Teralink-X USB to Spdif converter - General Discussion
Sep 29, 2009 at 7:15 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 60

slim.a

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It was suggested to me here to start a new thread about the Teralink-X drivers.

System used:

Sources :
Teralink-X
Musiland Monsitor 01 USD
EMU 0404 USB
Zero DAC
Audio-gd DAC-100
Audio-gd DAC-19mk3

Headphone Amps:
Audio-gd C2C with the upgraded pot
Little Dot MK3
Audio-gd ST-3

Software :
Foobar 0.8.3 with Otachan Asio
Mediamonkey with Otachan Asio

USB cable :
Wireworld Ultraviolet USB.

Review :

I did a comparison of 4 different usb to spdif converters (including the Teralink-x) here

For those who are only interested only on the Teralink-X, here is what I wrote :
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

Comparison between the stock windows drivers and the C-Media CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119


I tried the C-Media CM-108 Driver v.5.12.8.2119 with the Teralink-X (I am using windows xp media center).

24/96 capabilty
The driver shows up as being able to do 24/192 and 8 channels in Asio4all drivers.
However, there is only 2 possible choices for the digital output in the control panel : 44.1 and 48khz.
My guess is that the driver might fool windows that it is being able to play at higher sample rates and bit depth but there is probably resampling to 16/44.1 or 16/48

Ease of use
The Control panel is full of tabs and options that many audiophiles wouldn't care for. So you have to check manually at many places that all "enhacements" and DSP are de-activated.
Also, the sample rate has to be set manually between 44.1 and 48. It seems to me there is a loss in sound quality for a 44.1 file played while the digital output is set at 48

Sound Quality
Worst of all, the sound quality seems lower than the basic windows drivers. The sound becomes harsh, the soundstage shrinks, and there is definite loss in definition/resolution.
I played a true 24/96 file (downloaded from Linn records) and it sounded worse than the same file at 16/44.1 (with added noise). I am almost certain there is resampling done wich might explain the degradation of quality.

Conclusion
Unless someone needs some of the DSP features of the custom drivers, there is no real sonic benefit for using it instead of the basic drivers that install automatically with windows xp.

The USB Asio Driver
I tried the demo Driver of the Ploytec USB Asio Driver and found a definite improvement over the stock windows driver. However I didn't buy it because I am still waiting for the m2tech converter I ordered last week to see if I will still be using the teralink-x as my reference usb to spdif converter.




Follow-up : 23/02/10

I have just realized that I made some comments/measurements that are burried in the very long http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/usb...hiface-449885/, so I decided to post them again here so that Teralink-x can find it more easily.

Quote:

Originally Posted by slim.a /img/forum/go_quote.gif
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:

Originally Posted by slim.a /img/forum/go_quote.gif
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 : http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f7/rev...ml#post6042974

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.



 
Sep 29, 2009 at 6:01 PM Post #2 of 60

DoYouRight

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bring on the m2tech!
 
Sep 29, 2009 at 6:35 PM Post #3 of 60

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by DoYouRight /img/forum/go_quote.gif
bring on the m2tech!


I will probably write a full review comparing the m2tech converter with the other converters on hand (0404 usb, teralink, Musiland) ... but I am still waiting for it to be shipped
 
Sep 29, 2009 at 6:49 PM Post #4 of 60

DoYouRight

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I did one in the musiland thread, but I got burnt out on all the converters. I am just using what I have and enjoying the music. Will get a m2tech and see, mainly I just want the most friendly unit since I think sound will be very good on any of these new gears.
 
Sep 29, 2009 at 7:01 PM Post #5 of 60

HeatFan12

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Hello slim.a

Great job on reviewing the various converters and drivers. I was following on the other thread.


I love them...
biggrin.gif



@DYR

How's IbizaV2 treating you?
 
Sep 29, 2009 at 7:19 PM Post #7 of 60

HeatFan12

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Quote:

Originally Posted by slim.a /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That looks like a lot of converters and cables :)

By the way, which usb to spdif converter do you prefer ?




LOL...
beerchug.gif



Just two converters in this setup. Well, the 01USD does high-rez via usb, the Pop does not. However, the Pop has coax and optical input too w/ 5 outputs.

They both sound very good to me. I believe they serve their intended purpose. Musiland just upgraded their firmware which I'm sure you're aware of the recent developments.
 
Sep 30, 2009 at 4:59 AM Post #8 of 60

DoYouRight

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Its sweet! Have you tried his other theme? xchange 3.5? very cool stuff.
 
Oct 3, 2009 at 9:17 AM Post #9 of 60

danny_66

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This Teralink-X would be great for feeding my TDA1541A DAC through I2S.

Can someone tell me what's the format of the I2S output of this device.
Is it 16 or 24bit ? Left(standard) or right justified?
Because the TDA1541A only accepts left justified 16bit word length.
 
Oct 3, 2009 at 9:28 AM Post #10 of 60

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by danny_66 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
This Teralink-X would be great for feeding my TDA1541A DAC through I2S.

Can someone tell me what's the format of the I2S output of this device.
Is it 16 or 24bit ? Left(standard) or right justified?
Because the TDA1541A only accepts left justified 16bit word length.



The I2S output uses something that looks like a RJ-45 connector. There are pictures of the device on ebay here

The Teralink-X is limited to 16 bits. However I don't know if it is right or left justified. I only use its BNC output which is already nice sounding. I wonder how much improvement the I2S is over BNC (with comparable cables).
 
Oct 13, 2009 at 3:49 PM Post #12 of 60

slim.a

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I was looking for a way to test for bit-perfectness of drivers and I found this comment about the C-media drivers.

Below is an extract of the post :
I hooked up my oscilloscope to a CMI8738 SPDIF output, and studying the resulting waveforms I draw these conclusions:

1) original driver V 5.12.1.644 (identical results on 6.39)
SPDIF OUTPUT IS LIMITED TO ONLY 14 BIT RESOLUTION!!
sorry for the caps smile.gif
I tested this using both foobar2000 and windows media player on a clean XP install
Moreover I also tested the C-Media audio rack on 24 bits content, also ending up with only 14 audio bits.

(I created the 24 bit content in cooledit. first I converted a file to 32 bits sample depth. Then I reduced amplitude by 90 dB, to create LSB content. Then I tried all 6 modes cooledit could store this file to wav)
The 24 bit is claimed by cmedia is bogus!

This probably explain why I heard a decrease in sound quality when I installed the cmedia drivers.
 
Oct 20, 2009 at 12:51 PM Post #13 of 60

regal

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This is the only TeraLink-x thread I could find. I bought a used one of a head-fier but it didn't come with a ac adapter, is it supposed to or does it get its power from the usb cable?
 
Oct 20, 2009 at 12:54 PM Post #14 of 60

slim.a

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Quote:

Originally Posted by regal /img/forum/go_quote.gif
This is the only TeraLink-x thread I could find. I bought a used one of a head-fier but it didn't come with a ac adapter, is it supposed to or does it get its power from the usb cable?


When I bought mine on ebay, it didn't come with an AC adapter.
It works fine without it but I have to admit that I have been curious to try one to see if there is an improvement in the sound quality.
 

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