I have been hinting about a special device that improves the sound of USB audio for some time. Now it’s time to let the cat out of the bag.
When you connect your computer to your DAC through USB there’s a lot of problems getting the sound right. This is because your computer is a hostile environment for delivering clean audio data. Think of your computer like a noisy crowd and the music like a lone musician trying to be heard at a cocktail party. It’s near impossible unless you separate him from the crowd.
One trick you can use is to connect the computer through a USB hub, using two USB cables–one between the computer and the hub, the other between the hub and the DAC. While it may seem counter intuitive to improve something by adding another element in the data path, it works. In fact, the idea of a purpose built USB hub is what the famous Uptone Regen essentially does – and it works well – improving audio in every case. A USB hub, like the Regen, offers a degree of isolation between the computer and the DAC, though it’s not complete. Think of this degree of isolation as a doorway separating the noisy crowd (our computer). Our beleaguered musician is close to the open door and we hear him more clearly than before.
If we wish to remove even more of our imagined crowd noise, we can filter it by adding something like the AudioQuest Jitterbug for even clearer sound.
But if we want to eliminate the crowd noise altogether we need a completely new approach. Enter the LANRover.
The PS Audio LANRover leverages network protocols to fully isolate the computer’s crowd noise from the music. The LANRover employs two boxes: one connects to your computer, the other to your DAC. Between the two boxes a computer cable, commonly known as a CAT5, is used. The miracle of this technique is the near 100% isolation between the noisy computer and the quiet needs of a DAC.
By converting the USB data into packetized network data we get two major benefits. First, near perfect isolation cutting the computer’s crowd noise and jitter levels so effectively the level would be acceptable in a quiet library. And that has HUGE sonic benefits. Second, once converted to network audio, as opposed to directly connected USB audio, we can place a great deal of distance between the two boxes if we want to–the computer can be anywhere in the house and connect to your DAC anywhere else. We can do this even over WIFI. Imagine your computer’s no longer in the listening room, but upstairs in the office where it belongs. Bingo!
I’ll write much more about this revolutionary new product in the coming weeks. For now, here’s a video presentation I made to the Colorado Audio Society a week or two ago.