ECP Walnut X.3 impressions thread

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Erroneous, Oct 13, 2021.

  1. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    Unfortunately, even after downloading drivers manually and fudging parameters ad infinitum, I was never able to get my system to work with the Walnut x.3 free of the odd 'pop' here and there. Despite that I really enjoyed the DAC -- it's a pretty much impeccably balanced listen all around. When I first got into the hobby and heard the phrase 'audibly transparent' thrown around, usually in relation to Topping DACs (bllllurg), this is pretty much what I had hoped for/expected. Nothing feels overly accentuated or embellished at the expense of other areas of the soundscape -- it's all there, rich yet not overindulgent, incisive yet not bright or clinical.

    If I had to really dive deep for personality descriptors, I'd say that there's a slight etchiness to the upper mids, but not in an unpleasant way at all -- but certain transients (grit in male voices, and acoustic guitar in particular) have an extra visceral presence that is a little more prominent than most other DACs I've heard. To my ear this robbed it of the 'airiness' of Gungnir or Yggdrasil, but lends it great authority as well. I also enjoyed how it handles bass, there's some really nice composition to the sub-to-mid-bass range that lends those frequencies a deep-reaching throatiness while also lending plenty of texture and heft. At the risk of slightly contradicting myself this actually might be something it does better than other DACs in general -- one of my favorite go-to demo tracks is Steely Dan's 'Home At Last' which opens with a salvo of piano notes interladen with bursts of drums and bass guitar -- in those quiet moments of piano I noticed an odd sound -- and realized it was the mallets moving inside of the piano. I'd never noticed that before, as it's enmeshed pretty down low in the frequency range; I'd missed it even with the Iggy LIM, yet I heard it here fairly clearly.

    It's also a beautiful little DAC -- I love the small footprint, as well as the wood and pretty colored lighting

    For anyone keeping track I had quite the recent spate of DAC trials (BF2, Gungnir, 2541, Yggdrasil LIM) trying to find an upgrade to my Bifrost, and sound-wise this was my favorite of the lot, value-wise as well. My issues with the USB input would be my only hesitation in pulling the trigger on one were they to become available again.

    Thank you again @Erroneous for the loaner tour!
     
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    Last edited: Nov 19, 2021
  2. dsavitsk

    dsavitsk Friend

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    Not sure why the pops are there. My best guess sis that the Amanero USB board is a 32 bit board while the DACs internal circuitry is limited to 24. So you might try setting the output word length to 24 bits and see if that helps.
     
  3. Syzygy

    Syzygy Friend

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    That's generally good advice any way, when dealing with USB for transport. There's no reason to add 8 zeroes to each sample. You can't get 32-bit music, so why make the electronics work harder to add, transport, then remove, those bits?

    When I was using USB I always had Audirvana set to output 24-bit words.
     
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  4. futbutts

    futbutts Friend

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    Indeed, the least-poppingest results seemed to be at 24/44100 or so.
     
  5. TomB

    TomB MOT: Beezar

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    I cannot get mine (or anyone else's) to start popping ever since I stopped using the clone USB boards (instead of genuine Amanero). That includes Dasman's Walnut, which I currently have connected in my system right now. I can not make it pop. With the clone USB boards, I could reproduce it every time when randomly switching between songs of 16-44.1 and high-res. It was if the drivers/clone board could not keep up with the resolution changes and hiccupped the popping noise. FYI, none of the clone boards exist in the wild anymore.

    I use Windows 10 exclusively with the WASAPI Event driver. My go-to music interface is MusicBee, primarily because I love the interface and organization and I can use it in Exclusive Mode. I have never, ever, ever been able to get Foobar to work in Exclusive Mode. Yes, you can select the option and Foobar will play just fine. However, it's not really locked and you can operate any other software and access the sound in the OS. With MusicBee Exclusive mode, nothing else will work if you try to access sound outside of MusicBee. That tells me it works as it should, but Foobar does not. I do this because I have some cheap, rebuilt Dell Latitude laptops that I use throughout Beezar processes, including music playback. Unfortunately, I can sometimes get dropouts if I'm not using Exclusive Mode because the laptops are ssslllloooowwww.

    That's a digression, though. The point is, I cannot currently reproduce the popping, not matter what I try. In MusicBee, you set the WASAPI driver and then you can set for Exclusive Mode, but there is no selection for word-length or sampling rate.

    In Foobar, you can select word-length, but not sampling rate, when using WASAPI. I tried 32-bit at Dsavitsk's suggestion (I always had it set on 24-bit), and I still can't get the popping to manifest itself.

    I still believe it's something in the USB stream, but am investigating other causes with a couple of Walnut owners. Hopefully, Doug will weigh in as well again. I sent him an e-mail detailing all of the above and more this morning.
     
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  6. ColdsnapBry

    ColdsnapBry Acquaintance

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    When I play out of exclusive mode on Foobar it locks everything else. Maybe it's a plugin you need?
     
  7. TomB

    TomB MOT: Beezar

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    From what I've read, the WASAPI driver disables Foobar's capability to run in Exclusive Mode. MusicBee doesn't work that way.
     
  8. TomB

    TomB MOT: Beezar

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    I should add that many think the reverse of that is true, but I got tired of fiddling with Foobar and re-sequencing files on my 4-terrabyte music collection whenever I simply added a new album.

    There are some reports that say some soundcards don't recognize exclusive mode with Foobar, some drivers, etc., etc. It worked the first time, every time, when I used MusicBee. So, I gave up on Foobar. Sorry.

    I'd only been using Foobar for about 12 years ... time to change to something better. ;)
     
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  9. TomB

    TomB MOT: Beezar

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    FYI - Doug and I (mostly Doug, of course) have determined that's it's very unlikely any power issue could cause the ticking/popping some have reported. That was one of the avenues we were investigating about the ticking. The power supply is not going to dip below the voltage required for the chips that are responsible for the USB stream. The voltage would have to drop well below ~4-5V and the walwart would be in full failure mode at that point, anyway.

    Instead, we suspect some issue still going on with the drivers being used. I can't emphasize this enough, but if you are using a PC - the WASAPI "Event" driver is the one you should be using. Preferably, "exclusive mode" as well, if you can select it in your chosen music app.

    I have another customer who uses an Apple MacBook. He has noted similar USB stream ticking with other devices, so it's not exclusive to the Walnut/Amanero. When I was using the clone boards, I could reproduce the issue with great regularity. With the genuine Amanero, I cannot - but then I never change from the WASAPI Event Exclusive driver. The "Push" driver has been reported over the internet as a mode that can cause issues (this is not about the Amanero, but USB in general). As always, if this occurs, simply disconnecting the USB cable and re-connecting it will make it stop.

    So please - use WASAPI Event Mode, and Exclusive, if your app allows it.

    Also, if anyone's Walnut walwart fails, I will replace it. The replacement walwart is a Triad 1.5A. Triad makes the finest walwarts available, IMHO. Plus, the 1.5A means it shouldn't even break a sweat. So, any walwart issues should not re-occur.

    That said, good practice is to always make certain your various pieces of equipment are turned OFF before you go switching around cables. Shorts can and do always occur.

    I've shipped out Dasman's Walnut again and it should be back in the loaner rotation soon.
     
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