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#274112 - 2018-03-11 12:15 My experiences with wired / wireless Roon / Sooloos / Foobar USB feeds to Prime
Registered: 2005-09-02
Posts: 492
Simon Mirren Offline
Paranoid android
Simon Mirren Offline
Paranoid android

Registered: 2005-09-02
Posts: 492
Loc: York, UK
Not sure of the best place to post but settled on here...

Thanks in no small part to Ratbert’s kind advice I have spent the last week testing different methods of delivering my local FLAC and cloud Tidal music collection to my Prime HA and wanted to share my findings. I’ve tried to prepare a logical write up but I’m no pro and was comparing a lot so I hope you find it useful!

General Setup

Moving my setup from the office (actually my living room) to the movie room to have everything in one place with fully wired options I was able to try:

1. Roon / Foobar running as bit-perfect core / endpoint on Surface Pro 2017 i5 / 8GB / 256 SSD feeding Prime USB input via Wireworld Chroma USB cable. Store = WD MyCloud NAS. I also tried using as another PC as a Roon endpoint to separate core and source responsibilities but quickly found this made no difference (they were both PCs after all so this was not unexpected).

2. ControlPC running as a non bit-perfect endpoint from my Surface

3. Roon running as core. MS600 endpoint.

4. Sooloos: MD600 core/store feeding MS600 endpoint feeding Prime analogue inputs via monster interconnects.

Prime HA set to ASP1 except when specified.

Some sample tracks / albums (no judging please 😊):

Lorde – Royals MQA 24 /192 from Tidal
Ed Sheeran - % Album MQA 24 / 44 from Tidal
Sarah McLachlan – Angel 16 /44 FLAC from NAS
Deadmau5 – Ghosts ‘N Stuff 16 / 44 FLAC from NAS
Coldplay – X&Y Album 16 /44 FLAC from NAS
Camila Cabello – Camila Album 16 / 44 FLAC fromNAS

Conclusion and Surprises

The MS600 into the prime via its fixed analogue outputs won in every test I could throw at it. The best way I can describe this is that the music seemed to have a far greater 3D image. Vocals were brought forward and clearer and the music seemed to envelope me more at the same time and had more snap.

The effect was more pronounced when comparing apples with apples - non-MQA files up to FLAC 24 / 96.

MQA Tidal tracks through the Surface USB did help close the gap vs the same track played through the MS600. As a specific example with Ed Sheeran’s Divide Album I would not lose sleep over the differences but the MS600 still won. Interestingly, for this particular album I had to adjust the ASP setting between the playback devices. ASP1 with the MS600 took my perceived improvements too far – the vocals were too separated and in your face and the extra snap I was hearing felt unnatural and too metallic like. Changing to ASP2 brought this back in line but when applying ASP2 with the Surface source the music was dead’nd (my own technical term). ASP1 improved this dramatically and made the 2 sources very comparable.

I could also not tell any difference between using my wireless Surface (via Roon) or wired MD600 (via Sooloos software) as my cores. This was one of my biggest surprises given all that I have read about the benefits of keeping the core off and away from the noisy environment of a multipurpose PC, as well as the advantages of a wired connection.

In fact, I could not tell any difference between wired and wireless delivery whatever I was listening too. The Surface and router both benefit from dual band wireless ac and I have never experienced any drop outs or stuttering – even when playing hi-def video stored on my NAS– so I know I am luckier than many in this respect but even so was still surprised.

Another surprise was that bit-perfect via my Surface USB (even MQA) vs whatever ControlPC was outputting was all but indistinguishable to my ears with the equipment in question, however this was somewhat dependent on the album. For example with Lorde’s Pure Heroin, (Royals track) there was no discernible difference between receiving the full MQA 24 / 192 via Roon / Foobar via USB vs through Control:PC (presumably downmixing to 16 / 44). I had experienced this with my Explorer2 and thought the higher quality Prime might expose the difference but no. However with Ed Sheeran’s % album I could tell a difference with the full fat bit-perfect MQA making a noticeable improvement. I guess like with any media, this is simply down to how much care has been spent on the recording. A perfectly recorded 16 / 44 album (as with Lorde) can sound as good as its MQA high res version but this is unfortunately the exception as opposed to the norm.

My final (and most unwelcome) surprise after dismantling everything and restoring my Surface + Prime to my living room was a significant perceived drop in quality. The sound just appeared more clouded, with less separation and loss of soundstage. I can only put this down to the listening room and perhaps change in time of day. The lounge is much larger than the movie room with more light and free space. The movie room is more intimate by comparison. So even with headphones (and semi-closed headphones for that matter) it appears the room makes a difference! Another technical term here – this sucks!

Anyway, so what do I think this tells me?

1. The DAC in my MS600 is superior to the DAC in the Prime – which I would expect, however I am hoping the Prime PSU will bridge some of this gap as presumably some of the difference between the Prime and MS600 DACs will be to do with the respective power supplies. Reasons for any remaining difference is way beyond my simple brain and I’ll just call it special source!

2. To my ears the single most important factor that will improve sound quality in my scenario is the quality of the DAC. Wired / wireless / separating core from source / using different software players seemed to add no value that I could actually hear – despite what might be technically superior.

3. Bit-perfect (even with MQA) vs whatever Control:PC is outputting is almost always indistinguishable to my ears with the equipment in question.

So where does this leave me?

Will these results (particularly points 2 and 3) stop me from purchasing Roon, subscribing to TIDAL for MQA, purchasing an Intel NUC and Allo USBridge (to take the Ethernet network feed and convert it to USB) and going to considerable lengths to hardwire this all up to my lounge – probably not! The human psyche is an incredible thing – despite recognising that I am likely to hear very limited improvements that I would actually recognise without doing direct A / B tests I still want to do it!

My only caveat is that (given point 3) if Sooloos Touch was more reliable and would scale to fit my Surface (2736x1824) or connected 25 inch monitors (twin 2560 x 1440) it would be a much tougher choice. I still love the simplicity of the Sooloos interface and integration with Tidal but I don’t feel Meridian have been able to successfully replicate my old C15 on a PC in terms of usability.

There’s also the very simple (but quite ridiculous if I think about it) fact that I genuinely feel my overall listening experience is improved by seeing the lights on my Prime change, with the blue MQA light (when I have my Prime swapped out for the newer model) the holy grail, even though I have excepted that I can barely tell the difference! Is this weird!?


Main: MS600, G61R, DSP3100Vx3, DSP33x2, SW1600, Samsung 65JS9500 TV, Sony X800, Wireworld Star*light video cabling, Isotek Vision, Isotek Elite/Prem mains cabling.

Office: Roon ROCK on NUC7i5, Allo USBridge + iFi PSU, Prime Amp/PSU, Fostex TH900.

On the Go: Surface Pro, Explorer2, Sennheiser Momentum M2

Smyth Realiser2 on pre-order :-)
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#274117 - 2018-03-11 13:14 Re: My experiences with wired / wireless Roon / Sooloos / Foobar USB feeds to Prime [Re: Simon Mirren]
Registered: 2004-08-07
Posts: 7,441
Ian Offline
President of the Imperial Galactic Government
Ian Offline
President of the Imperial Galactic Government

Registered: 2004-08-07
Posts: 7,441
Loc: Surrey, England, UK
Interesting thanks.
Quote:
I can only put this down to the listening room and perhaps change in time of day.
I'm a firm believer is it being the retrograde steps that indicate sound differences, rather than improvements, so would be interested in hearing what/if any you find is contributing to the retrograde conditions. I'm also a believer in quiet listening first thing at 5am giving a far better experience than any 'upgrade' I have ever heard.

So, out of curiosity, what times of day were these listening done?


Meridian owner since 1992
DSP5000 96/24, MC200, Prime & PSU, Focal Elear, Explorer 1 & 2, F80, 200/203 and various Sonos.
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#274118 - 2018-03-11 14:16 Re: My experiences with wired / wireless Roon / Sooloos / Foobar USB feeds to Prime [Re: Ian]
Registered: 2005-09-02
Posts: 492
Simon Mirren Offline
Paranoid android
Simon Mirren Offline
Paranoid android

Registered: 2005-09-02
Posts: 492
Loc: York, UK
The bulk of the listening was done between 6pm and 8pm. I only reinstated the Surface + Prime back into the lounge this morning at around 8am. Will report back any perceived improvements with some listening at 8pm tonight. I'm sure sleep and state of mind also have a profound affect which would me much more difficult to recreate exactly!


Main: MS600, G61R, DSP3100Vx3, DSP33x2, SW1600, Samsung 65JS9500 TV, Sony X800, Wireworld Star*light video cabling, Isotek Vision, Isotek Elite/Prem mains cabling.

Office: Roon ROCK on NUC7i5, Allo USBridge + iFi PSU, Prime Amp/PSU, Fostex TH900.

On the Go: Surface Pro, Explorer2, Sennheiser Momentum M2

Smyth Realiser2 on pre-order :-)
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#274119 - 2018-03-11 14:34 Re: My experiences with wired / wireless Roon / Sooloos / Foobar USB feeds to Prime [Re: Simon Mirren]
Registered: 2010-12-09
Posts: 3,362
Ratbert Offline
Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Ratbert Offline
Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal

Registered: 2010-12-09
Posts: 3,362
Loc: Europe
Nice honest write up Simon, well done.

Russ


Always learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.
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#274178 - 2018-03-13 03:00 Re: My experiences with wired / wireless Roon / Sooloos / Foobar USB feeds to Prime [Re: Ratbert]
Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 154
JohnSWimer Offline
Hitchhiker
JohnSWimer Offline
Hitchhiker

Registered: 2010-02-09
Posts: 154
Loc: San Francisco, CA, USA
+1


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