Articles, Reviews and Measurements of Audio Products (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)

KIMBER KABLE: Do High-end USB Cables Make A Difference?

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the KIMBER KABLE B-BUS USB cable. It is on kind loan from a member. The B-BUS in 1 meter length costs US $60 from the company.

Complain all you want about high-end cables. Where they usually distinguish themselves is the fancy look of their cables. Well, Kimber must have been absent on the day that marketing lesson was taught as the B-BUS is an ugly purple and looks as plain as it possibly could:

KIMBER KABLE KIMBER - B-BUS USB CABLE DAC Audio Review.jpg

Some lofty claims are made about the cable:

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I sure hope so after paying 10 times as much for this cable. Then there is this endorsement from the founder of audiophilestyle online blog/forum, Chris Connaker:

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You don't say Chris.... Let's find out if there are such interference that have been stopping the rest of us from hearing the "original recording."

USB Cable Audio Measurements
Let's start test this USB cable with one of...

Analysis Plus Oval Digital XLR Cable Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Analysis Plus Oval XLR "Digital" cable. It is on kind loan from a member. I had a hard time finding information on this cable as it is not listed by Analysis Plus but there are sellers who do carry it. It costs US 190 for a one meter length of it. The description on those sites raves about 75 ohm matching impedance but AES digital audio is a 110 ohm standard, not 75 ohm. Maybe that refers to the RCA version.

The Analysis Plus Oval cable doesn't look too bad and is not overly stiff:

Analysis Plus Oval Digital XLR AES Cable  Review.jpg

There is a patent number on the cable which I did not other to look up.

Digital Audio Cable Audio Measurements
I thought I start by using my Audio Precision APx555 in its digital analysis mode. Here, it is able to extract jitter from the digital stream and analyze it as if it is audio:

Analysis Plus Oval Digital XLR AES Cable Jitter Measurements.png


The signal being played is J-test which is at 12 kHz and has a 250 Hz square...

Micca RB42 Bookshelf Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Micca RB42 bookshelf/desktop computer speaker. I purchased my sample from Amazon and it cost US $149 including Prime shipping. This speaker also seems to be the favorite of youtube bloggers, helped partly by generous seeding of such "reviewers."

The RB42 looks stunningly good for such a budget price if you stand a bit far:

Micca RB42 Bookshelf Budget Speaker Review.jpg

Curved cabinet with excellent fit and finish that would be at home (if it were a larger cabinet) in a high-end audio shop.

Zoom in though and you see that budget pricing doesn't get you perfection:

Micca RB42 Bookshelf Budget Speaker Woofer blemishes Review.jpg

I don't know what the two white dots are. They would not come off easily. The lousy gluing job of the dust cap encourages one to put them far from eyesight.

The back panel impresses again with nice binding posts:

Micca RB42 Bookshelf Budget Speaker Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

If you didn't tell me in advance and I did not look...

Aimpire AD10: Fake Topping D10 DAC?

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A member purchased what he thought was a Topping D10 DAC from Amazon as the seller. The unit that he received however had the brand "Aimpire" and model number AD10. He asked me if I could look to see if it performs the same or is a fake.

Looking on Amazon, one clearly sees the issue:

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Yet the picture of what the device looks like the one that the member received:

Aimpire AD10 Topping Clone Audio Review.jpg

This curious note on Amazon page makes the buy think this is a newer version:
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Stacking the real Topping D10 on top of Aimpire AD10 shows the striking similarity:
Aimpire AD10 Topping Clone Fake Comparison.jpg

In use however, the display of sample rate on AD10 fake is dim and not matching the PCM/DSD. The reverse is true on real Topping D10 where the sample rate is bright and clear and the PCM/DSD is merely in sharper front.

Plugging either DAC in gets identified as "D10" so clearly the identity of the USB...

Headroom Balanced Desktop Ultra Amp Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Headroom Balanced Desktop Ultra Amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. Better known as "BUDA," the unit came out in 2011 I think and cost US $1,189.

The BUDA reminds me of getting my first headroom amplifier circa 1999 (bought a portable and then a desktop unit with the latter being a disappointment). It is a chunky unit with outboard power supply:

Headroom BUDA Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

You can use two headphones with 1/4 stereo jacks or one balanced headphone with dual male XLR connectors.

The back panel is what you expect:

Headroom BUDA Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp Headphone Amplifier Power Supply Back Panel Audio Rev...jpg

The large, 40 watts external power supply gave me hope of lots of power into low impedance loads. Alas, measurements showed this hope was misplaced.

I used the XLR Input for all of my testing.

Headphone Amplifier Measurements
Here is our performance with 4 volts in using XLR, and 4 volts out using stereo 1/4 jack...

Selah Audio RC3R 3-way Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Selah Audio vintage RC3R 3-way speaker. It is on kind loan from a local member. From what I can tell, the Rc3R came out around 2003 and it cost full built for around US $1,300. Kits were available for half the price.

Please excuse the poor mobile phone picture as the unit is still on the measurement stand:

Selah Audio RC3R 3-way speaker review.jpg

The cabinet seems quite solid and finish nice.

As you can tell, it is a 3-way design. Here are the specs for the drivers which I had a hell of a time to find:

Drivers
(1) Scan-Speak 18W8545
(1) Morel MDM-55
(1) ATD LeRibbon

I am only going to present the measurements as I have to rush to our audiophile society meeting where I can return this and other speakers to their owners.

Measurements of the Selah Audio vintage RC3R were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS)...

Emotiva Airmotiv 6s Powered Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Emotiva Airmotiv 6s. It is on kind loan from a member. The 6s is discontinued but I think it cost US $400 for a pair.

The 6s is a chunky and large monitor as these devices go:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Review.jpg

I was surprised that there was no gain control available:

Emotiva Airmotive 6S Powered Monitor Speaker Back Panel Review.jpg

Input sensitivity even with XLR input was very high. I had to drive it with just 0.13 volts for the testing.

The 6S is quite heavy as well with a dense cabinet.

Measurements of the Emotiva 6s was performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics) to subtract room reflections. It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these...

Denafrips ARES II USB R2R DAC Review

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This is a review and measurements of the Denafrips ARES II USB DSD DAC based on R2R architecture. It is on kind loan from a member. I think it costs US $680 so not too high for a custom DAC.

The overall look of the ARES II is rather plain:

Denafrips ARES II R2R USB DAC DSD Audio Review.jpg

The LED indicators are quite tiny so standing top of it, I could not tell they were on.

There is a large toroidal transformer in there making the ARES II quite heavy. So at least on that front, you get the feeling that you are getting your money's worth.

The back panel has the usual connectors:

Denafrips ARES II R2R USB DAC DSD Back Panel Connectors Audio Review.jpg

I was pleased to see balanced XLR outputs as this increases the cost substantial in R2R implementations. I used that for all of my testing.

R2R DAC Audio Measurements
As usual we start with our 1 kHz dashboard:

Denafrips ARES II R2R USB DAC DSD Audio Measurements.png


Oh, this is pretty good! THD+N is 10 times better than the specification and the highest distortion product...

KEF LS50 Bookshelf Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the famous KEF LS50 speaker. It was kindly loaned to me by a local member. The LS50 costs US $1,500 but seems to be on sale for US $1,300 on Amazon and elsewhere.

The LS50 nails the look of the speaker with the bright color and shape of the concentric driver:

KEF LS50 Bookshelf Speaker Review.jpg

80% of the success of a speaker in this super crowded market is the industrial design and KEF nails that. The enclosure itself feels like it is solid all the way to its core!

Not much exciting on the back other than nice sized speaker terminals and a port that has benefited from good simulations:

KEF LS50 Bookshelf Speaker Back Panel Port Review.jpg

My company became a KEF dealer for a short period of time when the LS50 had just come out. We set it up with a Revel sub optimized for the room with DSP and it sounded good in our little room. Since then I have heard it at shows but no opportunity for careful analysis of it.

Of course...

Harbeth Monitor 30 Speaker Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Harbeth Monitor 30 25th anniversary speaker. It is on kind loan from a local member. This specific speaker came out around 2002 I think and cost US $3,200 around that time. Being patterned after the famous BBC LS 5/9 speakers, I imagine the design is still the same to this day. The latest model seems to go by 30.1 designation.

The Harbeth logo was in danger of coming off so the owner pulled it off. Here is what it looks like (I know, very bland):

Harbeth Monitor 30 Speaker Review.jpg

It barely fit in my little photo booth so not very large. The grill is tricky to remove so I did not attempt to do so. I am told the recommendation is to use it with the grill so that is how I measured it.

The back panel shows ability for bi-wiring:

Harbeth Monitor 30 Speaker Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

Love the bit about the speaker being in their log book. Well, its measurements are now in our log book as well. :)

Let's get into...

JBL One Series 104 Powered Monitor Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL 104 Powered Monitor (speaker). I purchased this recently for just US $90 including free shipping from Amazon. JBL shows the list price as US $129.

These are hefty, egg-shaped speakers:

JBL One Series 104 Powered Monitor Speaker Review.jpg

That's the master speaker that houses the amplifiers for both channels. Here is its back panel:

JBL One Series 104 Powered Monitor Speaker Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

By computer speaker standards, they are a bit large. Compared to a JBL LSR305P Mark ii, they are quite a bit smaller.

They feel quite solid for something so cheap. Really, hard to imagine you are getting a brand name speaker with dual power amplifiers shipped to you for just $89. But do they sound good? Let's measure and find out.

Passive Speaker Measurements
Thinking there is just a passive crossover, I would just power the slave unit with my own amplifier. That way, I can set the voltage to it exactly to 2.83 volts as the CEA-2034 standard...

Nobsound 3-IN-1-OUT XLR Audio Switch Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Nobsound MC-103 Pro 3-IN-1-OUT XLR Audio Switcher. The unit I have came with the brand Douk on it so that is what I used in my notations below. I suspect multiple companies put their name on it. I purchased it a few days ago from Amazon. The MC-103 Pro costs US $59 from Amazon including Prime shipping.

This is a sturdy but small box with a large input selector on it:

Douk MC103-Pro XLR switcher Audio Review.jpg

The selector has a scratchy feel to it but does the job. The box is too shallow to be able to control the heavy XLR cables I was using with it so had a tendency to tilt back.

The back has just the connectors you would expect:
Douk MC103-Pro XLR switcher Back panel connectors Audio Review.jpg

This is a passive selector/switch so there is no need for power. As such, it should be bi-directional although I just used it as three inputs and one out.

Selector Audio Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard with 4 volts in, and...

JBL M-Patch Active 1 USB DAC & Amp Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the JBL M-Patch Active 1 USB DAC/ADC, analog switcher and headphone amplifier. I bought summer last year and just now getting to review it. I don't remember what it cost then (it was special on some site) but it is US $100 on Amazon. But get this listing:

JBL active 1 Amazon Price.jpg

Just imagine the level of confusion at JBL to be listing this device as a set of four casters. Anyway this was a product from another company that JBL acquired. Original price was US $200 I think. Lost in the midst of giant Samsung/Harman it may be liquidating prices.

The unit looks like above in person:
JBL Active 1 M-Patch Active Studio Monitor Switcher Review.jpg

Volume control is smooth and has no detents. The switches are quite stiff to push. Given the application (live music/speech) having stiff switches so you don't change settings by accident is probably a good thing. It is a loss for my use though in that they are not toggle switches...

Neumann KH 80 DSP Monitor Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Neumann KH 80 DSP Active Monitor (speaker). It was kindly sent to me by a member. The KH 80 costs US $500 each which is quite pricey for a small speaker.

And small it is:

Neumann KH 80 DSP Monitor Active Studio Pro Speaker Audio Review.jpg

Unfortunately there is no good sense of scale above but let me emphasize that these are quite small speakers.

Here is a shot of the connectivity and controls:

Neumann KH 80 DSP Monitor Active Studio Pro Speaker Back Panel Connectors Audio Review.jpg

The power connector is a figure-8 socket on the left tunnel beside the power switch. I appreciate the skinny flexible cable. Likewise the XLR/TRS combo socket is on the right. This way, you can wall mount the speaker and not worry about the wires. This also meant that I had a hell of a time getting my signal cable out of that narrow channel. I literally had to get a pair of needle noise pliers to pull them out.

There is an Ethernet like socket which with some "hub?" you can connect to an iPad and only an...

Auralic LEO GX DAC Clock Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Auralic Leo GX "atomic clock" outboard option for the Vega G2 that I just reviewed. It is on kind loan from a member. The LEO GX costs US $8,299.

The LEO GX comes in the same enclosure as the Vega DAC:
Auralic Leo GX Atomic Clock Review.jpg


Strangely for a device that just produces a clock pulse for the DAC, the thing goes through a lengthy boot process and "loading applications." Likely it is the same OS as the DAC and is there to manage the display and such.

A one hour count-time timer is shown on the display. The clock source is "oven" controlled and they are waiting for it to reach target temp. The unit works immediately though so you don't have to wait for that.

The back panel shows more connectors than you would expect:

Auralic Leo GX Atomic Clock Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

In addition to the coax...

Auralic Vega G2 Streamer and DAC Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Auralic Vega G2 Network Streamer and DAC. It is on kind loan from a member. The Vega G2 costs US $6,599. The owner supplied an external clock for it which I will review separately.

The Vega G2 is exceptionally heavy for streamer/DAC:

Auralic Aries G2 Music Streamer Audiophile Music Server and DAC Audio Review.jpg

I did not however care for the super sharp edges and corners.

The display is large, high resolution and attractive. It nicely shows the volume level, sample rate and filter settings. The general user interface is OK. I managed to get through it.

The back panel shows a lot of connections as it should in this price category:
Auralic Aries G2 Music Streamer Audiophile Music Server and DAC Back Panel Connectors Audio Re...png

Boot up time was high when network connection was live but this is typical of other streamers.

I initially tested the unit using stock Windows 10 driver and ASIO4ALL wrapper. Alas, in this mode there were data transfer issues so I downloaded their drivers which had a nice, working...

Singxer UIP-1 USB Isolator Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Singxer UIP-1 USB Isolator and "Purifier." It is on kind loan from a member. The UIP-1 costs fair bit at US $259.

The box while utilitarian is a step above budget category:

Singxer UIP-1 – USB isolation Purifier Audio Review.jpg

The connectivity is simple enough:
Singxer UIP-1 – USB isolation Purifier Connectors Audio Review.jpg

For operation the UIP-1 needs an external power supply as you can see from the connector on the left. Strangely, none came with it! I am assuming they are thinking (perhaps correctly) that the market for this is audiophiles would be using fancy linear power supplies and such. For my testing, I used my Keysight/Agilent lab power supply at 7 volts.

The guts show an off-the-shelf USB isolator:



The white band is a required design practice to fully isolate the "dirty" and clean sides of the USB bus. The number (maxim 4930?) seems...

Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Yamaha HS5 Powered Monitor (speaker). I purchased it this afternoon for US $200 which is the price that it goes for everywhere. This is for a single unit by the way.

The industrial design of the HS5 is fantastic:

Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Review.jpg
Get the larger ones and I am sure you can charge another $10/hour for your mix. :)

Fit and finish seems nice with a solid single enclosure encompassing the baffle (front and surround).

Here is a shot of the back:
Yamaha HS5 Studio Monitor Powered Speaker Back Panel Connectors Review.jpg

I have not read the manual but while I was setting it up, turned itself off, ruining my first measurement. :( Don't know why there is no auto-on-off switch anymore on monitors.

Note that there is no RCA jack. For my listening tests I just used a TRS to RCA and it worked fine. The acoustic measurements were made by driving the XLR connection from the Klippel KA3 analyzer balanced output.

Temperature during the...

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Freya S balanced preamplifier. It was kindly loaned to me from a member who bought it used. The Freya S costs US $599 from the company plus shipping cost.

The design language is identical to other Schiit product although in the widescreen format looks more attractive:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Review.jpg

The volume control is stepped attenuator and you hear the chatter of the relays as you adjust them. A gain switch toggles between passive, active with "0 dB" gain and 14 dB of again. There is a mute button and input selector. A remote control is provided which I did not use.

There is good bit of connectivity is provided:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Back Panel inputs outputs balanced Review.jpg

I performed all of my testing with balanced input, and balanced output.

I know this is like all other Schiit products but sure would be nice in this case to have a power button in the front, than in the back. I do turn my pre-amp on and off and...

Meizu Hifi USB-C Headphone Adapter Review

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Meizu Hifi USB-C, smartphone DAC and Headphone adapter. I can't find a price on it but seems to be listed for US $35. it is on kind loan from an overseas member.

You can't see it in this picture but there is a cool circle showing what is inside of it:

Meizu Hifi DAC Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

As long as you have a headphone plugged into it, Windows 10 automatically installs the driver for it. And works down to 24 bits with no issue.

My new custom PC has a USB-C native port on it and that is how I tested. But I also tested it with the USB hub in my monitor which I used to use for much of my DAC testing. See a comparison of that below.

Headphone DAC & Amp Audio Measurements
As usual we start with our dashboard view:

Meizu Hifi DAC Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


There is a lot of good news here starting with 2 volt output instead of the typical 1 volt and very low distortion. Not so good news is that noise level must be high to...
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