A baffling hobby

October 9, 2015
 by Paul McGowan

High end audio is sometimes a baffling hobby. On the one hand we readily accept the notion that loudspeakers are so hopelessly flawed that changing them makes perfect sense: dynamics to electrostats, electrostats to dynamics, horns to planars, planars to horns, self amplified to externally amplified–and all along we’re ok with the idea whatever we wind up with can easily be bettered.

But then we turn around and find ourselves amazed, perplexed, sometimes angry, when peripherals matter: cables, Jitterbugs, power conditioners, plugs, vibration devices. Some of us are grateful they exist, others indignant that our electronics are bettered by their presence.

And, of course, I understand the frustration. We always hope this or that piece will be our last–perfection achieved–and yet in the back of our minds we understand we’re not close. But it’s alright and here’s the good news. If it sounds great and musical today, it will continue to do so tomorrow. My 30 year old loudspeakers are a wonderful example of this. They were musical then, they are musical now. But these observations do not negate the idea of making things better. Better power, better cables, better sources, always help any component sound its best.

While at RMAF I moved from the Jitterbug to the Uptone regen–a powered, fancier version of Jitterbug–this thing really works well, best I have yet heard.

The Regen is like the Power Plant of USB. It accepts USB data from the computer, places it into essentially a USB hub, then reclocks the data back out to the DAC. Why should this make anything better? Because computers as sources are noisy, jitter prone devices. Some DACs, like DirectStream, remove jitter fed into them–but that does not mean all jitter goes away. This is because DirectStream is still sensitive to power supply and noise issues, as Ted Smith discussed in yesterday’s post.  Well worth the read if you have a chance.

The Uptone Regen, highly recommended for any DAC.

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21 comments on “A baffling hobby”

  1. Paul

    Interesting read on the Jitterbug and Regen. I’ve read that combining the two works even better. In fact adding two Jutterbugs is better than one and adding two of them with the Regen is better yet. Also adding a Linear Power Supply to the Regen improves the Regen significantly. Seems like improved power
    supplies on digital products is the latest secret to better sound. Have PS AUDIO or Ted looked into improved power for the DS and or our Music Servers that gets higher performance out of Digital?

    1. The greatest of attention is paid to the internal power supply arrangements in DS. I have never seen one of our engineers as obsessed over power supplies as is Ted – I bet he spend close to 6 months figuring out where to place regulation, routing PC traces and layers of copper to compensate for potential problems – and still, it is not perfect. It is a tough problem and one we’ll never get perfection on – but we can certainly get closer.

      1. This concept was discussed last year, and promise you this will be the last time i bring it up. How difficult would it be to engineer and incorporate an external power supply – connector – for an upgrade path to a ‘high-capacity’ external power supply for the DS, BHK Pre & BHK Phono?

        Inspiration drawn from previous designs such as Don Moses Wadia 2000 decoder & the ML-6 dual mono preamplifiers.

        BTW > solid advice on the Bridge II for network applications, bridging the gap to top performance and rendering the aftermarket USB regenerator conversations mute. : -)

        Have a pleasant weekend!

  2. Hello, Paul. The only conclusion from this discussion I can see is that PS Audio being the leader in noise and hum reduction born by power supplies will soon launch an upgrade for the input stage of the DS DAC. As far as I learned from earlier discussions here bit-perfect is no problem anymore even with hires formats. As Ted Smith clearly revealed jitter is the single problem in digital audio whose core promises were: no noise, no hum, no distortions. This problem should be solved as far as I understand Ted Smith’s findings if the jitter on the AD side and on the DA side fall below any audible threshold. Jitter free is impossible due to inherent clock frequency fluctuations. And jitter-identity between both sides is impossible due to the random characteristic of these fluctuations. I am looking forward getting offered the upgrade. In the meantime my USB-cable has a battery supply for the 5 volts leads. 🙂

    1. Thanks and yes, using an external 5V for the Vbus is a good idea. Nothing is currently being worked on for digital inputs on DirectStream so don’t hold your breath too long. 🙂

      Can things be bettered? Of course – but not without a major redesign, and then we don’t know what will come of it.

      1. I would suggest to call such a catalytic converter like system: ECS meaning: emission control system. An actual topic in the US. No need to convince people here by launching expensive marketing campaigns! 🙂

  3. http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showthread.php?18580-Science-Thread-Review-of-Audioquest-Jitterbug-and-Uptone-Regen-USB-Conditioners&highlight=Uptone+regen
    Here is a test purely by specs.
    As i own both devices and they both do work weather alone or in tamdon
    It’s clear to specs do not always matter
    The regen is far better than the jitterbug. And Paul gals that man just happened to have one for you.
    Hard to not keep it once you heard it.
    It for me makes things more relaxed like dsd to pcm but still very dynamic
    It helps every dac I have tried it with and even from my server it’s a small yet notable improvement
    The man who makes is a network designer.
    Now what I have not done is compared it directly to the ds and bridge 2
    As before this was close
    Paul have you compared usb to bridge 2

      1. I have the Bridge II on order and truly can’t wait to test it vs USB. Having said that, I have the latest Regen on my DS DAC and agree that it is a true upgrade to USB fed data, even with an audio-optimized music server.

        I did add a Jitterbug on the server output and while I didn’t notice any real improvement, it certainly didn’t cause any negative effects. The two in tandem do seem to work well.

      2. Dear Paul,

        before I want to post my great impression of your staff, products and company a little later after settling with the DS, I take a chance to clarify a few topics for me.

        I’m just preparing (in terms of file format & NAS/server) how to finally use my new DS DAC/Bridge II after set up. There are a few insights I got while reading forums and some starter questions, that you, Ted, Dennis or anyone familiar with it can possibly answer or comment as right or wrong:

        Bridge II seems to deliver most probably in general better sound quality than even other good third party streamers over USB or any other input due to the Bridge’s direct digital lens connection to the DAC and the unneeded noisy USB connnection and add. cabling. Additionally the bridge uses the DAC’s internal power supply which is probably better than most of external streamers supplies and anyway than those of PC’s, Macs or Notebooks. This implies that a double rate DSD file downconverted to single rate to be playable by Bridge II, still sounds probably better than played double rate by an external Streamer or PC. That would make the bridge II most probably the best source available. Correct arguments or not?

        Weak power supplies of Computers, NAS, Routers etc., even if plugged into a different electrical cirquit than the one of the audio setup may have some negative effect to the performance of the DAC if connected to the DAC by USB, Coax, Toslink, XLR. But while plugged into a different el. cirquit they most probably have no negative effect, when PC/NAS is connected by ethernet to the Bridge II. Means, there’s less to no need to bother about power supplies of PC/NAS/Router under these conditions of separate cirquits, when connected by ethernet to Bridge II. Correct arguments or not?

        Under the above mentioned conditions: Is there any reason why data on a NAS drive fed to the bridge by ethernet over a Jriver server could sound inferior to data fed directly from the NAS into the bridge (without Jremote server)?

        Thanks for answering these entry questions! The big other startup question regarding best format I will finalize myself. So far I heard enough differences to choose uncompressed flac vs. compressed. Not finished yet with the .wav question so far. And regarding the “use of add. preamp or not” question, I had strong results for the use of a preamp (not tested with bridge yet)

  4. Thank you for today’s comment about Audiophiles and music lovers who are happy with the sound of their systems at it currently is.
    At 69 years of age, I have noticed that my hearing abilities are starting to wain in the higher frequency range. My feeling about the reasonable action to take is to accept this slight deficit and become more a music lover and less an Audiophile.

    This does not mean that it does not thrill me to find out what’s going on in the Audio industry, so I try to keep abreast of the latest news that you especially bring forth.

    BTW, I purchased a Jitterbug yesterday in spite of what I just said because the low price is not an issue for me and perhaps I will be able to discern some improvement of the sound quality in other ways.

    I am fond of using the term “interest” instead of Hobby as a wise friend and incredible Electronics Engineer suggested that I should not trivialize the love of Audio Equipment as a hobby and that statement made a lot of sense to me.

    As always, keep up the great work. Your passion and quest for the truth in all aspects of what makes the sound of reproduced music better is inspiring.

  5. “The USB REGEN takes the digital audio stream from your computer or other music streaming device, and generates a completely new USB data signal to feed to your DAC. It accomplishes this by combining a carefully chosen USB hub chip with an ultra low-noise regulator and low-jitter clock. Importantly, it does so with ideal impedance matching—right at the input of your DAC.”

    So it appears the circuit in part is comprised of a Schmidt trigger that generates new signals from the input that will not be affected by the USB cable, a precision clock (probably similar to the one Ted said wasn’t good enough but the manufacturer seemed baffled by his opinion) and a buffer register that effectively reclocks the signal. Now if all of this sounds strange and complicated to you folks, understand this, I studied this almost 50 years ago so this is hardly cutting edge technology to those “skilled in the art” as the lawyers say. In this business these are very old ideas.

    http://uptoneaudio.com/products/usb-regen

    Now here is my favorite part;
    “Let’s cut right to the chase:
    We have added $0.40 worth of tiny resistors to the circuit board of the USB REGEN and increased its musical performance by 40-50%—most especially in the bass! Anyone who has a REGEN will be astonished by the improvement, and anyone who hears the new one for the first time will be even more amazed.”

    http://uptoneaudio.com/blogs/news/20068483-usb-regen-updated-amazing-bass-all-unshipped-orders-will-be-the-latest

    So 40 cents worth of resistors gave a huge bang for the buck according to the manufacturer himself. Now does what I posted yesterday about 10 cents worth of capacitors creating an improvement sound so implausible? Actually given that this unit costs $175, if it does what it claims to, its price seems more in line what what I think is inside it is worth than the Jitterbug based on what I think is inside that. However, Jitterbug is only $50 so considering some of you folks will pay thousands for a power cord, these accessories hardly seem like much money. By contrast the Nagra preamps that have 3 cheap 1950s tubes like 6AT7s or 12AX7As that are less complex circuits than a $20 table radio of that era and cost $10,000 strike me as way out of line. However, the box and knobs are very nice and are probably worth a couple of hundred dollars by themselves, much more than what is inside.

  6. What I like are the results of those who are obsessed in the extreme. Peter Qvortrop turned Snell’s $1000 type E loudspeaker into a million dollar loudspeaker. YG Acoustics Sonja 1.3 is an MTM speaker sitting atop two 10″ acoustic suspension woofers mostly machined out of sheets and billets of aluminum with CNC equipment usually reserved for the most demanding scientific equipment requiring great precision. The result is half a ton of speakers that requires a very complex crossover filter network to make it sound flat, in fact one so complex most amplifiers would probably be unstable or perform poorly driving it. Cost, $106,800. You see this all the time in this industry, obsession that drives people to build what to me are preposterous things where money is no object. Is the Genesis 1.2 really worth hundreds of thousands more than Infinity IRS? To Arnie Nudell it is. And look at those Wilson Alexandrias. They look like a matronly robot with scoliosis to me while the smaller speakers remind me of cafeteria trash cans. Why does all this expensive equipment have to look so butt ugly too? Look at those Vivid speakers. They look like something out of an embryology textbook related to female reproductive anatomy. But this is my personal favorite. If I had a pair of these in my house I’d be scared to death they’d attack me and devour me in the middle of the night when I’m fast asleep. Frankenspeakers.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=jadis+eurythmie&biw=1536&bih=646&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAWoVChMIipjQu9a1yAIVCXs-Ch2UkA_r

    1. Now wait a second, Soundmind. I know a loudspeaker when I see one, and more than a handful of those photos were turntables! You can’t fool me!!! 😎 Thank you for your humor.

  7. Audioquest on their Jitterbug page recommends the Shiit “Wyrd”: http://schiit.com/products/wyrd . Which sounds like a $99 version of the Uptone Regen. Interested if anyone has heard it. You’ve got to love Shiit’s candor: “But some listeners say Wyrd improves the sound of their system. We’re not going to make any such claims. “

  8. Ifi has one as well
    They had a battery one with usb cable I tried it. It did improve things but not on the level of my off ramp 5 or ap1/pp.
    i think a dac maker should put one inside the unit and feed it with a psu inside ( Paul /TED) This would increase it as we’ll. Using the short solid connector is better than the short usb it comes with. Also there is yet Another iteration of it coming up soon.
    How or what it does I honestly do not care. I am of the camp of cheap and it makes a difference. I still cannot get the power cord thing and honestly do not hear improvements
    Same with the outlets. I do plan one day to trade up to the gen 1.2 over the IRS V Before I am too old. As I am 58 I figure it’s a 60 birthday gift to me.
    Sound minded as always a pleasure to read your posts filled with truth and facts to back it up.

  9. “Why does all this expensive equipment have to look so butt ugly too ?”….
    Soundmind speak for yourself.
    A lot of people find a lot of expensive equipment very beautiful to look at.
    And I’m one of them.

    1. YOU ARE WRONG! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY! BUTT UGLY!

      There’s no accounting for taste. That’s why the world is so screwed up. Some miscreants think this is beautiful

      https://www.google.com/search?q=vivid+giya+speakers+images&biw=1536&bih=646&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CB8QsARqFQoTCJWpkpf8t8gCFYUaPgodpUwISA#imgrc=g_ssh2GQF5vYdM%3A

      and this

      https://www.google.com/search?q=vivid+giya+speakers+images&biw=1536&bih=646&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CB8QsARqFQoTCJWpkpf8t8gCFYUaPgodpUwISA#imgrc=iBohdsi6-jCa5M%3A

      Now here is something that looks attractive;

      https://www.google.com/search?q=empire+9000+royal+grenadier+images&biw=1536&bih=646&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CBwQsARqFQoTCJrR0eX8t8gCFYtzPgod3JIJRg#imgrc=ramSq5c-f1DWbM%3A

      BUTT UGLY AND DUMB AS A STUMP!

      https://www.google.com/search?q=hanss+acoustics+t-30+turntable+images&biw=1536&bih=646&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CBwQsARqFQoTCKjm0Ov9t8gCFQGgPgodJ7kF2w#imgrc=rzIRUQgM0HBnHM%3A

      Beautiful

      https://www.google.com/search?q=empire+698+turntable+images&biw=1536&bih=646&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CBwQsARqFQoTCI_JxJv-t8gCFcxZPgodRa4NUg#imgrc=mkVGkxDhiD9FCM%3A

      All the ugly junk goes to the Museum of Modern Art. The paintings there are the product of twisted minds. I went there once. It was like visiting a nut house. The great stuff goes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s one place I hung out when I lived in Manhattan. Insanity versus sanity and beauty.

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