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Steven Plaskin Posted: May 11, 2017 14 comments
photo credit: SOtM

USB performance improvement devices have proven to very popular with computer audiophiles over the last several years. It seems that before I can turn around, a new offering appears promising improved sonics from one’s USB DAC. Installation of what I like to refer to as USB enhancement devices is just a matter of connecting the device between your computer / server USB output to the USB input of your DAC. Perhaps it has been the simplicity of use without worrying about the installation of drivers or other complicating factors that has fueled the unending popularity of these products with users’ passionate expectations of improved sound. I can think of no less than 3 new devices that will be forthcoming from iFi Audio, UpTone Audio, and now from the Korean manufacturer, SOtM.

Steven Plaskin Posted: Mar 22, 2017 Published: Mar 23, 2017 29 comments

SOtM has developed an ARM board for the sMS-200 and their own Linux software called Eunhasu, which means Milky Way in Korean. The sMS-200 has an attractive case with all connections made at the rear of the device. The soft footers add stability to the small sMS-200. There are two LED indicators on the front panel that indicate power and network activity. The rear panel has the Ethernet input, audio-grade USB 2.0 output, 2 USB 2.0 inputs for external USB storage devices, a reset button, a microSD card, and the DC power input. I also noticed at the Ethernet input LEDs that indicate network activity.
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Steven Plaskin Posted: Feb 23, 2017 9 comments
When I recently heard that exaSound Audio Design had released a new model replacement for their e22 DAC, I immediately contacted George Klissarov, President of exaSound Audio Design, to see if I could get a review sample of the new e32 DAC for an AudioStream review. I was very enthusiastic about the e32’s predecessor when I reviewed the e22 in 2014. At that time, I found the e22 to be an excellent sounding DAC and one that did a first-class job playing DSD files. The e22 was built around the ES9018S Sabre32 reference DAC chip and utilized exaSound’s custom ASIO drivers that allowed native DSD256 support for both OSX and Windows.
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Steven Plaskin Posted: Jan 19, 2017 10 comments
PS Audio’s new DirectStream Memory Player builds on the success of its predecessor, the PerfectWave Memory Player, with a new design that they feel is state-of-the-art in the extraction of data from multiple disc sources. PS Audio is not new to the design of disc players having introduced the PerfectWave Transport in 2009. The DirectStream Memory Player represents an evolution of technology that has resulted in a highly versatile disc player.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 08, 2016 23 comments
The Nimitra Computer Audio Server is the design of Keetakawee Punpeng, the creator of Fidelizer. I have previously written about Fidelizer Pro, software that optimizes the Windows operating system for use with music software. Keetakawee, who hails from Thailand, decided to combine his software talents and computer hardware knowledge to create a reference audiophile music server. He also wanted a server that would not only be better sounding than an off-the-shelf computer, but a device that would be effortless in terms of setup and use. The Nimitra was conceived as a plug and play device that would take the frustration out of the use of a computer for audio and let users concentrate on their enjoyment of music.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Dec 07, 2016 50 comments
The Starlight Cat8 Ethernet Cable supports Category 8 transmission speeds in a flat design that also provides great flexibility and ease of use. The Starlight Cat8 has a patent pending Tite-Shield™ design that uses 23 gauge conductors and a triple-shield that is just a tenth of an inch thick. This new shield design has simplified the assembly with Wireworld’s shielded RJ-45 plugs.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Nov 23, 2016 34 comments
Many computer audiophiles have been discovering that optimization of the operating system can lead to significant improvements in the sound of their music systems. I have previously reviewed Fidelizer Pro (see review); a program that I found made sonic improvements to the sound of music software utilizing the Windows Operating System. I have also reviewed the Playback Designs Syrah Server (see review) that employed a modified Windows 10 Pro that was stripped and configured so that it could only be used to play audio files and utilize network access.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Oct 27, 2016 5 comments
Musica Pristina’s Virtuoso Network DAC is a Roon Ready DAC that takes advantage of Roon Lab’s RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) protocol technology for bit perfect network streaming over Ethernet and WiFi networks. RAAT supports “all relevant audio formats today and for the foreseeable future.” Musica Pristina is one of the earliest companies to support Roon’s RAAT with a DAC that utilizes this new network protocol.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Sep 29, 2016 20 comments
When Grant Samuelsen, Marketing and Sales Director at Shunyata Research, contacted me concerning the new Hydra Denali Series of Power Distributors, I assumed that that this would be a conversation discussing the repackaging of Shunyata’s previous efforts in a more affordably priced product. After an extended phone conversation with Grant, I realized that the Shunyata Denali Series represented a total rethinking by Caelin Gabriel, Designer and CEO of Shunyata Research, in the design of his power conditioners. A portion of the technology in the Denali Series resulted from Shunyata’s work in the new medical grade technology that has been successfully developed for electrophysiology labs and hospitals.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Aug 25, 2016 63 comments
While USB DACs have been widely embraced by computer audiophiles for their ease of use and excellent sound, there has been a price to pay for the benefits associated with connecting one’s computer to these DACs. Noise, part and parcel of any all-purpose computer, is the enemy of music reproduction. The computer noise transmitted from the USB cable to the DAC steals from the user the ultimate sonic potential he could be enjoying.

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