My 4 Pink Faun extreme clocks have arrived! 😄👍
Actually they arrived a week ago but I was in the middle of some tests and wasn’t able to install them into my Pink Faun 2.16x streamer at that time. But I have since started with the first one and it’s been in my system for a week now.
I started with the 20Mhz USB clock first as it was the easiest one to replace on the USB board. Three plastic clips hold the clock mini-board to the main board which are replaceable. A quick squeeze of the flare tips and the replacement was completed.
A reboot and all worked as expected again. The new clock is physically different from the old one. It’s thicker by half and has Pink Faun markings on it. From what I can see, the mini-board is otherwise the same as the old board. The picture below shows the older Connor Winfield OH200 clock. The specs show this older 20MHz clock to operate with a phase noise of around -110dbC/Hz at an offset of 10Hz. The new Pink Faun extreme clock operates at a quieter -132dbC/Hz - a whopping 22dbC less than the old clock!
Whether the reduced clock phase noise makes a significant difference is the question now. In the past I had compared the Pink Faun USB (with the older CW mini-board) directly to my DAC vs. the same via a tx-USBultra with the Mutec 10MHz reference clock attached. I covered this in my earlier review of the streamer and I found no appreciable improvement in sound.
Why would this be as the Mutec Ref clock has an amazingly low phase noise of -142dbC/Hz? It’s due to the way reference clocks are attached to HiFi system. The reference signal has to pass through a ppl converter to generate the required frequency prior to being connected to the USB board. Along the way the signal is processed from 10MHz to 20MHz passes through at least 2 sets of cables, noise from a few power supplies injected and a multitude of connectors. This would seem to degrade the clock contribution to the level roughly matching a directly connected USB clock with a phase noise of -110dbC/Hz.
And so now after burning in the clock for a week, is there a difference in sound quality? Isn’t the original 20MHz clock at -110dbC/Hz enough? Does the new extreme clock matter?
Matter it does, and not subtly.
I was concerned that the listening test would be spoilt by expectation bias. The clock switching was a one way action (it isn’t but I didn’t want to fiddle too much) so I invited 2 other friends over for their listening opinions before and after. A clock really needs at least 24 hours to warm up and stabilise to sound it’s best so a direct swap from warm clock to a cold one isn’t really a direct comparison but was what it was.
Even cold, the extreme clock immediately brought a new level of naturalness to the music. It felt like there was less effort to enjoy the music. Initially it felt quieter and then we realised it was from the speed of dynamic sounds being controlled faster. Music felt more alive and exciting and with the increased speed, new details and emotions revealed themselves. My friends felt the mid bass tightened and become more bouncy as well.
There was an improvement in 3D spatial accuracy too. Especially obvious in complex music with many performers, the separation of the different musical threads from each performer was clearer and easier to follow. Live music is now more of a joy to listen to, the clarity of the stage, audience engagement and subtle echos recreate the live experience so well. I especially enjoyed the following No Woman No Cry (reprise) track no.20 on the Sound Of Blomberger Songfestival 2007-2011 album available in Tidal. With the new extreme clock, it’s something to behold, especially the drum solo at the end, amazing transient speeds.
People who have played with clocks before will recognised much of what I have said. The benefits of a better clocked sound is an all round better sound with few negatives. Again, mostly true in my case and the reduction of a further 22dbC/Hz does makes quite a difference. Where will it stop? How far lower does phase noise go before it makes no appreciable difference? I don’t know the answer for this but a directly connected -132dbC/Hz, 20MHz USB clock makes a clear difference to me. There are other streamers that say clocks don’t matter - like the new SGM Extreme server with 2 CPUs and external power supply. I’m finding it difficult to accept this claim as so far to date, every better I’ve clock used brings about a whole new level of refinement to the music.
I did find however that the sound character of my system changed slightly. Not for the worse, just different. It used to be a darker side of neutral but after a week, the new extreme clock sound comes across as brighter side of neutral. Perhaps it’s still settling in and requires more time to break in, or perhaps I have to tune the system again with cables. As it is now, it’s a new level for my Pink Faun 2.16x streamer just when I was thinking how it can’t possibly be improved. Bravo Jord, thanks for the upgrade!
Next up, the motherboard and CPU extreme clock upgrade. This is a little more tricky as it involves some soldering so I’m planning to do this next week and will post my impressions here after.