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The USB to SPDIF converters shoot-out thread

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

Preamble:

 

I started a thread a few months ago named “USB to SPDIF converters shoot-out: EMU 0404 USB vs. Musiland Monitor 01 USD vs. Teralink-x vs. M2Tech hiFace” that was closed a few days ago.

While my initial intent was for the thread to be a place where people could share their subjective experiences with different transports, it got sidetracked pretty quickly with redundant DBT and technical talks.

 

I hope that this new thread can focus on the personal subjective listening experiences and leave the technical speculations out. It is not that I am closed to theory or understanding why different transports (can) sound different, but there are enough threads out there about the theory of audibility of jitter, digital cables, reflections on spdif cables...  

 

This thread will be structured in 2 parts:

 

Part 1: This is a (partial) copy of the initial thread - : EMU 0404 USB vs. Musiland Monitor 01 USD vs. Teralink-x vs. M2Tech hiFace

Part 2: upcoming review- Jkeny’s modified Hiface vs. Teralink X2 vs. Audio-gd Digital Interface

 

 

 

Part 1: USB to SPDIF converters shoot-out: EMU 0404 USB vs. Musiland Monitor 01 USD vs. Teralink-x vs. M2Tech hiFace (Initially published on 10/11/09)

 

 

 

Introduction:

 

Over the time I accumulated a few usb to spdif converters commonly discussed on head-fi, so I decided to write a comparative review of those units. Granted it is a bit tricky to describe the sound of a component that exclusively does its work on the digital level, however the differences do exist and I tried my best to describe how they compare to each other.

 

Test Protocol :

 

Before writing my review, I did many A/B tests going back and forth between different units. And besides those A/B tests, I also did extended listening with all those units to get more familiar with their sound as sometimes

To make sure I was not adding any unforeseen parameters, for each A/B test I would use the same usb port, the same usb cable and the same digital cable (used in the same direction).
I did try various digital cables but did most my listening with the sobek digital cable as I was very familiar with its sound. For those who might think that digital cables do not matter, you can find Here a link of an old stereophile article that measures the jitter of various digital cables which show that even the direction of the cable can affect the sound. During my test I tried to beconsistent comparing units with the same digital cable (used at the same direction), and then compared again the units with a different digital cable.
I also tried different usb cables but I ended preferring the Wireworld Ultraviolet usb cable. I did most of my testing with that usb cable except with the m2tech who doesn't need a usb cable.

 

System Used :

 

Main Chain :
Foobar 0.8.3 (KS and Otachan ASIO) --> Wireworld USB Ultraviolet --> USB TO SPDIF converter --> Hi-Fi Cables & Cie Sobek or 18 ft. Belden 1694 BNC Cable --> Audio-GD DAC-19MK3 --> Hi-Fi Cables & Cie Khnoum RCA interconnect --> Audio-GD C2C (w/ upgraded pot) --> Moon Audio Blue Dragon V3 cable --> Sennheiser HD-650
Usb to spdif converters :
EMU 0404 USB
Musiland Monitor 01 USD
Teralink-X
M2Tech hiFace
Power related accessories :
Hi-Fi Cables & Cie PowertransPlus Power Cords
Supra Mains Block
Essential Audio Tools Parallel Filter
Vibration Control :
E&T Spider Rack, Vibrapods, Vibracones, Sandboxes, Brass cones, Acrylic and Fiber carbon sheets,
Herbie's Audio Lab Tenderfoot, SuperSonic Component Stabilizer

 

Other gear :
Sources : Creative Audio 2ZS Notebook, EMU 0404 usb, Zero DAC, Audio-GD DAC-100
Headphone Amps : Little Dot MKIII, Audio-GD ST-3

 

Pictures of the system:

Picture1.jpg

Picture2.jpg

 

Ease of use & Drivers :

 

 

EMU 0404 USB :

 

The EMU 0404 usb is a very versatile unit. It can be used as a DAC, headphone amp, and also a USB to Spdif converter. However, it requires custom drivers and the digital output works only with ASIO.
It has optical and rca spdif output but it lacks a BNC output which might be a drawback for some.
The EMU can do 24/192 thanks to its custom drivers.

 

 

Musiland Monitor 01 USD :

 

The Musiland is a wonderful little unit. It needs custom drivers that work up to 24/192. It works with DS, KS and ASIO so that it can be used with any player.
It has BNC, Spdif and optical out. I am currently using it with the 1.0.3.2 driver and it works flawlessly.

 

 

Teralink-X :

 

The Teralink is the easiest to use. It doesn't need custom drivers and works with Direct Sound and ASIO (through ASIO4ALL).
It has I2S, BNC, Spdif and optical out. This one is a "plug and play" unit that performs flawlessly but is limited to 16/44 and 16/48.
It is possible to install custom drivers (thread here) but there are no sonic benefits in doing it (those drivers introduce many additional processing to the sound which I found to cause a degradation to the sound in my opinion).

 

 

M2Tech hiFace :

 

The M2Tech hiFace is a very minimalistic unit : it has only one output (I ordered mine with a BNC output) and it plugs directly into a usb receptacle without the need of a usb cable. For now, it has only drivers that work with Kernel Stream and it works with Foobar, Media Monkey and WinAmp.
DS and ASIO drivers are expected later down the road.
The unit does 24/192.

 

 

Sound :

 

First, all the usb to spdif converters listed in this review outperformed the usb inputs of the DACs I have on hand. So as long as they are used with a decent spdif cable (such as the affordable 18ft. Belden 1694 digital Cable), there should be sound improvement in many dacs (at least with the ones I tested).

Second, I have noticed big differences between usb cables (Edit -- For those skeptics on why there are differences between usb cables, please read the 23/03/10 follow-up). So I settled for the review on the best one I own (the Wireworld Ultraviolet USB) and used it for all the converters and the DACs except for the m2Tech Hiface. Therefore, it is important to note that the m2tech converter has a slight comparative advantage since it doesn't need the use of a usb cable.

Also, for those who might be interested, I wrote a full length review of the DAC-19mk3 (here) that I used for this review. It should give a good idea of a baseline of the sound in my system. I was using the Musiland back then with the Mode A digital filter for the DAC-19 mk3 and the ST-3 head-amp. Since then I upgraded to DF-1704 digital filter (mode B) and the C2C head-amp which made my system more revealing and transparent.

 

 

EMU 0404 USB :

 

I had the 0404 usb for a long time, so I was very familiar with its sound from its analog outputs. When used as usb DAC, the EMU 0404 USB is "bright" sounding, lacks deep bass and the overall sound can be described as "edgy". The sad thing is that those attributes also reveal themselves in the digital output which sound edgy and congested in the top and light in the bass in comparison with the other converters I have.
However, compared to the usb inputs of the Audio-gd DAC-19mk3 or the DAC-100, it is a noticeable step up in resolution and bass tightness.
Also, it is very sensitive to the latency settings : setting that latency from 2ms to 4ms can definitely improve the sound of the higher latencies. However, the EMU 0404 becomes more sensitive to anything else running in the computer and it shows trough crackles and pops. This is especially true forFLAC files as even 24/96 wav files can play at the lowest latencies without a glitch.

 

Note on USB cables :
I first discovered the effect of usb cables while using the EMU 0404 usb with the Audio-GD DAC-100.
I was doing a comparison between the spdif input of the dac-100 and its usb input, and for a few trials I preferred the spdif input using the EMU 0404 as a transport. When I did the same experiment a little bit later, I found that I preferred the sound of theusb input of the DAC-100 over that of EMU 0404 as a transport. The only thing that changed between experiments is that I used a Belkin cable with the DAC-100. I repeated the experiment many times and could detect the differences : the culprit was the stock usb cable that comes with the EMU 0404 that it is the worst sounding of all (it is also poorly constructed with thin conductors and ferrite shielding).
That led me to buying different usb cables from Monster, Real cable, Belkin Gold, and finally Wireworld Ultraviolet. All of them have different sounds but the Wireworld is clearly superior sounding and it also allowed me to reach the lowest latency settings with the EMU 0404usb without suffering from crackling and pops.

 

 

Musiland Monitor 01 USD :

 

The Musiland Monitor 01 USD is a definite step up in sound quality compared to the EMU 0404 USB (and incedently compared with the usb input of the dac-19mk3).
The highs are cleaner and the bass tighter. The soundstage is a little bigger and there is better separation of the instruments.
I tried different latency settings with the asio control panel of the musiland but it didn't seem to affect much its sound performance. The good thing about the Musiland is it always operates without glitches whatever the load is on the cpu.
Finally, while it is not harsh sounding like the EMU 0404 usb, it lacks some of the sparkle and life that the better converters (teralink, hiface) seem to inject to music. It is not bad by itself but the music seems to be constrained and tight once it is compared with better units.

 

Note on usb cables :
While the async protocol should make the kind of usb cable that is used irrelevant, the Musiland is however still affected by the choice of the usb cable. It is probably because it draws its power from the computer but is also possible that is still affected by incoming jitter from

 

 

Teralink-X : (Edit- The Teralink X has been upgraded to the X2 which accepts 24/96 and has better overall SQ)

 

When I bought the Teralink-X, I was not expecting much from it. At that time, I already had the Musiland unit and I was just curious to see how it performs because it uses high grade capacitors and a low jitter clock.
Straight out of the box it performed very well. After a few days of burn-in, the sound improved dramatically and it outperformed the Musiland unit easily.
The bass got deeper and more powerful, and the highs became more extended and sweeter at the same time. It is like lighting up a picture and discovering hidden details. But best off all, that increase in overall resolution did not increased the "edginess" of the sound. In fact, the sound became smoother.
The soundstage became bigger, almost limitless. In fact, on most recording I don't feel that I am listening to headphones, the only thing that keeps reminding that I am listening through headphones is the pressure of thesennheiser hd-650 on my head.
The imaging is precise, and hollographic in many recordings thanks to the precise separation of instruments and voices. Every instrument/singer has its own place on the soundstage.
Overall, I find the sound sometimes too good to be true. I got accustomed that only a few "audiophile" recordings sounded great in my system, however with theTeralink -X all recordings sound enjoyable in my system. I can still hear big differences between quality of recordings, the encoding used (mp3,flac, wav), but the Teralink-x, especially when paired with the Belden BNC cable, lets you focus on the positive sides of the recordings which is some might call "musicality".

 

Note on digital cables :
The Teralink-X works best in my system with the Belden BNC cable.
When paired with the Belden cable it gives a wide soundstage and a very smooth sound, "tubey like".
When paired with the Hifi Cables Sobek BNC cable, I get an increase in resolution, but a smaller soundstage and an increase in brightness "edginess".

 

Note on burn-in :
The Teralink-X needs a few days to sound its best. It doesn't sound bad at first but after a dew days of continuous play-back, the sound opened up and the bass got deeper. TheTeralink -X uses many capacitors inside that might explain the big change in sound that I did not notice to that extent (or at all) with the other converters

 

 

M2Tech Hiface :

 

The m2tech hiface is my newest usb to spdif converter, I have only owned it for a few days, but I have listened to it for enough hours now to get a sense of how it sounds. This minuscule unit is simply outstanding.
First, the music just makes more sense. The notes flow more easily and it requires less efforts from the listener to understand what the performers were trying to convey. There is also a general increase in resolution that makes the music more real, probably because of its better retrieval of low level information on the recordings which makes reverbs and ambiance hall more audible in Live recordings and Classical music.
Second, the soundstaging is wonderful. It has a better pinpoint and 3D imaging than the other units, and there is a even better separation of instruments and voices. In fact, whether it is because of better imaging or because of better dynamics, the result is that instruments and voices seem to have more acoustic power (while playing at the same volume levels as I did with the other converters), the presence factor of performers and instruments is much higher.
Also, while the soundstage with the Teralink-X is big, there is not as much differentiation between recordings. With the hiface, the soundstage changes a lot (in width, depth and height) between different recordings.
Finally, the frequency extremes seem to have been extended with a more shimmering and extended highs and more articulate and tuneful bass. Compared to theTeralink -X, there is also a shift in the tonal balance to a more neutral and faithful balance. There is a better differentiation between the quality of the recordings and it doesn't impose a sound signature on the recordings : Warm recordings come out as such and over-processed recordings are highlighted as such but are still enjoyable to listen to.

 

Note on digital cables :
Differences between digital cables are more easily spotted : the Belden is muffled, there is also haze and distance to its sound which gave me the impression of a big and wide soundstage.
The Sobek has a better resolution, is razor sharp, highs are more extended, and the overall perceived volume is louder probably because there is more information coming through to the dac.
Once I bought the 18 ft. Belden cable, I didn't like the sobek as much as I used to before when I used it with the other converters because it was more honest and showed the shortcomings of those units.
With the hiface I can enjoy the high resolution sound provided with the Sobek.

 

Note on media players :
Since I have had the hiface only for a few days, I did most of my testing with foobar 0.8.3 and foobar 0.9.6.4 with KS.
I preferred the sound using the old foobar 0.8.3 but the current version of the driver has a bug with 0.8.3, the time slider of track doesn't move when playing.
I tested briefly MediaMonkey and I made the Hiface work with ASIO4ALL. Then I tried ASIO4ALL in foobar with the hiface and it worked but the sound quality was not as good as with KS.

 

Final note on the Hiface :
Each time I was doing A/B comparisons with one of the other units, I would end up listening to the M2tech and forget about my review. Unplugging it to put another converter was a tough experience each time because I had to be pulled out of the music.
Beyond the criteria I described above (soundstage, resolution, ...), the M2TECH hiface was the most satisfying unit from a sonic point of view as it was the closest to real representation and offered the most believable representation of music.

 

 

Conclusion :

 

Getting a clean spdif signal from a usb port of a computer seems at first like a simple task but appears to be a rather complicated endeavour in practice. There are many usb to spdif converters today in the market and it is hard to predict how they perform. Their performance is tied both by the quality of the drivers and the quality of the components (clocks,spdif transmitters, ...)

Out of the 4 converters I tested in my system, the m2tech hiface is the one that did the best job. I have indeed been very impressed by the performance this extremely small unit and it doesn't even require a usb cable. The designer of the hiface paid great attention not only to the proprietary drivers (like EMU and Musiland) but also to the quality of components and clocks that are used.
Granted it is the less flexible unit to use as it is limited for now to KS (Kernel Streaming) with limited media players but its superior sound quality makes you forget about its limitations.

The Teralink is the second best performing unit that is leaning a little bit on the "warm" side. However, it was only when I listened to theHiface converter that I became of that coloration.
If your library contains only CD files and mp3s, the Teralink-X is very good as it combines both a "high resolution" sound with a slight warmth that makes it more forgiving toward less than perfect recordings.
However, when you add the cost of a high quality usb cable, the overall cost exceeds that of the m2tech hiface. So it is hard to recommend it because it is limited to 16/48 and doesn't sound as good as the m2tech. Any "audiophile" who is willing to buy such a converter would likely either purchase theMusiland for its convenience or the m2tech for its performance.

The Musiland Monitor 01 USD is a very nice little unit that can do 24/192 and allows for high flexibility (ASIO, KS, DS). Sound wise, it is not a match (in my system) for the Hiface or the Teralink but I am pretty sure that if it used on other DACs that have better reclocking, the performance gap with the two converters might not be as noticeable.

The EMU 0404 usb comes last (old drivers, components of average quality, and requires a high quality usb cable). However, it is the only unit that has analog inputs and outputs. In my opinion, it should not be bought to serve only as a USB to Spdif converter. There are many units out there that are cheaper and that perform better.

 
 

Follow-up - 16/03/10

 

I have been using the Hiface for months now and I am still amazed about how good it sounds. Since I wrote my usb to spdif shoot out, it seems that the Hiface has gained popularity.

Below are the link to 2 reviews by EnjoytheMusic.com and 6 moons.

 

http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0210/m2tech_hiface_usb.htm"]http://www.enjoythemusic.com/magazine/equipment/0210/m2tech_hiface_usb.htm

http://www.sixmoons.com/audioreviews/m2tech/hiface.html"]http://www.sixmoons.com/audioreviews/m2tech/hiface.html

 

 

 

More on the USB to SPDIF converters ...

 

 

Comparison between usb to spdif converters:

 

So far, I have compared the Hiface to 4 other usb to spdif converters. I have testes each of those converters with different drivers and usb cables (Wireworld Ultraviolet, Monster, Belkin Gold, Real Cable...). And so far, the Hiface seems the most neutral in comparison.

Here is a quick recap of how they sound:

-           Emu 0404 USB: thin and edgy sounding, small soundstage, limited extension at the frequency extremes

-           Musiland 01 USD: relatively neutral balance, better extension at the frequency extremes than the EMU 0404

-           Teralink-X: relatively warm sounding, better extension at the frequency extremes than the Musiland

-           Purepiper usb to spdif converter: relatively warm sounding, limited extension at the frequency extremes.

-           Hiface: The most transparent of the group

 

 

Using the Hiface with different digital cables:

 

I tried the Hiface with many digital cables. Here are some quick impressions using the dac19mk3 as a DAC.

 

-           Hiface + Canare cable: The sound is constricted, edgy, the soundstage is small

-           Hiface + Belden cable: The sound is warm, the soundstage bigger than life (but not very precise), the transients are slowed and muffled in comparison with higher end cables

-           Hiface + Sobek (modded): The sound is slightly on the warm side of neutral. The soundstage is not as big as with the Belden but is more defined and varies from one recording to another. There is a big increase in details.

-           Hiface + Stereovox XV2: The sound is slight on the thin side of neutral, a little bit bright/metallic timbre. However, it is more detailed and spacious than the Sobek.

-           Hiface + Oyaide DB-510: The sound is neutral and transparent. It the most detailed but also the most natural combination.

 

 

Using the Hiface and Oyaide with different DACs:

 

Since I have settled for the Hiface + Oyaide as my reference front end, I have used it to test different DACs and here is how they sound

 

-           Hiface + Oyaide + Purepiper DAC A-1: It has a relatively neutral tonal balance with a slight emphasis on the upper midrange. It is a little bit dry sounding. With the wrong associated equipment it can sound harsh.

-           Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version A (with the AD1852 dac chip): The sound is darker than the Purepiper. It is smoother; it has a lot less apparent details (different voicing) but has more low level details. It is also richer sounding.

-           Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version A (with the WM8740 dac chip): The sound is warmer than with the AD1852 but there is a definite loss of details and a little bit of mid bass bloat.

-           Hiface + Oyaide + FUN version B (with AD1852): It has a more limited bandwidth than version A and has dirtier highs. The sound is constricted and edgy in comparison with version A.

-           Hiface + Oyaide + DAC19mk3 (with the DF1704 digital filter): The soundstage is huge and well defined, with holographic imaging. The transients are faster. There is a great sense of transparency. The bass is deep and accurate. The highs are cleaner than any other combination above.

-           Hiface + Oyaide + DAC19mk3 (with the PMD100 digital filter): While the PMD100 is not as fast as the DF1704 filter, it has a purer tone with greater tonal density. It is “analog heaven” not because it adds pleasing distortion but because it has purer highs.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Overall, I am not saying that the Hiface + Oyaide should be used in any system as component matching is important to get a musically satisfying result.

But both the Hiface as well as the Oyaide digital cable are very transparent components. It is possible to achieve a similar tonal balance with other combination, but by using lesser components, you loose at the same time low level details, frequency extension, soundstage and imaging clues, and timbre subtleties that cannot be recovered elsewhere in the chain. 

 

So while I understand that a specific system can sound thin and edgy with Hiface, I believe it is not because of the Hiface but because of other components in the chain (digital cable, DAC) that are more likely to be the culprit.

 

 

Side Note: I suspect that in highly resolving systems when using DACs based on sigma delta chips (and opamps), it is likely that the Hiface will sound thin and dry simply because it will reveal the true sonic character of the DAC; other more jittery devices such as the Teralink seem to inject some kind of pleasing dither that makes the listening more tolerable and enjoyable (but less precise).

Here is again a few links to why sigma delta dacs are flawed and were only pursued to lower the cost of manufacturing in comparison with the R2R/multibit DAC chips.

Mother of Tone - Conversion Techniques

How DACs Work

 

 

J River Media Center vs. Foobar v1.0

 

A few days ago, J River Media gave away 5 free licences for people to try against their preferred media player (mainly Foobar).

 

After a few days of use, I found that there were subtle but noticeable differences.

 

To my ears, listening through J River (in comparison to Foobar v1.0) is like turning up the sharpness controll of a TV set. With J River all the apparent details are over emphasized but at the expense of the very fine and more subtle details. For example, the image outlines are sharper with J River, but the fine little ambient cues are less audible and you feel like everything has been recorded in a dead quiet studio.

 

So like for TVs, a little bit of added sharpness (with J River) could be either a good thing or too much and fatiguing on the long term.

Of course, one could also suggest that Foobar is dull and that J River is neutral, but that wouldn't explain how Foobar has more low level resolution.

 

Overall, it is a nice thing to have yet another mean to "tweak" the sound through the media players. And given that J River contains a lot more than a mere music player, I think it is a remarkable achievement when we compare it to Window Media Player/Media Center.

 

 

Note: All my comments about Foobar, concern the v1.0. For an unknown reason, I have always found the 0.9.x versions grainy sounding and kept using v0.8.3 until the release of the v1.0.

 

 

 

More on the Teralink-X drivers

 

I did some comments and measurements that are buried in this long thread, so I decided to include them in this follow-up.

 

Quick note/update: Since my comparison, Teralink has released the X2 version which uses a 24/96 Tenor usb chip. For future buyers, I think the extra cost of the X2 is worth it.

[QUOTE=slim.a;6226500]I have tried 3 drivers with the Teralink-x: the stock driver that automatically installs, then the CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119, and finally the Ploytec usb asio.

 

The CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119:

I tried after a few weeks of using the Teralink and I found the sound horrible. I tried to disable all the dsp effects but there was always a loss in resolution and sound quality. I did some research and found out it had only 14 bits of resolution vs. 16 bits of the stock windows drivers. I uninstalled it and went back to using the stock windows drivers.

 

The stock windows drivers that installs automatically:

This is a good driver. I did most of my listening with this one. However, the sound is the on warm side of neutral compared to all the other converters. After trying many digital cables to get a better perception of its sound, I noticed that there is a "dulling" of the sound and a smoothing/slowing of the transients. It has a pleasing effect but it is not accurate. The soundstage is very big but not very well defined.

Anyway, I am sure that people who like the "tube" sound will prefer it to most other settings or even converters for that matter. As for me, once I detected the added warmth, I could not continue to appreciate it.

 

The Ploytec usb asio driver :

This one improves the sound to a more neutral balance. There is less "dulling" of the sound. The soundstage size remained the same but the imaging improved.

This driver is closer in tonal balance to the sound of the Musiland and the Hiface which leads me to believe it is closer to the "truth".

 

 

Overall, I think that not all people are looking for "cleaner" sounding sources. In my experience, lowering the jitter (improving the quality of the transport) result in the following results : Bigger soundstage, less mid-bass warmth/bloat, more defined and deeper bass. Usually, you get less mid bass and more deep bass (if your equipment let you hear that) which might not be what people expect or want to hear.[/QUOTE]

 

[QUOTE=slim.a;6228834]I read about the cmedia drivers here : Homebrew CMI 8738 drivers - Hydrogenaudio Forums

 

By the way, when I chose to uninstall the CMedia drivers the first time I tried them it was based only on my subjective listening. You can read my comment about them here : [URL="http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/review-audio-gd-dac-19mk3-435669/index10.html#post6042974"]http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/review-audio-gd-dac-19mk3-435669/index10.html#post6042974[/URL]

 

Also, since I was in a curious mood today, I did some RMAA measurements this morning for both the generic/stock driver of the Teralink and the CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119.

 

I put the results in a Zip file if anyone is intersted in them.

 

First, how did I test it ? I used to the EMU 0404 usb to record the output of my audio-gd dac-100 using the Teralink as a transport.

 

Since I have tested the EMU with a SNR of 113 db (the SNR drops to 96 db when tested in 16bits which is to be expected) and since the audio-gd dac-100 has a SNR over 100db, if anything is done wrong in the digital domain it would show in the analog stage. If data is lost somewhere in the path it cannot be retrieved.

 

For what is it worth, my findings are as follow :

 

The generic windows drivers do not seem to mess with the data.

 

The CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119 seem to have trouble outputting correctly 16/44 without messing with the data. The SNR is worse by a 4 (and up to 6db) compared to the best results I had with the generic windows drivers.

 

To my surprise, the 24/96 test with the CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119 drivers improved the results in SNR over 16/44. However the drivers are limited to 48khz. There is a cut-off at 48 khz.

After trying 24/48 and 24/44 I concluded that the benefits comes from going to 24 bits rather than from "upsampling" to 96.

 

I read in the Valab thread people linking the 24/96 upsampling with the CM-108 drivers. Since I don't own a NOS DAC, I cannot comment on that. All I know is that there is a real loss in transparency using the CM-108 drivers in my system. I understand however that some people might like the "sonic signature" of the CM-108 drivers, but it is not the most accurate driver in my opinion.[/QUOTE]

 

 

 


Edited by slim.a - 10/10/10 at 6:07am
post #2 of 56
Thread Starter 

Part 2: Teralink-X2 vs. Jkeny’s modified Hiface vs. Audio-gd digital interface

 

 

USB isolator (galvanic USB isolation):

 

Before getting into the second part of this thread, I wanted to take a moment to describe the effect of a small “tweak” that has been talked about out in other threads, the USB2ISO or ADUM isolator. What this little dongle does is that it provides galvanic isolation between the computer and whatever converter is connected through USB.

Many USB converters have some sort of transformer at their spdif output stage but most of them have zero to little isolation on their usb input. While in theory, one proper transformer between the usb converter and the DAC is enough to protect, the USB noise can in fact affect the performance of the USB converter itself but also some cheap pulse transformers do not block everything.

Anyway, for 35 euros, I decided to give a try a try and see if the reports of people noticing big improvements through that little device held any truth.

 

During the 2 months I had the device I tried it mainly on 3 converters the Musiland, Teralink-X2 and A-GD DI. (The Hiface isn’t compatible with the little device).


The effects were rather similar but to different degrees. There was always a removing of digital grunge (in the highs), an improvement in clarity, imaging and soundstaging. On the Musiland the effect was dramatic as it made very listenable while on the Digital Interface (with external Power suplly), it was barely noticeable.


Below is how I would rate the converters from the most affected to the least affected:

-          Musiland (most affected)

-          Direct USB input of my DAC (similar to the Musiland)

-          Teralink-X2

-          Teralink-X2 with external power supply

-          Digital Interface

-          Digital Interface with external power supply (barely noticeable)

 

 So while I have found that the USB2ISO can improve the sound (with no drawbacks), I found that different converters reacted differently. The better the power supply of the converter, the less it improvement there was with that little USB device.

I personally found that the effect is well worth with all the devices I tried it with save for the Digital Interface with the external power supply. For that specific configuration, the effect is very subtle but noticeable with the revealing ALO recabled Beyer T1s.

 

Keep in mind that the effect of the USB isolator will depend on the quality of the PS of the computer being used. When doing any critical listening, I either use my laptop running on battery or plugged to a power filter (with the battery removed). So your mileage may vary depending on your specific configuration.

 

 

Teralink-X2:

 

I got the Teralink-X2 while my Hiface was broken (due to the excessive weight of my Oyaide Digital cable was applying to its usb solder) and was being repaired by m2tech.

The Teralink-X2 was a nice improvement over the X1 by adding 24/96 capability (but like other Tenor based converters, it lacks 88.2K support) as well as improving the sound quality.

 

Both models (X1 and X2) seemed to share the same warm and smooth sound, but the X2 being the most resolved of the 2.

 

While, its sound improved by adding an external power supply and the USB isolation, I felt that it was always lacking in realism of timber. The stock Hiface, while more lightly balanced, seemed to be better at preserving the natural timber of instruments and voices.

By adding those tweaks, the subjective noise floor seemed to drop, the soundstage was even bigger and more defined, the level of details increased, and the bass became more articulate. But whatever the improvements, it always seemed to me there was something off: a slight out of focus of imaging and timbers.
I have to admit that if I didn’t have a superior converter such as the battery powered Hiface; I wouldn’t probably be able to pick up on those faults.

Overall, I used the Teralink-X2 the past few months as a back up unit whenever the Hiface batteries were depleted and needed recharging.

 

I would recommend the X2 for someone starting to build a system and needing a 24/96 usb transport for a very affordable amount. I personally felt the stock Hiface was better than the Teralink-X2 and require less hassle (external power supplies, usb cables, USB isolators).

 

Side Note: Keep in mind though that when I am describing the stock Hiface, I am referring to the performance of the older models with 2 big clocks. At one point during the life cycle, M2Tech used miniature clocks for the 44.1K multiples frequencies. Weirdly enough, it was about the same time new owners started complaining about how thin, bright and forward sounding the stock Hiface was.

M2tech said the new miniature clock had the same specs as the big but it seemed it has reverted back to the big ones.

This was a non-issue for the battery powered Hiface since the direct battery power supply to the clock make the quality of the clock less relevant. (The better clocks have better power supply noise rejection capabilities than lower end ones).

 

 

 

Jkeny’s modified Hiface:

 


Timber & Tonal balance:

While there is no shift in tonal balance per se, there are however differences between the stock Hiface and the modified one in the way they affect the DACs. (Edit: The more solid bass representation of the modified Hiface changes the perceived tonal balance into a more neutral one than the lighter sounding stock Hiface).

The most striking feature of the modded Hiface is a better extension at the frequency extremes: the bass extends deeper and the highs extend higher and in a cleaner fashion than the Hiface.

In comparison to each other, the sound of the modded Hiface is fuller. But this is different from the false warmth injected by some jittery converters. While the Teralink X2, for instance, is indeed warmer than the stock Hiface, it achieves so by adding the same extra warmth and haze to all the sounds, which reduces the overall resolution.

So what to expect from the modified Hiface? With well designed and neutral DACs, the sound gains in tonal density and realism.

The instruments are more easily recognized and … they gain in realism.

Another strength of the modded Hiface is the way it renders the specific timber of very close sounding instruments.
Listening for instance to the Concerto for 2 violins - Vivaldi, you can clearly hear that Carmignola and Mullova are playing 2 different violins (Stradivarius and Guadagnini if my memory serves me well). The violins are not only beautifully rendered but they also have distinct tonal signatures. While some warmer converters can make this album tolerable to listen to, they rob the inner details of the instruments and make everything sound the same.

Of course, this won’t be the case with every DAC, the better and the more transparent the DAC, the more subtleties you will be able to enjoy.


Soundstage & Imaging:

Here, the modified Hiface achieves something really interesting. It can throw a huge soundstage (if the components downstream are up to the task) while retaining a superb imaging capability.

If we take the Teralink X2 for example, it can throw a pretty big soundstage but it lacks depth and is fuzzy and blurry. After listening for a while to the modified Hiface I understood that part of what it was doing is to push the soundstage further back which is good for headphone listening and with entry level DACs. However, by doing so, there is a blurring of the layering lines and lack of depth.
The Hiface on the other hand throws a smaller soundstage in comparison to the Teralink X2 but it is a lot more defined a layered.

What the modified Hiface does is to throw a bigger soundstage than any other converter. To be more specific, the soundstaging is upfront like the stock Hiface but it has a tremendous depth which makes it seem a lot bigger overall. While listening to the modified Hiface, you just feel like having an open window into the representation.

I have previously described the stock Hiface as having a holographic imaging. Here the modified Hiface goes a little bit further. Thanks to its greater tonal density and to its more accurate timber, you get not only a holographic imaging of the performers, but you get a greater sense of realism. You feel there are real persons breathing and performing in front of you.
From a technical point of view, the stock Hiface was already very good in that regard. But whatever, the modified Hiface is doing, it seems to be more convincing emotionally speaking.

Overall, the modified Hiface makes it a lot easier to mentally “reconstruct” the place where the recorded event took place. It just makes more sense.


Dynamics:

I first thought that I wouldn’t have much to write about in this section of the review. When listening to the modified everything was fine, I had huge macro-dynamics and beautifully rendered micro-dynamics but I assumed that was coming from the rest of the chain. It was until I reverted back to the Teralink X2 and Stock Hiface that I noticed the difference.
When trying new gear, we get accustomed sometimes too quickly to the benefits and it is only until we revert back to the old gear that we realize how far we have come from.

Here, the modified Hiface was actually a pretty big step up in dynamics. In fact, reverting back to the stock Hiface (or worse to the Teralink X2), the sound become duller, with slowed transients.
Once again, since the modified Hiface is only a usb to spdif converter, the limiting factor in most situation will probably be the DAC itself. But in comparison to other converters, the modified Hiface gave the most dynamic results regardless of the Hiface. So my bet is that is this characteristic will be audible in all DACs.


Transparency & Definition:

The Hiface has an excellent analyzing capability. It can dig very deep in the recordings but renders the information in a very natural way. While the stock Hiface is slightly more upfront with the details, the modified Hiface has a lot more low level details. With the right associated DAC, you can get a very detailed and relaxed representation.
Personally, I have never heard in my system a converter as detailed and at the same time as analog like as the modified Hiface.

On interesting thing I also mentioned in my review about the dac19dsp is that with the modified Hiface it is the first time I can clearly hear a big improvement on 24/96 files.
Before that, I used to have a hard time distinguishing properly upsampled 16/44 data to 24/96 from the native 24/96 ones. In fact what I had realized is that most differences we hear going from 16/44 to 24/96 are due to the poor filtering at 44.1. Even with my entry level dacs (emu 0404 usb, audio-gd dac100, audio-gd FUN, Purepiper DAC A-1, Zero DAC), I can hear the differences between 16/44 and 24/96 but simply because their digital filters are relatively poor at 16/44.
With the modified Hiface associated to the dac19dsp, it was something else. I really heard an increase in resolution by going to 24/96.


Preliminary conclusion:

Contrary to what I am used to, I have made very few musical examples simply because it is very dependent on the associated DAC.
The modified Hiface is a very transparent device. It doesn’t have a sonic signature of its own. As far as I could tell, the overall sonic signature will depend more on the associated equipment and the recording itself than on the modified Hiface itself.
For more details about musical examples, I invite you to read my review of the DAC19DSP for which I used the modified Hiface as a transport. (See here:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/rev...ection-483899/).

While the modified version that jkeny sent me is still a prototype, I can say that it by far the best converter I have listened to in my system. I was expecting a small improvement (since I considered the stock one being excellent) but I was totally surprised by the level of performance of the modified Hiface. Its effect on the sound was not subtle at all.

jkeny described the sound of the modified Hiface as similar to that of expensive analog and I couldn’t agree more: his modified Hiface make the other converters sound broken.

Personally, I have already asked jkeny if I could send him my stock Hiface to have a similar mod done to it.

 

 

 

Audio-gd Digital Interface:

 

Preliminary impressions (after 2 days):

 

So far I have only listened to it in the following configuration: USB2ISO (usb isolator) - Wireworld Ultraviolet USB cable - Digital Interface (w/ external Power supply) - Oyaide DB-510 - DAC19 DSP. I didn’t have time to try any other configuration, so keep that in mind when reading my comments.

 

Below are some preliminary impressions:

 

-          Excellent low level details retrieval (similar to the modified Hiface)

-          Excellent resolution: 24bit material is really perceived as superior to 16 bit equivalent (similar to the modified Hiface)

-          Big holographic soundstage, excellent imaging, but lacks a little bit in depth in comparison with the modified Hiface

-          Excellent top to bottom coherency, the timber and pitch of instruments sound very realistic (similar to the modified Hiface)

-          Very smooth and distortion free treble

-          Excellent transient speed

-          Very dynamic sounding (perhaps even better than the modified Hiface)

-          Tonal Balance: a little soft sounding at 44.1K and neutral sounding at 96K

-          Excellent upsampling algorithms (to 96K): No loss in the low level details or naturalness, the tonal balance improves (in my system) and images snap into focus.

 

Overall, I feel that the Jkeny’s modified Hiface performs at a slightly higher overall performance. The difference is also more noticeable at 44.1 and not so much at 96K.

However, when it is compared to entry level usb converters (such as the Teralink X2, Musiland), the Digital Interface is in another category.

 

Keep in mind that these are some very early impressions that may change after I get more time listening to various recordings with the DI.

My only complaint so far is that it doesn’t accept 88.2K.

 

Since I listened to Jkeny’s modified Hiface, I have felt that most other converters sounded fake and fatiguing in long term listening. The Digital Interface is the only other converter I have tried so far that seems to be good enough that I don’t feel like I am missing the sound of the modified Hiface when listening to it.

 

 

More on the DI (after 1 week):


External Power Supply:

 

My Digital Interface came with the external power supply. I did my trial on 2 systems:

System A: DI + Oyaide DB-510 + FUN + HD-650 (w/ stock cable)

System B: DI + Oyaide DB-510 + DAC19 DSP + C2 + Beyer T1s (w/ ALO upgrade cable)

 

On the less resolving system A, the addition of the external power supply was barely audible. I would have to spend a lot of time to hear any difference at all on that system.

 

On the more resolving system B, the addition of the external power supply was clearly audible, but its extent was dependant on whether the external power supply was plugged straight to the wall or through my Bada power filter.
When plugged directly to the wall outlet (or even through the unfiltered socket of my Bada filter), there was a slight increase in low level information and a slight tightening of the sound. However, it was nothing worth loosing sleep over.

On the other, hand when the external power supply was plugged in my power filter, the increase in resolution, frequency extension at the extremes, and soundstage depth were more noticeable.

 

On my reference system, when operation straight from USB, the DI was better than the Teralink-X2 (with external power supply) but not as good as the modified Hiface. When using the external power supply, and plugged to a (good) power filter, the performance was on the same level as the battery powered Hiface, and even better on some parameters (as explained below).

 

 

Drivers:

 

When I plugged my DI on my XP based laptop, it was recognized as the Teralink-X2 since both devices use the same Tenor usb chip. I have since played the DI through Foobar with the Teralink-X2’s ASIO drivers. I haven’t felt compelled to try other configurations, and since it sounded good that way, I stuck with it for the remaining of the review, to keep everything constant.

 

 

Resolution and overall definition:

 

Like other high quality converters, the DI has 2 paradoxical qualities: on the one hand, there is plenty of resolution at low level listening, and on the other hand, it is also possible to raise the listening volume to extremely high levels without feeling any distortion or fatigue.

In my book, it means that we are dealing with true resolution and not fake resolution (that would be the result of mid treble brightness for example).

 

While the increase in resolution over entry level converters was noticeable through my HD-650, it was far more obvious on the ALO recabled Beyer T1s.

Listening to “Open Your Ears - Chesky/Head-fi” which I have bought in both 16/44 and 24/96 versions, you get a clear sense of increase in perceived resolution when listening to the 24/96 version. The sound in the higher resolution version is more open, less digital sounding, more detailed and “faster” (less transient distortions).

Upsampling the 16/44 files to 24/96 (using the DI built-in upsampling) does improves slightly the focus and gets a little bit closer to the native 24/96 files. This is the first time I find that an upsampler provides me with a clear improvement and not just a sideways shift. The excellent SoX upsampler didn’t sound as transparent but has the advantage of being very “tweakable” (you get to choose yourself the phase and passband settings).

 

Throughout that test CD, you get to understand what high resolution is about. Very little low level details that had been buried previously with entry level converters just reappear and make for a very convincing and lifelike representation.

 

Though, I have to note that the DI seems to be more convincing at preserving the resolution of the recordings at 48K and 96K than it does at 88.2K frequencies. I assume that the fact the Hiface has 2 clocks (one for 44.1K multiple and a second one for 48K) helps keeping the same level of performance regardless of the sample rate.

 

BTW, when I talk about low level details (for the DI vs. modified Hiface), I am talking about crazy low level details. Even the Teralink-X2 can render the ambiance of the recording venue and the little noises (the hands of a performer on a flute, people coughing, chair noises...). What the DI and the modified Hiface allow you to hear more clearly is the traffic noise outside a recording venue for example. So if your downstream components don’t have a vanishingly low subjective noise floor, those differences might be a non-issue.

 

 

Soundstage and Imaging:

 

Regarding the soundstage, the DI gives excellent results similar to what I have achieved with Jkeny’s modified Hiface. With a “superior” headphone that uses angled drivers such as the ALO Recabled Beyer T1, they both can throw a wide and believable soundstage in front of the listener. Unlike the somewhat big and diffused soundstage of the Teralink-X2 that is relatively flat and undefined, the DI opens a very transparent window in front of you.

 

The DI has superb imaging: the higher perceived resolution and contrast ratio help you to picture very easily individual performers and instruments. On very fine recordings (mostly classical), you can guess easily how the performer was facing the microphone, or how a soloist was playing his violin.

 

 

Timber and tonal Balance:

 

Among the things that separate the DI from entry level converters is the “weight” of the representation. Most built-in USB inputs (I have tried) and low performance converters seem to sound light. As for the stock Hiface, while it preserves relatively well the timber of instruments, it could also be described as lightly balanced. The DI on the other hand, has a bass can reach very low and has a very fine texture. The representation is very “weighty” without it being bloated. To be more specific, and to give an example, the DI hits harder in the lows than the warm sounding Teralink- X2 but, at the same, the bass of the DI is more nuanced and articulate.

Like the Jkeny modified Hiface, the DI uses its superior low frequency to anchor the images into the soundstage and enhance the believability of the soundstage, which is a very fragile parameter on headphone listening.

 

I have read one or two people describing the DI as being dark sounding. Well, if you compare it to the Musiland, EMU0404 USB or (from memory) to the stock Hiface, it is definitely darker.
But I feel that the DI is not as dark as the other converters are being bright sounding. The top 2 converters I tried in my system (Jkeny’s Hiface and the DI) have somewhat a rather similar tonal balance in comparison to brighter and harsher sounding entry level converters.


As I have said in my initial impressions, the DI seems to have a very even tonal balance throughout the frequency spectrum, with no apparent aberrations. Its bass is very deep articulate, and musical. Its midrange is very transparent and the treble is very smooth and distortion free. In fact its treble reminded somehow of what you get when moving from an entry level sigma delta DAC to a good R2R DAC such as the dac19dsp. You get at first the sense the there is less treble but the more you listen, the more you realize is that what you get is in fact less digital hash and distortion and more true high frequency information.


On one of my reference tracks, Concerto for Two Violins from Vivaldi, Carmignola and Mullova are playing 2 different violins: a Stradivarius and a Guadagnini. With an entry level converter such as the Musiland, the violins sound unnatural. On the DI, you not only get natural and realistic sounding violins, but you can very clearly hear the slight tonal differences between Stradivarius and Guadagnini. Of course, you need a pretty resolving system to hear such distinctions.

Also, thanks to its superior low level details retrieval, you hear the two soloists breathing, moving and you can even guess how they were playing their violins and facing the microphones.

The naturalness of the representation, coupled to the superior low level information retrieval, just make the two violinists pop out in front of you. By closing your eyes, you can get fooled of having real instruments in front of you.

 

 

Dynamics:

 

While I felt that the DI was a match for the Jkeny’s modified Hiface on the soundstage and frequency extension department, it felt though that, in my system, the modified Hiface had the edge in low level details. My personal guess is that the battery power helps throwing a blacker background and increase the perception of low level details. This is the only area where the battery powered Hiface has a clear and distinct edge over the DI.

 

Transients seemed subjectively faster on the DI than on the Battery power Hiface, which might also explain why I felt that the DI was being slightly more dynamic that the modified Hiface.

I believe that it has perhaps to do with the fact that John Kenny, the one who modified my Hiface aimed for a very “analog” sounding device while Kingwa, the designer of the DI aimed for a relatively neutral transport.

 

More importantly, the increase in transient speed doesn’t come at the expense of decay of sounds. In facts, I was quite surprised to notice that the decay of sounds was actually longer and truer on the Digital Interface (versus the battery powered Hiface).
My opinion is that Jkeny’s Hiface was tweaked to sound “analog” through smoothing the edges while the Digital Interface sounds “analog” by sounding more realistic and truer to life (instead of rounding off the edges).

The attacks are sharp and the decays seem to hang longer in the air than any other USB converter I have heard to date. This extended decay is very different from the haze the Teralink X2 is plagued with which adds the same euphonic coloration and warmth over all material that goes through it.

 

While it was pretty obvious from the start that the DI had excellent macro-dynamics, it took me a few days of listening to discover all the micro-dynamics subtleties it is capable of. Playing a well recorded voice or solo instruments, I got drawn into the music like never before. On my ALO recabled Beyer T1s, every tonal inflexion or micro-dynamic shift of a voice or instrument was mesmerizing.

Since I got my T1s a few months ago, I had been pretty impressed with their macro-dynamic capabilities but would have never guessed they were capable of such micro-dynamics subtleties.

 

 

Summary on the DI:

 

Quick summary on the DI:

 

The good:

 

-          Excellent low level resolution (better than all my converters save for Jkeny’s Hiface)

-          Excellent top to bottom coherency and very realistic timber: instruments and voices seem to be made from one piece (slightly better than Jkeny’s Hiface)

-          Excellent frequency extension at the extremes (similar to Jkeny’s Hiface)

-          Excellent soundstage and imaging capability (similar to Jkeny’s Hiface)

-          Excellent transient and dynamic capabilities (the best I have heard from a usb converter)

-          Excellent upsampling algorithm

 

The bad:

 

-          No support for 88.2K frequencies

-          A little soft sounding at 44.1K (it can be overcome by upsampling to 96K)

-          The performance of the external PS is affected by external factors (i.e need for a power filter)

 

Overall, I would say that the DI performed at a similar level as the battery powered Hiface. While the modified Hiface had a slight edge in low level details (in my system), the Digital Interface had a clearer edge in top to bottom coherency as well as transient speed and preservation of the natural decay of complex (non-amplified) instruments.

 

I predict that the modified Hiface will provide better results with (aggressive sounding) Sigma Delta based DACs (it will smooth out the edges), while the DI will do a better job with already natural sounding R2R DAC such as Audio-gd’s PCM1704 DACs.

The differences between them are small enough that it will probably come down to personal performance and system synergy. Both units are a few steps from entry level converters such as the Musiland / Teralink-X2.


In my system, and to my ears, I could sump up by saying that the DI simply made beautiful music and didn’t call attention to itself. There are probably other converters out there that can beat it in soundstage size, resolution, dynamics... but the good thing with the DI is that when you listen to it (alone), it is very hard to pinpoint areas of weakness.

While it probably won’t replace a $1000 Empirical Audio usb transport, it will probably satisfy any person looking for their first good quality USB transport. My main and only complaint, as I stated earlier, is that the DI (like the Teralink-X2, Bravo, Stello U2...) cannot handle 88.2K, which might not be such a big deal for most people because of the material that is available is either at 44.1 (CDs), 48 (movies) or 96 (most High Resolution music).

 

 


Conclusion:

 

While I subjectively preferred the DI in my particular system, I believe that Jkeny’s Hiface is overall superior because its performance is more consistent from one system to another. The only thing you have to worry about when getting Jkeny’s Hiface is getting a suitable battery charger and any functioning USB extender. With the DI, small tweaks (external power supply, power filter...) can have an effect on the sound. So in that way, there is no guarantee that you will get the same results with the DI as reported here: they might be better or worse for all that I know. 

 

If we are looking at the performance purely, Jkeny’s Hiface has the upper hand: I tried it with various DACs from different makers, using different computers (laptops and workstations) and the result has always been the same: excellent.

However, if we factor in the ease of use, extra functionalities (upsampler, recloker) and build quality, the DI has the upper hand.

 

Last year, when I was recommending the Hiface to people, it was a very novel and breakthrough device and it was also cheaper (I paid 82.5 euros for it at the time). Today, there are 24/96 (and higher) usb converters popping out everywhere.

In my personal opinion, the stock Hiface lost its value proposition, and I would rather recommend the cheaper Teralink-X2 for entry level set-ups, or the Digital Interface (without power supply) for mid level set-ups.

 

At a slightly higher price both the A-gd Digital Interface (with the external power supply) and Jkeny’s modified Hiface seem to represent excellent price quality ratio. I can personally live with either one and I can’t say the same with other converters. For those willing to spend even more, there are very interesting USB converters such as the Audiophilleo, Empirical Audio converters, Weiss INT202... to name a few.


Edited by slim.a - 10/10/10 at 6:09am
post #3 of 56

I'm looking forward to the DI review.
 

post #4 of 56

Subscribed.

post #5 of 56


X2

Quote:
Originally Posted by shadowlord View Post

I'm looking forward to the DI review.
 

post #6 of 56

I have seen elsewhere that some folks have removed the coax cable from the equation from the HiFace and used a USB extension cord (and sometimes a powered USB hub or other means of non-computer supplied power). This then requires an adaptor that would allow the HiFace to be plugged directly into the DAC.

 

Also worth trying is a tweak suggested by jkeny that places 6-10dB attenuators (BNC, so may need an adaptor for RCA HiFaces) at one or both ends of the coax cable.

 

FWIW

post #7 of 56

thanks, slim.a, for keeping the fire burning

subscribed...

post #8 of 56

@Slim, have you tested the X2 with an external PSU or battery?

What is your opinion comparing the X2 to the Hiface?

I like to get other peoples opinions on such things and see how they compare with what I am hearing and the results of my tests.

Not to go offtopic, but I noitced you are using some wireworld cables, How do you find those for audio use?

post #9 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roscoeiii View Post

I have seen elsewhere that some folks have removed the coax cable from the equation from the HiFace and used a USB extension cord (and sometimes a powered USB hub or other means of non-computer supplied power). This then requires an adaptor that would allow the HiFace to be plugged directly into the DAC.

 

Also worth trying is a tweak suggested by jkeny that places 6-10dB attenuators (BNC, so may need an adaptor for RCA HiFaces) at one or both ends of the coax cable.

 

FWIW


Removing the coax cable from the equation is something that a few people tried and they generally seem to have a positive results. Unfortunately when I heard about this "tweak" I had already my Hiface modified which became too heavy to plug directly at the back of my DAC. I wish I still had a stock hiface to test it vs. some of the digital cables I own.

 

BTW, there are already 2 usb converters that already use the idea of removing the coaxial cable:

The Halide Bridge: http://www.halidedesign.com/bridge/design/

Audiophileo: http://www.audiophilleo.com/audiophilleo1.aspx

 

Regarding special USB cords, jkeny sent to me a special usb extension cable that allows you to use an external 5V power supply (instead of the 5V power supply of the USB port). I have to admit that I didn't hear much difference (with my equipment) between his special usb cable, a Belkin USB extender and a Monster USB extender.

However, other people reported having heard improvements with that special usb cable (that bypasses the usb power supply). Since I only tested it at the time with one (reclocking) DAC and on one laptop, I can imagine other people with other set-ups reaching different conclusions.


The attenuators are something that I am going to try shortly (I am about to order them). From my understand they only be used with the Hiface or other converters that have a higher than normal output voltage.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post

@Slim, have you tested the X2 with an external PSU or battery?

What is your opinion comparing the X2 to the Hiface?

I like to get other peoples opinions on such things and see how they compare with what I am hearing and the results of my tests.

Not to go offtopic, but I noitced you are using some wireworld cables, How do you find those for audio use?


I tried the X2 very briefly with an external PSU. As reported by other members on the Teralink X2, It improved indeed the sound quality. However, whether by upgrading the usb cable, the PSU, trying different digital cables... at no time I found myself preferring the Teralink X2 over the Hiface. Those tweaks lowered the level of haze and fuziness of the stock Teralink X2 but it never becomes as resolving, fast and transparent as the stock Hiface.

There are cases however where the smoother nature of the Teralink X2 might be preferable to the more unforgiving nature of the stock Hiface. I have to note though that the Teralink X2 was a step ahead of the older model (the Teralink X).

 

Overall, I feel there was room for improvement, I could have tried a low noise battery power supply, a better usb cable, a USB isolator... but I preferred going the modded Hiface way after I listened to jkeny's Hiface review sample.

 

Regarding the wireworld cables, I only have the Ultraviolet USB cable. I don't have much experience with cables from that company, but from my limited experience with their cable and from what I read on their website, they are a very serious company. They focus on the most important paramaters (high purity conductors, low loss dielectric, and good shileding). Regardless of whether one might believe that a cable can make a difference or not, they are upfront regarding what they use into their products, so you know what you are paying for.

post #10 of 56


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by slim.a View Post

I tried the X2 very briefly with an external PSU. As reported by other members on the Teralink X2, It improved indeed the sound quality. However, whether by upgrading the usb cable, the PSU, trying different digital cables... at no time I found myself preferring the Teralink X2 over the Hiface. Those tweaks lowered the level of haze and fuziness of the stock Teralink X2 but it never becomes as resolving, fast and transparent as the stock Hiface.

There are cases however where the smoother nature of the Teralink X2 might be preferable to the more unforgiving nature of the stock Hiface. I have to note though that the Teralink X2 was a step ahead of the older model (the Teralink X).

 

Overall, I feel there was room for improvement, I could have tried a low noise battery power supply, a better usb cable, a USB isolator... but I preferred going the modded Hiface way after I listened to jkeny's Hiface review sample.

 

Regarding the wireworld cables, I only have the Ultraviolet USB cable. I don't have much experience with cables from that company, but from my limited experience with their cable and from what I read on their website, they are a very serious company. They focus on the most important paramaters (high purity conductors, low loss dielectric, and good shileding). Regardless of whether one might believe that a cable can make a difference or not, they are upfront regarding what they use into their products, so you know what you are paying for.

Sure, just asking your thoughts on the comparison.  I have improved the output quality of the X2m by using dedicated power, higher quality USB cable and a USB isolator.  I have talked with people that have modded the internal circuitry of the X2 and I think that might be my next step -just for fun and experiment sake.

I should be starting my Hiface modding rounds here soon to see what that units has to offer also.

I have yet to try some of the wire-world cables but I am thinking of adding some to my existing collection.  Audio Quest released some higher end USB cables if your interested in that type of thing.
 

post #11 of 56

1


Edited by esdk - 7/30/10 at 12:29pm
post #12 of 56

I just spent a huge amount of time trying out different audio software and various component changes, all the while swapping my X2 w/ usb isolator in and out w/ an unmodified Hiface. I found that I prefer the X2. I was expecting it to be overly warm and slow and masking details as some have reported but in my setup there's just as much detail and transparency as the Hiface, just a little fuller mid-bass and definitely more pleasing. Kind of like the difference between 2nd order and 3rd order distortion in speakers. I wouldn't doubt the modded Hiface sounds better, but an X2, usb isolator, and Teradak PSU combined would still come to half that of a full Jkeny package incl. charger. Not much more if you build a Sigma 11 PSu instead. At least there's something for everyone!

 

 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBSCIX View Post


 

Sure, just asking your thoughts on the comparison.  I have improved the output quality of the X2m by using dedicated power, higher quality USB cable and a USB isolator.  I have talked with people that have modded the internal circuitry of the X2 and I think that might be my next step -just for fun and experiment sake.

I should be starting my Hiface modding rounds here soon to see what that units has to offer also.

I have yet to try some of the wire-world cables but I am thinking of adding some to my existing collection.  Audio Quest released some higher end USB cables if your interested in that type of thing.
 

post #13 of 56

When I had the Teralink-X2s a few months back (I owned 2), I was running them off a dedicated linear regulated PSU, and using a 0.5m Wireworld Starlight USB Audio cable. Both made a noticeable improvement to the sound of the X2, but it still wasn't to my liking in the long-run. I preferred the Musiland 02US over it for its superior speed, imaging, treble extension and dynamics. The jkeny HiFace, though, is a clear step up from both of those converters overall, especially in terms of transparency, resolution and balance.


Edited by Shahrose - 7/29/10 at 5:28pm
post #14 of 56

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post #15 of 56

Great thread. Subscribed.

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