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USB Strikes Back! Watch out AOIP - USB/Ethernet Chain beats All (at least for me)

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by rb2013, Dec 20, 2016.
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  1. rb2013 Contributor
    OK after years of computer audio exploration - I have reached the mountain top.  The 'Game Over' end solution for source chain - and the results are beyond any thing I could have imagined when I started this exploration a few years back - see my previous ground breaking threads.
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/736294/gustard-u12-usb-interface-8-core-xmos-chip
     
    But this one is what I will run with for the foreseeable future - I can not ask for anything more or better.  No improvement could come to mind - just more time to listen to my entire music collection again - with a whole new take on things - really like hearing some of these recordings (even 30yr old and heard countless thousands of times) - for the first time.
     
    I know the USB/Ethernet chain I will describe below with shock some people.  Oh how I love reading those threads on other blogs - especially that profanity laced one.  Starting back in June of this year - when my XU208 F-1 discovery was announced here:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/803111/xmos-xu208-usb-bridges-the-latest-gen-has-arrived
     
    Then later with this thread on AOIP and the Focusrite Rednet gear:
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/806827/audio-over-ip-rednet-3-16-review-aes67-sets-a-new-standard-for-computer-audio
     
    The MARV-E-LOUS ranting on my listening results - and then reading all the happy folks trying the F-1 and then the SU-1, then later the REDNET.  Oh how MARV-E-LOUSLY ridiculous the ridicule seems now in hindsight !  Yes these USB gizmo's and devices work and with just the right combination - to world class sound quality levels.
     
    So on with the show.
     
    Just want folks who have not read my previous threads to know a little on my background.  Been a music fan and musician almost my entire life.  Mostly Guitar for me - both electric (love my Fender Tele!) and acoustic (Takamine!).  Starting back in the 70's with vinyl and cassettes.  Owned three different Nakamichi cassette decks in college and after - and so many vinyl rigs I could not list them all here.  But later (around 15 yrs ago) my vinyl rig got serious and seriously expensive - culminating in this analog chain:
    Dynavector XV1-S (Benz Ebony LP as well)>VPI Super Scout Master Signature (Nordost Valhalla tone are wiring)>Valhalla IC>Bent Audio Silver Step-Transformers>Conrad Johnson Phone Pre (NOS Siemens CCa tubes)>Valhalla IC>Conrad Johnson CAT2....
    IMG_1210F.jpg
     
    I thought I had this vinyl thing sounding pretty good.  Mostly virgin pressed vinyl every one of those amazing 200gm Classic Records QUIEX SV-P I could find (a lot of them!).  The height of vinyl greatness (esp the 45rpm ones).
    img_6248.jpg
     
    So I know what great vinyl sound like - and let me say that what I have now for a digital source - RUNS CIRCLES AROUND IT!  Yes that's right this digital chain smokes the best I could get from vinyl.  Not saying if you spend $200-$300K you can't get better from analog - but that's not the kind of money I have to spend.  I firmly believe that even with that investment you will never get the level of ink black floor noise - that will reveal all this hidden detail.  And why that detail is so important to realistic music production...but more on that latter.
     
    AOIP or USB -
    That is the real question - because the discovery of AES67 Audio Over IP Dante (through REDNET and BURL) is where I felt the best of analog was finally beaten.  But the trail to get here, and to that question was a long arduous one.  Why blog about that journey?  Good question - I have suffered much derision and abuse on these past threads - but also have learned some things and have had the true satisfaction of seeing my skeptics proven wrong time and time again (oh to see all those crows eaten!).  And for the most part the feedback has been universally positive - so thanks to those kind folks.  This is my journey - and I'm not asking anyone else to purchase anything - or follow my path.  If you do great!  But as always YMMV.  I post this, as with my other audio discoveries (like the 1975 Reflektor Silver SWGP tubes - I call the 'HGs'), to give back to the community.  I am in no way associated or affiliated with any audio company.   This new thread will likely be the most controversial of them all.  So please holster the flame throwers - I don't want this thread shut down like many of the others.  OK on to the serious business - what has got me so enthralled:
     
    Here would be my current ratings and rankings (the numbers are just a relative number - they are not percentages).  The Breeze Audio (Talema) DU-U8 = 100
     
    Obviously these are my subjective ratings YMMV - and yes I have owned (had a loaner) all these for an extended period of time:
     
    Ultra USB chain (details to long to list)                                                                     370
    BURL B2B DAC with DANTE Brooklyn II/ modded w/LPS power                                 285
    REDNET 3/Cerious Graphene/Mutec 3+ USB (SPDIF)/Antelope OCX (RN wClock)      270
    REDNET 3/Cerious/Mutec 3+ USB/Audience au24 se digital cable                              250
    REDNET 3/Cerious/Mutec 3+ USB (SPDIF reclocker)/AS Sliver Statement dig cable   240
    REDNET 3/Cerious Power Cord                                                                                220
    Singxer F-1 DC30W/Cerious/Recovery/DCiPur/ iPur2/Startech GB LAN Iso USB         170
    Mutec 3+ Smart Clock USB/Cerious Power Cord                                                      155
    Singxer F-1 DC30W/Cerious/Recovery/DCiPur/ iPur2                                                145
    PUC2 Lite TeraDak DC30W/Cerious/Regen                                                               135
    Singxer F-1 DC30W/Cerious                                                                                    135
    DXIO Silver/TeraDak DC-30W/Cerious                                                                      130
    Singxer X-1 DC30W/Cerious/Recovery/DCiPur/iPur2                                                 125
    PUC2 Lite - USB power                                                                                             110
    Singxer F-1  Stock feed                                                                                            110
    Breeze/Cerious Graph/WBT RCA Nexgen                                                                   109
    Breeze DU-U8 with Cerious Graphene                                                                       108
     Breeze DU-U8 (Talema version)                                                                              100
    Breeze DU-U8 (BingZi version)                                                                                  95
    Hydra Z with LPS                                                                                                      92
    Melodious MX-U8 (upgraded caps)                                                                            85
    Melodious MX-U8 (stock)                                                                                          81
    Gustard U12 (upgraded caps)                                                                                   76
    Gustard U12 stock                                                                                                    72
    iDAC DAC2 (used as a DDC)                                                                                      65
    Musiland USB3.0 US Dragon                                                                                       65
    M2Tech EVO with LPS                                                                                                60
    Audiophileo 2  USB Power                                                                                          50
    M2Tech Hiface                                                                                                           40
     
     
    USB ULTRA CHAIN:
     
    DATA CHAIN: WIN10 MUSIC SERVER (SSD for OS)>JB (modded as a VBUS Blocker)>LH LABS 2G(Data leg)>Startech LEX>BJC CAT6 550Mhz Ethernet>Startech REX>JB (modded as a VBUS Blocker)>LH LABS 2G(Data Leg)>W4S Recovery>stock Recovery 6in USB cable>iFi iPUR2>Singxer F-1>SR Element Copper(Galieo MPC)>DAC60 (heavily modded/HG tubes).
     
    POWER CHAIN: PC SeaSonic fanless high PSRR (El Fidelity SATA filters)
    LEX - TeraDak X1/X2 (Nichicon HW caps)
    REX - MEIYAN low noise LPS (24VDC - 11uv noise)
    Recovery (which feeds the F-1 with the iPUR2 in between) TeraDak DC-30W 9VDC/DC iPur.
     
    Note the PC Server is running Fidelized Pro - Purist level
     
    The key here is a discovery I found after someone who PM'd me to ask if I ever tried USB sticks (for music files) in the REX?  I tried it and was very pleased, so I purchased three 256GB USB sticks for the three empty slots - giving me approx 750GB for music storage.  So with this storage - no moving parts in the music server - all music files are stored outside the PC and powered by a LPS.
     
    On the Startech I use - and there a few different ones out there - it is this one:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HFGQESY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
     
    Note it must be the four port GB LAN version.  I have tried some others and they sounded awful.
     
    ICRON is the OEM producer of this unit but has since changed the chipset from XLINX SPARTAN 6 FPGA to custom ASIC's.  I have not heard this version, so can not give a good or bad verdict on it.
     
    Here are some pictures of the one I run:
     
    IMG_9305.jpg
     
    314vP3IaHL.jpg
     
     
     
     
    So how does it sound?  Versus Rednet AOIP?
    I posted this on my AOIP thread recently:
     
     
    Why does it sound so good?  Well great question I posted this:
     
     
    Further comments:
     
     
    I have tried to simplify the chain - notably replacing the TeraDak DC302/DC iPur and Recovery with a LT3042 .8uv LPS to feed the F-1 by the power leg of the 2G and the SQ deteriorated - so a no go.
     
    Hammy and mozes like this.
  2. thisisvv
    Would like to see picture of your entire digital chain if possible.
     
  3. rb2013 Contributor

    Well the Startech boxes are small and are tucked away behind the shelving unit I keep my stereo gear on.  Same for the LPS's powering the LEX and REX.  Not very impressive to see just some blinking lights and cables.  I will take a photo of my DIY Singxer F-1 'box'.  I do use some vibration isolation underneath the F-1 and Recovery with 'BB Boxes' on top to reduce vibration and stabilize.  All very unimpressive looking - it would likely set off more flaming that is sure to come.
     
    I was thinking of building a DAC sized box and just mounting everything inside.  The F-1, Recovery, REX and LEX are all small in size.  Might do that at one point.  But right this unassuming looking chain is very low on the wife's 'audio spending' radar.  She gave me hell for the Rednet3/Mutec/Antelope stack!
     
  4. rb2013 Contributor
    I should note that the Ultra USB chain and the Jitterbugs I modded to VBUS Blockers - they still do the JB function but with the addition of no +5VDC VBUS coming after.  They make a slight difference in SQ and I could live without.  They add just a touch of warmth, which was more important in the beginning, before everything settled in.
     
    I do prefer them installed. 
     
    915aqjit.2.jpg
     
    ldoJi.gif
     
  5. rb2013 Contributor
    Here is a picture of one of the key components - the Singxer F-1 DDC:
     
    _1460115637_4.jpg
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Singxer-F-1-XMOS-XU208-USB-Digital-Interface-384K-S-PDIF-I2S-DSD256-with-CRYSTEK-/172405416314?hash=item282429e17a:g:iZcAAOSwB09YJa5A
     
  6. rb2013 Contributor
    On the W4S Recovery - I had at one point a Regen.  I much preferred the Recovery.  Likely the use of better clocks - Crystek CCHD-575 (same as the F-1):
     
     
    wyred4sound_recovery_6.png
     
  7. rb2013 Contributor
    Lastly the three regulated linear power supplies - the biggest complication - the use of three separate units.  These are from Ebay and China.  Likely even better results could be had from a better LPS like the Uptone JS-2 or new LSP-1:
     
    TeraDak DC-30 W with stock caps - mine has upgraded Nichicon HW caps (by me):
    DC30W.jpg
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/TeraDak-DC-30W-DC9V-2-5A-KOSS-ESP950-Linear-Power-supply-/222351453461?hash=item33c52ded15:g:4SEAAOSwuzRXfSLN
     
    For the LEX - TeraDak X1/X2 Stock first pic with Nichicon HW caps 2nd pic:
    IMG_6362.jpg
     
    IMG_9122.jpg
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/TeraDak-TeraLink-X1-X2-DC8-5V-1A-USB-DC5V-port-Linear-Power-Supply-/322364742306?hash=item4b0e6f9aa2:g:D3cAAOSw-FZXkEMi
     
    For the REX - this 24VDC Breeze Audio was fine (LT1083 LDO):
    IMG_9572.jpg
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/161870356771?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
     
    One of my last experiments was upgrading this to a MEIYAN 24VDC LPS - a small improvement in SQ:
    IMG_9727.jpg
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/131867485038?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
     
    I added a silver Teddy Pardo DC cable for $29.
     
    All power cords are inexpensive Epitome generic silver.
     
    Currawong likes this.
  8. Albrecht
    Hi RB:
     
    Been waiting anxiously for this new thread. Thanks again for all of your great experimentation.
     
    Just for clarification, - and apologies if I missed this in your thread,- all USB SSD sticks are plugged into the REX?, - (which is the receiving Ethernet to USB Startech adapter).
    Correct?
    Also, - Does your LEX feed into a switch on your LAN, and then into the receiver, or do they have a direct CAT6 cable, and/or are they separated over a long CAT6 run? (I am sorry, but I forgot if the LEX has multiple USB ports or just one).
     
    Great how you point out for readers that the new PSAudio devices cannot work as they don't have multiple USB ports.
     
    Yes, - it will be interesting to compare the newer ICRON converters that use the ASICs FPGA, and if they are better, worse, same as the others.
     
    Thanks again for getting this new post up. Also, - one of the great things about this "system," is that you can easily transport these, (with the possible exception of the their corresponding, {bigger}, LPSs), - to anyone else's system and see how they faire with different types of components: systems.
     
    Cheers,
     
  9. wushuliu
    Awesome... thanks so much for your promethean efforts!
     
  10. rb2013 Contributor

    Hi Albrecht,

    Thanks for the kudos!
     
    Yes the REX has five ports, four USB and one Ethernet.  So the USB sticks plug into the three remaining open USB ports - one of course is used to feed the USB data chain to the Recovery then on to the F-1.
     
    The LEX has only two ports one USB and the other Ethernet.  The Ethernet connects to the REX Ethernet input.  The open USB port on LEX connects to the PC USB port.  Normally it would receive it's power from the +5VDC USB on the PC.  But with a LH Labs 2G split cable that power feed can come from an external +5VDC LPS.
    1256200-lh-labs-2g-split-usb-cable.jpg
     
    Now I have the LEX connecting directly to the REX by a BJC CAT 6 UTP 550Mhz cable.  But it could just as well go over a GB LAN.
     
    Yes it could all fit in a small box - so not that hard to transport.  Also what is nice is someone can start with just the F-1, then add the TeraDak DC-30W, then Recovery, then the Startech, then the LPS's for the Startech boxes, etc...or just stop where they are happy.  Unlike with AOIP currently which requires a larger investment upfront.  And with all the AOIP gizmo's a much bigger investment in total.
     
  11. rb2013 Contributor

    Great way to put it!
     
    Cheers
     
  12. thisisvv
    Isn't this total investment will go beyond what a simple aoip 700$ solution provides with Dante.

    Though we have proven many times we never stop spending on this habit.
     
  13. rb2013 Contributor

    Well that $700 is for the limited Dante Ultimo chip solution.  Limited to 96k, and I highly doubt the same SQ as the FPGA SPARTAN Dante Brooklyn I or II implementation in the REDNET 3 and 16.  I know some folks have compared the two side by side - but I doubt that seriously. 
     
    So the Rednet 3 starts at $1000.  Now add a Mutec MC-3+ USB another $1000, Antelope OCX external word clock another $1000 = so $3000 before upgraded power cords or wclock cables.
     
    And this total solution at less then half blows it away!  Not cheap but...
     
    Or for the same money you could get an Uptone JS-2 for the Startech boxes and LSP-1 for the Recovery/F-1.  Bet that would sound great.  Add in a couple of Cerious Tech Graphene Extreme power cords (I have one now - but sold the rest - wish I kept them all). 
     
    But as I said the SQ now is lacking nothing - I'm at last fully satisfied with my digital audio.  Blowing away the best analog I had  - and just that Dynavector XV1-S was $5K...
     
    I will at some point try a different brand USB 256GB stick - using PNY right now - so maybe for another $60 bucks some thing better?
     
  14. rb2013 Contributor
    Oh and SR following is not an issue - never was for me - but some folks were obsessed about on the AOIP thread.
     
    What that means if I have a 44k file then a 192k file the AOIP has a somewhat finicky ability to change SR's on the fly - especially if you are using an ext wClock.  On the BURL is was impossible.
     
    With the USB F-1 never misses a beat - I can run 384k files with virtually zero latency as well.  DSD 256 as well native.  The F-1 can do i2s with a custom made cable.  Although I run SPDIF coax into my DAC.
     
  15. Clemmaster
    Does the Startech require 24V no matter what, or can it run with a lower voltage?
     
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