Schiit Wyrd USB Power Isolator

Device Type: USB Power Isolator
Input: USB Type-B
Output: USB Type-A
Dimensions: 5 x 3.5 x 1.25”
Weight: 1 lb
Availability: OnLine Direct
Price: $99.00
Website: schiit.com

Wyrd
Let's get this Schiit straight from the horse's mouth:

What does this thing really do?
It isolates your USB DAC from the noisy USB power coming from your computer, and provides a stable, precise oscillator to repeat the USB 2.0 packets.

Why would I want this?
Because some computers don’t play well with USB DACs, and make weird noises or have glitches. Or you believe this makes your system sound better.

Sonic benefits? That’s a lot of hoo-ha!
You’re right. There’s no reason this should make any system sound better. Although we can measure the difference in USB power supply noise, it really shouldn’t matter. Despite this, some listeners have said that there are sonic benefits from using Wyrd. Us, we remain Swiss on the matter—we don’t do the hard sell by promising sonic nirvana.

Seeing as it's the job of an audio reviewer to listen and report, at least that's my job, I have to be, well, less Swiss (more American?) when it comes to writing about the stuff I listen to.

image credit: Schiit

Here's more from Schiit on the workings of the Wyrd:

Wyrd does two things: it replaces the noisy USB power from your computer with a low-noise linear power supply (no switchers here!) with precision regulators rated at 2.5uV RMS noise. (Or, as Mike Moffat says, “on the 8th day, God called National Semiconductor and told them how to make the best regulator in the world, the LM723."). This is literally 100,000x better than some of the USB ports we’ve measured, which have up to 500mV of high-frequency noise. It also uses a tightly spec’d crystal oscillator on its own filtered power supply for the USB repeater chip, for best possible stability.
If 'bits are bits", why bother? I'll let you talk about that in the comments. I'm going to remain cheddar on this matter.

The Wyrd is a small, simple device about the size of an unusually short yet stout book. Its backside is where you'll find the USB in and out as well as the power inlet for the included 6VAC Wall-Wart power supply and on/off toggle switch. Up front are two white LEDs; the left light glowing indicates that you flipped the power toggle switch to the "on" position (and you remembered to plug the Wyrd in), while the right light lit means you have successfully connected the Wyrd to your DAC. Schiit includes four tiny little rubber feet making the Wyrd stand about 1/4" taller and more sticky when it comes in contact with whatever you put it on.

The Wyrd sits in between your source, a MacBook Pro and iMac in my case, and your DAC so you'll need two USB cables to connect it up to your system. I used the Wyrd in beween the MacBook and two DACs, the review Lampizator Lite-7 and the Auralic Vega, and between the iMac and the review Audeze Deckard on my desktop. I'd recommend reading Steve Plaskin's excellent A Collection of USB Audio Enhancement Products, which includes a review of the Wyrd and two other USB add-on devices.

That Schiit's Just Wrong!
The first thing I did when the Wyrd first showed up was to insert it into my desktop system, the review Audeze Deckard DAC/Headphone amp/ADAM A3X, and continued to just listen, to music, for a couple weeks. Then I took it out. Hmm. The same music, initially Funkadelic's Maggot Brain (For I knew I had to rise above it all / Or drown in my own shit), sounded different. There was less body, less weight, and more edginess without the Wyrd in the loop. I did not have to employ any magic powers or mad skills to hear the difference, yo. There was simply a difference to be heard, like when you speak to a friend on the phone and ask, "Do you have a cold?"

I did some more A/B'ing, Schiit in, Schiit out, and the sonic differences remained evident. They did not disappear over time, although I did not, as some suggest, conduct 100s of rapid A/B comparisons since this is no longer allowed according to the treaties and protocols of the Geneva Convention. I also slapped the Audeze LCD-X 'phones on and I again heard increased clarity and a more natural, relaxed presentation with the Wyrd in the loop. Nice.

Next up was to see how the little Wyrd fared in my main system. Here, I went about listening in the opposite direction; I started my listening sessions with no Schiit, then added the Schiit in between my MacBook and the Lampizator Lite-7 DAC. Here, in-room, in addition to the improvements I noted on my desktop I also heard an improvement in the overall sound picture. Things sounded at once more relaxed and more clearly defined. This held whether I was listening to Sun Ra's "Space Is The Place" or Ali Akbar Khan's Indian Architexture or, well, anything, more or less.

Getting Wyrd with the Auralic Vega, my reference DAC, I inserted the Wyrd and went about my business. Listening to 2 Foot Yard's Borrowed Arms, nice music nice recording, everything sounded great. Nice, natural, big and airy. When I removed the Wyrd, there was subtle shift in the sound of 2 Foot Yard most noticeably in terms of a flatness to the sound picture that crept into my system sans Wyrd. Coupled with this flatness was also a sense of a more brittle and shrill sound, albeit again on the subtle side. Does my system sound bad without the Wyrd? Nope, not at all. Does my system sound better with the Wyrd? Yup, sure does.

While I'll be doing a more complete 'round-up' of the three USB devices I've reviewed over the past few weeks including the AudioQuest Jitterbug (see review) and the UpTone Audio USB REGEN (see review), to my ears the Schiit Wyrd offers a similar yet more subtle improvement as compared to the REGEN, while the JitterBug appears complimentary to both. I feel very comfortable saying the Wyrd offered an improvement with each of the three DACs I used it with. Does that mean you will too? Nope.

If you know, for a fact, that bits are bits and this Schiit doesn't do anything to improve your sound, I can pretty much guarantee that your bias will get in the way between you and hearing a difference, even when there is one to be heard. Of course the opposite is equally true—if you know you're going to hear a difference, you more than likely will hear one. The only thing easier than hearing a difference, is not hearing a difference.

Add Schiit, To Taste
Where does that leave us? The most effective way to know anything relevant when it comes to what you prefer listening to in your own hi-fi is to listen for yourself. Ideally, over time. I find the in/out method particularly telling, enjoyable even, especially when we take our time. In my listening time with the Schiit Wyrd in and out, it clearly, if subtly, offered a more musically engaging experience.


Associated Equipment

Also in-use during the Schiit Wyrd review: UpTone Audio USB REGEN, AudioQuest JitterBug

COMMENTS
BradleyP's picture

When I see digital devices selling for $50, $99, and $175 improving the sound of multi kilobuck DACs, it makes me wonder why the DAC makers themselves don't build this stuff into their own DACs to make them more competitive. What gives??

Michael Lavorgna's picture
My slightly longer answer is a guess. If we go back to when Gordon Rankin first introduced asynchronous USB in a consumer DAC, we could very well have asked a similar question - why didn't every USB DAC manufacturer use async USB since it is clear improvement?

The answer to this question was - you had to recognize a problem existed and know how to address it.

From a more practical perspective, AudioQuest determined the best way to address these USB issues was at the source, at the computer, so that's where you plug the JitterBug in. The Wyrd sits in between the source and the DAC, while the REGEN is meant to be as close to the DAC as possible.

For the JitterBug, there's clearly no way to do what it does in the DAC. To a lessor extent we can say the same thing for the Wyrd and REGEN. We also have to recognize that different USB DAC designers address jitter and noise in different ways and some are more successful than others (see John Atkinson's DAC measurements in Stereophile).

We can also look at the totaldac USB cable/filter where we have a DAC designer offering a similar device that sits in-line with the USB cable. I have to assume that the designer felt it best to implement this solution in the USB cable as opposed to inside his DACs.

All that said, I completely sympathize with what I interpret as a bit of frustration. I'm going to talk about this a bit in my next article which will also offer some comparisons, combinations, and recommendations.

Wavelength's picture

Michael, Bradly;

When I started the USB thing 12 years ago I thought ok none of the problems that SPDIF had plagued us, this is perfect. The problem is nothing is perfect. The use of any product should be tried. Not all USB ports are created equal. Not all computers are created equal. For that matter not even the OS or the applications.

I bought a Tektronix USB Compliance analyzer a little over a year ago. I really wish it had better reporting capabilities. But what it really told me is that not much really complies with the USB specification.

Really there is no USB police out there verifying what is correct in the world.

As a DAC designer, therefore there is really no way to anticipate what would work best. We can only determine and design against constants that we have experienced.

My accountant asks why I need 18 computers. Well it gives me more information to better determine and test how well stuff works.

Thanks,
Gordon

DH's picture

First, the Wyrd, the Jitterbug, and the Regen don't do exactly the same thing. But ignoring that, there are 3 answers I can think of:

1) Dac makers buy a USB package like XMOS and just do the standard thing everyone else using XMOS does. They think they've done what there is to do;

2) Let's say the cost for making a $175 retail product like the USB Regen is something like $80 for parts, assembly etc - not including shipping. If you want to include that in your DAC, it raises the retail price of the DAC by not $80, but $300-$550 dollars after middlemen and financing/marketing come into play. Or more if you have to do a redesign to include the features of these devices in your DAC. For a lot of DACs that puts them up into a price category that they don't want to compete in;

3) I think some of the issues the designers of these devices (especially the Regen) are dealing with here are not yet even widely recognized by most companies as an existing problem. If you don't know these problems even exist, then why would you try to solve them in your DAC? See the technical stuff on the Uptone Audio site explaining what the Regen does, for instance.

BTW, I own a Wyrd and a Regen. I think the Wyrd does exactly what Michael described as removing "edginess". It's not a huge difference, but it is noticeable.

Doak's picture

Excellent comment/info. Thanks.

DH's picture

I find them annoyingly bright. I had to cover them with tape to use the device. I don't understand why manufacturers make such bright LEDs on their products. Schiit aren't the only offenders.

Peter_T's picture

Recently I could borrow the Wyrd from my Hifi dealer for a few days to test in my system (see Peter_T profile at CA-forum). With a single PC setup (NUC-I3 with W8.1 and Jriver MC20) I used the Wyrd between the PC and my DAC (Minimax+, no 5V needed) using a Chord Silverplus USB from PC to Wyrd (it does need the PC 5V, without it my DAC could not be recognized) and a 8 cm short 3-wire USB cable from www.elijahaudio.com from Wyrd to DAC. And yes : I noticed similar SQ improvements as noted in your review.

However, with my full 2 PC setup (both W2012, AO script, Jplaystreamer) the Wyrd did not improve the SQ. Apparently the USB signal from the audioPC was already clean enough? I could not use my JCAT-USB card in both tests, because the JCAT card was setup without 5V. I can add that the SQ of my full dual PC setup sounds a lot better than the single PC setup with the Wyrd present. So IMO the effect of the Wyrd is system dependent.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
While the Wyrd offered improvements with the three DACs I used it with, I can certainly see how the level of improvement will vary from system to system.
bobd's picture

I couldn't resist "the world’s most expensive and limited USB hub". But being an audio specific HUB it solved the problem of connecting my ipad (via camera connection kit) to my DAC. And it does that job very well.

tbrads's picture

All due respect to Mr. Moffatt, I don;t see the Regen as anything near a copy of your design. Regen's intent is not necessarily cleaner 5V at all (a byproduct maybe, something a MUCH earlier iFi iUSB addressed first) but instead a reclocking of the typically poorly spec'd PHYs of the myriad of USB receivers. I could be wrong about the main benefit of the Wyred but they seem quite different, and not worthy of Mr Moffatt's ownership or IP issues.

Please correct me if I'm wrong; I often am when it comes to trying to draw Venn diagrams across the focus of multiple, seemingly similar, products; and the voting public has likely worse luck here.
Ted_B

DH's picture

Well Michael, I guess you committed the ultimate sin by mentioning a similar product in a review of the Wyrd. :).

I bought a Wyrd and then a Regen. IME, both made an improvement in SQ, but the Regen made a much larger one. Today I'm using a Wyrd feeding the Regen, which is better than either on it's own.
My understanding is that the Wyrd and the Regen don't do exactly the same thing. I'll let the manufacturers argue that one out. As far as the Regen being a copy of the Wyrd - it isn't. Alex at Uptone told us about the development of the Regen quite a while ago; Moffat can rightfully claim his concept got to market first, if it really matters to him....

judmarc's picture

Ted, I think Mike did mention "crystal clock driven" re the Wyrd.

I have no way of knowing for sure, but my guess, knowing Mike's history and also having a great deal of familiarity with UpTone's principal, is that similarities are more likely the result of convergent thinking about a problem than copying. (I also note that the "nearly part by part copy" still somehow leaves room for the Wyrd's parts to be superior in a number of ways in Mike's estimation. :) )

I own Regens, and here's by far the primary reason for that: It doesn't require a second USB cable between itself and the DAC. I've experienced a lot of variability in the sound of USB cables in my system. Putting something in the system with the purpose of cleaning up USB, only to put a USB cable after it, seemed to me to open the door to the very variability I was trying to get rid of (not to mention the additional expense - I use a $135 USB cable, however pudding-headed that makes me). The Regen's small size did prevent it having an onboard linear power supply, but that allowed it to be attached to the DAC with a short solid adapter. To my ears, in my system, the adapter worked better than a second USB cable.

UpTone Audio's picture

[Gentlemen: I composed the below in a word processor in-between other tasks this morning. Now going to post it I see that others have chimed in with regards to Schiit’s comments concerning the REGEN. While it is worth setting the record straight, “crapping up” the Wyrd’s review with further comments about this would be distasteful. So although I appreciate the support from REGEN fans, I am going to post the below and ask that this be the last word on the matter.
Thanks.]

Mike Moffat and Jason Stoddard are audio pioneers and engineers whom I have long respected, and I admire the straight-shooting, value-oriented company they have built. (As a serial audio entrepreneur myself, I laughed and cried through Jason’s entire blog/book, “Schitt Happened…”, because I so identified with many of their travails.) I fact, I have been considering picking up the intriguing Schiit Yggdrasil for my own system.

Thus I was somewhat saddened to see that Mr. Moffat used his Manufacturer’s Comment to accuse us of blatantly copying the Wyrd in our design of the UpTone USB REGEN. Such a charge would be of serious concern if true, but both public and private records show this is not the case at all.

My engineering partner, John Swenson, had been studying and writing about (see the series of Q&A interviews right here on AudioStream dated August 2013) issues of USB signal integrity for some time, and the first prototypes of our REGEN pre-date Schiit’s March 2014 announcement of Wyrd (and what appears to be June 2014 first shipments) by several months. Believe me, I felt a big lump in my stomach when I read about the hub-chip-Wyrd as we were readying first production of the REGEN.

So while it is true that both the REGEN and Wyrd use the same model of USB2.0 hub chip, that’s an easy coincidence because of our common desire to pick an older device with less “crap” going on it, and for that there just are not very many. I think the similarities between our product designs and their goals pretty much end there. The REGEN focuses on optimized signal integrity and ideal impedance match—best when positioned right at the DAC’s input jack—while the Wyrd appears to concentrate most of its circuitry on providing very clean 5VBUS for DACs that need it. Their own marketing seems to indicate that inclusion of the hub chip is to help in instances where computer/DAC combos “make weird noises or have glitches.”

Again, with much respect to Mike Moffat and his team, I can promise that UpTone Audio products never have and never will copy other’s work (life is too short and I’m too old for unoriginality). The REGEN/Wyrd overlap is simply a case of great minds thinking alike.

Sincerely,
Alex Crespi
UpTone Audio LLC

Dick James's picture

I've owned a Wyrd for about a year and I use it with a Schiit Loki DSD DAC that I've had for over a couple of years. I noticed better sound definition right away and the Loki no longer has occasional USB syncing problems. I am using the same USB 2.0 cable I've always used in case anyone was thinking I had a bad cable. I think my HP ENVY Phoenix 810-135qe PC was the problem, and its internal DAC is also noisy with the noise level changing as the display information changes. I haven't tried my DragonFly with Wyrd yet.

Bill Leebens's picture

Lads, lads, lads....
There are plenty of folk aware of these issues and trying to address them, in different ways. Sometimes great minds DO think alike.

Mike, of all people, knows that; he was called a copycat back in the day simply because he brought out a tube preamp at the time when the Audio Research SP-3 reigned supreme (and almost alone).

Yes, his Theta pre had different topology and introduced the 6DJ8 to the American high end--but it was a tube pre.

In recent years I've worked with three companies who have done (and are doing) pioneering work in digital audio; sometimes their fields of interest have overlapped, and sometimes there have been parallel developments. All thise developments occurred independently of one another--and no, I'm not engaged in industrial espionage.

So--come on. We all want to bring newbies into good sound, and acting like a bunch of cranky old farts doesn't help ANY of us.

Peace>out, y'all. ;->

Magnum Innominnandum's picture

USB Hubs and active USB Cables are much longer in existence that the product discussed here.

And People have been using very inexpensive versions of these products to improve the Sound Quality of their USB systems long before Wyred and ReGen.

The first USB 2.0 Hub I bought (not used for audio, this was a decade or so ago) was branded Belkin, so if it matters who made it first, I think Belkin have a good claim for priority over Mike. He also does not have priority on making USB Sound enhancement boxes, as far as I can tell, again others where there first.

For several years now I have used an active USB Cable from Belkin in my system which offers better sound quality than any standard cable. I bought it to place my Laptop next to the listening position which needed a long cable and was shocked at the sound quality improvement. It has recently be switched out for a Corning optical USB3 cable, which seems to have improved things further.

Maybe Michael Lavorgna and Steve Plaskin should investigate some of the low cost options from the commodity market to compare to expensive "HiFi" versions. I would hope that the HiFi versions improve over commodity grade hardware.

Reed's picture

At the bottom of the page they mention which DACs are effected and which aren't. They state if the DAC is designed to power the USB chip directly vs. the computer powering it, the improvements will not be significant. I wonder if this holds true here as well in this case.

http://www.aqvox.de/usb-power_en.html

G.R.Noakes's picture

Not to detract from this most fascinating conversation, but could somebody PLEASE correct the spelling of "Manufacurer's Comment"? It makes me crazy.

TNjazz's picture

Hi Michael - curious as to whether these devices (Wyrd, Regen, Jitterbug) lessen or negate the impact of source enhancements such as front end power conditioners (e.g., Shunyata) and/or computer mods/server utilizing linear power supply vs. switch-mode power supply. Realize adding even more variables into the mix but would be great if you could investigate as you attempt to understand the combined effect of all these new doodads!

mlgrado's picture

this is a bunch of it, and they should know it. Sounds to me they are trying to play both sides to maximize sales. Keep the "objectivists" happy with a statement that is pure bunk, and they know it, all the while marketing to the 'subjectivists' that hey, yeah! This really may make an audible difference.

Oh please, Schiit. It there is ANYTHING that makes a difference with USB audio, it is power signal noise. Noise is pervasive, and even the best audio clock is going to be degraded by it, leading to timing errors in the bitstream. I have no doubt from my own listening experiences that the ear is very sensitive to timing. Jitter matters. Ground plane noise matters. Clean USB power matters.

mlgrado's picture

Sorry, I forgot to reference the statement from Schiit in question...

"You’re right. There’s no reason this should make any system sound better. Although we can measure the difference in USB power supply noise, it really shouldn’t matter."

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