Bughead, cables and DAC's
Last night I had 2 friends over to compare DAC's ( PS Audio with the Yale software to my Luxman DA-06) and 3 usb cables ( Light Speed, WW Starlight 7 and the WW Platinum) with and without a Regen Amber. I also installed Bug Head and we compared it to HQ player.
Here are my impressions-
The PS Audio was the clear winner. It had a blacker background, more air and transparency. There was a bit more detail and resolution. The sound stage was slightly wider and taller and bass was tighter and hit a little harder. The thing that impressed me was the space between instruments and the way that percussion hit hard. Cymbals also sounded more natural and smoother. The Luxman however does have a thicker midrange and some low end bloom that gives it a more lush, musical sound. The only issue's for me is that we could not get native DSD music to play with the PSA with HQ player. The other issue is that the guy that owns it states that the PSA sounds better when using the network rather than USB. However, I am now considering selling the Luxman and buying the PSA. The Luxman did not get embarrassed but the the PSA was better in most instances. The Luxman retails for $5K and the PSA for $6K with out the network card which is another several hundred dollars. You can find both at lower prices.
I have been using a WW Starlight Platinum USB cable. We compared it to the Light Speed and a WW Starlight 7. The differences were not subtle. The clear winner was the WW Platinum. In my system the LS was way too bright and difficult to listen too. It has good detail but high frequencies were screechy.
The SL 7 cable came in second. It had the darkest and warmest sound. High frequencies were rolled off. It has the least transparency and detail of the 3 cables. It was very forgiving of bright recorded music. It was pretty disappointing to hear how this cable paled in comparison to the detail of the other 2 cables, especially since it is a highly touted budget cable.
The WW Platinum was the clear winner. It was neutral sounding with just a hint of warmth. Treble and high frequencies were smooth and detailed. It had a wider sound stage with more transparency and it was the most musical.
After we compared all 3 cables we inserted the Regen. Adding the Regen made all 3 cables sound about the same. I would like to know how it can take brightness out of a cable and add detail. It clearly was the big equalizer for the cables.
My friend who owns the WW Platinum and the Light Speed says the LS sounds better in his system than the WW Platinum and I have heard his system and it sounds great. It indicates to me that USB cables can be system dependent.
We compared my newly installed Bug Head player to my gold standard HQ Player and the results were eye opening and jaw dropping. One of my friends has been touting Bug Head for a while. He has been raving about it. So we installed it and I got a quick tutorial on how to configure it and use it. There definitely is a learning curve with it and it has its draw backs. First off, you need a minimum of 8 gigs of ram and and a good I5 or an I7 processor. You need 16 gigs of ram or more if you want to do native DSD (my laptop is a new generation dual core I7 that runs at 2.4 and turbos to 3gHz and it has 8gigs of ram and we got some cut outs with native DSD). It also can take a minute or more to load albums depending upon the settings that you use. Another draw back is that you can't make a play list and have songs at different resolutions. You have to pick one resolution and stick with it. Overall the program can be a frustrating. It is good program it you want to listen to whole albums. It you want to skip around or listen for 20 to 30 minutes then look else where. Music takes so long to process because BH wipes you RAM clean reconfigure's and reloads it.
Now for the sound. Bug Head was the clear winner by a wide margin. It makes 44k sound like great DSD recordings. BH is much more dynamic and musical than HQP. It has a darker background, more air and transparency. Textures are just beautiful on vocals and horns. Piano was real and palpable. In fact, it made instruments sound real and in the room with you. Cymbals were smooth, detailed and had good air. Bass is deeper, punchier and tighter. I felt more connected to the music and was hearing things more clearly. BH made my Luxman DAC sound more like the PS Audio DSD. Another plus for BH is that the Remote user interface Splash Top works great with a tablet to control BH. It does not work well with HQP due to screen size.
Unfortunately we did not have time to hear BH with the Regen. I should get mine in the next week or two. I will report back then.
Bug Head will be my go to player when I want to listen for an hour or more otherwise it will be HQP. By the way, my 24 year old son heard BH an today he can't stop listening to my system.
My gear- BAT VK-51se preamp, Pass X250 amp, Magnepan 1.6 speakers, Luxman DA-06 DAC.