Delivering the goods

September 23, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When you download onto your local hard drive an Octave Records release the copy you store is bit-for-bit identical to the one sitting on the master hard drive at Octave Records.

It doesn’t matter that data traveled through millions of switches, miles of cable, fiber, satellite, coaxial, WiFi, and so on. Once downloaded what sits on your hard drive is absolutely identical to what sits on the master hard drive.

Yet, when I playback that file in Octave’s state-of-the-art mix room it will not sound the same as when you play it back on your system.

It couldn’t.

The files are identical but the systems are not.

But now imagine how close the two could sound if your system were the same as Octave’s mixroom: FR30 loudspeakers, BHK300 monoblocks, BHK preamp, DirectStream MK1 DAC.

If we imagine this setup then the biggest factors determining sound quality are narrowed down to room, setup, cables, and how the data gets into the DAC.

In my experience, it’s that last one that really matters. Most of us can adjust to differences in the room and set up to hear what’s on the recording. Getting data into the DAC turns out to be a very big differentiator—something one of our newest products will soon solve.

The AirLens.

Like the Digital Lens, its ground-breaking predecessor, the soon-to-be-released AirLens gathers all the digital data sent to it by our computers either via Ethernet or WiFi, stores that data in a buffer, then outputs it in perfect order via a fixed low jitter clock.

This is exactly what the original Digital Lens did but the AirLens adds the finishing touch: galvanic isolation between the AirLens and the receiving DAC. This separation of grounds, power supplies, or any physical/electrical connection between the noisy incoming digital data and the sensitive DAC is the key to perfecting the magic wrought by the Digital Lens.

Once connected via the AirLens, your DAC will think it is in noise-free heaven.

We’ll have more information about this exciting new product in late October to early November.

Stay tuned.

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51 comments on “Delivering the goods”

  1. Just to understand:
    is there no difference between avoiding noise in the first place and filtering noise afterwards? Can all (nearly all) noise be filtered that was previously introduced to the cirquit by various power supplies and other originators of routers, switches, the Airlens itself and others?

    By your explanation I understand it must be so. But then why still take any care for linear power supplies etc. in such sources as many others do (and which might be more expensive than galvanic isolation)?

    Is it a completely new breakthrough with galvanic isolation to save all costs typically arising when trying to avoid noise at a prior stage within a streamer or network infrastructure like audiophile routers, switches etc.? This would make whole product categories obsolete.

    1. I think the issue is more to do with data rates. If you are happy with 16/44, most streaming DACs can receive Airplay. Up to 24/96, optical is ideal (which I think can also do 24/192). Up to DSD64 perhaps AES/EBU is ideal. Any self-respecting DAC will have these inputs. If you device (like mine) has wireless, 24/192 PCM is easily handled.

      Problems start with higher rate DSD. It is often forgotten, and I think the driving force behind I2S, 2xAES/EBU and other proprietary protocols like MMM, is that they are legally required by Sony to connect a SACD digital output to a DAC, which is why they were adopted by the likes of dCS, PS Audio, Marantz and Esoteric, i.e. the companies that made SACD transports with digital output (as opposed to SACD players with analogue output), and they have evolved into DSD streaming use as an alternative to USB, which has no practical data limitations.

      The other company that did a lot of SACD, perhaps more than anyone else, Linn, went exclusively for ethernet as an input (i.e. network data only) – galvanically isolated of course. That was my first choice way back in 2009.

      The newer kids on the block, without this SACD/DSD legacy, seem to have often gone down the line of optimising USB – and have done it extremely well. Auralic and Innuos are the two obvious examples, also Naim, Lumin and others.

      As I skipped SACD, I went the USB route and used Naim and then Auralic by USB into a PS Audio DAC with the Digital Lens (a buffer and clock). With Devialet, I still use USB from Auralic and now Innuos, but sometimes wifi.

      Having been streaming since 2009 using a streaming DAC using ethernet only (galvanically isolated), I went backwards with my first music server, but in recent years in my experience digital noise is no longer an issue.

  2. I believe I have this problem solved by doing Ethernet over fiber optic cable to a Sonore OpticalRendu player, power to which is supplied by a Sonore LPS, then usb to a Sonore Ultradigital, then hdmi to the I2S input on my Directstream DAC. This setup is so much better than Roon NUC over usb to the DAC, even with an Audioquest jitter bug. And it lets me play DSD 256. How would the new Lens fit in my setup and play DSD 256?

    1. When posting above I was thinking about the Sonore and SoTM products, highly optimised, very well regarded and often using fibre. The biggest problem I have with them are the product names, utterly confusing, especially SoTM. I have a SoTM 9v battery supply powering my fibre media converter.

  3. I’m staying tuned- “but suspect keeping up with Paul” in the audio world may be a tall order given the changes that quite often happen. I’d already be behind the 8 ball, as I assume the 600’s will be moving into the mixing room, and the MK1 will soon replaced by the MK2.

      1. I’m sure it’s fun. 😉 It better be, if it’s a life mission.

        I’m not sure futzing is the correct word,
        “ To act foolishly, playfully, or without a clear sense of purpose; goof off:”

        Although I’m sure there’s times when futzing is a welcome activity….

            1. Somehow I put a ‘lytic in backwards. Big pop, bad smell, white gook splattered all over. I blame it on my wife for talking to me about hanging pictures while I was re-capping.

  4. Reading the comments this morning left me gobsmacked by what some members of this community have been doing to implement the highest quality digital audio reproduction. If I were holding a microphone I’d drop it and walk off stage. It seems ridiculous that even the most ardent audiophiles would even consider getting this involved.

    “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore“.

    Deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole we go.

    1. You could certainly look at things that way. But as technology marches forward and puzzles get closer to being somewhat solved the picture starts to emerge.

      The march has been on for some time…. And shows no signs of relenting.
      The good news is you can get out or in of the march anytime you want. You can choose not to march at all, or choose to march double time. It’s about choices and the ones you make for yourself.

      1. The picture has been emerging for decades…it’s a slow & deliberate march…in fact it’s more like the Hunchback of Notre Dame shuffling forward whilst dragging his left foot behind himself.

    2. I am in the same boat. Up to now almost all of my music comes from vinyl or optical disc. I am trying to decide if I am simply too old to take on music via digital files. I will stay tuned to learn more about this, but may just stick with the big black disc and the small shiny silver disc.

      1. Same here, Tony. Having taken decades to arrive with awesome 2-channel magic, time to just sit and enjoy the sonic rewards of the long audio journey and my large optical disc library! 😉

    3. Digital audio for most people is extremely simple and over a decade ago I became convinced it would be bad news for premium audio companies as it can be done very well very cheaply.

      I have high definition audio in most rooms in my house controlled by one app (Roon) that operates from a server sitting in a cupboard that I had anyway. 30 speakers each taking a minute or two to install. In the old days that would have been impossible and at best would have involved about 3 static systems with wires all over the place.

      You can make anything complicated, I’ve been convinced for years that digital is best in fewest boxes as possible, two maximum, eliminating cabling, power, grounding and loads of other problems.

      PSA had the Bridge and Bridge II, people seem to view AirLens as an external Bridge III, many companies make devices with bridge cards that can be upgraded (as I use, Roon Ready was a software upgrade 3 years after I bought it) and all you have to do is plug in an ethernet cable or connect to wifi.

      My main reasons for upgrading over the years have been for increased software functionality and a better user experience.

      The AirLens just needs an ethernet cable in. Not complicated.

      1. I have gone almost as far as you have in this latest comment but not in the prior comment that you made. I don’t have multiple high-quality audio systems but I do own Roon and the direct stream deck with the bridge II… easy Peezy. I’m speaking about going almost an order of magnitude within a year of trying to put finishing touches which seem to be endless I’m getting very high quality digital audio. I still have more sailing to do, rock scrambling and hiking, photography and several other passions that I want to be involved with. I guess if I dug deep enough or really wanted to understand the technology that’s coming out right now I would be able to but I realize that there is more to life.

        You should know that better than anyone else from what I have seen in your prior comments of what you have done and accomplished in your life SNTBCWS. Hope that you can understand my point of view as I understand yours but you are in a very small minority IMO.

        1. The hardest thing was choosing a good wireless system for the house – recommended by a PSA forum member.
          You can use a $30 TPlink media converter or a $300 audiophile one. Same with switches, cables, etc.
          I only have one “high end” system and I don’t use it with Roon. The 30-odd Roon Ready devices mostly cost about $400 each, they are also part of my lighting system, some units a bit more (Naim MuSo Qb2 and Devialet Reactor).
          Same as FatRat, the mains power and fibre was installed by builders under the floors.

          I enjoy music at home, but go a lot live. Just returned from Italy, a trip planned around the opening night of Onegin starring Roberto Bolle and Marianela Nunez, a sort of modern day Nureyev/Fonteyn thing. Probably the last time we will see them dance together. I also enjoy other pursuits and have just posted a bag of 35mm to the lab.

          There will be eternal audiophiles, but my point is that digital is now really easy, fit and forget, every audiophile’s nightmare.

      2. I agree with the “two maximum”; that’s me 😀
        However, cabling can run under floorboards, through
        wall cavities & in ceiling cavities…not a problem.
        In my case the longest visible length of exposed wire
        is 1.55m, & it’s all behind my set-up; again, not a problem.
        I still don’t trust wireless to sound as good as wired.

  5. I have no problem adding a re-clocking circuit to reduce Jitter but that’s as far as I am going to go at my age. How many quality components would I need to change to replace them with newer components that do not have their own power supply or have an ultra linear power supply before I cry uncle. I’ve been in this game full-time since I was 15 years old. That’s why I am sitting back and letting the music come to me now without worrying about making it any more musical than it already is. So to Mike, Martin and Tony, if you choose going down this path I am 100% behind you but not really understanding when this all comes to an end. Surely, I want to start to enjoy both live and at home music but I am not going to shorten my life and not get the chance to enjoy the rest of it as a content human being if I continue to move forward with this type of technology.

    There aren’t many of you in the community who has had the pleasure of living a large part of my life in the presence of famous people even in the Jazz, Rock and Classical community with your memories that are even more important to me than how much better my music system can sound. It was much more important to me when Carol Burnett told me over the phone next to Julie Andrews I was Her best friend and confidant. How many in this community I’ve had the opportunity to meet Sonny Rollins and him taking both of my hands in his in his five 6‘5“ body, look down at me and tell me even though I never learned an instrument nor could I read music he thought I was getting more of what he was trying to accomplish than many of his peers? how many of you have had Freddie Hubbard sit down at a table next to you during a break at adjust club ever remember me 20 years after the first jazz concert that I ever went to at 18 years of age and say I know you from somewhere. And at my age having just finished managing a full length Netflix major movie at my friends home for some of the scenes and spend close to 45 minutes chatting with Andy Garcia about his ability to play improvisational music on the piano without ever taking a lesson or without reading music. I could go on for quite some time but I’m sure many of you were rolling your eyes right now so I will leave you with my vision of having more than just one passion in life and first starting to understand what happiness really means.

    1. Hello Neil

      Regarding your comment
      “ So to Mike, Martin and Tony, if you choose going down this path I am 100% behind you but not really understanding when this all comes to an end.”

      Thanks for your support. It comes to an end when each of us chooses to have it end for us. Those with interest will continue on. Whether it’s new product development, new home audio equipment or new music recording techniques.

      If the status quo was the best and only way we wouldn’t be conversing this way. 😀

      1. Mike, did I ever tell you where the name Stimpy came from. Yes it was from the cartoon show but I named my first Greyhound companion Stimpy even though he was a dog and not a cat because he was the only Greyhound I had met to that point that was ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy. He used to lie at my feet when I was in my listening room years ago and enjoy the music along with me.

  6. Do you remember when the news was all abuzz about how some schmuck Otolaryngologist destroyed her voice during a surgical procedure to remove a node from one of the vocal cords? Carol and Julie were joined at the hip and one day Carol called me on the phone very upset about what was going on with Julie’s voice, she just needed to vent. Fortunately, Julie was able to find another physician who repaired the damage.

    Yes, Julie does have a beautiful, memorable voice, one of the most beautiful pure sounding voices I have ever heard. Carol is no slouch either. She could really belt one out on stage as I attended every one of her Broadway shows after I met her in her reserved seats with my wife. We were also the first people to visit her after the show with at least 100 people waiting for an audience with her. It always amazed me that I was so important to her.

      1. I am in awe of Linda Ronstadt.

        To move into vocal duos, I suggest that you and Tim get hold of a copy of stream of “Tenderness” by Al Jarreau which is a very special recording and listen to “My Favorite Things“ where Al and Kathleen Battle sing an incredible duet, intertwining their different styles and voice qualities together in a way that I have never heard before. A piece that I listen to over and over again and walk away shaking my head in disbelief.

          1. It’s very unfortunate that her career came to an end so early.

            I am usually not in favor of redoing a masterpiece song like so many others will try to replicate over the years but when it comes to Martha and the Vandellas Heatwave, Linda‘s version blows me out of my shoes and socks. IHMO she just took this masterpiece of music to a much higher level when she released her version.

    1. When AHC comments that he purchased the pair that he reviewed that says everything to me about the FR30’s.

      Between Darren, Chris and the rest of the engineering team PSA is right at the top of the list of audio design and development. BRAVO Paul and the rest of the entire operation.

  7. For the Airlens, is there someone available in the forum as Ted for DAC’s, Darren for phono and Stellar, Chris for speakers, BHK partly was for his amps…for being a connect to a little deeper understanding?

  8. Hi Paul! Regarding galvanic isolation, why not use digital optical. You’ve mentioned before there was a better digital optical cable, better than Toslink, but haven’t really explained why. Has your company ever thought about production of that cable. I bet it would be a best seller.

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