Rajiv -- thanks for all you do! I'll be glad to share what I've done, as I am enjoying sounds I never would have imagined (compared to where I was) without the help of this forum's contributors and you. Know I am not a DIY (although I did manage to create add the JSSG shielding to my Lush cables!), so my process has been to read the discussions in this topic, learn and pick my spots. I got engaged Summer 2017 and the attached schematic is where I am presently.
My system has been developed almost entirely from information uncovered in this topic thread, personal messages with Rajiv and a few others, and one fun trip at the outset to meet and learn from @austinpop and Eric in Austin. I have adopted SQ recommendations from most of the areas discussed in this thread. Importantly, in many areas I have ratcheted up SQ by adopting second and third-step improvements all of you have uncovered in your never-ending quest for the best. Examples would include servers, endpoints, power supplies, cables, shielding, sequencing of devices, location of cores relative to endpoints, the move from lower to higher power voltage, and more. I wish I could say my system benefitted from all the items in Rajiv's list, but it doesn't. Having said that, I do believe I am hearing SQ at levels that make me very glad I started down this rabbit hole and invested a not insignificant amount of time and money to get here. It's my opinion every person goes through a SQ Continuum. Let's say there are 6 stages from poor SQ to the "best". At each stage of relative improvement to my system, I was blown away by the change in SQ, and couldn't really imagine how things might sound better still, and no idea how to get there. However, the inertia and contributions of the members on this forum topic kept teasing me. I read over and over again about higher levels of SQ I couldn't imagine, so decided I better stay tuned to this channel! I'm sure I've only made it thru 2 or three of the SQ improvement phases, but I can't believe how good the music sounds. Thank you to all, most of whom have unwittingly helped me get to this point.
I don't do much A/B testing for lack of interest (I have all of you for that!), and to do so is very difficult with the cramped quarters in which my system is housed. My observations in terms of SQ equipment mirror what I've heard here, but I dare not try to identify them in rank order because I have not done the critical testing. I also believe what most you say here - every system set up will have different points of inflection.
- Power supplies: Who among the uneducated would guess this?! Whether it has been the LPS-1, LPS 1.2, or now the PH SR-4, these devices make a tremendous difference. Also, moving from 7v to 12v (or higher) also provides greater torque and SQ, or so it seems.
- USB regenerator: My modded SOtM tx-ultra has provided a nice bump in SQ from the get go. But things get better with better power, as I'm learning.
- Reference Clock - I've only had one: the Mutec, and when combined with Habst cables, it definitely makes a difference. I wish more devices had ports for a reference clock.
- Cables: I was slow jumping on this one, but having made a leap to more significantly-priced power cables (Cardas Clear) in particular, I hear nice improvements in SQ. Ditto for the Lush USB interconnects and the Ghent/JSSW 360s.
- Server/Endpoint/Player - I've enjoyed the MicroRendu, UltraRendu, and Zenith SE as endpoints. All gave me great improvements, but equipment like the SE really move you to a different phase of the SQ continuum. I've had my Roon Core and Player both in the Zenith, but separated them, as I felt even if the iMac is sub-optimal vs. Epiphany and NUCs, SQ is better when there is a switch in between the Core and Endpoint. And as many have pointed out, I apparently can take that still further, and add a second switch in between for more upside.
I've gone on long enough. Thanks to all, and I'm looking forward to adding another SR-4 with Cardas Clear in early October. I hope to have a period of prolonged "listening" at that point, but I know all you will make that hard to do!
My Music Topology 08.22.19.pptx