Dramatically improved performance with DirectStream DAC

Ever since I got my DAC I’d been using either the network bridge, what I started with, then the USB input for several years via the USB output on my Roon Rock Nucleus and an AQ Jitterbug inserted. I was never very happy with this sound and I was mistakenly blaming other system components. Only recently did I become aware of how much I didn’t know about how to optimize the performance. I was reminded about the I2S input and how it is the preferred input for sound quality. Some research guided me to Small Green Computer and the Sonore product line. I read about separating the noisy network side from the “good” side for streaming via optical Ethernet. Coincidentally, Paul posted on this topic recently.

After a little stumbling with just what to assemble for my solution, I ended up with a new Trendnet switch with SFP converter, fiber to an opticalRendu, fed by a Sonore LPS, USB to ultraDigital, and hdmi to I2S. Immediately I noted a big improvement in the bass, and much cleaner and detailed presentation. After some time I became aware of a feeling of relaxation. After running this setup for a day to break it in,
I ran a very interesting and revealing test. I hooked my direct USB connection from my NUC with AQ Jitterbug inserted back into the USB input of my DAC. Then I grouped the DAC and Sonore inputs in Roon. Then I switched back and forth on the PS Audio remote while playing the pink noise track on the Stereophile test CD. Clearly I could hear a layer of upper midrange brightness or glare on USB that disappeared on Sonore. Additionally, as I had mentioned before, the bass was substantially, obviously fuller via Sonore (and I2S). It’s such a black and white test that I recommend it highly for any doubters. That midrange brightness had me frustrated for years! As I kept improving components, it still wasn’t right. Thankfully I have an excellent analog rig.

Now some may question how much of this improvement is due to the Sonore chain and how much is due to the I2S input. That’s a good question. Obviously I can hook SPDIF out of the UD and give it a whirl, but I’m in no hurry. Maybe the I2S, an underlying architecture that has been around since day one, helps explain why some still prefer playing Cds over streaming over the network with no optical conversion to remove noise before it gets to the I2S internals. But before I ended up with what I have, I started with optical Ethernet from that Trendnet switch to an FMC, to my Roon NUC, and usb to DAC. This yielded I think a blacker background and overall improvement, but still lacking in bass. Wanting to be able to stream DSD 256, I quickly moved up to the UD with SGC LPS. Then when the optical Rendu and Sonore LPS arrived yesterday, I finished the setup, leaving the NUC on the network side.

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Those discoveries just make you want to smile and listen to the music.

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You would really like the Rendu Signature SE. I have tried many other endpoints, including the opticalRendu. The Signature is even better.

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