Breaking Down the Bridge II


#1

I’m not sure if I’m placing this post properly. Elk, feel free to move it to the appropriate place.

At this point, I’m trying to figure out if my system could use the Bridge II in my DirectStream DAC, or if it would be superfluous for my situation. There’s no doubt that I’m committed to the DS as my favorite DAC, so why not pour more money into it to see what comes out? wink

My knowledge of this is minimal, so I’d like it if someone could explain the pros and cons in an easy-to-understand fashion for me.

My system chain is in the signature below. I have one main system in the living room – that’s it. I have no need to distribute music to any other location. This is where we do our listening.

I run either PureMusic/iTunes (my best sound) on my main library, stored on a 4TB FW800 external drive, or I switch to Roon Core/HQPlayer on the Mac Mini to take advantage of Roon and Tidal integration. (Not the best sound, so far, but much greater variety.) Data from the Mac Mini goes through the LANRover to USB-in on the DirectStream. I’ve not gone with an NAS because a) I don’t need distribution, and b) it seems tricky and complicated to me.

Of note is that my WiFi router (Apple) is located in another room. I doubt that I can easily move it into the living room, and running ethernet cables from one room to the other would not be trivial, but could be a possibility if the advantages were clear enough.

So, what I seem to think is that the Bridge II would have a sonic advantage in that I could run ethernet directly from the Mac Mini to the Bridge II, correct? Cover art on the DS is not a big thing for me since I run the stack ‘dark.’

I’m not clear on how going with an NAS or running ethernet directly from the router would be any advantage.

Disadvantages are the cost and complexity, especially if the sonic benefits are not mind-blowing.

So, can anybody help me to weave my way through to a decision, based on my rather simple setup?

Thanks!

Rob


#2

This is a great place for this discussion. I hope it generates responses as this is an excellent, fundamental question.


#3

Hello, Rob H.

I am assuming you don’t have/have not tried a Bridge (I or II) to date. I don’t know if this helps, but here is some food for thought - FWIW:

At this point in my Audiophile Odyssey, I am convinced that the simpler the path, coupled with a conscientious attempt to reduce the introduction of noise in to your system = better sound potential.

With this in mind, and accounting for some practicalities (budget and accommodating a surround sound and room-correction capability) here is my current, PS Audio PWD MK II-centric signal path:

  • Ripped CD’s and digital downloads on my 2015 iMac (library managed by iTunes and JRiver Media Center 22) -->

  • Files are streamed wirelessly from the iMac in the kitchen downstairs to the modem/router provided by my TV/Internet service provider (ATT U-Verse) upstairs in bonus room -->

  • Ethernet cable from the modem/router to a pair of TP-Link MC200CM Gigabit Media Converters providing “optical isolation” (more here) -->

  • Ethernet cable from media converters to a TP-Link 8-port Gigabit Desktop Switch with an iFi - iPower 9VDC power supply “upgrade” (more here) -->

  • Ethernet cable from switch to PS Audio PWD MK II, with Bridge I (then, balanced connections to Anthem AVM 50 V using ARC room correction, to Emotiva XPA-1 Gen 1 mono blocks to Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3.1 speakers).

I have a NAS on the network for backing up all my files only. I stream/control the music files from the iMac using Media Center and JRemote on an old iPad and my iPhone.

I have not done any direct comparisons to other configurations and signal routes (e.g., I have never used a computer or NAS to USB to DAC route), but this is the best sound in my evolving system so far and, from what I have read, it has the potential to sound better than a USB-path approach (with or without Land Rover). Again, I have not worked through and listened to other approaches, but I suspect breaking the potential noise link between the computer and the router by going wireless to the router, providing optical isolation between the network and the switch with the TP-Link Media Converters, and adding a low-noise power supply to the gigabit switch has been very beneficial. This current iteration of my system came together about two weeks ago and I am still enjoying/discovering all sorts of low-level detail and layers in familiar music that was “lost” before.

As you no doubt know, there are myriad paths to sonic satisfaction. If you have the time and money, I would definitely consider re-jiggering your system to see if you can get better results with Bridge II. Maybe you can arrange a demo?

Regards,

Scott


#4

Thanks, Scott. That’s a lot of good information.

At first blush, it doesn’t seem very ‘simple’ to me, but I’ll chase down the links to see how it all fits together. I may be able to sort of map your configuration to something I can do here.

My wife is convalescing. This would be an excellent time to mess around. 105_gif


#5
Rob H. said Thanks, Scott. That's a lot of good information.

At first blush, it doesn’t seem very ‘simple’ to me…


Not simple, but not as complicated as it might seem - I think - once you get into it… My point (probably lost in all the connections) is that I think your system would benefit from bypassing the USB output of your computer and USB input of the DSD and using wireless and/or ethernet connections to the Bridge II instead (you can give it a shot without the extras in my system: media converters, switch and power supply).

Should be fun to try anyway…cool

Scott


#6
Rob H. said

So, what I seem to think is that the Bridge II would have a sonic advantage in that I could run ethernet directly from the Mac Mini to the Bridge II, correct? Cover art on the DS is not a big thing for me since I run the stack ‘dark.’

Unless I'm missing something...........You would connect your MacMini to your router, and then connect your router to the Bridge!! - via Ethernet.

#7
timequest said
Rob H. said

So, what I seem to think is that the Bridge II would have a sonic advantage in that I could run ethernet directly from the Mac Mini to the Bridge II, correct? Cover art on the DS is not a big thing for me since I run the stack ‘dark.’

Unless I’m missing something…You would connect your MacMini to your router, and then connect your router to the Bridge!! - via Ethernet.


Either way, I still run into the issue of running cables from one room to another. Might have to happen.

#8

You can buy the cable and route it on the floor next to the walls to see if it sounds better and deciding if it is worth installing Ethernet in a more formal fashion. The cable is inexpensive and worth it. I conducted a similar experiment to check for errors and throughput. I quickly determined direct wired is vastly better than wireless.


#9

Typical of us audiophiles. You, a USB user, wonder if the BridgeII might just add a little more refinement to an already great sounding rig…just a little more noticeable improvement to the sound, and me, a BridgeII user, who has often wondered whether a dedicated USB set up would sound any better than a ‘Bridge set up.’

In regard to direct signal path - i.e.: which way best minimizes signal degradation, you hypothesize that a Bridge set up may provide an advantage over a USB set up. I never fully understood which method is potentially better than the other. I don’t know how the signal, once it reaches the Bridge, is actually processed. Is it a process that minimally impacts the signal path between the Ethernet interface (DSD input) and path to the DAC/processing, or is it a more complex process that does impact - “add to” - the signal path. All in All, is the ‘Bridge process’ a less “invasive” process than is the process implemented in a proper USB set up?


#10
timequest said Typical of us audiophiles. You, a USB user, wonder if the BridgeII might just add a little more refinement to an already great sounding rig...............just a little more noticeable improvement to the sound, and me, a BridgeII user, who has often wondered whether a dedicated USB set up would sound any better than a 'Bridge set up.'

In regard to direct signal path - i.e.: which way best minimizes signal degradation, you hypothesize that a Bridge set up may provide an advantage over a USB set up. I never fully understand which method is potentially better than the other. I don’t know how the signal, once it reaches the Bridge, is actually processed. Is it a process that minimally impacts the signal path between the Ethernet interface (DSD input) and path to the DAC/processing, or is it a more complex process that does impact - “add to” - the signal path. All in All, is the ‘Bridge process’ a less “invasive” process than is the process implemented in a proper USB set up?


Those are all great questions, and ones that I had hoped would be asked and answered here. Thanks!

I gotta say, though… the rig sounds pretty danged good as it is. But, as aphools, we always try to eke out a bit more performance, don’t we?


#11
timequest said Typical of us audiophiles. You, a USB user, wonder if the BridgeII might just add a little more refinement to an already great sounding rig...............just a little more noticeable improvement to the sound, and me, a BridgeII user, who has often wondered whether a dedicated USB set up would sound any better than a 'Bridge set up.'
Also, in a sense, you bring up a very good point, @timequest

I recall Ted saying that the DS was “input agnostic” by virtue of its design.

Yet, I’ve heard (literally) that the ethernet-linked LANRover improves the USB signal, and that the Bridge II (ethernet) is better than USB. I would also suspect that some would say that a Perfectwave CD player with I2S would be better than USB.

I suppose I’m trying to suss out how the DS could be input agnostic, and yet we hear differences between the inputs. Perhaps it has more to do with the signal outside the DS?

To keep this on-point, this sort of stuff is why I’m asking if the Bridge II would create a substantially better sound than USB + LANRover.


#12

Rob,

I’ll give the quick version of my experiences and you can ask questions if you wish.

I’m a longtime Bridge user; later I got a computer (Windows 10) in the music room, but the sound via USB was clearly inferior to the Bridge. I have gradually tweaked the computer by installing Fidelizer Pro, and by adding a LPS and better USB cables. The sound via USB is now close to that of the Bridge and I could live with either, but I prefer not running the computer unless necessary (e.g., to play double-rate DSD) so I generally use the Bridge.

My takeaway is that USB can sound good but requires considerable tweaking. You’ve already done a lot of that, particularly with the LANrover, so I would not expect a great improvement with the Bridge. No harm in experimenting, if you wish, but I would be surprised if things sounded a lot better.


#13

Rob,

I tend to agree with Magister. As I understand it, the biggest advantage that an Eithernet connection has over a straight USB connection from a computer is noise reduction, since a USB straight from a computer can be noisy. Since you have already solved that problem with the LANRover, I doubt you will hear any/enough difference to make it worth what sounds like to could be a lot of additional work and hassle with cables. I have both a Bridge II and Aries (connected via USB and W4S USB cleaner) to my PSA DSD. While there are very minor differences in a direct A:B test, it is hard to say that one is better than the other and in actual day-to-day usage, I can’t hear the difference.

Karl


#14
magister said

I’m a longtime Bridge user; later I got a computer (Windows 10) in the music room, but the sound via USB was clearly inferior to the Bridge. I have gradually tweaked the computer by installing Fidelizer Pro, and by adding a LPS and better USB cables. The sound via USB is now close to that of the Bridge and I could live with either, but I prefer not running the computer unless necessary (e.g., to play double-rate DSD) so I generally use the Bridge.


I hate to sound dolt-ish about this, and perhaps I haven’t done enough due diligence, but how does one feed a Bridge II without a computer? Doesn’t some processor have to push a data stream to the Bridge/DS?

Did I mention a lack of expertise in these matters?


#15
Rob H. said
I hate to sound dolt-ish about this, and perhaps I haven't done enough due diligence, but how does one feed a Bridge II without a computer? Doesn't some processor have to push a data stream to the Bridge/DS?

Did I mention a lack of expertise in these matters?


You need a computer but not necessarily a general purpose PC based on Windows or Mac OS. There are a number of simplified streamers like the Aries that I mentioned in my post. Of course, there is a still a processor inside and an OS but not one that is visible or needs to be dealt with by the user. Small Green Computer has a number of small footprint streamers as well that can stream from JRiver or Roon servers (and others) running on a NAS or other computer that will allow the computer to be remotely located outside of your rack or music room. There are also A/V receivers with built in steaming capabilities and I’m sure I’m leaving a few options out. The bottom line is if you want to get the Windows or Mac based PC out of your system or out of your music room, there are plenty of alternatives.

#16

The microRendu is another good option.

http://www.microrendu.sonore.us


#17

I recognize that the general consensus is wired over wireless, but Auralic (e.g.) actually recommend wireless for their Aries. The most important thing is that one uses the 5GHz band and have a good router and optionally an Ethernet bridge. One problem with 5GHz is a limited range, though. The only gear that gave me wifi trouble was the PWD w/Bridge I. My present gear works flawlessly and gives galvanic isolation (to an extent) as a bonus.


#18
rogerdn said The microRendu is another good option.

http://www.microrendu.sonore.us


Roger,

Hey, long time…

I’ve been pondering the LANRover vs. µRendu over at the Roon site; perhaps you’ve seen the post.

The µRendu makes sense, and cuts down on cabling and pieces. It also eliminates USB altogether until the last leg.

But, at a price near or above the LANRover, it’s a commitment to get one just to A/B it, so I had been wondering if anyone had done such a test. This is not to diminish the LANRover in any way. Once it settled into my system it did good things. But, you know… always wondering. It’s an affliction.


#19

Hi Rob, my microRendu was a big sq improvement over anything before, stock PC with FIdelizer, SonicOrbiter, then adding the LanRover a few days ago was another big step up but don’t have a Bridge to compare to.


#20
rogerdn said Hi Rob, my microRendu was a big sq improvement over anything before, stock PC with FIdelizer, SonicOrbiter, then adding the LanRover a few days ago was another big step up but don't have a Bridge to compare to.
Roger --

So, you’ve combined the LANRover with the µRendu, or did you replace the µRendu?

I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of Paul weighing in this week on a question: Has PS Audio ever compared the LANRover/USB against the Bridge II in an A/B situation? If so, how do they stack up?