The Ultra Fi Abisque USB Filter by Ultra Fi http://ultrafi.biz/
I use my Aune T1 with my Mac mini, a Ridge Street Audio Enopias USB cable with Sennheiser HD 598 headphones.Recently I was sent with an option to buy, this magnificent little filter that goes between the USB cable and the DAC.
The improvements I am hearing are not subtle, it is like a entire component upgrade and purification of the sound.
I highly suggest you try this out as there is a trial period.
The Aubisque filter arrived and I was immediately impressed by the build quality. He had conveyed to me that there is a PCB board within this 3 inch filter and, there are (from what I understood) three levels of noise filtration. I have always had to deal with noise in my analog components so I was not surprised when he told me this.
This filter interfaces between my USB cable and the DAC. I take the cable out of the DAC, and plug its male type “B” connector into the filter’s female type “B” input then plug the male type “B” connector into the DAC.
I will be much more demonstrative about this change as it involved a piece of hardware.
The system before this filter was very pleasing to my discerning ears. I used specific well recorded music to evaluate this new filter. I am not an audio reviewer so I will convey what I heard and what I think is going on. I may not be 100% accurate so forgive me if I am in error at any point.
First up is my trust acoustical guitar CD that I purchased from Windham Hill records back in the day. This Alex De Grassi CD is superb as its acoustical guitar sound is wonderfully captured and this artist is superb. I bring this CD with me to many homes as I am in audiophile club. This CD when played back in any system, especially a serious system is an example of just how good a 16 bit CD can sound.
I queued up my front end player and played several tracks from this compilation CD. From the very first to the last song I listened to. I heard improvements that make me realize, OMG, this is not subtle. Acoustic recordings, not amplified recordings are best suited for evaluations.
I know this recording or I thought I did. Now I can hear the attack and decay better that I have ever heard it in my own system. The background became blacker so those little yet faint sounds you hear are now part of the playback. I like to use the acronym "PRAT" . Music is a passion that many of us share yet many ‘philes are guilty of listening to the electronics IMHO.
I was tapping my fingers, toes and even bobbing my head. That is a sign I am emotionally into the music. I then went to the Proprius XRCD of Jazz at the Pawnshop. This highly regarded recording is well known amongst audiophiles and I like to use it for evaluating the system. This recording was even more improved as there is much more going on. The sound was more open, there was better separation between the instruments, the resolution was better and that tonality was improved. The PRAT here was so nice.
I found myself wanting to listen to song after song, different genres from different time periods. I then listened to some classical violin music by Perlman, Stern, etc. Now I am hearing the violin as I felt I should. That tonality snapped in place. This conformed what I head with the Jazz recording. There is a pureness now has replaced what I thought was acceptable before the filter was installed. That analytical, precise sound is now a thing of the past. The sound is more open, detached from the speakers, has greater ambient retrieval, more depth, etc. I can hear further back into the orchestra. WOW!
I estimate this 1st phase of listening lasted about 90 minutes. I took a brake and decided to make something to eat then come back and listen some more.
Next up came some Blues Music. Muddy Waters – Folk Singer MFSL Ultradisc. This is a superb recording in both its fidelity and the artists ability to convey music recorded back in 1963 at Chess Records in Chicago.
Buddy Guy is the second guitarist with the master Muddy. I listened to three tracks and I heard separation between Muddy and Guy. I could make out each player yet there was no etched sound, it was coming from within the soundstage, not from the speaker. I could hear Muddy and his mastery now. The voice was eerie and I you can now hear the extra sound he made proving he was the master of MOJO. Chess had one heck of a studio and now I could hear the play of Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, etc and the studio sound, OMG.
I could not resist any longer. I went to my vinyl archives of the Blues musicians like muddy waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightning Hopkins, etc. these recordings where made back in the 1950s and 1960s on analog tape ands using tube consoles.
I was stunned listening to these recordings. The playback had an analog sound which made me think I was spinning a record. I said to myself, is the art of recording lost? I listened to some Elvis, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly, etc. These recordings using minimalist microphones were breathtaking. Are they like the orchestral recordings, no? They are wonderful in their own right and shine with a brilliance they is rare when using digital.
I shut the system down for the night; it was like 2:30 am I lost track of time!
The next day I listened to more music and was just as pleased and I used a diversified mixture of genres. Next up are the headphones and the ability to play the music the way you hear it live, loud and dynamic.
This is one heck of a killer budget headphone amp and the Mac mini and my library sound brilliant.
I played the war horses like Fanfare for the Common Man, Pictures at an Exhibition, Scheherazade, The Planets, Wagner, etc.
All of these sounded great, I was at the concert hall yet in my living room. Two of these recordings caused me to have what I will term a rare moment of bliss. Scheherazade and The Ride of the Valkyries, blew me away. I have several versions of Scheherazade and they were intense. The Reiner with the CSO and the London Phase four versions were so intense to hear that large scale orchestra. Steinberg with the PSO playing Wagner made me think I was going to be attacked in an air raid (Apocalypse Now).
The dynamic contrasts from low to high are greatly improved so a full scale orchestra recording simply blows you away. The different sections in the orchestra and the ability to deciper front back, sides were extraordinary.
This was over a week ago and I am listening as often as I can. I even find myself listening to those recordings I would normally avoid because I thought the SQ on the recording was lackluster.
I tried for a very short time to listen to the system without the Abisque filter. That lasted less than 5 minutes. What was once my accepted medium was no longer the case. I bought this filter for only $200 and this is giving me a major improvement that IMHO is worth way more than $200.
I did try this in some other systems and I will reiterate what I hear, this is not a subtle improvement, it is serious.
I highly suggest those who use a USB connection and take your listening seriously, to consider adding this to your playback system.
The web address of this is as follows: http://ultrafi.biz/
You will see the filter on the home page and the contact information is along the bottom of the web page.
Edited by LizardKing01 - 1/28/13 at 2:10am