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Hugo M Scaler by Chord Electronics - The Official Thread

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by ChordElectronics, Jul 25, 2018.
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  1. mlxx
    A while back I was connecting a hard disk to do backups on my PC and I eventually realized this was affecting the sound even though I was using optical. One would think this would not be possible because optical isolates the dac from the PC. Any noise or RF on the source side may affect many things, for example, the optical transmitter that is converting the electrical signal to light, this can create a lot of jitter or even changed bits. A DPLL can correct for jitter in Chord dacs on optical more so than in other dacs. Roon, Foobar, Jriver all sound different even though they all are bit perfect but that is what my ears hear, servers similarly generally sound better, a lot of funny business going on that sometimes doesn't even make sense. They have cleaner power supplies, lower noise/RF overall so don't affect other stuff as much, better clocks etc. A good dedicated audio server can certainly help, problem is they aint cheap.

    I remember Rob saying it was to allow for some headroom (3dB) to prevent clipping.
  2. Triode User
    Although you were using optical for the data link it is possible that you did not have full isolation because the PC, the hard disk and the MScaler had power supplies plugged into the mains and that provided a link for RF noise? I doubt that you had any changed bits because I always thought that resulted in clicks rather than changed sound quality . . .
  3. mlxx
    That is possible but this hard disk was a normal internal 3.5" that was fitted inside the PC case that I would pull the 12V supply out of just so I didn't have to hear it spinning since it was rarely used. So the power situation was the same other than the 12V power being plugged into the hdd or not. Once I suspected it was the cause it was quite easy to test and confirm it. I had an external hdd that I initially suspected but that one was OK. I ended up adding an Isotek power strip, Eitr, and also a whole bunch of ferrites to try and better isolate things which did help a lot. You need a lot of noise to change bits but it would be possible, I didn't have that issue though.

    I wish I had an mscaler but sadly no. I am holding out for a Dave2 with the power of the TT2 (for a LCD4). After listening to the Dave, I didn't want to listen to the TT2 anymore, I liked the Dave so much more.
  4. Triode User
    Thanks for the reply. I admit have never had any clicks ever due to damaged or changed bits.

    Join the rest of us waiting for a Dave 2 but those of us who already have Dave are reassured by Rob saying that Dave 2 is not even on the drawing board whilst it is still best in class.
  5. dmance
    Optical isolated your signal path from RF so the only possible other path is power. The bits never changed, the RF noise profile did.

    When the HD drive was connected, the PC subsystem driver ran and some other logic branch in the OS became active. The CPU then threw out more RF of this or that frequency and it followed any metallic conductive path to your DAC.
    Use isolation transformers on anything digital. Even two in series.
  6. mlxx
    That is possible, but isn't it also possible that it increased jitter on the optical and is unrelated to RF? From what I can tell my dac doesn't reclock the optical or not very well, I have since moved to USB and going back to optical now, it does sound rather fuzzy in comparison. I had tried USB at the time and could not hear the same effect with that hdd. It was just a cheap Realtek motherboard optical so that led me to ditching it completely and trying a Schiit Eitr.

    Edit: I am reading your whitepaper... very interesting for the mscaler.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
  7. dawktah2
    That setup looks beautiful in that table. I picked one up from http://www.nice-racks.com/ click link do not Google "nice racks" for the obvious reason.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
    Blitzula, 514077, Aslshark and 3 others like this.
  8. Whazzzup
    I need a stand for my antipodes DX. It would also House my network router directly below it, with lots of cable access in the rear. Sturdy yet aesthetic match up to what I got going. Not easy tho to find for specific dimensions..
  9. austinpop
    Too late! :confounded:
    ZappaMan likes this.
  10. Whazzzup
    here is a gem, as long as we don't have bad times, there will always be an upgrade for those that wait, just by fluke, and for those with that audio insecurity bug. Course if you like it who cares .Im just injecting a shred of cynicism as we hamster wheel on specs. Im hoping for trickle down but again, good times, not likely.
    Not that there is anything wrong with that.
  11. dmance
    I know from my product development work that Rob's SPDIF interface is incredibly tolerant of jitter and waveform shape. I have perhaps hundreds of hours of listening to music while sending SPDIF coax and TOSLINK to a Hugo2 from M Scaler. Fortunately, when the M Scaler has control of the SPDIF clock - it will be rock steady. Also any good USB-to-SPDIF converter has top-grade clocks. Ive would say ive never 'heard' jitter. In my experience these are the things I hear:

    Any 'broken bits' digital artifact is stand-up obvious
    • Dropout from not enough wifi/internet bandwidth or just a busy laptop/source - silence for second
    • A bit error in the file (something wrong with the CD rip or a flaw in the downloaded original) - loud pop/click or moment of silence
    • Cable error - the Toslink connector is not pushed in all the way ... or the SPDIF BNC connection is poorly made - results in blips, burps, seconds of hash as the SPDIF receiver struggles to recover
    Then there is the non bit-perfect audio issues - less obvious
    • Inadvertent adjustment of volume at the source (like setting it to 80%). Here the digital signal to the M Scaler/DAC has less dynamic range. Still sounds great but just not as transparent
    • Inadvertent equalization or re sampling (like setting all files to play at 16/44.1 in Windows shared-audio-device mode) - Here, similarly, plays perfectly but music not as engaging
    • Time stretched audio (like VLC's time stretching audio to sync with video). This creates wow-and-flutter that is obvious depending on the speedup. This is not SPDIF jitter errors - this is the perfectly legal and valid SPDIF that has the music samples stretched in the time domain.
    Then there are the issues related to RF noise:
    • The frustration that your system sounds better at 2 AM then it did just after dinner - caused by household/neighborhood RF noise (or poor sinewave) on AC mains. Affects everything.
    • The harshness or brightness that arises (or goes away) when you make a change to a cable, component, power-supply, etc. - RF noise profile changes ...migrates through signal and power conduction to affect the DAC and other analog equipment.
    • The collapse of the sound-stage, the inability to listen for long periods of time - due to RF noise affecting the DAC. Your brain has to deal with almost inaudible perturbations in the audio timing; left+right drifting out of sync; it cant convince itself of the reality of whats being heard. Brain gets tired and so do you.
    I hope you can slot your audible experience into one of these and can work toward a solution that works.
    PJDubyaM, 514077, onsionsi and 3 others like this.
  12. Whazzzup
    I have none of these issues
  13. ray-dude
    This is spot on, and should be tattooed (in mirrored text) on the forehead of all us trying to tweak up digital audio.

    If you are dropping bits, it is slap you upside the forehead obvious. If it doesn't sound like hell is breaking loose or dead silent, you aren't dropping bits or changing bits, so don't worry about it.

    If there is some sort of DSP being applied, less obvious, but things will seem "off". You still feel like an idiot when you find it, switch it off, and go back to bit perfect (this happens to me in Roon all the time, where DSP is on by default when you set up a new end point). Just regularly check you are bit perfect, and be OK with the "duh, I'm an idiot" moments.

    RF and electrical noise is the most insidious. This is CSI level stuff. You need to look at every interface and input and output to your DAC (the ultimate point where digital crap can influence your analog sound), and think through how to best isolate it from RF/EMI/Electrical noise/ground issues. Like most insidious things, it is often where you least expect it, and a combination of hygiene factors that you need to address. Even worse, you often don't realize you have a problem until you hear things with the problem gone. Any little change you make can open a vector for crap to get your DAC.

    My best advise is to establish an absolute reference (even if hugely impractical and useless) then slowly bring stuff back in and see how much you are taking away from that reference. Strip the DAC down to the barest minimum (optical input with no metal, battery power if you can, isolation transformers, no amp/direct to speakers or headphones, etc) and really get to know that sound. This is the best that your DAC and analog chain is capable of producing. Any digital or electrical crap upstream of the DAC will take away from this.

    Once you have that absolute reference, then start adding things like USB, wall power, mScaler (passthrough, since you're looking for crap that takes away SQ, not SQ improvements), and do whatever you need to do to get back to that absolute simple absolute reference (ferrites, isolation transformers, optical converters, moving cables and wifi access points, cleaner power supplies, optical ethernet, etc). What works for you in your room with your house and your neighbors and your fridge will be very different than any one else (and will change based on time of day, etc), but the building blocks and tricks will be the same for everyone. It will be finding the right combination for your home and your system. It will take time and effort. Once you have solid digital and electrical hygiene across your chain, then you make it convenient to use.

    Optimizing the analog path is a very different beast, and all about synergy between cables and transducers and connectors and DACs and amps and room and your ears and brain. To keep from going crazy, don't conflate digital optimization and hygiene with analog optimization and tuning, or you will drive yourself crazy (at least I did, but I'm better now :wink:


    As an aside, this is my 500th post on Head-Fi, so I hope you'll forgive me for expressing my gratitude to our hosts and community at large.

    I first came to this community back in September 16 2001 (user 565!) with a (collective) broken heart in need of solace and healing, looking for a community that passionately embraced beauty and art and the joy (and pain) of emotional truth. I found that, and started a journey of learning and shared joy that shone a light in a very dark time. Several years ago, I came back with a more personal heart in need of healing, and found a community where the vibrancy and energy and shared passion and joy had been amplified at least 1000x.

    The journey of joy and awe and discovery that has been enabled by what I've found here has been life affirming for me. I want to thank @jude and team for hosting this haven, @Rob Watts for his life's work that has let me climb into a time machine and be in the actual studio with John Coltrane, and the countless members here that contribute their wisdom, expertise, and collective joy and passion for the art and intensely human experience of shared music.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
    Blitzula, 514077, onsionsi and 23 others like this.
  14. dawktah2
    My family and I are probably going to have a new home built can anyone give info on how mains connection (special grounding?) and power should be done if at all possible to reduce RF from mains as part of the homes construction. I am fully aware of conditioning type products after the fact.

  15. simorag
    I hear the same. When I was using my laptop - off batteries - with several optimizations (windows 2016 core mode, Audiophile Optimizer, JPLAY, Fidelizer Pro, Process Lasso, network off, wifi off, screen deactivated, hybernation mode etc.) I was hearing significant differences between the players I was using, i.e. HQ Player (no upsampling, no filtering), Minimserver, JPlay mini, JRiver.

    Connection was always through USB, with or without regenerators / galvanic isolators like the Uptone ISO Regen or iFi iPurifier.

    Furthermore, the difference between the stock Windows10 + player (e.g. JRiver) and optimized configuration I described above, with the same player, was very obvious. It was easy to check because my laptop had dual boot. Win10 sounded harsher, fuzzier and flatter compared to the optimized software environment.

    Again, I did all these comparisons with DAVE (no HMS yet at the time) and the laptop working on battery.

    I cannot offer any explanation about why all this happens, and I am happy to hear from people more knowledgeable than me such the last posters in this thread :)

    Anyway, the trials I did made me think that:
    a) DAVE may be less sensitive than other DACs to upstream gear / software, but for certain it is not insensitive, at least in my system;
    b) bits are bits is nonsense, in many ways
    c) RF is not the only mechanism at play here, hence I am not sure that on optical connection in place of the USB is the ultimate solution to remove the effect (for good or bad) of the source.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
    ray-dude and maxh22 like this.
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