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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. seeteeyou
    We do get both coax and Toslink from Oppo anyways, though the question might be more about how good the quality of coax inputs of non-Chord DACs would be when compared to the Toslink inputs of (jitter agnostic) Chord DACs.

    Some DAC chips happen to convert DSD to PCM internally, while earlier products from Chord would also decimate DSD to PCM for processing.

    For editing purposes, it's also easier (maybe necessary?) to convert something into PCM since that's really what editing software could work with.

    BTW, it's inevitable that we're giving up M-Scaler whenever we're going for the Toslink route. However, what if connect one of the coaxial outputs to something like RME ADI-2 DAC?

    Granted we're getting only 176.4kHz instead of 705.6kHz but theoretically that's still 250,000 outta 1,000,000 taps. Once we've recorded the output from Blu2, we don't have to deal with the noise from Blu2 anymore while we could even bring those upscaled files with us and play them while we're away from home.

    How about 500,000 taps? There's a company in Taiwan selling this CT7601 Audio USB Bridge for 200 bucks and its coax input could support up to 705.6kHz / 768kHz


    However, we're getting dual coax outputs from Blu2 instead of a single connection. I got in touch with their engineers and they informed me that CT7601 could only support one coax instead of both of them. In other words, the best we could do is 352.8kHz / 384kHz outta 705.6kHz/768kHz. A half million taps still ain't too bad, though.

    Once we've saved those 352.8kHz / 384kHz lossless files to micro SDXC cards, we could also connect our DAPs to Hugo 2 / Mojo via USB since the coax outputs from many DAPs should be only good for 192kHz.

    For recording the full blown 1,000,000 taps, most likely we'll have to wait for a future standalone M-Scaler with both USB input and output. I already asked them about combining both outputs from two separate CT7601 boards but coax connections could be somewhat tricky. Technically speaking we could indeed sync both boards with the same clock but in the end we might still end up with two "supposedly" identical files but the checksum might not necessarily match.
  2. Articnoise
    I have read some nice impressions of this switch lately and was thinking about maybe try it out my self - your post here made it tough to resist, but then we have the new switch from Uptone Audio and SOtM which complicate my decisions :confused:

    Thanks for sharing your impressions and discoveries Roy!
    romaz likes this.
  3. seeteeyou
    The second half of 2018 is looking better than better, though we might wanna find something that's even better than JCAT NET Card FEMTO.
  4. Whazzzup
    man dsd 128 on antipodes is real nice.
  5. romaz
    You're correct, Frankie. If all you want to use is the digital section, the less expensive BDP-203 should fit the bill and save you some money. Paired with the JVB SPDIF board, it may be even better, however, the JVB board uses its own clock and the quality of this clock is uncertain. Furthermore, by the time you purchase the JVB SPDIF board and pay the extra $200 for Oppomod's "Complete mod" for the BDP-203, you would have spent more money than upgrading a BDP-205.

    As you've pointed out, the parts used for this upgrade could be better which is why I was a bit surprised by how much it improved. As always, it's how these parts are implemented that can make a bigger difference and combined with very short signal paths (i.e. no convoluted signal paths or long clock cables were necessary), the quality of the clock signal actually seen by the system board is possibly higher than the quality of the clock signal seen by components such as a tX-USBultra or sMS-200ultra even though they use superior clocks.

    One of the things I learned about the REF10 is that Mutec's published phase noise measurements were taken from the BNC output and not from the clock itself and so comparing the phase noise plots of REF10 to another external master clock may not be a true apples to apples comparison and this highlights my point. I predict that by the time the clock signal goes through whatever length clock cable you use to connect the REF10 to something like the sCLK-EX board in my tX-USBultra and by the time that clock signal reaches the USB hub in my tX-USBultra, that signal may have become significantly degraded and so this is the potential benefit of physically placing a good clock in the same location as the old clock.

    For those wanting to take advantage of the feature set of the Oppo but also wanting to take the Oppo much further than I have, there is certainly the option of approaching someone like Paul Hynes or Sean Jacobs for a custom external 2-rail LPSU although I would specify that the final regulator board be placed in the chassis to keep impedance to a minimum. Obviously sourcing a better clock should result in even better results taking into account the potential caveats that I mentioned above.
    spotforscott likes this.
  6. romaz
    Thanks, Rajiv. Yes, for someone like you who owns hundreds of DSD tracks, a Toslink connection presents its challenges but Toslink completely fixes a problem that can otherwise cost thousands of dollars to address and that is RF noise. You look at the lengths that server companies go to in order to keep RF noise that enters the ground plane to a minimum and these lengths often result in servers that costs thousands of dollars and yet in one fell swoop, with an inexpensive Toslink connection, you completely eliminate it. I believe this is one big reason why this Oppo unit performs so well in my system.

    Toslink certainly has enough bandwidth to pass DSD64 without truncating data and so this 24/192 bandwidth limitation impacts only DSD128 and higher and of course, it impacts DXD. If you have a large library of natively recorded DXD or multi-rate DSD, then you're pretty much stuck with USB since AES/EBU and digital coax are hampered by the same limitations. The problem with the majority of DSD files, which we have discussed privately, is that natively recorded multi-rate DSD (DSD 128 and higher) are rare meaning that the large majority of DSD files you can buy today were edited, mixed, and mastered in PCM and so I'm not sure what you lose by transcoding back to the original roots of your DSD files unless your DAC simply doesn't sound that good playing back PCM files. In this situation, you will need to weigh the positives of completely eliminating RF noise in the ground plane vs the negatives of playing a format that your DAC doesn't excel in.

    Aside from bandwidth, the problem with Toslink is that it is a high jitter connection and is generally avoided by most DACs and this avoidance of Toslink highlights something interesting. Most DAC companies these days claim that their DACs are immune to jitter when in fact, they are probably not and so it would be necessary to test and compare your DAC's inputs to see how Toslink fares. It's possible this Oppo solution is of greatest benefit primarily to owners of Chord DACs.
    onsionsi and spotforscott like this.
  7. romaz
    Regarding your 1st question, as you use a Chord DAVE, this modified Oppo connected to your DAVE via your Mapleshades optical cable (which is what I use) will probably represent a significant upgrade over your mR and IR. I say "probably" because I can't account for personal preferences but having owned both an mR and IR and even with both of these items powered by an SR7, they did not come close to performing anywhere as well as my combination of Zenith SE followed by a tX-USBultra whereas this Oppo does.

    Regarding your 2nd question, the answer is emphatically yes. It was with connecting the mR to my server via a bridged LAN configuration where I found a good switch to be especially impactful. When placed before the Zenith SE and before this modified Oppo, the impact remains very significant.

    Yes, Linear Solutions will be coming out with some cutting edge products later this year including a very unique server that incorporates a sophisticated 9-rail LPSU, 3 OCXO clocks (system, Ethernet, and USB) without resorting to PCIe cards and a very lightweight OS that runs completely from RAM with near zero latency and all of this will fit in a single chassis.

    Regarding the SQ boost you are getting with things like AO, Process Lasso, and FP, one of the things I continue to prefer with my custom server over my Zenith SE is the ability to tune or tweak my sound signature to my preferences via software without having to resort to DSP or other processes that require considerable CPU horsepower.
  8. seeteeyou
    Lo and behold, here's the latest from SOtM

    That really didn't take long, though we might also think about modifying another Roon Endpoint with even better implementation of clocks for the Toslink output.

    For instance, it's a good idea to dedicate one clock for multiples of 44.1kHz and then another one for multiples of 48kHz like this particular example below


    Toslink and other outputs are also getting clean power separately from an ultra low noise high PSSR LDO linear regulator LT3042, then it also doesn't hurt to solder the (OCC silver with super large gauge) DC power cable directly to the PCB since we'd like to bypass that DC barrel with high impedance. Of course it's also necessary to replace both NDK NZ2520SD clocks with much better ones, though the question is where do we find the right cables for connecting the clock output of an OCXO to the clock input of the Roon Endpoint.

    How about placing an OCXO right on top of the clock input like this? Though it's only good for DIL14 sockets

  9. Whazzzup
    Crap are you guys building servers? Is this what this thread is? Modding servers or building. Is there a thread for stand alone music servers?
  10. bmichels
    Sorry if this has been discussed before here, but I jump back into this thread without the courage to read the past 80 pages:

    I recently realized that the MELCO has 2 ethernet ports: one to connect to the Internet and one to connect to the streaming DAC. I find this brillant since the Streaming DAC do not directly connect to the router and therefore the data from the Melco HD directly go to the Streaming DAC without going through noisy LAN/Switches. Plus, Melco pretend that the MELCO server also act as an Ethernet filter for data coming from internet or the LAN (while streaming from internet or a NAS).

    - Is this what people here call Ethernet Bridging ?

    - Does this theorical advantage really translate in better (cleaner) sound ? Does using a MELCO sound better than a Sylogic NAS ?

    - my problem is that Melco cannot act as a ROON server, so if we want to use Roon, then we partially loose the beauty of this direct connection and we need another server or PC :frowning2: .
    --> So... are there other dual port server (with the same direct connection to the DAC) than can run ROON Core ?

    thanks for the answers, and again sorry to ask something that may be has already be answered here before.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  11. Fredoo
    Hi, you can contact The Linear Solution (please see post 1177 just above).
    Cheers, Fred
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2018
  12. bmichels
    Thanks. Do you have a link to their webSite ? all I can find is " linear-solutions.com " . which seems to be another company...

    Isn't Innuos Zenith server also providing this dual ethernet capability ? it is not 100% clear what those 2 ethernet ports are for ? and does the Zenith act as an Ethernet filter like the MELCO does ?
  13. Fredoo
    Hi, on thelinearsolution.com you’ll find contact information.
  14. bmichels
    thanks a lot. I have sent them a mail
  15. shyamwanne
    I have been in communication with Adrian at thelinearsolution.com about their new server coming out.

    Their music server and endpoint (renderer/player) will be a very limited run released in august or September this year. An info page should be up this weekend on their website for pre-sale.

    The operating system is their own proprietary OS “DreamOS” base on Linux kernel, customized to audio playback only. The Size of DreamOS is below 5GB And the Latency is AVG at +-50us. It can use Roon, HQPlayer, MPD or UPNP Mini-Server. Adrian said it is the most advanced OS and Sound out there, and should be better than anything out there at this time-line.

    Pretty exciting:)
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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