I had the opportunity to visit @austinpop and spend a few hours to do some comparisons last Sunday. Rajiv is a great host and we had a good time discussing and comparing notes. Some of the objectives of my visit were
I was most interested in hearing the cumulative effect of all the tweaks Rajiv has done. I have been following this thread almost since its inception and right now use a NUC end-point running Roon bridge and connected to HMS and Chord DAVE. My NUC is wirelessly connected (thanks to @lmitche ) to my Roon server.
Compare Chord Hugo TT2 vs Chord DAVE on Rajiv’s setup, both being fed upsampled signal from Chord HMS.
To compare Roon-bridge and Euphony end-point.
To hear the effect of Master clock.
To hear what difference my Sound Application TT-7 power conditioner made.
When I got there, he already had his system plugged in to a TT-7 he had on loan. The playlist I had shared were also ready to go. We did not know the vintage of the TT-7 other than that it was older than what I had. Jim Weil of Sound application keeps tweaking and improving his power conditioners, so it is hard to know what has changed.
We first listened to a few soundtracks via HMS and TT2. The first thing that caught my attention was there was certain sweetness/smoothness to sound and pitch black background in comparison to my setup. I felt this signature was the cumulative effect of all the care that went into setting up the digital front-end in Rajiv’s setup. We were using headphones that were relatively easy to drive and no amplifier was needed. This was the ideal way to do a direct comparison of TT2 and DAVE.
We then connected the Chord DAVE I had brought to HMS and with the first track we listened to, both of us agreed that the difference was profound compared to TT2. There was a noticeable improvement in depth and air. The difference was more profound than what I had expected (I had thought the Hugo M-Scalar may level the field), I am still surprised that the 10 elements pulse array of TT2 vs 20 elements of DAVE made such an improvement.
For most of our listening, music was being streamed from Roon Core to StylusEP (end-point) both running on Euphony OS on the same server. When Rajiv switched to a Roon-bridge from StylusEP, the sound-stage collapsed and there was less air. I was quite surprised by this. The scale of change is what I would expect when swapping out component such as a DAC or Amp not when there is a software level change. Hearing this alone made my trip! I was eager to replicate this on my setup. When the Roon core was swapped for the Stylus player, I heard an uptick in SQ along similar lines but not the same scale. I felt switching to StylusEP was the biggest jump (85%) while switching out Roon Core added another 15%. It was a relief as Roon core is indispensable to me and I can live with the slight loss in sQ.
I never had the opportunity to hear first-hand what difference the master clock made to audio chain. Switching Ref 10 Master clock on and off made an audible difference, a bit more air a little smoother but the change was less than what I expected and the scale of change was less than what I heard when switching between Roon-bridge and StylusEP.
Finally we swapped the TT-7 Rajiv had on loan for my newer TT-7. When we started listening, I heard the improved speed and transient attack I am used to hearing but I felt something was off as the sound-stage seemed slightly diminished. Rajiv agreed and while trying to figure out what was wrong, he found that his JCAT Net card was not being powered by Farad 3. It was inadvertent, but we got to validate the advantage of powering the Net card using an external LPS. Once plugged in, we heard a clear improvement with the new TT-7 in terms of transient speed and clarity.
Once back to my system, I missed some of the magic I heard at @austinpop’s. I downloaded and burnt a trial version of Euphony OS on a USB stick. With some back and forth help from Rajiv and Željko I got StylusEP running on Ramroot on my wireless NUC. I am happy to report, I hear a similar bump in SQ when I switched from Roon-bridge to StylusEP.
I wish to thank @austinpop for having me and look forward to similar meetings in the future.