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About MrSprout

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  1. Thanks, that's all set up and running nicely. I'm using an EVGA Z370 Micro which has very pleasant and open sounding USB ports on board, but it lacks the rhythm that my older gaming boards such as the Maximus VIII Impact had. Listening with the JCAT installed it seems to have got its rhythm back. There's also more detail and weightier bass than before, so all good so far. 😀
  2. I've just ordered mine in the hope it will be delivered before Bexit. 😱 My SoTM card broke and the PPAv2 was never as good as the SoTM one. So now I'm hoping the JCAT is better than both... Can I check a few things though: 1. If it was dispatched from Poland this week, which version of the firmware will it have? 2. How do I check the firmware number? 3. What are the best jumper settings to drive an original HiFace EVO with a single USB cable and powered by a MCRU 5v LPSU? I don't believe the EVO needs power from the USB port, but I'm not 100% sure on that (I could toggle the ground-lift switch on the back of the SoTM card without issue) and the MCRU should provide decent regulation. Thanks
  3. Nope, that's exactly what I meant for power filtering - you're just way ahead of me there! I use a PS Audio P3, an older regenerator, and it makes a big difference to sound quality although it doesn't stop much noise coming through. I have to use a different filter in conjunction with it to deal with that. The newer PS Audios do quote noise isolation measurements, so you may be better off. The best mains filter I found for the NAD M51 was the Running Springs Elgar, although that will sap the bass from any amplifiers you plug into it so use it for source components only. They sell bigger models for high current devices. I ran the usb card, usb/spdif converter and NAD DAC off the Elgar when I had it, with the PC on the Power Inspired AG1500. I sold the Elgar when I sold the NAD as I wanted a linear powered solution right through to the DAC and the PS Audio worked better for that. In terms of HDD power you'll have one for the OS, which I'm assuming is internal and runs off a molex or sata connector, and then the external drive for music. I hacked some cables and ran the internal molex/sata connector off a separate external PSU so no drives were connected to the ATX PSU. Your ATX may not need that kind of work if it already isolates the lines, but I can't tell if it does. The USB attached storage is a different problem as it may affect the quality of the USB audio output, given the drive's power and data are also running through the same USB channels. Is the external disk separately powered, or does it take its power from the USB socket? Either way, it might be worth experimenting with drive connected vs not connected once you have everything else set up and see if you can hear the difference. I got best results with just internal sata drives and all of them externally powered. Take my views with a pinch of salt though. I ended up with a computer with five linear power supplies that took up a full equipment rack to house and then dismantled it all because it took up too much space. ? I'm looking for a small one-box solution offering similar sound quality now but I'm struggling and they seem to be rather expensive. Top of my list at the moment are the new Innuos servers, such as the Zen and Zenith mk3, so those may be a better way forwards if you only want audio playback. They still use USB out, so if you stick with the NAD then you'll want a USB/SPDIF converter anyway.
  4. I haven't read every reply, but I used a desktop PC as my primary source for a long time, playing files from the local disk and watching movies on it. I'm now going down the rabbit hole of network streamers and NAS based files and I'm struggling to match the old PC for sound quality. I also owned the NAD M51 at the same time and it was one of the best DACs I've had. I should never have sold it. My advice is therefore keep the NAD - it's an excellent DAC. Your PC with its gaming mobo is absolutely fine. Foobar with WASAPI event mode is very good and I prefer it to JRiver. But - the USB input on the NAD is its weakest link and its not galvanically isolated. I got much better results when I inserted a USB/SPDIF converter in the middle and fed the NAD with AES/EBU. That provided isolation as well as using the best input on the NAD. At the time I used a HiFace EVO, which is still excellent, but very dependent on power supply and USB cable. I still have that (unused) but also have a Mutec MC3+ USB, which reclocks my Blu-ray player too. I don't know what your budget is, but that's where I'd start. In terms of the PC I found that separating the HDD/SSD from the power line going to the motherboard helped clean up the sound significantly. That was also accomplished (later on) by using a more modern Seasonic PSU with its separate power outputs for the drives, so you may have that problem covered already. I'm not convinced the Seasonic sounds as good as I remember the old Enermax sounding (with separate PSU feeding the drives), but I can't A/B them any more. The final change I'd recommend is isolating the ATX PSU in the PC from everything else, either by putting it onto an online UPS (Power Inspired AG500 or similar), or isolating the hi-fi instead. Just make sure the isolation device for the PC (if you do it that way around) has sufficient power for your PC.
  5. It's funny you should mention that. My thinking on the subject is morphing somewhat. Last weekend I compared the Zen mk3 and Naim Core, in both cases using a Chord Qutest and my headphone rig. With my headphone amp still cold from the journey I struggled to separate them but I would say the Zen was more transparent, whilst the Naim was more musical. By the end of the dem, and playing different music, I wasn't sure about the difference in musicality any more but the Zen was still the more transparent and now it seemed to be kicking harder in the bass. In terms of build quality the Naim is phenomenal, whereas the Innuos is decent. Noise-wise, listening in a demo room, they both had a faint hum noticeable with my ears very close to the units. Both ripped disks in about the same time. I came away somewhat uncertain and then this weekend I listened to an Auralic at about £1900, a dcs Bridge and the Aurender X100. Using a different headphone amp I found the Auralic a bit boring and dismissed it. The dcs was better but the control interface was annoying and it didn't scream £3000 at me in terms of sound quality. We then switched to my usual headphone amp and compared the dcs to the Aurender. I found the Aurender the more musically engaging of the two, although it didn't sound as extended in the bass as the Zen (based solely on memory). Both the dcs and Aurender exceed my original budget by some way and nice though the Aurender was I can't justify spending the extra money on what I heard. Neither solves my ripping and metadata handling requirements either, although the Aurender would store files locally. I then came home and set up my old 2014 Macbook Pro using optical out to my resident (cheaper) DAC and it was pretty damn close to my memories of the other players. I'd say the noise floor was higher, but that's the only difference I could perceive. To be fair the rooms at both dems were a bit noisy with people audible in the background and the doorbell going off in the latter shop, whilst my home is very quiet indeed. None of the fancy machines, nor the Macbook, really gave me what I was looking for in terms of soundstage. The one set-up that hints at it is my Oppo 103 running coax into a Mutec MC3+ USB and then out to the DAC. I'd plug the USB servers into the Mutec too if I went for one of those, but haven't tested them like that yet. I was kind of hoping that £3000 servers wouldn't need it. So I wondered about getting the Zen Mini and then spending the rest on a dedicated streamer. I'm still contemplating that but discovered yesterday that the Mini now appears to have a DAC built in as well as digital outputs. That's not really where I was going, but it makes for an interesting proposition. It also puts it right up against the Bluesound Vault in terms of features. So I think I'm definitely going with the Innuos, but whether its the Mini (either direct or as a NAS), the Zen, or pushing out the boat for the completely silent Zenith remains to be seen.
  6. Having checked again it seems the NAIM isn't available by mail order at all, so there goes that idea. My local shop has stopped selling Innuos, so that's not very helpful, but I did put my hand on the NAIM Core whilst it was running and it was completely cool. That's one question answered. I've now found a store that can set them both up side by side and I've arranged a demo for the weekend. I'll let you know what the results are.
  7. Thanks for the replies so far. I've tried a Pi with the HiFiBerry SPDIF board and it sounded decent, but I couldn't get on with Volumio. It also doesn't have a CD ripper and would be a bit of mess with external SSD, two external PSUs and a separate ripper (possibly with another PSU). That's what I'm trying to get away from. The dcs and singxer running from a local drive are interesting, but neither handles CD ripping unless I've missed something? The Melco is an option, but adding the CD drive plus USB converter takes it up to two rack shelves and it starts to take over again. I believe the Melco is also SMPS at the £2k level. The Antipodes is sadly out of my price range. I've found some dealers who stock both Innuos and NAIM, but if I use them for a demo (assuming they're able to do so) then I'd feel compelled to buy from them if I go ahead. Another dealer offers 30 day returns on the NAIM, but can't supply the Innuos. That 30 day buffer would be reassurance when dropping this much money and they already helped me out by refunding the Bluesound without quibble. That's why I'm trying to focus my options down before going any further. I read up on the software issues with the NAIM, but it mostly looks like Roon compatibility and a lack of streaming software. I don't use Roon and have other devices for streaming. I just need a local library for my CDs and very high quality playback. I wouldn't say no to the streaming functionality if it was provided though. I did come across one reference to the older NAIM Unitiserve(?) getting hot. Do those of you with the Core or an Innuos Zen find they get hot at all?
  8. Hi all, my last audio PC build turned into a multi-box extravaganza that took up an entire rack with its multiple linear power supplies - and now sits in the loft as it's just too darn messy for the living room. ? I tried a Bluesound Vault 2i, which was decent, but it wasn't quite right for me. I've now decided I want a one box PC based solution, preferably linear powered, with CD ripping and storage included, and with BNC output. I could manage one and a half rack shelves if necessary. Top of my list is the NAIM Uniti Core, which is half a shelf, linear powered afaik, and has BNC out by default. The other option I have on my shortlist is the Innuos Zen mk3, probably with my old HiFace EVO connected up to provide BNC. That takes up three times the space but is closer to a regular PC, which so far has proved to be the best source I've used (with a bit of care and attention applied). The fact the Innuos is more PC like is in its favour, whereas space saving is in the NAIM's favour. Has anyone compared these two on sound quality? Is the Zen mk3 even out yet? And did the Zen mk2 work successfully with the 1st gen HiFace converters (I know the Mutec was a problem)? I'm ignoring the Zen Mini for now as it has a simple DC input and I know that splitting power as much as possible (ideally separating off the HDD) helped my own build significantly. Having said that, if it turns out to have a very good BNC output then I might reconsider. I don't know anything about the NAIM PSU, I'm just going on reputation there.
  9. I'm about to start building what is hopefully my final audio PC; attempt number 4. I'm basing this one around the Asus N3150I-C, which will replace the dual core Gigabyte J1800 I'm using at the moment. The Celeron in the Asus has a 6W TDP and I've ordered a paltry 4Gb of G.Skill 7-7-7-21 RAM to keep power requirements as low as possible. The mobo, CPU and RAM will be powered by a 210W Teradak linear ATX PSU from the group buy a while ago. The SSDs for OS and music files are powered by an MCRU LPSU, as is the PPA v2 card (separate PSU). The USB output feeds a Hiface EVO, which is powered by a 9v MCRU LPSU. I've not experimented with SATA cables yet. The system will be feeding either vintage (48k max) DACs or massively upsampling DACs, so the computer just needs to get the signal out as cleanly as possible, no upsampling required. I have no interest in DSD at all, nor MQA. MQA did sound better on my Bluesound Node 2, but none of my music is MQA and I'm not buying it all again. :-) So far, in my various builds, I've used AP-Linux 2, Win 7, Win 8.1 and WS2012r2, with WS2012 sounding best overall. I've just used the demo versions of WS2012 though as I was experimenting, then switched to the Bluesound for a while, and then came back to PC because I prefer the Foobar simple playlist interface (with screen, mouse and keyboard). That also means I'll be running it in GUI mode. I tried JRiver but didn't like the sound, and tried HQPlayer but didn't like the interface, so I'm sticking with Foobar and WASAPI. Given all of that (in case it matters) I now need to look at settling on WS and I'm wondering if people have compared 2012 to 2016? I believe the latest build of 2016 has a GUI again, but I've not looked into it carefully. If it doesn't would installing AO allow me to boot straight into Foobar, with no 'Windows' behind the scenes? Can I do the same with 2012? Probably more importantly, what do the two versions cost and what's the most cost effective way to buy a license? I'm in the UK. The system currently has no network connection (without effort), although I need to decide how best to transfer files to the local storage and update playlists from within Foobar. That may also impact which version of WS I go for.
  10. A BMU is just a different type of power conditioner, so any benefit will depend on what your existing conditioner does or doesn't do and what the issues are with your mains (if any). Its a different topic in other words. Bear in mind that a BMU raises the output voltage slightly and also causes interference with nearby kit so it needs to be 12" away from everything else ideally. Its a pain, but it worked best for me. I have to use a regenerator after it to get the voltage back down to normal levels though, which is somewhat annoying! You'll also need to check they're legal in your area.
  11. +1 to that. I compared Duronic CAT 6a vs Telegartner CAT 7 in my system and although the 6a had more bass the 7 had a much more open and pleasing sound overall. I also tried AQ Cinnamon and couldn't tell it apart from the Telegartner. I've not tried CAT 8 (I'm so behind the times!) The last stretch between the FMC and the NUC will likely have the most pronounced effect. I replaced the rest of mine to keep it in step but didn't notice much of a difference doing that.
  12. The LPSU for the first FMC runs off the conditioner, which means there's still an electrical connection between power zones via ethernet, through the first FMC and its LPSU to all the other LPSUs. I run a balanced transformer for my LPSUs so this may be more important to me but I use the fibre ethernet to completely isolate the two power zones. If your conditioner isn't a BMU then it won't matter as much, so just try it both ways and keep the best. This is a theoretical point at best. :-) In terms of other improvements I would suggest powering the drive in the NUC independently of the rest of the unit, such as by using eSATA and another LPSU. When I used a NUC it was a pain getting that to work reliably, but it did clear the sound up slightly. A dedicated server with a separately powered USB card would be the next thing to try, but you'd need to replace the entire server to do that (unles there's a NUC with a PCIe slot). I've not used a 3R though, so that might be overkill given the rest of your system.
  13. Thanks for the replies so far guys. If M.2 is 3.3v rather than 5v then it might not affect the 5v power as much as a SATA drive. The other thing I can think of is that the 5v power to SATA drives is taken from the default 5v output from the PSU (unless you have a PSU with separately regulated outputs), which would affect the 5v run to the mobo. The M.2 would have its own regulated section on the mobo, which might help isolate it. There are so many variables that it's not going to be that simple of course. It looks like 2 votes against M.2 in favour of (seperately powered) SATA so far.
  14. That's one of those 'bits are just bits' arguments that never seems to match reality. Besides which even if I stick to the NAS I still need to run my OS off something. I did try RAM loading Linux versions a while ago, but wasn't impressed with the sound. If there's an easy way to load Windows Server from a USB stick then that's an option, and I can use an SD card for music files. But I really want to know how M.2 compares to SATA, because its a lot simpler to go that route if it works well. I suspect it won't be any better, but its worth asking.
  15. One of the biggest differences I found (back when using a PC for playback) was providing separate power to the SSDs or HDDs. The Seasonic X400PL I ended up with seemed to be less sensitive to this than the first Enermax I used, where the extra PSUs were a dramatic change. I'm thinking about setting up a new server with onboard music files now as the best sound I ever got was with local playback. However I don't want to end up with all the boxes I had before. I'm therefore wondering whether anyone has compared M.2 drives to SATA drives in terms of power noise and music quality. Are they a quick win for space and convenience, or do they still mess up the sound?
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