USB heresy

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My apologies to the members of theSan Diego Music and Audio Guild, whom I mistakenly called by their former name of 22 years ago. Figures I'd be behind the times. In any case, this evening at 7pm I will be speaking to the group about all sorts of audio and music related matters and playing DirectStream. If you're in the area please feel free to drop on by Stereo Unlimited on Sports Arena Blvd in San Diego. I have been having a great deal of fun with the little music server I've been writing about building. With the addition of a separate wifi device that connects my iPad to the server for control, turning off all the wireless transmitters in the device, the unit is working great. Now it's on to tweaking the unit after my return from San Diego this weekend. I promised a few words about USB in yesterday's post. I've said that our new DAC, DirectStream, is relatively immune to cable differences and that is a fact. Multiple experiments with different HDMI cables, coax and balanced digital input cables has shown me that while I can probably convince myself there are sonic differences if I try hard enough, in point of fact they are small and debatable. That does not appear to be the case with USB. I will say that I am impressed DirectStream never goes below a certain quality level, regardless of what USB cable is connected, and that's unusual. Most other DACS seem to display similar sensitivity to cables, but getting progressively worse as the cable quality goes down: progressively better as quality goes up. Not so with DirectStream. Use the lowest throw away USB cable to connect and DirectStream shines in its performance and one might never know anything was amiss. One wouldn't know until such time that a better cable was used: everything getting startlingly better and USB beginning to sound sound superior to media streamed even over other inputs, perhaps enjoying the full benefits of streaming from a memory. My first encounter with this was from my friend Arnie Nudell (who was instrumental in helping guide us through the voicing of this product). We heard differences in the USB input connected to his laptop on a number of DACs in his arsenal of equipment: including DirectStream. Differences weren't huge but they were certainly noticeable. Then he introduced me to a new cable he tried called JCat. This stood the hair on the back of my neck on end. Designed by a Taiwanese Audiophile and manufacturer, Paul Pang, all of a sudden there was a leap big enough to really stun the senses. What sort of voodoo was going on here? Seriously, we were both taken aback. Paul Pang and I have been communicating and I am trying to get him to help me understand what's going on. I am also trying to convince him to design a USB cable for us as well, so impressed I am of this work. Between the JCat and a few others I have been playing with in the last few days, the server has, in some respects, surpassed the PerfectWave Transport in sound quality. I know, this is heresy and you're right. See you tonight if you're coming to San Diego.
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Paul McGowan

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