After going through my notes, my top descriptors were “fluid”, “control,” and “lifelike.” I wanted to determine what the tX-USBultra actually does to the music so I did a lot of cable swapping/testing between direct connection to the Chord DAVE and to the tX-USBultra. The bottomline is, the tX takes the incoming signal, reconstructs it perfectly, and send it out in its purest form. That’s it. With other conditioners, there’s a coloring to the sound but with the tX-USBultra, it’s ruthlessly transparent and honest. Swapping input USB cables made me realize it does an enormous amount of bit reconstruction before it outputs the result. Truly remarkable.
In comparison to the W4S Recovery (also powered by the LPS-1), it doesn’t even sound like they’re trying to accomplish the same thing. It’s apparent that the tX-USBultra is something entirely different. It’ll completely correct the phase timing in all your recordings which manifests itself as utter realism in your music.
One track that made me forget about my credit card debt was the live recording of Diablo Ojo off Rodrigo y Gabriela’s new remastered self-titled album.The first minute of this recording is brutal and beautiful at the same time. It sounds exquisite without the tX in the chain and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Once the tX was in place…it made me think that the artists themselves don’t even know how good they sound. The amount of tactility presented while still maintaining proper composure in transients and detail is outright astounding. The tX was able to pull out all the nuances of the track and place them on the stage in a very natural (and startling) way. The tX opens up the sound from being dynamically constricted to something so lifelike and limitless, it’s difficult to come up with superlatives to describe. It provides enough body and focus to visualize the performers and instruments along with their realistic size and mass. Same goes for Eric Clapton’s My Father’s Eyes [Take 2]. These live recordings are so clean and analog sounding, I constantly found myself in disbelief during this review.
On the negative side, there’s still a bit of a heightened treble for some recordings which as I’ve mentioned, is probably due to the power cable used for the UpTone LPS-1.
The tX also images everything with the utmost perfection, filters out all the artifacts that I didn’t realize existed, and provides you with subliminal naturalness. What I’ve learned on this audio journey is that you know you’ve found something exceptional when it terrifies you. When it goes beyond goosebumps but makes you think “How is this possible?” I really wish I were exaggerating. There’s little to no hints of digital with the tX-USBultra.
For the live recording of Frank Sinatra’s track Come Fly With Me, the tX not only brought him back from the dead but also rebuilt the Sands Hotel & Casino. When you’re listening to the tX, you’re not thinking about pinpoint imaging, speed, or even the sonic individualism of the performers, you’re too preoccupied with how real it sounds and enjoy just being enveloped by the musical experience before you.
To stress test the tX a bit more, I opted for Enter Sandman by Metallica. This is where that super clock shines and is fully appreciated. It’s apparent that the tX provides limitless extension on both ends. Guitars and drums have perfect decay and weight. You actually feel the performers with their respective instruments. Everything is cohesive while without the tX the sound is more piecewise and contrived. Interestingly enough, I never thought about soundstage because everything just sounded accurately and realistically sized and spaced at all times.
I’m not a huge classical music listener but I thoroughly enjoyed the magic the tX was able to do for this genre. I preferred the Clarity Cable Natural USB cable for this. With the tX, you could hear every intent of the performer. The surreal sense of decay and pause which allows one to hear the moment the performer lets go of the key of a piano or the amount of pressure applied to a violin as the bow graces the strings. Without the tX, everything sounds fat, congested, compressed, and less natural. For example in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Horn Concertino In E minor, Op. 45, the strings, woodwinds, and bass were realistic reproduced in an eerie way. With the incredible resolution, depth, and dynamics, there was a sense of limitless air for the entire recording . Without the tX, it sounded as if the performance were in a small room. The tX actually brought me back to some memories of the Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. A bit freaky I must admit.
In Larry Young’s Zoltan, a direct connection to the sMS-200 lacks the explosive quality of this track. Trumpets and cymbals don’t sound as convincing and don’t have the proper texture and decay. The amount of dynamics and extension the tX-USBultra brings to the table cannot be understated. In short, the music just comes to life and breathes.
The SOtM tX-USBultra is not just a new kid on the box, but something revolutionary. Many, including myself, speak of bringing the live performance into our listening rooms. I now realize I had no clue what I was talking about. When I brought in a few more ears (who were unaware of all the components), every single listener mentioned the word “experience.” Usually I’ll get something along the lines of “I like the bass” or “Sounds good man, how much did you spend again?”
Aside from the monetary barrier of entry, I have no complaints about the SOtM tX-USBultra. Every other USB conditioners have their pros and cons but when you provide the SOtM tX-USBultra with a high quality linear PS and USB cables, it won’t be the bottleneck. In fact, it’ll expose the limitations of your system. In my case, I felt the tX wanted to do more than what the Omega Super 3i speakers could reproduce. It’d be interesting to retest with the Omega Compact Alnico Monitors in a few weeks.
During my reviews, I noticed some recordings had this harshness and distortion I thought was intrinsic to the recording itself. Turns out this insidious noise has been masked by what I perceived to be “normal” because, until now, we didn’t have a good enough device to truly condition the USB signal.
Regardless of the USB cables used, these are the overlaying benefits of the SOtM tX-USBultra:
- Immediate control and tightening of the sound in a very natural way. It does so without losing the “sonic dust” which provides the organics of the music. Without exception, everything sounds more bloated and stretched without the tX in the chain.
- The noise floor is nonexistent. Voices and instruments fade in from black.
- All the artifacts and fuzziness you’ve heard in recordings might not actually be a part of the recording. You don’t hear fuzziness when hear artists sing without a mic. I get a similar impression with the tX.
- Some devices layer and separate well but in a contrived and almost piecewise way. The tX-USBultra pulls apart the music in the most natural way possible.
- Ultimate transparency. A direct connection will always sound a bit more grey with a thin veil.
- A direct connection to the sMS-200, without exception, sounds more confined and dynamically capped. With the tx-USBultra, the music is allowed free-reign over space.
- Brings tactility by unravelling textures hidden in all your recordings.
- More intelligible vocals. You’ll learn more about the tracks you listen to.
- Streamed music from Spotify, Tidal, etc benefit enormously from the tX-USBultra.
I highly value the 3Ts: Timbre, Tone, and Tactility. All three are required for a realistic audio experience. It’s the difference between music that sounds great and music that sounds real. With these USB devices, there are usually tradeoffs. After listening to over 100 tracks with the tX-USBultra, I couldn’t find a single deficiency. It is so effortless in its craft…you would think they incorporated some kind of artificial intelligence. It almost feels like it was taught how a piano, guitar, organ, drum, and human was supposed to sound like and acted accordingly. The SOtM tX-USBultra made the speakers disappear by exhibiting a truly untainted sound with a new level of temporal accuracy. I can’t imagine how it would sound with a better power supply.
People who have gone deep into this hobby know that when you’re startled by a piece of gear, there must be something special there. You find yourself not fast forwarding any tracks or skipping in between. You stop analyzing/critiquing and you just listen. The SOtM tX-USBultra not only raised the bar, it broke it and just rocketed into the stratosphere. The refinement, control, tonal density, and pure visceral experience the tX-USBultra provides is unmatched. It acts as a world class cosmetic surgeon for your ugly streamed music files. It removes all the sonic smearing to provide a fluid, full, and honest presentation. I’m beyond impressed and have not heard anything this emotionally engaging…ever. I have a feeling this is just beginning. Needless to say, the SOtM tX-USBultra USB conditioner makes it into our Finest Cuts.
If you have a USB DAC, give the SOtM tX-USBultra a listen. Just make sure your wallet is open to being violated..because you won’t be returning it. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to write some poetry.