Some history here, I’ve had a BII since it’s inception, but never really got on with it. Here is why:
- I despise DLNA, I have tried pretty much every controller out there, and personally, I do not like the experience - especially after being spoiled with Roon for the past few years
- When RAAT was first available to the BII (if my memory serves correctly, it was circa March or April of last year) ROON streaming to the BII didn't sound as good as DLNA
- FYI: RAAT is Roon's network audio protocoll
- Neither DLNA or RAAT sounded even close to my dual custom PC running JPLAY with Roon Bridge
- The JPLAY setup started to become unstable - this was due to the PPA USB controller and battery power supply kicking the bucket after about three years of use
- Last April I decided to simplify
- I read a great deal about HQPLAYER and uRendu - plus Jesus is a great guy that I have owned previous products from so I figured why not!
- I also happened to have a NUFORCE 9/15 V Toroid Linear Power supply that I could re-purpose with the uRendu
- RAAT to the uRendu also did not sound as convincing as JPLAY, but HQPLAYER to the uRendu did! - by a far margin (even without over-sampling).
…until 3 things happened:
- Upgrade of DAC to Huron
- Upgrade of BRIDGE II to accommodate MQA (I really could care less about MQA)
- and I was bored one night, so decided to install ROCK (ROON Core Kit) on the hardware that was running Windows Server 2012 R2 box)
- It so turns out that the chip-set I have in my server is near identical to what is on most of the supported Intel NUCs so I was in luck - full support (from the base Linux OS for my hardware)
- I also happened to have a spare SSD kicking around so I could preserve my existing set up should something go wrong
- For full transparency ROCK is not officially supported on anything other than certain Intel NUC boards
- RAAT to B2 with latest (MQA Enabled) firmware
- DLNA to B2 (latest MQA enabled firmware)
- RAAT to uRendu (with LPS) (version 2.5 of uRendu)
- HQPLAYER to uRendu (with LPS) (also version 2.5)
Next up - “how do I take this to the next level”? Well - I could implement network isolation with TP Link Copper to SM Fiber devices, I could spend a wack of $$$ on expensive Ethernet cables, or I could simplify. There is a ton of information on the internet around signal integrity mostly around USB, but also around Ethernet, and this makes sense to the computer scientist in me - it isn’t the data that is the problem, it is the noise on the Ethernet, or the switch, the signal integrity - and my belief is that this is what we hear when we try different USB or Ethernet cables - we are hearing the results of better or worse signal integrity.
Lots has been written here and over at Computer Audiophile about the use of LPS for Ethernet switches, and since I have a perfectly good 9V linear - I figured why the heck not. Please note that most (if not all of my home) is wired with tested CAT 6A cables that are shielded, and I have never had an issue with dropouts, noise, or ticks. I was not expecting any improvement from what I did next, but what happened, ABSOLUTELY FLOORED ME!
Powering this TP-Link 8- port switch via the NuForce 9V LPS running into a Monster Power HTS 5100 MK 2 (power line conditioner), plugged into a dedicated 15 amp line with a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet) has made an improvement in my digital playback that is ON PAR with the change from Tories to Huron! THERE I SAID IT
Its that good! If any of you are streaming to the B2 and you REALLY want to hear what this thing is capable of sounding like - do this! Clean up your network, power the switch via a good linear power supply, isolate the AC that the network sits on, and run properly tested CAT 6A cables.
I am only reporting this because I was ready to write all this off as nonsense - not now! I know others have reported on the advantages of proper network isolation or powering your switch with a good LPS, but this is real, and one of the least expensive tweaks you can do. The switch retails for something like $50 CAD (its less in the US), and a decent LPS can be had for $200 - $300. I think doing the isolation (via single mode fiber) is also good, but then you need to look at replacing two power supplies instead of one.
What did I hear:
- Silence - a new level of blackness
- Proper brashness - especially on cymbals and brass instruments - the type of brightness that exists in real life -versus a forced replica
- Space - yes - everything seems spaced apart slightly, less strained
- Base - seems deeper (but this may be harder for me to quantify)
Am I happy? - HELLS YES - I am hoping that this article will help convince others to take a look at their network, and do something similar