Are Transports Obsolete?

It surprises me in this day and age that transports continue to be developed, and presumably sold. I know this has at least been in part to the physical media aspects of spinning one's CD library. Also, Transports, particularly of the cost no object variety, can be more 'sexy' than servers.

We 'know' that server technology has, for all intents and purposes, eclipsed transports in the last few years, but the best of the best transports continue to garner enthusiasm if not raves from some reviewers that I really respect.

Are there any out there that, having bought a server, have recently been drawn back or towards the world of transports?
What is your server and why and what transports have you or are you reconsidering?
 
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spiritofmusic

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Jun 13, 2013
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Oh, it's a standard Philips mech. But I believe it's been beefed up internally w some sort of anti-vibration tech. Eera also have something saucy w their output stage. It's an absolute triumph.
 
I have never heard a dac that does not show differences in transport quality, jitter or just plain better reading. Yes i know it’s all the same digital information and it is all perfect :rolleyes: And to my ears computers are bad for music, sorry !
There is actually no difference. There is the data and the timing, nothing else. There are bad servers and good servers just like there are bad transports and good transports. Nothing magical about transports, unless you happen to like a particular jitter signature. It's easy to go down this rabbit-hole.

I prefer just really low jitter, from transport or server. They sound the same to me if they have really low jitter, like a few picoseconds.

Most transports have high jitter, in the range of 500psec to 1nsec:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0
 

dcathro

Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2016
52
30
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Melbourne, Australia
There is actually no difference. There is the data and the timing, nothing else. There are bad servers and good servers just like there are bad transports and good transports. Nothing magical about transports, unless you happen to like a particular jitter signature. It's easy to go down this rabbit-hole.

I prefer just really low jitter, from transport or server. They sound the same to me if they have really low jitter, like a few picoseconds.

Most transports have high jitter, in the range of 500psec to 1nsec:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

Hey Steve I agree with you that logically, digital should be simply a matter of delivering the "correct" data on time.

However, experience has taught me that digital is no different to analog, in that everything seems to effect the sound.
 

dcathro

Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2016
52
30
83
Melbourne, Australia
I totally agree!

I have a CDM4 based cd player with internal tda1541a DAC, and there are huge differences in sound based on the puck used on the discs.
I have a little story related to this. About 20 years ago I used a separate transport and DAC for playing cds, the dac was a R2R analog devices based machine, full of black gate capacitors. The transport was a CDM4 based machine, also heavily tricked up. I had converted the transport from tray to top loading and had made my own puck. A friend, Chris Bryant, who worked, closely with Martin Colloms, came buy one day and said Martin is moving house and I have a car boot full of stuff he doesn't want. amongst a whole trove of things were some pucks for CDM4 based machines. One was for the original Naim CDS, one for the Mark Levinson CD 31, and one for the Krell KPS20. I played around with these for a few days, and I swear that the Naim puck made cd replay sound fast and rhythmical, the Krell puck detailed and analytical, and the Levinson, slower, darker and smoother. You could hear the signature sound of the brand in the puck.

I still use the Naim "top hat" pucks in my player today.
 
Hey Steve I agree with you that logically, digital should be simply a matter of delivering the "correct" data on time.

However, experience has taught me that digital is no different to analog, in that everything seems to effect the sound.

Delivering the correct data with precise low-jitter timing is no easy feat. Takes more than just a low-jitter oscillator. Everything from matching the impedance of the cable to power supply regulation speed to risetimes affects jitter. This makes it appear to be an analog problem. Digital is of course no more than fast analog. In the final analysis everything is analog.

This does not affect my claim: that digital from a server is no different from digital from a transport. They can both be bad or very good. IT all depends on the equipment and cables. Nothing makes transports inherently better or worse than computer driven digital. I would argue however, that it is easier to make a server or computer-driven digital signal deliver very low jitter. Easier than a classical transport that locks a spinning disk to a crystal oscillator using a servo control system. The problem with most servers is that the software interferes with good performance by mucking with the data or the offset. Find the right software and it's a non-issue on your computer. Buy an all-in one server and you are rolling the dice IME.
 
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I have never heard a dac that does not show differences in transport quality, jitter or just plain better reading. Yes i know it’s all the same digital information and it is all perfect :rolleyes: And to my ears computers are bad for music, sorry !
It would be better if you qualified your statement to say: "to my ears, the specific computer-generated music that I have auditioned..."

It has required a lot of tweaking and auditioning to get computer audio to beat transports, but I'm there now. All-in-one servers have been disappointing. Reclocking the transport puts it in the same league however, proving that it's just jitter.

I also have not heard a DAC that is not sensitive to some extent to source jitter. Customers report that the Benchmark is pretty immune however. I prefer DAC's to have no reclocking on the S/PDIF inputs.
 
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May 30, 2010
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It would be better if you qualified your statement to say: "to my ears, the specific computer-generated music that I have auditioned..."

It has required a lot of tweaking and auditioning to get computer audio to beat transports, but I'm there now. All-in-one servers have been disappointing. Reclocking the transport puts it in the same league however, proving that it's just jitter.

I also have not heard a DAC that is not sensitive to some extent to source jitter. Customers report that the Benchmark is pretty immune however. I prefer DAC's to have no reclocking on the S/PDIF inputs.
Just one question - why sticking with the SPDIF synchronous mode and the transport transmission scheme when using computers? Computers can send asynchronous packets, jitter is not an issue in such case.
 

Lagonda

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It would be better if you qualified your statement to say: "to my ears, the specific computer-generated music that I have auditioned..."

It has required a lot of tweaking and auditioning to get computer audio to beat transports, but I'm there now. All-in-one servers have been disappointing. Reclocking the transport puts it in the same league however, proving that it's just jitter.

I also have not heard a DAC that is not sensitive to some extent to source jitter. Customers report that the Benchmark is pretty immune however. I prefer DAC's to have no reclocking on the S/PDIF inputs.
Once i say to my ears i have already qualified that i have heard it, i’m not passing judgment on all computer setups or “magical” ad on boxes you have developed ! ;)
 
Just one question - why sticking with the SPDIF synchronous mode and the transport transmission scheme when using computers? Computers can send asynchronous packets, jitter is not an issue in such case.
It would seem so theoretically, but jitter still matters even in the asynchronous USB case. None of these systems works perfectly like the theory would suggest. Most designers were really excited about the prospects of async USB and that it would be jitter immune. Then the reality set in....

This is the reason why reclockers like the SOtM tx-USBUltra work so well. I use one myself.

Even in the packetized case of Ethernet, the jitter still matters believe it or not.

The reason we are talking about S/PDIF here is that is what you get from a transport, so comparing that to the same from a computer makes sense.

Async mode from a computer is nothing more than a continuous stream clocked at the USB interface and spooled from a small buffer, just like the stream from a transport is clocked from the transport.
 
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Mar 8, 2015
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Guys, still have an Esoteric UX-1, but looking for another universal player for a friend. The UX-1 used is out of his budget. Can anyone recommend one to front a system with physical media?
 

Brucemck2

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May 10, 2010
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This does not affect my claim: that digital from a server is no different from digital from a transport. They can both be bad or very good. IT all depends on the equipment and cables. Nothing makes transports inherently better or worse than computer driven digital. I would argue however, that it is easier to make a server or computer-driven digital signal deliver very low jitter.
Which (if any) USB-out servers do you think offer good performance (knowing you’re not denigrating those you don’t list)?
 
Which (if any) USB-out servers do you think offer good performance (knowing you’re not denigrating those you don’t list)?
I had good results with the Antipodes servers with my DAC. They are well optimized for USB.
 
Likes: Brucemck2

justubes

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Aug 10, 2015
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It would seem so theoretically, but jitter still matters even in the asynchronous USB case. None of these systems works perfectly like the theory would suggest. Most designers were really excited about the prospects of async USB and that it would be jitter immune. Then the reality set in....

This is the reason why reclockers like the SOtM tx-USBUltra work so well. I use one myself.

Even in the packetized case of Ethernet, the jitter still matters believe it or not.

The reason we are talking about S/PDIF here is that is what you get from a transport, so comparing that to the same from a computer makes sense.

Async mode from a computer is nothing more than a continuous stream clocked at the USB interface and spooled from a small buffer, just like the stream from a transport is clocked from the transport.
Async mode via USB is inherently flawed from what is see.

All USB data whether Async or not will pass through the USB chip or XMOS which required a clock.

This would be found at the transports USB output and at the dacs input.

Passing USB data through 2 inherently cheap clocks will defeat, the better clocks used in the transport or dac.

To have femto clock, say at a server, using a Jcat or Pink faun USB output card would be a better solution, just as why a Sotm TX USB reclocking the USB signal will be an improvement.

For a cd, if the servo clock can be replaced by a higher quality one, this could result in a big improvement in cd playback.

I have not come across any servo boards by the few main cd/dvd mechanism makers that have even bothered to look into jitter at the mechanism.

I have read, some in the mod community with heavily mooded Marantz cd63 community have done such clocking mods to claimed Huge improvements.

Maybe Steve could share any results such tests undertaken with his vast reclocking developments and expertise.
 
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Async mode via USB is inherently flawed from what is see.

All USB data whether Async or not will pass through the USB chip or XMOS which required a clock.

This would be found at the transports USB output and at the dacs input.

Passing USB data through 2 inherently cheap clocks will defeat, the better clocks used in the transport or dac.
There is nothing inherently wrong with async USB mode. In theory, it should be a great solution. In practice, it is difficult to get jitter immunity. If the clock in the USB interface is low-jitter and the circuit is well-implemented, the result will be very low jitter. There are even benefits of ground isolation if the circuit has galvanic isolation. I have measured around 10psec of jitter for my USB system. In the end, the computer or server USB output still matters and the jitter on the USB cable still matters, unfortunately.

To have femto clock, say at a server, using a Jcat or Pink faun USB output card would be a better solution, just as why a Sotm TX USB reclocking the USB signal will be an improvement.
This does not necessarily solve the inherent USB output jitter problem. Femto clock is interesting, however the associated circuitry in the server will add significant jitter to it, on the order of 10psec, so having sub-picoosecond jitter in the oscillator is not that interesting. One thing that can minimize the jitter added is if the circuits are all LVPECL and not LVCMOS. I'm not aware of any manufacturer that uses this.

For a cd, if the servo clock can be replaced by a higher quality one, this could result in a big improvement in cd playback.
I modded a LOT of transports for 10 years doing exactly this, including improvements to the S/PDIF output circuits, which were all flawed. It did improve the jitter from the transports, but nothing like the low jitter numbers I can get from a reclocker, USB converter or Ethernet renderer. The servo control system always added a lot of jitter that could not be eliminated with mods.

Maybe Steve could share any results such tests undertaken with his vast reclocking developments and expertise.
See these jitter measurements:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=157348.0

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154299.0

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154425.0

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=163712.0

As for expertise, these are mostly trade secrets that may end-up in a book after I retire, or get passed to the new business owner.
 
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matthias

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Mar 14, 2019
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I modded a LOT of transports for 10 years doing exactly this, including improvements to the S/PDIF output circuits, which were all flawed. It did improve the jitter from the transports, but nothing like the low jitter numbers I can get from a reclocker, USB converter or Ethernet renderer. The servo control system always added a lot of jitter that could not be eliminated with mods.
So would you say a CD transport with a good USB output makes sense?
Thanks

Matt
 
So would you say a CD transport with a good USB output makes sense?
Thanks

Matt
That could make sense. The USB interface will reclock the data from the disk. The jitter levels will depend on the implementation/design.

A CDROM drive and buffer with SPDIF output also makes sense for a transport. The CDROM unlike the normal transport will fill the buffer fast and then it is spooled out using a low-jitter clocking circuit. The buffer is essentially always full, so no underrun.
 

Al M.

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So I can confirm what Steve says about jitter. It's really important.

My Simaudio Moon 260 DT transport is much better than an Oppo for example. I heard the difference Oppo vs. my transport myself on my DAC. The Oppo had more grain, grayer tone colors and less separation of instruments -- more muddle. It was a difference that could easily be heard within seconds, and after a minute it was crystal clear.

The Oppo has jitter of 800 psec, as measured by Steve:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

The Simaudio Moon transport has about 115 psec jitter from CD, probably quite an engineering feat:

https://www.moremusic.nl/reviews/moon/Moon_neo_260d_HiFiNews.pdf

Recently I got Steve's Empirical Audio Synchro-Mesh reclocker with Dynamo LPS (Linear Power Supply) and his Empirical Audio digital Reference cables. Jitter: 7 psec. It also has a fast rise time of 700psec. Steve says that most transports have rise times of 2nsec, about 3x slower.

I thought perhaps the lower jitter of my transport compared to typical transports is enough for the internal clock of my Yggdrasil DAC to do the rest, whereas it can't quite correct something like the Oppo. I say this because in the beginning I didn't hear much difference. I guess I had expected large differences, but they are more subtle. Certainly more subtle than the difference of my transport vs. Oppo, and between my MIT AES/EBU cable and another, even more expensive one (which turned out to be no good, and now confirmed by hearing what the Synchro-Mesh reclocker does).

Yet my initial hunch turned out right: there is more energy to the sound with the Synchro-Mesh. Today my ears tuned into the differences, and now I can hear them easily. A great CD to demonstrate what is going on is Hilary Hahn's Encores (2-CD set):

https://www.amazon.com/27-Pieces-Hilary-Hahn-Encores/dp/B00EPD3B2W/

with back story on the often super-exciting music:
https://www.npr.org/2013/11/03/2420...ary-hahn-in-27-pieces-the-hilary-hahn-encores

It was best to listen to the Synchro-Mesh reclocker performance by playing one of the 5-minute pieces for violin and piano in its entirety (initially I made the mistake of mostly checking the reclocker performance on snippets of music), and comparing the same piece in its entirety on just the transport -- and going back again. Then you can see that the envelope of energy and dynamics changes. Sharp transients in the high register of the violin are faster and cleaner; in fact overall the sound is cleaner. There is more energy, tension and excitement to the musical performance.

Sound is more transparent, as if a veil is lifted. This is readily audible, for example, on the soft violin sounds in the slow, subtle beginning of Rautavaara's "Whispering" (track 11, CD2). There you also hear more micro-detail of sound from the friction of the bow on the strings.


(Caveat: the YouTube sounds lame, but it gives you an inkling of the music. There are many much more energetic pieces on the CD than this very beautiful piece.)


Now returning to the Simaudio Moon transport via my expensive MIT AES/EBU cable (which did make a good difference compared to other AES/EBU cables) seems simply boring. That's totally funny to me because I had loved my energetic and very, sometimes explosively, dynamic sound, and so had my audiophile friends. But once you hear the difference, you can't go back.

Interestingly, in direct comparison the transport alone with the higher jitter sounds more like vinyl, or shall we say, sub-optimal vinyl, which seems to be loved by many: the sound is "rounder", more "cozy" and "nicer". Yet with the Synchro-Mesh reclocker the sound is more real (I've heard close up live violin). I prefer real.

Solo piano also benefits. Again more energy and associated dynamics, and hard-hit treble notes are just faster, with removal of a hint of unrealistic "thickness". The low end of the piano also sounds better: less woolly.

I'll find out more about the Synchro-Mesh reclocker performance in other areas, but the above things alone suffice for me.

If you want a great transport, take the one you have and buy the Synchro-Mesh reclocker with Dynamo LPS. You can always return it if you don't like it, it comes with a 30 day return. But if your system has the resolution and dynamics, you won't make use of that policy. It's a keeper.

PS: Steve is nice to deal with.
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
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So I can confirm what Steve says about jitter. It's really important.

My Simaudio Moon 260 DT transport is much better than an Oppo for example. I heard the difference Oppo vs. my transport myself on my DAC. The Oppo had more grain, grayer tone colors and less separation of instruments -- more muddle. It was a difference that could easily be heard within seconds, and after a minute it was crystal clear.

The Oppo has jitter of 800 psec, as measured by Steve:

https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

The Simaudio Moon transport has about 115 psec jitter from CD, probably quite an engineering feat:

https://www.moremusic.nl/reviews/moon/Moon_neo_260d_HiFiNews.pdf

Recently I got Steve's Empirical Audio Synchro-Mesh reclocker with Dynamo LPS (Linear Power Supply) and his Empirical Audio digital Reference cables. Jitter: 7 psec. It also has a fast rise time of 700psec. Steve says that most transports have rise times of 2nsec, about 3x slower.

I thought perhaps the lower jitter of my transport compared to typical transports is enough for the internal clock of my Yggdrasil DAC to do the rest, whereas it can't quite correct something like the Oppo. I say this because in the beginning I didn't hear much difference. I guess I had expected large differences, but they are more subtle. Certainly more subtle than the difference of my transport vs. Oppo, and between my MIT AES/EBU cable and another, even more expensive one (which turned out to be no good, and now confirmed by hearing what the Synchro-Mesh reclocker does).

Yet my initial hunch turned out right: there is more energy to the sound with the Synchro-Mesh. Today my ears tuned into the differences, and now I can hear them easily. A great CD to demonstrate what is going on is Hilary Hahn's Encores (2-CD set):

https://www.amazon.com/27-Pieces-Hilary-Hahn-Encores/dp/B00EPD3B2W/

with back story on the often super-exciting music:
https://www.npr.org/2013/11/03/2420...ary-hahn-in-27-pieces-the-hilary-hahn-encores

It was best to listen to the Synchro-Mesh reclocker performance by playing one of the 5-minute pieces for violin and piano in its entirety (initially I made the mistake of mostly checking the reclocker performance on snippets of music), and comparing the same piece in its entirety on just the transport -- and going back again. Then you can see that the envelope of energy and dynamics changes. Sharp transients in the high register of the violin are faster and cleaner; in fact overall the sound is cleaner. There is more energy, tension and excitement to the musical performance.

Sound is more transparent, as if a veil is lifted. This is readily audible, for example, on the soft violin sounds in the slow, subtle beginning of Rautavaara's "Whispering" (track 11, CD2). There you also hear more micro-detail of sound from the friction of the bow on the strings.


(Caveat: the YouTube sounds lame, but it gives you an inkling of the music. There are many much more energetic pieces on the CD than this very beautiful piece.)


Now returning to the Simaudio Moon transport via my expensive MIT AES/EBU cable (which did make a good difference compared to other AES/EBU cables) seems simply boring. That's totally funny to me because I had loved my energetic and very, sometimes explosively, dynamic sound, and so had my audiophile friends. But once you hear the difference, you can't go back.

Interestingly, in direct comparison the transport alone with the higher jitter sounds more like vinyl, or shall we say, sub-optimal vinyl, which seems to be loved by many: the sound is "rounder", more "cozy" and "nicer". Yet with the Synchro-Mesh reclocker the sound is more real (I've heard close up live violin). I prefer real.

Solo piano also benefits. Again more energy and associated dynamics, and hard-hit treble notes are just faster, with removal of a hint of unrealistic "thickness". The low end of the piano also sounds better: less woolly.

I'll find out more about the Synchro-Mesh reclocker performance in other areas, but the above things alone suffice for me.

If you want a great transport, take the one you have and buy the Synchro-Mesh reclocker with Dynamo LPS. You can always return it if you don't like it, it comes with a 30 day return. But if your system has the resolution and dynamics, you won't make use of that policy. It's a keeper.

PS: Steve is nice to deal with.
Did you try it with the Oppo ? The quality of the Simaudio Moon should no longer be important ;)
 

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