Is the Chord DAVE Truly Immune to Source/Noise?

This claim suggests that a bit-perfect stream, no matter how noisy, should sound identical across all sources, regardless of cable, USB conditioners, streamer/music server used. If this is the case, an investment in a good high-end streamer or music server may not be required. Considering the fact I’ve found music servers/streamers to be essential for optimal fidelity, this is quite a statement. Too good to be true? Let’s see…

Notes: Rob Watts has acknowledged a bit-perfect optical stream to the DAVE will sound a little different from the USB so please keep that in mind.

These are the questions I’m aiming to answer:

  1. Does the DAVE sound different with different USB cables?
  2. Does the DAVE sound different via USB with different laptop sources?
  3. Does including the Uptone Regen or W4S Recovery alter the sound in any way?
  4. Does using a high-end source like a Lumin S1 sound any different from a simple USB connection from a noisy source (laptop)?
    1. What are the differences when the same exact file is bit-perfectly streamed through the Lumin S1 (USB SATA drive) and MSI GS40 laptop (SATA drive) via Lumin and Roon app respectively?

Setup:

  • Laptop sources used
    • Lenovo T420
    • MSI GS40
    • Macbook Air (Late 2010)
  • Streamer/music Server
    • Lumin S1
      • Connection: HDMI (the quality of the cable matters) -> Optical Converter -> DAVE Stock optical -> Into “Optical 2” on the DAVE
      • USB drive input
  • Power
    • PS Audio P10 Power Plant
    • Shunyata Zitron Alpha Digital Power Cable (to DAVE, Lumin using stock)
    • Teradak Linear PSU for Uptone Regen/W4S Recovery
  • Headphones
    • Abyss
      • Stock cables
      • Custom Peterek 8-wire OCC Copper cable
  • Roon v1.1, v1.2
  • USB Cables
    • Chord SilverPlus
    • Random white China USB cable I found in the closet
    • Stock DAVE USB cable
    • Zip-Linq retractable USB cable
  • Chord DAVE settings
    • Crossfeed 0, HF Fil ON, Phase Pos
    • Crossfeed 3, HF Fil ON, Phase Pos

Procedures used:

  • Switch between inputs, playing songs in parallel
  • Playing the same 20-30 seconds clips multiple times.
  • Take breaks and revisit the same songs across multiple days. Write impressions on a separate sheet of paper so as not to bias/pollute data.
  • Switching inputs seems to be less effective than pausing and replaying so mixed in a bit of that.
  • Listen to an entire song one after another. Not only helps in selecting specific clips for torture test but gives you a holistic judgement.

Roon

 

Does the DAVE sound different with different USB cables?

This should’ve been a really straight forward experiment but I had trouble with switching out USB cables with Roon without having to reboot my computer almost every time. I finally realized you have to wait until the purple dot (Lossless stream) disappears before you connect the next one. Hopefully this helps others who are crazy and also want to test this out.

The only cable I had outside of the stock was the Chord SilverPlus (which I enjoyed with the Neo 430HAD’s bulit-in DAC). I listened to literally a hundred tracks from different genres, trying to find one with a difference. I couldn’t. So I went into my closet and pulled out a cheap USB cable with a similar gauge as the stock and a retractable USB cable for kicks.

Findings

  • The retractable cable definitely had sonic differences, even when the stream is bit-perfect on Roon (purple dot). It was dull, fuzzy, and flat and less dynamic than the SilverPlus.
  • The white China cable sounded thinner/brighter than the SilverPlus. The Silverplus has a more warm/organic sound.
  • The stock DAVE USB cable sounds the same as the Chord SilverPlus. Coincidence? Perhaps.
  • It’s important to note, although there were sonic differences with the other two cables, it wasn’t a night & day difference.

The differences between the stock/SilverPlus and the other two cables were obvious. Even though Roon was supposedly streaming bit-perfect (purple dot), the sonic output was obviously different. Just stick to the stock China DAVE USB cable as it performs at the same level as the $100 Chord SilverPlus.

 DSCF7413

Does the DAVE sound different via USB with different laptops as sources?

This one was a tedious experiment but was something I was curious about. I know I’ve heard differences between laptops using the same USB cable to the DAVE before but it was inconsistent. Sometimes it sounded identical and sometimes wildly different. I thought I was going insane (well I guess I am for even conducting these tests lol). Then I realized what was happening.

Findings

  • When streaming Tidal via Roon on the various laptops, I heard differences, even when the stream is supposedly bit-perfect according to Roon. I strongly believe the quality of the WiFi/ethernet module of your source and probably power quality (The router isn’t using a linear PSU) plays a part in this sonic inconsistency.
  • To solidify this point, even the same file streamed to the Asus Router->Sonicorbiter which is connected to the DAVE via USB sounds different (not really worse, just different) from a direct USB connection from a laptop.
  • I heard no differences with identical local music files streamed via Roon with the same USB cable on the various laptops. In other words, with local files, I didn’t hear a difference between the sources (laptops). There were some off cases where the Lenovo T420 did sound different even with local files. Not quite sure why but it wasn’t a huge difference.

Your network infrastructure may affect the sound quality you’re getting from the DAVE, even if Roon states it’s bit-perfect. When playing music files directly, I heard no difference between the various sources. I’m going to have to investigate this a bit further in a future post.

 P1090370

Does including the Uptone Regen or W4S Recovery alter the sound in any way?

I have both of these conditioners on-hand and fed them from a Teradak linear power supply. For these tests, I’m using the stock DAVE USB cable.

Findings

  • Uptone Regen – if there’s a difference, I couldn’t hear it.
  • W4S Recovery – if there’s a difference, I couldn’t hear it.

USB conditioners aren’t required for the DAVE but help other DACs I’ve tested enormously. This is the reason why I didn’t use them on the DAVE for any of these tests. DAVE doesn’t need it.

UPDATE: After testing the PS Audio LANRover and a few other USB conditioners with the DAVE, there was an audible difference between the various USB conditioners. The only difference was that I swapped out the TeraDak power supply for their stock power supplies and replaced the USB cable with the Chord SilverPlus. In the end, there was a big enough difference between the various conditioners (even between the W4s and Uptone) that I figured I would mention this. Unfortunately I no longer have all the original devices to reaffirm this but I would recommend trying out a USB conditioner with your DAVE and see if it makes a difference for your setup.

DSCF7402

What are the differences when the same exact file is streamed bit-perfect through the Lumin S1 (USB SATA drive) and MSI GS40 laptop (SATA drive) via Lumin and Roon app respectively?

As mentioned in the setup, the Lumin S1 will output optical via HDMI through a converter recommended by Roy. The USB source will be my MSI GS40 laptop. Because of the odd issue with network streams, I’ve only conducted tests with local files on both sources. Also, the Lumin S1 uses Airplay as its streamer which maxes out at 16/44.

I couldn’t help but to do think: Does streaming the exact file via Roon to the Lumin’s streaming service sound the same as streaming the file directly from the Lumin’s USB port? So after testing a large set of files (All 16/44 due to the limitation of the Lumin’s Airplay streamer), I’ve concluded that it’s a night & day difference. The soundstage collapses and the organics disappear.

Basically, I couldn’t stream wirelessly from my laptop’s WiFi module to the router to the ASUS wireless bridge to the Lumin without catastrophic loss in dynamics on all fronts. Obviously, it’s better to keep your gear wired but I was appalled that it made this much of a difference. It’s important to note, Roon still says the stream is bit-perfect.

Findings

  • Using a cheap power cord for the DAVE…the Lumin S1 actually sounds a lot better.
    • However, with the Shunyata Zitron Alpha Digital PC the Chord sounded more transparent and holographic than the Lumin. Bottomline, you need a decent digital power cord for the DAVE.
  • I was accidentally using a USB Type-C hub with my laptop to the DAVE and the sound was terrible. Glassy and flat. Plugged it directly into an on-board port on the laptop and it was fine again.
  • For streaming of files, using the ASUS wireless bridge provided better sound than the built-in laptop WiFi. Big headaches so I resorted to testing with only local files.
  • Just a note: BNC connection on the Hugos and DAVE don’t sound that great. Flat/dull.

The awesome thing about Roon is that you could play the same track 10 seconds after each other to hear the same piece when switching inputs on the Neo 430HA. Worked wonderfully well for this review.

Lumin-S1-Chord-DAVE-Roon

You may get a headache reading the raw notes as they were done over the course of a few weeks in different rooms with different power, etc, but there may be some interesting tidbits.

So the burning question is? Should I sell my fancy $12,000 streamer and just get a cheap Roon end-point?

DSCF7415

Tank loves to photobomb!

Tonight’s Main Event: Lumin S1 vs. Laptop

My apartment has a 15 and 20 amp line. I’m not quite sure when they were replaced but I’m going to presume they’re old. I do know the 20 amp was re-wired in the past 10 years. I didn’t really think about this until Project EvaD…and you’ll see why.

As far as setup, everything is still the same, plugged into the P10, etc. The only differences was moving the equipment over from my office (15 amp line) to my living room where I’ve dedicated a 20 amp line to my home theater.

Office (15 Amp)

During my initial testing, with Crossfeed set to 0, the Lumin was definitely more transparent but too lean to be natural sounding. It definitely had more of that “Hi-Fi” sound. The MSI GS40 was warmer and didn’t have the depth the Lumin had but was more musical and natural. During this time, the USB sounded more true but the Lumin was without a doubt, more holographic with a quieter background.

In direct comparison to the Lumin, there’s a bit of smearing across the frequencies via USB. Overall, with Crossfeed 0, I would pick the Lumin + a warmer Abyss cable over the laptop’s USB connection.

Perhaps the Lumin has been overlooked as a streamer? I’m hoping to get a Lumin U1 to do more testing but…there’s definitely a difference here. Amazing considering the optical input of the DAVE is supposedly not as good as the USB input.

Enter Crossfeed 3…

When going back and forth between sources with Crossfeed 0, there was an audible and obvious differences between the two sources. The testing was actually similar to what I’ve experienced in the past testing other sources. It was really easy to determine which one sounded cleaner and tighter.

However, with Crossfeed 3 enabled…the differences were subtle. Almost like the data from the optical and USB is shaped into the same output stream when Crossfeed 3 is activated. I don’t know for sure but this is what I’ve concluded from my listening (I’m sure Rob Watts could chime in). I don’t hear any immediate difference from optical or USB only if Crossfeed 3 is used. To be clear, there are differences, but they aren’t noticeable unlike Crossfeed 0.

In Crossfeed 0, the USB just sounds more natural and musical but lacks a bit of depth. It still sounds like it has a deep soundstage until you compare it directly with the Lumin. On Crossfeed 3, the Lumin kills the USB. From a technical standpoint. The Lumin has more of the holographic sound but isn’t really accurate or faithful until Crossfeed 3 is activated. You almost get the best of both worlds in Crossfeed 3 with the Lumin S1.

In other words, when I switch between Crossfeed 0 and 3 with just the Lumin, the holistic sonic differences were significant (Hopefully someone else with a Lumin S1 could confirm this). With the DAVE not so much. However, with Crossfeed 3, both the Lumin and the DAVE sounded more similar and I couldn’t immediately tell the difference (like I did with Crossfeed 0)…but in the end, the Lumin still had more depth, tighter, and a quieter background.

Home Theater Room (Dedicated 20 Amp line)

Here is where things get interesting.

So after some time, I moved the equipment to my other room with a dedicated 20 amp line. It was for my home theater but I didn’t think much of it. I did have it rewired maybe 10 years ago but I don’t think the actual wire was replaced. This didn’t cross my mind until I heard differences in the setup.

Keep in mind, all equipment is still plugged into the P10, same as before. This time the Lumin was much warmer, lush, sweet, amazing. The DAVE was on the thinner end but both at least were able to sound their best without any flaws. At this point, I found the USB input to be better than what I was hearing from the Lumin S1. It just had a very rich and lush tonality that I felt was very truthful. The Lumin S1 still had a quieter background and had a tiny bit more depth but the trade-offs with its more artificial tonality took away from the music. I wish I had a pair of HE-1000s but with the Abyss…I preferred the USB input in this setup.

Grand Finale

UPDATE (5/4/2016): I’ve found that the harshness I was hearing was actually due to using the laptop as the source. It may have also affected the Lumin vs DAVE impression, which now places DAVE in an even stronger position. Using the Sonicoribter and iPad as the controller offered significant sonic improvement (as opposed to controlling Roon directly from the laptop). A dedicated Roon box is probably best.

So in closing, this is what I’ve concluded:

  • Your power infrastructure is much more important than you think.
  • The DAVE isn’t completely immune to source but definitely more so than other DACS.
  • The DAVE requires a decent digital power cable. I love the Cable Company for this purpose. Get a hold of Ethan, he’s a great guy.
  • I wouldn’t sell your streamer or music server just yet. In my testing, I did get a quieter background and a more holographic presentation with the Lumin S1 as a streamer but a more natural sound from the USB.
  • The Berkeley Alpha Reference sounded incredible. Truly a top 1% DAC IMO. I still remember how it delivered those female vocals…and it did it smoother and more natural than the DAVE (albeit with less detail, air, etc). It just couldn’t match DAVE in the other areas.
  • The Chord DAVE is the most creepiest and faithful sounding DAC I’ve ever heard.
  • DAVE’s implementation of crossfeed is the best I’ve heard so far.
  • As mentioned in this project, the only problem I had with the DAVE was with is this odd glare/metallic emphasis in the treble. I hear this with both female and male vocals and a few instruments. I really wish I had a few more headphones here for the project. It’ll be important to note, when I use the DAVE as a DAC into the Neo 430HA, this treble isn’t as bothersome. It’s only with a direct-to-DAC connection. Crossfeed 0 is too fatiguing so I stick to Crossfeed 3 for most of my listening. I have an odd feeling it could be just the Abyss itself…but I can’t imagine I would hear this with the JPS Superconductor. That’s a review for another day.
  • If you just want great sound and be done with it, I honestly think the Lumin S1 as a DAC and streamer in one is a no-brainer.

The Chord DAVE is gift to the audio world. It is truly an amazing piece of engineering that differentiates itself with a sound quality that currently cannot be touch. Reviews of other DACs claim they hear the individual hits of a key on a piano or the movement of a guitarist’s wrist as he strums quick across notes. In the past, I’ve also said those things about some of these high-end DACS. However, what the DAVE does is it adds much more detail, dimension, air, and timing into the mix. Instead of getting an “idea” that something is there, you’re just presented with it. Not just with detail but with rhythm, body, and dimension. Something I’ve yet to hear for other DACs.

Let me illustrate this with an example: If Helen Keller were given a DAVE with an Abyss Headphone and she’s listening to a live recording in 24/192, she would get her vision back. She would be able to get a visual of the size of the player, size of the room, what was played, how it was played, the strength it was played at, and distances between each player and herself. It’s like you’re there! I had no clue a Red Book recording could contain this much information and I’m grateful that now, with the DAVE, we could listen to music with an insanely three-dimensional presentation.

For what it’s worth, even after what I’ve learn from this project, I would still be pretty damn happy with a Lumin S1 or MSB Analog. They sound fantastic and are more than good enough for high-end musical enjoyment. Those who have a Berkeley Alpha Reference are enjoying something really special.

During this audio journey, we fall in love, we fall out of love, and we take 2nd mortgage in hopes of obtaining an “end-game” audio setup. If it’s not obvious to you by now, there is no such thing as end-game in audio. For one, Chord’s going to make sure of that, especially if they have Rob Watts on board. They’re going to keep moving the bar up and that’s a wonderful thing. Secondly, sometimes we get so caught up in the gear, we forget to listen to the music, get audio burn-out, then we get hit by a car. It’s about the music guys.

Thank You

  • Eunice for helping me blind test and take photos of the various setups.
  • David (DavidMahler) – Ode to the the Godfather of all flagship headphone comparisons. Your quest has been a huge starting point for many, myself included.
  • Roy (Romaz) – Your patience, friendship, and for exposing me to the best things in audio. Without you, this project wouldn’t have happened.
  • Ross (Yoga) – For getting my gears turning on exploring amp and streamer options for the Abyss.
  • Dean (Decur) – For opening up my mind about cables and streamers..and for selling me the Neo 430HA 🙂
  • Tyll Herstens – We’ve never met but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your in-depth and honest reviews and have used your Wall of Fame as a guide on this journey.

Raw Notes

When I refer to PC, I’m talking about the laptop. These raw notes also included impressions from streams, which should taken with a grain of salt.

Tracks:

  • Baghdad – Jesse Cook (Tidal)
    • The test of transients from 0:10 to 0:30
    • The first 40 seconds sounds better on the Lumin. You hear more micro-details in the strums..but thin and unnatural.
    • Lumin = blacker background
    • There’s a difference here for sure. The PC has more of a warm sound, not as good as delineating the strings. You get a lot more detail and sense of space (artificial) from the Lumin.
    • PC has a warmer sound and not as dynamic, not as holographic, higher noise floor, not a blackground. It wows but doesn’t engage. Lumin fast.
    • Lumin more transparent and more depth but PC sounds more smooth and realistic…basically  more like music.
  • Taylor Swift – Shake It Off (16/44)
    • Using files gets the quality closer.
    • I feel the depth is better with the Lumin and it has a more natural sound.
    • Much better layering on the Lumin
    • USB isn’t as dynamic but warmer. Some may say this sounds more natural?
    • The intro is so much better than the USB. Sounds a lot more shiny, more expansive. Transparent. You could hear more detail in the drums, transients are clearer.
  • Paramore – Crushcrushcrush (Final Riot! Live) (16/44)
    • Lumin has more that creepy clarity factor. Guitars have more zing to them.
    • Lumin a lot more holographic.
    • PC is much warmer and flatter.
    • When Hayley goes back and forth between her and the audience in the intro, it sounds more realistic on the Lumin. The sense of space is more pronounced (resonance). The audience actually sounds like realistically further away from the performers.
    • Separation is better via Lumin
    • PC has a more natural tonality however.
    • Background much quieter on the Lumin
    • Lumin comes off way too thin to be real.
    • I preferred the USB for it’s more natural presentation.
  • Chet Baker – Trav’lin Light (16/44)
    • Lumin sounds a bit too thin, not enough body around the vocals or instruments.
    • USB more warmth, better low-end
  • Jack Johnson – Flake (16/44)
    • PC sounds more natural.
    • Lumin quieter background but has a bit of grain. Lean.
  • Kiesza – Cut Me Loose (Tidal) (16/44)
    • For some reason, streams are harsher on the PC than they are on the Lumin.
    • Lumin lacks body
    • Overall differences are subtle
  • Tristan Prettyman – Glass Jar (16/44)
    • Slower paced music, the differences are subtle.
  • Sara Bareilles – Gravity (Live at the Fillmore) (16/44)
    • They sound very similar switching between inputs but searching clips reveals the differences.
    • The Lumin is definitely thinner while the PC is more natural.
  • Damien Rice – 9 Crimes (16/44)
    • PC sounds more organic and natural.
  • Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing (Live at the BBC) (16/44)
    • A lot more sparkle and depth on the Lumin
  • Nardis – Partrica Barber (24/192)
    • The airplay down sampling isn’t that great.
  • Santana – Oye Como Va (16/44) (Crossfeed 3)
    • Bass is tighter via PC
    • Seems like when playing files…PC is superior. Could be because the music is stored on the disk.
  • Let It Go – James Bay (Tidal)
    • Lumin has this harsh tinge…PC…natural.
  • Faure: Requiem, Agnus Dei – Gabriel Faure (16/44)
    • Low-end doesn’t have as much weight on the Lumin.
  • Layla – Eric Clapton (Chronicles) (Tidal)
    • Lumin too thin, PC just right.

In order to remove the network influences of the stream to the Lumin, I’ve attached a drive directly with identical files and played off the Lumin application on the iPad mini. Roon will only play directly to the attached DAVE. The following were tests done only with physical files on both the PC and Lumin end.

Damien Rice – I Don’t Want to Change You (24/96)

  • Bass and sub-bass seems tighter on the Lumin. The bass sounds more like heart beat, very precise.
  • Lumin has a quieter background.
  • Lumin better layering, separation, but still lacks that warmth.
  • Lumin more depth
  • PC is definitely flatter. You get a better sense of space with the Lumin.
  • The PC sounds more like music but you definitely got a deeper soundstage with the Lumin. You hear the resonance of Damien’s voice a lot more clearly via the Lumin.
  • Lumin still sounds a bit too thin for me, a bit of warmth and it would be perfect. I could see this being potentially fatiguing.
  • Just to be clear, the optical and USB inputs sound audible different in this configuration.

Dave Brubeck Quartet (Live at Carnegie Hall) – St. Louis Blues – (16/44)

  • At this point, it is clear the Lumin presents a much deeper soundstage.
  • Lumin is definitely more holographic by a large margin.
  • Lumin still doesn’t sound natural due to its lack of warmth.
  • You could hear the announcer walk across the stage in the intro clearly on the Lumin.
  • Lumin is just more refined and tighter
  • PC sounds a lot more natural.
  • Lumin much quieter background. The PC sounds a bit smeared/warm but admittedly more “real”
  • Lumin doesn’t sound natural but has better separation. Lumin might be too clean?
  • Bass more impressive on PC. Much better. Have a feeling the Lumin is just tilted towards the higher frequencies.
  • Overall, the PC sounds more like music but lacks the depth and separation of the Lumin.
  • I really think the Lumin sounds more transparent, more live.
  • The PC, there’s bleeding between mid-bass to midrange.
  • Easier to delineate the players on the Lumin.
  • Two completely different sounds.
  • The PC sounds more like music but lacks depth and a bit of resolution.
  • Bass heft is basically non-existent with the Lumin, no impact.
  • You could hear more of what’s going on with the Lumin. Each player has his own acoustic space. More detail.
  • I think Lumin with warmer transducers (maybe a warmer Abyss cable) would be perfect.

So at this point, there’s obviously an audible difference between the Lumin to optical and PC to USB. I pulled up a quieter laptop of mine (not a gaming laptop), the Lenovo T420, installed Roon and transferred the same files over to that laptop and hooked up the DAVE. Using the same recording (file):

Dave Brubeck Quartet (Live at Carnegie Hall) – St. Louis Blues – (16/44)

  • The Lumin does have this artificial tinge to it. Instruments sound really sound realistic.
  • T420 sounds more natural but lacks a bit of refinement and resolution.
  • Lumin much tighter and grippier all around. Much more detailed.
  • T420 isn’t as warm as the MSI GS40. So…the source does matter.
  • Lumin sounds live, T420 sounds more like a recording.
  • T420 much flatter and warmer. Interestingly enough…with crossfeed 3…all the depth comes out. Amazing. It sounds MUCH better.
  • Although the imaging, dynamics, soundstage is much better presented on the Lumin, it just doesn’t sound like the real thing as if I were in the audience.
  • Crossfeed 3
    • Now…this is music. The USB connection is far superior to the Lumin with the Crossfeed 3 turned on. It’s not as tight but sounds right.
  • Going back to the MSI GS40
    • A lot more refined/detailed than the T420. The MSI is attached via USB to 3 monitors and bunch of other crap. I guess PC component noise doesn’t affect the DAVE much but something else? Who knows!
    • I don’t know how the crossfeed 3 is implemented but it’s amazing. With it, the USB input suddenly gains a lot more depth. Oddly enough, it flattens out the Lumin’s optical. Switch back to crossfeed 0 and the Lumin gains it all back.
    • What’s even more interesting…it places both the USB and Inputs with a similar sound. They actually sound very close to my ears.
  • The night & day differences goes away on Crossfeed 3.

With Crossfeed 3, it closes the gap between performances between the two. It’s really subtle but the Lumin is still more transparent and provides more sharpness and clarity. Lumin is also more resolving of micro-details and has more impactful and tighter bass. The Lumin as a source brings life and a 3D space to everything. I much prefer the Lumin as a source in this comparison.

Now I’m not sure what’s accounting for the different sound from the sources as both should be bit-perfect.

Rob Watts

Hmm – sounds like most likely explanation is that its not bit perfect files. Even if a single stage of gain scaling happens, it will make a big difference to the sound – see my earlier post about my -301 dB test. If data is not properly handled when its adjusted, it will lose depth, and if really bad truncation, will also sound harder.

Normally if the optical is not bit perfect you will get drop-outs as it falls in and out of lock, so I don’t expect its the optical connection.

In “Crossfeed 0” the USB directly to the PC sounds audibly flatter and warmer than the Lumin’s optical. The Lumin in general is much more holographic but a bit too lean/bright. In Crossfeed 3, this makes both sources sound much more alike but still giving the edge to the Lumin. Enter the Sonicoribiter.

Testing the Sonicoribiter

Because I haven’t learned my lesson, I’m using the same wireless bridge for the Sonicoribiter as I did with the Lumin during the first part of this test. I’m expecting it to have the same thin sound with loss of dynamics. I’m using the USB output of the oribiter to the USB input of the DAVE. The Linear PSU is plugged into the PS Audio P10. All testing will be done in Crossfeed 3. I’ll be using the same exact files on both ends. Also, one change is that all the equipment now is connected to a semi-dedicated 20 amp line in my apartment.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Louis Blues (16/44)

  • The USB has a much more natural sound, although still not quite as holographic as the Lumin, but very, very subtle this time. Not sure if this makes sense but the background is quiet in an unnatural way in the sense that you could hear the space better but it doesn’t have warmth. The audience sounds like rice crispies as opposed to real people.
  • Lumin = much quieter background, but still a bit thin.
  • Overall I liked the USB a lot more here. Although I had a better sense of depth with the optical, instruments, bass impact, dynamics, much much more enjoyable.

Nirvana – About a Girl (MTV Unplugged in New York) (24/96)

  • Much better via USB
  • Oddly this time, I get a better sense of depth from the USB.
  • Lumin is just too thin, not engaging.
  • It’s no contest, USB wins.

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me (24/192)

  • Ran into issues streaming 24/192 to the sonicoribiter. Roon + Windows bug

Metallica – Enter Sandman (24/96)

  • Lumin – very glassy sounding, sparkly, at times pretty harsh.
  • Lumin has a wider soundstage, definitely a lot queiter background
  • Switching out to the USB from the same laptop
    • Background is quieter
    • Not as warm, but instruments sound good, soundstage is wider

At this point I’ve connected the laptop and sonicoribiter to the router directly with a SOtM cable to enable smooth 24/192 streaming

Norah Jones – Come Away With Me (24/192)

  • Lumin much quieter background, more holographic, better separation
  • USB more realistic, more emotive
  • USB sounds more like real music

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Take Five (24/96)

  • Lumin sounds a lot better for the 2:30 – 3:30 with the drums. A lot more spacious, airy, and holographic.
  • Lumin better separation of drums and piano, wider.
  • USB still sounds more like the real thing, although not as detailed to my ears

Bach Cantatas Vol. 43 – Aria (24/192)

  • Lumin does sound more transparent/detailed, but lacks the body/warmth for a organic sound
  • USB sounds like what you would hear from a real concert all (hollywood bowl, etc)
  • USB wins

Paco de Lucia – Mediterranean Sundance/Rio Ancho (24/176.4)

  • Background is much much blacker on the Lumin but at the expense of sounding a bit thin. Lack warmth.
  • Really enjoyed the USB output…cozy and fun.

Beck – The Golden Age (24/96)

  • About the same depth for both USB and optical.
  • Gets a bit harsh and grainy on the lumin when his voice comes in
  • USB much more targeted voice. Lumin comes off a little too tight and cold, almost as some low-end info is missing.

It Was a Pleasure Then – Nico (24/192)

  • When shits get crazy at 5:00…her voice maintains composure on both.
  • It’s very clear at this point that the USB just sounds more like how the recording was intended.

Taylor Swift – Sparks Fly (24/96)

  • Screechy voice from the Lumin
  • Much better via USB. Somethings off about the optical input.

Switching back to USB direct to the laptop:

  • Much blacker and better clarity on USB
  • Only thing that changed was outlet for P10 and having a cheap CAT5 cable from laptop to router.
  • Better than Lumin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanity Check – Chord Hugo TT via Lumin and via USB


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