REVIEW: Comparison of 5 High End Digital Music Servers - Aurender N10, CAD CAT server, TotalDac d1-Server, Auralic Aries, Audiophile Vortex Box

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by romaz, Nov 9, 2015.
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  1. greenmountain
    One problem with assessing a music server is not only the quality of the output but also the input quality of the DAC (+ cables etc.) are important. The Zenith has USB and ethernet out and for my DAC(-amp) a Devialet Pro ethernet is presently considered the better option next to AES (the opinion of dealers and my own experience). But presently my unit gets upgraded with a new server/Wifi/ethernet /USB board and the inputs supposed to be improved. I asked Innous and they stated that likely USB will be better. So I will have to experiment with both connection types but I wonder how much the quality of cables will be confusing the decision making process between USB and ethernet.
  2. SeaWo|f
    Hey. has anyone tried plugging a usb stick into the back of an sms200/sms200ultra? Does this work or does the USB storage need to be self powered?
  3. allhifi
    Absolutely valid and important consideration. And potentially confusing. Before any further (or serious) money is invested, I'd strongly encourage one to consider a AC Power Re-generator or Symmetrical (i.e. Balanced) power supply for all 'source' and digital equipment, and separated from pre/power (analog) devices.

    Not directed at you (greenmountain) at all, but the wise statement 'KISS' is something to bear in mind moving forward.

    The concern I have with Streaming (Tidal, etc.) is the quality of the "signal" I'm actually receiving (yes, I'm sure it's bit/bit perfect and all that)
    I would concern myself with that part of the equation (and all other variables involved) before the signal arrives at my doorstep; is nit as it should be ?

    Likely the reason I began 'Streaming' a few months back. Historically, I'm most late to the party; by the year 2000, I felt CD was finally enjoyable, and began to sell off my 2K LP collection -a move I've never regretted. (Mind you, I did save the precious 100 or so I consider irreplaceable). Come to think of it, isn't it about the same elapsed time (MP-3 style) to today? (lol).

  4. Malcyg
    Yes, me too which is why I tried the dCS Network Bridge first because there seemed to be greater logic in the approach of Ethernet isolation rather than USB cleaner. In fact, I only tried the tX-USBUltra at all because Romaz encouraged me to do so. Following my experience with the dCS NB, I had my doubts about the tX but had nothing to lose by giving it a go. I had brought the SE to Roy’s attention (I believe that he has bought one himself) and he highly commended the combination with the tX to me. Of course, he runs his tX with a REF10 master clock and his SR7 powersupply, but that’s Roy for you. :wink:

    The designer of the Zenith SE asked me to let him know how I got on with the tX, which I did and expressed surprise myself at the result. He wasn’t so surprised at all himself so I asked him why they didn’t include something similar inside the SE and it is really a matter of cost and preference, as it always is with this stuff. You may find most people are just happy with the SE direct then there are folk like me who want a little more, then there are folk who prefer to run master clocks and all sorts of other ultimate solutions, so I could see his point. Nothing is perfect for everybody.
    onsionsi likes this.
  5. allhifi
    Perfectly explained. And articulated.

    (I encourage users to visit -re-visit- the AC Power supply/source. Running dedicated lines (in my experience) is not a panacea (although a solid and sensible directive -if run on the correct "phase" of the panel-) some believe. This is particular true for urbanite audiophiles. Previous success included AC regen. for source/digital and Symmetrical/Balanced (i.e. Equitech) for anlalog -or perhaps two?)
  6. Malcyg
    I would agree with you pj. I run a balanced power supply for all the digital stuff but my power amp goes straight into the mains since it sounds better that way. I agree that it does make a positive improvement, although many may well disagree because we’re potentially getting into the ‘snake oil’ side of things here. I have always considered streaming to be clearly last in sound quality to files and CD, but it is surprisingly good for me now and a lot of it is about beating noise and interference.

    One interesting point was that my balanced supply has two outputs, one for the power amp and another for everything else. I found that using balanced supply to my power amp compressed the dynamics, so I went straight into the wall which sounded a lot better. I have everything else running off of the supply intended for the amp and I plugged the tX-U into the spare balanced output so it effectively sits separate, isolated from everything else on its own supply which I found sounded better than plugging it into the same output as the rest of the digital items. It kind of made sense to me as well given the importance of getting the cleanest delivery possible into the BluDave.
  7. allhifi
    Malcyg: Excellent. I'm surprised at the dynamics restriction you experienced with a (high-powered?) Symmetrical PS -a typical (large capacity 1-1.5 Kva) transformer is known for considerably lower output impedance than any AC wall outlet could hope to have. With a drop in impedance, dynamics are often enhanced.

    At this point (in the game/art), please consider a AC power regen. for ALL digital based gear, analog or other in a separate Symmetrical/Balanced unit.
    What I've experienced is that the more equipment stuffed/plugged into a power 'supply', the greater potential for p/s modulation -impaired sound. Noticeably. Disappointingly. Clearly, all of the electrical 'hash' (to/from the gear itself ) modulates-distorts (overloads? -not electrically/amps) the devices own power supply.

    If you have not (and if it remains on sale; $1,495. from $2,500 -Music Direct I believe), the PS Audio P-3 AC Regen. (only for sources/digital gear) would be a great unit to audition.

  8. Malcyg
    Maybe, I don’t know. Part of the problem could be that my power amp draws up to 2kW, but there also seems to be differences of opinion on the matter regarding power amps as well, just to confuse matters - for example see quote below from VertexAQ website about their own balanced power supplies.

    ‘But it is also a considerable performance benefit to keep power hungry amps away from the supplies to your precious source components. It’s a mistake to pull the ‘demanded current’ for power amps through the balanced transformer that is also feeding the source components. This would ‘pulse’ the transformer, causing more waveform distortion and vibration that would then pollute your source components’.

    Whatever the case, I’m certainly no expert on any of this, but I’m very happy with what I have which is the main thing.
  9. Clive101
    Just to jump in on the power supply issue.

    Torus ( which I used 16 amp version ) has large amount of power in reserve.

    What I found using the power supply, with cheap cables the SQ improved and moved them closer to the performance of more expensive cables. The USB cable had the biggest improvement.
  10. allhifi
    You are correct on both counts:

    1) Your (up to) 2-KW amplifier draw, sensibly to me, would be best served by direct-wall power -as you are.
    2) The "modulation/pulsing" you referred to is what I was trying ? (lol) to suggest -too many items feeding off a/any power supply (without appropriate isolation) will result in less than stellar performance.

    I do contend however, that a separate AC Re-gen. (PS P-3 or similar), when reasonably priced (used if necessary) would be a great addition to your existing premium component count. In this way (Regen/Balanced/Wall) will effectively isolate virtually all components from interacting with the other.

  11. allhifi
    Hi Clive: Just to be clear, the Torus is a straight-through isolation transformer; 120V remains referenced to ground -not the 60/60 as a Symmetrically Balanced design offers (i.e. Equi=tech)

    Nevertheless, it's always good to hear that improvements were/are noted.

  12. Malcyg
    Thank you. That may explain why I prefer the tX-U powered in isolation from the other kit. We’re a bit off topic now though I think. Power supply and cables are not popular subject matter! :beyersmile:
  13. allhifi
    Perhaps not: " ..Power supply and cables are not popular subject matter!", but my primary concern would be to discuss so as to extract the finest performance possible from our beloved music ! To think this can be accomplished without respecting cable and power is both naive and unwise.
    (One would never, ever achieve what is possible if these great contributors are not addressed.)

    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  14. allhifi
    RE: " ...The USB cable had the biggest improvement"

    Clive: I had a similar profound improvement when I inserted the AQ 'Carbon' USB cable -from Pi 3B (running moode/MPD) to my Schitt Modi-2 Uber. Don't laugh (lol) -I started my streaming journey only a few months back. From what I'm hearing (amazing) I'll be moving forward rather quickly I suspect.
    When I started (with some old/lying around USB cable, SQ was, well, bad -early MP-3ish. Once I connected the Carbon (AQ), it immediately went hi-rez -I was stunned. Prior, I was listening for about a week to the "old/original" streaming components/cables. I've also discovered that the choice of Ethernet cable is both easily identifiable and highly significant. (I simply purchased a no-name CAT-6 -not 6a and immediately noticed a most welcome sonic improvement cross the board; definition, midrange clarity, LF resolution/control. Quite the contrast to a 'supposed' CAT-7 I purchased through Amazon (both 25-feet) that sounded "glarly', grainy, basically washed-out. Moreover, the original (verified) CAT-5 I first used was clearly superior to a very old CAT-5a that I also used to compare. Go figure.
    (When I do such comparisons, I monitor (and record) AC line conditions (connected to my computer and displayed visually) temp, humidity and other variables -including my mood. lol. BTW, mood doesn't matter; once I her/experience great sound -it positively elevates!)

  15. Clive101
    Hi PJ,
    The earth on the Torus is not conditioned as far as I am aware ( cleaned ) as the earth needs to connect the HIFI to the main house earth for protection.
    Does the Equi=tech not do the same perhaps it is different if could you enlighten me..?
    I am in the process of investigating a separate earth with a dedicated power supply (perhaps not legal in the UK ), although the separate power will perhaps make no difference for the power it may with a separate earth.
    Do you or anyone how any information on what I wish to achieve...?
    Apologies if a little off thread ( I may start a new thread ).
    Regards C
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