• 08-27-2012, 03:21 PM
    E-Stat
    Thoroughly "Touched" (long)
    I've been looking into replacing the GamuT player I've used for a decade in the main system for a while. I've been most impressed with the EMM Labs models and found a couple of the CDSAse models recently on Agon. I finally decided to pull the trigger only to find that both of them were no longer available. Hmmm. What next?

    Upon further reflection, I've decided to simplify my two music systems and leverage the wonderful advantages of computer based audio. I'm convinced that disk based music is clearly on the decline for many reasons. Some time ago, I ripped all my CDs to FLAC and have them stored on my Dell i870 server. The garage system has been using a Squeezebox Touch that had been optimized using an aftermarket linear supply feeding a Manley DAC using a true tube output stage. The Manley was acquired long ago before I had a full function preamp/linestage and I used it to drive the amp directly. Previously, I used a Bellari Phono pre for vinyl duty and switched interconnects to change sources. Now I have a NAD preamp which allows me to run both sources through it and minimize the hassle.

    To help finance the upgrade upstairs, I decided to pull the Manley and use the internal DAC on the Touch and send it through the C-160 preamp. While the Touch DAC doesn't have the last bit of sonic refinement of the Manley, it is good enough and a lot more convenient to simply change sources.

    I had also purchased a backup Touch on the cheap ($270) a while back and am now pressing it into service upstairs. The master plan is to use it as the player in the main system with another Welbourne Labs linear power supply and a new DAC. This weekend, I set it up in the "worst case" scenario (internal DAC, wall wart power supply and WiFi connectivity) and compared it to the GamuT. Which took only five minutes since the infrastructure was already there. Simplifying again, I am running the sources through the ARC preamp and not directly to the power amp via passive attenuators as I have previously done. I was able to match levels between the two players and synced a CD to its FLAC version and was able to compare the difference real time by changing the input. Not expectedly, it suffered from somewhat lower resolution and did not fare as well at the extremes - not too differently than when I compared the GamuT to the incredible Burmester 969/970 combo at Sea Cliff a decade earlier. What I found amazing was how close in quality it did sound!

    I completed ordering an Audio Research DAC7, another Welborne labs power supply and will run CAT6 cable from the server to the player (impractical with my garage system). If the new combo only matches the capability of the previous disk based system, I will be quite happy. The convenience of using my iPhone to control either player (or synchronize both) along with running it through the preamp will be well worth the effort.

    I'll update this once all the pieces are in place. Now, to package and sell the Manley DAC and GamuT player.
  • 08-27-2012, 04:32 PM
    Feanor
    We'll look forward to updates. It's not surprising that the Touch sounds pretty good but doubtless the ARC will be terrific.

    The beauty of the Touch, as I understand it, is that it "pulls" the data from the server asynchronously (so to speak) unlike the USB interfaces many DACs employ that are controlled from the computer end.

    Is the Touch to DAC coax? If so, you might consider Charles Hansen's advice to use a long, 15+ foot, cable to eliminate jitter due to reflections caused by impedance mismatches between source and target.

    Are the Welbourn labs power supplies price? I could use a 9VDC to power my own DAC.
  • 08-28-2012, 10:01 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The beauty of the Touch, as I understand it, is that it "pulls" the data from the server asynchronously (so to speak) unlike the USB interfaces many DACs employ that are controlled from the computer end.

    Yeah, I prefer that concept. Another advantage is that you can run multiple players from a single server. The server is located in my home office on a different floor. I chose to configure the Touch for the server to do all the FLAC processing as opposed to having the Touch do that. Some are concerned there is an issue with the Touch not being able to keep up with the processing demands. Using the Win7 resource monitor, running two Touches simultaneously draws under 1% CPU power from a quad core, eight thread i7-870. No worries.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Is the Touch to DAC coax? If so, you might consider Charles Hansen's advice to use a long, 15+ foot, cable to eliminate jitter due to reflections caused by impedance mismatches between source and target.

    It supports both USB and S/PDIF. As for length, you'll note his comment used a somewhat arbitrary estimate. Others, like Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio have calculated the minimal length at 1.5 meters. Mine is somewhat longer.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Are the Welbourn labs power supplies price? I could use a 9VDC to power my own DAC.

    Pricey is a relative term. Others I've found are far more expensive. The unit was $224 assembled (kits available).

    Click here for more information.

    edit: DAC to arrive tomorrow. Need to drill a hole in the office ceiling up to attic for CAT6 run from router to main listening room.
  • 08-29-2012, 07:25 AM
    Feanor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    .... As for length, you'll note his comment used a somewhat arbitrary estimate. Others, like Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio have calculated the minimal length at 1.5 meters. Mine is somewhat longer. ...

    I went whole-hog and got a 30' coax; this from Blue Jeans Cable.

    Re. a Welbourne Labs power supply ...
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    ....
    Pricey is a relative term. Others I've found are far more expensive. The unit was $224 assembled (kits available).

    Click here for more information. ...

    Looks like I could use his PSREG module. It's $85 assembled including transformer; not bad but I'd need a fuse holder and some additional hardware.
  • 08-29-2012, 07:37 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    I went whole-hog and got a 30' coax; this from Blue Jeans Cable.

    My cable is likewise from BJC. The difference is that for me the player will be only a shelf away from the DAC. A half meter would be sufficient. I'm not convinced that having a huge loop of cable would necessarily be better than what is considered optimum.

    Steve Nugent's take

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Re. a Welbourne Labs power supply ...

    Looks like I could use his PSREG module. It's $85 assembled including transformer; not bad but I'd need a fuse holder and some additional hardware.

    While it might run a bit more, I think the PSX kit would provide ever lower noise and stiffness. You could leverage your DIY skills for making an enclosure and cabling. Also, I don't see a 9 volt option for the PSREG, while the PSX can be set for any voltage between 5 and 24 volts.
  • 08-29-2012, 10:29 AM
    Feanor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    My cable is likewise from BJC. The difference is that for me the player will be only a shelf away from the DAC. A half meter would be sufficient. I'm not convinced that having a huge loop of cable would necessarily be better than what is considered optimum.

    Steve Nugent's take ...

    Thanks for the Steve Nugent reference.

    In my instance I need a minimum of 15' anyway because of the position of my computer (near my chair) and my DAC (near my passive preamp).

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    ...
    While it might run a bit more, I think the PSX kit would provide ever lower noise and stiffness. You could leverage your DIY skills for making an enclosure and cabling. Also, I don't see a 9 volt option for the PSREG, while the PSX can be set for any voltage between 5 and 24 volts.

    Well the PSX can supply 3-4 amps which is a lot more than necessary but that's OK.

    The PSREG can supply 9 volts depending on the R1 and R2 resistors; using the formula he provides the values would be R1=1000 ohms and R2=6000 ohms. Why his blurb doesn't mention 9 volts I don't know.
  • 08-29-2012, 10:40 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    In my instance I need a minimum of 15' anyway because of the position of my computer (near my chair) and my DAC (near my passive preamp).

    In my case, the "long" run (~40') will be the network cable from the router up through the office ceiling across an attic space to the listening room.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Well the PSX can supply 3-4 amps which is a lot more than necessary but that's OK.

    I found that it added bass punch and cleaned up the top vs. the wall wart on the Touch.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    The PSREG can supply 9 volts depending on the R1 and R2 resistors; using the formula he provides the values would be R1=1000 ohms and R2=6000 ohms. Why his blurb doesn't mention 9 volts I don't know.

    Gotcha. Those were just some sample voltages although you can set it pretty much wherever you want.
  • 08-29-2012, 02:16 PM
    E-Stat
    Audio Research DAC7 arrived today!
    Another step in the new chain. I'll be spending some quality time tonight exploring its sound and comparing to GamuT player. Interestingly, it comes with its own remote. For a DAC? Well, along with input switching it also offers phase inversion and mute. The last two should prove to be useful since the preamp doesn't offer the phase switch nor a remote.

    Hearing new gear is always a fun time. :)
  • 09-03-2012, 06:20 AM
    E-Stat
    Listening
    I was able to do some quality listening over the weekend with the new arrangement. Since the new linear hasn't arrived yet, I moved the one from the garage upstairs. Still running wireless, but with the help of my father in law, successfully drilled the hole up through cabinetry in the office through the ceiling to the attic space where it leads to the listening room. Ordered 75' CAT6 cable.

    The Touch / DAC7 clearly has a more organic sound that the GamuT. Stage width is wider and instrument placement within the soundstage is more precise. The top end is noticeably better rendered. The GamuT's op amp analog output stage sounds a bit dry and clinical by comparison. The DAC7 better resolves the decay of HF content.

    All in all, I am very pleased. The new arrangement is not only better sounding, but far more convenient. I suspect that I will be "rediscovering" a lot of recordings upstairs using the random feature - as I do now in the garage. The only bummer is yesterday, I discovered a problem with one of the VTL amps. It ate one if its 600V B+ fuses and output tube V7. I replaced the 6550 tube with an older one left over from the last retubing and it took that one out too, along with another fuse.

    Unfortunately, something is amiss...
  • 09-03-2012, 03:02 PM
    Feanor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    I was able to do some quality listening over the weekend with the new arrangement. Since the new linear hasn't arrived yet, I moved the one from the garage upstairs. Still running wireless, but with the help of my father in law, successfully drilled the hole up through cabinetry in the office through the ceiling to the attic space where it leads to the listening room. Ordered 75' CAT6 cable.

    The Touch / DAC7 clearly has a more organic sound that the GamuT. Stage width is wider and instrument placement within the soundstage is more precise. The top end is noticeably better rendered. The GamuT's op amp analog output stage sounds a bit dry and clinical by comparison. The DAC7 better resolves the decay of HF content.

    All in all, I am very pleased. The new arrangement is not only better sounding, but far more convenient. I suspect that I will be "rediscovering" a lot of recordings upstairs using the random feature - as I do now in the garage. The only bummer is yesterday, I discovered a problem with one of the VTL amps. It ate one if its 600V B+ fuses and output tube V7. I replaced the 6550 tube with an older one left over from the last retubing and it took that one out too, along with another fuse.

    Unfortunately, something is amiss...

    Good to hear about the DAC7; sorry to hear about the VTL. Hope you get the latter issue resolved soon.

    I certainly covet the DAC7. And I like the specs for ARC's new 'DSPre' combo DAC + preamp.

    http://www.audioresearch.com/images/m/DSPre.jpg
  • 09-04-2012, 04:46 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Good to hear about the DAC7; sorry to hear about the VTL. Hope you get the latter issue resolved soon.

    I'll be contacting Bea today. She's helped me in the past.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    I certainly covet the DAC7. And I like the specs for ARC's new 'DSPre' combo DAC + preamp.

    There's another. :)

    Reference DAC

    It uses the output stage as the REF5. The idea of having a line stage enabled DAC makes a lot of sense.
  • 09-04-2012, 05:06 AM
    Feanor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by E-Stat View Post
    ...
    There's another {DAC}. :)

    Reference DAC

    It uses the output stage as the REF5. The idea of having a line stage enabled DAC makes a lot of sense.

    No doubt the output stage makes or breaks a DAC. Digital aspects might too, but I suspect it the former more often.

    Consider the AN DAC -- a thoroughly ill-conceived and out-of-dated digital section but gorgeous analog sections; passive, transformer based I/V and tube output, (more than just a cathode follower buffer like, e.g., the Maverick).
  • 09-04-2012, 03:18 PM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    No doubt the output stage makes or breaks a DAC. Digital aspects might too, but I suspect it the former more often.

    Agreed. You'll note that I'm thoroughly satisfied with a DAC using a JFET output stage. According to Audio Research, their blind panels preferred that to an equivalently priced tube stage. :)
  • 09-25-2012, 10:03 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Feanor View Post
    Good to hear about the DAC7; sorry to hear about the VTL. Hope you get the latter issue resolved soon.

    Bea was most helpful. She provided a few things to check and one was the coupling capacitor for that output tube. Bingo! My capacitance meter determined that it had failed.

    She is sending me a replacement along with the suggestion that at some I consider updating all of them with the ones used in the current 450s.

    Should be up and running shortly! :)
  • 10-03-2012, 11:44 AM
    Happy Camper
    I'm in the same boat on buying a DAC. Doing due diligence until I get my budget saved. Since my music is almost all 44.1/16, I believe an AN kit will be my choice fed from a quality usb/? converter. Deciding what to feed it. Use the Spdif or do a I2S/buffer feed.

    I've read the AN kits are not the quality of their products. They are parts that don't meet their QC on the regular products. The best kit will only be as good as a 2.1. I wish I had an easy answer cause that 3.1 sig. has me drooling.

    Sorry to jack the thread E.
  • 10-03-2012, 11:54 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post
    I'm in the same boat on buying a DAC.

    I'm convinced that the dedicated music player market is rapidly dying for obvious reasons. Good luck with your selection. As for connectivity, I'm currently using S/PDIF since USB seems so finicky at present.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post
    Sorry to jack the thread E.

    No problemo. I'd like to hear of your transition when you get it done.
  • 10-03-2012, 02:44 PM
    Happy Camper
    Just the music cataloging alone for us guys with a lifetime of music is attractive. Computer can arguably play well enough now that old format players have no sonic benefit (vinyl fans put the rocks down). The gear out of the main rack has certainly been downsized. Gone are a turntable, laser player, tape deck, svhs player, mini disc player CD spinner, DVD spinner. Soon a media streamer will take care of everything for a source. Lordy, I never imagined having a computer centered entertainment hub. I'm waiting for an A/V helmet.
  • 10-31-2012, 07:32 AM
    poppachubby
    Hey guys!

    E-Stat, very interesting change you've made. I assume you have heard that logitech will be abandoning the Squeezebox? They haven't been too specific about a couple things, but it would seem that server support will continue for at least another year. It's really disheartening that something as great as the Squeezebox can't seem to crossover. I think the price just kept alot of people away.

    I don't blame you for adding another Touch, they are quite simply, incredible. I am now at 2200 albums in my digital arsenal, all 100% tagged with album art. It has become a point of pride, and that's thanks to my Squeezebox. Before that, I didn't really care about my digital audio.

    I don't know how you brought yourself to release the Manley DAC, but I totally understand your reasoning, especially in a second system.

    As pleased as I have been with all of my gear, a new DAC has been in the back of my mind. Have you seen the offerings from Halide Designs? Damn great design, would love to get my ears on any of them really, but have been watching for the Devilsound. The site isn't allowing me to hyperlink, so here... ds DAC | USB Soundcard | USB DAC

    I realy need to upgrade the power supply on the Touch, God it truly is awful. If I put it in my analog circuit, I can hear it humming through the speakers.
  • 10-31-2012, 07:49 AM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    E-Stat, very interesting change you've made. I assume you have heard that logitech will be abandoning the Squeezebox?

    I'm fully aware of it. I read the detailed story by the lead engineer in that group. I'm not concerned in that Win7 will be around for some time and I don't use their cloud service. What works now will still work.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    I don't blame you for adding another Touch, they are quite simply, incredible.

    I'm about the pull the trigger on a third for backup or use in the bedroom system.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    I don't know how you brought yourself to release the Manley DAC, but I totally understand your reasoning, especially in a second system.

    Honestly, the Touch's AKM4420 integrated DAC/analog output is pretty decent when used with a linear power supply. It also simplified my system by always using the preamp. I don't have to change ICs to the power amp when I play records - just like now in the main system as well.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    IAs pleased as I have been with all of my gear, a new DAC has been in the back of my mind. Have you seen the offerings from Halide Designs?

    No, I haven't but clearly a DAC can make a big difference. I'm enjoying the Audio Research unit.

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by poppachubby View Post
    II realy need to upgrade the power supply on the Touch, God it truly is awful. If I put it in my analog circuit, I can hear it humming through the speakers.[

    I tried buying another Welborne Labs unit, but after eight weeks and putting in a claim to AMEX for non-delivery, they credited my card. I really didn't want to spend any more so I ordered the the Taiwanese one on Ebay. I'll let you know how that works out. :)
  • 11-07-2012, 07:09 PM
    Enochrome
    Poppa! Nice to hear from you!

    E-stat I just heard a Squeeze this year for the first time and I was really impressed. I think the AKM dac chip has something to do with it. I also believe the output stage is the other side of the coin, but every dac or player (PS One) that has used an AKM chip has had a similar signature sound: smoooooth. The bifrost uses an AKM chip but I have to admit I think it is too smooth, but it was pump'n out of some vintage Snells so that probably had a lot to do with it.

    Cheers
  • 11-08-2012, 06:57 AM
    Mingus
    I have the squeezebox in the main system. It sounds great and very convenient. I rip my cds to Apple lossless.
  • 12-16-2012, 02:05 PM
    recoveryone
    Just put in order for a Touch off Amazon, should be arriving by the 22nd. it will complete my full line up of Squeezebox units, Transporter in family room, Classic in Master bedroom, Classic in spare/daughter room, and now I will replace the classic in the livingroom with the Touch. I plan on passing that extra classic to my son or maybe hook it up at work.
  • 12-16-2012, 03:59 PM
    E-Stat
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by recoveryone View Post
    Just put in order for a Touch off Amazon, should be arriving by the 22nd. it will complete my full line up of Squeezebox units, Transporter in family room, Classic in Master bedroom, Classic in spare/daughter room, and now I will replace the classic in the livingroom with the Touch. I plan on passing that extra classic to my son or maybe hook it up at work.

    Cool. I remain extremely pleased with mine. Got the third one for backup.
  • 12-20-2012, 07:12 PM
    recoveryone
    1 Attachment(s)
    Well Amazon came through with flying colors, deliverying a day early. Everything connected without a hitch, a very small learning curve on the personal settings (just used to the SB3 and TP). My imedate observation are that the bass is a bit more pronounce, but still tight. Being use to looking foward at the next song is gone or I need to play with the remote or settings somemore. I am very happy with it and it adds a extra nice touch (no pun ) with the artwork being displayed along with the song info. This replaced the SB3 in the livingroom and it will get its first presentation Saturday as we are having guest over (family) for early Christmas dinner.
  • 12-21-2012, 04:03 AM
    poppachubby
    Thats the view I use too Recovery, but mostly I use the cover view with only the cover on the screen.