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Cybershaft Platinum Review (External Clock & PS)

Rate this product:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 151 85.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 17 9.7%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 5 2.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 3 1.7%

  • Total voters
    176

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Cybershaft Platinum (Palladium) OP16 clock with its optional Ultra Pure Power Supply. It is on kind loan from a member. The clock costs US $1,457 and power supply, US $347.
Cybershaft Palladium OP16 Clock with Ultra Power Supply Review.jpg


While "DIY" in nature, I still like the look of these cases. Replacement spikes are provided for the feet as well as necessary cabling:
Cybershaft Palladium OP16 Clock with Ultra Pure Linear Power Supply Review.jpg


Normally audio DACs extract the DAC clock from incoming S/PDIF or Toslink inputs. But for asynchronous USB, use their own internal clock. In professional setups with many devices over large distance, a "master clock" is used to synchronize various ADC and DAC devices. At home we don't have such a use but somehow the application has morphed into "better clock" than what is inside your DAC. Some DAC companies provide their own external clocks. Here, we have an independent Japanese company providing it with various grades ("OP16" is one -- it ranges from OP11 to OP19).

I had a hard time finding reviews of this product but did run into this forum post:

1643182394428.png


I am amazed that his system was not relaxed before arrival of this unit. Wonder how he tolerated it that way....

This device was sent to me by the owner of SMSL VMV D3 so I chose to test it with that DAC.

Cybershaft Clock Measurements
Manufacturers of these clocks like to rave about the accuracy of the clocks in them. But we don't listen to clocks, we listen to analog output of the DAC and that is how I am going to test the effect of these units. Let's first test the VMV D3 with USB input and hence its own internal clock:

SMSL VMV D3 Measurements Internal Clock.png


Now let's switch to using external Cybershaft OP16 clock:
SMSL VMV D3 Measurements Cybershaft Clock OP16.png


I can't find any difference whatsoever other than minor run to run variations. Noise, distortion, etc. all seem the same. So we need a more precise test focusing on clock accuracy which is jitter. Let's again run the D3 with its internal clock:

SMSL VMV D3 Measurements Jitter Internal Clock.png


Now let's change to Cybershaft:
SMSL VMV D3 Measurements Jitter Cybershaft Clock.png


As I suspected, performance gets worse, not better! We now have new jitter components we did not have before. Zooming into them we can see better:


SMSL VMV D3 Measurements Jitter Cybershaft Clock Zoomed.png


How can this happen? Well, I don't care how good your clock is. When it has to travel over a cable and get extracted inside the DAC, it is liable to be worse than the one inside the DAC sitting close to where it is needed. Remember that I said the notion of a master clock was to get synchronization, not better fidelity and we see this here.

Discussion and Conclusions
It is amazing how our lay intuition leads of astray. We assume these clocks are like watches where more accuracy is better. Turns out we are not at all sensitive to absolute pitch as if we were, no one would be listening to analog sources! I can play my music 1% slower or faster (all the time) and you wouldn't know there is anything is wrong. What we care about is consistency of "speed" or clock. This type of variation causes jitter. So the fact that an external clock is "oven controlled," stable over time, etc. is of no value. What matters is that it doesn't vary over time. As I explained above though, best way to get consistency is with an internal clock right close to the DAC, not one across feet and meters of cabling. At best, such an external clock can match what is inside. At worst, it will make it perform worse as we see in the case of D3.

I run my jitter test in every DAC I review. Should that show clean spectrum, which it does in countless high performance DACs, then you don't need or want another clock. All you are doing is wasting money and possibly getting worse objective performance. Fortunately the levels of jitter created here is well below audibility so it doesn't do any harm other than to your pocketbook.

As to people thinking it sounds better, well, that is improper subjective testing for you. They connect the clock, focus into their music and all of a sudden hear detail they had not "heard" before. The combine it with wrong impression of what this device does to fidelity and they convince themselves of the improvement they provide. They need to do a simple AB test by switching the internal DAC and external DAC 10+ times blind and see if they get at least 8 right. Without it, they create folklore which causes people to waste money.

I should note that in the English translation of the Cybershaft webpage I did not find much of any reference to making things sound better so in that regard, I appreciated it but of course, the intent is obvious.

Needless to say, I don't recommend anyone use external clocks with their DACs unless they need synchronization with other devices.

I can't recommend the Cybershaft OP16 clock.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

beefkabob

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Who's the grey external clock
That's a jitter machine to all the DACs?
CyberShaft, ya, damn right

Who is the man that would risk jitter
For his stereo, man?
CyberShaft, can you dig it?

Who's the audiofool that will pay out
When there's money to waste?
CyberShaft, right on

They say this CyberShaft is a bad external
Shut your mouth
But I'm talkin' 'bout CyberShaft
Then we can trash it

It's an external clock
That no one understands but @amirm
CyberShaft
 

xarkkon

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Oof, that's less Cybershaft, more Cyber-Shafted!
 

Vict0r

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Dan Cause is now forever immortalized in the ASR annals. Ouch. That's why you always have to think twice before you spout your lyrical gibberish online, kids! :p
 

gaderson

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Discussion and Conclusions
It is amazing how our lay intuition leads of astray. We assume these clocks are like watches where more accuracy is better. Turns out we are not at all sensitive to absolute pitch as if we were, no one would be listening to analog sources! I can play my music 1% slower or faster (all the time) and you wouldn't know there is anything is wrong.

Well, those with perfect pitch might be annoyed. But the you can just say it’s microtonal

i have looked at clocking devices, but for live streaming with digital video cameras, digital mixer, et al. no illusions of Hi-Fi — especially once it gets sucked through YouTube’s compression.
 

stevenswall

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Jitter and what it sounds like (in extreme cases it's audible, but if random it just shows as noise.)

 

fordiebianco

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Very impressive for its absence of impact.

Many thanks for letting me know about another piece of hardware I don't need.
 

F1308

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I can play my music 1% slower or faster (all the time) and you wouldn't know there is anything is wrong. What we care about is consistency of "speed" or clock.
But of course... Bull's eye.
A change of pitch can be had by either slowing or decreasing speed of a recording, also asking musicians before recording to tune their instruments to another pitch (392-485 Hz for A4) and even change the mood by playing the very same song around the circle of fiths (C, G, D, A, E....F, Bb, Eb...), and even a combination of them to better suit any need.
And nobody will complaint, just enjoy the music provided they keep the time, which turns out to be the only thing required to become a musician, according to own words by the very master of all them, Haendel.
 

kopczas

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Maybe I`m going to say something unpopular in terms of the discussion but this is actually good product. Way overprized of course but imo idea was to upgrade old DAC`s where it is to expected that internal clock is not state-of-art. As SMSL has modern clock, now precision like 10 ppm or 50 ppm is typical and cheap. So if this external clock does not change operations on modern DAC that means performance itself is like any modern oscillator.
For device with external wordclock input let`s say from 2000 this could be somehow of upgrade. Way overprized of course.
 

Vini darko

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How does this clock synchronize multiple devices with only one output? Dont recall seeing clock pass throughs before. So does it require a bunch of cable spitters to work with multiple devices?
 

sarumbear

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Maybe I`m going to say something unpopular in terms of the discussion but this is actually good product. Way overprized of course but imo idea was to upgrade old DAC`s where it is to expected that internal clock is not state-of-art. As SMSL has modern clock, now precision like 10 ppm or 50 ppm is typical and cheap. So if this external clock does not change operations on modern DAC that means performance itself is like any modern oscillator.
For device with external wordclock input let`s say from 2000 this could be somehow of upgrade. Way overprized of course.
I think you missed this:
It is amazing how our lay intuition leads of astray. We assume these clocks are like watches where more accuracy is better. Turns out we are not at all sensitive to absolute pitch as if we were, no one would be listening to analog sources! I can play my music 1% slower or faster (all the time) and you wouldn't know there is anything is wrong. What we care about is consistency of "speed" or clock. This type of variation causes jitter. So the fact that an external clock is "oven controlled," stable over time, etc. is of no value. What matters is that it doesn't vary over time. As I explained above though, best way to get consistency is with an internal clock right close to the DAC, not one across feet and meters of cabling. At best, such an external clock can match what is inside. At worst, it will make it perform worse as we see in the case of D3.

I run my jitter test in every DAC I review. Should that show clean spectrum, which it does in countless high performance DACs, then you don't need or want another clock. All you are doing is wasting money and possibly getting worse objective performance. Fortunately the levels of jitter created here is well below audibility so it doesn't do any harm other than to your pocketbook.
 

Madjalapeno

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I have an external clock and I would not be without it. Sure the noise floor in my listening area is higher, but it adds so much depth to everything. In the evening, I can sit back in my favorite chair, close my eyes and savor that little bit extra relaxed tranquility that even the best DAC can't offer. It is electrically isolated from everything else too.

I'll admit, winding it weekly is a pain, but I do love the tick-tock of my grandmother clock.

iu
 

kopczas

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I think you missed this:
Yes, but it still refers to DAC that has better internal clock then most 90s and 00s devices. Audiophiles might use vintage equipment as it has "soul". DAC from 90s is vintage now.
 

sarumbear

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Yes, but it still refers to DAC that has better internal clock then most 90s and 00s devices. Audiophiles might use vintage equipment as it has "soul". DAC from 90s is vintage now.
You are still missing what he is explaining. What proof you have that clocks from the 90s has noticeable jitter?
 
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