SQ: comparing Bridge II vs USB

I know so much of SQ is subjective, but I’m a little surprised at what my ears are telling me.

I was excited to have a Bridge II inbound, given how great things sounded going direct from my ROCK server to the DSD via an inexpensive USB cable, with no gadgets in between. The sound was astonishingly good.

So I thought, the Bridge II - based on informed comments here and elsewhere - was going to be a big improvement and really blow me away.

Bridge came yesterday, I plugged it in and ensure all software was up to date.

I listened. I was disappointed. My immediate reaction was the Bridge was less musical and a bit harsher, with less defined bass, than the cheap-y USB setup.

Granted, the Bridge hasn’t had any burn-in time. But then again, neither did the USB set up – it sounded amazing right away.

I really, really wanted – and still do – to be amazed by the Bridge, but so far, I’m just not and will invest in an improved USB connection, and start comparing. Don’t get me wrong, the setup with Bridge II still sounds quite good, but just surprised that it’s to my ears not as good as USB.

I’ll let the bridge keep burning in, and put hours on it whenever I’m not sitting down to just enjoy music. I’ll upgrade my USB setup. Then I’ll see if anything changes by way of comparison.

If anyone has ideas on how to get better SQ from the Bridge, I’d love to hear it!

What power supply is powering your Ethernet switch / router?

Is your WiFi in another room? Just checking :slight_smile:

That’s generally been my experience as well, but you can find a bunch of folks on the other side, usually depending on what they own.

My thought is that it is a painful combination of system synergy, affected by what gear you are using to do one the or another, and the lengths you are willing to go to optimisze one or the other. Pretty much anything coming from a computer is so fraught with possible effects — everything from AC ground to cabling to galvanic isolation to what else is running on the computer (or if you’re using a NUC or a ROCK or whathaveyou) — that it seems to be at least as system-dependent as anything else in this endeavor, or perhaps more so.

PS is whatever came with the Ethernet switch, and wireless router is in the same room (but other than that, not used in the path of the music).

The switch: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/netgear-nighthawk-8-port-gigabit-ethernet-switch-gray/5778400.p?skuId=5778400&cmp=RMX&extStoreId=1531&ref=212&loc=1&ksid=9dfc830b-c9fd-4057-bcb0-95a5d47eebce&ksprof_id=401&ksaffcode=pg264797&ksdevice=c&lsft=ref:212,loc:2&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIuJvOm8vL2QIVS7nACh0o_gITEAQYASABEgJt4vD_BwE

Both switch and router are about 10’ away from the DAC.

Using a NUC / ROCK. But, that’s a common denominator in any case, between USB and Bridge II

Switch mode power supplies standard with routers and switches are supposedly guilty of injecting noise through the Ethernet connection.

I highly suspect you are getting a combination of noise from the router via WiFi and direct via Ethernet.

(1) play with turning off one of your wireless bands.
(2) you may consider FMC experimentation. I have a spare set if you are interested. I will send you for free if you are interested. Pm me.

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Is ethernet going straight from the server to the bridge or through the Switch first ?

Thanks cxp.

It would be pretty easy to turn off wireless networks to test that theory, I’ll give it a try tonight. Also, the wireless router is separate from my “main” home LAN Ethernet switch, if that wasn’t already clear.

Ethernet goes from DSD to switch, and switch to NUC/ROCK (Roon music) server. Can’t use a cross-over/direct since I need the ROCK server to have internet access.

What’s an FMC? and thanks for the offer!

I’m going to swap out patch cables tonight from Cat 6 to Cat 6a and see if there’s any difference from that.

Ok that’s what I thought. Fmc is a fiber media converter that will turn Ethernet to optical and then from optical back out to ethernet again. This will isolate your equipment from any upstream noise. You will still have noise from your last FMC though. One benefit is that you can buy a $10 Jameco linear wall wart which will give you better SQ than the smps.

Experimenting with the FMC’s can diagnose whether your switch is the noisy problem.

From there there is a decision to get a switch from SoTM upgraded for SQ or get upgraded FMC’s from SoTM. In both of these scenarios they upgrade internals to linear regulators and upgrade the capacitors. I currently run upgraded FMC’s from them and am having a switch upgrade ongoing to see which is better in my system.

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Ahhh. Very interesting. I have read about the fiber bridge option. Sort of (possibly erroneously) concluded that, the last step is still Ethernet, but I do see what you’re saying about switch-induced noise.

I actually have some fiber media converters I can easily try (I run an IT department lol; what weird stuff I have access to). I’ll bring two home tonight and give that a shot too!

I’ll also check out the SOTM site to see if anything looks appealing.

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Much still depends on the server you’re using. Remind me what that is.

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I tried both with the same SW (Jriver) and Bridge was better right away even without isolation. Don’t know if even when playing from the same SW to both, the one or other SW can have worse impact on Bridge than on USB connection.

Could also be a misconfiguration of the SW to Bridge DLNA interface in case of an unnecessary conversion process inbetween etc. Also listen for pace/flow…should be clearly better with Bridge than with an unoptimized USB connection IMO.

@jonm - as other suggested i can concur to use optical isolation for ethernet (ideally powered by linear power supply). Also i would suggest to try UPnP instead of Roon, just to make sure it’s not only Roon’s SQ issue - in my setup UPnP (minimserverwith transcoding to wav enabled and for example MConnect as control point on your tablet/phone) always sounds better than Roon, going through the Bridge2 , or external RPI3-based I2S transport…

@Paul Using Roon server (ROCK on a NUC), altho I monkeyed around with MConnect Control yesterday. Based on very quick comparison they sounded close enough I couldn’t really make out much of a difference.

Are there other comparisons I could do to rule out Roon? All my ripped music is on a Synology NAS, and I use Tidal quite a bit.

@Maniac Going to try that today. Brought home a couple of transceivers and a fiber patch. Not clear on what Minimserver would do, if I could just use Mconnect Control direct to the Bridge? Or are you saying use minim with Mconnect Player? If so I’ll have to see if minim is available on synology, otherwise I can install on my Windows10 PC I guess to try it out.

Thanks for the help!

@jazznut how can I check for a s/w misconfiguration?

I made no changes to the Bridge config (not sure what’s change-able/where to do that), and Roon is at all defaults, afaik.

thanks for the help!

Fwiw, did more listening last night after letting the Bridge run in playing music all night and day yesterday, and things did sound better. To some degree, I think there are 2 primary differences so far:

– presentation is more “forward” on the bridge, and a little more clear. This is psycho-acoustically taking some getting used to since I acclimated myself to the sound on USB. Net result is at first it sounded a bit harsh and fatiguing, but now by comparison, USB sounds slightly muddied, although still slightly easier to listen to.

– bass clarity (speed/tightness/punch/control and depth) all still sound better to me over USB

Giving me in the end a really tough choice. The clarity and realism of the bridge is pretty astonishing, while the musicality of USB and more enjoyable low end, are very attractive there.

I’ve ordered a better USB cable and the Intona device for USB, and will compare again after those, as well as fiber isolation for Ethernet about to get tried out.

I’m sorry, Im a Jriver User, so I can’t help with Roon. It’s just quite common knowledge here that Roon sounds inferior generally. But I think in your case there’s more, as you also use Roon for USB playback as far as I understood.

In my case all network and NAS (the server software in my case is playing on the NAS, not another PC) is on a separate power circuit and I use a galvanic isolator. So my situation might not be the ideal comparison to a standard setup, which could inherit more flaws.

With configuration problems I meant you should ensure you don’t convert the signal to any other sampling rate etc when playing over Bridge.

Generally I think only the most sophisticated USB setups can be equal or possibly better than Bridge. I rather tink only i2s setups can really better the Bridge, but there are others like Ted with much more experience here.

I think it’s probably just a SW or burn in issue.

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Thanks @jazznut. I’m pretty sure I have Roon at all defaults, and now can also test with Mconnect Mcontroller. I’ll try to figure out how to make sure the bridge isn’t doing any kind of signal manipulation.

I’ll keep letting the bridge burn in more and keep comparing.

I’m going through a similar scenario, although backwards from what you are doing. I’ve been listening to the bridge exclusively on my Perfectwave, and now Directstream, for a little over 3 years now. For the first 3 years I just used an internet-connected router connection, although at one point I did switch to a CAT 6a cable. This router was in my listening room and provided internet/wi-fi for the entire house. Then when we moved to a new house and we had a router in another area of the house (upstairs) so I eliminated the internet connection from the old router (now downstairs) , turned off wi-fi and any other type of broadcasting and just formed a 2 node network. Then I eliminated the router and went with a network bridge, still using just the isolated 2 node network (PC to network bridge to Directstream) ). I then started researching various ways to use USB and that’s where I am now. I had purchased an Uptone Regen and iFi iPower SMPS to go with it to try first but before I got around to trying it I found an Intona USB Isolator at a really nice price so I bought that. I like the idea of no extra PS.
Anyway I finally got enough motivation to start experimenting just last night. I have a very small footprint PC (Asus EEEBox), so I moved that into my equipment rack, hooked up the Intona between PC and DAC and had a several hour listening session. The PC has all networking services disabled and I’m running Fidelizer on it for further optimization. SW is JRiver MC20. USB cables are a custom generic I bought online 4 or 5 yrs ago made of high quality copper and silver with a separate, isolated wire for the 5V, and a Wireworld Chroma which is one of their lower priced cables.
First I went with the Chroma between PC and Intona and the generic from Intona to Directstream but after about 1/2 hour I switched them with much better results for some reason.
I’m liking the USB vs Bridge II much better for one main reason. There is way more clarity between instruments and I’m assuming one reason may be because of a reduced noise floor? I have one recording in particular by Tom Grant, which has a song called Generous Heart, where there are chimes that pan across the sound stage left to right, as well as 2 soft dings on a triangle from the upper left of the sound stage occasionally. I’ve had this recording since before I had my present gear and while I still used a CD player, and I’ve always been able to hear the chimes pan all the way across as well as the 2 dings on the triangle. With my current set up I’ve had trouble hearing those things. The chimes seem to get lost while panning across and I have to really strain to hear the dings and sometimes can’t hear them at all. We recently moved and had our old house up for sale and as a result we de-cluttered so I took my gear down for a year (didn’t know it was going to take that long to sell). Anyway, I am getting old and my hearing is getting worse so I kind of blamed it on that possibility. But after switching to the USB set up all of a sudden there were the chimes and the triangle, and I was surprised at how clear and prominent they were. And it wasn’t just that recording…everything sounded just ‘blacker’ in between instruments. I’m not quite sure if the sound stage hasn’t become just very slightly less 3 dimensional, but for one that might have been an artificial artifact from the previous set up, and two I just installed a new analog board in the DAC so maybe there is some burning in yet to come.
Anyway, sorry for the long-winded post but the point is that the Bridge II isn’t necessarily or inherently ‘better’, and of course it depends on a million other things like how one connects to it, what type of server, cables, how optimized it all is, synergy, personal preferences , etc and the same applies to USB, but I don’t think they sell it for almost $1K because it’s better. They sell it as an additional and convenient option for connecting to the DAC.

For your ethernet source, I may have missed it but did you ever use a linear power supply ?