USB vs Ethernet (bridge)


#1

I have been purchasing equipment and easing into the computer audio. So far, I have ripped a few discs and purchased 1 download from HDTracks, Eagles Desperado 192/24. I have tried 2 USB cables a standard printer cable and a low end Kimber one. All my listening so far has been USB. My system consists of Martin Logan Ascent i’s, driven by a Sonic Frontiers Power II with Tungsol KT120 output tubes and Amperex Bugle Boy inputs. Speaker cables are Kimber 12TC bi-wired. For a transport, I am using a Sony DVP-S9000ES DVD/SACD player connected to the PWD with a Sterolab XV Ultra cable. Comparing the ripped CD’s to the original, I still prefer the original. The HD download was somewhat of a disappointment, The download was was very transparent compared to the original Desperado CD, but the download didn’t have the body and the weight of the CD. With the CD, the lower midrange and bass was fuller. I hope I am explaining this OK. My question is, does the music get any better with the bridge? Before I leap into this all out, I want to be sure it is worthwhile spending the extra money on extra equipment.


#2
I have been purchasing equipment and easing into the computer audio. So far, I have ripped a few discs and purchased 1 download from HDTracks, Eagles Desperado 192/24. I have tried 2 USB cables a standard printer cable and a low end Kimber one. All my listening so far has been USB. My system consists of Martin Logan Ascent i's, driven by a Sonic Frontiers Power II with Tungsol KT120 output tubes and Amperex Bugle Boy inputs. Speaker cables are Kimber 12TC bi-wired. For a transport, I am using a Sony DVP-S9000ES DVD/SACD player connected to the PWD with a Sterolab XV Ultra cable. Comparing the ripped CD's to the original, I still prefer the original. The HD download was somewhat of a disappointment, The download was was very transparent compared to the original Desperado CD, but the download didn't have the body and the weight of the CD. With the CD, the lower midrange and bass was fuller. I hope I am explaining this OK. My question is, does the music get any better with the bridge? Before I leap into this all out, I want to be sure it is worthwhile spending the extra money on extra equipment.

Same experience here with hirez Desperado from HDT - it sounds utter crap compared with the CD.
The last 4 albums I downloaded sound all the same in comparison.
This is really worrying. I wonder if the 192/24 is just upsampled and called hirez but it should sound on par with redbook nevertheless.


#3

The bad part is paying $25 for it. I am a retiree on a fixed income and $25 is a big hit to me. I think I might stick to playing CD’s for awhile. Thinking back when CD’s first came out, this is deja vu. A promise of better audio, only to be disappointed.


#4

The trick is to be found in your computer hardware and cabling. USB can sound just as solid as a bridge maybe even better for the bass. In my opinion the PWD will sound best when using the best and fastest computer hardware think of solid state drives (internal) certainly not USB2. The I7 processor does the best job install 8gig memory or more. Try different programs Jriver for example will sound better on USB than on the bridge at the moment (maybe wavestream is going to change this). Use a short HQ usb cable. Try different powercable’s on your computer. Use a large HQ powersupply in your computer.





It’s a long list, but it can change a lot.


#5

Eagles it’s great music , but not very well mastered. I to have several copies of various albums. I wish there was a reliable sound rating on these music download sites. You would think that the eagles them selves with all the money they have made would actually try to do something about it. The best sound I have is a live event broadcast from my sat system.

Al


#6

@dabman51, One of the issues with downloads is that the sound quality you get is totally dependent on the source material and processing that were used to create the download. Some companies do a great job with preparing downloads, going back to the master tapes and remastering, while others take an old mix that was prepared with vinyl playback in mind and digitize it, or even sometimes upsample an old CD version. And often there’s no way to know.



So you need to buy from companies that are transparent (HDtracks is not always). If you like classical music, I recommend www.eclassical.com (recordings from the Swedish BIS label and harmonia mundi)–there are somewhat less expensive than the equally good Linn or 2L. They also have frequent promotions on new material. One of my favorite pop downloads is Paul Simon’s “Live in New York City” – excellent sound that happens to come from HDtracks.



Also, be aware that you don’t have to buy 24/192 to get terrific sound. In my experience, 24/88 or 24/96 often sounds just as good, or so close that it the (sometimes) higher price and longer download times may not be worth it. (Please, no hate mail: I’m not saying that there is never a sonic advantage to using the highest resolutions. But when I got into digital audio I assumed that of course I would buy the 24/196 version, and I’ve learned that’s not always worth it, and the many recordings that are issued only at lower sample rates are not to be despised. BIS, for instance, releases even recordings of symphony orchestras at 24/96 and gets excellent sound.)



The Bridge will not necessarily sound better. @wijnand is right that you probably need to tweak your computer. (Not everyone agrees that a high-powered machine is better; some people have excellent results from machines with just enough power to do the job, but optimized for audio. Look for instance at the CAPS designs on the Computer Audiophile website.) The USB built into cheap laptops doesn’t usually give good sound. There are folks here who can help you much better than I in regard to the best computer setup, since I am in fact a NAS guy who streams to the Bridge :). But I can tell you that for me and the people I know, CD rips almost always sound better, or at least as good, so your computer/playback system probably does need tweaking. Good luck!


#7

"Comparing the ripped CD’s to the original, I still prefer the original."



Make sure you rip bit perfect copy, there is software for this like dbpoweramp. I don’t use usb but I use the bridge with a NAS and love it. On the hres files like on some cd’s it depends on the quality of the original recording and mastering.


#8

And, just to follow up on oll’s comment, make sure you are not accidentally ripping mp3 files. Those would certainly sound worse than the original CDs. Use a lossless format like FLAC or WAV.


#9

Hi dabman51… you don’t mention what you are using to play back the ripped files, Laptop, Desktop ? You didn’t mention what program you are using to rip with… You should use Dbpoweramp on a PC, XLD on a Mac, and of course you should be ripping to lossless files (flac, Alac, Aiff, Wav) Also there are really big differences in USB cables, as big as differences between SPDIF cables…Your XV Ultra is a really good one, the low end Kimber not so great. Also shorter USB cables tend to sound better than long ones ( if you are on a tight budget I’d suggest borrowing some from The Cable Company, http://thecableco.com ) Also you didn’t mention if are you using a PWD MK1 or MK2. The PWD MK1 does not have the asynchronous USB input that the MK2 has, among other significant sonic improvements.



And of course as others have mentioned many of the High Res tracks don’t necessarily sound better than the 16/44 versions, it’s really first and foremost the quality of the recording and the mastering… If I were you I’d concentrate on getting the CD’s that you have ripped to sound as good on playback as the Sony.



Also as far as the Bridge goes it does sound very good, but if you read through this forum it has had some serious usability issues, lack of gapless playback ( without lots of work) connectivity with the network, among others.



I would recommend that you wait on a Bridge (unless you can score one used really really cheap ) since there is definitely a Bridge MK2 in the works which will ( It better) address these shortcomings.


#10

I forgot to mention.

The PWD MK2 sound very thin with the latest firmware 2.4.3 when there’s no bridge installed.

It maybe sounds strange, but the bridge is needed to just sit in the PWD to get solid bass from USB and I thought the coax also benefits from a installed bridge (this for 2.4.3).



With firmware 2.0.2 I haven’t noticed any difference.


#11

The PWD is the Mk.II, I used DBPoweramp for ripping the CD’s. My computer is a Toshiba Satellite i7 processor, 6GB ram 640 HD. Ripping CD’s, I have the settings at the highest lossless setting. I don’t think I will be buying anymore downloads from HDTracks. What a rip. I do have a bridge that I picked up pretty cheap, but don’t think I am going to install it. I might just stick to CD’s for now.


#12

@dabman51 Excellent comments from erikm. And let me emphasize one point: As he said, the Bridge doesn’t do gapless playback. As this is a critical flaw for much music, I would advise you not to spend any money on a Bridge. If you want to use DLNA (network) streaming, investigate some of the other products available.



(EDIT: Oops – I see you’ve already got one. Sorry! If you like mostly rock and pop, gapless will be less of an issue, but if you do use the Bridge, you’ll run into it sooner or later.)



A gapless solution for Bridge owners has been promised for a long time but has remained vaporware.



DLNA streaming, in my opinion, is still in the “bleeding edge” phase. It is easy to get components that don’t work quite right or are not compatible with other parts of your system, or that work fine except for a few features that will bug you every time you need them. Prices of simple devices can be absurdly high. My system uses network streaming, and I like it, but I often wish I had waited a couple of years for more of the kinks to be ironed out.


#13

@dabman51 I agree with you that much of the material from HDTracks is no better than the same material on CDs.


#14

Mike48 I agree with you as far as waiting for this media to progress before jumping in too deep. I I am probably going to sell the bridge and be happy playing CD’s for now. I see several other companies coming out with music servers and I am sure they will get better fast. Thanks for the input.


#15

I sold my bridge a while ago and use the Pwd with a USB to HDMI adaptor. To me it sounds better this way

And I did the bridge inside too but I did not feel it matters with my setup. It’s in my office and I just want to play music not fiddle with .



Al


#16

Give the Fidelizer a try. Many of us use it to quiet Windows down for improved music streaming. It goes away when you reboot so you can use your laptop for other things when not streaming.

http://www.windowsxlive.net/fidelizer/

I would start with the “Audiophile” level, but trying the more extreme levels are not harmful. Just reboot if your laptop freezes up.



Lots of good advice here. I rarely buy 24/192 and have slowed down purchases of 24/96 quite a bit. It is really hit or miss with HD Tracks. It is possible that keeping the bridge might get you a discount on the Bridge II but with the new DAC on the horizon a new bridge seems less likely to me. The program that you use to stream with is very important as well. I may have missed your mention of the one that you use. I use eLyric and get great results with the sound. JRiver has a better interface and some find it to sound just as good if set up properly. Windows Media Center and iToons sound awful to my ears.


#17

I will try the fidelizer and see if that helps. I am using JRiver for streaming. Seems like a good program, easy to use and haven’t had any problems. I am going to try a few more cables to really give this a chance. No more HD purchases unless they can guarantee my satisfaction. I just don’t have the money to waste. As far as the bridge, I won’t bother with setting it up. I still think more and more companies are going to come up with affordable all in one server units that will eliminate everything except for the DAC and router.


#18

Hi,

I’ve tried USB and Ethernet systems. I believe USB has an advantage at this moment in time because

1. It was one of the first and easiest ways to get sound from the PC into the DAC.

2. It soon became apparent that USB as a sound source had some issues. So hobbyists and designers tweaked the computer hardware and software, experimented with the USB cable itself and its connectors. (Take a look at the iFi website.) and even changing USB into SPDIF.

3. The end result after all of these tweaks and various combinations, USB can sound truly excellent today.

4. Meanwhile Ethernet via DNLA and UPNP and their various incarnations started to be used.

5. Ethernet implementation was found to sound very good, could be sent throughout the home, and had a cleaner electrical interface,

5. Many have found that many of the same tweaks for USB worked with Ethernet.

6. Gapless has been an issue for Ethernet, which is no problem for USB.

7. Ethernet streaming is becoming much more well known

8. My belief us that both formats will stay viable but as time passes Ethernet will probably be used more and more and eventually eclipse USB some time in the future.

Steven B-)


#19

I’m still lucky enough to be using the last beta version of WaveStream on Win8 and I can say after placing a powerbase below my P-5 really improved SQ. The Bass, Midrange, highs are all better significantly better it was not a minor improvement adding the powerbase. My opinion after adding a PowerBase and hearing my systems improvement these are important in any system. My THD before is 1.6 and 0.1 after P-5 and the room does not suffer with significant microphonics. I have a couple of noise Harvesters which seldom light. though the powerbase had a significant positive impact, after a week of burn-in I went that’s it great sound best I’ve heard yet. Then however PS Audio released the DirectStream this is awesome. I have not used USB and convencied the Bridge is the right solution with WaveStream the PC is out of the listening room even though I did build the PC with silent running in mind.



There is the possibility a new beta release maybe ready for trial in a month fingers crossed it goes well and released for all to enjoy who uses the bridge :slight_smile:





I can load my PC with al sorts of tasks email, xl, word explorer, photos and such and it does not alter the SQ. The PC is reasonable spec though

Gigabyte Sniper MB

4770K

16 gig ram

256 gig SSD

with 2T HDD


#20
@dabman51 I agree with you that much of the material from HDTracks is no better than the same material on CDs.

As an early adopter (since 2008) of hi-res tracks I bought my first one on hdtrack and was always disappointed. In most case they sound not good on my system. I always found better tracks either on Linn-records or Qobuz. These websites seems to be very careful at the quality of the Studio Master tracks ( no up sampling and so on....). The Norwegian company 2L provides good files and also for free some sample in all resolutions.
I've never be convinced that tracks above 24/96 brings improvements. It's May be my system which is not able to reveal the extra value, I don't know...

About USB cables my dealer told me that the wireworld platinum is the only one that makes the difference. Many forums agree with this too. So a USB printer cable was not a good choice but all cables between 100€ and the Platinum at 490€ do not worth it (this is still my dealer advice even if he's selling many cable in this prices range).