Will a USB isolator improve the DSD sound quality?

I have a MacBook Pro with Audirvana 3+ using USB to a DirectStream DAC. There is an ethernet filter before the MacBook, which also has 2 AQ Jitterbugs, one on the USB out to the DAC. The DAC is also on a separate AC line and power conditioner from the rest of the audio components and network stuff. I listen to music stored on a NAS and stream Tidal.

The sound quality is great, but others have mentioned the use of a USB isolator to improve sound quality further. And then somewhere I read on this forum that the DSD doesn’t really need an external USB isolator. I am confused. Since every system is different, I am asking the question of fellow forum members who have may have similar computer/MacBook music server systems: “Considering my use of the MacBook Pro/Audirvana as a music server and in your experience, will an external USB isolator, similar to the JCAT USB isolator or the iFi nano iGalvanic3.0 have a positive effect or further improve the sound quality of the DSD?” Old story, spend the money or save the money for a better USB cable.

My apologies in advance if this question has already been asked and answered somewhere on this vast encyclopedic forum. Your responses are sincerely appreciated.

I can’t reply from experience about using galvanic isolator, but I’ve been using the iFi iPurifier 3 for the last week and was a substantial improvement and IMO way better than the Jitterbug, without the tonal coloration. What I hear with the iPurifier is less grain/noise, greater dynamics, smoother top end, better resolution, but much more transparent than the Jitterbug. I would imagine the iGalvanic 3.0 would be just more of that same improvement, just greater noise reduction.

A better USB cable is important to have as well. I’m splitting the difference using the iPurifier 3 and a Shunyata Venom (not the most expensive, but good). With iGalvanic you would also need a second USB cable, that presumably would be more critical than the first.

That’s great information. Thank you. And btw, regarding your comment about the jitterbugs, I removed them and the sound quality was cleaner. Go figure, all this time thought they were helping clean noise, but seems instead created other issues.

I bought jitterbugs a few years ago, based on positive press. I found them to be either ineffective or detrimental to my system. I sold them to a fellow who has a collection of them. He plugs them into some non audio devices to improve performance. He swears by them.

Venom usb on sale at music direct 1/2 off and a demo one for 80

Yeah, my own experience with the Jitterbug was that it was maybe shaping noise and distortion to emphasize high frequencies, “bite”, and punch, but not actually cleaning it up. In a number of ways the sound was slightly degraded.

I tried Uptone Audio Iso Regen with lps 1.2 and found it to make my system sound much worse,or not my liking. Sound became duller,flatter and less open.Just not fun anymore. Thats compared to straight Inakustik reference usb from pc. There are many variants…power cable,dc cable,even power to feed lps 1.2…etc.

But in my friends system it works fine with Chord dac. You just have to try…

Based on forum posts etc there are some good ways to try out. Sotm usb ultra or Matrix spdif 2. Im going to try Matrix with hdmi output next.

Good luck trying any isolator,reclocker or whatever… :slight_smile:

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I’ve personally found that when it comes to DSD in particular, the USB cable has a much greater impact than an isolator. From personal experience, isolators seem to have more impact on PCM, especially the lower the resolution get.

PS> I’ve had really good success with Audioquest. The Carbon series is about the same price as an ifi usb isolator. (Depending on the length of cable you get) :+1::+1::+1:

Had an interesting experience with the Jitterbugs on the MacBook Pro. Removing both jitterbugs improved the sound quality. Then tried, for the heck of it, reinstalling just one jitterbug on the left side usb port. The right side usb port has the usb cable to the DS Dac. Resulted in the background getting quieter. Interesting phenomenon.

Ordered the iFi iPurifier3 and looking forward to the difference it makes. Will also be looking for a new usb cable. Currently have a Oyaide Neo d+ class a usb cable, a nice smiley cable that reminds me of the loudness button/control, prominent lows and highs with recessed mids. Great for low level background music while reading. Will be looking for that mythical “musical” usb cable that you can listen to for hours with no fatigue. Enjoying reading numerous reviews. Gotta love the internet. Any suggestions?

I was looking into this as well as TMR has a couple of iFi devices for sale. So curious on folk’s experiences.

My setup is a MacBook Pro using Bitperfect going into my DS DAC using a USB cable.

I have tried several brands from Audioquest, DH Lab, Mapleshade to name a few. Also tried the PS Audio LANRover which I found made it sounds worse. So far the best sound I have found come across is with my Shunyata Research Venom Cable (3M) which I think is due to how well shielded the power and data lines are. For the money it is a bargain.

I have had an increase in SQ with all 3 of the Intona USB Isolator, the iFi iGalvanic USB 3.0 and the Matrix X-SPDIF 2 between my optimized NUC and the DSD Sr. I replaced the Intona with the iFi and then replaced the iFi with the Matrix. None of them are much more than $300 and are easy to resell on the used market so there’s really no risk involved.

As indicated here and elsewhere, some have had problems using the, now discontinued, LANRover. Not I.

I replaced a REGEN with it running between a Bryston BDP-2 and my DSS via Belden Gold usb and the factory power supply. Simply marvelous and I can only sympathize with folks who have been disappointed.

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“Should” not make a difference on DS Senior. The USB card is already isolated from the audio signal and it does not use USB power. I have a Jitterbug into a high end USB hub with +3V cut using Uptone JS-2 for power. It does need power to handshake as any device should but after that is self powered internally. I hear no difference but bought it so I use it. I am using Cardas Clear high speed USB cables at a total of 16’. No issues ever. If I unplug the PSU before initiating playback it will not function. If I remove it already playing it continues to play. So it does in fact use self power. Only very low end DAC’s mostly use external USB power on the Xmos. AFAIK the entire Xmos board is not in the audio path so these things “should” not make any difference. AS others stated it may actually degrade the sound if anything. My findings of course, YMMV.

I found good isolation and filters make a difference on any DAC. Even out of a streamer. It is not the quality of your components. It is USB is a very noisy, IMO crippled format for audio. RS232 or Ethernet are much better. USB was designed to hook up printers ETC and never intended for high end audio. I would use both an Isolator and a filter though.

Is it even possible to get great sound out of a USB connection? I’ve tried USB straight into my DS, and the sound is so far below what I am used to hearing out of my Oppo transport that I find it to be completely unlistenable.

I’ve tried adding a jitterbug, and it sounded like I threw a blanked over my speakers. Yuck.
I’ve tried running via a Singxer SU-1 in both I2s and AES mode. AES starts to comes close, but the highs still sound grungy compared to using my Oppo 103 as a transport.
Adding the jitterbug to the Singxer made it worse.

When I connected a glass Toslink cable between my PC and my DAC, and the results finally seemed to be about equal to the output from my Oppo.

Unfortunately I don’t think that Toslink supports any sort of DSD playback… So my quest to get good sound out of USB from my PC is not over yet.

Has anyone ever tried a Schiit USB decrapifier? I have no idea if one of these these might be helpful in combination with the Singxer.

By spec it doesn’t but with most transmitters, receivers and TOSLink cables DSD64 works fine. It’s worth trying.

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I’m running I2S to my DS via SU-1 and it sounds great. keep in mind that the hdmi cable that runs I2S needs to be as short as possible. I am using a Wireworld HDMI cable 0.3m.

I would save the money and put it toward an eventual dedicated streamer.

I’m starting to believe computers for playback are headed toward a sunset.

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Not all PC’s are equal. I mean, you could have a non-optimized PC that has had nothing done to optimize it or you could have a dedicated music server PC with all unneeded programs/services disabled/removed (including networking), an optimizer like Fidelizer running, external LPS, external SSD drives with external LPS, minimum hardware installed, etc. Big difference.

Thanks Ted, I’ll have to give that a try after I get foobar successfully configured to play DSD.