The UpTone Audio USB REGEN and the AudioQuest JitterBug

UpTone Audio USB REGEN
Device Type: USB Signal Regenerator
Input: USB Type-B
Output: USB Type-A
Dimensions: 57 x 46 x 18 mm
Weight: 1.8 ounces (52 grams)
Availability: Direct Online
Price: $175.00
Website: uptoneaudio.com

AudioQuest JitterBug
Device Type: USB Data & Power Noise Filter
Input: USB 2.0 Type-A female
Output: USB Type-A male
Dimensions (approximate): 2" L x 3/4" W x 1/2" D
Weight: Less than 1 Ounce
Availability: Online and through Authorized Dealers
Price: $49.00
Website: www.audioquest.com

Michael Lavorgna recently did an excellent job reviewing the UpTone Audio USB REGEN and the AudioQuest JitterBug as well as comparing the sonic effects of these devices with each other (see Review). But due to the significant reader interest in these new products, our esteemed editor thought it would be a great idea to get a second take on these products. Given that Michael did all the heavy lifting describing the design of these devices, I was happy to jump right in describing my sonic impressions of these little USB add-ons that are designed to improve the sound of USB audio.

My Setup
I decided to use my Asus laptop running Windows 10 Home 64 bit since Michael used a MacBook Pro in his evaluations. The Asus G501 JW possesses an Intel Core i7 4720HQ 2.6 GHz processor with 16 GB RAM and a very fast PCE Express X4 SSD. This laptop has 3 USB 3.0 ports as well as a Thunderbolt port. The Asus laptop was plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by this computer from contaminating my AC line.

The Ausus was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block as was the computer. Two 8 TB GRAID Thunderbolt drives were connected; one for PCM and the other for DSD files. The GRAID Thunderbolt drives were powered by HDPlex 100w linear power supplies.

USB cables employed for this evaluation were the AudioQuest Diamond and the Synergistic Research Galileo USB cables. Software included the use of Roon 1.1 and Fidelizer Pro 6.9.

I decided to use the MSB Technology Analog DAC with Analog Power Base with the new Premium Quad USB2 Module for these evaluations. The Premium Quad Module represents MSB Technology’s most advanced implementation of USB for their DAC with superior isolation compared to their previous efforts. The Analog DAC was plugged into a Shunyata Research Triton v2 / Typhon using Shunyata’s Sigma Digital AC cable.

The UpTone Audio USB REGEN
John Swenson’s design of the USB REGEN uses a USB hub chip with an ultra-low –noise regulator and low-jitter clock regenerating a completely new USB data signal from your computer or streamer. PHY chips and processors at the input of every USB DAC are sensitive to packet noise modulation and ground plane noise caused by poor signal integrity and impedance mismatching. The USB REGEN also supplies clean 5VBUS in its output by disconnecting the computer’s noisy 5 volt bus.

The USB REGEN was designed to be plugged directly into your DAC with a supplied solid male/male USB A/B adapter. A 6-inch male/male USB cable is also provided if the superior sounding solid adapter cannot be used. The SMPS external power supply was powered from the Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center.

It didn’t take me long to identify the positive effect the USB REGEN had on the sound I was experiencing from my system. The USB REGEN seemed to tighten the low bass and mid bass resulting in less over-all warmth to the sound. This enhancement made the mid-range clearer and less colored sounding. Speaking of clarity, the USB REGEN does a great job allowing musical and vocal details to emerge from a background that is characterized by a deep black presence. A slight “digital” edge is removed from the music that allows the sound to be more relaxed and natural in its presentation. Transients sound quicker and more refined with the USB REGEN.

The soundstage reproduction of the Analog DAC improved considerably in terms of width and ultimate depth. I was able to hear deeper into the soundstage with a greater sense of air around the instruments when listening to well-made orchestral recordings.

Dynamic contrasts were also improved with the USB REGEN including both micro and macro dynamic changes. Recordings heard through the USB REGEN seemed to be more alive sounding.

Substituting a Linear Power Supply for the USB REGEN
The power supply provided with the USB REGEN is really quite good with no obvious gross coloration that interfere with the REGEN’s general sound. I did have on hand an HDPlex 100w linear power supply that I was successfully able to use with the USB REGEN. This highly versatile linear power supply with its 4 different voltage outputs is a reviewer’s dream in terms of being able to power many different components. While the power available from the HDPlex is far greater than that needed by the USB REGEN, I was able to use this power supply with no issues. I plugged the HDPlex into the Shunyata Triton v2 / Typhon with a Shunyata Alpha HC power cable.

Listening with the HDPlex resulted in an even larger perceived soundstage with more dimensionality to the overall sound. A slight brightness heard with the standard power supply was reduced; brightness I was not aware of until I used the HDPlex. The general sound from the Analog DAC sounded more liquid and engaging with the HDPlex powering the USB REGEN.

I have been enjoying Channel Classics new release of the Mahler Symphony No. 9 performed by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra. This wonderful sounding DSD64 recording was significantly enhanced using the USB REGEN. The inner detail and ultimate resolution of this recording benefited with the use of the USB REGEN. A black-velvet background resulted with sound that was delicate and highly nuanced. There was a more lifelike sense of instrumental body and weight with the USB REGEN.

JD Souther’s new album Tenderness (24/44.1) sounded more focused and defined with the USB REGEN. The sound had more harmonic richness and was less thin sounding when listening to this title with the USB REGEN. An ever-so slight glare was reduced resulting in a more relaxed natural sound to JD’s voice.

The AudioQuest JitterBug USB Data and Power Noise Filter
AudioQuest claims that this small device, the size and shape of a USB flash drive, reduces noise and ringing, measurably reduces jitter and packet errors, and improves contrast, warmth and resolution from music delivered by a computer or streamer. Well known USB audio expert, Gordon Rankin, was instrumental in the design of the JitterBug serving as the lead designer. The Jitterbug is connected to your USB cable as a series connection. AudioQuest also states that a second Jitterbug can be inserted into an unused USB port on your computer for additional filtering. AudioQuest does not suggest using more than 2 of these devices on a computer or other device.

As with the USB REGEN, the Jitterbug’s effect on the sound of my DAC was very noticeable. There was a definite improvement in background silence and a reduction of digital hardness heard with my music. The soundstage increased in size and depth with superior focus and definition to musical instruments and vocals. There was more bloom and more three-dimensional quality to the sound using a single JitterBug.

The addition of a second JitterBug to an unused USB port also made an improvement that was easy to discern. The soundstage increased in size with the 2nd JitterBug and the background silence even seemed deeper and darker. For those of you using a Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block, connecting the 2nd JitterBug in front of the ground cable seemed to magnify the effect of the Synergistic Ground Block. I was quite surprised at just how good this combination sounded.

The 24/96 recording of American Mavericks performed by Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony experienced a not-so-subtle improvement with the use of 2 JitterBugs. I was very impressed with the richly layered soundstage heard and the improvement in microdynamic nuances and rhythmic drive to the music using the JitterBugs. There was an enhanced sense of bloom around the instruments in this orchestral recording when these devices were inserted into my system.

How About Doubling Your Pleasure?
I really enjoyed simultaneously using the USB REGEN with 2 AudioQuest JitterBugs. As good as the USB REGEN was at improving the perceived soundstage, adding 2 JitterBugs seemed to enlarge it further. But it was the dropping of the noise floor that really got my attention when adding the JitterBugs to the USB REGEN. I found a definite synergistic effect using the USB REGEN with the JitterBugs.

Comparisons between the USB REGEN and JitterBug
I found the over-all effect of the USB Regen to be greater than that heard with a single JitterBug. Using 2 JitterBugs brought the scale of the sonic change closer to the USB REGEN, but with the REGEN still having the greatest effect. Adding a good linear power supply to the USB Regen further increased the ante for this device. But I have to admit that a single JitterBug is a terrific value considering its low cost and the sonic improvements it makes to one’s system. Using both the USB REGEN and 2 JitterBugs resulted in an improvement to the sound of my Analog DAC that would be very hard for me to remove once having experienced this combination.

I would like to emphasize that neither the USB REGEN or the JitterBug will transform a mediocre sounding DAC into a spectacular sounding DAC. These devices improve the sound, but are not as significant as purchasing new speakers or amplification. Certainly the overall improvement one perceives using these products will differ with different systems and setups. But, I loved what the USB REGEN and the JitterBug did for my system. They are both keepers for this computer audiophile.

COMMENTS
fmak's picture

your comments about the Jitterbug.

I too will have a Regen and 2 Jitterbugs next month and look forward to trying them singly and together

Matias's picture

Just waiting for a more reasonably priced power supply to upgrade the SMPS from Regen. Spending multiple hundreds in a linear PS for a $175 device does not make much sense to me.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I agree with you Matias. The HDPlex was what I had on hand, but I'm sure that there are less expensive alternatives available.

DH's picture

You are correct. But the Power Supply Steve used can power more than one component at a time, so the relative cost of the Regen and the PS is not so large when you look at it that way. It has independent 19V/12V/9V/5V outputs. You could use it for instance, to power a PC server and the Regen and another small device at he same time.

Matias's picture

If we use the linear PS to power more devices it makes a lot more sense. Thanks for the clarification.

fmak's picture

You'll need to DIY, but you'll get very good regulators for about $65. You can run these from a stable dc source.

2_channel_ears's picture

Nice pleasant article, good job Steven.

Since you guys reviewed these with general class computers I'm wondering how they'd do with a dedicated audio machine à la Auralic Aries or similar with femto clocks and all? Or is the target market similar to your configuration? Thoughts?

Steven Plaskin's picture
Yes, it would be nice if I had an Aries on long term loan :)
bigrasshopper's picture

couldn't quite put the sound back together again.
I hadn't noticed, if you had described the benefits of MSB's USB module upgrade alone. Perhaps the MSB engeening company could benefit from hiring out for some fresh ideas when they design their next USB module upgrade.
There is an implicit suggestion here that there are certain advantages to being a lone gun out on range mopping up the the stray USB outlaws even after the sheriff and his posse had anounced they had done their job.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I have reviewed the MSB Premium Quad USB2 Module for AudioStream. It is superb sounding.

But I get what you are saying.

bigrasshopper's picture

The Regen is certainly targeted for the computer audiophile, perhaps the geek tweek of the year, but true dac companies who's entry level starts at or around $12,000 may figure that those people are more the - set it and forget it, dedicated server types. I would include myself as aspiring arrive there, to rid my attention and my digital music of iOS updates and the computers attendant audiophile minutiae. I'll second that second and suggest that it would be nice if someone can tell us if the Regen is redundant in that class of system. Im not sure how the jitterbug would work beyond the pc. I'm thinking Aurender, or Antipodes or whatever. If they aren't then the engeening becomes even more significant.

DH's picture

Steven-
I own a Regen, but was surprised when you found it made an improvement when using that very advanced MSB USB input with it's own quality PS.

I'd be interested if you could get some kind of response (at least a hypothetical one) from MSB about what might be "missing" from their USB implementation. If I were them, I'd find these findings a bit of a challenge to their design.

hltf's picture

Steve:

I concluded much the same as you and Jim about the USB Regen and Jitterbug combo myself. Even so, thanks for a very informative review. What I like about computer audio is the ability to add or substitute bits and parts some times of relatively low cost in a modular way to improve your results.

FYI when I placed one of the SR ECTs on the flat top facing section of the USB Regen I got a quite good increase in performance. BTW is that an ECT or another SR device you have placed on your USB cable in the photo?

I am thinking about power supplies next - Regen JS-2 etc - and also server options. The Raspberry Pi2 sounds very interesting. Any plans to try something with that yourself?

Thanks

Steven Plaskin's picture

The USB cable in the photo is the Synergistic Research Galileo LE cable. It comes with its own ECT. I have also placed an ECT on the REGEN and have noticed a nice improvement.

I believe UpTone Audio will be coming out with an upgraded power supply for the REGEN for those willing to spend the extra bucks.

audiofool's picture

I find the combination of Jitterbug at digital source and Regen feeding DAC to be essential, a huge difference for dynamics, pitch solidity and use the HDPlex to feed the REGEN as well as 5V, 12V devices simultaneously. And short run cables matter.

Casimir's picture

After Michael's post I've bought two Jitterbugs,... but my experience is opposite to what Steven and Michael say. I use Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier with Prime Power Supply, AudioQuest Diamond (PHA/PPS)and Coffee (PPS/Computer) USB Cables and Hifiman HE-560, DELL Precision 4600M Workstation over the USB 2.0 ports.
In my system with the Jitterbugs the soundstage is smaller, the sound is smoother in the highs but also thinner...
Sorry... I was really upset.
I've tried them with the Meridian Explorer², too.
The AQVOX Linear Power Supply + AudioQuest Coffee USB cable + Explorer² with the Momentum Headphones sounds for me much better as Jitterbugs + AudioQuest Coffee USB cable + Explorer². The last combination lacks "to be there" effect noticeable...

Casimir's picture

And I use roon 1.1, too.

Venere 2's picture

Do you have another type of filtering device in your system?

Casimir's picture

Yes,
ist is strange...
The Meridian Power Supply has a filtering system.

Venere 2's picture

There is a new FAQ for the Jitterbug. AQ explains a certain incompatibility with certain USB devices. Maybe this is what you are experiencing.

http://www.audioquest.com/jitterbug/faqs

Casimir's picture

:)

Venere 2's picture

Well done! Enjoy your system with the bugs!

Venere 2's picture

Thanks Steven for the very informative and fun to read review! You and Michael have done a great job reviewing these fine accessories.

I have 2 Jitterbugs and I really appreciate the improvement they make.

Venere 2's picture

Steven or Michael, have you experimented with audiophile fuses? You both seem to have an open mind when it comes to tweaks and accessories.

I ask because I recently changed the stock fuse in my DAC (Rega DAC R) for one of these:

http://www.furutech.com/2013/02/02/1672/

I am very happy, even somewhat shocked by the improvement in sound! The improvement is easily as good as the addition of 2 Jitterbugs to the Mac Mini feeding my DAC. It just removed a layer of grain. The gain in transparency and clarity is surprising. A great improvement for about the price of one Jitterbug.

I know some people will refuse to believe the fuse could be that important, but it really is.

Albert K's picture

I recently bought two AudioQuest JitterBugs to use with my Mid-2010 Mac mini and Bricasti M1 DAC and got some rather surprising, informative, and not always positive results.

The mini has four external USB ports on two separate buses. Looking at the back of the mini and counting from left to right, let’s call them Ports 1-4. Based on some investigation involving connecting and disconnecting a USB keyboard, Ports 1 and 3 are on the same bus (Bus A), and ports 2 and 4 are on the same bus (Bus B). Depending on which bus I use them on, the JitterBugs produce consistently different results.

I have a mid-level but highly-tweaked system that enables me to hear very subtle differences between components. Prior to installing the JitterBugs, I’d been using Port 4 (Bus B) and a 0.75 meter Audioquest Diamond USB cable to feed the M1 DAC. On Bus B without a JitterBug, the output sounds like music. Add a JitterBug to either Port 2 or Port 4, and the output gets brittle. Female voices, in particular, take on a sharp, raw, unrealistic edge. Two JitterBugs on Bus B make the music even less enjoyable.

Bus A is a completely different story. The JitterBugs bring the sound close to what I hear from Bus B without a JitterBug. I have not yet done the meticulous and loathsome A-B testing necessary to determine whether Bus A (Ports 1 and 3) with JitterBugs works better than Bus B (Ports 2 and 4) without them. That will come in due time.

I have a USB REGEN on order and look forward to throwing that into the mix and hearing what happens. I’ll keep you posted.

Steven Plaskin's picture
If you won a Bricasti M-1, I would refer to the system as much better than mid-level !
Albert K's picture

My benchmark for a high level system is a pair of soulution 701 monoamplifiers powering a pair of Magico Q7MKII's.

Anyway, with all the tweaks, the sound quality produced by my system is about as good as I've heard anywhere, and the unequal effect of the JitterBugs operating on the two different USB buses is a real head-scratcher.

Steven Plaskin's picture
Won should be own. Darn iPhone!
miguelito's picture

Just curious as to what voltage you used in the HDPlez to power the Regen. Thx.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Hi Miguelito,

I used 9V for the HDPlex.

Clever Dean's picture

Amir's measurements of the ReGen and Jitterbug.

They actually add noise to DAC's output:
http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showthread.php?18580-Science-Thread-Review...

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I also looked at John Westlake's measurements. Of greater importance, imo of course, is I bought the REGEN since it improves the sound of my systems.
romaz's picture

If you had a higher level source such as an Aurender W20, Antipodes DX or TotalDac Server, what kind of improvement do you suppose you would experience with these tweaks?

HedgeHog's picture

Would one use the Uptone Regen in addition to the SoTM PCIe USB port or in lieu of it? I'm also curious as to how the Regen compares with the new iFi micro iUSB3 as well.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...one would use the Regen in addition to the SOtM device since they attack the same problem in different ways. In reality, the only way to know if this would play itself out in your system in a a positive way is to try it.
Tak's picture

I have found that by adding Intona Galvanic USB Isolater on the PC side along with the Jitterbug(s) and the USB REGEN on the DAC side give superior results.

Onny Izwan's picture

I'm using the AQ Jitterbug now. It sounds great and all but I wonder if adding the Regen will make it even more wondrous to listen to

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