My current setup:
Toshiba Pro Satellite i5 4gb ram > Foobar2000 for disc archives or Media Player Classic Home Cinema (with Reclock set to bitperfect) for Blu-ray > Halide Bridge USB to S/PDIF RCA > DSM3 High Resolution Digital Monitors.
I posted some of this on a private forum, but thought I would share it here as well. I thought it might be helpful for someone considering getting this awesome converter.
I am going to build a dedicated C.A.P.S. for all of my archival digital music needs, but I don't have the extra funds to afford right now. I'm just slowly getting parts here and there when I can spare the extra dough. My main reason for a dedicated music server is to not only archive my Redbook CDs, DVD-As and Blu-ray audio in FLAC and LPCM, but to also have high quality playback. I already have many v0 mp3s and FLACs on my PC and two external drives. But PC audio is generally not comparable to a quality player of physical formats because they are data dumps of digital information, are isosynchronous, and generally have a dirty onboard PSBUS, all being playback negatives. Internal cards that convert to transport for DACs are generally ridden with jitter and are not bit perfect, which may or may not be audible on your cheaper gear, but tends to show on quality monitors/speakers. Music can sound out of phase, missing at times, like bacon frying and a loss of dynamic range. Maybe I'm a helplessly doomed audiophile here, but I simply desire to hear my audio as close as possible to the artists and engineers' master recordings. But to the point of still being dependent on my general purpose laptop for playback: I had recently been looking for a cheaper audiophile shortcut to get the sound quality I wanted out of my laptop computer without breaking my bank.
After months of research and quite a bit of agonizing, I found a possible solution in a USB Audio to 75ohm SPDIF convertor. Many of these on the market. Some that are relatively inexpensive and can be had for less than $100. But most are isosynchronous or adaptive and do not support the native resolutions of the original audio, especially high resolution audio. They either resample or are not bit perfect even with a good player such as foobar2000. Most of the cheaper ones simply do not sound good enough in comparison to playback on my trusty old Oppo or HBB disc players. And really, that is the point of my quest, to find a PC alternative that *is* comparable, but won't cost me an arm and leg. If they depend on the USB onboard bus for power, they can allow artifacts from your computer's power consumption to be audible in your music or mix. I learned this with an M2Tech Hiface as my first try at roughly $200. It was reviewed well and is asynchronous with two different frequency clocks for multiples of 44.1khz and 48khz. But in its initial use, I could hear my drives power processes, power transfers from the PC's bus and the high end was a little too crunchy. I returned it and went a little beyond my means right now and purchased a Halide Bridge. It is also truly asynchronous with two dedicated clocks, but also uses wavelength streamline technology for ultra low jitter; and furthermore, has built-in filters and regulators that remove sound artifacts from the USB caused by the onboard power supply.
Holy freaking cow...what a miracle of a little device I have! I haven't enjoyed PC audio this much in years. Being able to listen to my high resolution 24bit flacs of Porcupine Tree, NIN, King Crimson, jazz and classical albums, or really, whoever, and *NOT* being able to tell any significant difference from my disc players has got me excited. In fact, I'm even hearing dynamic range I didn't always hear through my disc players. Granted, I can't afford a $3000+ player like some of you. But my Oppo and HHB players aren't garbage by any means. With this Bridge, however, all my criticisms of PC audio are subdued. I'm even noticing quite an improvement on my v0 mp3s even though my monitors can be revealing for higher compressed files, sounding paper thin at times, though some of that can be related to the original 16bit source. But the overall excellent playback ability of the high resolution files at high quality via the Bridge is key here.
The $400 price was stiff, but manageable on my current budget with a little bit of sacrifice. I am still aiming to build that dedicated C.A.P.S. down the road. But for now, my Halide Bridge has brought the fun and enjoyment back to PC audio for me. I've not been this excited to just sit and listen to music off my computer since I was a teenager during the mp3 revolution.
I've had my Halide Bridge for about two months and I am still in love with it. I have also discovered a few nice tweaks. I've always used Foobar2000 to play my music files on Windows Vista and Windows7. Foobar2000 will utilizes Microsoft's DirectSound drivers, your sound card or your integrated sound, such as Realtek, those do not support 88.2khz files. Since some of my high resolution 24bit flacs are LPCM archives of the 88.2khz SACD DSD playback, I had to look for a solution. In doing so, I made a nice discovery. Foobar2000 also supports WASAPI sound. You can download the driver from Foobar2000's website. When enabled, Foobar2000 bypasses the sound properties and mixer in Windows so it can match the sample rates supported by your USB interface. This really gets the most out of USB audio. You don't have to manually set the native frequency under the Bridge's sound properties based on what resolution file you are playing. Just set it to the highest resolution and forget it. WASAPI enables Foobar2000 to play 88.2 files in addition to 44.1, 48 and 96kHz, but even better, it will keep them in their native resolution. This allows the Bridge to do its magic. Pretty cool stuff.
I also think, as with some other electronic devices, the Bridge requires a little burn-in time. It seems to have improved in the upper range frequencies. In playing my 24bit/96kHz archives, the highs sound more crisp, but still natural and not over-exaggerated. The lower and mid-range frequencies are as amazing as ever. My 88.2kHz archive of the DSD from the Dark Side of the Moon SACD is beautiful. Definitely the best listen of Pink Floyd my ears have experienced. I have not yet purchased the new 24bit/96kHz LPCM masters from the recent Blu-ray audio release. I'll post some other highlights below...
I have also perfected my setup for concert DVD and Blu-ray lossless PCM and MLP high resolution stereo playback on my computer after about a month of experimentation. Remember that I found the highest quality sound output for my v0 mp3s, flacs and wavs using Wasapi in the Foobar2000 audio player? Unfortunately it doesn't play video files. So my next quest was finding the highest quality sound output for video playback. Whether you have a USB to SPDIF converter like my Halide Bridge, an audiophile sound card connected directly to a DAC, or some other kind of digital connection to a home theater receiver via TOSLINK or HDMI, the following is the best audiophile software setup I have come across for my PC:
Media Player Classic Home Cinema 32bit (freeware)
1)Install MPC-HC 32bit version first. Even if you have a 64bit version of Windows 7, stay away from MPC-HC 64bit. Currently, there isn't a 32bit version of ReClock, and you will need ReClock to implement native resolution and bitperfect sound output from video playback via Wasapi.
2) Install ReClock.
3) Under the Options menu for MPC-HC, go to Options. Go to the sub-selection under Internal Filters called Audio Switcher, uncheck "Enable built-in audio switcher" and click OK to disable it. Then go to the sub-selection under Playback called Output. At the bottom of the window under Audio Renderer, choose "Reclock Audio Renderer." Click Ok and exit the program.
4) Under your programs menu, find and open Configure Reclock. Should be under the directory for Reclock. Under the Audio Settings tab, select Wasapi Exclusive for both PCM and Bitstream. Under devices to use with, select your transport device. In my case, I selected SPDIF Bridge (for my Halide Bridge). You may also choose your Soundcard's SPDIF or TOSLINK output, or HDMI if you are using that to your external receiver. Under sound pre-buffer, I would leave this as default if you are using a soundcard. If you hear popping during playback, you may wish to tweak this and go with a lower setting. Wasapi tends to improve when you drop the pre-buffer down. If you are using an ultra-low jitter SPDIF, you may want to go way low. (I have best results with 60ms using the Halide Bridge). For HDMI, 1000ms should be sufficient to correct any problems. Leave the Max Latency setting alone. Under sample rate, obviously you want to make sure that "Same as input" is the default. This will allow your DAC or Receiver to receive the original frequency from the source file. This will be important if you do not want to resample and degrade the audio quality before it even passes through your transport device or cable. You may want to set your bitrate to what your receiver supports though. My DAC supports up to 24 bit audio. But some DACs may only support a maximum of 16bit audio. Under the bitstream setting, go ahead and set it to "Accept bitstream formats." Also disable "Media Speed Correction." Now go to the Advanced tab. The only thing you need to select here is "Force ReClock to be opened instead of default renderers." Below Applications, browse for the .exe file under your Program Files x86 directory for Media Player Classic. This will force ReClock to load over whatever Windows may or may not decide to load, even if you have it selected as the default renderer in MPC-HC. Now click "Ok" and exit the program.
5) Now run Media Player Classic Home Cinema and open the DVD or Blu-ray off your optical drive or the archived files on your hard drive. You should be able to click on the audio setup or language setup on your video menu for whatever you are playing. Be sure to select the 2.0 LPMC or MLP lossless stereo. If the DVD or Blu-ray you're playing doesn't have a sound menu, just click on Navigate at the top of MPC-HC and go to Audio Language. Here you will be able to select the 16bit 2.0 or the 24bit 2.0 format, as well as DTS and multi-channel formats. It will also show the sample rate for each file. Generally, if your DVD or Blu-ray has high resolution audio, it will be listed here to choose in 24bit/48khz or 96khz.
6) When your concert video is playing, you will see an icon appear on your taskbar for ReClock. If the icon is Red, you have not yet selected sound output from video's menu; if GREEN, it is resampling the source. This probably doesn't sound bad because it is at least resampling at the original sources sample rate, but it's still not bit perfect. Just click on the icon to open the ReClock Monitoring Window. Disable resampling by choosing "Original Source Speed" and then put a check in Lock. You will notice the icon will turn Yellow. This is now bitperfect streaming of the source file to your DAC via the Bridge.
I know there are a lot of surround 5.1 lovers out there, but I love pure lossless studio stereo mixes. I find I get far more enjoyment out of my audio in the traditional stereo 2.0 or 2.1 setup with a fantastic set of studiophile/audiophile monitors. Playing the high resolution 24bit LPCM and lossless audio this way is just amazing.
I have had many eargasms with the Halide Bridge, but some of the most memorable so far have been:
David Gilmour - Remember that Night: Live at the Royal Albert Hall on Blu-ray (LPCM 24-bit/48kHz stereo)
Porcupine Tree - Anesthetize on Blu-ray (LPCM 2.0 24-bit/48kHz stereo)
Dire Straits - Alchemy on Blu-ray (LPCM 24-bit/96kHz stereo)
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon on SACD (Flac 24-bit/88.2kHz archived from playback of the SACD DSD stereo)
Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet on DVD-A (Flac 24-bit/48kHz archive of the hires LPCM stereo)
Porcupine Tree - In Absentia on DVD-A (Flac 24-bit/48kHz archive of the hires LPCM stereo)
Leipziger Streichquartett - Johannes Brahms Chamber Music from HDTracks (Flac 24-bit/96kHz stereo)
Arne Domnerus - Jazz At The Pawnshop on SACD (Flac 24-bit/88.2kHz archived from playback of the SACD DSD stereo)
Fleetwood Mac - Rumours from HDTracks (Flac 24-bit/96kHz stereo)
Steely Dan - Gaucho on SACD (Flac 24-bit/88.2kHz archived from playback of the SACD DSD stereo)
English Music for Viols on CD (Flac 16-bit/44.1kHz redbook)
The Eagles - Hotel California from HDTracks (Flac 24-bit/96kHz stereo)
Unicorn Ensemble - Agricola Fortuna Desperata on CD (Flac 16-bit/44.1kHz redbook)
Opeth - Heritage on CD (Flac 16-bit/44.1kHz redbook)
Gustav Holst on SACD (Flac 24-bit/88.2kHz archived from playback the SACD DSD stereo)
Herbert von Karajan - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Requiem in D mintor, K.626 on DVD-A (Flac 24-bit/96kHz archive of the hires LPCM stereo)