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Streamers without Dacs..Sound Quality Differences?


Southeastern
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On 30/06/2021 at 18:01, Southeastern said:

One thing that hit me immediately that I could tell it had a switching power supply. They always sound harsher than a toroidal transformer

Random RF noise (note random, not switching noise) creates noise floor modulation which is measurable. That is a fact. My observations are that noise floor modulation (however small) makes the sound brighter and degrades instrument separation and focus; moreover it can etch the sound quality, giving a false sense of transparency. As an engineer, when I look at audiophile LPS designs I recoil in horror; large leaded components with huge RF resonances, huge toroidal transformers with enormous coupling capacitance; large levels of stray electromagnetic noise. These things are guaranteed to pass random RF noise from the mains straight through to the TT2, unlike the SMPS with it's low capacitance transformers, and input and output RF filters, which actively reduce random RF noise.

But I must admit to a failure on my part; I design my gear with certain PSUs in mind, and that I get no improvements from using truly better PSUs - job done. What I should have done was to use a great deal more RF filtering so that when you connect a crappy random RF noise source (sorry I meant to say LPS) you would hear no difference then there would be no argument about "better" PSUs. But then you might not like the SQ of TT2, but then that's your choice. 

- Rob Watts on the subject of peoples persistent claims that aftermarket linear power supplies improve upon his DAC designs. 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hugo-tt-2-by-chord-electronics-the-official-thread.879425/post-16426369

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Warszawa said:

Random RF noise (note random, not switching noise) creates noise floor modulation which is measurable. That is a fact. My observations are that noise floor modulation (however small) makes the sound brighter and degrades instrument separation and focus; moreover it can etch the sound quality, giving a false sense of transparency. As an engineer, when I look at audiophile LPS designs I recoil in horror; large leaded components with huge RF resonances, huge toroidal transformers with enormous coupling capacitance; large levels of stray electromagnetic noise. These things are guaranteed to pass random RF noise from the mains straight through to the TT2, unlike the SMPS with it's low capacitance transformers, and input and output RF filters, which actively reduce random RF noise.

But I must admit to a failure on my part; I design my gear with certain PSUs in mind, and that I get no improvements from using truly better PSUs - job done. What I should have done was to use a great deal more RF filtering so that when you connect a crappy random RF noise source (sorry I meant to say LPS) you would hear no difference then there would be no argument about "better" PSUs. But then you might not like the SQ of TT2, but then that's your choice. 

- Rob Watts on the subject of peoples persistent claims that aftermarket linear power supplies improve upon his DAC designs. 

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/hugo-tt-2-by-chord-electronics-the-official-thread.879425/post-16426369

Yeah, Ive heard all this before, and to me, i have no interest in it. Bores the life out of me tbh.

Adding LPS's (or even IFI Quiet psus) to my kit has always improved the sound by removing etchiness and digital glare/hash and made everything more natural. There has never been a time where it has made anything worse. So I am happy with my direction.

I would never buy a Chord product again after 1, owning a 2Qute and Qutest that were pretty terrible, and 2, both of them improved massively by using an LPS, so me and Rob Watts just don't vibe.

:)

Edited by Southeastern
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I compared an Auralic Aries Mini (now rehomed with @DomT) to an Aries G1 into the same system and found a noticeable improvement in sound quality. I got an Aries G2 because I was offered a good ex-demo deal and wanted the galvanic isolation that came with it. 

I have been very pleased with the Aries G2 - Auralic's app is excellent and the G2 provides a good improvement in sound quality. Auralic make some excellent kit (try to hear a Vega G2/G2.1 if you ever get the chance - an awesome one-box solution).

If I was looking now I would be deciding between the Aries G1/G2 and the Innuos Zenith Mk 3 (the new app is apparently very good and I think Innuos are producing some excellent kit based on what I have read from users and my experience with their PhoenixNET, which has very good build quality, plus they seem to focus on the quality of their power supplies).

Upgraded streamers can certainly make a difference in my limited experience, depending on your ears and what your system can reveal of course. 

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Just to add my experience from this morning at @Fourlegs house; thanks Nick!

We compared my Auralic Aries Mini vs Innuos Zen Mini mk3 both using the same power supply and QuTest in one of Nicks systems and there was a clear and repeatable difference between the two streamers (Using Qubuz). In Nick’s mega system the exact same differences were again apparent. 

Then we compared the Zen Mini Mk3 (£1k) vs Nick’s Innuos £5k streamer (sorry can’t remember the name). Again there was a clear difference. The house sound between the units was still there. 

We were testing for maybe two hours and Nick was careful to ensure that everything was a level playing field. 

My take away was that there was enough of a difference between streamers that you would select either the Auralic or the Innuos depending on your system. I would say the the Auralic had a Proac type presentation and the Innuos a Harbeth type presentation. It’s not exactly like that but hopefully you get the idea. I needed a third streaming set up to go in the bedroom and so I can mix and match my components as I have three streamers and three DACs.

I actually bought Nick’s Zen Mini and another one of his wonderful Wave cables. Thanks again Nick and lovely to have actually met you!

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Sound like a great morning ... Wish I lived closer
What a nice outcome .... The value of a good streamer was validated and you came away with a innuos zen mini .... And a wave cable ... Result!

Sent from my Mi Note 10 using Tapatalk

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On 01/07/2021 at 13:19, Southeastern said:

Definitely close to trying an Innuos! its annoying the Mk3 Zen dosen't have Coaxial out as I'd prefer a single box.

But the mini can be picked up pretty cheaply so I might try that one when one comes up at a decent price.

Not sure what you mean but decent price but all of the Zen and Auralic Mini’s and Bluesound Nodes seem to fetch more than I would expect secondhand. It’s seems that there is a real demand for these products. And I speak as someone who today paid a little more than I wanted to but it was worth it because the alternative seems to be to have nothing; unless you get really lucky and pick something up that everyone else in the whole market has missed. 

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1 hour ago, DomT said:

the alternative seems to be to have nothing

I think that's rather overlooking the Allo lineup (Digione Sig/ Usbridge Sig) - they might be a bit geekier to set up, but combined with the Shanti LPS, SQ is ridiculously good for the money - I've not heard the Aries Mini, but the Digione held up very well when compared directly with my previous setup: Aries Femto/ Sbooster Ultra. The Stack Audio Link also looks worthy of investigation, although it looks as though it also has Pi DNA, so it too would lack the slicker interface of Auralic / Innuos - I actually favour Auralic because of the excellent wireless implementation, as with so many things, it just depends what you are looking for...

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, DomT said:

We compared my Auralic Aries Mini vs Innuos Zen Mini mk3 both using the same power supply and QuTest in one of Nicks systems and there was a clear and repeatable difference between the two streamers (Using Qubuz). In Nick’s mega system the exact same differences were again apparent. 

The Mini is great for the money and works very well, but you do get more as you go up the range (or to a different price point with the Innuos).

I'll be interested to hear what difference you find between them in your own system.

My wallet is glad I never made it to Nick's to hear the difference a DC4 makes to the DAVE, although I'm sure it will happen eventually...

Edited by Griff500
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1 hour ago, MotherSky said:

I think that's rather overlooking the Allo lineup (Digione Sig/ Usbridge Sig) - they might be a bit geekier to set up, but combined with the Shanti LPS, SQ is ridiculously good for the money - I've not heard the Aries Mini, but the Digione held up very well when compared directly with my previous setup: Aries Femto/ Sbooster Ultra. The Stack Audio Link also looks worthy of investigation, although it looks as though it also has Pi DNA, so it too would lack the slicker interface of Auralic / Innuos - I actually favour Auralic because of the excellent wireless implementation, as with so many things, it just depends what you are looking for...

I was just specifically talking about the three brands that I mentioned. I don’t know anything at all about the other brands. 

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Posted (edited)

I have demoed a number of streamers without  DAC (network bridge seems to be the term many use). My experiments have determined that the sweet spot is a sub £1000 bridge from someone like Pro-Ject (Stream box S2 Ultra) or SOtM (SMS-200 Neo Ultra) or Stack Audio (Link 2). These all sounded identical to me and identical to a £3k Auralic Aries G1. But they all did sound significantly better than a cheap home-built Pi or a Chromecast Audio (which, I would add, at £25 is still the biggest bargain in Hi-Fi ever).  A Hi-Fi buddy compared the micro rendu and the SOtM and found the SOtM better.  They are all USB only though.   My favourite at the time was the Pro-ject due to its nifty tiny size.  
However, I then got the SOtM to improve further by adding the SOtM sps500 power supply and the SOtM external clock, but the latter makes it crazy-expensive.  Another small uplift came replacing the SOtM sps500 ps with a Sean Jacobs lps.  

in my view the differences between network bridges are marginal once you get beyond a home made pi, even with the small improvement from external power supplies and external clocks.  With a limited budget I’d say you get a much bigger SQ improvement by investing more in a better DAC. In my demo experience moving from a £600 Pro-ject streambox S2 Ultra to a pricey Auralic   or SOtM plus PS plus clock will give marginal improvements compared to moving from a £600 DAC to a £4K DAC.
 

Edited by Duckworp
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Interestng result given that the Stream box S2 Ultra is based on a Pi. Suggests that those who tweak their Pis could achieve the same result.

https://darko.audio/2019/03/have-your-pi-eat-it-pro-jects-stream-box-s2-ultra/

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8 hours ago, Griff500 said:

The Mini is great for the money and works very well, but you do get more as you go up the range (or to a different price point with the Innuos).

I'll be interested to hear what difference you find between them in your own system.

My wallet is glad I never made it to Nick's to hear the difference a DC4 makes to the DAVE, although I'm sure it will happen eventually...

The SBooster is in Portugal but will do a comparison at some point. I am finding that as you go up the digital ladder that you need to be careful what you wish for. For example the £5k Innuos streamer revealed more of what is bad in an recording. So for me I will stick where I am. If I had a classical collection of beautiful recordings I might be tempted though if the rest of the system merited it.

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I know Hifi encompasses all things and  to rest of my family is a hobby for nerds I can’t for the life of me understand why some enthusiasts make it so complicated ..A box to do this a box to do that , a box in between this and a box I’m not sure what it is .

Less is more ..

If you buy matching components you don’t need stacks of boxes cluttering up the music

The best systems I’ve ever heard have been

Source , Amplifier, speakers ..that’s it no more no less ..

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11 minutes ago, bigrod said:

I know Hifi encompasses all things and  to rest of my family is a hobby for nerds I can’t for the life of me understand why some enthusiasts make it so complicated ..A box to do this a box to do that , a box in between this and a box I’m not sure what it is .

Less is more ..

If you buy matching components you don’t need stacks of boxes cluttering up the music

The best systems I’ve ever heard have been

Source , Amplifier, speakers ..that’s it no more no less ..

I could not agree more.

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On 27/06/2021 at 08:24, Southeastern said:

I would prefer, for no reason other than just historic personal observations to have a unit with a coax out rather than USB. They've always just sounded better to me. 

Looks like the new iFi Zen Stream would be a good option for you - it has both USB and spdif outputs.

I currently use a SOtM sMS-200 Neo in my office system (powered by a Paul Hynes LPS), which works perfectly as a Roon Bridge and sounds great. I have a Zen Stream arriving next week. Happy to share my thoughts once its here...

Mani.

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