CAPS Carbon, DSD, and USB vs Bridge


I recently purchased a CAPS v3 Carbon computer, as designed by Chris Connaker of the Computer Audiophile website, from Small Green Computer. If anyone is considering one of these, I can say that it arrived promptly and in good condition. I bought it mainly to record vinyl using my NPC, about which I will say more in another post. I wasn’t ripping much vinyl because I had to bring in a laptop and set it in a rather precarious position; now the Carbon sits in the music rack and things are much more convenient.

Last summer I got a Schiit Loki DSD DAC because I wanted to try DSD. I was impressed but hadn’t been using it much because it was such nuisance with the laptop. Now it also is conveniently connected to the Carbon and I’ve been listening to more DSD. My conclusions are just as they were when I first got the Loki: most DSD recordings sound awesome, organic and analog-like but very detailed and, for full orchestra, stupendous at times (try the San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler and Beethoven). Most reviewers feel the same way about DSD, but a few have talked about DSD recordings sounding a little soft and less engaging than PCM. I have noticed this softer quality on a very few of my DSD albums. As far as I know, I’m the first person to admit to hearing both sides of DSD–which makes me either very intelligent and discerning, or weird. Your pick :slight_smile: . I’m not saying that DSD always sounds better than PCM–much depends on the quality of the original recording and subsequent mastering–but there is definitely something worth exploring here. (I was careful to use recordings that were clearly made in DSD, or analog converted directly to DSD, not PCM converted to DSD.)

For a long time I’ve been running MinimServer on a Synology NAS, feeding the Bridge via ethernet with very good sound quality. After getting the Carbon up and running, I decided to try the PWD’s USB input, which I had never used. I let music play for a few hours to break in the USB input and the USB cable (Audioquest Cinnamon) I bought. Then I did a session of back to back comparisons of some tracks through USB (played with foobar2000) and the Bridge. This was pretty much a draw: some tracks sounded a tad better via USB, others via the Bridge, but they were always close. The USB sounded very solid and detailed.

Last night I just turned on the music via USB and just listened to a bunch of stuff. After 45 minutes or an hour listening fatigue set in; my ears just didn’t want to listen any more, which does not typically happen with my system. Switching back to ethernet/Bridge quickly showed that the latter sounded noticeably more natural and organic. So score one for the Bridge, despite its flaws. I could get a better USB cable, tweak Win8.1, or even get a battery power supply for the Carbon–but I think I’ll save my money for a DirectStream. I should add that I have MinimServer set to transcode FLAC to WAV before it sends the file out to the Bridge, whereas through USB the Bridge had to perform the transcoding. This may have some effect in the comparison.