Upcoming Texas mini-meet

Discussion in 'The Meeting Place' started by Erroneous, Apr 28, 2024.

  1. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    I bought an IR repeater and can now a/b from the couch. This will make a/bing so much easier. Thanks for the nudge, @Phantaminum!
     
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  2. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    The enthusiasm from this event is evident. A tremendous undertaking with a lot of effort from all participants. Sharing of the results is greatly appreciated by so many.

    While chasing the ultimate performance it might be worth a moment to pause and reflect on a few things.

    Most of the DACs at this event were above pedestrian (msrp) prices, a few way above:
    Allnic D-5000 - 12 K
    PS Audio Direct Stream Mk 1 - 4K to 8 K
    Holo KTE May - 4.2 ~ 5.6 K
    Weiss 204 - 2.8 K
    Holo Cyan 2 - 1.2 K

    Cyan is the lowest cost yet to be included in such a comparison and doing well in some configurations is notable. Not everyone has pockets deep enough to achieve the ultimate performance, however Cyan 2 increases accessibility of great sound to those with more modest budgets.

    Likewise, Holo Red may provide perceived higher level sound quality performance but it doesn't negate great sound solutions possible with Pi 2 Design AES streamers. While I'm not parting with my Dante DDC anytime soon either, it is very important to have knowledge of price performance trade-offs available. This would not be possible if not for events such as the Texas mini-meet.
     
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  3. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    @atomicbob I was an adopter of the Pi2aes soon after Marv dropped the tutorial and have purchased at least 4 of them. Used them for the last, what, 6 or 7 years they've been available?

    They're a great way to remove the computer from the equation. As we gain knowledge of other things that push the fidelity forward, naturally we're going to leave other things behind. Everyone can attest to how much Michael Kelley has helped.

    If anyone wants to go crazy with stupid software stuff and is willing to live with things occasionally glitching out, there is better to be had. Michael's stuff doesn't glitch out, and it's also not the last word in digital.

    I think most would say that the delta between the fringe shit and the easy shit is pretty large. Different audiences.

    When the crowd moves forward into better, it encourages players within that space to think differently as well. A rising tide lifts all boats.
     
  4. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    Question... what is the delta between a stock red and the Pi2AES? how about vs a Mercury? I read @famish99 's spoiler, and frankly that scared me (and I used to use HQPlayer to feed a Spring2 KTE, but I gave that up for the simplicity of a Yggdrasil MIB)
     
  5. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Some of us have been playing with GentooPlayer OS because it offers so many ways to optimize, tweak, and tune for your chains and preferences but the newest version of RedOS is actually now more lively/transparent than earlier versions. You could def leave a new Red as-is and still get a decent delta between it and a pi2aes with the usual OS suspects such as Moode or Volumio. I've had both and I think you can expect some more resolution, nuance, and a more analog/less digital presentation from the Red.
     
  6. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    I would still gladly take a stock Red over pi2AES running even with 5v mod. Leaving aside technical improvements (of which your usual transport improvements of higher clarity, more defined stage and images, better blackground, etc.) pi2AES has this forwardness in the upper mid and somewhat exaggerated amount of aggression that started to bother me as I heard nicer transports. I think they're excellent for the price and a great starting place to get off the awfulness that is PC audio and I ran them for years before switching. However, between Holo's great output implementation, the use of the CM4 and a smart power supply design, the Red produces tangible improvements even with the same software as it has bested my current setup of Allo USBridge Sig + Hydra Z as well.

    The downside of the Red is that it can also be energetic at times, but at least it's evenly distributed rather than upper mid focused and it gives it the illusion of being even more resolving, but that's partially why quite a few of us have turned to tuning it via software since it's much more responsive and resolving of the differences. It also has a slightly more tighter stage relative to the Hydra Z combo, but still wider than pi2AES. Also I generally don't comment on aesthetics, but the color of the Red is... a bit loud.

    If I had to quantify the difference, is it 4x better? Obviously not, but it's more than a few percent and probably along the lines of tens of percentage improvement. I didn't want to buy into the hype, but ultimately found it worth it to me.
     
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  7. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

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    What is the set up for the rest of your chain? What interface are you using from the PI2AES? What source material? Details please!
     
  8. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    I had a PI2AES feeding a Rockna Wavedream Signature via i2s. I eventually got a linear power supply for it which made it a bit better. Always running Roon w/Tidal subscription.

    I A/B'd this config against a Holo Red (with an older version of RedOS) but have since sold the Wavedream and PI2AES and am now running a Red (with GentooPlayer OS on a CLTO kernel and running it in ramdisk mode) feeding a modded Direcstream mk2 via i2s.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2024
  9. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

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    Fair enough.
     
  10. haywood

    haywood Friend

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    The interesting thing about the Red is afaik it uses a CM4 Pi module like the older Mercury. I’m not sure how they’re doing dsd256+, I think I read something about a Amanero usb interface? Whatever it is it seems to be pretty well received. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Given the nature of audiophiles it’d probably be worth it for Michael to explore whether it’d be possible to support something similar and maybe look at using an rpi5 to bring back nvme drive support and more cpu for more complicated filtering because that’s kinda the way this is going.
     
  11. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Too much delicious food. Coffee. Music. Cigars. DAC shootout. 36 year old Sauternes wine.

    Sounds like I missed a great time.

    Would anyone have a picture of this? Or, if not, was it just the seats arranged as a semi circle with the speakers in the middle or was there a lot more to this including room shape, layout, stuff inside, etc.
     
  12. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    2nd photo from the top on page 3 of this thread is from the stadium seating position. Imagine a low-slung sofa in front of several barstool height chairs.

    I think the clincher is that the higher seats get your ears at tweeter level.

    I bought custom-made stands to get my speakers up to tweeter/ear level and I know @famish99 was experimenting with cinder block-fi to get his tweeters up to ear level. Don't know if they're still there but I imagine it's likely.

    Having tweeters at ear level just sounds better to me. Scott (and the rest of us) accidentally got to test this because he couldn't fit everyone in his listening room without adding a second row.
     
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  13. Michael Kelly

    Michael Kelly MOT: Pi 2 Design

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    Holo red used the usb from the CM4. They process it through an xmos chip to get I2S then use a programmable gate array to create the AES stream. This is what allows for dsd and up to 384k.

    As previously suggested we are looking at using the pi 5 and xmos via usb. We will see how that goes. But it would be a new product. Mercury will stay as is using the pi I2S interface even with the limitations. Though we are adding a 2-channel dac to Mercury next month.
     
  14. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    That's the hard part with non-square rooms IMO. Having an easy nearfield setup or square room allows tweeters toed in at ear level which for me has typically given best "detail and technicalities", but for overall sound and "feel", best was rarely in a square shaped room but rather some variant of an semi-circle, oval, or possibly a square-ish room but with vaulted ceilings (not just high), etc - and the speakers or sound source was never toed in at a single "good seat".
     
  15. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    Further explorations in sound:

    The May is likely the slightly "better" DAC between it and the Allnic, with slightly better texture and likely a tad more resolution if you really squint and try to discern.

    However, May is a tad blunted on the top end and once you hear that, it's hard to un-ring that bell.

    The Allnic, while not lacking in the upper registers (thankfully not to a point of contention since I do have some treble sensitivity mixed with not being able to hear above about 14k), is close enough to the May (and having come out 10 years ago it's kinda amazing that the race is so close!) that I might just end up with it for ease of use and lack of having to f**k with things.

    I've been working on the differences, and while there are audible differences both DACs are just great. Before I got the Red in my chain the Allnic had a big lead and I thought it was a done deal. The Red with Gentooplayer and Diretta has elevated the May to the level of "if you're interested in messing with it, here's the best shit out there" status.

    Kinda like @Pocomo, I'm not too interested in f'ing with it. However, I'm still going to live with both and see if anything further pokes it's head out because it's been a pretty tight race up til now.

    So, at least for now, the May and the Allnic are close enough that I could be happy with either. The PS DS MK1 is with @famish99 for evaluation, and @Inoculator was kind enough to mail one of his TWO that he owns to Famish so he can see if it's just broken or if the specific one at the mini-meet was just outclassed. We'll see once Fam has had time to put in the work.

    As an aside, when I got the Allnic phono pre, I was amazed at the crazy 3D stage it throws, as well as the insane texture and immediacy. The Allnic DAC doesn't have the crazy 3D surround sound stage, but if you listen closely (and especially during live recordings), there's still some of that tube magic. It's just not as immediately incredibly obvious as on the phono pre.

    Edit to add: May is being evaluated with HQP DSD. HQP DSD is better than HQP PCM is better than NOS once we're comparing some King shit.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 6, 2024
  16. Vansen

    Vansen Gear Master (retiring)

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    I know I’m late to posting my thoughts here, but I’m just grateful that I was able to find time in my extra busy life to fly down to Austin for the weekend to hang out with the folks here. My goals for visiting were to hang out with the folks here and eat some good food.

    Seattle has great food, but Austin beats Seattle for great tacos, machetes, and barbecue. Over a couple of days, I had tacos from a couple of food trucks, machetes from two different place, and Terry Black’s BBQ. Every single place that was recommended to me was phenomenal. I really wish I could get a good (or even mediocre) machete up here in Seattle.

    More so than audio, I’m a coffee nerd. It was really cool to connect with @famish99 over coffee, good cognac, and good rum (some amazing whisky and chartreuse, too). I don’t have enough coffee chatter in my life right now, so connecting on coffee was fun and I hope to have more coffee convos over time.

    From an audio perspective, the purpose of this meeting aligned with my next steps, but I wasn’t expecting to get as much out of the visit for the next steps in my 2ch journey as I did. Audio was a tertiary goal for me on this visit, so was pleasantly surprised to arrive back in Seattle with a very clear vision of where I want to go…

    At this point in my journey, I would like a digital setup that sounds almost as good as my vinyl rig for 2ch. I’m using Roon to a pi2AES to a modded BF1 MB. I’ve auditioned the Holo Spring 3 KTE and various Yggdrasil versions in my digital setup and they were all better than my current setup, but would still get slapped around by the performance of my turntable. So for 2ch, I’ve been searching for a digital setup that’s somewhat comparable to quality of sound I get from vinyl.

    After this meet. I left with quite a list of areas to focus on:

    1. I can get past my complaints of DACS/ digital sucking with a couple ares of focus:
      1. Once you get into the >$3k DAC range, my complaints that exist with DACs in the Yggdrasil/ Spring price range go away with many DACs (the Wesis 204, Allnic, May are all exceptional). I’ve stuck with my lower tier DACs because spending $2-$3k on a Yggdrasil or Spring wouldn’t get me where I want.
      2. HQPlayer is legit and is s a no brainer for improving sound in the areas I’m looking at. This will be part of my future setup for sure.
      3. Diretta is also legit and is probably worth going down the rabbit hole for me. I was skeptical before, but listening changed me.
      4. The Holo Red, while 3x the price I can get a pi2AES for, beats out the pi2AES in our configurations. The pi2AES sounds great, but at several times more the cost, the Red performs as expected.
      5. USB audio still sucks to me. I’ve never liked it and I still don’t. The May is supposed to sound best with USB, but it sounded like ass on USB next i2s from the May. Heck, the Holo Cyan EASILY beat the May when feeding the May with USB and the Cyan with i2s from the Red with DSD.
    2. The way that @noisyscott has his subs integrated into his system is amazing. This is easily one of the quickest ways to vastly improve my system. I have two Ken Krises DXD-808 subs in my system that are fantastic. What Scott has done with REW and other Sub SW is incredible and needs to be the first thing I try with my 2ch system.
    3. Next steps for my 2ch amplifier. I currently run an integrated SS class AB speaker amp out of simplicity. My amp sounds good, but is completely outclassed by everything else in my system. I’d love to go to a tube based set with a preamp and amp, but need an integrated solution that is easy for the rest of my extended family to use. From this, I really want to look at the Class-A based version of the CODA CSiB amp. Regardless, I’m looking for an integrated SS amp in this tier that will play well with my system and is easy for my family to use. I’m honestly happy with my Yamaha A-S801 still and it surprises everyone who hears my system that such a pedestrian amp can perform so well.
    4. DSD. Damn. I had written off DSD long ago after purchasing a Sony WM1A and running native DSD content on it. It sounded good, but didn’t feel like it was worth it over PCM. However, with the upsampled DSD that @famish99 and @noisyscott showed me have completed changed me. While the May in PCM mode from the Red over i2S with all of the upsampling implementation sounded amazing, for my typical genres, DSD fixed the last little complaints about digital for me. On less energetic music, DSD seemed so natural and made my singer/ singer writer stuff sound incredible compared to PCM. If I got a May, I’d probably want to spend 75% of my time on upsampled DSD and 25% on PCM, even if you have to wait for the SW to start the upsample between tracks.
    On the DACs… I loved the Holo May, Weiss 204, Allnic, and the Cyan (on DSD for the Cyan). I don’t want to spend too much time between the Allnic, Weiss 204, and Holo since I suspect most of these will come down to personal preferences, but they are all worthy DACs. The PS Audio PWD we had did not sound good and I’d rather listen to my HD580 from the built-in headphone jack on my M1 MacBook Pro than ANYTHING from that PS Audio DAC. That DAC had to have been broken, because, @CEE TEE's sounds way better. The Cyan was okay on PCM, probably good for its price point, but was outclassed by the rest of the DACs. However, when you put the Cyan on DSD, it can very surprisingly hold its own next to the May. If all you want to do is feed your DAC upsampled DSD, the Cyan has you in spades for a low price.

    At the end of the day, while I liked most of the DACs, especially the Allnic and May, the chameleon-like aspect of the May has me really interested. The May was stellar on both PCM and DSD and was easy for me tune the Mays sound to my preferences based on the music that I am listening. I’m going to wait for the May 2 to drop and see how May 1 used prices look then, but I see a May in my future.

    It’s been a month since the meet and I stand by opinions on digital here. Some folks need time with equipment, and some folks need a few moments with gear to know for good. I’m the kind of person who knows after a short period. I’m sure I’ll be happy over the long run with a May fed from a Red with HQplayer and Diretta. I don’t need the DSD upsampling, but it’s amazing in a lot of implementations. I’d still be perfectly happy with upsampled PCM in this setup, too. Case in point: I heard the Eddie Current Balancing Act in 2011 for the first time and knew it was the HP amp for me then. I own the EC BA today and it’s not going anywhere. My dating life and coffee life have followed this pattern, too.

    And on one last note, @Erroneous and I talked vinyl a bit. From that conversation, I finally ordered Lightnin’ Hopkins’ Goin’ Away from Analog Productions. I would highly recommend this album. It’s one of the best sounding albums I own and may have the most natural presentation of a guitar of any record I own.
     
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  17. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    I wanted to comment on this because it was found out by @famish99 studying the PS Audio DS and scouring some PS Audio forums that it was found out that: when feeding it I2S, it was somehow picking up the de-emphasis bit, and thus shrouding us in a reduction of high end. That is why high resolutions sounded fine; those don't have the de-emphasis bit.

    I actually find that whole DAC rather strange and why the personality changes so much with every iteration of firmware and why you have to keep it at volume of 92, etc. It is just a finicky DAC and you can get a similar or better sound out of spending less. PS - And without having to spend a bunch on upgrades to get it to even sound halfway decent.
     
  18. wbass

    wbass Friend

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    Holo Cyan 2 being fed DSD256 via HQPlayer is probably my next digital step. Thanks for the impressions.
     
  19. Erroneous

    Erroneous Friend

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    Looks like the locals are gathering on Sunday July 21st to conclude the meet.

    Thanks to @famish99 we now know what the issue was with the Directstream, the issue is fixed, and the DAC sounds a lot better.

    We're starting this meet off on much better footing than the last since with the last meet we sorted out that USB is absolutely not the best input for the May, and also we can give the Directstream a fair shake now that we understand and have fixed the issue that made it sound like caca.

    No Weiss this time, so the contenders will be: Holo May KTE vs Allnic D-5000 vs modified PSAudio Directstream.

    We also have an even more heavily modified PS DS locally so we might do Directstream vs Directstream if we're really feeling like torturing ourselves.

    Anyone who feels like joining us is welcome. I've sure we'll get some tasty foods before starting the meet and fun will be had by all!
     
  20. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    Credit also goes to @Inoculator since he found the forum posts after I came across an icon I couldn't find any mention in the manual. It only happens to certain sources (presumably those who pull the I2C pins to ground because taping over the SDA pin on the connector fixes it). It wasn't until I got my Red in that I was able to reproduce the meet conditions because my Hydra Z did not trigger this issue. Additional thanks to @Inoculator for loaning me the Signature version of the modded DS and in conjunction with sorting out the I2S issue has it displacing the Wavedream in my rack (even hitmanfluffy preferred it blind) and will repay the favor by buying the unit off him.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2024

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