New Schiit / Preamps and Power Amp (was Putting the Schiit Signal Up)

Discussion in 'Preamps' started by Marvey, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    Vidar update from @schiit on 6/14/17:
    Also a post on getting in touch with Schiit re: interest in doing a SchiitKit show, whatever that means.
     

  2. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    VIDAR PRODUCTION UPDATES
    Saturday, 6/17/17: Vidar first articles arrived

    So, the Vidar first article boards are in, and with the exception of one hilarious mistake (and one possible show-stopper problem), they're looking good.

    The hilarious mistake: they installed all the through-hole transistors backwards. See photo.

    [​IMG]

    The metal parts of the large transistors should be pointed towards the heatsink, not inwards. That, plus a couple of missed parts = not a huge deal, and pretty typical of first articles. We respond with corrections, the PCB assembly house makes some changes, and production boards start flowing shortly.

    But...there's a potential showstopper.

    Here's the problem: the output transistors are too large. And yeah, that might sound a bit weird. But to understand why, you have to understand Toshiba's weird part numbering system, where a 2SC5200O is an old, high-beta-bin TO-3P package (which is what we designed for) and the 2SC5200OTU is a TO-264 package (larger than we designed for.) The correct new part number is 2SC5200N, which drops the beta binning, because they are all apparently high-beta-bin parts now, but in the past they would have been the low-beta-bin parts. Argh. What happened is we ordered the 2SC5200O and got 2SC5200OTU (and the PNP complements, of course.)

    "So, yeah, get the right parts, so what?" you ask.

    Well, the problem is availability. A cursory glance doesn't show a lot of the correct parts in stock. And we need tonnage of them--now, and in the future. If this stocking situation is correct, we have a problem. It's a problem we can address, but I'm hoping that the distributors we work with will simply shrug and say, "Yeah, no worries, we have plenty of those, we're shipping to your assembler today." And that's likely what will happen on Monday, since it's happened many times before. Our distributors are usually pretty great about making sure the parts we want are continuously in stock, or advising us if we're designing ourselves into a shortage nightmare. I've already sent them, and the assembly house, a note explaining the situation and its urgency.

    So what happens if they look around on Monday and find out there really aren't any parts? Well, we have two options, because changing the clip to work with the bigger parts isn't an option (it's too close to the parts):

    1. We sub out a similar Toshiba part. Luckily, Toshiba makes some similar parts, some of which are in stock at lots of places. How similar? They have exactly the same specs and use exactly the same charts and graphs as the parts we spec'd. Now, the question of why they'd produce several (seemingly) identical parts befuddles me, but if they are really that similar, they should drop in and work. I have some of these coming on Monday and will drop them in and re-qualify. If they work, then we're set. If they need additional compensation/parts tweaks, then it may cause a few days delay (if we have to go this way.)

    2. We sub out a similar On Semiconductor part. On Semiconductor also makes similar parts. Not as similar as Toshiba, but they claim to have a drop-in replacement. This is a lot more iffy, because a different manufacturer's parts are, well, gonna behave differently. We'd have to take a long, hard look at them, even if they seemed to work. This might mean a longer delay. Or not. As with the Toshiba alts, I have some coming in Monday to see how they work.

    On the plus side, we'll (at least) be getting data on a lot of alternate parts for Vidar (or other possible power amps). It certainly can't hurt in the future!

    [​IMG]

    Note
    : the J1 connector on the right is for programming (source).


    Tuesday, 6/20/17: Distributors came through with parts
    "AND WE SCORE!

    Our distributors found the output parts for Vidar--the exact parts we qualified for production. This means Vidar doesn't need to have any last-minute requalification or additional testing--we can proceed with production as planned. This is excellent news!

    (Now, does this mean I'm NOT going to try the other parts and make sure they work the same--or better? Hell no. I'll make sure Vidar is qualified for a number of options, in case we need some back-up plans.)

    (Now, does this mean we're going to receive the parts tomorrow? Probably not. I'm still waiting on them to respond on the timeline. But the good news is that they are in stock, so it won't be a huge delay.)"


    Tuesday, 6/20/17: Vidar first articles approved!

    "And...it's official!

    Vidar first articles are approved. Now it's just waiting. The outputs will be at the assembler next week, which should work out fine (they have to do all the SMD parts and other prep anyway--outputs are one of the last things that go on.

    But, as usual, it ships when it ships. I cannot set a precise date."


    NON-VIDAR PRODUCTS UPDATE
    "In addition to Vidar, we have two other products that should be announced shortly. Thanks to Mr. Murphy, the March, May, and July releases are all kinda falling on top of each other. Argh. At least they are very different products." (source)
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  3. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    I just rebalanced my budget to accommodate the steam sales.

    Noooooooooo.

    (hype!)
     
  4. msommers

    msommers Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    @zonto I appreciate the concise updates!! Let's me avoid the clusterfuck and circle jerk on HF
     
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  5. Darren G

    Darren G Facebook Friend

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    It's probably too much to hope for the equivalent of a stripped down Lynx AES16e, left/right channel, transformer coupled, AES/EBU, accurate clock, and a convenient connector would be nice too. I don't need anything else to play music ;)
     
  6. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    VIDAR PRODUCTION UPDATES
    Monday, 6/26/17: Playing the waiting game
    "If you've been following along (including the 2 chapters that cover the Vidar and the weekly (or more frequent) updates I've been giving recently), you know why there have been delays, and you know that we're now simply awaiting production. There's little we can do now, unless we want to go down and camp out at the PCB assembly house, picketing in the day WE WANT OUR VIDARS! AND WE WANT THEM NOW! and sleeping in tents at night. We'll likely have boards soon, and we've been prepping chassis for some time now, so things should go fast after that."

    Wednesday, 6/28/17: Honesty in marketing
    Executive Summary:
    • @schiit publishes conservative measurements
    • @schiit's SE output is not gimped; however, it provides only "most of the benefits of balanced"
    • Vidar (still) won't be rated at 4 ohms as a monoblock
    • You likely don't need monoblocks anyway because Vidar's power output is massively underrated
    • Saga + Vidar = amazazing
    Since I haven't had time to write a chapter in a while, this will serve as a good kickoff to what could be called the "being too honest doesn't get you far in marketing" theory.

    Here's the bottom line: sometimes we're too straightforward.

    Examples:

    1. We don't cherry-pick measurements, and, indeed, our published measurements are usually much worse than our actual measurements, just to be safe. So meter-readers write us off, because our THD and noise (or crosstalk, or whatever) are 0.001% worse than some other published measurements.

    2. We discuss the use of circuitry such as summers in balanced amps, and call out when we're using them. As a result, some people automatically think single-ended output on some of our products is "compromised." The reality is that everyone uses summing circuitry in the same application--they just don't mention it. The same people that have a problem with our summers don't have a problem with them in other applications--even if the entire "balanced" components sums to single-ended at the input, then re-converts to balanced output at the end. Which, in our opinion, is not a balanced component.

    3. And finally, we tell you, honestly, when you'll hit the protection system in our amps. Here's the reality: no Class AB amp anywhere near Vidar's price will be rated for 4 ohm continuous RMS operation when run as a monoblock. None. Zero. Nada. Remember, we're talking 400W into 8 ohms mono here. Sure, we could be like everyone else, and say, "Yeah, it'll work," because, you know what? For most people it'll work fine. If you're not going to be running headbanging volume levels, it'll be fine. But if you turn it wayyyyyyyyy up, you will hit our protection system at some point. The amp will go "click," the lights will flash, and you'll have to turn it on and off again to reset it. This is, by definition, "safe." Whether or not you'll run into the protection enough to be irritating is something we can't predict.. So we won't rate continuous power into 4 ohms in monoblock mode.

    However, there is a simple solution to this problem (if you have 4 ohm speakers): Just get ONE Vidar, which is fine with 4 ohm loads. One Vidar is MASSIVELY underrated in terms of power. It is STUPID how much power one Vidar has. For everyone considering two Vidars, here's a hint: start with one.

    (Oh, and by the way, whenever a manufacturer makes a recommendation that actually reduces their sales potential, it's probably honest.)

    "Oh, but then I can't use balanced input, boo hoo!" you cry. Well, you know what? Balanced ain't all that. Balanced does not make or break a system. Balanced is one part of the equation. And all of our DACs that have both balanced and single-ended outputs do SE right--as in, they sum the SE from balanced, thus preserving most of the benefits of balanced (using a single phase without summing is not as good, period.) And all of our products have single-ended outputs. So there's no problem hooking up any of our gear to Vidar.

    And, another recommendation: Saga and one Vidar are an amazing combo. That's what I'll be using.

    Thursday, 6/29/17: Assembly house update
    "Some news from the assembly house: Vidar boards are supposed to be dropping on Friday (that is, tomorrow). So, with qualification, assembly, burn-in and test, if all goes well, we'll be shipping sometime next week.

    Please note that a business week has 5 days and ends on Friday, and that normal manufacturing-business-type humans do not work on weekends, so the rational assumption is the END of the week. Also note the 'supposed to be' and 'if all goes well.' Also note, I will probably regret posting this." (emphasis added)


    NON-VIDAR PRODUCTS UPDATE
    "There won't be a lot of warning on SchiitShows in the future, I'm afraid, since they'll be held whenever we have a product introduction and streamed from the Schiitr. Totally different ballgame going forward. However, yes, I hope you'll be seeing LOTS of SchiitShows...and soon. If the stars align, there will be three in July alone. Or we do a triple-flusher. Or some combo thereof. And that's just getting started for the year." (emphasis added) (source; see also the origin of "triple flusher")
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2017
  7. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    VIDAR PRODUCTION UPDATES
    Monday, 7/3/17: Friday ≠ Friday
    "Okay, so remember when I said, 'I know I'll regret posting this,' about the Vidar?

    Yeah.

    So here goes: when the assembly house said they'd have boards 'Friday,' I took it to mean 'this Friday, as in, the 30th.' What they meant was 'this coming Friday, as in, the 7th.' Which means we're looking at next week for shipping. Not a giant deal, though, since we would have been hamstrung by boxes and box inserts to ship. Now, it looks like everything is lining up for next week.*

    *With the usual caveats, of course.

    Believe me, nobody wants to ship these damn things more than me."

    Friday, 7/7/17: Friday = Friday
    "Aaaaannnddd....we have Vidars! So far, everything looks good. We only have only a few boards to start (50), but the balance will be shipping over the next week or so. This means that next week we'll be able to open up ordering.

    (And we also got one other thing, so next week will be a two-flusher!)"

    Miscellaneous
    • @baldr: Vidar will be available in "working days." (source)
    • "A lot more of our 2-channel stuff will be more available in black, going forward. Vidars will be available in black from launch." (source)

    NON-VIDAR PRODUCTS UPDATE
    @baldr: "If you have early adopter pathology, the refresh button is your friend." (source) See @schiit's post above re: "two-flusher" next week. Probably the USB/SPDIF converter hinted at earlier (source).
     
  8. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    VIDAR PRODUCTION UPDATES
    Wednesday, 7/12/17: Vidar midweek update
    Executive summary:
    • Assembly is going well
    • Vidar available to order on Monday, July 17, 2017
    • Another new product announcement on Monday
    • SchiitShow likely next Friday, July 21, 2017
    Hey all,

    Midweek update:

    1. Vidar production is in high gear now--tons of Vidars are going onto the burn racks, while more boards are being tested and chassis assembled in parallel. For those of you who are interested, the Vidar production process is not trivial, and it has accounted for most of the work I've done this week, as we work out glitches and get things spooled up.

    It encompasses three lines, in addition to tech and burn-in:

    First line: Bottom chassis prep—transformer, AC inlet, speaker terminal wiring, etc gets done on this line.
    Second line: Heatsink prep—putting on clips and hardware (comparatively simple).
    Third line: PCB and chassis assembly—mating the tested PCBs with the chassis and heatsinks

    The process goes something like this:
    • Finished boards come in from the PCB assembly house
    • Boards are visually inspected by tech, programmed, powered up, all voltages and bias operation checked
    • Boards are stocked to bleed down before assembly
    • Boards go to the third line and are assembled into chassis
    • Chassis come back to tech for biasing and instrumented test
    • Chassis get tops put on and become final products
    • Final products go to burn-in for 24 hours
    • After burn, final products go for instrumented and listening test, and at this point they are assigned a serial number
    • From there, they go to cleaning, packing, and shipping
    • Then they go to you
    So what does this mean in terms of ordering? To keep Alex and Amy from having a nervous breakdown, we will be opening ordering on Monday, July 17 (yeah, 2017, har har.) By this time, we should have good stock of Vidars and will be able to ship most orders immediately. As of this writing, I don't have photos of single Vidars, so excuse me if the beginning photo is a hack. Black Vidars will be available from the start.

    (Fun facts: (1) we actually did not get Vidar foam and boxes until today, so we couldn't have shipped before today in any case, (2) the last production issue was in tightening down the thermal clip--our production guys didn't get the "tighten them down until you're tweaking the hell out of the wrench" memo--we caught this when we started biasing.)

    2. We will also be announcing something else on Monday, which will also be available to order right away. More on that later.

    3. I expect we'll have a Schiitshow next week to stream info about the new products--I'd expect that will be a Friday thing, though. More on that later as well.

    All the best,
    Jason

    NON-VIDAR PRODUCTS UPDATE

    See ##2–3 in spoiler text above.
     
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  9. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Friend

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    Fingers crossed for a tube phono pre.....
     
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  10. Mshenay

    Mshenay Almost "Made"

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    I'd really like to see a balanced option on the Saga! I'm not quite ready for the Freja, rolling 4 6sn7s is beyond my scope atm lol my collections of tubes isn't quite ready for that
     
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  11. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    A balanced tube phono/pre would be pretty damn cool to see, but I'd imagine it'd cannibalize lots of schiits other products
     
  12. cizx.6

    cizx.6 Just couldn't stay away...

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    it's obviously a balanced 8 track player.
     
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  13. atomicbob

    atomicbob Friend

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    That is just plain evil! :D
     
  14. Sniperpr5

    Sniperpr5 Rando

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    I hope the "NON-VIDAR PRODUCT" is the rumored USB/SPDIF converter. :D
     
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  15. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Friend

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    I'm sorry I added to the noise by starting the speculation train running again, but its funny how some of us want Schiit to go back in time with phono preamps and turntables, and others want the company to move forward in improving digital. How do they tolerate all the noise we make...
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
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  16. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Friend

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    Headphones...block it out :).
     
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  17. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    Vidar page is up! http://schiit.com/products/vidar

    Owner's Manual: http://schiit.com/public/upload/PDF/vidar_manual_1_0.pdf

    Press Release, NO-COMPROMISES POWER: VIDAR

    FINAL SPECS
    • Power Output:
      • Stereo, 8 Ohms: 100W RMS per channel
      • Stereo, 4 Ohms: 200W RMS per channel
      • Mono, 8 ohms: 400W RMS
    • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 3Hz-500KHz, -3dB
    • THD: <0.01%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 100W RMS into 8 ohms
    • IMD: <0.01%, CCIR, at 100W RMS into 8 ohms
    • SNR: >125db, A-weighted, referenced to full output
    • Damping Factor: >100 into 8 ohms, 20-20kHz
    • Gain: 22 (27dB)
    • Input Impedance: 22k ohms SE, 44k ohms balanced
    • Crosstalk: >95dB, 20-20kHz
    • Inputs: L/R RCA jacks for stereo input, single XLR for mono input
    • Topology: Fully complementary, all-BJT, current feedback, no coupling capacitors or DC servos
    • Oversight: microprocessor-controlled monitoring and management of critical operational points, including DC offset, with with relay shut-down for overcurrent, thermal, and other faults
    • Power Supply: 600VA transformer with dual mono main rails, plus boosted, regulated supply to input, voltage gain and driver stages, plus separate, isolated and regulated rails for microprocessor management.
    • Power Consumption: 700W maximum
    • Size: 9” x 13” x 3.875”
    • Weight: 30 lbs
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  18. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
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  19. mkozlows

    mkozlows Friend

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  20. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    Re: USB Gen 5 and Eitr, new chapter of Schiit Happened:

    A long, long time ago (seemingly back in the Paleolithic era), I once asked Dave, "Has anyone done anything like Theta's TLC (a SPDIF reclocker) for USB?" Which led, very shortly, to Dave bringing in a small board that would become the Wyrd.

    As you probably know, since then, USB just hasn't been the same.

    Our little decrapifier set off an audio feeding frenzy which is still spooling up to this day. Yeah, I know, there were other devices to clean up USB power before Wyrd, but the commonly accepted format of the decrapifier—clean power and repeated packets—started with Wyrd.

    In a sane world, Wyrd would have been the end. It was a product with a really exotic, low-noise, linear power supply, quality crystal oscillators for repeating the USB packets, and a stout amount of current available to run power-hungry devices. It solved the problem we were trying to solve—the problem of drop-outs and noise from underpowered and/or noisy USB ports, and it did it very well.

    Aside: Ironically, the problem that we created Wyrd to solve (crappy USB ports) is much less of a problem these days. It seems that the latest OSes and motherboard firmware (mostly) realize that if a device asks for 500mA, it really wants 500mA. Underpowered USB hardware also seems to be on the wane. The usual experience these days, on Mac or PC, is “plug and go,” provided you’re running the latest Windows or Mac OS.

    Now, Wyrd was a device that we also claimed no overt sonic benefits for. This was our way of being a responsible manufacturer, as there is really no mechanism that could result in better sonics. However, some (including Dave and myself) thought things sounded better when Wyrd was in the loop.

    But we didn’t go there. We said, "Use this if you have noise or problems with connectivity." And in a sane world, that would be the end of it.

    But audio is not a sane world.

    Which meant, after Wyrd, there were any number of manufacturers ready to step up to the plate, to make devices that cost more, for which they claimed different variations of the old "angels singing in your ears" night-and-day sonic improvement. Ironically, many of these more-expensive devices actually used compromises such as switching power supplies...which led to a whole new sub-market for linear supplies at even higher cost to improve these more-expensive devices, which caused a lot of other companies to take notice and introduce their own filters, or next-generation decrapifiers based on not-necessary-for-audio USB standards, or incorporating various tricks to claim "galvanic isolation," an adjectiveoid that has no real definition (more on this later).

    Mike and Dave thought the proliferation of USB devices was pretty humorous.

    "This one sells for twice what a Wyrd does," Dave said. "And it has a switching supply!"

    "How about 3X, but USB 3 on deck?"

    "Or what about something that does galvanic isolation, but costs 6x more than Wyrd?"

    "Oh, this is killing me, they say it makes a bigger difference than the DAC! Forget Yggy, get a Modi and add this thing to it!"

    And that's how it went for a long time, with me asking from time to time if there was any merit in trying to isolate the Wyrd from the PC more effectively, or if there was any merit in USB3, or if there were any tweaks we could make to Wyrd to make it better. Mike and Dave tolerated my questions like two brilliant uncles given the task of babysitting the slow cousin for the day.

    (And yet, from time to time, they'd smirk and look meaningfully at each other, which is Mike and Dave code-speak for "yeah, keep your pants on, we have the red phone already ringing.")

    But, all of the above decrapifier-proliferation had an effect. Which is why it's not unusual for someone using USB from their source to say, "and I use a Pflugelmeister Jitter Destroyer, coupled via a Gold-Plated Yak Hair MultiStranda Cable to a USBPolisher3.0X, then into a PrimeAlignSpaceAndTime Filter, followed by two Wyrds, in series, connected with a custom 3.776" long Tuned USB Optimizing Cable, to a DACWart USB Perfector, in order to get optimal sonics."

    Let me be perfectly frank. In my opinion, the above is absolute lunacy.

    Yes, I know, I've said I don't care if you get your sonic jollies by taping $100 bills to your head. But if you're talking many hundreds, or even thousands of dollars of USB gewgaws—especially when connecting, to, say, a Modi Multibit (don't laugh, people have done just that)—there's something seriously wrong with this situation.

    So, yeah. Blame us. We started it all. But forgive us, too. Because we didn't know what a monster we'd create. We figured that by doing the best device possible with the technology of the time, using a linear supply, and selling it for less than any other decrapifier, that there wouldn't be much room for competition.

    But we didn't count on the Big Crazy of audio.

    A sad situation? Perhaps. But that ends today. Because, yeah, Mike and Dave's meaningful looks meant something. Because, yeah, they already had everything under control, mapping the next revolution in USB connectivity.

    And so, as of now, you can throw away your perfecters and hyperstreamliners and cleaners and recombobulators, and, yes, even that gold-plated yak hair USB cable. Because, as of today, USB is, well, solved.

    Welcome to Gen 5. And Eitr.


    Getting to the Solution

    “Gen 5? Eitr? What the heck are those? You’re on Gen 2 or 3 USB, right? And what’s an Eitr? Is it pronounced ‘eater?’ It probably is, we know how you think!”

    Okay. Yeah. So shoot us.

    Let’s step back a bit. Gen 2 has been the go-to USB implementation for all of our upgradable DACs, with the exception of Yggdrasil, which got Gen 3. Gen 3 used the different CM6632 USB receiver chip (as compared to the CM6631A, which we use everywhere else.)

    And that’s the way it’s been for a long, long time. Gen 2 and Gen 3, were, in general, very good implementations. Yes, sometimes some systems had problems recognizing them, or staying connected, or whatever, but show me a USB receiver that doesn’t have those problems and we’ll gladly use it.

    Aside: No, not really. Don’t bother, we’ve tested all of them. They all have glitches. Remember this interface was developed to replace the serial port, an ancient standard that sent data at rates of kilobits per second. USB is a general-purpose interface that has been built on and on and on, and it has its oddities. Hell, I have an external USB keyboard that isn’t recognized by my Microsoft Surface Pro until I plug it in and unplug it from the hub I’m using, literally every single time I bring the Surface Pro home to do some work. Read that again and think about it. That’s a friggin keyboard, guys.

    Gen 2 and 3 had two problems, though:
    1. They required power from the computer to run. This was a decision we made so that we would share as little power supply noise between the computer and DAC as possible.
    2. They did not have any kind of isolation from the computer. This kind of negated the benefit of (1), because the “dirty” computer ground was connected directly to the DAC.
    The fact that Gen 2 and 3 required power to run caused us quite a few headaches in the days when manufacturers were being stingy with USB power. However, per the first Aside, we don’t see so many problems these days, so it seems like that era is ending. Good!

    The fact that Gen 2 and 3 shared grounds sometimes caused noise, when used with computers that had huge amounts of ground noise, or that had a ground loop (hint: if you’re having problems with noise from a USB connection, look for a ground loop first.)

    “So, why didn’t you make the USB board self-powered and isolated from the start?” you ask. “Are you holding back? Incompetent? Or just horrible teases?”

    Well, it all comes down to the difficulty of isolation. Or, in buzzword-speak, “galvanic isolation,” which is the term commonly used to describe a USB interface that doesn’t share power or grounds with the computer source. Unfortunately, the term “galvanic isolation” is in itself meaningless.

    Let me quote the dictionary definition:

    gal·van·ic (ɡalˈvanik/)
    adjective
    1. relating to or involving electric currents produced by chemical action.
    2. sudden and dramatic. "hurry with awkward galvanic strides"

    Electrical currents produced by chemical action? Yeah, uh, hopefully not. Because you don’t want to see what reactive chemicals will do to electrical contacts. Sudden and dramatic? Well, again, hopefully not (I think of fire and smoke when I think “sudden and dramatic” when coupled with electronics.)

    A more useful, but more verbose, phrase would be: electrostatically and electromagnetically isolated.

    As in, the interface is isolated from both electrical charges (the kind that makes your cat’s hair stand on end) and from electrical currents (the kind that charges your phone or powers your Gen 2 USB interface.)

    Now, the reason we didn’t pursue this kind of isolation on Gen 2 was simple: there weren’t many good options for it. The common isolators used for USB 1.1 speeds did not work with the Gen 2’s USB 2.0 speeds, so there was no “easy” solution.

    With the “easy” (USB-side) isolation not an option, that left us with the “hard way,” which would be to use optocouplers on the I2S bus after the USB interface. Optocouplers are, to put it mildly, pretty crap. Although they isolate the signal electromagnetically and electrostatically, they’re prone to jitter. This is particularly painful when it comes to the high-speed master clock.

    However, when we started working on the next-gen USB interface, we tried optocouplers to start. We could simply reclock after the opto, we figured, with a high-quality local clock.

    In short, bzzzt. No prize for you.

    No matter what we did, the optos didn’t perform at the level we wanted. What we needed was another way to get electrostatic and electromagnetic isolation, but without the use of optocouplers. The problem, of course, was we needed something that performed at extremely high speed, for critical data…and it needed to also be somewhat common and affordable, so our new USB interface wouldn’t balloon in price.

    Luckily, there’s a common interface that is actually specified with electromagnetic and electrostatic isolation built in (unlike USB).

    Ethernet.

    Yep. Gigabit Ethernet uses transformers to couple its extremely high-speed signals, and provide the isolation it needs.

    “Transformers?” you might be saying. “Aren’t those big? And slow? And, well, kinda outdated?”

    Big? No. They go in your laptop, if it still has a physical Ethernet connection. Slow? Nope, they work at GigE and above speeds (far higher than USB). Outdated? Nope, you’re channeling tube audio output transformers or something. The fact is that magnetic components (transformers and inductors) are very important in modern electronics design, both analog and digital, Class A and Class D.

    So, we put together a prototype using transformer isolation. This one was like the opto prototypes in that it had:
    1. Complete isolation of the USB power supplies (self-powered USB interface, requires no power from the computer.)
    2. Complete isolation of the USB ground (grounds are not shared)
    3. A total re-work of the USB interface, based on the CM6631A
    4. High precision local re-clocking after isolation based on crystal oscillators running at two separate clock multiples for 44.1kHz and 48kHz-based sampling rates.
    Except, of course, the isolation was done by transformer, rather than optoisolator.

    The result?

    It was, by far, the best USB interface we’d heard. (And yeah, before you start dragging out your “have you heard the latest XYZ, yes, we have…that’s our job. We try all the interfaces. And the problem is, we have yet to find something better than what we’re using.)

    And, as far as I know, it’s the only USB interface using transformer isolation. When everyone else sees how good the transformers perform, they’ll probably start showing up everywhere else (just like Wyrd).

    Even Mike admitted that it sounded good. Yes. Mike Moffat. Ask him yourself, if you see us at a show or at the Schiitr. It’s a very, very good USB interface.

    In fact, it’s so good, that’s why we’re skipping Gen 4 entirely. Hence, “Gen 5” USB.

    Gen 5 is now the standard USB interface shipping with all of our upgradable DACs—and, of course, it’s available as an upgrade for all of the Bifrosts, Gungnirs, and Yggys that are already out in the world.

    Aside: sorry, DACs need to come back to the mother ship (or to an authorized distributor) for Gen V install. At least for now. We’ll see how it goes and then consider opening up the option for electronics professionals to self-install.

    Price for all of this?

    The same as the old USB interface. Our DAC prices don’t change. Or, if you have one of our DACs already, it’s $150 for us to install the Gen 5 board.


    But Wait, There’s More!

    “So what the heck is this Eitr thing? You snuck that one in, but you haven’t said anything about it.”

    Eitr is, to put it simply, the way to get Gen 5 technology for any DAC. Or, well, any DAC that has a SPDIF coaxial input, anyway. Eitr is a Gen 5-based USB to SPDIF converter.

    “Wait a sec, if I have Gen 5, I don’t need Eitr?”

    Right. Probably not. But if you have a non-Schiit DAC, or a Schiit DAC that isn’t upgradable, or if you don’t feel like sending your Schiit DAC in for upgrade right now, or if you really, really want to have as little USB as possible in your chain, there’s Eitr. Plug Eitr into your computer via USB, then plug Eitr’s coaxial SPDIF output into your DAC. Done. Eitr’s coaxial output is even isolated itself with its own transformer! It’s got, like, even more isolation on your isolation.

    (Seriously, though, Eitr is a great USB-SPDIF converter, with the same kind of attention to detail you’d expect from us, from the linear, low-noise power supply to the latest SPDIF formatting chip with high-precision local crystal oscillators for both clock multiples, to transformer-coupled output.)

    Price for Eitr? $179.


    USB, Solved.

    So now you know why we were so crazy for so long at the start of this year. It’s not like we could introduce Gen 5 without Eitr, because lots of people would be irritated if we offered the Eitr option after they’d gone through the process of sending their DAC in for Gen 5. We couldn’t do Eitr without Gen 5, because why would be introduce this new technology in a standalone box and ignore our DACs.

    And, to make things even more complicated, there are actually two Gen 5 boards (one for Yggdrasil, which does not need a master clock output—there will never be a delta-sigma Yggy—and one for Gungnir and Bifrost, which may be delta-sigma and therefore will need a master clock output.

    So, before we announced, we needed:
    1. Both Gen 5 boards in stock
    2. DACs with Gen 5 boards ready to ship
    3. Eitrs in stock (which meant metal, boards, assembly, manual, packaging, etc.
    4. Description for the Gen 5 for the DAC pages
    5. Description for the Gen 5 upgrade
    6. Description for Eitr
    7. Press release
    8. Photos
    And that was on top of all the development, testing, and qualification across the line of DACs. This is a huge, seismic change in our USB connectivity, and it touches five different flavors of DAC that we sell, as well as creates a new upgrade and an entirely new product (the Eitr.) It took a lot of coordination for things to come together, and it will take more coordination to make sure both the shipments of new DACs, and the upgrades, continue to happen smoothly.

    But, in the end, we believe it’s worth it. It’s a much, much better interface. It provides the isolation that many customers are looking for, with performance that we don’t believe anyone else can match. And it does it for the same price as the old USB interface.

    Skeptical? Try Gen 5 for yourself.

    Just plug in any USB cable to our new Gen 5 USB interface. There’s no need for external power supplies, special wacky cables, strings of decrapifiers and isolators. No interface nervosa. Sit back, relax, and see what you think.

    I think you’ll agree. Gen 5 is USB, solved.
     
    Dino, Merrick, cskippy and 4 others like this.

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