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Alternative means for sourcing upgrade (Read 5692 times)
Fireblade
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Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
02/03/13 at 18:58:33
 
I'm very satisfied with my current basic system, Mini Torii and DM945 speakers (Mundorf caps), especially after having had the experience of fine tuning the amp through some selective tube-rolling.  Although still an ongoing procedure with an end conclusion on sight, it has made me much more familiar with the sound characteristics of the Mini.

After analyzing my system for a while, I've come to the conclusion (again), that my weakest link is the sourcing component. Could be specifically my USB/DAC, the HRT MSII+.  Although a good overall entry level DAC, it is not up to the potential of the rest of the system.

Nevertheless, reading through Decware's technical literature, I've learned there are at least two ways to upgrade my sourcing component:

1. Replace the current DAC with a more resolving model.

2a. Improve the current sourcing potential with the aid of a preamp (i.e., CSP2+)

2b. Same as above but through a gain buffer stage (i.e., ZStage).

I can get two of these alternatives for about the same level of investment, with the remaining (CSP2+) being 50% more expensive, but with additional features.

Naturally, I would like to pose the obvious question to this experienced forum audience: Which route would be best in the long run?  I'm not in a hurry to do this, but it will be in my definitive next-step upgrading plan for the not too far future.

The MIni Torii has plenty of gain, pep and dynamics, so it's not the same situation as in the Super Zen Triode case, for example. Yet, I'm convinced there's lots to gain in boosting the sourcing via 'riding the gain,' as it will provide body and weight to an already fine setup, hopefully also releasing additional sound details, tones and hues.

Of course, I have no experience 'riding the gain,' so I need to ask this forum to confirm or disprove this hypothesis, which is just based on my interpretation of related literature, without actual practical confirmation.

I find alternatives 2a & 2b above quite interesting, especially when we consider the short life span of competitive DACs these days. The HRT MSII+ was one of the best at its price level still just a year ago. Thus, maybe a more stable solution as offered in these options would be worth considering.

We have three concrete choices on the floor, which one would you recommend and why?

I apologize for the extension of this message. Thanks so much for your valid comments and assistance.
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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 19:07:21 by Fireblade »  

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Donnie
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #1 - 02/03/13 at 19:28:17
 
What is the endgame here? As I always say there is no such thing as perfection.
I'm betting that your day to day mood effects your perception of sound quality more than any piece of hardware or software.
Stop chasing that last 2% and learn how to enjoy what a wonderful system that you already have. Chill out and enjoy.
Beyond that, I'd try a different DAC.
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Lon
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #2 - 02/03/13 at 19:34:01
 
I'd recommend an alternative route: power conditioning and attention to vibration control as a next level to go to.
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ncblue
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #3 - 02/03/13 at 20:24:31
 
Always get the best source you can afford. The Mini Torii deserves better. IMHO
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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #4 - 02/03/13 at 20:31:15
 
Donnie, thanks for your input.  I agree with you, in part.

I don't think I'm aiming at that 2% short of 'perfection,' more like 15% (or more). Just room conditioning would improve at least another 10% (or more). I just cannot do much with the latter until I get a dedicated listening room.

The DAC is important, but to get tangible improvements you have to have a very resolving system and you have to invest steeply in DAC technology to really tap this potential. I'm aiming at the former, as it's a more gradually affordable and stable an investment.

I agree there must be a limit somewhere. But, for example, if I had skipped tube-rolling, I would not have improved my system so tangibly as I've had recently, and at a relatively low cost.

I just assume fine tuning gradually and progressively is a reasonable goal in this hobby, provided you don't go over your head. Finding out the next best step is essential in achieving and affording this goal.

My moods vary, of course, as do the quality of my recordings. But if there's an essentially sound system structure behind, you know these are not under your control.

I admit you are, philosophically, probably right though.
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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #5 - 02/03/13 at 20:39:38
 
Lon, thanks for your input.

I know you're a firm believer of power conditioning at the highest levels, and with reason. I just look at it from a financial perspective. There's too much of a penalty to get there.  

When I hear my system in the wee hours, once in a while, I don't notice difference from daytime listening. At least, not related to power contamination, but rather due to a less silent context.

Fine power conditioning will get there, someday, as I agree it is an important complement. I just think I can get more bang for my buck in other areas first.
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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #6 - 02/03/13 at 20:46:28
 
ncblue, thanks for your input.

I agree that is a golden rule in audio. What we are discussing is which source improving mean would be best at this point. All three proposed alternatives directly improve sourcing quality.

But, if you refer to the DAC, you may be right.
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Lon
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #7 - 02/03/13 at 20:56:41
 
And I think you'd find that you'll enjoy your current set up more and any future editions of your system, and will be able to more clearly map your next steps. I honestly think a component such as the PS Audio Dectet would be a good place to start, as well as getting your system free of vibration. Their is potentially more bang for the buck there than with a source upgrade. Just speaking from my own experience. . . . These can lower your noise floor revealing clearer tonality and more detail and dynamics.

Makes the most sense to me at your present point. Do as you would, but I think THIS is the bang for buck move.
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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 21:06:46 by Lon »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #8 - 02/03/13 at 21:25:35
 
Lon, sorry I forgot the vibration controls suggestion. You're absolutely right there, these are definitely very cost-effective, indeed.

To me it is not intuitive to think in terms of vibration controls, as I'm not used to the idea and it's probably less a glamorous approach than others on offer. But given the definitive testimonials reported, I'll have to agree this is a next step ingredient.

The intangible nature of power conditioning makes it hard to 'buy' (pun intended!) as a concept, especially at those steep prices. Same with expensive and sophisticated power cords and speaker cables.

All is important in audio, and maybe we just disagree on selection sequence rather than absolutes. I'm convinced power treatments will help, but still resist the idea of investing in it before other, more pressing needs are there.

I know you assume these are all irrelevant if AC power is not taken care of, but this is a moot point in all of audio community.

Re the PS Dectet, I'm afraid I consider it essentially a good protection against spikes, surges and the like, more than the concept that would really work, as is the regeneration plant.  More affordable, absolutely, but I don't believe it to be superior to my Tripp isolation transformer in that role.
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Lon
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #9 - 02/03/13 at 21:37:21
 
David, I resisted the idea of power conditioning and power cords etc. for a long time. But when I heard it for my myself in another's system, and then in mine, I couldn't deny my own experience. Now maybe it's easier for me to believe because all my life I've found things that not everyone agreed about to be true. Who knows, I'm not a big fan of "consensus thinking" because I just don't think all the time as others do.

Contrary to what you "believe," I use the PS Audio Duets which were a predecessor to the Dectet and I used the Tripplite isolation transformers both with and without the transformers the Duets did more to clean the sound and not introduce noise. Tonality and detail were better than with the transformers The Dectet is reported to be even better sonically, an improved product. I'm just reporting what I have heard myself, over lengthy periods, in my own home; these provide more than just protection. I still use Duets in my second system and for its purposes feel that no further conditioning is necessary.

A "moot point?" I don't agree, and there's as much dissension in the audio community about isolation control than there is power matters.

When you reach the level of transparency you are likely at now it makes sense to nail down power and vibration concerns which will allow you to better enjoy what you have, and will allow you to get the best out of future improvements in gear.

Anyway, I invite anyone else to weigh in here, but in your shoes that's where I went and it was a successful venture.
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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 21:38:44 by Lon »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #10 - 02/03/13 at 21:42:21
 
opnly_bafld,

I was brought to the attention of this paper by Steve in one of the forum's threads:

http://www.decware.com/paper50.htm


From which this is a relevant excerpt to answer your question:

HOW CAN A PREAMP MAKE THINGS BETTER?

A good preamp becomes an extension of the source enhancing it's dynamics and overall voltage swing as well as enhancing it's output impedance to more effortlessly drive difficult power amps.  

A good preamp can extract detail and timbre that is otherwise hidden by these conditions.  A good preamp can add body and weight and size to a stereo image and improve the depth and palpability of the sound stage. A good preamp can make tiny speakers and or tiny amplifiers sound and perform as though they were bigger then they really are.

A good preamp can organize the presence in a recording to create several more layers to the music.  It can pull things apart and make recordings sound less like recordings and more like real music.


The preamp goes a step further than, say, the ZStage in 'riding the gain,' some of which additional traits are quite appealing.

Although there's some definitive marketing hype involved, the statements raised in that paper become reality when the preamp's design is very good.  I believe the CSP2+ is that good, and could benefit not only power amps but integrated amps like the Mini Torii.

You may be right, though, this may not be too cost-effective an alternative given the preamp duplication, especially assuming the preamp quality in the Mini Torii is equivalent (?), but the difference in price with the ZStage is not that big considering all the other CSP2+ features, and 'riding the gain' is even more accurate with this preamp.
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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 22:38:09 by Fireblade »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #11 - 02/03/13 at 22:26:24
 
Lon, I understand and I take your experience seriously. I just read the PS Audio's Dectet description and the features relate basically to 'protection,' not noise reduction or suppression.

My experience with the Tripp Lite Isolation Transformer has been excellent. No noises, no vibrations or humming coming from it, at least perceptible. I basically use it only as circuit isolation and surge protection, not for conditioning, and it works just fine.

I bet a small minority of so called audiophiles (with a normal distribution spanning very diverse financial capabilities), are normally investing this kind of money in power regeneration plants, which is the only concept I really buy from the power conditioning market, but can't afford it.

Even Steve suggests an isolation transformer as common sense, without ruling out power regeneration devices, if one can afford them.

Regarding the Duetts/Dectet, I take your suggestion at heart, Lon, believe me, I just don't agree. Until I try one of those at home, I'll not be convinced. I wish I could try things and send them back, but for me that's not an option, unfortunately.

Anyways, this has been a repetitive, long discussion already and I thank you for your very good intentions. You may receive my recognition and excuses some time in the future if I'm proven wrong.   Smiley
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« Last Edit: 02/03/13 at 22:28:14 by Fireblade »  

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Lon
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #12 - 02/03/13 at 22:49:03
 
Okay. My experience is that the isolation transformers were insufficient and were far eclipsed by the PS Audio productts, and I used the very ones that Steve recommended. They made an improvement but not as deep as the Duets by a wide margin.

Anyway, best of luck, I personally feel that addressing the power is your best next step to maximize your expenditure.
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #13 - 02/03/13 at 22:53:46
 
FB, you`re planning the big one.
One day you`ll have all 3, just which order to go about it.
I`m not sure it matters as you will improve the music on
each step. Maybe top the CSP2+ & new source off with
a power conditioner to go ahhhh now I see.
You could leave vibration control after these as fine tuning.

Riding the gain.
I understand the concept; open the p/amp up and use the
pre to control volume.
I come at it a different way. I see the power amp as a bass
reservoir....any deep powerful bass ( perhaps quiet but shifting
air in the feel-more-than-hear range) can be handled better or
with more ease by having power in reserve.
It`s probably 6 of 1 and half a dozen of the other.

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Fireblade
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Re: Alternative means for sourcing upgrade
Reply #14 - 02/04/13 at 00:12:17
 
Lon, got it. You may be right. Thanks for the good wish.

marky, thanks for the input.

I'm just trying to address what the best next steps should be in a gradual improvement pathway.

You may be right an eclectic approach would still work, in the end. After all, none of these measures would ever be counterproductive, I suppose. Except, is either the ZStage or the CSP2+, not both.

I think your take on riding the gain is right on, basically the same principle, except it is supposed to not only improve the bass power but also thicken the sound's body and texture, along with added dynamics and increased headroom for better frequency distribution.

The improved DAC is a must, I think. Whether this is the next best move or not depends on the capability of the current system to reflect that higher resolution potential. In my case, I think my system is already there, but IMO any new DAC's contribution would be much more evident and impacting within the context of 'riding the gain,' with all its implications.

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« Last Edit: 02/04/13 at 00:15:25 by Fireblade »  

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