UpTone Audio USB Regen Review

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WGH

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UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« on: 16 Nov 2015, 01:16 am »
Well... I was going to title this the Ultimate UpTone Audio USB Regen Review (because it is) but then someone would probably disagree and cause a fuss or start Googling "Ultimate USB Regen" thinking this is a new model (which it isn't).

I'll probably cause a fuss anyway (just like when I dissed the nCore) but I have to go against accepted wisdom and say the USB Regen was a step back in quality. (insert standard boiler plate disclaimer here)

My system has matured over the last few years. The sound is slightly warmer than neutral (musical), harmonically even from top to bottom and images like crazy. There was a meeting of the Tucson Audiophiles at my house Saturday afternoon and everyone agreed the stereo sounded great.

Frank Alles, senior editor of Stereo Times was over and sent me a nice note:
"The Salks sound really smooth and rich. Plus I thought the imaging was impressive--you got a wide soundstage with great depth and precise localization of individual instruments. Congrats!"



Electronics are by Van Alstine - Fet Valve Hybrid pre-amp, Fet Valve DAC, Synergy 450 Amp.
Speakers are the Salk HT2-TL featuring handmade mesquite veneer and a solid mesquite 1-3/4" thick front baffle.
The music server (Win7 + JRiver) has a Paul Pang USB card powered by an Acopean linear power supply, the SSD is powered by an Anker battery.
The DAC doesn't have a USB input so I use a KingRex UC384 (firmware updated and with current drivers) powered by a second Acopean linear power supply.
There are a bunch of Felix's in use too.

All the regulated linear power supplies and battery isolate the USB pretty well so if the USB Regen does anything wrong I will hear it.

Like anything digital, it takes a while to get a handle on what is happening, first impressions can sometimes be wrong so I listened to a broad range of music:
Ella and Louis
Doug McCloud - Brand New Eyes
Frazey Ford - Indian Ocean
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
Mickey Hart - Planet Drum
Richard Thompson - Still
Rickey Lee Jones - Naked Songs
Rodrigo Y Gabriela - Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Vienna Teng - Aims
Robert Plant - lullaby and...The Ceaseless Roar

And finally I used 3 power supplies with the Uptone Audio USB Regen:
1.) stock switching supply
2.) Breeze Audio linear power supply
3.) Poseidon's Voice Katalyst 5v linear regulated power supply
I ended up using the Katalyst, it is the best of the bunch and did the least damage.

So what didn't I like? The Regen smeared the imaging, 3-dimensional images were now spread wider, sometimes speaker to speaker. Points in space became blobs in space. The sound with the Regen was fine, it did no harm. I can see why some reviews even mention an increase in bass, I think there is a slight increase in volume. I experimented by tweaking the volume up just a hair when the Regen was removed and a lot of the differences disappeared, except for loss of image specificity.

Hardware with a lot of line noise like laptops and music servers using the motherboard USB output would probably benefit from the USB Regen but in my experience adding another layer to a tuned system mucks things up. My recommendation is try before you buy.

My findings dovetail nicely with a review of the UpTone Audio USB Audio review in What's Best Forum that has measurements (highly recommended):
Review of Audioquest Jitterbug and Uptone Regen USB Conditioners

Wayne 


 

sfox7076

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #1 on: 16 Nov 2015, 02:09 am »
I agree with you Wayne.  Sold mine shortly after getting it.  It was a step back for me.

poseidonsvoice

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #2 on: 16 Nov 2015, 03:55 am »
Wayne,

Thanks for the review. Thanks for trying out my supply as well. It runs a little warm!

Best,
Anand.

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #3 on: 16 Nov 2015, 04:26 am »
Tucson has a very active group of audiophiles, the Regen and Katalyst belong to Ben and the Breeze Audio PS was on loan from Ken. We have gatherings about once a month and it seems someone has something new to try out. It's all about synergy and what works in one system doesn't always improve another.
Wayne


speshal

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #5 on: 16 Nov 2015, 07:58 am »
Just so I'm clear...you tested this on a DAC WITHOUT a USB input???

That doesn't seem to make any sense.  You should be testing devices like the Empirical Audio Offramp instead of the Regen with your setup. 

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #6 on: 16 Nov 2015, 03:18 pm »
Just so I'm clear...you tested this on a DAC WITHOUT a USB input???

That doesn't seem to make any sense.  You should be testing devices like the Empirical Audio Offramp instead of the Regen with your setup.

I think a lot of people have DAC's without a USB input and use a USB to S/PDIF converter, I used what I had.

If you can send me your Empirical Audio Offramp I will be more than happy to write a review.

As a side note: all the music files were 16-bit/44.1kHz

Wayne

genjamon

Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #7 on: 16 Nov 2015, 05:27 pm »
I'm Ben, the owner of the Regen and power supply Wayne was using.


Just so I'm clear...you tested this on a DAC WITHOUT a USB input???

That doesn't seem to make any sense.  You should be testing devices like the Empirical Audio Offramp instead of the Regen with your setup.

Agreed - this was an interesting experiment for Wayne and the guys, but hardly definitive given the designed intent of the Regen. It's fun to see if the Regen would have any audible benefit going into the KingRex converter, it's not what Regen is designed to help.  Regen is designed to provide precise impedance matching directly into the USB input of a DAC, and to provide high quality reclocking of the data and minimize noise on the ground plane and Vbus of the USB supply - and to reduce what the designer calls "packet noise" which is caused by interaction of the internal DAC chip's processes with the frequency of data streaming via USB.  By using the KingRex to convert USB to SPDIF and reclock it, you're not getting any of the impedance matching benefits into the DAC, it seems to me.  And I have no idea how that KingRex handles the Vbus on the USB line.  And that packet noise stuff would be a completely different matter with the DAC being fed a SPDIF input.

Anyway, not exactly a review that will speak to many of the prospective owners of the Regen, who will be using DAC's with direct USB inputs.

That said, while I am interested in doing some more A/B with the unit when it returns from Wayne's, I didn't hear a dramatic difference in sound in removing it.  When it first arrived, I had a Lampizator 4.5 DAC being fed by an Auralic Aries, and it made a quite significant difference when fed with a linear power supply - easily audible improvement.  I didn't like the stock SMPS at all, though.  Since I've had the Regen, I have upgraded to the Lampizator Big7 and added two Audioquest Jitterbugs to the Auralic Aries.  With these two changes in place, the difference with/without the Regen could be much smaller than I remember from when it first arrived.  But I am not ready to claim that definitively at this point until I've had a more careful listen when it gets back from Wayne's.

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #8 on: 16 Nov 2015, 06:55 pm »
Good points Ben.

Perhaps my conclusion should be Regen with KingRex converter - not recommended.

Others can add to the database if they wish.

Wayne

bacobits1

Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #9 on: 16 Nov 2015, 08:35 pm »
Why?
There's tons of info on CA for that.
I own and use the Regen and that PS too. Makes a difference here.

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #10 on: 16 Nov 2015, 08:45 pm »
Why?
There's tons of info on CA for that.

You are right, 126 pages and 3149 replies is more than a ton.

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f27-uptone-audio-sponsored/uptone-audio-regen-22803/

And the KingRex converter is never mentioned even once.

bacobits1

Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #11 on: 16 Nov 2015, 09:00 pm »
Because it's not used that way.

Let me add it's returnable and would re-sell immediately.
So" listen before you buy" is ummmm somewhat dumb.  :roll:
« Last Edit: 17 Nov 2015, 12:45 am by bacobits1 »

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #12 on: 16 Nov 2015, 09:23 pm »
There are some using the Regen with a converter and getting good results, a search in the CA thread for "converter" is a short but interesting read.

I know of 3 other people whose opinions I respect (2 on AudioCircle, 1 local) in which the Regen did not work for them, we all reached this opinion independently which is why I recommend trying one out if possible before you buy.

navi

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #13 on: 26 Nov 2015, 11:11 pm »
Regen for my ifi iDSD made a difference, though I could listen without it as well and still be happy with the DAC.
Not a 'game changer/best thing since slice bread' product like what the majority of CA forum members would suggest. I couldn't keep reading after about the 200th post.

Ivan.

speshal

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #14 on: 27 Nov 2015, 01:43 am »
I think a lot of people have DAC's without a USB input and use a USB to S/PDIF converter, I used what I had.

If you can send me your Empirical Audio Offramp I will be more than happy to write a review.

As a side note: all the music files were 16-bit/44.1kHz

Wayne

I don't have an Offramp, but why exactly would I send you a product to review???  If I had an Offramp, I would already know what it sounds like and could do a review myself.

I was just pointing out the flawed logic of using/commenting on a product not intended for your particular system.

It can be misleading to others and unfair to a mfg when you use a product for an unintended purpose and then irresponsibly starting a thread saying it's a "review".

WGH

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Re: UpTone Audio USB Regen Review
« Reply #15 on: 27 Nov 2015, 04:37 am »
I was just pointing out the flawed logic of using/commenting on a product not intended for your particular system.

It can be misleading to others and unfair to a mfg when you use a product for an unintended purpose and then irresponsibly starting a thread saying it's a "review".

Unfair to mfg when I say that in my system the Regen with the KingRex does not make my brain happy  :dunno:

As "for unintended purpose", can you elucidate? Admittedly I have not read everything written about the Regen and I am always ready to learn something new, can you link to the info regarding not using the Regen with USB converters please. I thought all DAC's with USB inputs has a USB converter inside (although probability using the I2S instead of S/PDIF).

On a more positive note, a good friend has built a DDDac (by Lucian Luckit) using the WaveIO (by Doede Douma) USB board.
The WaveIO is a separate....wait for it....USB converter.
He likes what the Regen does.

WaveIO is in the upper right hand corner


The WaveIO can also be used in a stand alone USB converter, I am thinking of building one to compare to the KingRex.