd and how, as a lInux newbie, I see it differing from the HQP desktop. The two products are never run together.

     

    I am running HQPlayer desktop version 3.15 and running hqplayerd at version 4.0.a8; version alpha 9 and 10 have been tested but we were having NAA problems so I downgraded to A8. Now A11 is out there and Piero, the owner of AudioLinux, has graciously put it up, but I am using generous shadowlight's offer to play guinea pig first :)

     

    OK, first off hqplayerd does not yet support cuda offloading, so I turned that off in Linux desktop too, to try and compare results (smooth playback and sq differences, if needed). Also, hqplayerd is command line driven so I am using cheat sheets from shadowlight to start, stop and change settings, and I admit ALL of my issues could be user error. :) Additionally, hqplayerd A8 does not support "auto" format switching (SDM vs PCM) so I edit the config XML and restart hqplayerd to accommodate (again, this is all in testing..I can't live this way).

     

    On first tests I am finding that HQPlayer desktop on Linux acts and sounds virtually identical to my Windows 10 version, and seems to have the same limitations (i.e virtually none, although have not tested with multichannel yet, and I will assume that cuda offloading will need to be turned on then).

     

    HQplayerd is being played from a Minimserver server and a couple of control points, BubbleUPnP and Kinsky (Kazoo requires OpenHome, and although I have created an OpneHome version of hqplayerd renderer Kazoo sees it but doesn't play. No big deal). As long as I play PCM in PCM (to 352.8k) or DSD in DSD (DSD512) the playback is fine. However, hqplayerd hiccups pretty significantly when trying to play PCM in DSD512 (haven't changed bitrates yet), regardless of the filter I think I am using (I say "I think" cuz I am not fluent yet in understanding the filter numbering in the XML files).

     

    Note: I've tried using jRIver and JRemote (from my home office Windows desktop setup) but gotten poor and unusable results (best case horrible hiccuping, worst case silence), but shadowlight reports it does work, so that, my ultimate goal, is still on hold.

     

    Here is my Linux desktop settings window, and then the XML driving hqplayerd (with upsampling filter set to 11, which I think is poly-sinc-mp-2s, set in order to reduce hiccupping but to no avail yet)

     

    These screenshots are from a desktop remote called NoMachine, which is pretty good!

     

    desktop embedded.png


  2. hgp setting
    hqplayer resampling filter setup guide for ordinary person

    I've been trying to avoid too much technical jargon in the manual, but balancing it is quite difficult. I'll try to explain things a bit further, but please ask if you would like to have some areas covered further.

     

    First a bit explanation on time and frequency domain, please excuse me for some technical jargon. Frequency is signal change as function of time. Thus a signal has presentation in both frequency and time domains. "Linear phase filter" is a filter where all frequencies pass with same time delay. "Minimum phase filter" is a filter where all frequencies pass through as fast as possible, higher frequencies faster than lower ones. Longer/steeper filters change faster from passing frequencies to not passing frequencies as function of frequency. Shorter/gentler filters transition more slowly or "gently" from pass to stop as function of frequency. More accurately the filter wants to detect frequencies and transition pass/stop faster, longer time the filter has to "look" at the signal. This has side effect called "ringing" or rather "time blur". On the other hand, extremely short filter like a one that looks only at single moment cannot filter anything at all, because it sees only single point of time at once without any history or future (so it cannot detect any frequencies as those are a change over time). Linear phase filter takes equal amount of history and future into account during calculation. The problem in this is that it is kind of unnatural for something that is going to happen in future to affect already the present. Minimum phase filter on the other hand considers only from present to past, so it doesn't reflect things that are coming in future. This "ringing" is already in most RedBook recordings, since in most cases the ADC has gone through down-conversion and possibly another round at mastering from 24/96 or similar to RedBook. "Apodizing" filter is one that replaces or modifies this original ringing with it's own - that can be less than the original. All the filters explained below are more or less "apodizing" unless otherwise noted.

     

    Why is "filtering" needed? Because otherwise upsampling/oversampling produces alias (distortion) components in frequencies above the original one. In down-conversion case it is even worse, because those components are produces below the original ones. D-A conversion also produces these components above half of the sampling rate frequency, and those are then removed by the analog reconstruction filters. Higher the sampling rate seen by the D-A conversion stage, simpler the following analog filter can be. Digital filters can easily outperform analog ones. Removing those spurious frequencies by filtering is called signal "reconstruction".

     

    So if I go from left to right on the main window...

     

    First is the filter selection, most of these can perform either up or down conversion, depending on what is needed.

    - So "IIR" the first one is how a steep analog filter would sound like, I don't recommend using it for anything else than upsampling and only at 2x or 3x ratios, although it can do higher ratios or down-conversion too. I think this is mostly useful to hear how "extreme analog" would sound like. Some DAC chips have slightly similar output stages.

    - Then there are three types of traditional "FIR", these are similar in construction to those ones used inside most DACs, the "asym" one being somewhere between linear and minimum phases, only taking "near future" into account. So a traditional design made as good as possible.

    - "FFT" is a special kind in that it performs it's work in frequency domain and is also fairly steep. This is technically closer to how audio codecs work than how upsampling is traditionally done. I don't know if any hardware oversampling implementation would use similar technique.

    - "poly-sinc-*" these are the ones I use most and recommend the most, these can perform conversion from most input rates to outputs rates in a single pass and with a very low CPU load. Single pass approach maximizes the filter precision. (those who will eventually ask, these are synchronous converters)

    - "sinc" is a true asynchronous converter and can perform conversion practically from any rate to any other rate. Although it is quite high quality, it has fairly high CPU load too and not recommended unless the "poly-sinc-*" ones cannot do the needed conversion.

    - "polynomial*" is not a filter as such, but just polynomial interpolation approach to upsampling. These look only at small number of samples to calculate a new one and thus don't "ring", but on the other hand the filtering performance is poor too. These kind of filters typically also cause premature treble roll-off (roughly 3 dB or so at 20 kHz for RedBook material, starting from ~10 kHz). These are the controversial upsampling "filters" some people like a lot while others don't like at all. (non-apodizing)

    - "minringFIR" this is a single-pass filter that is very similar to the polynomial interpolators above in that it is really short and looks only at very brief period of time, while still performing better at filtering and not having such treble roll-off issues. Not recommended for other than 2x/4x/8x/etc ratios. (non-apodizing)

     

    Then to the next item, dither and noise-shaping. This is needed whenever any processing is performed. Reason is that calculations can lead to results that have more precision than can be expressed in the resolution supported by the DAC. Just truncating or rounding the result to fit the DACs precision causes distortion that is directly related to the signal. Dither hides this rounding error into very low-level non-audible constant noise (a bit like thermal noise) - then it's no more related to the signal. Noise-shaping takes this further by moving this noise to less- or non-audible frequencies. Especially multi-bit converters but to some extent others too also benefit from noise-shaped upsampling in improved linearity.

     

    I don't recommend any noise-shaper for 44.1/48 kHz output rates, because there is no proper frequency space available where to park the noise.

     

    There are number of noise shapers:

    - "NS1" is a first-order shaper, just tilting the noise floor so that it increases towards higher frequencies and it has a bit of extra "against-the-wall" high frequency noise too. Not really recommended for anything, but included for completeness sake.

    - "NS4" is fourth order shaper that has a gentle step to move a bit of lower frequency noise to ultrasonic frequencies. The only shaper that I would say is useful at 88.2/96 kHz rates.

    - "NS5" is fifth order shaper that has been designed to be used at 352.8/384 kHz output rates or above. This one moves aggressively roughly 40 dB worth of noise from low frequencies to ultrasonic range.

    - "NS9" is ninth order shaper variant for use with 176.4/192 kHz, the step from low to higher noise is more clear, but otherwise similar to the "NS5"

    - "RPDF" this is just plain white noise, not really recommended, but also included for completeness sake.

    - "TPDF" is industry standard flat triangular dither, good for any case, especially for 44.1/48 playback cases. Doesn't generate practically any CPU load either.

    - "Gauss1" is Gaussian noise dither, should be more "perfect" than TPDF, but also loads the CPU more. Works for all cases too.

     

    Third selection is set of available output sampling rates, computed based on what the hardware and selected filter are capable of, in combination.

     

    Generally, I recommend choosing between "poly-sinc-*" filters and using highest possible sampling rate. Dither or noise-shaper chosen based on above description, "NS9" for 192 kHz output, "NS5" for 384 kHz output and "TPDF" or "Gauss1" for any lower rates...

     

    To be continued, I'll make two other posts. One for the DSD->PCM conversion and maybe other one for PCM->SDM (DSD) conversion.

     

    Hope this helps... :)


  3. network
    Sonore opticalRendu

    The understanding of "isolation" in digital audio has been my passion for at least 10 years. There is a LOT of misunderstanding on the subject floating around in audio circles.  Here is a quick summary of my current understanding and how the current products fit in with this.

     

    There seems to be TWO independent mechanisms involved: leakage current and clock phase noise. Various amounts of these two exist in any system. Different "isolation" technologies out there address one or the other, but very rarely both at the same time.  Some technologies that attenuate one actually increase the other. Thus the massively confusing information out there.

     

    Leakage current is a property of power supplies. It is the leakage of AC mains frequency (50/60 Hz) into the DC output. It is usually common mode (ie exists on BOTH the + and - wires at the same time, this makes it a bit difficult to see. There seems to be two different types, one that comes from linear supplies and is fairly easy to block, and an additional type that comes from SMPS and is MUCH harder to block. An SMPS contains BOTH types. They are BOTH line frequency.

     

    Unfortunately in our modern times where essentially all computer equipment is powered by SMPS we have to deal with this situation of both leakage types coming down cables from our computer equipment. There are many devices on the market (I have designed some of them) for both USB and Ethernet, most can deal with the type from linear supplies but only a few can deal with the type from SMPS.

     

    Optical connections (when the power supplies are completely isolated from each other) CAN completely block all forms of leakage, it is extremely effective. Optical takes care of leakage, but does not deal with the second mechanism.

     

    Clock phase noise

     

    Phase noise is a frequency measurement of "jitter", yes that term that is so completely mis-understood in audio circles that I'm not going to use it. Phase noise is a way to look at the frequency spectrum of jitter, the reason to use it is that there seems to be fairly decent correlation to sound quality. Note this has nothing to do with "pico seconds" or "femto seconds". Forget those terms, they do not directly have meaning in audio, what matters is the phase noise. Ynfortunately phase noise is shown on a graph, not a single number, so it is much harder to directly compare units. This subject is HUGE and I'm not going to go into any more detail here.

     

    Different oscillators (the infamous "clocks" that get talked about) can have radically different phase noise. The level of phase noise that is very good for digital audio is very difficult to achieve and costs money. The corollary is that the cheap clocks used in most computer equipment (including network equipment) produce phase noise that is very bad for digital audio.

     

    The important thing to understand is that ALL digital signals carry the "fingerprint" of the clock used to produce them. When a signal coming from a box with cheap clocks comes into a box (via Ethernet or USB etc) with a much better clock, the higher level of phase noise carried on the data signal can contaminate the phase noise of the "good" clock in the second box. Exactly how this happens is complicated, I've written about this in detail if you want to look it up and see what is going on.

     

    The contamination is not complete, every time the signal gets "reclocked" by a much better clock the resulting signal carries an attenuated version of the first clock layered on top of the fingerprint of the second clock. The word "reclocked" just means the signal is regenerated by a circuit fed a different clock. It may be a better or a worse clock, reclocking doesn't always make things better!

     

    As an example if you start with an Ethernet signal coming out of a cheap switch, the clock fingerprint is going to be pretty bad. If this goes into a circuit with a VERY good clock, the signal coming out contains a reduced fingerprint from the first clock layered on top of the good clock. If you feed THIS signal into another circuit with a very good clock, the fingerprint from the original clock gets reduced even further. But if you feed this signal into a box with a bad clock, you are back to a signal with a bad fingerprint.

     

    The summary is that stringing together devices with GOOD clocking can dramatically attenuate the results of an upstream bad clock.

     

    The latest devices form Sonore take on BOTH of these mechanisms that effect sound: optical for blocking leakage and multiple reclocking with very good clocks. The optical part should be obvious. A side benefit of the optical circuit is that is completely regenerates the signal with a VERY low phase noise clock, this is a one step reclocking. It attenuates effects from upstream circuits but does not completely get rid of them. This is where the opticalModule comes into play, if you put an opticalModule in the path to the opticalRendu you are adding another reclocking with VERY good clocking. The result is a very large attenuation of upstream effects. It's not completely zero, but it is close.

     

    The fact that the opticalRendu is a one stage reclocking (which leaves some effects from upstage circuits) is why changing switches etc can still make a difference. Adding an OpticalModule between the switch and opticalRendu reduces that down to vanishingly small differences.

     

    So an optical module by itself adds both leakage elimination and significant clock effects attenuation. TWO optical modules in series give you the two level reclocking .

     

    An opticalRendu still has some significant advantages over say an ultraRendu fed by a single opticalModule, the circuitry inside the opticalRendu has been improved significantly over the ultraRendu. (it uses new parts that did not exist when the ultraRendu was designed). In addition the opticalRendu has the reclocking taking place a couple millimeters away from the processor which cuts out the effects of a couple connectors, transformers and cable. The result is the opticalRendu has some significant advantages.

     

    An opticalModule feeding an ultraRendu does significantly improve it, but not as much as an opticalRendu. So you can start with an opticalModule, then when you can afford it add an opticalRendu, also fed by the opticalModule and get a BIG improvement.

     

    I hope this gives a little clarity to the situation.

     

    John S.

     

     

     

     


  4. Bricasti M1 > M5 > M12: Network Player - Member REVIEW - w/OEM Response from Brian Zolner President Bricasti
    Bricasti M1 > M5 > M12: Network Player - Member REVIEW - w/OEM Response from Brian Zolner President Bricasti
    7 minutes ago, rickca said:

    What source are you using with your digital system?  I know you bought that inexpensive little PC.  What are you using it for and where are your music files?

     

    Yes I am using the little inexpensive industrial PC and it works fantastic. There was quite a bit involved with my choosing this option. 

     

    This is not an area where I am pro - so I asked for help here on the forum and from my friend who is an IT guy and another person who is also a IT person by trade that I befriended on this forum and all have helped me a great deal to get the best set up for the best price.

     

    I don't mind paying more for something if it sounds better. I am in this for the sound. Sure, built quality and looks and brand name all that are all well and good. All things being equal they matter as well but when things are not equal (the price) and a less expensive option sounds as good or better then that is the option I prefer as long as it is a quality item that is built right and will last and of course the sound is the most important.

     

    So I was looking for the best PC / Server option to use for my Bricasti Network player. 

     

    I did my research and was considering the Innuos ZENith MK II Network player because it could do USB, Network and have a Network player built in and everyone said these sound great. I was thinking about this but then thought i will paying for a great USB that I won't use and a Network Player I won't use and I probably won't use their proprietary software because I like Roon. This may sound great but then I will be paying for all this stuff I don't need and won't use. 

     

    Then my goal was use some of the great design idea's of the Innuos for a PC based option. The things I was to target in a PC were these.

     

    - Intel Celeron J1900 Quad Core processor. This is a decent quality processor for playing music and I was told it's what is in the Innuos and most importantly it requires low power to keep noise and heat low.

    - Metal Fan-less PC Case

    - SSD Hard Drive for OS and everything that runs the PC

    - Window 10, I know Windows Server 12 or 16 sounds better but I am not a pro and don't know how to use those so KISS for me. I use Audiophil Optimizer to strip the OS to maximize for audio and I use Fidelizer 8.0 pro. The combo with Roon w/DSP makes a Window 10 PC decent. I know there are better but these I know how to use and are good. Someday I would like to try Server 12 or 16 but will need help with setting it up. Again, this is just for the server part because the player PC is built into the Bricasti M1 just like the microRednu that it is hard added into my M1SE. 

    - Dual Lan - I thought important at the time for Ethernet in and music player out

    - 12 volt requirement. The Innuous has a great power supply. I wanted a PC option that could be powered by 12v power supply so I could use my Uptone Audio JS-2 Power Supply which is a great supply. Don't know if it is as good or not as the Innuos but it is housed in its own case and is of high quality.

     

    So all of the above was what I was targeting for a PC to feed my Bricasti.

     

    I came up with this option below at first from research and it was recommended by a fellow CA member. Numerous folks recommended this:

     

    Supermicro E200-8B

     

    This had everything exactly as I wanted and it was very similar to the Innuos.

    - J1900

    - 8G Ram DDR3

    - SSD HD for OS, etc

    - Metal Case Fan-less

    - Dual Lan

    - 12V power requirement

    - Window 10 - they offered 12 or 16 but again don't know how to use

     

    https://www.supermicro.com/products/system/mini-itx/sys-e200-8b.cfm

     

    So I was all ready to buy this. It seemed to have all the stuff I wanted, the stuff I thought was important for best sound based on not only the Innuos but also what other CA member told me was important. Again, I am no expert at all and this was the info that was told to me to be important. Maybe it is or isn't but it was the plan I had and the one I was working on for better or worse but it all seemed pretty logical to me.

     

    I called and spoke with super micro and they said a singe ordered pc was rare as I guess they normally do big orders but it was fine and they could have it for me in a few weeks. 

     

    This is when I told my friend about what I was doing and why and he said why don't I go with one of the makers of the little commercial PC's. They make them mainly for POS Kiosks or Digital signs and that type of thing. I researched and came across a company called Qotom. They make little micro industrial PC's and they are great and cheap. He said they are bullet proof and he knows of tons in the field and they are cheap and can be spec out just like the one above that I want. 

     

    I went looking and sure enough I found a few companies abroad that had them and then I luckily stumbled across one on Amazon. I was psyched.

     

    It had:

     

    - J1900

    - 8G Ram DDR3

    - SSD HD for OS, etc

    - Metal Case Fan-less

    - Dual Lan

    - 12V power requirement

    - Window 10 (not activated)

     

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0149YB7RC/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A14HQ326MGQ4AS

     

    I ordered it and it came in just 3 days and I was psyched.

     

    - It was cheaper than the Qotoms listed anywhere else.

    - It came with specs just like I wanted, has great built quality and everything was as I could have hoped.

    - Windows 10 was not activated. I bought a key code from eBay for $9.99 and I punched it in and it worked perfect = psyched.

    - I downloaded my audiophil Optimizer and stripped the PC down to maximize for audio and it worked perfect

    - i installed Fidelizer 8.0 pro and it worked perfect.

    - Everything works great, I had the get a little adapter for the end of my DC cable for my Uptone Audio JS-2 because it was a little smaller than the one I had but I had one in the box of my iFi SMPS that I wasn't using and that worked out great.

    - I use my other PC as a server for storing my music. It sounds better than from playing direct from my SSD hard drive. Not sure what it just does. I have about 1.5TB. I also have a WD My Cloud NAS powered by a LPS but even here it sounds better using my other PC as a server so that is how I have been using it.

     

    Now I was still considering buying the Supermicro E200-8B PC thinking it might better. I mean the specs are the same and the one I have now works and sounds great but it was still in the back of my mind. Well that was until I bought and plugged in this OCXO switch. This thing sound so amazing I don't want to change anything.

     

    I did install the Ethernet cable that The Linear Solution send me and it sounds great but that has been the only change I have made. I do not know if this cheap little industrial PC is the best option or not but it works great and it sounds great. it works perfect with my Uptone Audio JS-2 and it only gets slightly warm, not real warm at all. I put feet under it. What do you guys think? I am sure it has cheap Chinese parts but its a mini pc and if it works does it make sense to make a change? Here are a couple pics of the little guys :)  

     

     

      


     

     


  5. SACD Ripping using an Oppo or Pioneer? Yes, it's true!
    SACD Ripping using an Oppo or Pioneer? Yes, it's true!
    1 hour ago, Dick Darlington said:

    Yes. If you go to the first page and look at the bottom of the first post you'll find the recently updated player list provided by @MikeyFresh

     

    I think that link on Page 1 is once again stale, based on recent findings last month. Here is an up-to-date listing:

     

    The following is an updated list of Blu-ray player brands/models known to be SACD rip compatible:

     

    Sony brand compatible Blu-ray players:
    BDP-S390 (also sold as BX39 in some markets)
    BDP-S490
    BDP-S590 (also sold as BX59 in some markets)
    BDP-S4100
    BDP-S5100 (also sold as BX510 in some markets)

    BDP-S790 * (only with ARMv7 AutoScript version)

    BDP-S6200 * (also sold as BX620 in some markets, only with ARMv7 AutoScript version)

    BDP-S7200 * (only with ARMv7 AutoScript version)

    Pioneer brand compatible Blu-ray players:
    BDP-80FD
    BDP-160
    BDP-170

    Oppo brand compatible Blu-ray players:
    BDP-103 and 103D
    BDP-105 and 105D

    Cambridge brand compatible Blu-ray players:
    Azur 752BD
    CXU


    Arcam brand compatible Blu-ray & CD/SACD players:
    FMJ UDP411
    FMJ CDS27

     

    Primare brand compatible Blu-ray player:
    BD32 MkII


    Electrocompaniet brand compatible Blu-ray player:
    EMP3


  6. Shootout at the Linux Corral: AudioLinux vs Euphony
    Shootout at the Linux Corral: AudioLinux vs Euphony
    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    I get equally good SQ in my dual box configuration with Roon.

     

    It sounds like you have tuned your setup perfectly to your liking and so that's what's important.  As for my post, it had nothing to do with a single-box configuration being better than a dual-box configuration, it had to do with my preference for Stylus over Roon and it just so happens that Stylus only works in a single-box configuration.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    On the other hand to achieve the better-than-single-box-Stylus with Roon is a rather expensive way to go and might be interesting only for those who would like to keep their Roon environment.

     

    I completely agree with this statement.  I now belong in the camp that believes that the best dual-box configuration is 2 identical boxes meaning that the server and endpoint use the same powerful hardware and both boxes are equivalently powered to a very high standard.  Unfortunately, this means 2X the cost.  At Munich, Pink Faun was demonstrating a dual 2.16X setup at a cost of $32k and this setup was not doing any upsampling at all (Jord prefers no upsampling with his DAC).  There is definitely an elegance and economy with a single box setup that I am very pleased with.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    1. Forget about the standard NUC as an Endpoint. Although it provides very good dynamics and soundstage, it 's not able to control the bass neither to give the same level of detail like a PC with dedicated interfaces.

     

    I agree with you as I have moved on from a NUC as an endpoint for the reasons I already stated.  Also, it appears you are hearing the strengths and weaknesses of a NUC exactly the opposite from how I am hearing them.  My i7 NUC had 4 clocks replaced and was being powered very well by a 19V rail from my SR7 and so this NUC presented much better detail than a powerful PC with dedicated interfaces unless that PC was also being powered by an SR7.  Also, this NUC exerted excellent control of not just the bass but also the midrange and treble manifesting as tremendous agility and again, this has everything to do with a low impedance power supply.  Where the NUC lacked was in dynamics and soundstage and this is what a powerful CPU that is independently powered gives you.  If you cannot properly power a big PC, I cannot guarantee that it will sound better than a NUC.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    2. The Roon Core must have an audio grade network card (mine has a JCAT Femto NET)
    3. The Roon Endpoint must have both an audio grade network and an USB card (mine has JCAT Femto NET & USB)

     

    Once again, I agree.  I think both server and endpoint in a dual-box setup should be identical.  Even identical CPUs.  When I was running a dual box setup, my server was using a JCAT Femto NET card and this JCAT card was being powered by an SR7 rail.  My endpoint had all 4 clocks (including the LAN and system clocks) replaced by a REF10 and was connected to my DAC with a tX-USBultra which was also connected to the REF10.  Both the endpoint and tX-USBultra were being powered by SR7 rails.  In between the server and endpoint were 2 SOtM sNH-10G switches in a serial configuration and I can confirm that the 2nd switch had almost the same impact as the 1st switch.  Furthermore, both switches were being powered by SR7 rails and both switches were connected to the REF10.  And so my preference for a single-box Stylus setup over a dual-box Roon setup had nothing to do with inadequate hardware.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    4. The more power phases the motherboards has the better the SQ might get. I utilize the Asrock Z390 Extreme4 which provides 12 power phases.

     

    I am inclined to agree with you and the key word is "might."  I compared 2 Asrock boards side by side and the board with the better VRM sounded better to me.  Whether this is specifically because of the VRM or some other variable is not entirely clear but it would make sense that the quality of the VRM "might" impact SQ since the VRM is responsible for the stability of the power that the CPU sees.  As to whether more power phases also results in better power stability, this is not always true since the quality of the power phases matter just as the number of power phases.


    Your Extreme4 board is actually a 10+2 design meaning 10 power phases are dedicated to the CPU while 2 power phases are dedicated to the integrated GPU and so only 10 of your power phases have significance.  Your particular board uses SinoPower SM7431EH MOSFETS which are rated at 25A each.  The Asrock Z390 Phantom 9 is a gaming ATX board that uses the same 10+2 design but uses the higher-end Texas Instruments NexFETs which are rated at 40A.  The motherboard I have decided to focus on for now is the Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac which is a mini-ITX board and because of its smaller size, it incorporates only a 5+2 design but this is where things get deceiving because this board utilizes higher quality power phases comprised of the Intersil Smart Power ISL99227 which many consider to be among the best and are rated at 60A each, more than 2X the current capacity of those used in your board.  Regardless, each of these boards should be able to easily handle something like an i9-9900K that isn't being overclocked.

     

    This illustrates the advantage of boards designed for gaming as they generally use better parts, especially with regards to power delivery.  Another example, your board is only a 4-layer design while my board uses 8-layers which in theory, provides better isolation.  Also, my board, even though it is smaller than your board uses a total of 8oz of copper in the traces resulting in better conductivity.  If someone is building a server from scratch, it would be worthwhile to investigate the gaming boards.  They don't cost that much more.

     

    Ultimately, I chose the board that I did because of its size.  I would have loved to have gone with a full sized ATX board with multiple PCIe 3.0x16 slots, however, it has been challenging to find a fanless chassis that can house a full sized ATX board that can accommodate multiple PCIe cards without having to use riser cables (ie HDPlex, Streacom).  The problem with riser cables is they are generally of poor quality as they use cheap, thin gauge conductors and so I would prefer to be able to plug cards directly into the PCIe slot but perhaps my paranoia here is unjustified.  If you know of a good full ATX fanless chassis that can accommodate at least 2 PCIe cards without having to use riser cables, I would like to know.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    5. The signal path between Core and Endpoint must be taken care of (REF10, audiograde switch and LAN cables etc.)

     

    As I already stated, in my signal path between server and endpoint, I was using dual sNH-10G switches that were being clocked by a REF10 and cabling throughout consisted of either SOtM's dCBL-CAT7 or Ghent's double-shielded CAT6A along with with a SOtM iSO-CAT6 LAN isolator (essentially, an isolation transformer) and so I feel my signal path was pretty well taken care of.  I even introduced optical cabling between the 2 switches but ultimately preferred the SQ of copper cabling better.  What is surprising is that all of this stuff is just as important with a single-box setup even though Stylus buffers files fully into RAM before playback.  People will view this comment skeptically but I am convinced no one fully understands how a network impacts SQ.  It's definitely not just about RF noise in the line or leakage current.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    6. Both(!) the Core and the Endpoint have to be Euphony Roon servers. Yes, even on a bridge the Roon server software sounds better. Therefore  two full Euphony licences are needed, unfortunately.

     

    I actually own 2 full Euphony licenses since the less expensive Endpoint license wasn't available when I bought mine.  Also, I was not successful in running RoonBridge on the endpoint and so I used RoonServer on both machines just like you are.  While I cannot claim that 2 instances of RoonServer sounds better than RoonServer + RoonBridge, I know I prefer the SQ of Stylus.  Having said that, as I own Roon, I continue to use Roon for library management because there is nothing better and then flip to Stylus for playback.  Fortunately, it's not hard to do.

     

    On 5/26/2019 at 3:26 PM, Balázs said:

    7. The client connection type must be Roon Bridge. No StylusEP, no Squeezlite.

     

    I presume you mean RoonServer since you already stated you don't like RoonBridge.  Personally, I find StylusEP sounds better than either SL or RoonBridge but fortunately, Euphony offers you the choice of either one and it's fairly easy to switch.  In the end, my preference for Stylus has more to do with the balance of qualities it offers than any one property and it's obvious that what works for me may not work for someone else.


  7. hqp bridged
    PSA - how to directly connect NAA to HQP without bridging in Windows

    Like many, I believe a direct connection between HQP and NAA to sound better than having to use a switch.  To me the sound is more dynamic, energetic, and clear.  To achieve this, I had to establish a Bridge between my two NICs in my HQP pc.  I used this configuration for a while before upgrading to Server 2016 from Server 2012 R2.  Unfortunately, with Server 2016 there is no minimal server mode so I had to pick between installing the full GUI or use core mode.  In core mode, bridging of NICs is not possible so I had to reintroduce my Cisco SG300 SFP switch back into my system.  I kept trying to find a solution that would allow a direct connection and thanks to @Miska and @AudioPhil I've been able to do it.  Another benefit of this direct connection solution is that you dont have to go through the hassle of bridging your NICs.  The drawback of course is that you cannot remote desktop into the NAA to troubleshoot since its no longer on the local network.  No big deal, when I need to remote desktop into the NAA I just plug it back into my switch.

     

    Anyway, here is the solution....

    On both the HQP and NAA pc, enable IPv6*

    IPv4 can be enabled as well

    Use Task Manager to ensure the NICs on both pcs are receiving IPv6 addresses

    Connect the NAA to the second HQP NIC

    Restart both computers**

    Go into HQP settings and select IPv6 as the backend.  Your NAA should show up in the drop down.

    High five yourself, thank Miska and bask in the glorious sounds made possible by this direct connection!

     

    *since I run in core mode, there is no GUI so I go into the registry to enable IPv6.  For some reason the Powershell and netsh commands to enable IPv6 wouldnt work for me.  The registry key is DisabledComponents found at HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip6\Parameters\.  Set it to 0 to enable IPv6 and 255 to disable it. (please be very careful when editing the registry, perform a backup first, I am not responsible, blah blah blah)

    **I would check to make sure IPv6 is still enabled after a restart

     

    Let me know if you have any questions.


  8. HQPlayer Linux Desktop and HQplayer embedded
    HQPlayer Linux Desktop and HQplayer embedded

    Geoff,

     

    The process that I go through is to uninstall the previous one and install the new one.

     

    To uninstall run "dpkg -r hqplayerd"

    To install the new version it requires two commands.  The first one is to download the latest version of HQPe that appropriate for the OS you are using under and the install command.  If I remember correctly the version of Linux that you are running under WSL is Ubuntu Xenial.

     

    [For Ubuntu] wget https://www.signalyst.eu/bins/hqplayerd/xenial/hqplayerd_4.1.1-9_amd64.deb

    [For Debian] wget https://www.signalyst.eu/bins/hqplayerd/stretch/hqplayerd_4.1.1-9_amd64.deb

     

    To install the package "dpkg -i hqplayerd_4.1.1-9_amd64.deb"

     

    Doing that it will preserve your configuration but it does replace the hqplayerd.service file, which is not an issue under WSL since it is not used.

     

    @Miska, please correct if the steps listed can be improved on.  Also is it possible for the new package to ask if hqplayerd.service should be replaced or existing version can be left alone.  The reason for that is under Debian, I have to add a delay otherwise the hqplayerd bombs out due to network startup delay.  Anytime, I update the version of HQPe, I have to go back and edit the service file to add the delay back in.


  9. A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming
    A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming

    Several have asked about the specifics of my current build.  It has been in continual flux until recently but finally, I have reached my final build.  I don't claim it to be the best there is but it is the best that I know how to put together and the best that I have thus far heard.  To be honest, this is not what I envisioned it would look like when I first started this thread back in January but for those who have followed along, as you know, there were exciting and unexpected revelations that came to light and so this digital front end has become a much more ambitious build than I initially expected it to be.  At so many points, it was sounding so good that I felt like finalizing my build but it was hard to stop when each successive gain seemed so significant.  Along the way, many of you made constructive suggestions, some that I had never considered, and for that, I am grateful.  They didn't always work out but the lessons learned and the perspective gained have proven to be invaluable.  To that extent, I consider this build to have been a community effort and so I am happy to share what I have learned.

     

    Server chassis - Streacom FC9 Alpha ($285)

     

    I have used Streacom cases on numerous occasions in the past as I have found them to be attractive, well-constructed and minimally resonant.  I chose the version that can hold a CD-ROM drive but eventually decided that I wanted nothing that would vibrate within the chassis as I felt this might adversely impact the sCLK-EX board and so I opted for an external CD-ROM drive to rip my CDs instead.  This also provided me much needed space inside.  If I could do it over, I would have gone with the cleaner look of the FC9 Alpha without the CD slot as pictured below (although I went with black instead of silver):

     

    fc9s_alpha_000000.thumb.jpg.91d31d698553ac0e893aebef149d9cad.jpg

     

    Streacom makes smaller cases but I went with this larger case for flexibility.  As you can see in the photo, when used with a mini-ITX motherboard, I was able to install my sCLK-EX board adjacent to the motherboard which allowed me to use very short 15cm clock cables.  Also installed adjacent to the motherboard is my Intel X25-E SATA II OS drive.

     

    20170915_173000_DxO-Edit.thumb.jpg.35555d89b47f6a1f4be2b997c8eb7946.jpg

     

    For those who want to go for the ultimate, Stillpoints makes standoffs that supposedly incorporate the same level of isolation as their Ultra Minis that could have been used to isolate my motherboard, SSD, and sCLK-EX board from the chassis.  At $45 per standoff and since 12 standoffs were necessary, that would have cost me $540 for standoffs alone and so I passed.  Instead, I bought a trio of Stillpoints Ultra Minis ($375 although I found a used set of 3 for $250) to use under the chassis and I have confirmed that these absolutely make a difference with respect to detail clarity (a larger difference than the inexpensive Black Raviolis I was previously using) although the overall improvement is small.  

     

    20170915_173437_DxO-Edit.thumb.jpg.551fff7b0cf9ddd562095a5da3e3d3cd.jpg

     

    SOtM eABS-200 paper ($120 for 1 sheet)

     

    I have used this type of EMI-absorbing paper in the past with several builds, specifically the Stillpoints ERS sheets but I have found the SOtM eABS-200 to be considerably more impactful with regards to a calmer and blacker presentation.  If you are finding your server to sound fatiguing and bright, you might find this paper to be very helpful.  Unlike other products, this paper supposedly absorbs a broad range of EMI and converts it to heat, thereby actually removing EMI instead of just scattering it.  This product is so powerful that Lee advised caution as he indicated it was was possible to use too much resulting in an overdamped sound.  I applied it to most of my chassis, to my RAM, and to my SSD and I have heard only good things.  I even applied it to the inside of my tX-USBultra chassis and its collective impact is very easy to hear.  I have found it well worth the $120.

     

    20170915_173053.thumb.jpg.53ff440211dfff9512709ef3c9fdc929.jpg

    20170915_172753.thumb.jpg.ada87f2a24f989eec2ca8c1af79512ed.jpg

     

    DFI BW171 motherboard ($331 which includes an embedded Celeron CPU)

     

    Finding a suitable motherboard was extremely difficult and it became s a matter of finding the motherboard with the least compromises.  DFI was willing to design a motherboard for me to my specifications, however, it would have cost $1,500 minimum to get the project off the ground.  I discussed the prospect of doing this with Lee of SOtM while in Munich and while he expressed interest, he told me he believed he had already figured out how to filter out most of the noise from a noisy motherboard with his tX-USBexp card.   While I suspect there would have been something to be gained by designing my own motherboard devoid of unnecessary noisy components and noisy switching regulators, the time, effort and expense didn't appeal to me and so I ended up going with Lee's tX-USBexp card instead.

     

    Having built many servers over the years, none of the servers I had built could match the wonderful SQ I got from the $9k CAD CAT that I purchased in 2015.  I opened this machine up and studied it carefully and realized that this was essentially a minimalist PC with detuned components (ie both the quad-core i7 and RAM were both detuned to run at 800MHz).  At that time, for an i7-based PC with 4GB of RAM and 3TB of SSD storage to draw less than 20 watts was not a common thing to see.  When I first got this machine, I went online to download some drivers and noticed that this thing ran as slow as molasses but boy, did this machine sound good.  Heavily shielded SATA cables were used (made by Paul Pang) along with point-to-point DC cabling, EMI paper throughout, and finally a custom-specified PCIe-based USB card with a special clock.  The whole thing was powered by a quad-rail custom HDPlex LPSU.  I found this setup to be superior to a TotalDac d1-Server and to an Aurender N10 that I had on hand and so I bought the CAD CAT but I also knew this server could be improved upon (especially with regards to its power supply).

     

    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/review-comparison-of-5-high-end-digital-music-servers-aurender-n10-cad-cat-server-totaldac-d1-server-auralic-aries-audiophile-vortex-box.787020/

     

    As far as choosing an actual motherboard for this build,  based on my experience with my CAD CAT and as I had no intention of oversampling, I knew I wanted a low power setup.  I was further convinced when I directly compared the SQ from a very powerful HP workstation (with dual Xeon CPUs, 64GB of RAM, and PCIe-based SSDs) against a powerful Mac Pro (with a 12-core Xeon, 64GB of RAM and 1TB of PCIe-SSD storage) and found that the SQ I got from a much less powerful stock Mac Mini with the OS running off of a low power SD card to be easily superior.  With the Mac Mini modified to accept 12V power from a Paul Hynes SR7, it was no contest.  The SR7 was such a difference maker that I chose to only look at options that allowed me to use my SR7.

     

    Having tried various motherboards from Gigabyte, AsRock, SuperMicro and Dell, I ended up with the DFI BW171 for the following reasons:

     

    1.  SoC (System on a Chip) architecture that did away with the slower (higher latency) processor controller hub (PCH).

    2.  Mini-ITX form factor resulting in shorter data paths

    3.  Simple Celeron CPU with only 6w TDP

    4.  Could be powered from a 12V rail from my SR7

     

    If there is a downside to these types of motherboards, they generally only contain 1 PCIe slot (usually a PCIe x4 or slower).  If they contain an M.2 slot, they run off the slower SATA bus and not the faster (lower latency) NVMe bus.

     

    There are other motherboards that could have fit the bill but I went with this company because they had presented me the option of designing a new motherboard from scratch for me if I found this motherboard to be unacceptable.  Thus far, I have been very pleased.  As an industrial motherboard, it has not only proven to be very reliable running 24/7 but even prior to modification, I found it to sound at least as good as my Mac Mini with SD card even though my OS was running off a noisier SSD.  With this motherboard running Windows Server 2016 + Audiophile Optimizer (something that a Mac Mini with SD card cannot run), this machine was sounding even better.

     

    Intel X25-E Sata II SSD ($80) + SOtM SATA II filter ($65) + Pachanko Reference SATA cable (about $250) for OS storage

     

    Those of you who have followed this thread from early on know that in my testing, I had found the impact of the OS drive to be greater than a separate data storage drive with respect to SQ and this is probably due to the fact that OS drives are in perpetual use, especially with Windows, while a separate data storage drive is only in use up until the digital file has been buffered into memory, at which time it becomes idle.

     

    Those of you who have followed this thread from the beginning also know that while I was initially quite happy with my Mac Mini with its MacOS running off of an SD card, I was also looking for a way to run WIndows Server 2012R2 + Audiophile Optimizer.  Unfortunately, no recent flavor of Windows Server can boot from either an SD or compact flash card and so I purchased a 2nd Mac Mini but this time, it had a PCIe SSD card installed.  I was successful in installing Windows Server 2012R2 + Audiophile Optimizer and while I was pleased with the improvement over MacOS, I also noticed a fatiguing HF harshness that was not present with my Mac Mini with the SD card and no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of it.  It was one of those annoyances that you may not initially notice is there but every time I went back to my other Mac Mini with the SD card, I found myself not wanting to switch back as the SSD setup was more irritating and fatiguing.  While SSDs are acoustically silent, it turns out they are electrically very noisy, especially the faster and more powerful SATA III SSDs that are being sold today as they apparently emit noise in the 6GHz range that is very difficult to mitigate even when powered by something like an LPS-1.  There are many who have come up to me and have suggested that they aren't hearing the harshness that I'm hearing with their SSDs but those that have had a chance to compare my 2 Mac Minis have easily picked up how much calmer and less fatiguing my Mac Mini with SD card sounds.

     

    Based on this experience, I felt challenged to find a way to install Windows Server onto a compact flash card and I eventually succeeded but ultimately had to give it up since compact flash boot drives are only possible with motherboards that incorporate a BIOS that allows for the older PATA drives and unfortunately, none of the SoC motherboards I wanted to use allow for this legacy option.  I considered the option of using a spinning hard drive for my OS which I had confirmed is electrically quieter than an SSD but I didn't like the idea that I would have a spinning and vibrating drive in the same chassis as SOtM's sensitive clock board.  Over on the JPlay forum but also on Paul Pang's website were reports of how SATA II SSDs sounded better than SATA III SSDs with SLC sounding better than MLC or TLC and so I went ahead and purchased a NOS (new old stock) Intel X25-E 64GB SLC SSD for about $80 from EBay.  This turned out to be a very good purchase as indeed, this lower power, slower SSD drive was sounding less harsh and fatiguing then my Samsung 850 EVO SSD.  The downside of older SATA II SLC SSDs is that they're not available as high capacity drives and so they can function just fine as an OS drive but they don't have enough capacity to store much of a music collection.  Based on the limited capacities of SLC SATA II SSDs, I elected to go with the Intel X25-E for my OS drive and with compact flash cards for the storage of music files.

     

    Here is where things get really interesting.  When combined with the Pachanko Reference SATA cable, with my DFI motherboard, I felt I had equaled the SQ I was getting from my Mac Mini with SD card as a boot drive and so I found myself quite content with this solution.  While at Munich, May realized I was using a SATA II drive for my OS (and not a SATA III drive) and so she strongly suggested that I try SOtM's SATA II filter.  I knew they made both a SATA II and a SATA III filter and I asked if the SATA III filter was the improved version.  I was surprised to hear May tell me that their SATA II filter is better but unfortunately, this filter does not work with SATA III drives and so they were forced to design a new SATA III filter.  What the SATA II filter apparently does that the SATA III filter does not is that it filters both the SSD's power and data lines (their SATA III filter only filters the power line).

     

    Here is a picture of their SATA II filter:

     

    59d1fc10cea70_sataiifilter.thumb.jpg.92f3dbbd197bc5615ecf9066a1e7384b.jpg

    Here is a picture of their SATA III filter:

     

    59d1fc2e0b899_sataiiifilter.thumb.png.a67d5dacdbec2d1000db3e7eae4b4a47.png

    Those that know Lee knows that he is a filter specialist.  In the same way that his filtering methods have transformed products like the tX-USBultra but also SOtM's dCBL-CAT7 and their new USB cable, this SATA filter does the same for SATA II drives and the impact is astonishing with respect to a lower noise floor devoid of any HF harshness but also this more open soundstage.  The impact of this filter is eye opening in terms of just how much noise OS SSD drives create.  This $65 filter is definitely one of the stars of the show and something that I consider a "must have."  I would say its impact is considerably greater than the Pachanko SATA cable or the Intel X25-E SSD.

     

    Operating System - Windows Server 2016 Essentials ($124) + Audiophile Optimizer ($129)

     

    I believe the full version costs more but I was able to purchase a license for the Essentials version for only $124 from an online vendor. Even the GUI version of WIndows Server 2016 sounds better than the Core version of Windows Server 2012R2 and so for now, I am sticking with this version.  Combined with the latest AO beta and its digital filters and sound signatures, it is the best sounding OS solution I have yet heard for music playback for Roon but also for ripping CDs via dBPowerAmp.  The benefit of Windows above and beyond the Linux OS's I have heard is software compatibility.  With Windows, I know I can (or will be able to) run just about anything now and in the future.  More than that, I am finding Chord's ASIO driver for Windows to be superior to the stock Linux and Mac drivers for my DAVE.  With my sMS-200ultra or microRendu, any time I chose to play DSD128 or DSD256 files, I frequently got skips and pauses.  Not a problem at all with Chord's ASIO driver for Windows as now I am capable of smooth native DSD playback of all my DSD tracks.  Also, Windows Server 2016 has been super stable.  I haven't had to reboot yet due to a lock up or some system instability since I installed it.

     

    sCLK-EX board ($850 with 4 clock outputs activated)

     

    Along with Chord's new Blu Mk 2, this device probably gets my vote for most revolutionary product of the year.  This clock board has opened up new vistas I never knew were possible just a year ago and upon replacing clock after clock, I am just amazed at how my system has become transformed.  Even without connecting to an external master clock, the impact of replacing 8 clocks in my setup using this board has just been astonishing.  It is this clock board that makes my build different from any other server on the market today (except for SOtM's own sMS-1000SQ server).  When people tell me their server has this or that, knowing that their system probably still contains a bunch of noisy clocks and having now experienced just how big the impact of replacing clocks can be, I know their server can still sound so much better.

     

    With the sCLK-EX board in my server chassis, I am using 1 clock for the motherboard's 25Mhz system clock, 1 clock to concurrently replace both of the integrated LAN clocks, 1 clock to replace the stock clock in SOtM's tX-USBexp and tX-USBhubIN.  

     

    WIth the sCLK-EX board housed in my tX-USBultra, 1 clock is being used for the tX-USBultra itself, 1 clock is being used for my modified ISO-Regen, and 2 clocks are being used for my Netgear integrated internet modem/router/switch.

     

    SOtM tX-USBexp ($350)

     

    Considering the importance of this card in my system, I consider it's $350 price a bargain.  As previously stated, according to Lee, this is his best product.  The photo below compares the tX-USBexp to the tX-USBhubIN and you will see that the tX-USBexp is nearly twice as large with many more parts.  

     

    20170915_172820.thumb.jpg.613fae96978e9bcf958b0df2f06648da.jpg

     

    While this card has been around for awhile, I believe it has gone through improvements with time.  While the newer tX-USBhubIN is still using a USB 2.0 chipset, the tX-USBexp is using what Lee considers to be a better sounding USB 3.0 chipset.  This card also incorporates his best regulator circuit and better filtration.  What is interesting is that SOtM is an OEM supplier for other music server builders and I noticed that both Antipodes and Baetis have chosen to use SOtM's tX-USBhubIN for their servers.  When I asked Lee why they would do this, all he could say is that "they didn't know any better.  I designed both of these cards and I know which one is better."  With SOtM's own sMS-1000SQ, this is the card they use.  What is interesting is both the tX-USBexp and the tX-USBhubIN cost the same.

     

    SOtM tX-USBhubIN ($350)

     

    Based on what Lee has told me, if I had 2 free PCIe slots, I would have gone with 2 tX-USBexp cards, especially since they cost the same.  At the same time, I am extremely happy this option exists.  Even though my motherboard has only 1 free PCIe slot, my Streacom chassis has 3 available slots in the back.  This card occupies one of those free slots and then connects to my motherboard via its USB 2.0 header.  In the same way that SOtM's SATA II filter significantly improves the SQ of my OS drive, this card does the same for my data storage drives.  Compared against the motherboard's stock USB ports, there is greater immediacy but also a more open soundstage.  Even with the clocks replaced on my router, using the identical track played from my compact flash drive connected to the USB port on the back of my router (you could consider this a NAS) vs the same compact flash card connected to the tX-USBhubIN, playback through the tX-USBhubIN sounds noticeably better. 

     

    Here's another benefit of having both the tX-USBexp and the tX-USBhubIN.  When ripping a CD, I can now connect my external USB CD-ROM drive to my tX-USBultra USB port (which is directly connected to my tX-USBexp) and the files rip directly onto my compact flash drive connected to my tX-USBhubIN.  Using dBpowerAmp on Windows Server 2016 + AO, these are the now very best CD rips I have ever made. 

     

    Lexar HR-1 Compact Flash Hub (approx $90 + $23 for each additional CF reader)

     

    This device can be powered with a 5V iFi PSU (no difference heard compared against an LPS-1).  It has the capacity for 4 readers (CF, SD, microSD, USB, etc) and works very well for its intended use.  Other devices would probably sound just as good when connected to the tX-USBhubIN but I already had this one on hand.  Lexar has discontinued their 512GB Compact Flash cards although I was able to buy several of them from B&H Photo for $199 each during their closeout sale.

     

    20170930_144129.thumb.jpg.2e28f7e4434a6742784cb7a844c65563.jpg

     

    ISO-Regen ($325)

     

    I purchased mine used from another CA member.  I didn't find it as resolving as the tX-USBultra (my main complaint with it is that it tends to flatten the sound) but it added a certain smoothness and a weight to my piano tracks that I found very much to my liking.  In this sense, I am using the ISO-Regen as more of a tuning aid but I definitely like what it adds when placed between my tX-USBexp and my tX-USBultra.  Replacing its clock has definitely improved it.

     

    20170915_172339.thumb.jpg.204020ed62e4da5cf3c683bc71818ba1.jpg

     

    tX-USBultra with 12V option and 75ohm Master Clock connectors ($1,200)

     

    If I didn't need the extra clock taps in the tX-USBultra for my router, I could have easily skipped the tX-USBultra (and ISO Regen) because my single box server paired with the REF10 is already so good, however, adding a reclocked ISO-Regen and tX-USBultra definitely adds further improvement and for those looking to go to infinity and beyond, I believe this gets you there.  Having opened up my tX-USBultra, I can see why Lee couldn't fit the tX-USBexp into the chassis, it's just too big.  Most of this chassis is occupied by the sCLK-EX.

     

    20170930_141925.thumb.jpg.39b5324a21cc66bc3ef4c37c3b6370ba.jpg

     

    Netgear C3000 cable modem / router / switch ($90)

     

    This particular Netgear device that integrates a cable modem, router and switch into one small chassis was chosen for its low power characteristics.  As I don't use this device for its wi-fi capabilities, not only did I save a fair amount of money not having to buy an expensive NightHawk (for up to $400) but I found this low power device (12V/1.5A) to sound a bit better than a $400 Nighthawk and so I sent it along to SOtM for modification.  One thing that is interesting but not surprising, when I connect my Mac Mini to this device, even with the assistance of an SOtM dCBL-CAT cable and iSO-CAT6 LAN isolator, the improvement heard is there but it's small.  The improvement is much larger when connected to my server that has it's LAN clock replaced.  Undoubtedly, it has improved Tidal streaming and considering how little I paid for it, this was a very worthwhile thing to do.  I am currently powering this router with my sPS-500 and it does a very good job.

     

    20170930_144041.thumb.jpg.23cbb9a1fe704d11a4406699be5b16de.jpg

     

    Mutec REF10 + 2 Habst Cables (approx $4k)

     

    The REF10 is the icing on the cake and it is what elevates my setup to simply otherworldly status.  Even with the REF10 turned off, this new setup is already the very best I have heard in my system at home sound but with the REF10 turned on, the first thing that becomes immediately apparent is this sense of buttery smoothness that I have never before experienced (especially when combined with Blu Mk 2), even when compared against the best turntables I have heard.  The benefits provided by each component with just the sCLK-EX in place are enhanced to a higher level with the REF10 activated but it is this smoothness (ie complete lack of glare) that is so mesmerizing.  

     

    It's quite possible that SOtM's new external master clock will be better, especially since it can be powered by something like an SR7 but if you compare one against the other, I suspect it will be a matter of splitting hairs meaning they both will sound very good.  Where the real benefits become apparent are when you replace multiple clocks and especially when you replace every clock in your chain.  

     

    USB cables  (SOtM USB cable with filter block - $1,000, Phasure Lush USB cable - approx $275, Uptone Audio USPCB adapter - $35)

     

    Like many of you, I purchased a Lush USB cable from Phasure.  Mine is 0.75m long and I paid 237 Euros.  Unlike many of you, I don't care for this cable as much.  It does some nice things with respect to tone and warmth but it flattens sound.  The perceived loss of spatial resolution when compared against SOtM's new USB cable with filter block is quite stark and even greater than ISO Regen vs tX-USBultra.  With my setup already so very smooth and tonally rich, I'm not sure the small benefits it imparts are worth the very significant downside although I haven't completely made up my mind to sell it.  At the present time, I am using it to connect the ISO Regen to the tX-USBexp but I am thinking my Clarity Cables Natural is sounding better at this position.  I am then using the USPCB cable came with the ISO Regen to connect it to my tX-USBultra.  At this time, I am finding USPCB cable preferable to the Lush.  I am using my very best USB cable, SOtM's latest USB cable with filter block to connect the tX-USBultra to the USB input on my Chord Blu Mk 2.

     

    Regarding SOtM's new USB cable with filter block, I believe this cable will be officially showcased for the first time at RMAF in a few days.  It is now the best USB cable I have heard although I suspect there are some who will still prefer the tonality of the Lush.  It uses the same filter block as the dCBL-CAT7, however, I find its impact to be greater and I believe I know why.  With the dCBL-CAT7, I was using it before the sMS-200ultra or before the reclocking switch.  With SOtM's new USB cable, I can use this cable much closer to my DAC where it is imparting a greater effect.  If I swap this cable with the USPCB adapter or worse yet, the Lush (meaning I place it back further in the chain), it's impact is significantly diminished.  Placed right before the Blu Mk2, the soundstage opens up beautifully.  I went with UPOCC silver as a conductor and the improved detail resolution over the Lush is quite evident.  

     

    Paul Hynes SR7

     

    I would be remiss not to mention the SR7 as I consider it the foundation of my digital system behind only my DAVE and my Blu Mk 2.  If I could get Paul to build all my power supplies, I would be a very happy man as this guy has a magic touch.  Yes, there's a long wait for one and even now, I'm waiting patiently for him to build me another SR7 but I'll happily wait as long as I need to.  

     

    Other tweaks - Synergistic Research Tranquility Base XL UEF ($3,250)

     

    I found one used for $1,300 and so I took a chance on it.  It was used at an audio show and it had some obvious cosmetic wear but was in perfect operational condition.  At the very least, it would serve as a means of mechanical isolation in my equipment cabinet and perched on top of a trio of Synergistic Research's MIG 2.0 footers, it did a very nice job.  When you turned this device on, however, I found it to be transformational in its impact.  I didn't think it was possible but detail clarity improved further and the improvement was not subtle.  This impact was remarkable enough that I felt compelled to squeeze every electronic component I had onto this 20" x 23" base including the REF10, server, tX-USBultra, Chord DAVE and Blu Mk2.  They just barely fit and while the whole arrangement isn't as aesthetically tasteful as what I had before, I cannot deny what this thing does and the resultant improvement in detail clarity.  This thing supposedly addresses airborne EMI but also EMI in your electric components.  Just when you thought you had sufficiently addressed EMI, this device tells you there's still so much more of it.  I was sure this was voodoo when I first heard about it but having heard a brief demo at an audio show, I felt compelled to give it a shot at home.  At $3,250, I would question its value but at the price I paid, I consider it a must have.

     

    20170930_161227_DxO-Edit.thumb.jpg.ba26d1864cd77682832284fe6eb8acf5.jpg

     

    20170930_161601_DxO-Edit.thumb.jpg.39351f28ef974e3a33abaa4ae5771b34.jpg

     

    This will likely be my last post of this depth and detail.  I hope to see some of you at RMAF in a few days.


  10. Design a PC/Server for ROON and HQ Player
    Design a PC/Server for ROON and HQ Player

    I just finished upgrading one of my servers yesterday. This one can run upsampling to DSD256 using the new EC modulators. Sounds great with output to Holo Spring 2 (through DAC-UP ports and using standard USB3 cable)!

     

    Here are the new components:

    IMG_20190624_105426_2-s.thumb.jpg.9d876f9ccb5497d7001586e93c64979a.jpg

     

    Motherboard is Gigabyte Z390 AORUS MASTER, CPU is i7-8086K and RAM is Kingston HyperX DDR4-2666 kit of 2 (CL12).

     

    Here's the whole thing assembled, old parts are the case, Noctua NH-D9 CPU cooler (with Noctua PWM fans), Seasonic semi-passive cooled PSU, Intel SSD and RME HDSPe AIO. This machine runs Ubuntu Server 18.04 LTS and HQPlayer Embedded on it.

    IMG_20190708_223552-s.thumb.jpg.413f24ea806a6c297487d41665f8e17e.jpg

     

    Here it is powered up and running with the case still open:

    IMG_20190708_223907-s.thumb.jpg.1f9466f4886b9b7176cef9015995b1dc.jpg

     

    IMG_20190708_223914-s.thumb.jpg.f01078d08bc4bd5fe370c1ea203b228f.jpg

     

    IMG_20190708_223920-s.thumb.jpg.a098fc4337ac335674269d12c306c0a5.jpg

     

    IMG_20190708_223926-s.thumb.jpg.1a012377f1ca1b624abf1bb076ffdd2a.jpg

     

     


  11. wkst
    Design a PC/Server for ROON and HQ Player
    On 5/14/2019 at 3:57 PM, Miska said:

    I want to also try i9-9900K that can run 5 GHz Turbo, but need to see when I can buy such.

    After detailed research, I have the following new fanless audio PC under construction:

     

    • Intel Core i9-9900K (95W TDP), 3.6GHz - 5.0GHz OctaCore - HD Graphics 630
    • Streacom FC9 Alpha (Black) - Desktop - micro ATX
    • ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene
    • Corsair Dominator Platinum - DDR4 - 16GB
    • Samsung SSD 970 PRO 512GB, M.2
    • JCAT USB Card FEMTO
    • JCAT NET Card FEMTO
    • HDPLEX 200W Linear Power Supply (LPS) Black
    • HDPLEX 400W HiFi DC-ATX

    GPU is out of the question for me because I want to have a completely fanless PC. Since I currently have no problems running DSD 512 (filter: poly-sinc-xtr-lp-2s, shaper: AMSDM7 512 + fs) with an Intel Core i5-8400T, I am not afraid without a GPU.

     

    Some will wonder why I chose a gaming board. These are just very robust and equipped with good components. Pink Faun does the same. 😉I believe that good hardware is essential for a good sound.

     

    Added to this are memory with very low latencies and superfast SSDs.

     

    For extremely important I consider a trouble-free data transport and a clean power supply. The JCAT USB and NET cards are equipped with Femto clocks and are powered externally by the HDPLEX 200W LPS with 5V each. The same LPS in combination with the HDPLEX DC-ATX converter is designed to provide the new audio PC with clean power that is free from high-frequency noise.

     

    The operating system comes Server 2019 on it, optimized with Audiophil Optimizer 3.0 (to come in late May) and Fidelizer.

     

    I'm really looking forward to my new project. 😀


  12. Sonore ultraRendu
    Sonore ultraRendu

    Was thinking something along these lines, was going to try and have this made or print it, haven't had time. Dunno

    mU_Lps_BKT.thumb.JPG.9f3659da864b3aa1c2b34ec816fcedc4.JPG


  13. HQ Player
    HQ Player
    9 hours ago, Ipoci said:
    1. How the "maintenance mode" apply to 3.x? I mean, if a modification on one of the upcoming OSX/Linux major/maintenance releases will broke HQP, is this going to be fixed?

     

    Yes, I will try to do that.

     

    9 hours ago, Ipoci said:

    I have a headless Linux computer running HQP 3.25.x and controlled by NoMachine via iPhone (ugly) or MacBookPro OSX device. I would like to keep my linux headless computer for playout and having a nice remote control via iPhone APP and MAcBookPro ... what should I choice? HQP 4.0 Desktop or Embedded?

     

    If you have Linux and want headless, certainly HQPlayer Embedded...

     

    But there are trial for both, you can try. Point of Embedded is that you don't need to have anything graphical running or even installed on the computer where HQPlayer is running. And HQPlayer is started up as a system service at boot time.

     

    On MacBook Pro you can use the HQPlayer Client shipped with HQPlayer 4 Desktop for controlling Embedded. The Client doesn't need a license key file, so you can run it as long as you have either Embedded or Desktop v4 somewhere. From iPhone, you can control Embedded using web browser.

     


  14. HQP 4
    HQ Player
    4 minutes ago, jhwalker said:

    Very nice to see this update :) It appears that integration with Roon no longer functions?  If not, is it planned for a future iteration?

     

    It is working just like before, no changes on that front. I just finished three hours of Tidal playback from Roon...

     

    5 minutes ago, jhwalker said:

    To be complete - it appears integration with HQPlayer 3.x on the same machine works just fine, so I'm assuming this is a limitation or temporary glitch with the 4.x "server"?

     

    4.x server is like 3.x stripped down from the local library management things with slimmer GUI and with support for audio inputs added. So if you use Roon, you don't need the HQPlayer Client of 4.x at all. The idea is that many people use some external remote control application, so the unnecessary bits and pieces not needed for that use case have been moved out to external client application. But the local drag-and-drop and other content browse/input playback cases are still self-contained in the server.

     

    Did you remember to enable remote control access from the main window? These don't come over from previous versions. And you cannot have both 3.x and 4.x running simultaneously for remote control because they overlap...

     


  15. innuos
    Innuos Zenith Mk3 or OpticalRendu + separate server?
    On 3/14/2019 at 5:46 PM, BigAlMc said:

     

    In fairness I had the ISO Regen and the SU-1 powered off the same LPS-1 for convenience even tho I understood there was an SQ penalty in doing so.

     

    But much as I like both yours and Alex's products I found the Zenith beat them.

     

    But different products and different price brackets, so not trying to take anything away from either of you.

     

    Cheers,

    Alan

    I was going to point that out as well - the Zenith v.s. a mU or even a Ultra mU doesn't seem like an apples to apples, at least if price is indicative of performance. 

     

    I suppose the Rendu SE would be a more apt comparison.  In theory, if Innuos had a product in which they were able to condense all the "goodness" from their Zenith that in just functionality terms were for individuals vested in ROON + HQP  that would be interesting (thus my ref to the SGC with embedded HQP).  IOW, I have no use for the ripping, music player, music library etc.. so its not likely a product for me, although would certainly like to try one.

     


  16. SFP
    Sonore opticalRendu
    21 minutes ago, jabbr said:

     

    Yes, the VSEL lasers and improved electronics are used in single mode (LX) SFP modules. 

     

    The specs for the newer 10Gbase modules are much much tighter — and 40G and 100G tighter still. It is sometimes possible to run 10G modules at 1G but hard to know if this is necessary for home audio... if I listen carefully I think SM sounds better — hard to do this blinded. 

     

    I use 10G switches with excellent clocks in both cases. 

     

    I find  the biggest (perhaps 90%) improvement simply using optical and then perhaps only 10% with different modules but other people will hear their own results. I might just be biased but Lumin’s experiences are similar except that the actual fiber cables make no difference to me — highly encourage ClearCurve because they are bendable. I’ve standardized on singlemode going forward just because — note that new modules from Intel etc are packing 400G into a single singlemode cable 😳

     

    in case of interest you will find dual rate 10G/1G with Finisar

    https://www.finisar.com/sites/default/files/downloads/finisar_ftlx1475d3bnv_10g-1g_dual_rate_10gbase-lr-lw_1000base-lx_10km_1310nm_extended_temp_single_mode_datacom_sfp_optical_transceiver_productspecb1.pdf

    As well as 400G (16*25 Gbps electrical) Optical Transceivers in CFP8 form factor:

    https://www.finisar.com/optical-transceivers/ftcd1314e1bcl.

     

    Have no idea about any sound improvement but at least when dealing with data and clock specifications no issue at all with 10G or dual rate 10G/1G ones like the one in the first link.


  17. SFP
    Sonore opticalRendu
    20 minutes ago, jabbr said:

    SFP+ modules/slots are backwards compatible with SFP

     

    I know that but the spec sheet from Finisar have this written in it.

     

    "This product is for applications specifically designed for 10G SFP+ ports and 1G/10G SFP+ ports and not 
    native 1G SFP ports."

     

     


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