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Audio System

About Me

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  1. Note from @austinpop While I am now the OP of this thread, I did not start it. That would be @romaz. I have just been given authorization by him to take on the OP role. A brief history of this thread - by @austinpop Last update: Dec 13, 2018 This thread is almost 2 years old, with over 12,000 posts, and over 860k views. While it was started by Roy @romaz about the positive SQ impact of ethernet bridging between a music server and an endpoint, it has since grown to span the gamut of the entire digital chain. Loosely speaking, this thread is an exploration of mechanisms that are observed to improve SQ in the streaming chain. This covers the path from the music file at rest on a storage device all the way to the input of a DAC. Conventional wisdom would suggest this path should have no, or very little, impact on SQ. Yet, as the 2 years of experience on this thread has shown, this path has a profound impact on SQ. Undoubtedly, the topics covered have meandered. This is, after all, a forum thread! Over its lifetime, the topics and areas covered have included: Network bridging quality of power supplies quality of clocks - both data (related to the data sample rate) and system (USB, ethernet, and motherboard) clocks reference clocks mods - mobos, NICs, USB cards DDCs cables DACs NUCs Audiolinux and many other topics. The focus of this thread is on direct listening impressions. We were lucky that, from the outset, the early participants set a tone of experimentation with the proposed ideas, and reporting their results. Over time, this guiding principle has been enthusiastically adopted, and many participants have extended the body of knowledge with their experiments and reports. This has resulted in a thread with a reasonably high S/N ratio. Most of what is discussed here does not have a readily available analytical explanation. We would not have gotten this far if we had gotten mired in the "how could this possibly matter" debate. To preserve this S/N ratio, and to keep the thread from disintegrating, we ask contributors to focus discussion on direct listening experiences. I have created an index of useful posts to help the new reader navigate this massive thread. Please scroll further down to see the index. Moderation We welcome your participation in this thread. Please note that discussion needs to stay focused on direct listening experiences with audio experiments discussed here. This is not an opinion thread. Most of what is discussed here does not have a readily available analytical explanation. Once we get into arguing about the why's, this thread is going to disintegrate. If anyone comes in here, makes no contribution, and attacks people, I reserve the right as OP to delete their posts. Further - this thread is about listening impressions. We do not: Demand proof Require a specific methodology Require measurements. Original post by @romaz ====================================================================================== Ok, MASSIVE is a bit of an overstatement at this level of high-end audio but now that I have your attention, I would say that this improvement is quite significant, nonetheless, and once you hear it, I suspect you will not wish to go back to your previous setup. More importantly, this is neither difficult nor expensive to implement. Much has been said about how ethernet renderers like the microRendu and the sMS-200 are immune to upstream components. Because ethernet is transformer coupled, it is inherently galvanically isolated and because of the error correcting packet protocol it employs, data is always bit-perfect and so it would seem that ethernet is an ideal data delivery vehicle for a digital audio stream. Indeed, when I first purchased my microRendu back in May, I tested it with a variety of standard sources including a Windows NUC, Windows laptop, Mac Pro, Macbook Pro and sonicTransporter and even when a certain source was powered by my HDPlex, I noticed no significant difference among these sources, at least not enough to care which one was feeding my microRendu. I have also explored and compared a variety of ethernet optimization techniques including optical isolation with FMCs (powered by LPS-1), an audiophile switch with TCXO clock by Paul Pang (powered by LPS-1) and various audiophile ethernet cables (BJC CAT 6A, SOtM dCBL-CAT6 with iSO-CAT6, AQ Vodka + Diamond, Supra CAT8, WireWorld Silver Starlight CAT8) and while they can and do make a difference, even collectively, the difference has never been that great, certainly not enough to want to spend lots of effort or money on these things. At least that has been my experience and so this is a compliment to both the microRendu and the sMS-200, that they are that immune to what is upstream...or are they? Like with many of you, things changed when I received my LPS-1 as this power supply was eye opening in how it transformed my microRendu. This should have come as no surprise as John Swenson had been telling us all along that the microRendu, as a low noise and low impedance device, benefits from a low noise and low impedance power supply. What I wasn't prepared to experience, however, was how a good low noise, low impedance power supply would also transform my upstream components including a simple NUC or Mac Mini even with the microRendu or sMS-200 in place (I own both of these units). It was surprising to find out that even my internet modem/router similarly benefited. It turns out that while ethernet is good for isolating noise, it cannot fix a signal already molested at the modem/router or music server level. In the same way that the LPS-1 improved both the macro and microdynamic capabilities of my microRendu, my Paul Hynes SR7 has also magically transformed my modified Mac Mini and internet modem/router and both the microRendu and sMS-200 fully reveal these benefits but truth be told, these benefits are much more fully realized if these endpoints themselves are powered by a low impedance PSU. This is not some mild transformation that you need to blind test to convince yourself is real, this is something a semi-deaf person can distinguish because the dynamic contrasts with the Paul Hynes SR7 driving both my Mac Mini and internet modem/router is that much more thunderous, enough so that I have had to literally turn my subwoofer down a notch. If you think about it, there's no good reason why this shouldn't be happening. The whole purpose of the microRendu or sMS-200 and devices like the USB Regen is to present a DAC with a signal of the highest integrity. Why wouldn't the microRendu or sMS-200 similarly benefit from being presented with high signal integrity by the components before it? I have come to the conclusion that this impact has more to do with low impedance than the low noise characteristics of the power supply fronting these upstream devices because as you recall, ethernet is transformer coupled and so is inherently galvanically isolated and with the FMCs that I employ in my network (which are powered by my LPS-1), no RF noise or leakage current should be reaching my microRendu or sMS-200. What is the measured output impedance of the Paul Hynes SR7? According to Paul, his SR5 and SR7 measure ❤️ millohms from DC to 100kHz and so consider this number as a reference point for comparison. Having asked around, it seems no one else can provide these impedance measurements over what John Swenson describes to be his ideal frequency range either because they don't own the measuring equipment to do so or because they don't believe this spec is important. What I can tell you is that neither my HDPlex or Teradak are low impedance LPSUs because neither of these units are good enough to allow me to distinguish one source from another when fronted by either the microRendu or sMS-200 and both are soundly trounced by my LPS-1 and my SR7 when it comes to soundstage dimensionality. While I have not had the opportunity to compare the Sonore Signature Power Supply to either of these two units, based on what I am hearing from respected sources and conversations I have had with Barrows, I have no doubt this is an excellent and very low impedance PSU. Based on how good the LPS-1 is, logic would suggest Vinnie Rossi's ultracap-based supply is likely of similar caliber. The problem with these other supplies is that neither of them have enough juice to power a Mac Mini, Nuc or my TP-Link internet modem/router as each of these devices require at least 12V/3.5A. Of course, this discovery led to quite a bit of curiosity about other areas. What would happen if I directly connected my Mac Mini to either my microRendu or sMS-200? Intuitively, I had a hard time believing this should make a difference. If so, why weren't the microRendu or sMS-200 designed by their wise creators to connect this way? I further had a difficult time believing my internet modem/router or my Paul Pang switch with TCXO clock should have any real detrimental impact on either of these endpoints since the modem/router was currently being powered by my Paul Hynes SR7 and my Paul Pang switch was being powered by my LPS-1 and moreover, I had optical isolation in place and yet Mark Jenkins, owner and developer of the Antipodes line of music servers, had this to say about his latest generation Roon Ready DX music server. This excerpt is taken from John Darko's review of this latest generation DX server: "A third way to plumb Roon inside the DX is to have Roon Core talk to Roon Ready directly. Think of this scenario as Roon playing out the server-client model not on a LAN but inside a single computer. Jenkins clarifies: "They [Roon Core and Roon Ready] talk using RAAT but when they are in the same device they do not need to use the not-so-good comms layers that sit underneath RAAT when the two apps talk across a network." I'm not sure I know what Mark meant by this exactly but he details a greater clarity and immediacy to the sound of Roon using this method and so I felt compelled to try and create this direct connection between my Mac Mini and my microRendu/sMS-200. This wouldn't be so difficult if either device had the ability to assign itself a static IP. Unfortunately, this was never possible with the microRendu and this feature was taken away from the sMS-200 after firmware 1.9 and because each device must be assigned an IP address by a router for control purposes, it didn't appear as if there would be an easy way to accomplish this. It turns out OSX can function as its own DHCP server and so I used El Capitan to assign an IP address to one of the two ethernet ports I have on my Mac Mini (the Mac Mini comes natively with only one ethernet port but my Thunderbolt hub comes with its own ethernet port thereby giving me two such ports). I connected my sMS-200 to one port and my router to the other port and it worked but there were problems. Because OSX insisted on connecting this second port on a separate subnet, my sMS-200 had no outlet to the internet (for Tidal streaming) nor could it be controlled remotely by my iPad and so this was a "no go." When I manually forced both ports to be on the same subnet, my Mac Mini would get confused as to which ethernet port had control and it would lock up. It then dawned on me that I could bridge the two ethernet ports and BINGO! This accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish. Both ethernet ports were now on the same subnet and with one port connected directly to my sMS-200 and the other port connected directly to my router, everything was running smoothly. I could now easily access the sMS-200 remotely from my iPad and other machines that were on the network and the sMS-200 could access the internet. While I have not yet tried my microRendu this way (it is presently on loan), I don't see why it wouldn't work the same way. What is interesting is with this bridged configuration, my internet modem/router is now responsible for assigning the sMS-200 an IP address and yet the sMS-200 is physically directly connected to my Mac Mini without the intermediary "not so good comm layers" that Mark Jenkins describes. So how does this direct connection sound? Simply glorious! While a low impedance power supply brings depth and dynamics to my upstream components, this direct connection brings amazing clarity and immediacy. It's as if one very thick veil has been removed and that my seat has been upgraded from the balcony to the stalls. I would rate the impact of this as equivalent in magnitude to employing a low impedance PSU. Many of you are aware of the claims many are making on several threads here on CA but also on HeadFi of how RedNet and Dante provides this "you are there" clarity. I had a ReNet 3 in my home for evaluation for nearly a month and I agree, it provides this beguiling sense of clarity that has to be heard to be appreciated although the problem with RedNet, I believe, is its inferior switching PSU. These units sound flat and dimensionless compared to my described setup above and so this clarity that RedNet brings almost sounds sterile and lifeless in comparison. Regardless, proponents of RedNet have suggested the problem with USB endpoints like the microRendu and sMS-200 is with USB. What I am hearing suggests USB is not the problem but perhaps the Dante technology by Audinate that RedNet utilizes has figured out how to eliminate the impact of these "not so good comms" in the network signal path. I have now been listening to this arrangement for much of the past week and so the initial emotions that can cloud one's judgement have settled down and my opinion remains the same as the first moment I heard it. To borrow from Chris Connaker, after all of this, I can unequivocally say that my audio system has never sounded better than it has now. For me, there is no going back. For those interested in reproducing what I have done, first of all, you will need a music server with 2 ethernet ports. Current Mac Pros already have 2 ethernet ports. Mac Minis do not but I can verify that you can add a Thunderbolt ethernet port and it works very well. Many Windows PCs have 2 ethernet ports and if not, if you have a spare PCI or PCIE slot, you could inexpensively add one. Will a USB ethernet connection work? I don't see why not but I haven't tried it and I don't know how it will sound. I do know that you can't bridge a wi-fi connection and an ethernet connection. So how do you bridge 2 ethernet ports? If you are on Linux, I can't help you but I'm sure it's possible. If you are on a Mac, here are the fairly simple instructions that I followed. Feel free to use DHCP but you are also free to assign a static IP: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH18510?locale=en_US For Windows, @jelt2359 has confirmed for me that the following directions below worked on his Windows 10 Nuc although he had to manually configure the bridge's DNS and IP addresses. How to create a Network Bridge in Windows 10/8/7 Obviously, if you decide to try this, please report back your findings here. If there is consensus that this improvement is universal, perhaps Sonore and SOtM can be convinced to allow their units to be configured to be directly accessed more easily. ===================================================================================== Index of useful posts Note: Some sections are lacking. If anyone can volunteer to supply me with posts for these sections, I will gladly add. If you would like to nominate a post to this index, just PM me. Bridging/Direct Connection What do we mean by direct or bridged connection? A topology explanation Windows: https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=613653 https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=618990 Using a 3rd wifi adapter in bridge to overcome problems some folks were having: https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=620592 https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=626327 HQPlayer Win Server 2016 GUI Network Bridge Walk Through How to use Interface Metrics Linux MacOS QNAP NAS Synology NAS Power Supplies Info about Paul Hynes PSUs Aside on AC power cables and dedicated lines More info on Paul Hynes PSUs Even more info on PH PSUs @dgarretson compares sPS-500 to SR7 @romaz compares sPS-500, LPS-1, and SR7 @Superdad on LPS-1 heat considerations @austinpop Preliminary SR-4 review @austinpop PSU Roundup: comparing the new LPS-1.2 with the LPS-1 and SR-4 @austinpop Followup on SR-4 and LPS-1.2 @austinpop PSU followup @austinpop First impressions of Paul Hynes SR-7 @auricgoldfinger compares TLS Reference 1 with Paul Hynes SR-7 @austinpop compares the Farad Super3 PSU with the SR4, SR7 and LPS-1.2 @austinpop review of DXPWR DXP-1A5DSC dual-regulator PSU @romaz review of DXPWR DXP-1A5DSC dual-regulator PSU Clock Mods, reclocker chains, and sCLK-EX @romaz's Experience with Pang switch @romaz's rationale for trying sCLK-EX mods Some insights on clocking from John Swenson and Rob Watts @romaz's first round of findings with the SOtM sCLK-EX Ultra chain @romaz explains experiments with his music server Bad clock > Better clock > Best clock @romaz's planned mobo sCLK-EX mods @hols review of tX-USBultra @mozes's review of tX-USBultra (from another thread) @austinpop's initial impressions of Ultra trifecta @austinpop's Ultra trifecta impressions - Part 2 @austinpop's Ultra trifecta impressions - Part 3 @limniscate's listening impressions of Ultra trifecta @romaz switches gears and considers direct USB @austinpop Summary of clock chains - what we've learned so far @romaz met with Lee and May of SOtM at High End Munich @austinpop describes upcoming Ultra-vaganza, which will allow experiments with more than 4 sCLK regenerations @austinpop Ultra-vaganza report @romaz Rationale for going direct USB @ElviaCaprice receives his sCLK modded NUC @Always.Learning Listening impressions with his trifecta and ISO-Regen @Bamber first pics of sCLK modded SU-1 @austinpop Updated perspective on what we have learned with clock chains so far @mozes Radically updated direct USB chain using tX and DAVE @romaz his ultimate end-to-end clock chain (from the Ref 10 thread) @romaz details his end-to-end fully sCLK-ed build @lojay describes his build clock chain, using the SOtM sMS-1000SQ @Johnseye describes his sClK-EXed build @elan120 describes his sCLK-EX mods to Singxer SU-1 ISO-Regen in the Mix @mozes Direct USB impressions of IR with tX-USBultra @mozes Optimum configuration of IR and tX-USBultra with VR Mini PSUs @austinpop ISO-Regen meets Ultra trifecta @austinpop ISO-Regen-polooza Part Deux Master Reference Clocks @romaz stunned by Mutec Ref 10 at Munich @JohnSwenson's insights into clock oscillators @romaz returns with more insights on master reference clocks What exactly are reference clocks? @hols Cybershaft 10MHz reference clock driving tX-USBultra @hols Cybershaft update @Bamber First impression of Mutec Ref 10 @austinpop Listening Impression with the Cybershaft OP-14 Reference Clock - Part 1 & Part 2 @limniscate Listening impressions with Cybershaft OP-14 @romaz explains phase noise comparisons Comparisons with other endpoints @austinpop Listening impressions of dCS Network Bridge vs. SOtM trifecta with Cybershaft reference clock - Part 1 @austinpop, @limniscate, and @Bruce Orr Initial listening impressions of UltraRendu vs SOtM Ultra and trifecta, LPS-1 vs. sPS-500 Comparisons with music servers @austinpop Review of Innuos Zenith SE vs his SOtM trifecta chain @austinpop Does the SR-7 PSU close the gap between the SOtM trifecta and the Zenith SE? DACs An excellent perspective on DACs @romaz expounds on his DAVE with M-Scaler Ethernet cables, isolators @romaz's experience with iSO-Cat6 and dCBL-Cat7 Ethernet Switches/SFPs @romaz Review of SOtM sNH-10G switch @austinpop Review of SOtM sNH-10G switch @zettelsm Experiments with EtherREGEN, opticalModule, Startech and Planet Tech SFPs USB Cables @hols Update on ISO-R and liking the new Lush USB cable @romaz Experiences with USB cables Computer mods - mobos, NICs, drives, etc Booting Win on Mac Mini and benefit of AO: https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?page=21#comment-625475 https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=627891 https://www.computeraudiophile.com/forums/topic/30376-a-novel-way-to-massively-improve-the-sq-of-the-sms-200-and-microrendu/?do=findComment&comment=629472 Adnaco fiber mods @romaz initial impressions with Adnaco SATA mods General Excellent summary of John Swenson thoughts on USB and leakage loops @Superdad talks about Uptone thoughts on future Ethernet upgrades From another thread: JS explanation of how asynchrony in USB actually works, and why the source clock still matters SSG 360 cable shielding scheme @austinpop Dummy DIY guide to JSSG 360. If I can do it, anyone can! NUCs, in-memory OS, and AudioLinux @romaz Initial post on NUC experience with TLS DreamOS @romaz NUC Audiolinux impressions @romaz AL on powerful server running Roon Core also improves SQ @romaz i7 NUC sounds even better NUC update @greenleo Audiolinux Guide Part 1, Audiolinux Guide Part 2, Audiolinux Guide Part 3, Audiolinux Guide Part 4 @greenleo Audiolinux Headless Guide Part 1, Audiolinux Headless Guide Part 2 @austinpop Science Experiment: Audiolinux Extreme on Zenith SE @Johnseye Audiolinux NUC Update @austinpop Buffer size study with squeezelite vs Roon @austinpop NUC Audiolinux Impressions @austinpop NUC Audiolinux Impressions Part 2 @austinpop ALSA buffer tuning in squeezelite @austinpop custom server update @romaz System update March 2019 @austinpop PSU update Dec 2019 @romaz System update December 2019 @Gavin1977 Experience with Gentoo Player
  2. I recently built a NUC into an Akasa case as Roon networking bridge /endpoint with great results I have expanded the project to do a little more tinkering. I briefly played with WiFi, and I am pretty sure that the WiFi was messing with my system. The NUC I am using has an M.2 "e" slot for PCIe networking. There is an M.2 network card that drives an SFP. I am considering putting this in my NUC. https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833453141&Description=M.2 SFP &cm_re=M.2_SFP-_-33-453-141-_-Product If you have a spare PCIe slot in your server, you can put a PCIe SFP card in the server. https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833114123&ignorebbr=1 With these two network "cards" we can now test direct fiber between the server and the endpoint. This idea is going through my head while I am testing the TLS modified network switch. I have a PLAN! My current server is a Sonic Transporter i7 DSP that is set up for network bridging. I have a run of bog-standard CAT6 from the basement computer shelf to the system in the Living Room with the NUC. My TLS switch hooked up to an LPS-1.2 in the rack with the stereo. To start testing this idea I ordered some fiber gear from FS.COM as follows. (Ignore the switch for this part of my project) 8-Port Gigabit PoE+ Managed Switch with 2 SFP, 150W ID #73457 US$ 160.00x1 US$ 160.00 1000BASE-BX BiDi SFP 1310nm-TX/1550nm-RX 10km DOM Transceiver Module for FS Switches ID #29892 US$ 9.00x2 US$ 18.00 1000BASE-BX BiDi SFP 1550nm-TX/1310nm-RX 10km DOM Transceiver Module for FS Switches ID #29893 US$ 12.00x2 US$ 24.00 Unmanaged 1x 10/100/1000Base-T RJ45 to 1x 1000Base-X SFP, Gigabit Ethernet Media Converter, AC 100V~240V ID #17237 US$ 31.00x2 US$ 62.00 1m (3ft) LC UPC to LC UPC Simplex OS2 Single Mode PVC (OFNR) 2.0mm Fiber Optic Patch Cable ID #40446 US$ 1.50x2 US$ 3.00 5m (16ft) LC UPC to LC UPC Simplex OS2 Single Mode PVC (OFNR) 2.0mm Fiber Optic Patch Cable ID #40436 US$ 1.90x2 US$ 3.80 15m (49ft) LC UPC to LC UPC Simplex OS2 Single Mode PVC (OFNR) 2.0mm Fiber Optic Patch Cable ID #40441 US$ 3.00x2 US$ 6.00 The first test configuration was system validation placing the FMC devices between the home network and the server using a short fiber cable. Everything operated as expected for four hours while I was working. Plug and Play! Note that the SFP system I am using has a Single Mode single fiber and the SFP's are in pairs transmitting on 1310 or 1550. There is now a 15M fiber cable between the endpoints. I powered the server-side FMC with one rail of the HDPLEX 200 supply. The second FMC is next to the TLS switch. I only have one LPS up there, so the FMC is on the provided SMPS. Here is the test plan outline. *** I like to work backward from what I think will be the best.*** With a little more run-in time on the TLS switch I will listen between the fiber network and Ethernet network with the TLS switch as the last hop before the NUC. Then I will remove the switch and power the FMC with the LPS 1.2 to see how that sounds. Finally drop back to ethernet only. ------- After all that I will decide about trying the direct fiber to the NUC. I am considering building a fanless Xeon server that will have one or two SFP ports to isolate the server from the rest of the network without additional switching or wireless. As a final note the FMC devices are network switch gear and I am sure that they introduce some sort of noise. Much to consider here.
  3. I am about to run an experiment. I would like others thoughts before I make this happen. I have a “spare” Mac Mini that was my music server and my current music server which is the last generation Sonic Transporter i5. I have been reading the threads about using a bridged network to improve sound quality. So I am am thinking about the new ST i7 DSP but before I spend $$$$ I want to experiment. My current NAA is a microrendu with 1.3 hardware and 2.5 software. I am running Ethernet to it. The music servers are in the network rack in the basement. 1. Move Roon Core back over to the Mac Mini and put the music either on my Synology NAS or on a drive attached to the Mac. 2. Test the Mac Mini as the server without bridging for a few days. 3. Setup bridging on the Mac Mini and see what happens. 3.5. Try some software optimization’s? 4. Move back to the sonic transporter to close the loop. I really like the Sonic Transporter for the simplicity in that I do not have to worry about software updates or OS Managment. . There are a lot of ways to spend say $2000 on just the server. —RJF I have a SoTM-200 ultra and their power supply on order to try.
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