SOtM (pronounced “som”) is high-end audio company that’s always on the move. They’ve recently announced a new master clock and an assortment of digital, analog, and power cables at RMAF this year. The sMS-200ultra is SOtM’s latest network audio player which includes their sCLK-EX super clock. This is the same clock used in the award-winning tX-USBultra USB conditioner which provides up to 4 clock outputs. These outputs could be used to clock, and thus synchronize timing, with other devices (switches, motherboards, USB conditioners, etc).
The goal of a network player such as the sMS-200ultra is to simply reduce noise and jitter in the digital domain before it’s delivered to the DAC. Many connect their servers/streamers directly to their DACs via USB which could provide great results. However, the best results I’ve heard so far were via ethernet to a streamer, which intrinsically provides galvanic isolation. This allows the streamer/server to clean up the bits even further for USB delivery to the DAC. I’m sure there are exceptions but from my experience, a direct USB connection seems to sound more flat, closed-in, and veiled in comparison.
Please refer to my sMS-200 review for more details. I’ll be focusing primarily on sound quality of both the sPS-500 and sMS-200ultra.
I had the original sMS-200 on hand for the review and also the externally clocked sMS-200 as part of the Trifecta. SOtM has since developed new master clock (the sCLK-OCX10) to form the Ultra Trifecta, which I heard at RMAF this year. Lee of SOtM gave an incredible A/B demonstration and I believe this to be the ultimate network streaming combination in the market today (more on that later).
I’ve included a list of equipment used at the end of this review. As always, YMMV.
The performance from the sMS-200ultra depends heavily on the quality of the power supply. It’s no wonder why SOtM furnished a brand new power supply for the Ultra series.
The SOtM sPS-500 power supply has linear regulator circuitry but it’s predominantly a switching power supply with SOtM’s proprietary filter designs. These noise-reducing filtering circuits are the heart of the power supply and as far as I know, an industry’s first in power supply design. Thanks to the two-stage power conversion circuits, the selector switch in the back allow for the following modes:
This power supply provides ample amounts of power for use with a Y-splitter. Not only does this potentially save space but also money on cables and other accessories. This alone is quite attractive for my desktop system.
I’m currently using one SOtM sPS-500 for my BRIX Roon server (19V) and one with a Y-splitter for both my modem and router (both of which are 12V and works incredibly well due to the low current requirements of the modem). I didn’t hear any degradation in sound from using the Y-splitter in this arrangement.
This power supply was an enormous improvement over the stock power supplies for my Gigabyte BRIX Roon server and router/server. We also tried it with the TP-Link CR1900 router/modem combo with similar improvements in sound quality. The benefits of the sPS-500 could be heard within the first few seconds. Music is just more dimensionally weighted, has a much lower noise floor, and acoustic cues are further realized and extend deep into the room. Listening sessions were dull, super flat, and lifeless without the sPS-500 in place. Frankly, Spotify, Tidal, and even local NAS streams were unbearable with stock power supplies.
Does the power cord connected to the sPS-500 matter?
Unfortunately (for your PayPal), it does. From our testing, the sPS-500 will take about 75% of the characteristics of the power cord connected to it. No one in their right minds would connect a $3,000 power cable to a $500 power supply, but we’re absolutely nuts.
With the Synergistic Research Atmosphere UEF Level 3 power cord connected to the SOtM sPS-500 the sound is expectedly leaner but the benefits are numerous:
Pretty much everything I mentioned in my review but to a lesser degree compared to being connected from your wall to the power conditioner. So yes folks, the power cord to your power supply does affect its sonic characteristics.
I once believed once you find a great power supply, you should buy more and use them for all your devices. I never thought of using them as tone controls. That notion has passed and now I found power supplies to be amazing for this purpose, especially these high-quality supplies.
Keep in mind the UpTone LPS-1 can’t power 12V+ devices, so it won’t be able to power some servers/modems/routers.
I’ve tried every single permutation of the devices and settled with the following arrangement:
Whew, these are the ridiculous things we audiophiles go through in search of audio nirvana. Perhaps I’m speaking only for myself.
When purchasing the SOtM sPS-500 power supply, you’re given the choice of a standard DC cable and stranded 7N UPOCC silver/copper. I would opt for the 7N UPOCC copper DC cable (+$100) at the very least. I found the standard cable to veil and fuzzy up the sound significantly.
Another option would be to purchase a DC cable from Zenwave. They’re bit pricier (depending on length) but use Neotech’s 6N UPOCC copper. Please keep in mind the connector on the sPS-500 isn’t your typical barrel so you may not be able to use cables you have on hand.
When splitting power from the UpTone Audio LPS-1 to the ISO REGEN and sMS-200 using a high-quality Y-splitter, the sound was good but it was noticeably better when using two separate LPS-1 power supplies. As with the modem/router, I didn’t notice any degradation in the sound from Y-splitting from the sPS-500 to the tX-USBultra and sMS-200ultra. This makes sense given the 5 amp capacity of 9 volts.
Private Investigations – Dire Straits (44/16)
Bass is very well controlled and I never heard that amount of detail on the low-end of this track. Strings have the right amount of shine and speed. There’s an eerie realism in the way the foot slides at the 3:00 mark. Startling macro-dynamics, especially with the percussions at the 4:00 mark. The sMS-200ultra never loses its composure and relays musical nuances to perfection.
You Got It! – The Cannonball Adderley Quintet (44/16)
Taut bass with an enjoyable amount of heft and slam. The alto saxophone, piano, cornet, bass, and drums all have accurate tone and timbre. Transients are quick and relentless on this track. Although the sMS-200ultra has a warmer tone, brass seem to exert just the right amount of air and decay and cymbals have an organic level of shine and energy. The intimate applause from the audience is discernably placed behind the performers without distracting from the performers.
Turn the Wolves – Lotte Kestner (44/16)
One of my favorite female vocalists. The guitar carries a rhythmic weight as the vocalists float above the strums. This recording sounds crowded and a little too busy on some setups, especially with the overlapping vocals. With the sMS-200ultra, all musical pieces are acoustically isolated in a cohesive and convincing way. There’s a very calm and humanistic quality about how her voice extends into the upper octaves towards the end of the track. Super smooth with zero hints of artificial digital grain.
The Koln Concert Pt. 1 – Keith Jarrett (96/24)
This 26-minute track is a gift from one of the greatest and most talented musicians on this planet. Jarret’s pianism is on full display with a palpable and impactful presentation. A majority of this recording is improvised and every delicacy and articulation of notes are full-bodied, tactful, and of course, free-spirited. The astounding level of clarity and resolve in this presentation provides a very emotionally driven composition. Every whoop and moan is delivered with heartful cohesion with the slow and rapid notes. The euphonic nature of the sMS-200ultra makes it even tougher not to listen to this recording all the way through.
I didn’t expect this level of sonic gains by placing a better power supply on my modem/router and server, which are further downstream from the DAC and SOtM Trifecta components. The flexibility in voltage options and uncompromising use of a Y-splitter cable makes this a great sounding and versatile power supply. The SOtM sPS-500 has skyrocketed the sound quality of my streams and local files to new heights and I’ve found it to be indispensable for many of my components. I’ll have at least three on my reference rig.
The fact I thoroughly enjoyed the sMS-200ultra without it being clocked by the tX-USBultra tells me something’s a little different with the ultras. It even pairs well the sPS-500 power supply. The SOtM sMS-200ultra is leagues better (especially with regards to timbre/tone) than the original sMS-200 and has a richly nuanced and natural sound that is addictively melodic. Its effortless layering of the soundstage and honest presentation of artistic intent makes it something very special indeed.
SOtM is moving the bar by constantly and consistently improving and innovating in this space. I’ve had my doubts about the benefits of syncing the clocks among components until I tried the SOtM Trifecta for myself. The differences are discernable and take us closer to a more lifelike and compelling experience. My guess is that the new Ultra Trifecta, with the inclusion of the incredible sounding master clock, will be a force to be reckoned with.
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