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  1. #1

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    Default A few USB to SPDIF converters in the house

    Or at least there will be soon...

    I tried doing some research but reviews of a couple of the models I am looking at are very scarce, so I decided to just buy them all and try them out. There's nothing super expensive in the mix since my audio budget has been running on fumes since the May system overhaul, but here's what I'be got coming in.

    Musical Fidelity V-Link II ($130)
    Musical Fidelity V-Link 192 ($199)
    Peachtree T1 ($99)
    Peachtree X1 ($199)
    Stello US ($499)

    I'm expecting the Stello to be the best of the lot given it's reputation and the much higher price, but wanted one of those in the mix to help me set some type of range for performance. I'll be supplying more details in the write-up, hope to have everything burned in to do the comparison this weekend.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  2. #2

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    Default

    You might want to add the M2Tech HiFace Two also. I really haven't tried all that many but I'm super impressed with this.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - Parasound A21 amp, PS Audio PWD MKII w/bridge, modded EE Minimax pre, ML Source speakers, Kimber 4TC, Gabriel Gold Rapture V3/Silnote Morpheus Ref. II IC's, Ps Audio AC5, AC3 and Pangea AC14XL power cords
    HT - Pio. Elite VSX21TXH, LG 60PK550 plasma, Panny DMP-BDT210 BDP, DTV HD receiver, SB Touch, 5 x Polk RC85i in-wall speakers
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, M2Tech HiFace 2 w/external battery power, Grant Fidelity TubeDac 11, Fostex PMO.4n monitors

  3. #3

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    Default

    Actually I'll go ahead and get some of the background info and boring stuff out of the way now so that later I can just write up my comparisons and be done with it.

    Background:
    I'm actually 100% satisfied with my Oppo and am not using a computer in that setup and therefore don't need a converter there, this purchase will be for the office rig. I've tried lots of DACs and keep coming back to the Peachtree DAC-IT for that setup, but I know the USB receiver in this DAC is older tech and can likely be improved upon. I looked at just replacing the Peachtree with a whole new DAC with better USB implementation, or even the new DAC-ITx which updates the USB in the DAC-IT. Ultimately though I wanted to try different designs and so have opted to keep the converter and DAC separate at least for the near future. I do have a handful of 24/192 albums, but the vast majority of my music is rebook and the vast majority of my hi-rez music is 24/96. So, while it will be nice get gain (new) support for 24/192 files, the primary reason for the upgrade is to get better sound across the board. In fact, a couple the the converters only go up to 24/96.

    Test Gear:
    You can see my setups in my sig, I'll be testing these on the Magnepan/Oppo setup and the office rigs (mainly on the Lyr/HE-500 setup since that's the most transparent and my favorite sounding). On the Oppo I'll be comparing these converters against each other and against the converter in the Oppo, which already sounds great to my ears. I'm expecting these converters to sound better than the older tech in the office rig DAC, and hope that turns out to be the case since that's the point of this purchase.

    Converters:
    The V-Link II is the successor to the V-Link that I had originally. I liked that original version ok but never really heard a significant difference with my DAC using that converter. The II adds asynch and support for more sample rates and supposedly a tweaked design. With the V-Link 192 they supposedly did a complete redesign using a new XMOS, added more sample rate support, and added an AES output (which I won't be able to test). It is supposed to sound significantly better than the previous versions. The Peachtree T1 is their entry level converter and I think may be identical to what's already in the DAC-IT but grabbed it anyway. The Peachtree X1 has the same basic support as the VLink 192 and those two models should in theory be the most directly comparable out of the bunch. My question is going to be whether the higher asynchronous models sound better than their cheaper adaptive cousins on redbook material, any gains in resolution support is only supplemental. I don't know much about the Stello U3, except that it gets rave reviews everywhere and is anywhere from 2.5x to 5x the price of the other models and should sound better, the real question is if it sound better enough to warrant the higher price.

    I'm working now on a playlist that I'll use for this and future demos. This time I'm going to save it as an actual playlist though so I don't have to go through this whole process of finding music again.

    I'll hopefully get it done this weekend and get my thoughts posted...
    Last edited by AsSiMiLaTeD; 08-14-2013 at 09:34 PM.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  4. #4

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dragon1952 View Post
    You might want to add the M2Tech HiFace Two also. I really haven't tried all that many but I'm super impressed with this.
    It looks like Amazon has that and can get it to me on Friday, so I've added it to the list.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  5. #5

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    Default

    Cool! Looks like they've gone up in price about $20 since a couple weeks ago though. The difference it has made in my computer rig is stunning.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - Parasound A21 amp, PS Audio PWD MKII w/bridge, modded EE Minimax pre, ML Source speakers, Kimber 4TC, Gabriel Gold Rapture V3/Silnote Morpheus Ref. II IC's, Ps Audio AC5, AC3 and Pangea AC14XL power cords
    HT - Pio. Elite VSX21TXH, LG 60PK550 plasma, Panny DMP-BDT210 BDP, DTV HD receiver, SB Touch, 5 x Polk RC85i in-wall speakers
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, M2Tech HiFace 2 w/external battery power, Grant Fidelity TubeDac 11, Fostex PMO.4n monitors

  6. #6

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    Nice comparison, I'm looking forward to your impressions!

    The U3 uses a custom 32bit XMOS processor and (2) dedicated ultra low jitter external clocks: (1) for the 22.5792mHz family (44.1, 88.2, 176.4), and (1) for the 24.576mHz family (48, 96, 192).
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  7. #7

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    Default

    I know the X1 also has separate clocks, not sure about the other converters...
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  8. #8

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    Default

    Nice info Assimilated.

    I would be very interested in your thoughts of a V-Link II 24/96 vs V-Link 24/192 considering they have different Async chips. I am VERY pleased with V-Link II with my set-up which, is used in my main rig, but is most likely a different scenario than most of the peoples interests here. Mine is not tied to: usb-spdif-external dac-pc speakers etc. I tried the coax and optical out (optical won on noise floor) initially to a Onkyo TX-NR809 with obviously better results than all the MANY, MANY others things I tried beforehand. (Realtek sucks green donkey, no matter what type of outputs)

    I hope you do most of your listening with redbook files for my own selfish reasons.

    As as a last and final prayer, I ordered a Marantz SR-5007 to compare directly to the Onkyo... (Thank you Amazon) The Marantz TROUNCED the Onkyo with music. My wife even said " wow, you can hear the guitars and pianos so much better" My guess is the the main diff in sound is prolly because the Marantz uses an Analog Devices "SHARC" processor (nothing new really. SONY 1st used them in their older ES line back in 98-2002?) and maybe it has a better DAC section.

    (BTW, both have Audessey Multi EQXT) (The bomb for hard floor/wall issues)

    I literally went through this misery for 2 years with MANY internal sound cards from $90-$240.00,(too much PC grunge) then the HRT route (HRT II+ is pretty good but analog out only) and then discovered the V-Link. (Way more options after the optical out with this thing)

    My advise to anyone going down this road is: Don't EVEN bother with ANYTHING internal. It's an audio nightmare inside any PC or laptop. Go with an external USB Asyncronous -ONLY-device and save yourself the headaches.

    And lemme tell you. Coming from a non-pc audio world was a massive hit and miss learning curve.

    Looking forwards to your comments!

    Pablo
    Last edited by Polk&Beans; 08-16-2013 at 10:41 PM.

  9. #9

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    Edit to above: The SR5007 has increased some video drop out issues with DirecTv. Sending her back for the SR5008 and a substantial increase in price. Too bad...My butt hurts now.

    P.S.-FYI. For whom is really interested.

    I recently discovered these very interesting interviews, about 6 months ago, from the 2009 CES Consumer Electronics Show.

    It is what lead/guided me to HRT & the V-Link II eventually. Thank you Jesus, Thank You Lord for stopping the insanity.

    Good stuff about PC’s, Codec’s, OS’s, and the birth of USB Async…

    Some of it is dated considering they are talking about XP and Vista boxes.

    Win7 was a major improvement in audio and home networking also. Apple? I dunno, but it is mentioned also.


    Charles Hansen of Ayre Acoustics: Funny guy

    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue41/ca_hansen.htm



    Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio: Good technical and network info even though I have doubts with “packet bursting”.

    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue41/ca_nugent.htm



    Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio: 1 of only 2 true code writers for Asynchronous
    Chips (excluding the Texas Boys) initially the TI-TAS1020B. The other being Ken Halverson of HRT.
    They “license” a form of the code to everyone else according to Charles Hanson.
    You better believe both, keep some of their proprietary tricks to themselves.

    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue41/ca_rankin.htm

    Pablo
    Last edited by Polk&Beans; 08-17-2013 at 03:44 AM. Reason: update

  10. #10

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    This is going to take longer than anticipated, but thought I'd provide a quick halftime update. I will say that I'm surprised at how little of a change these converters introduce to the sound. This is what I found back when I did the DAC comparison a while ago, but that was an early model Musical Fidelity converter and I expected to hear a bigger difference this round with the newer technology. Don't get me wrong, there is a difference and the more expensive converters do sound better than the two that are using older tech, but it's certainly not a 'night and day' difference.

    Both of my setups are fairly revealing, and as some of you saw at LSAF a few months ago I've got pretty sensitive ears, so I really should be hearing all the difference there is. It's there, and I can hear it reliably and blindly under direct comparison, but it's subtle and as far as I can tell doesn't really impact the general presentation of the music. A couple of these were late arrivals on Friday though, so I'm still letting things burn in, trying to give them all 50 hours of burn in before I start passing final judgement on them.

    My general sense right now is that if I have to try this hard to find a difference then perhaps my energy is better spent elsewhere trying to upgrade my rig, but we'll how they settle in.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  11. #11

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    Default Demo Playlist

    I thought I'd also post up my Demo Playlist. Note that not every track on this list is what I'd call a reference recording, but every track on this list serves a specific purpose, and often times I'll use a combination of several tracks to answer a single question. So while 'Why So Serious' from the Dark Knight soundtrack is is definitely NOT a reference recording (recorded hot and squashed up top), it's great for testing bass depth. Some are 'reference tracks, some are used for a specific attribute, and a few like the Eva Cassady version of 'Fields of Gold' are good for 'feel' and just there as a sanity check.

    Maybe someday I'll do a writeup on my demo material, but that's beyond the scope of this thread. I'll answer any questions or challenges on specific tracks though.

    Demo Tracks.pdf
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  12. #12

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    I agree on your overall assessment that differences between USB/SPDIF converters are subtle... especially between "good" asynchronous ones like the ones you're testing. If you had some lower quality converters on your list, you'd see see more of a difference. In my testing, I have found that there is a MUCH greater difference in sound between DACs than there is between USB/SPDIF converters.

    As for your playlist, my only comment is that it is long. I can spend hours comparing the same 20 second segment of the same song on different gear. I'll usually try to get to a few different songs in to test different capabilities, but 45 songs would be overwhelming for me.

    Have fun man!
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  13. #13

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    Keep in mind that with most of those I'm just listening to a short clip. So with the aforementioned 'Why So Serious' I'm only listening to about a 30 second clip just to hear the depth of bass, and that's a really easy test to I can get it in one or two tries. I also don't run through the entire playlist every time, it's just all there in case I need it.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    ...I also don't run through the entire playlist every time, it's just all there in case I need it.
    Ah gotcha. Yea I have a folder labeled "reference" on my PC. There are probably about 100 tracks in there, but I usually only use a few at a time.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  15. #15

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    It could be the iMac, due to it's design, injects less noise into the USB path than something like my desktop PC does. Or maybe the USB implementation in the Peachtree is better than it seems....or a little of both. I'm assuming you're sitting right at the computer in the sweet spot.
    ____________________________
    2 channel - Parasound A21 amp, PS Audio PWD MKII w/bridge, modded EE Minimax pre, ML Source speakers, Kimber 4TC, Gabriel Gold Rapture V3/Silnote Morpheus Ref. II IC's, Ps Audio AC5, AC3 and Pangea AC14XL power cords
    HT - Pio. Elite VSX21TXH, LG 60PK550 plasma, Panny DMP-BDT210 BDP, DTV HD receiver, SB Touch, 5 x Polk RC85i in-wall speakers
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, M2Tech HiFace 2 w/external battery power, Grant Fidelity TubeDac 11, Fostex PMO.4n monitors

  16. #16

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    On the iMac I'm running my headphone rigs, so the sweet spot is wherever I happen to be sitting. In the living room I'm using my MacBook and am in the sweet spot for the magnepans. I'm testing the converters on two separate rigs and am coming up with the same findings, so that at least is reassuring.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  17. #17

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    Take your time, life goes on. So you didn't hear much difference between the MF V-Link II & the MF V-Link 192? P. S. I read an article on the old vs new V-Link II and looked at the boards. Both are Async, the new is shinybox and resistors n such from a different manufactor. Maybe an update to the code???

    Let us know

  18. #18

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    I want to try the W4S uLink.
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

  19. #19

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    Default Maybe I should start with "Is it even a good idea to use a converter"

    Ok, I got some more time with these over the weekend and have formulated a more coherent opinion about them. Before I dive into the review, I wanted to offer a couple more thoughts. What I really prefer is to remove the USB to SPDIF conversion from the picture altogether, but this review is intended for those instances where it's not possible.

    So, I'll say up front that the best overall setup for playing digital files is my Oppo 105 reading FLAC or ALAC files directly off an attached hard drive. There are no computers or network streaming anywhere in the equation, just a drive hooked up to the Oppo and an iPad to control the playback interface on the Oppo so the TV doesn't need to be on. I think this is the simplest approach (nothing really to go wrong in this setup) and, by a slight margin, the best sounding setup. It's not quite as convenient though because I have to keep the drive on the Oppo in sync with my library, which means occasionally hooking it up to the computer to do so. This is my favorite approach because it's the simplest and sounds the best.

    This leads me to my second favorite setup, which is using JRiver in conjunction with the Oppo 105. So I set up the 105 as a zone in JRiver and the music gets streamed wirelessly from the computer running JRiver (the iMac in the office) to the Oppo 105. I control everything with the JRemote app on the iPad, which is IMO the best media control app that's ever been written for a mobile device. This setup is more convenient since there's no manual synching of drives, but is a bit more complex because it introduces another failure point into the equation. JRiver is still in beta on Mac and I have had a couple issues, though nothing too bad. The most appealing thing about this approach is that I get to use JRemote, which is a much better looking program on the iPad than the one Oppo supplies for use in the option above. I think this approach gives up a tad in sound quality to using an attached drive, but it's not significant and for anything other than critical listening really not relevant at all.

    So I have to get to my third favorite approach before I even get to streaming from a computer directly over USB and thus to the topic of this thread. For this I use one of my computers running Amarra (which is the best sounding audio engine on the Mac and better than JRiver IMO) then out to a DAC or converter using USB. This is what I use permanently in my office with the iMac, and for this test ran in the living room using my 13" rMBP.

    The first test I did was in the living room. I ran the USB out of the computer both directly into the Oppo and through the Stello U3 in to the Oppo, and compared that with my preferred setup of running files directly off an attached hard drive. To my ears, with both USB converters, there is a definite difference in sound between using one of the converters and running direct from a hard drive. I'm not going to say the difference is huge, but it's definitely there and I could hear it blind-folded when the wife flipped back and forth between inputs on the Oppo. The playback from the physical drive and bypassing the USB conversion altogether sounds better to my ears, smoother and more musical. And keep in mind that's with the Stello U3 as well, which is already a very good converter. Again, the difference is not huge and wouldn't matter in anything but the most critical listening situations, but it's there.

    So, as I've created this thread and write below about my impressions of the USB converters, I guess the first thing I'll say is ignore everything here and just try not to use a converter at all.

    Review of the converters to follow
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

  20. #20

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    Default My recommendations

    Let me get this out there up front, the Stello U3 was the best of the bunch, so if you're looking at my list and are just wondering which one is ultimately the best, now you have your answer. My guess though is that there would be other models in that same price range though that would be on par with the Stello. I mainly included it here to have something that I know is very well regarded as a reference for comparison. I will also say that I personally wouldn't buy the Stello and won't be keeping the one here, but for that discussion you'll have to read on.

    As I mentioned, I compared these on two rigs, for those details see my second post above. I compared everything on both rigs, but when doing this comparison I really got an idea of how good the Oppo 105 is and how much better it is than the Peachtree DAC-IT, which is already very good itself. This has me rethinking the DAC for the office rig, and Iíd like to find something that sounds like the Oppo 105 but is smaller, but thatís for another day.

    The overview here is that there really isnít much difference on either of my rigs between most of these converters. I honestly wouldnít recommend exhausting too much energy into this particular piece of the system unless you just have everything else completely ironed out, or you have a DAC that doesnít do USB.

    I donít want to get too long winded with the individual reviews, so Iíll post my thoughts and you guys can fire away with questions if you want.

    Iíll say thereís a definite difference between the adaptive and asynchronous models. Of everything, thatís probably the biggest difference I found, although it wasnít huge. So the Peachtree T1 sounded the least good of the bunch, and when tested on my DAC-IT sounded exactly like the USB section in that DAC. The Peachtree T1 is the cheapest of the bunch and is an adaptive design, and as expected didnít perform as well as the others.

    The Musical Fidelity V-LINK II provided a little more detail than the T1 and sounded just a tad smoother. If I had an older DAC and wanted to add an affordable USB converter, Iíd choose the V-LINK II over the T1 because itís better and only a little more money.

    The Peachtree T1 surprised me a little. It sounds very precise and articulate, but almost a little too much. Itís not harsh or bright, and sounds very good, but for a company who typically errs on the side of being warm and music at the expense of detail this one was a little surprising. Paired with a neutral or warmer DAC this is perfect IMO.

    The V-LINK 192 was kinda the opposite, and typical MF sound. It has a very musical and organic sound to it, while maybe giving up some of the precision or micro detail. If you have a DAC that has a more forward sound, this may be the perfect converter for you. I could also see this helping with a DAC with a leaner sound like the Schiit Bifrost, which I no longer have and could not test.

    The Stello was sorta the best of both of those devices, it gets you all of the detail and presents it in a way thatís very musical, dare I use the term Ďanalogí sounding? It is basically the best of both worlds and what youíd get if you blended the best of both the X1 and the V-LINK 192, which makes sense because it also costs more than those two put together. Itís VERY good, hard to imagine something sounding better, though Iím sure itís possible.

    What you really have to understand though is that these differences are VERY small and I had to listen to many passages a dozen times to really figure it out. Even between the T1 and the U3 the gap is small, and between the 192, X1 or U3 the differences are tiny and difficult to hear. The way I see it, if I have to try THAT hard to hear a difference then the point of dimishing returns sets in pretty quickly.

    So my recommendationÖ

    If you have an older DAC and just need to add USB and donít need full hi-rez support, the V-LINK II is a great low cost option. If you need full hi-rez music support then either the X1 or 192 are good options. For a DAC with a more forward sound or a lean low end Iíd go with the 192, for something thatís already smooth and laid back Iíd go with the X1. If you have everything else in your system lined up and have the money to spend, THEN Iíd look at the Stello U3, hard for me to say since Iím not at that point yet.

    So I won't be keeping the Stello as I don't feel it's worth the price premium, and neither of the two cheaper converters are really much better than the one already in the DAC-IT, so right now I'm deciding between the X1 and 192. I've shared what I know so far, I'll update with anything else I find this week during testing as I decide between the two.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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    There's a typo in paragraph seven above, that should be the X1 listed.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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    I agree that the best solution would be a networked player with attached drive...definitely, especially for a main system. I would love to have something like that to replace my SB Touch one day. In fact, I could probably swing the Oppo if I sold the SB and NuWave so something to think about. So there are no data transfer issues with a USB HD attached directly to the Oppo and it will do hi-res?
    Now for a computer system like mine where I sit right in front of the computer and listen on powered monitors I love the low cost and smaller footprint of the converter/small DAC. So you never got the M2Tech HiFace Two?
    ____________________________
    2 channel - Parasound A21 amp, PS Audio PWD MKII w/bridge, modded EE Minimax pre, ML Source speakers, Kimber 4TC, Gabriel Gold Rapture V3/Silnote Morpheus Ref. II IC's, Ps Audio AC5, AC3 and Pangea AC14XL power cords
    HT - Pio. Elite VSX21TXH, LG 60PK550 plasma, Panny DMP-BDT210 BDP, DTV HD receiver, SB Touch, 5 x Polk RC85i in-wall speakers
    Computer - Windows 7/JRiver, M2Tech HiFace 2 w/external battery power, Grant Fidelity TubeDac 11, Fostex PMO.4n monitors

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    Correct, the Oppo will play hi-rez files and even my small but growing library of DSD files straight from the USB drive with excellent results, no issues whatsoever even with the very large DSD files.

    I ended up not getting the M2Tech because the USB form factor doesn't really work well with how I have my iMac set up. It's great for a portable laptop rig, but didn't want that hanging of the back of the iMac and putting any extra pressure on the USB ports or getting knocked off. It's the same reason I don't use the Meridian Explorer DAC on that rig even though I think it's a superb DAC.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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    Great write up. Thanks for taking the time to share your findings with us!

    So how would you compare the use of a good USB>SPDIF converter like the Stello to the direct USB input on the Oppo? I'm talking about the actual "USB DAC" input, not the hard drive input, as that is obviously your favorite.

    I ask because there are many standalone DACs out there that have USB inputs for computers, but almost none will read directly from a hard drive. This is understandable for 2-channel music-only systems that don't have a TV because a screen is pretty necessary to navigate through a hard drive like you do with the Oppo.

    Thanks again!
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

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    Quote Originally Posted by falconcry72 View Post
    ...So how would you compare the use of a good USB>SPDIF converter like the Stello to the direct USB input on the Oppo? I'm talking about the actual "USB DAC" input, not the hard drive input, as that is obviously your favorite....
    Paging Dr. Assimilated... Thoughts?
    2-Channel:

    Source 1: PC
    Source 2: Rega Apollo CDP
    USB > SPDIF Converter: Stello U3
    DAC: Audio GD NFB-7
    Preamp: Audio Research LS-15
    Power Amp: BAT VK-500
    Speakers: Magnepan 3.7's

    HT:

    Source 1: HTPC
    Source 2: Oppo 103
    Pre/Pro: Marantz av8003
    Power Amp: Rotel RMB-1095
    Fronts: LSiM-705's
    Center: LSiM-704c
    Surrounds: LSiM-702's
    Subs: Dual SVS PC12-NSD's

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    Thanks for your precious time and review!

    I feel pretty good about my choice of the V-Link II now. I might try the Stello (just because of the new async chip) IF, I can find a used one on the cheap.

    Like I said, in my case, all I needed was something to "time" the PC output because it is a proven now that all PC/Laptops have horrible jitter. (and it did sound like Shirt) This PC is mainly just a "single purpose" CD changer with a great GUI skin. Any idiot can use Media Center with the IR remote...

    As for DAC/Processing. I popped the hood on the Marantz 5008. It is a "Chip Wonderworld" in there.
    (The top board could be considered a motherboard) Lotta new TI "direct path" stuff and (3) AD chips. There are 8 seperate DACs in it (1 per channel) So, it it would take a way high dollar external unit to beat it. IMHO...

    I read up on your OPPO also. Pretty interesting and cool, the options you have with that box.
    Last edited by Polk&Beans; 09-26-2013 at 09:17 PM. Reason: editing!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Polk&Beans View Post
    As for DAC/Processing. I popped the hood on the Marantz 5008. It is a "Chip Wonderworld" in there.
    (The top board could be considered a motherboard) Lotta new TI "direct path" stuff and (3) AD chips. There are 8 seperate DACs in it (1 per channel) So, it it would take a way high dollar external unit to beat it. IMHO...
    Oh, I'm not so sure about that. While a nice receiver it is, there's more to just dac chips that effect the sound.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falconcry72 View Post
    Great write up. Thanks for taking the time to share your findings with us!

    So how would you compare the use of a good USB>SPDIF converter like the Stello to the direct USB input on the Oppo? I'm talking about the actual "USB DAC" input, not the hard drive input, as that is obviously your favorite.

    I ask because there are many standalone DACs out there that have USB inputs for computers, but almost none will read directly from a hard drive. This is understandable for 2-channel music-only systems that don't have a TV because a screen is pretty necessary to navigate through a hard drive like you do with the Oppo.

    Thanks again!
    To answer your question (now a month later), I think the USB converter in the Oppo is on par with and closest to the 192 in terms of sound. It maybe gives up that last 1% of micro detail in favor of a smoother and more organic sound. I still think the Stello sounded the best of the bunch, but by such a small margin and even then only on a very select few songs that I couldn't justify the cost of keeping it.

    As a broader update to this post:

    I'm using both the X1 and the VLINK 192 now, in two different setups. In the setup with the DAC-IT I'm using the X1, that DAC is just a tad more laid back and I feel like the X1 was designed to pair with this DAC specifically and bring a little more balance sound and provide some PRaT. I've also acquired another Schiit BiFrost with the Uber upgrade on the analog board and am using the 192 on that setup and find that it balances out that DAC very well and brings the bass back up to neutral where I like it. The Schiit I ordered did NOT have the USB upgrade so I cannot compare to that. Right now I'm happy with both setups but am still looking to take the higher end rig with the Peachtree to the next level, and am in DAC buying mode.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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    Quote Originally Posted by AsSiMiLaTeD View Post
    Right now I'm happy with both setups but am still looking to take the higher end rig with the Peachtree to the next level, and am in DAC buying mode.
    Have you thought about upping the ante and getting something like the Benchmark HDR 1 so you have your DAC and pre w/ remote in one unit?
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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    HT: APC H15 | Pio 51FD | Uverse | Xbox 360 | Squeezebox Classic | Integra DTR 5.9 | Carver AV-705x & M1.0t MKII Opt002 | LSi 15 | LSiC | LSi F/x | Kimber Hero IC & 8VS SC

    Office: Win 7 -> DacMagic w/ Pangea PSU | DIY Pass BOSOZ| Parasound HCA-1200ii | Polk RTA 11TL | Cables TBA

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    This is for a headphone rig, what I'm really after is a DAC/Headphone Amp combo that will best the setup I have now. I'd like to simplify my setup. The Oppo 105 comes damn close as it has a very good sounding headphone amp, but lacks that last bit of gain that the orthos need on really low level recordings.
    Main HT
    Magnepan 1.6QR fronts, POlk R15 surrounds, Pioneer SC-25, Parasound Halo A23, Oppo BDP-105, Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, Sony PS3, Apple TV

    Bedroom System
    Polk Blackstone TL3, Polk PSWi225 Wireless Sub, HK 3490 Integrated, Oppo BDP-103, Sharp Aquos 32" TV, Apple TV

    Office Rig
    27" iMac w/Amarra, AudioQuest Dragonfly 1.2, Focal XS Book, Schiit Valhalla, Cypher Labs Theorem 720, Philips Fidelio X1, Sennheiser HD600, HiFiMan HE-500, B&W P7, LG 47LM7600, Sony PS3, Apple TV

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