USBe Perfect vs Matrix X-SPDIF2 in improving sound quality through USB link (warning: a long reading)

USBe Pefect is a little gadget sold by UnderwoodHiFi, designed to reduce jitter and signal degradation. Here is the link to the product https://www.underwoodhifi.com/products/conduit. I believe some of you here are familiar with Walter/Wally at UnderwoodHiFi, bought WireWorld Platinum Starlight 7 HDMI cable from him to use with Matrix X-SPDIF2.

I mentioned to Walter that I was considering upgrading my Melco N1/A music server, and complained about the difficulty to make USB link sound good. He introduced me to his new product USBe Perfect. So I got one, tried it, and liked it a lot, compared favorably to the Matrix.

I used the following albums for my evaluation, “AYA Authentic Audio Check” (DSD) by Stockfisch Records, “The Ultimate Demonstration Disc” (redbook CD) by Chesky Records, “This is K2 HD Sounds!” (K2HD) by FMI Records, etc. My digital system is from Melco N1A music server, Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 USB cable, Matrix SPDIF2, Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 HDMI cable, to PSAudio DAC, see this post for my other components System Photos!).

No Matrix, No USBe: no good, I don’t want to listen to this setup ever again.

Use USBe without Matrix: Everything improved, compared to without both Matrix and USBe, transparency, resolution, timber, tone, soundstage, focus, transients/microdynamics, macrodynamics, bass extension, airy treble, notes decay. You could clearly distinguish the two shakers in “Spanish Harlem” with minor difference in pitches; you could almost hear individual beads in the shakers, and more of them. The soundstage seemed move forward a little, depth improved a little but not much, but the notes in the back became a lot more clear, more clear decay, soundstage layering much improved, listen to “If I Could Sing Your Blues”, “Flute Concerto in D, Vivaldi”, “Touch”, “Zapateado” and “Canon in D”. Piano, violin, saxophone, guitar, male and female voices became more real, more body, more 3D, transients more sharp. In “Saxophone Improvisation” by The Tiptons, you could clearly differentiate the notes from alto, tenor, baritone saxophones, even when they all played together. In “Sharpening a knife”, “A hard rain’s A-goona fall”, the bass line deeper and tighter, much more visceral, decay more natural, longer, clear, I turned my sub off! The treble notes were more airy, extended. The full frequency was more coherent, more balanced, listen to “Firefly”, “Sizzlin”, etc. I enjoyed USBe a lot, its transparency and resolution, extended and tight bass, layered and 3D soundstage, especially with good recordings.

Use Matrix without USBe: Clearly much better than without both Matrix and USBe, everything improved. Some of you are familiar with the benefits of Matrix. Most of the improvements were similar to those with USBe as I described above. However, there were differences. Matrix was a little smoother, a little warmer, notes a little rounder, but, compared to USBe, improvements a little bit less, less revealing, less bass extension, notes less 3D, soundstage less layering. For example, less discernible of the differences in those two shakers, and among those saxophones. For some of you with very revealing systems, you may prefer Matrix, but to me, I very much prefer USBe if I have to choose one.

Use Matrix and USBe together: The benefits were additive, not synergistic, i.e., compared to USBe alone, the additional improvements were relatively small, a little more transparent, soundstage a little more coherent but not larger nor deeper. The overall presentation was a little smoother. Majority of the improvements by USBe still shined through, i.e., Matrix and USBe were not antagonistic. However, compared to USBe alone, a little less transparent, the transients a little less sharp, notes decay a little less clear, for example, the beads in the shakers a little less distinct. I emphasized “a little”. Probably to express this in a different way, USBe+Matrix vs USBe alone, the difference is not much about improvement, but about tuning and preference. To me, I felt the combination benefited my redbook CDs such as songs by Adele (a little harsh sometimes) and many downloads of lesser qualities. However, for me, since I have many Synergistic Research gadgets, I felt that the USBe+SR gold bullet combo on the SR power cables offered the best option, adding a little warmth and liquidity without sacrificing transparency and resolution. For my hundreds of dsf files and SACDs, I am quite happy with USBe alone, a little more visceral impact, a little more excitement.

Bottomline: USBe will not leave my digital system until I find a music server/streamer which solves the USB sound quality issue and make USBe, Matrix, etc, obsolete.

2 Likes

Hmm looking at that thingy makes me think of 49$ gadget instead of 499$ and comparing what´s inside vs 369$ Matrix. Of course I am interested in SQ vs looks but still. If it sounds better than Matrix is all that matters,I guess.

I won’t say USBe is absolutely better than Matrix in every system. I will hesitate to put it in an already very revealing system. That said, I generally prefer to make my sources as transparent and honest as possible, then taper it down using downstream means if needed. I don’t know how this thing works, it did surprise me the extent of increased transparency and extensions of both treble and bass. Regarding price, Walter is having an introductory price of $299. If interested, give him a call.

Dog gone you, now I have a USBe Perfect audio device sitting next to me. I have not plugged it in yet.

It better be good!!!

(LoL)

:blush:Be a true audiophile!
The USBe is VERY revealing. I hope you have a couple of different USB cables to try to get a balance.
Please do post your impression.

Oh yeah, I have a few different USB cables. No doubt about it.

Be careful now Al because depending on your experience we all will buy that thang,or not!
The future of USBe lays in your hands…:sweat_smile:

1 Like

In it’s first test I cannot hear any improvement whatsoever.
On my computer room system I have a DSD jr. I feed it directly from my main desktop computer via a Wireworld Platinum Starlight 6 USB cable to the USB port on the Jr.
I can also feed the Jr. with Roon via the built in bridge.
I also have a UltraRendu powered by an Sbooster feeding a Matrix via a Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB cable and feeding the Jr. via the sacred RAL HDMI.

The first test was to put the USBe inline with the Platinum Starlight 6 USB directly into the Jr. I was expecting a sonic improvement over not using the USBe and if it is there I missed it.

What I read here is that the USBe can perform similar improvements to the Matrix. I am not hearing that at the moment.

I think a fair test would be:
USBe to WWPS7USB to USB port on the Jr.
versus
WWPS7USB to the Matrix powered via USB to RALHDMI to the Jr.
I have the cables to do this.

That will have to wait. I didn’t really have any particular expectation but I did expect SOMETHING. Hmmmmm.

I could also put the USBe in front of my Shunyata Sigma USB to the Matrix in the other room. But I fear someone from Shunyata would immediately appear and take my cable away from me. I don’t want to take that risk as I just bought that cable.

Notes: The Junior is fed power via a Shunyata Sigma NR power cable. It is connected to a Rega Elicit-R integrated amp feeding a pair of B&W 804 speakers. Power comes from an $18k NBS Universal Power Conditioner. (gosh)

http://nbscables.com/products/universal_power_conditioners.html

Update: I am using a front port on the computer so I can listen with the USBe, pause and remove it, and then listen without it.

I have now listened to my computer feeding the DSD Jr. via the WWPS6USB with and without the USBe and I cannot detect any difference. BUT to be fair, I also used Roon to feed the UltraRendu to Matrix and the difference there is subtle. Perhaps imagined. Right now everything sounds the same to me.

The track I am using is called “Reaching One” by Wendy and Lisa from their album “Girl Bros.”. I have tried a few other tracks as well. Hmmmmm.
I just tried Roon feeding the Bridge. I can’t pick a winner tonight.

1 Like

Interesting. I would have thought that you might find more improvement (ok, may be just difference) than me, since I used the USBe on my Melco server and thought Melco might have less jitter and less noise from its USB port than a PC. Oh, well. One clear difference, I don’t have any LPS on my Matrix.

Hi Somppsa, It seems we need a tie-breaker :wink:, since you have a different system compared to Al and me.

1 Like

I am not done testing yet. My main system needs to check it out,

I´m sure others have tried or will try USBe too though I guessed Al will be the first. :slightly_smiling_face: Little surprised he found no pros or cons with it so far but maybe later. Surely third opinion and fourth would be good to have to see if it is really working on various systems.

For me it´s wait and see for now cause I´m still happy with Matrix.

I would be willing to loan mine out if someone known to me wants to try it.

1 Like

The matrix may be one thing but I prefer USB. If you feel that the USBE sounds good, Try the IFI Igalvanic+IUSB 3.0 with the Gemini dual head cable. It is actually not what I use but I think the sound is along the lines of the USBE but far superior. The IUSB 3.0 is discontinued and in dwindling numbers however. I just figured I would mention this to anyone that likes this sound signature. Although the latter is twice the price. Plus you still need one more USB cable.

Snake oil never gets any cheaper does it

1 Like

I am currently using USBE with the Synergistic Research Atmosphere X USB cable between my Melco server and PS Audio DAC, without the Matrix, quite happy. I am also using the gold tuning bullets on the SR Atmosphere Euphoria power cables to add a little bit of warmth and liquidity since USBE is more transparent than the Matrix. I don’t use those gold bullets while I was using the Matrix, too much a good thing. I will run without Matrix for a while, then put the Matrix back to see whether I miss it.

You should try the Matrix I2S interface with external LPS 1.2, in my set up it is significant SQ improvement.

Yes, this is something I yet have to try. I only used Ifi 5V external power supply so far, not significant. The original reason that I tried USBe was to see if I can find an alternative to the Matrix ecosystem (good usb cable, Matrix, external IPS, good HDMI cable, etc) which is becoming cumbersome and expensive, and I was wondering if money will be better allocated somewhere else, better music server, better DAC, etc.

I also have Ifi power and it has no impact/benefit on SQ, but when I add LPS 1.2 it is clear step up.

Forget about the IFi 5v, it’s junk. Hardly any difference.
Or you can try the Sbooster with Ultra MKII. I don’t know about the LPS 1.2 but the Sbooster with UltraMKII, it’s like the difference of having a Matrix in the system or not having it in. It’s like a double increase in SQ. And then there’s the RAL HDMI cable. It will blow you away on the improvement in SQ. After you hear these mods, I guarantee you will not go with just the Matrix in your system.

1 Like