Sunday, April 18, 2021

The "Poor Mans Statement": Three Innuos Products That Get Very Close To the Performance Of Their Flagship Streamer For Less

The Innuos Statement


The Innuos Statement, a streaming tour de force. Coveted by many, but the $15,100 price tag puts it out of reach for all but a select few. If you are curious, but hesitant to invest in a $15,000 streamer, there is an Innuos-based option that you can implement in steps, that will get you very close to the performance of the Statement. I call it "The Poor Man's Statement".  

Innuos Zenith MK3


The foundation of this system begins with the Innuos Zenith MK3. The Zenith MK3 is the step below the Statement in price, starting at $4699 for a 1tb model. The biggest difference is that it has the linear power supply and streamer in one box, rather than two. It is a very quiet and robust power supply, but not quite at the statement level. Size and price constraints dictated the compromise. The Zenith MK3 does have the solid state internal drive, and it's the only Innuos model other than the Statement to do so. That is what makes it the best choice for getting to the performance level of the Statement for less.

Overall the Zenith MK 3 does get reasonably close to the performance of the Statement on it's own.  It has the same house sound, just a little less fine resolution. Still a great streamer on it's own for 98% of audiophiles. That is an understatement really, most audiophile could and have stopped there and been perfectly happy. But for those who must have the best,  It's the next two components that take the performance of the Zenith MK3 very close to that of the Statement.  What are those components you may ask? Well, if you take a close look at the other technical features of the Statement you will find your answer. 

What Makes The Statement Sound Like The Statement?

What makes the Statement so natural sounding with so much resolution, besides the quiet outboard linear power supply with all of the separate voltage rails feeding all of the internals of the Statement, it's the reclocking of the incoming Ethernet stream and the outgoing USB stream. The Statement has 2 separate reclockers built in that give it the sonic edge, and the higher price tag.

Innuos Phoenix USB

Reclocking/Conditioning USB

Every signal that flows out of the Statement's usb port has been cleaned up and reclocked. It was such a successful circuit that they decided to make a separate product out of it. The Phoenix USB. This is the USB reclocking circuit of the Statement, in it's own chassis with it's own linear power supply. This would connect between the output of the Zenith MK3 to the USB input on your DAC of choice. It would require an extra USB cable, so keep that cost in mind.  Speaking of which, we don't sell it but I do recommend the Phasure Lush 3 USB cable. So far this is the most natural sounding cable that offers the sonic balance and holographic soundstaging I prefer. Oh and the price is very reasonable for the performance. I do not have any affiliation with Phasure, nor do I profit from this other than having the satisfaction of making a solid recommendation on a usb cable. Anyway, onward.

Phasure Lush 3 USB cable. Starting at around US $260.


Reclocking/Conditioning Ethernet

Innuos' latest product, the PhoenixNET Reclocking Ethernet switch is what made the Poor Man's Statement a possibility. This product is actually a bit more robust than the internal Ethernet reclocker of the Statement. Here they started from scratch rather than just mimic the circuit in the Statement, so it is actually a bit better. This is where the Poor Man's Statement gains ground.


Internal Reclocking Circuit on the PhoenixNET

Advantages

With the Zenith MK3 (1tb for this example), Phoenix USB and PhoenixNet, you spend about $11,697 to get 90% of the Statement's performance. That's a savings of $3403. Additionally, you can do this over time. Starting with the Zenith MK3, then adding either the PhoenixNET or Phoenix USB as time and finances permit.


Conclusion

My pursuit of this hobby has always been about value. That has taken me to some pretty creative lengths to do so. The "Poor Man's Statement" will make more sense to those who want the best performance for the money, with more flexibility when it comes to purchasing, cabling, and resale. One can acquire this system in 3 purchases rather than one. One can place the components more advantageously if need be since there are 3 separate chassis. Cabling options, while adding some additional expense, can help one tune the sound more to their liking. Lastly if one piece is replaced with a newer model, or one technology advances suddenly, one can sell one of the three pieces more quickly and maintain the performance and value of the rest of the system more easily.

All of the reasoning above makes the Poor Man's Statement a great value. But of course the biggest reason is the price. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

ADD-Powr Wizard Review



The ADD-Powr Story

ADD-Powr started in 1999 with 2 products that if you've been an audiophile long enough, you may recognize. They were called the Quantum Symphony and Symphony Pro. They were highly regarded and critically acclaimed products that caught the attention of Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and other audio magazines. Quantum Resonance Technology was also used in other well known products from Walker Audio (the Velocitor) and Combak corporation.

Nordost purchased QRT technology from the inventor, Bill Stierhout, in 2008 and are to this day still manufacturing products using Quantum Resonance Technology.

Flash forward to today, and Bill has advanced his technology greatly. This time he has decided to keep the technology to himself. Marketing products under the ADD-Powr brand.

ADD Powr Technology (somewhat) Explained

The ADD in ADD Powr stands for Algorithm Digital Defined power. What this means is that ADD-Powr products use an algorithm generated field to affect power going to your components. The ADD-POWR website says it this way:

ADD-Powr™ technology is Algorithm Digital Defined Power™. It is unique because it addresses the quality of electrical environments: Energy is added to electrical signals and systems. ADD-Powr™ products are electrical environment conditioners rather than AC power line  conditioners.

According to the ADD-Powr Web Site

"The ADD-Powr algorithm incorporates a low frequency complex signal of a specific oscillation pattern. Mathematically speaking, a periodic complex waveform such as a square wave can be expressed as a harmonic series summation of sine and cosine waves interacting in various time phase relationships. This was the discovery of Joseph Fourier (1768-1830), the revered French mathematician and physicist..."

"...The Wizard and Sorcer designs use an amplifier to interface with the secondary of an AC power transformer and induce  a small signal of varying amplitude onto the primary side. They also generate and propagate a small field of low frequency through a system of coil antennae. The Fourier harmonics contained in the signal act to resonate with the audio signals in the hi-fi system. 

A complex wave "disturbance" rides  along the AC line. Since it is a low frequency signal, it is not filtered away by power supplies, such as a/v component power supplies. Instead, it passes through the filter stages and becomes part of the DC reference supply voltage.

The Fourier transform concept can now be understood. The Fourier series contains the fundamental driving frequency and its constituent related frequencies or overtones. These are called harmonics.

Since the harmonics are sine and cosine waves of varying energy or weight (amplitude) and of varying time phases, it is the fundamental frequency that contains the most energy. As the frequency band is scaled upward, the harmonic series' energy or amplitude diminishes exponentially.

So what used to be a direct current / DC voltage reference, is now a direct current / DC voltage reference with harmonic sine waves. The reference has been modified significantly.

But what does that mean to the performance of an audio  system?

When an audio signal (a complex function in time), with significant frequency information at around 100 Hz enters an amplifier stage, it will be processed/amplified as usual. But if the harmonic series that has been imposed upon the DC supply voltage also has a 100 Hz fundamental, then, we now have a condition of resonance at that exact instance. 

So the input signal will resonate with the DC reference fundamental frequency.

There will be an increase in the overall energy or amplitude of the audio signal in the amplifier. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. harmonics scaled upwards (out to infinity) in frequency from this modified DC reference will also harmonically resonate. Finally, the audio signal emitting from the loudspeaker will reveal an increase in its integrity, or an increase of as much as 1 - 2 dB in energy..."

Does your head hurt yet?

This is so completely different from typical power conditioning which use transformers, capacitors, coils, etc. in series or parallel to reduce the noise riding on incoming AC lines. Many complaints about the conventional approach to power conditioning is a limiting of dynamics, and I have heard alterations of tone, blurring of bass and flattening of the soundstage in the worst cases. To avoid sonic drawbacks like these, one has to spend good money, component amounts of money, to get power conditioning that minimizes on the offences and maximizes sonic benefits. It ain't easy or cheap to do.

Add Powr avoids all of the drawbacks of conventional power conditioning with a very creative approach. One that does not mechanically insert itself into the power chain of one's audio system.

Look Ma, no AC receptacles!

The Wizard

The Wizard sits roughly in the middle of the Add-Powr product lineup and utilizes 8 small coils to generate it's algorithmically determined field. It has a steel chassis with anodized aluminum front panel whose dimensions are 12" wide x 8" deep x 2" high. It weighs about 5 pounds and sells for $1995.

The System

The Room

  • 18' wide by 24' long with a drop ceiling with height of 9' 6". The actual height to the roof is about 15'. The drop ceiling is 2" thick Soundsulate drop ceiling tiles.
  •  8x Acoustic Fields 24" x 48" x 2" foam panels on the side walls to control slap echo and absorb midbass frequencies.
  • 6x Ready Acoustics NEST corner mount bass traps
  • 12x Stillpoints Aperture 2 panels in critical locations (first reflection points, front and back, centered)

Evaluating

My evaluation of the Wizard begins with taking the Sorcer X4 out of the system and acclimating myself to the sound of my system without any ADD-Powr products in it.

System with No ADD Powr - A fine sounding system in my opinion. In a word, natural, with excellent tonality and transparency. The Innuos has a well deserved reputation for being a great streamer, and the Frerot R2R style DAC with optional linear power supply is a very musical and satisfying DAC only $2100. It outshines DAC's in its price range and above with very clear, and unfatiguing sound top to bottom. The Modwright has plenty of power to drive the relatively inefficient Harbeth speakers, and most of the time was in Class A operation. The Harbeth speakers are extremely natural sounding, especially with vocals and acoustic music, but really anything played through them just has more realism, depth and finesse than most speakers in their price range.

I had acclimated myself to the sound of the system with the Sorcer out over the course of a few days. I tried to evaluate the system as it was without using my memories of the sound with the Sorcer in. It took a few days to gain that perspective.

Adding the Wizard

I placed the Wizard on my rack, top shelf, next to the Modwright integrated and plugged it straight into the wall. I let it settle in for a few minutes, but even as I plugged it in, standing behind the speakers, I heard and felt the sound change. I left the room, and came back about an hour later. The changes I observed were as follows:

A more relaxed presentation - My whole system is more or less already designed with that in mind, but the Wizard took it to another level. Music flowed more naturally. 

Clarity, Delicacy, Sweetness - There was also more clarity, delicacy and sweetness in the highs. I could hear individual strings more clearly for instance. Not separated into something artificial, the naturalness, wholeness of the instrument, and sweetness were there. It's just now I could hear a little more deeply into the individual pieces that made the whole.  All presented with significantly less graininess and blurring of sonic edges.

Improved Harmonic Richness - Harmonics seemed to benefit from this improved clarity as well. The totality of clearer, more delicate and sweet highs with better harmonic richness also led to a greater soundstage width and depth. Instrumental decays had more "float factor" to them. In fact the Harbeths disappeared a bit more with the Wizard in the system than without. 

Solidity - What do I mean by this?  In this situation I mean that the images and soundstage had a more solid, wall to wall , front to back feel to them. I am guessing this contributes to the "float factor", where images and the entire sonic landscape do not appear to be coming from the speakers at all.

No Negative Artifacts - There were no shifts in frequency, tone or dynamics. The Wizard is not a component that emphasized the upper range of frequencies to give one the initial impression of more air, space, or the cliche veil being lifted. 

Bottom Line

The Wizard took a system that I consider very natural and satisfying to listen to and made it better, clearer, more transparent and at the same time even more natural sounding than it already was.  The improvement it yielded in an already very good system was equivalent to a component upgrade of at least $2000 in my opinion. I use it in conjunction with the Dark Matter Stealth power conditioner (with no series components) DMT X1, Stein Harmonizers. It works and plays well with others (just remember, plug it into the wall and not your power conditioner). It raised the performance of the system in terms of clarity, richness and engagement factor by a margin that easily justifies the price.

I would recommend that anyone looking to upgrade any component, source, amps, speakers, that they audition the Wizard before making such a move. Seriously. The Wizard does most all of the things we as audiophiles are looking for in our quest for "better". Air, space, sweetness, transparency. Something we can listen to all day long without having to turn down the volume, or worse yet, walk away with ringing ears.

But I am a dealer for this product. Of course I am going to say these things, right? No, I don't play like that. If I don't like something, I'm not going to carry it, nor am I going to recommend it. I would also not let you borrow it. But here I am, enthusiastically recommending the ADD-Powr Wizard, and offering to let you audition it if you are in the market for such a component if it lives up to the hype. 

Thank you for reading this far, and contact me if you would like to try the Wizard in your own system.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

RIP Jack Bybee

I met jack around 1998. I was not new to the hobby, but I was in a financial position to finally afford what I would call audiophile quality components. I had Legacy Audio Speakers, B&K preamp and amp, and my digital source which I cannot remember. After my system had been assembled, I was looking for inexpensive ways to improve it. It was then that I had discovered his Bybee Purifiers. They literally changed my life as I was so excited about their performance that I wanted to share them with everyone who had an interest in audio. I started selling them through my old company CryoTweaks,  and started up Tweek Geek a few short years later. Jack was instrumental in this taking place.

Jack was a brilliant physicist who never stopped working. He was passionate about audio and curious about how to make it sound better. I admired his unconventional way of thinking, his drive, curiosity and his spirit. 

I worked with Jack for over 20 years. At first he was a bit intimidating to talk to. You could still hear the Navy sailor in his voice. But after awhile he softened a bit as I grew accustomed to his manner and he grew to trust me. I would get a call from him about once a month to see how I was doing, to discuss his ideas, and how to better sell his products. Every once in awhile the call would start with "I think I've discovered something that you might want to try".  Two weeks later it would be another call. "I found a way to make it better". This was a never ending process for him. He came up with some pretty crazy ideas, but they always worked, and if they were marketable he never stopped improving on them..

Thank you Jack for your ideas, your passion, and your advice. Without them I would not be who I am today. Rest In Peace.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Creating Your "Bubble": Setting Up A Medium Sized Room For Great Listening


The Fantasy

Our listening environments. Most of us fantasize about a cavernous listening room, free from boomy bass and early reflections. Our massive system would sit well away from the room boundaries, as would our favorite listening chair. The drink caddy would be the only thing allowed near the seating during our audio therapy sessions. The thing about large rooms is they also give you a larger margin for error. Error in speaker placement, error in acoustic treatment. They are in a sense more forgiving. This makes getting them to sound good at normal listening levels much easier than a small room.

The flip side to this advantage is it takes a bigger speaker, possibly multiple subwoofers, a larger amplifier, and a lot more acoustic treatments to get to the desired sound pressures in that large room.


The Reality

The reality for many of us is quite different. The average listening room is about 15 feet by 12 feet with 8-10 foot ceilings. Not small, but not large either.  The margin for error in listener and speaker placement is smaller.  We have been told either directly or inferred through reading reviews, etc. that we need 8 feet of space between our speakers and ten feet of space between our listening position and speakers. Following this information places the speakers and the listener near the room boundaries, creating all sorts of room modes, and reflection issues. This may look good, or fit into our assumptions of what should sound good, but are you getting the best listening experience? Probably not.

What a situation like this calls for is defined by the recording industry as mid-field listening. Mid field listening is done at distances of 6-12 feet from the speakers. Most of us are realistically working within the range of 6-9 feet before we start encountering serious boundary interactions.

It takes more work perhaps, but a mid field listening setup can produce a visceral, holographic and tonally even listening experience with less amplifier, less speaker, and fewer acoustic treatments. By work I mean careful speaker placement. Really nailing down the best place for your speakers and the best place for your seating is critical.

Ultimately, we will be creating a "bubble" with properly set up speakers and listening spot, acoustic treatments, and a tweak or two to really dial in the holographic experience.

The Bubble

Step 1: Speaker Placement


I have tried many different methods for speaker placement, most of them do not work as well nor are as simple as New Record Day's method that was recently revealed in one of his great YouTube videos. It's a little counter intuitive, but for a reason (I'll let him explain it). It takes 2 hours or so (I may be really slow at taping off the floor however...)  to really go through, but the end result is worth it.



Take the time and really do this before considering the next recommendation.

Once you have your speakers and seating placed and sounding fantastic, we need to figure out where to place some of the acoustic treatments.
Stillpoints Aperture II in Cherry wood with Cream Grille on a custom stand.


Step 3: Acoustic Treatments

In this example, we will be using 4 acoustic treatments. These will form an area in front of, behind and to the sides of our listening area. 

I recommend The Stillpoints Aperture II panels. Why? Acoustic treatments have a sonic signature. Out of all of the treatments I have experimented with the Aperture II's allow my system to sound the best. The Aperture II's also take a little guesswork out of what type of treatment to place where. They absorb, diffuse and have a little bit of bass trap built in. They keep the sound and soundstage lively, balanced and in tact. One can use a combination of absorbers, diffusers and bass traps from other manufacturers if that's what you have on hand. You are not limited to just 4 treatments either. This is an example and I am taking a minimalist approach.

I place the panels as follows:
  • One centered between the loudspeakers with the main area centered at listening height
  • One on either side of the listening position at the first reflection points
  • One centered behind the main listening seat
12-15 room listening "bubble"
Another example below uses 6 acoustic panels.

This example uses 6 acoustic panels total.

I like the mid field approach for several reasons
  1. It gives every critical component (speakers and your listening chair) acoustical space from room boundaries. This helps with bass response and early reflection issues.
  2. Like near field listening, it takes much of the room out of the equation. Unlike near field listening, the additional distance between listener and speakers allows the sound from the speakers to become more cohesive, and is just less "in your face".

What The Bubble Can And Cannot Do

The "Bubble" will open up your soundstage, improve depth, imaging and detail. How? Most of the sound you will hear from your system will be what is directly radiated from the speakers. Reflected sound, which tends to blur detail and smear the sound, will be greatly reduced. If you have severe bass issues, you may need bass traps. Bass is more of a sound pressure issue than a sound wave issue. The pressure can be a function of the volume and shape of your room, and on some occasions speaker placement can only minimize this issue, not eliminate it. 

Step 4: Tweaks To Enhance Resolution & Soundstage

Into The Twilight Zone... Below I will break down products that will make your space appear, at least to your ears, to be sonically larger.  They also have the added benefit of enhancing resolution and detail as well. All without adding brightness or artificially altering the tone.

The Stein Harmonizers come with their own stands, but for the others, they are small enough to sit atop the acoustic treatments you have placed around you. 

Stein Harmonizer System - The classic tweak. 4 Battery powered boxes allow you to adjust their effect.  Harmonizer H2 system is $2395.

Bybee V2 - This small, rather utilitarian looking device has an effect similar to the Harmonizer system. Adding resolution, richness, air, space, liquidity. Perhaps a little on the more liquid, warmer richer side of things. $399 each.


DMT X1 - The 3 x 2 x 1 walnut box is filled with material that has a very similar effect to the Bybee products. $199 each


Bybee Quantum Clarifier - Smaller and less powerful than the V2 or DMT X1, it may just strike the perfect balance of effect and price. $100 each

Bottom Line

  1. Really work on optimizing the placement of your speakers and seating. 
  2. With a few acoustic treatments, create a "bubble" of sound where the energy that your ears pick up is the direct, radiated from the speakers.
  3. With your system now hitting new heights, widths and depths try out some room enhancing tweaks to see if they do indeed take things further by making the walls in your room disappear.
Thanks for reading this far and as always, if you have questions please don't hesitate to call or email.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The DMT X1: Versatile & So Powerful


I'll start with the punchline. After 10 years in development, and 3 more years of optimizing form factor, I can confidently say the DMT X1 deserves to be in your listening room or breaker box. My goal is to make it easy for that to happen, which with my in-home audition program it is.

DMT started out as Sonic Tonic, which was a tiny mixture of the material in a little glass bottle. It was effective, but the bottles could break. I then suspended the materials in epoxy molds which did not break, but did not look that great, and with further research, I found the epoxy hampered the effectiveness and sound negatively.
The original Sonic Tonic


DMT X1 is much more effective, and much more attractive. Batteries and power cords are no longer needed for them to work. In fact, the X1 is more powerful than any other Sonic Tonic or DMT product. It is at least twice as powerful as the DMT mandala, at about 1/4 the size and 1/3 the cost.
DMT Dots


Where the X1 Works Best


As a room treatment: The "Tardis Effect"

My room is fairly large, at 15 to 18 feet wide, 27 feet long with 10' ceilings. It was two rooms at one time, one a roughly 15' x 14' media room, and an 18' x 13' game room. I have my system in the 15' x 14' space and the seating is actually in the 18' x 13' space. Smaller rooms will not need nearly the treatment I have. So with that in mind, below is what I have placed in my room:

  • I have 4 X1's and 4 Bybee V2's placed in the for corners of my room at the ceiling. You can use just the X1, or just the V2, but I found the combination very synergistic.
  • I also have the X1's running along the side walls at ceiling height, spaced about 8 feet apart.
  • I have three X1's running down the center of the room. The first is behind the listening position at ceiling height, the second is on the ceiling between the listening position and the speakers, and the last is centered on the wall behind the speakers at about 5 feet off of the ground.
This setup rivals the familiar Synergistic and Stein room treatment systems in terms of holography, soundstage and immersion factor. Where it differs is in terms of naturalness, soundstage density, room depressurization, musical flow and low level phase information. The music just sounds more natural, less electronic. Instruments are not overly thin or full sounding. Wood sounds wooden, brass sounds appropriately brassy.   It's almost as if the pressure in the room is decreased and the sound opens up into a larger space that what is physically there. Call it "the Tardis effect". Music also just seems to have a natural energy flow. There is no artificial/electronic tension, unless it's in the recording. Image density is something to behold, and one has to be careful here to not get too much of a good thing.
Placement of DMT X1's. Not pictured are the three at ceiling height along the wall behind the listening position.

Starting Slowly

One could start with just a single X1 placed in the center front position. This will increase center image density and resolution. 

The next move would be adding 2 more on the side walls. I placed mine at the ceiling, because I like more image height out of my horn loaded speakers. You can place them as low as ear level on the side walls, about 1.5 feet in front of the front plane of the loudspeakers.

Next is a judgement call. Do you need more ambient fill, more soundstage depth, or more image height?
  • Ambient fill - Try adding 2 to the rear corners of the room. If that isn't satisfactory, try them on the front corners of the room. This works in some cases.
  • Soundstage depth - Add 2 to the front upper corners of the room
  • Image height - Add 1 to the ceiling, between listening position and speakers.

On power: 

If you can place an X1 inside your power conditioner, great! I find it works Extremely well there. In fact the latest iteration of the Stealth power conditioner will have 2 OEM X1's inside.

Try them on your sub panel or main breaker box. I place one on the power coming in to the house, just after the meter and before the breaker box.

The X1 tends to lower the noise floor when placed in power conditioners, revealing more ambiant information and low level detail. The other effects apply here as well, with naturalness and flow of the presentation becoming more organic and less electronic, and chewy, dense imaging.

Comparing DMT X1 to Bybee V2 and Quantum Clarifier

The DMT X1 works very well with all Bybee devices. The X1's effectiveness lies somewhere between the Quantum Clarifier, which I consider the most modestly powerful, and the V2 which is the most powerful of all three devices. I highly recommend using the X1's as an "enhancer" to V2's in your room. More is not necessarily better in every application. Each device has it's place within one's system.
Bybee V2 (left) and Quantum Clarifier (right)

Conclusions

The DMT X1 is a versatile and effective product that can be used as a room or power conditioning treatment. If you love the Bybee Quantum Clarifier or Bybee V2 products, you will find the DMT X1 to be very complimentary. As a standalone product, the X1 lies somewhere between the Quantum Clarifier and V2 in intensity of effect. You may find one is better suited to your tastes than another, and some experimentation may be required. Fortunately, we can help you with determining what might be best in your situation with in-home auditions of any of these products. We are excited for what musical joys lie hidden in your system with these products properly implemented.

Contact Tweek Geek for An In-Home Audition of DMT and Bybee Products

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Lumin Takes The LEEDH


Lumin Adds LEEDH Lossless Volume Control To ALL Models

What is LEEDH?

LEEDH is a digital volume control algorithm that, unlike every other digital volume control available, is lossless. It's complex algorithm eliminates rounding errors (dither). It modifies the digital signal amplitude exactly, without any changes to its shape and free from any kind of information loss. When used as a preamp/volume control directly connected to an amplifier, you get a purity of signal that is tough to match when using a preamp.

This has long been the promise of DAC's with volume controls, but only a few have come somewhat close to delivering. With LEEDH, this promise is now made reality. Not just to the five figure priced components, but in this case, even the $2000 components in the Lumin lineup. Folks, this is huge.

The Vaunted Lumin X1 streamer/DAC  in Darth Vader black finish.

Why Is This Such A Big Deal?

On the surface, this may not appear to be a big deal. After all, an analog preamp is lossless isn't it? Not really. There are colorations, which are not a bad thing if you enjoy them. There are losses from the circuitry, no matter how good. Noise, extra connections, extra circuits, extra wire. All of these have an effect of veiling the sound. The best preamps minimize these effects a great deal, but not completely. Sixmoons' Joel Chevassus so aptly describes:

"Whatever volume control you use from the best analog beasts such as Robert Koda's Takumi or Ypsilon's PST 100 to more convincing digital algorithms inside a Mola Mola Tambaqui or big Soulution DAC, LEEDH processing reveals how destructive they can be."

He's throwing around some fairly big names in his comparison. Can it be that good? I mean, after all Lumin added it to all of their models, from the $2000 U1 mini to the nearly $14,000 X1 streamer/DAC for free. Our trained audiophile brains ask "How good could it be if it's free?" I understand your thoughts, as I also have the disease. I thought the same thing. Then I listened.

The Lumin T2 streamer/DAC in silver finish.


Dispensing With Your Preamp & Using LEEDH

Connecting the Lumin directly to your amplifier involves making sure your Lumin streamer has the latest firmware and software. If it does, then LEEDH is the default volume control.  You will want to open the Lumin app, venture into the Settings for your streamer, and turn the volume control on. The LEEDH Processing Volume will automatically be turned on. You may also notice an additional volume setting called Max Volume %. This is the gain setting, and can be set to that if the volume control is accidentally boosted to 100, you won't blow your amp or speakers. 



The Sound

The audiophile world is a crowded street bazaar, with everyone using ever more colorful hyperbole to describe their experience, grab your attention, and make you want their product. It's tough for a genuine technological advance to break through the noise these days. This is a genuine advance, and I am glad a company like Pixel Magic (Lumin's parent company) saw the value in the idea, and shared it freely with Lumin owners. My hope is that you who are already Lumin owners will try the LEEDH lossless volume in your own system, sans preamp, and hear what I am talking about.

When it was time set up my X1 directly into my Modwright amplifier and see what this was all about, my expectations were not all that high. I thought the 32 bit volume control on the X1 was very good. Amongst the best I had heard up to now. It's hard to express the level of shock experienced hearing the Lumin with the LEEDH volume control at the helm for the first time.

To be fair, not only was I hearing the LEEDH algorithm, I was also hearing the absence of my preamp. Still, I had used the X1 without a preamp before, but this was something altogether different. It did not sound like the same component. It sounded much, much better. The first thing I noticed was dynamics had real snap and impact, much more live sounding than before. The energy and jump factor increased markedly. After my ears settled in, I began to hear more. Literally. All throughout my listening session the word "purity" kept coming to the forefront of my mind. Purity in this instance meant clarity, more texture, low level information that makes the music real. Tonal colors were more saturated, the image, soundstage became more dense. But the biggest benefit was my analyzer brain shut off after a few minutes and I just listened. Audio therapy. Good stuff.

This was not something one needs to strain to hear. At least in my system it wasn't. Perhaps if you own one of the preamps mentioned in the Sixmoons review it might not be as eye popping, but no doubt Joel was right when he said "LEEDH processing reveals how destructive they (preamps) can be".

Sixmoons reviewer Joel Chevassus sums  the sound up brilliantly in his review of the Lumin X1 and Lumin Amp using the LEEDH lossless algorithm:
"Leedh Processing has significantly boosted the performance of Lumin's network players. There is more clarity, more detail, more timbral accuracy, higher dynamics, less distortion. It's a bit complicated to explain what happens exactly but as soon as you trigger Leedh, you understand to what extent all usual preamplifiers add their own colorations." - Full Review

Sixmoons awarded the Lumin X1 and Amp with a Blue Moon Award.

The very popular U1 Mini Streamer only.

Simplifying Your System

For those looking to simplify their systems, I can think of no better product that enables one to do this. The LEEDH volume control is so good, so transparent, so much better than any preamp I have ever heard, it makes the process of simplifying your audio system, simpler. The Lumin Streamers  , already very good in their own right, are now leading edge, state of the art audio components for their price point and well beyond. Just add powered speakers or your own amp and speakers, and you will finally hear what the rest of your system is capable of, and hear what you may have been missing.

Curious?

For the curious, I have an in-home audition program, and a 30-day money back guarantee. The LEEDH lossless volume is available on every Lumin product. So pretty much whatever your system configuration, there is a Lumin for you. One could sell their preamp, DAC and Streamer and go for the T2 or X1 Streamer DACs, or if you really like your DAC, just sell your preamp and streamer and go for a U1 or U1 Mini streamer only.

The elimination of my preamp, and handing control of the output to the built in LEEDH algorithm is one of the best things I have done for my music listening.

Links


Sunday, May 10, 2020

Level II Improving your Network for Streaming

This tip is not mine, but from a customer. I assume you have already read my first post entitled "Simple, Inexpensive & Effective Ways To Improve Your Streaming Experience"

If you haven't, you should.

Tip#1

Not everyone will be able to do this, but for those of you who's internet provider has supplied you with a Modem AND a wireless router, this tip will help to offload noise and traffic from your audio equipment's network connection.

It's fairly simple. Instead of connecting your ISP's modem directly to their (or your) wireless router, you are going to purchase an ethernet (not wireless) router and connect the modem to that.

In the diagram below, the modem is receiving the connection from the internet, the output is connected to an Ethernet router.
From here, connect your NAS and Streamers via hard wired Ethernet connections, and also connect your wireless router. The wireless router will give connectivity to all of your other household devices as well as connect your controllers to your streamers.  This does two things:
1. It offloads hard wired network processing of your streaming devices and NAS to the Ethernet router. 
2. it creates more separation of the wireless components from the Ethernet connected devices. Meaning less noise.

Try it!

Tip #2

Before you rush out to buy that Ethernet router, make sure you get one that has at least one optical Ethernet port (SFP). That may come in handy in the very near future. :)
Ethernet Router with a single Optical Ethernet port (port is on the far left)