So I ended up sending back my Synchro Mesh box to Steve for it to get all the latest updates. I used it for many years with a NorthStar DAC (modded by Steve over a decade ago and doing marvels in my study room) and more recently with a 6 channel DSP/DAC from Hypex called DLCP and NCore amps (packed inside a PowerBox PB6) to drive LXmini+2 active speakers in my living room and also a Chord Mojo driving Sennheiser HD600 headphones (using the optical output of the SM). I didn't inform my wife of this upgrade process (the costs being well contained), but immediately got some comments from her about speech intelligibility of her favorite TV shows not being very good, which she is used to listen to at low volume levels (which in my experience is revelatory of jitter presence). For two weeks the volume levels of TV and music have been higher than usual, also for myself, as we were unsatisfyingly trying to compensate for the lack of fine detail and presence.
A few days back, the upgraded SM was delivered to us and put back in our main system. I have to say we weren’t prepared for the magnitude of perceptual enhancements induced by further reducing jitter by a few more ps (it was already so low to start with and as an engineer myself I am still puzzled by how sensitive DACs are to incoming jitter, even in the DSP unit), taking essentially Steve’s word for it to be an improvement. By the way, I never regretted a single penny of any of my investments in Steve’s audio goodies, be it cables (speaker, interconnect, digital coax, power), mods (NorthStar DAC), converter (Off-Ramp), reclocker (SM) or power supply (Dynamo), and Steve has always been supportive and answered my numerous questions swiftly.
First listening tests were done with SM using Empirical Audio’s standard digital coax cable and then including their new digital coax reference cable were everything gets a further notch better (how is that even possible). WOW!! I just can’t believe how much more I am hearing. Instruments are at the same location as before, but their contours are so clear now with such a huge space and breathing air around them. Bows have incredible bite when they engage on strings (I play the violin myself), cymbals shimmer like never before, wood and percussion instruments have great dry timbre, piano has harmonic subtlety and texture, voices seem to be in the room with you revealing even the tiniest modulations of a singer and rendering back vocalists with clarity. The sound has a very lifelike density to it and the lower octaves have greater authority and slam. Although there is much more detail, there is nothing distracting, shrill or in your face. In fact, the sound feels more organic, effortless and relaxed, but you find your toes tapping and your mind is drawn into the recorded venue. My wife now listens to her favorite music for hours and hours, apparently really enjoying it too (almost forgetting about the strange looks of the LXminis). All of my 3 DACs are benefitting from the SM, a pity I can’t use the digital reference cable with the small jack input of the Mojo.
I thought Steve reached the summit a few years ago and went into a more laidback mode, but man was I wrong: he’s visibly been quite busy lately and punched through his previously established performance level to reach a new milestone, for the greatest delight of our ears and musical enjoyment. I think that no one would ever want to return this unit, after a proper audition.
Back to listening now… /patrick