What I heard last weekend

Last weekend I visited a friend’s to hear the improvements from three upgrades he made. His server is a Taiko Extreme. Two of the upgrades were directly from Taiko. One was their USB card. The other was an unspecified change to the OS. The other things he did was bypass his Chord DAVE’s USB input with a SRC-DX. This converts USB into DX (dual coax).

The improvements from these three upgrades were mind-blowing. I had never heard human voice so realistically reproduced. It literally took my breath away a few times.

I know a lot of people think that USB is flawed. I think hearing the Extreme with their USB card would change minds. I’ve said this before but I think it almost always comes down to execution. USB can be executed well - and it can be executed not so well. Taiko provide the example of the former, and Chord provided an example of the latter.

I would love to see Antipodes aim to make USB as good or better than the other interfaces. It is certainly possible to do that, but Taiko certainly has taken things to the Extreme - and the price reflects that.

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Hi Kenny
Could you compare the SQ to Antipodes?
Was the Taiko you were listening to using Roon or their own SW?

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We listened with Roon. Sorry there’s no way to really compare because I would have to compare his system to mine and there are way too many variables. He has invested many more dollars than I have in his gear. The only advantage I have is my room. Thus my report is really only about the differences those three upgrades made as I had good familiarity with his system prior to that.

After my former visit, I was impressed with the Extreme, but not absolutely blown away. Different story after last weekend. Now I think that an Extreme with the USB card may actually be the most significant upgrade one can pursue.

Here’s a comment I shared on WBF:

“The improvements I heard literally took my breath away while listening to Diana Krall singing “Departure Bay”. This is one of my favorites. Her voice is really well-recorded and her singing is emotional as she cowrote this song with her hubby and is singing about where she grew up. On his system yesterday the realism had taken a tremendous leap forward. That was the most realistically I had ever heard a human voice reproduced by an audio system. It was just so pure, with the system itself imposing an insanely low amount of noise on her voice.”

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I am very VERY happy with the USB output from my K50 and also take this through an SRC-DX in order to connect to either my Dave or Mscaler via BNC. I do have a PhoenixUSB in the chain and find this makes a small but noticeable improvement.

In theory the best sound ought to be to use the direct BNC output direct to the Mscaler or Dave but for whatever reason I do not find this as satisfying as my USB PhoenixNET / SRC.DX BNC chain.

My K50 is sounding so good with its USB output into the SRC.DX connected to the Dave that I honestly see little point in me even listening to the Taiko. Yesterday I had two well seasoned audiophiles come to visit me to compare the Dave and Terminator Plus when connected to the K50. One track was the first movement of the Planets Suite and in one part there is a distant snare drum. I say ‘distant’ snare drum because one could tell exactly how far back it was within the hall because of the different effect of the hall acoustics on that instrument compared to nearer instruments. The sense of realism, depth, scale and placement in the space of the live hall was uncanny.

This Roger Waters track was also stunning (especially good played at realistic concert volume!).

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PS, I would like to hear an Extreme and may take a trip to my local dealer with my K50 and ARC6 Dave in my boot (I think you call them trunk?).

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Called a boot here. Elephants have trunks.

Then what do you call the footwear we refer to as a boot?

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Boot. As in “these boots are made for walking”. I know I know, English is a crazy language! I am all for celebrating the diversity of meanings available for so many words, fun, entertaining and sometimes hilariously confusing.
I feel like I better say what I heard last weekend, as I have made small changes to my streaming setup with pleasing results. I was using the Ethernet out of my upgraded EX to a Playback Designs StreamIf, to utilize the StreamX module in the StreamIf. This was to separate the EX as a server only and use the StreamIf as a Roon endpoint. I then had Playback Designs PLink optical connection between the StreamIf and a Playback Designs Merlot dac.
I have changed that to EX as Roon server with Squeeze player out via usb to the StreamIf, which is now being used as a reclocker jitter remover, then as before on to the dac. Sounds much better using Squeeze via usb. Happy days.

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Interesting reading. I haven’t heard of the SRC-DX before but then again I dont own a Chord DAC, so thats probably why.

I use an Aqua La Scala Optologic MkII DAC plus HQplayer upscaling to 352.8/384. I currently connect the EX (of the CX/EX chain) to the Aqua via HiDiamond Reference USB.

Being intrigued and having now looked into the SRC-DX, I note that the Aqua does have a (single) BNC IN. Unfortunately I do not have any BNC ended cables. I do however do have a Hidiamond 7 RCA cable and Chord Signature RCA cable sitting around not doing much.

My question here is, to test an SRC-DX to compare to my current use of the USB connection, could I try these or are these a No No? I wouldnt normally use “adaptors” tbh

Cheers

Thanks for this – it’s really interesting to hear how far things can go.

I’m familiar with Taiko just did some more reading… I’m assuming this was Taiko as Roon Server and Player, using their customized JCAT USB drivers etc.

  • Did you guys listen to all ‘NOS’ (i.e. bit-perfect) digital streams, or upsampled with HQPlayer or other? If so how did it sound?
  • Does your friend’s extreme have any other outputs besides the stock USB output?
  • What kind of source did you listen to? Is the Taiko > USB > SRC-DX > BNC > DAVE combo as good on DSD as on PCM?
  • I’m assuming the Taiko does not have the horsepower (or more likely the cooling capacity) to upsample to say DSD256 with HQP EC modulators?

re: Antipodes USB output generally, I have so far found small but real improvements with a) reclocking to another format (I2S on HDMI using a P2) to get to a DAC’s ‘preferred’ input and b) the inevitable Innuos Phoenix. My CX/EX/P2 is pretty modest compared to what’s under discussion here, so I know there is always further to go.

For the moment I am building an i9 crazy box to sit in my closet and upsample to the highest DSD my DAC will take, and will report back. I would love it if there is a consumer-level hardware shortcut here that will get me some portion of the way to the $26k nirvana (or even $15k K50 subset of nirvana) being described here. : )

I only selected tracks that were scaled offline to 16FS PCM using PGGB.

I don’t think so. Taiko focuses on USB.

I am not a fan of DSD. I have heard it sound excellent on my friend’s system but it’s been a while. He and I have both found that PGGB restores what DSD gives up. I actually think PGGB works miracles with DSD. My rips from SACD have never sounded better. All the harmonic richness is retained but the softness is stripped away.

I don’t know but my friend is now firmly committed to PGGB. My main reason for visiting there actually was to assist with taking measurements of his room. We are going to process a few of his albums with EQ applied by PGGB’s EQ feature. We will try this on my room if the experiment yields a correction that we like.

Now two questions for you: Can you explain what you hear from DSD256 with HQP EC modulators? And which DAC are you using?

I agree with Kens point on USB implementation and I’d also add this is generally true of most hifi circuits. There is just so many half-baked implementations of USB out there we just assume it’s not the best connection. It’s also largely dependent on what it’s connected to in the chain, and therefore even harder to evaluate it with any sense of accuracy.

I can say the implementation I own of USB via my MSB DAC is one of the best I’ve heard. Is it the best I’ve heard in terms of all connections? No…But similar to the Taiko (yes I recognize they are two different devices) the MSB Pro USB is the best USB I’ve heard. Doesn’t mean I don’t generally prefer another connection though, for example.

I do hope Antipodes keeps improving theirs, which I find to be great in my set up, while still allowing for a viable upgrade path.

Hi Nick,

Not sure if you are using dual aes to the TerminatorPlus in your comparison but they are not working correctly.

I cannot remember since it was a long time and still waiting for a fix for non usb source via the Hermes (usb from my Antipodes oladra cx/ex goes directly to my upgraded TerminatorPlus cos is sounds better) but it was either the phase, left/right channels or both that are messed up.

Cheers.

Richard

Hey Kenny,

And a higher quality oxco clock or clock 45/49Mhz clock inputs that will be ideal for my Tplus as well as native i2s output :sweat_smile:

Cheers.

Richard

Sorry for the delay getting back. Very interesting, and thank you for the details.

To answer your questions specifically: I was using a modded-transformer PS Audio DirectStream for this; and have played around with upsampling on the Mola Mola Tambaqui. Technically I do not have the computing power with the CX to do EC modulators at 256: I use ECv2 for 128, or lesser modulators for 256. What I hear is more complicated, based on my system, room, repertoire, and taste, see below.

As I have mentioned maybe here but more likely on the head-fi Antipodes group, I have played with PGGB and strangely it made little difference – not no difference, by any means, but not clearly better or worse. Both of my DACs at the time were designed around very-high-rate DSD upsampling and we all sort of decided this was why. (PS Audio DirectStream and a Mola Mola Tambaqui)

re: DSD: if I read you correctly you hear a generalized softness with DSD material. I know what you’re talking about. One of the main reasons I have been using it lately is that I listen to a lot of early digital recordings of large choral / baroque orchestral works through studio monitors, and that early digital glare can be particularly unbearable with these recordings of this repertoire. For me, upsampling redbook to DSD128/256 restores a believable roundness of tone, adds space, and eliminates some of the edges that have me lunging for the volume control occasionally with bit-perfect redbook playback. At the same time, I tended to prefer studio music with the benefit of DSD’s ever-so-slightly richer harmonic balance as well. I played with PCM upsampling little because it seemed to make less of a difference.

That was my previous answer. As it happens I picked up a Chord TT2 a few days ago for travel, and happened upon one with an SBooster LPS. I had tried the TT2 w/ stock PSU in my system some time ago, and been impressed but ultimately found it a bit forward for me in my system (see music taste above).

This time, with the LPS, I loved the TT2 + LPS, and provisionally prefer it to my partially-modded DirectStream. By way of consistency, the last time I listened to the TT2 my digital front-end was not where it is now either. (see below)

So naturally I fired up HQP for the TT2 (USB input fed from the Phoenix). With Sinc-S (I can’t run Sinc-M until I build an i9-based machine) or poly sinc gauss and upsampling to 705/768, all the good things about PCM playback that the tt2 does natively are enhanced: a sense of precision, detail, and a remarkable sense of the timing cues of real instruments in space (I’m primarily listening to acoustic recordings as per below). With DSD upsampling (ASDM7EC at DSD128, which is all the TT2 will take) this precise and airy presentation was shifted toward a larger, harmonically fuller and more robust experience.

So this really comes down to taste, and what you listen to. I listen to (oh, sorry, once upon a time I did) a lot of live music in the genres I listen to at home, and have a good sense of what modern and period orchestral instruments sound like. I’m not afraid to say I’m perhaps armchair-remastering early digital recordings, but for me the enjoyment of the end result is a lot more important than a perhaps misplaced sense of reverence for the perfection of the original recording. There is no such reverence for audiophile fetishes in the production of most of the music we listen to, and certainly early digital was a long way off, whatever they might have been doing right with mic placement.

To refine my point a little: for close-miked studio recordings, snap and micro-edged attacks from instruments (which I get from PCM) make sense. This is a constructed sound experience based on acoustic or electronic instruments in a studio. For orchestral recordings in large, airy venues, this ear-next-to-the-soundboard presentation doesn’t work well. Hearing fingerboard shifts in a concert hall is impossible, and would be weird. (yes, solo instruments in a concert hall are a bit different, but I’d argue still closer to orchestra in a hall than to solo instrument in a studio.) And as such (in my system) I imagine I will use PCM upsampling for some recordings (typically electronic and studio) and DSD for others (typically acoustic in a hall). One of may favourite things about HQP (after months of frustration with its non-UI) is the ability to customize things by recording. It’s much cheaper than swapping tubes and cables.

Anyway, now that I have in the tt2 a PCM-oriented DAC I shall have to play with PGGB again. But given that I will be able to resample in realtime with HQP anyway do I need to batch pre-process all my tracks? I’ll admit I considered the possibility once upon a time.

What does PGGB do to your DSD? I’m very curious.

Oh and what is the rest of your system? My Focals are really ruthless on the top end. I feel like I would care less about early redbook if I would just buy speakers with a soft dome tweeter.

EtherRegen 1 / Antipodes CX > Optical ethernet > EtherRegen 2 / Uptone LPS > AQ Vodka Ethernet > Antipodes EX > Curious USB > Innuos Phoenix > Curious USB > Antipodes > AQ Firebird HDMI > PS Audio Directstream (upgraded transformers) > AQ Wind XLR > PS Audio BHK preamp > AQ Water 8m XLR > Focal SM9 active monitors

dedicated 10-gauge 20-amp lines per speaker, and 2 more for source components. PS Audio P5 for digital / network components.

First off, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. It was an interesting read.

Now as far as PGGB, only your ears can decide. I absolutely think it’s worth it - but pretty much for only my favorite albums or some that are sonic treats.

Let me know if you’d like me to process some of your DSD for you. Just keep in mind that processing DSD takes a lot longer.

As an aside, can you clarify your chain. Specifically it shows Phoenix > USB > Antipodes. I’m guessing this is their standalone DDC. I forget the model number though.

You’re exactly right - it’s the Antipodes P2 DDC. It takes USB in and reclocks outputs to BNC, SPDIF, and HDMI - the preferred input for my PS Audio. For the TT2 I’m substituting an Audiowise SRC DX. So much for reducing the box count.

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Actually with my K50 I’m using usb to src- dx I hear no difference from spdif! I was surprised

Marc, this is interesting. I mostly use the USB out from my K50 and take that through a PhoenixUSB connected to the USB input of the SRC-DX to then connect either to my Dave via BNC or to my Mscaler by BNC.

Unlike you I hear quite a profound difference to that set up compared to using the K50 BNC output…

For the USB cables I use Sablon EVO and for the BNC it is my own WAVE Storm BNC.

It is really interesting how the same set up can sound different in different systems.

PS, also, please forgive me but I do not remember what server and player you use on your K50. I find Roon masks hardware changes to a greater or lesser extent. Squeeze/Squeeze is more revealing, at least in my set up.

Actually I’m happy with usb to src-dx
I started with spdif optical but needed more bandwidth so I went to usb(Wireworld platinum) to src-dx w 2 of my ferrited coax cables sounds great!