I have had a few pleasant surprises sound-wise recently and I thought I would tell the story. This is a very long post but it does have a happy ending.
The background is that I have a 272 and a 250, both bought new in 2018. I got the 250 first then got the 272. I used the 272 with UPNP and frankly I wasn’t that impressed – I thought it sounded a bit flat and dull. One day in (I think) mid 2019 I tried a Chord Hugo 1 that I used for commenting into one of the analogue inputs of the 272. This was much better – clearer, livelier, more dynamic and interesting. I used a small dedicated computer with Squeezebox and the tunes on its local hard drive into the USB input of the Hugo. This became the setup and lasted until late 2019 when I got a Qutest and sbooster to replace the Hugo – another improvement. In mid 2020 I got an Allo USBridge Signature with another sbooster powering it and running moode to use as a network streamer into the Qutest’s USB input – this didn’t make much improvement though. Occasionally I have tried using the 272’s streamer and DAC via UPNP but it always sounded flatter and less interesting than the Qutest or the Hugo. From then until recently, I assumed I preferred the Chord DAC sound over Naim.
About a month ago, one Sunday afternoon, I decided to try Roon – I had heard a lot about it and I thought why not? So I put the core on my squeezebox computer and ropieee on my USBridge. This led to the first surprise, which was that using Roon made a noticeable improvement in sound quality. I thought I had got a lot of things optimised (e.g. speakers well out into the room on damped stands, good PSUs and a dedicated switch for the audio components on my network), but the simple change to Roon made quite a difference. I have had to start paying for Roon now!
Then I saw a review of the USBridge Sig on youtube from iiWi reviews (I like him – I think he is eloquent and I can easily understand his descriptions of sound differences) and in this video he said that the Allo DigiOne Sig was a step up in SQ from the USBridge Sig, so when pay day came round, I got a DigiOne Sig from audiophonics in France – I got one of their BNC coax cables as well. I put the DigiOne Sig on top of the USBridge and used its BNC SPDIF output into my Qutest and sure enough, there was a significant improvement over the USB output of the USBridge. For the first time I remember, the soundstage was wide and 3D and I have been loving that.
Then I remembered I had another coax cable – this time RCA to BNC, so on a whim I connected the second output (RCA) of the DigiOneSig to the BNC SPDIF input of my 272, while leaving the DigiOne Sig BNC output still going into my Qutest. This meant I had a choice of DACs, which I thought was a bit of fun – I could switch between them and play about. This led to another surprise – when fed from the SPDIF output of the DigiOneSig, the 272’s DAC sounds seriously good – far far better than I have ever heard the digital part of my 272 sound. I thought it would be a bit of fun, but nothing more, to have a choice between the Qutest and the 272 DAC, but the 272 DAC is now a serious contender – I like them both the same but for different reasons. The 272 DAC is clearly darker sounding and a bit more distant, but warmer than the Qutest, which is more precise. I have left the setup like this and its good having the options.
The final surprise was that I tried integer upsampling in the Roon DSP and this also made a clear improvement in the SQ (this time in clarity), but only into the 272 – I can’t tell a difference between upsampling on or off into the Qutest. Converting to DSD has the same effect.
These have all be nice surprises and the differences between the sound from before I started using Roon to today are quite large. I have no idea why I have never got great sound from the UPNP in the 272 but I honestly don’t care – I am well pleased with the situation now with the DigiOne Sig doing the streaming. The setup has never sounded as good as it does now and I genuinely look forward to playing tunes on it. This is the first time I have not had to concentrate to appreciate the sound. Its nice having the choice of two good DACs and, in the Naim scheme of prices, the past month’s adventure this has been quite cheap!
From my perspective this is a happy (if somewhat long) story - I hope there is some useful info in here and that someone finds it interesting.