Ember USB Tour

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Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #20 on: 13 Aug 2021, 10:54 pm »

Thanks to Jason for letting me listen. I enjoyed the sound very much.

I put 200 hours on the cable and on the USB only iSilencer and iPurifer. (Subsequent listeners will know which one of the two Silencers and Purifiers as the other Silencer is still in the box. I have no connector components to break them in.)

The only other USB digital cable I have for direct comparison is an inexpensive StraightWire cable. The SW cable was more "forward", bringing the sound more in front of the speakers. With the Ember, the soundstage was more centered but also had more depth - i.e. placement of the instruments front and back, and had a more full with richer mid-bass sound. It also removed some harshness in the high frequencies - which if you've read my other Hapa reviews is what bothers me at higher volumes, just over 80db average on my phones db meter. (It's not calibrated but I use the same level in all my listening test comparisons to be consistent over time.) The iPurifer also helped So I was able to enjoyably listen at loud volumes to the songs that I like but don't have quite the high quality sounds of audiophile recordings. But overall, I did simply enjoy having it in my system for "je ne sais quoi" reasons.

I'm going to apologize for the above rather brief review and explain why. The system that I tested this on does not have my best components. Thanks to a fellow AC member, I purchased a modified (upgraded op-amp) Maverick Audio Tube Magic D1 DAC/pre-amp which accommodates the Ember USB cable hooked up to my AVA Synergy amp, connected via Grover Huffmann EX+. (The Maverick sounds good and it holds its own but it's not as good sounding as the Ultra and the Tempest pre-amp. I got the Maverick for a second system to up to some powered speakers - which I never did in listening to the Ember because I forgot! I didn't listen to the Ember to my older AVA Ultra DAC because it only has an RCA digital input, not one of these connector inputs. (I can't find out what they are called!)


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Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #21 on: 22 Aug 2021, 01:02 pm »
Hi fellas,

I contacted member Pez about 1 month ago with regards to evaluating his Ember USB cable in my system. After using it for approximately ~ 2 weeks continuously I finally had time to listen to it yesterday and compare it with my Triode Wire Labs 'Discrete' USB cable.

The digital side of my system is as follows:

sonicTransporter i5 (Roon) w/Sonore Signature Optical Rendu SE v.2 w/Holo Audio May R2R dac (KTE edition) via TWL Discrete USB

Since I do not use a preamp, volume control is handled within Roon. I had a few amplifiers to rotate through, namely the NPXP which has the Aleph J board currently and my Class D build which has the Orchard Audio's Starkrimson GaN module. Most of my listening was done with NPXP however for this round.

I listened to several genres of music with various dynamic ranges:

Al Di Meola - Kiss My Axe - South Bound Traveler - 8.2
Dave Matthews - Some Devil - Seek Up - 13
Mayra Andrade - Studio 105 - Kenha Ki Ben Ki Ta Bai - 8
April Mayze - Recycled Soul - The Protest Song - 5.6
Blues Traveler - Blues Traveler - Alone - 14
Trilok Gurtu - Arkeology - Skopje - 6
Alice In Chains - MTV Unplugged - No Excuses - 11

...also Tori Amos, Bob Reynolds, Chris Botti, Allan Taylor, SuperTramp, Lucia Micarelli, Janaki String Trio, Susan Tedeschi, Yello...

And in all honesty, the Ember USB acquitted itself quite well! 

Here are some of my subjective notes:

Differences between the TWL Discrete and Hapa Ember were immediately apparent. More resolution, more inner detail, much tighter and more delineated bass with increased PRAT. The Aleph J has somewhat of a rich midrange, and more robust midbass that is more ripe sounding and less controlled vs the Class D amplifier as expected. This was exacerbated slightly on the TWL Discrete where as the Hapa Ember neutralized this feature on the Aleph J to the point that it almost sounded like the Class D amplifier but without a loss in the 'musicality' that the Aleph J provides! I was quite surprised/confused and smitten at the same time. The Aleph J's midrange performance can be a bit larger than life due to its rather rich second harmonic distortion levels but these were ameliorated by the Hapa Ember. Listening at levels of 85-100 dB (!) at the listening position, the Ember made the Aleph J sound less congested at these SPL's. Staging on the Hapa Ember was more up close relative to the TWL Discrete which was expected but only a few rows closer. There was a blackness particularly between voices. This was highly evident in "No Excuses" from Alice in Chains' MTV Unplugged album. Backing vocals were particularly apparent and clearly distinct which made this recording even more enjoyable. There was a 'layering' to the harmonies that was eminently pleasing to listen to. 

Given the rather stark differences I was hearing between USB cables (and how Holo Audio May KTE was definitely NOT impervious to these differences  :evil:), I am now extremely curious to see what else Pez has up his sleeve since the Ember is his first publicly disclosed USB design!

Pez...you have pm!

Thanks again for the generous audition!



Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #22 on: 23 Aug 2021, 12:56 am »
Anand and Charlie,

When I saw the two of you guys were interested in Ember I got really excited and, bluntly, nervous as hell! I know both of you do not mince words. So it humbles me greatly to see that you enjoyed your time with Ember. Thank you both for taking the time to post your thoughts. I can now breathe a sigh of relief.  :lol:

What an awesome way to start the tour.  :dance: :hyper: :bounce: :rock: :guitar: :drums:


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #23 on: 23 Aug 2021, 04:18 am »
Well, I have champagne ears working with a craft beer budget. I sure wish I had super high quality pieces to hear more into the components to give a more accurate assessment of your cables. But I've been buying and listening to stereo equipment for over 40 years now, starting as a teenager. I've become fairly adept at recognizing how each component affects the sound of a system. I'm glad to help out and simply to listen to quality pieces. But mainly because I love to listen to music so much.


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Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #24 on: 31 Aug 2021, 08:55 pm »
I think I need to say something lest more people PM me asking what I thought.

Just before charmerci sent the Ember to me, I paid a visit to my periodontist for a bit of oral surgery. I went in for a bone graft to my lower jaw in order to fill in a bothersome deep pocket that kept getting infected. [You'd think deep pockets would be a good thing, huh?] Well, in order for the bone graft material to better meld(?) or glom(?) onto my jawbone, the good doctor used a Dremel-like grinding tool to score the bone. This grinding sent shockwaves of sound directly into my right eardrum. And, yes, I was wearing earplugs. These shockwaves were internal.

How does one describe what hearing was like after that abuse? Imagine living inside a toilet bowl which is jammed into a steel drum in the middle of a hurricane. I couldn't listen to any music for the first week after that. The following two weeks I was able to listen to gentle piano or cello music at very low volume. Tinnitus is noticeably louder now. Hopefully, there's no permanent hearing loss, but time will tell. My hearing is better than it was 10 days ago and much better than it was 4 weeks ago, so I'm hopeful it will continue to improve.

I did connect the Ember to my system, but I couldn't compare it to my other USB cable nor could I listen critically (still can't).

Lesson learned: No more bone grafts. No more nasty grinding tools.


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #25 on: 31 Aug 2021, 10:39 pm »

As we discussed, my heart goes out to you my friend. I think only Audiophiles truly grasp the level of frustration and emotional/mental pain that sort of thing causes to someone with sensitive hearing to begin with. Let me know when you’re in a better place and I’ll get you a special private audition set.  8)


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #26 on: 6 Sep 2021, 09:05 pm »
The Hapa Audio EMBER USB cable…!
Mmm, “Here we go again” another cable..?

Hi folks , My name is Burt (Delta77) and have been in this game about 5-6 years now ..

My system’s configuration is as follows:

P.I.AudioGroup - Ethernet cable >
InnuOS- ZEN (Server/Streamer) >
P.I.AudioGroup - USB cable “TWL-discrete” >
OPPO- UDP 205+Modwright mods/NOS Mullard(DAC-CDP)>
Hapa Audio- Breathe S (RCA) >
Decware- ZROCK2 (bass restoration) >
Hapa Audio- Breathe S (RCA) >
Aric Audio- Super 300B (amp) >
Zenwave- SCR14 (speaker cables) >
Tekton Design- Double Impact SE (speakers) >
Tekton Design- Enzo (subwoofer x2)

Dedicated 20 amp circuit with 10 awg romex..
3 - PI audio outlets on one breaker.
Each sub woofer has it’s own outlet..
The middle outlet is connected to an UberBUSS via a TWL 7+ cable.
All the equipment is plugged into the UberBUSS, except the subs..
TWL- HP Dig.American (amp)
TWL- (2) American 10+ (Dac PS & bas restoration)
Cullencable- (2) Crossover 10awg. (Server & Dac)

The changes I’ve found are not noticeable on every song , and aren’t going to be all that noticeable if your not in the sweet spot (your not going to notice much , if at all walking around the house or sitting in an adjacent room)..

But for the few of us that can hang out in the sweet spot for long periods, there is a difference..
And when I hear an improvement in my rig it’s undeniable..!
And it’s hard to go back when you have just stumbled a step forward..

Well, let’s not beat around the bush, and get to it..

The Hapa audio Ember USB cable came with a couple of iFi attachments of which I used for the entire evaluation..
No big deal they plugged in just fine with no extra power supplies..
The Ember is very lite weight and flexible, very easy to install..

First impression notes:

(1)A noticeable improvement in the “decay” of Cymbals, Woodblock, Rim Shots, Drums, Horns, Guitar, Bass Guitar..
(2)Bass and upper bass seemed to be more prominent..
(3)The lyrics became easier to understand, from both lead and backup vocalist..

Is this what they call PRAT..?
Anyway, that’s what I’m going to call IT, improved PRAT to my system..!

[ It seems to me, my DAC was getting a “Clearer” picture from the Streamer via the USB cable & iFi attachments ]

As a result on most (60-80%) of the music I auditioned became more musical.. Instruments such as Horns, Guitars, Bass Guitar, Drums, Congas, Cymbals, and Voices all had more “Character” to them..

Take the next 2 comments as “in the moment” with my system with my eyes closed and everything is quite within the house..

(1)The Elovators - Shaking off the Wolves:
On this song there were a few notes from the lead guitarist that seemed to “float in mid air” for a few seconds…WOW..

(2)Burt Bacharach - Raindrops keep falling on my head :
The few notes that are made from the xylophone sounded more like real metal blocks, not just a ringing noise..

Okay I could be imagining all of this “Right”..
So I replaced it with a Curious USB cable with the iFi accessories, and it didn’t hold up to the Ember..

Then I went back to my Discrete USB (no iFi), and all I kept doing was trying to hear “More” from my system , but it wasn’t coming though..

I put the Ember back in the system, and now I’m not struggling to Hear my system..!
Mmm, IDK..
Am I hearing things correctly,,..?

Well, this has been my experience with the Hapa Audio EMBER USB cable..
Hope some of you guys give Hapa an audition for yourselves..

I used a playlist I listen to almost daily (Tidal)..


Norman Tracy

Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #27 on: 1 Oct 2021, 10:37 pm »
Hapa Ember USB Cables Listening Tests September 23 & 26, 2021

My writings are known to trigger TLDR, for the summary skip to last paragraph.

Audition System
•   Media server ASUS motherboard Win10 JRiver Media Center 28 and Lenovo laptop + JRiver
•   DACs Soekris Engineering discrete R-2R dam1941 and PS Audio Gain Cell DAC
•   Preamp PS Audio Gain Cell DAC
•   Electronic crossover Marchand Electronics Inc. (https://www.marchandelec.com/index.html) XM9
•   Amps Audio Crafters Guild 2A3 SET (driving ribbons) 1000 series (driving woofers)
•   Speakers Audio Crafters Guild Fi16vx Purifi Neo 3 prototype bi-amplified configuration

In the long week the Hapa Audio Ember and its iFi iSilencer+ and iPurifer3 dongle mates were in my system the first weekend and Monday through Wednesday were lost to family obligations and then a head cold that cost me three days of work. Before the bug took me out I did do some preliminary listening and begun to get a handle on the cable. Fortunately by midweek I had the bug in retreat for Thursday HiFi Night. Most Thursdays Leo, Michael, and I get together for Bar-B-Q then onto my house for HiFi and music. With Ember in the house the 23rd was listening to USB cables for maximum audio nerd geekout. For the Thursday session the Soekris dam1941 was used. For a long follow up solo session on Sunday I switched to the PS Gain Cell DAC.

Thursday HiFi Night September 23 with Michael L and Leo M

Single blind listening session, Norman knows cable identities, Michael and Leo just told ‘A’ & ‘B’. The following notes I have changed ‘A’ & ‘B’ to the cable’s names, while listening and discussing we used ‘A’ & ‘B’. We listened to the track or tracks noted on both cables then discussed. ‘A’ & ‘B’ took turns going first for each comparison. Cable swaps were fairly quick although in one case the PC had to be rebooted when USB plug-n-play (plug-n-pray) left it Windows befuddled and unable to detect DAC.

A – LH Labs
B – Hapa Audio Ember and its iFi iSilencer+ (iPurifer3 added after single blind sessions)

Hapa Audio Ember with iFi iSilencer+ and iPurifer3

E-MU (clear jacket) and LH Labs (yellow jacket)

Bluette by The Dave Brubeck Quartet on Time Further Out 44.1k/16 bit

April in Paris by Thelonious Monk on Genius of Modern Music Volume 1 44.1k/16 bit

Mike – LH Lab smoother, not as bright, more full bodied, preferred for extended listening due to less bright. Ember is brighter, cleaner and more detailed, notes more distinct but with less body. Ember has brightness bordering on cringe factor.

Norman - Ember is more filigreed and open compared to LH Labs.

Leo – No comment on this round.

Singing Winds, Crying Beasts by Santana on Abraxas DSD

Norman - LH Labs is quite good, but I prefer Ember as it is more transparent presents more detail with musical lines better teased apart. All the tiny percussion details this track is a go-to for are better delineated by the Ember. Ember has a more ‘wide screen’ presentation of imaging.

Leo - Preferred the Ember cable also saying instruments better delineated and separated apart.
Mike – The Ember is more detailed than LH Lab with the airy details better reproduced by Ember. Neither was at all harsh.

Copland by Eiji Oue on Reference Recordings, Appalachian Spring Suite (~first 12 minutes)

Listened to B (Ember) first then A (LH Lab).

Norman - It’s subtle but am I hearing the ‘fuller’ sound with LH Lab that Mike mentioned in first track? Remains that to me LH Lab sounds more closed down and ‘sat on’ (whatever that means!) than Ember. LH Lab does a very good job with the deep bass around 12 minutes.

Mike – Ember is cleaner and more detailed with the really light ethereal passages the Ember just floated in the ether with greater emotional reaction. LH Lab’s heavier reproduction pulled it down to be more anchored and failed to ‘float’ as this ethereal passage should. The passages with bass drum Ember had plenty of clean articulate bass while LH Lab’s bass was a little bloated and smeared not as clean and detailed. On this cut prefers Ember by a wide margin, now Ember is pick despite its slight harness or hint that it might get harsh with the jazz cuts.

Leo - Preferred Ember for the lighter presentation, better instrumental separation throughout with a better ‘spring tone’. Ember did a better job of conveying the idea of ‘spring’. LH Lab was ‘ok’ and workmanlike but failed to convey the soul of the music. Both Mike and Leo agree LH Lab sounded a little louder.

Revealed identities of A & B, discussed.

Added iFi iPurifier3 to Hapa Ember plus iFi iSilencer+ then re-listened to some of Appalachian Spring Suite & then Singing Winds, Crying Beasts.

Norman with iPurifier3 added detail and emotional impact consistent with lower jitter levels. On Copland Mike heard less detail while Leo remarked it was easier to hear that different instruments were playing as a chorus. On Santana Norman enjoyed the transparency and PRAT, Mike thinks while louder on my dam1941 DAC it took away some of the nuance while sounding louder. Leo heard a bit of a haze added with iPurifier3.

Sunday September 26, Norman’s solo listening, first test Ember vs Emu clear.

Hapa Audio Ember with iFi dongles vs EMU clear

Copland by Eiji Oue on Reference Recordings, Appalachian Spring Suite (full suite)

St.James Infirmary by Hugh Laurie off Let Them Talk

Emu clear first, then Ember, level 35, driver PS Audio WASAPI

The Emu is no slouch, surprising detail and bass depth. Left wondering ‘haven’t I heard this track before with greater inner detail and instrumental textures?’ With Ember+iFi stack that inner detail was present along with better more defined bass transit leading edges and PRAT.

Armageddon by Wayne Shorter off The Music of Wayne Shorter by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra 96k 24 bit

Ember first, then Emu, level 32, driver PS Audio WASAPI

Close but the Ember brings greater presence to Wynton’s solo and again drum hits exhibit greater definition and ‘snap’. Could the Ember be held back by using front panel USB port while Emu gets direct to motherboard connection on back side of media server?

Indus by Dead Can Dance off Spiritchaser 44.1k/16 bit

Emu clear first, then Ember (rear plug), level 40, driver PS Audio WASAPI

With source USB port equalized the delta between Emu clear and Ember + iFi stack is greater. It’s a cliché but from the first minute with Ember in path sound was immediately clearer, cleaner and more spacious. The dark foreboding that is present throughout the track is more apparent. The kaleidoscope of indigenous and strange unknown instruments in use are reproduced in greater relief and the deep deep DEEP bass flourishes that make this an audiophile go-to do their best to pressurize the room. Thrilling compared to the more curtailed and ‘sat on’ reproduction when Emu is in the signal path.

Maazo Maazo, Enter Ye the Mystery School, Ave Verum by Jon Anderson off Toltec 44.1k/16 bit

Ember first, then Emu, level 40, driver PS Audio WASAPI

The subtleties Jon Anderson and Chief Ernie Longwalker’s ‘Toltec’ is full of make an ideal palette to demonstrate how the small differences an advanced USB cable bring can make a disproportionate difference to the listening experience. With Ember in use during the children’s’ choir singing “Maazo Maazo” (which never fails to melt my heart) I noticed deep in the mix an adult (Chief Longwalker?) can be heard occasionally adding a ‘Yeee’ exclamation. This was both more noticeable and it was placed as if he was standing behind the choir adding his joyous reaction to the moment. Then as “Enter Ye the Mystery School” starts and the sounds layer on and build and grow. Well this is an audiophile cliché but it really happened I looked down as the Goosebumps moment happened and all the hairs on my forearms stood up. To me this signals one is having a psychological reaction beneath the intellectual aspect of music listening. Personally I count that as a good thing. These three tracks are also an audiophile prog-rock treat because they feature some nice DEEP bass flourishes and again the Ember showed with bass where both depth and definition are desired it’s a great tool to bring.

Sunday September 26, Norman’s solo listening, second test Ember with and without iFi dongles.

Johanna, Not A Day Goes By, Being Alive, and Move On by Bernadette Peters off her Live at Carnegie Hall album 44.1k/16 bit.

If you follow the American Musical Theater you are certainly aware of the monumental partnership between Stephen Sondheim and Bernadette Peters. The second half of her Carnegie Hall concert Ms Peters dedicates to Sondheim after asking him to stand to thunderous applause. This playlist is all Sondheim and when properly reproduced should be full of both the technical perfection that is Bernadette Peters’s instrument and the love she feels to her collaborator. As a audiophile bonus the concert features full orchestration backing Ms Peters.

As a baseline I listened to the Sondheim play list on the Emu clear. Then again with the full iFi iSilencer+ - Ember cable – iPurifier3 stack in place. The by now familiar increases in detail, air, were apparent. I also noticed when Ms Peters introduced a song or later Stephen Sondheim while she spoke the traces of the sound of Carnegie Hall’s reverb bouncing back into the vocal mic was more apparent. Another gain specific to this type of music was when she hit the high notes at the top of her range with that ‘show stopping’ energy and intensity the sound was naturally sharp and intense while not being piercing or harsh.

Next removed the iPurifier3 leaving just the iSilencer+ - Ember cable in place. As the playlist started with Johanna it was soon apparent in this situation I much preferred the simplified signal path. At this point we are considering tiny changes, but the emotional impact was greater with the iPurifier3 removed. Enjoying the rest of the play list was just an exercise in joy and bliss.

Final configuration test using the Ember cable alone was over quickly. Without the iSilencer+ in the USB signal path the Win10 media server would not detect the PS Audio’s USB DAC had been connected.

Sunday September 26, Norman’s solo listening, third test Ember with and without iFi dongles between laptop and PS Audio’s USB DAC. Now late at night Meze 99 Classic headphones driven by Gain Cell DAC.

Armageddon by Wayne Shorter off The Music of Wayne Shorter by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra 96k 24 bit

Baseline LH Lab USB cable then onto full iFi iSilencer+ - Ember cable – iPurifier3 stack. Ember and friends improved high frequency definition, bass instrument definition, inner details and PRAT. The multiple colors of the jazz orchestra stand out in better contrast.

Removed iPurifier3 leaving iSilencer+ - Ember cable in place. Preferred to previous configuration due to more subtle contrasts between instruments’ colors and textures. Like a display when the black levels and color temperatures are perfectly set this reproduction was simultaneously less flashy yet with greater contrast and natural detail.

Final configuration test using the Ember cable alone again was over quickly. Without the iSilencer+ in the USB signal path the laptop would not detect the PS Audio’s USB DAC had been connected.

After sending the Ember onto the next tour participant I contacted Hapa about the connection issues using Ember without iSilencer+. They are aware of this issue one of those that arise when a new product goes to market. Apparently this is unique to the 1.5 meter length as used for this tour and only with some combinations of USB source and DAC.

I will admit to signing onto this tour to explore the effect of USB cables on my system’s performance at its present state of development. The answer is when listening intently the quality of the USB cable can have a small effect but in the context of the high-end HiFi pursuit the small icing on the cake changes tend to make an outsized difference. It was interesting as my friends and I zeroed in on the changes brought by different cables and how a consensus developed. That consensus unanimously favored the Ember making it an easy recommendation.


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #28 on: 4 Oct 2021, 02:52 pm »
Delta and Norman,
I gotta say, I am really impressed with how thorough you both were on your reviews! Thank you so much for taking the time to write your impressions and experiences.

I want to address what Norman brought up. I have indeed had a couple folks who have had syncing issues with Ember. As Norman said, these are part of the 'new to market' issues. I will clarify a bit of what I have discovered. The issue appears to be due to Ember having a low impedance and seems to be independent of length of the cable. Depending on equipment this might cause an issue. Generally an iSilencer and/or iPurifier can resolve this issue. All that said, if anyone has an issue with Ember for any reason, whether it is not syncing or if you are unsatisfied for any reason Hapa Audio has a 100% money back guarantee so don't sweat it if you need to return any Hapa products within the 30 day period.  :thumb:

I'm really happy to hear that sonically people are really loving the sweet sounds!


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #29 on: 13 Oct 2021, 01:19 pm »
I finished up the “West Coast” leg of the Ember USB tour this last week.  I kidded Jason that I lived on the West Coast of the Mississippi River, so that made perfect sense to me. To make a long review shorter, I’ll stick to one specific track to describe the Ember’s effect on my system.

On “Lunar Tides” from Glen Velez’ Breathing Rhythms there are some terrific low drum tones generated by body of the hand drums and the Ember tightens up the bass response so they are not as overblown as my regular Oyaide USB cable. The surround-sound clapping effects are pushed even wider and way out to the side of my head. Additonally, Glen’s vocals on the intoning syllables were less wispy and more fully fleshed out, enhancing the impression of a person speaking in the listening room. 

At a friend’s house, the Ember had better texture, better musical timing and an overall relaxed sound that encouraged a long listening session without the usual skipping from track to track. By comparison, his Shunyata Venom had a hooded treble and we both felt his Audio Note DAC had never sounded better once the Ember was in place.

Excellent job, Jason and thank you for the Ember tour, even if it ended up costing money. I’m now a happy Ember USB owner.


Re: Ember USB Tour
« Reply #30 on: 14 Oct 2021, 02:42 pm »
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'm really glad to hear Ember hit a home run in your setup as well as your friends. That ends the 'west coast' :P tour.

One more stop left on the east coast. Stay tuned!  :popcorn: :thumb: