Ramblings: 2022, my year in hi-fi with the Innuos Pulse, SOtM iSO CAT7 and Lampizator Amber 4

lordcloud

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Jul 5, 2016
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Hi Charles,
As I started to build and refine my streaming system, I purchased an Innuos Zenith MkII SE to handle both local and remote streaming. With almost zero running in the system started producing extremely enjoyable music, to the point I remember thinking that there was nothing I didn’t like; which was a first time for me with digital.
Ears I trust who were also using the Zenith and reporting achieving best digital sound added a footnote that SQ could be even further enhanced by adding an SoTM USB retimer at the Zenith’s output. I ordered the Tx-USBUltra with a sPS-500 power supply. While I heard some minor bass improvement, the entire magic of the sound vanished. I put it down to running in but after 400 hours it was just the same. The dealer sent me another unit, this time with its regular wall wart power supply, but that sounded very similar. I could not understand what was going on as everyone else was reporting exceptional results with the Tx-USBUltra. So I tried a new set of cables, but while they wrought a few positive changes, the magic was still absent.
Discouraged, I unplugged the retimer to send it back and the magic instantly returned. I didn’t matter if the tx-USBUltra was in or out of circuit, simply having its switched mode power supply plugged into the same dedicated mains was enough to rob the system of almost everything it did well.
This then made me look at another SMPS I was using to power an AQVOX SE switch. Substituting a Sean Jacobs DC3 had a massive, jaw dropping effect on the sound. I have posted this info on several occasions. When I went back and re-read the 2 or 3 positive posts about the Tx-USBUltra I realised that they were all being powered by Linear Power Supplies.
The SMSL SD9 is also powered by a cheap SMPS, so the same effect could well be happening. Pure speculation of course
The SD9 wasn't ever plugged in at the same time the Innuous was. I don't think it was the SD9 at all.
 

lordcloud

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Hi there lordcloud,
As you say, that is an unusual result.

I don’t have any experience with the SMSL SD9 but I‘ve heard a Pulse and it was very impressive. Highly involving with excellent spatial attributes.Two of the main qualities of a Sean Jacobs power supply is naturalness combined with a real ‘jump factor” meaning excellent pace, rhythm, timing and dynamic response. That’s the ‘house ‘ sound. The rest of the Innuos electronics very much complement the supply’s attributes to provide a very clean physical layer at the output. The physical layer (pl) is where digital‘s sonic signature lives. Great pl , great sound. Poor pl, poor sound.
When all the Innuos‘s spatial information isnt properly resolved, for any reason, that spatial information doesn’t go away, it combines with the direct music, as a confusion-causing distortion so the music doesn’t sound quite right….heard as too much energy at some frequencies and no spatial component obviously. If the Pulse in’t producing wonderful pace, rhythm and timing and excellent spatial resolution with tremendous listener involvement, something is holding back its performance and of course it will sound bad. The key question is; what is holding it back that’s not holding back the SMSL SD9?

Would you like to share how both units were connected to the system and compared?
Both units were plugged into my network directly. They were both connected to my DAC (modified MHDT Labs Balanced Pagoda with NOS SIEMENS E88CC 6922 tubes), using a 1 meter silver AES/EBU (Cabledyne) cable.

They were both put on the same support. Same power cord (Cabledyne Silver Reference). Plugged into the same Shunyata Hydra.

One just sounded much better than the other. The Pulse didn't sound horrible. The SD9 was just better.
 
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charles1dad

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Both units were plugged into my network directly. They were both connected to my DAC (modified MHDT Labs Balanced Pagoda with NOS SIEMENS E88CC 6922 tubes), using a 1 meter silver AES/EBU (Cabledyne) cable.

They were both put on the same support. Same power cord (Cabledyne Silver Reference). Plugged into the same Shunyata Hydra.

One just sounded much better than the other. The Pulse didn't sound horrible. The SD9 was just better.
Thanks for your further comments and additional details. At the end of the day you have to trust your ears and what you heard in your own familiar audio system.

Admittedly puzzling for me but so be it. Innuos put a lot of attention into the Pulse power supply and circuit. They have established a well earned reputation for built and sound quality, thus my interest.

The SD9 goes for 400.00 USD and presumably relies on low cost off the shelf parts to meet a price target and still see a profit. Generally (In my experience) you get underwhelming sound quality with this type of product.

Perhaps the SD9 proves the exception. I can’t imagine its power supply has nearly the focused attention of the Pulse (Among other component aspects). I acknowledge this is one listener’s experience. But I won’t ignore it either.
Charles
 
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lordcloud

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Thanks for your further comments and additional details. At the end of the day you have to trust your ears and what you heard in your own familiar audio system.

Admittedly puzzling for me but so be it. Innuos put a lot of attention into the Pulse power supply and circuit. They have established a well earned reputation for built and sound quality, thus my interest.

The SD9 goes for 400.00 USD and presumably relies on low cost off the shelf parts to meet a price target and still see a profit. Generally (In my experience) you get underwhelming sound quality with this type of product.

Perhaps the SD9 proves the exception. I can’t imagine its power supply has nearly the focused attention of the Pulse (Among other component aspects). I acknowledge this is one listener’s experience. But I won’t ignore it either.
Charles
I didn't expect much from the SD9, but I had heard that it delivered clean , detailed sound, so I picked it up to try it. It is in fact very clean and very detailed. It's a budget streamer, but I think because it doesn't seem to be created to have a sound, that it has less of a sound than the lower end piece of another company might. Just my thoughts.

In my experience, the low end piece at a higher price, can be, not as good as the higher end piece from another company at a lower price.

I have a Wavedream Net now, which is MUCH better than either, so I'm not someone that's simply wanting my cheap streamer to be a world beater. I auditioned the Pulse with the expectation that it would likely be much better than the SD9. My idea was to hear the Pulse and then purchase an Innuous above the Pulse.

The audition was done with the local Innuous dealer. He also heard what we all heard, and was also perplexed.
 

Gjo

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Aug 22, 2021
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The audition was done with the local Innuous dealer. He also heard what we all heard, and was also perplexed.
Did the dealer suggest during or after the audition that the sound produced by the specific Innuos Pulse being demo'ed was unusual, an anomaly, or otherwise indicative of being faulty?
 

lordcloud

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Jul 5, 2016
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Did the dealer suggest during or after the audition that the sound produced by the specific Innuos Pulse being demo'ed was unusual, an anomaly, or otherwise indicative of being faulty?
He was listening to that Innuous in his system and was surprised at the difference. He's didn't suggest the unit was faulty in any way.

Like I said, it didn't sound horrible. Or even bad. It just sounded compromised in comparison. Veiled and spatially compressed. Which, I imagine as you go up on the Innuous line....the better models are improved upon in those areas.
 

tedwoods

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He was listening to that Innuous in his system and was surprised at the difference. He's didn't suggest the unit was faulty in any way.

Like I said, it didn't sound horrible. Or even bad. It just sounded compromised in comparison. Veiled and spatially compressed. Which, I imagine as you go up on the Innuous line....the better models are improved upon in those areas.
My unit is quite the antithesis of "veiled and spatially compressed" as it sounds detailed, dynamic and open sounding. Spatial information in particular is on another level with reverb trails and natural decay being very close to that of a good analog source and even the "Pulse mini" (the lower model) does a decent job at that. One cannot obviously account for every variable under the sun, and Lord knows how many of those are involved in streaming, but their non optimal handling invariably leads to non optimal results and can often prove to be very misleading.
 
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Blackmorec

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He was listening to that Innuous in his system and was surprised at the difference. He's didn't suggest the unit was faulty in any way.

Like I said, it didn't sound horrible. Or even bad. It just sounded compromised in comparison. Veiled and spatially compressed. Which, I imagine as you go up on the Innuous line....the better models are improved upon in those areas.
Hi lordcloud,
First, I completely take on board that what you heard was accurately reported. But what makes this ‘interesting’ is that the characteristics of the Pulse are anything but veiled and spatially compressed. That ‘distortion’ you and your dealer were hearing is almost certainly caused by noise, which robs the system of clarity and resolution, making it very challenging for your brain to build an involving and believable, well populated spatial picture of musicians in a venue.
The thing is, these transparency and spatial characteristics are sonic features of all Innuos products, so while you may hear more of everything with the more expensive models, it is unlikely that the rest of the products will sound compromised. In my experience the Zenith MkII SE was anything but compromised even when compared to a Statement. Similarly the Pulse I listened to recently didn’t sound compromised vs. the Statement Next Gen I usually listen to.
Your report is essentially that the Pulse sounded compromised, far more so than the SD9. So the question is, where was all that noise coming from? One source, that I know can have a significantly detrimental affect on Innuos streamer performance are certain switched mode power supplies. The SD9 has just such a power supply, but you say that it was not switched on during the comparison. That being the case, I would suggest that you look for other significant sources of noise within your hi-fi’s ecosystem, because the Pulse‘s performance was an indication that all is not as low noise as it could be.
 

charles1dad

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Hi lordcloud,
First, I completely take on board that what you heard was accurately reported. But what makes this ‘interesting’ is that the characteristics of the Pulse are anything but veiled and spatially compressed. That ‘distortion’ you and your dealer were hearing is almost certainly caused by noise, which robs the system of clarity and resolution, making it very challenging for your brain to build an involving and believable, well populated spatial picture of musicians in a venue.
The thing is, these transparency and spatial characteristics are sonic features of all Innuos products, so while you may hear more of everything with the more expensive models, it is unlikely that the rest of the products will sound compromised. In my experience the Zenith MkII SE was anything but compromised even when compared to a Statement. Similarly the Pulse I listened to recently didn’t sound compromised vs. the Statement Next Gen I usually listen to.
Your report is essentially that the Pulse sounded compromised, far more so than the SD9. So the question is, where was all that noise coming from? One source, that I know can have a significantly detrimental affect on Innuos streamer performance are certain switched mode power supplies. The SD9 has just such a power supply, but you say that it was not switched on during the comparison. That being the case, I would suggest that you look for other significant sources of noise within your hi-fi’s ecosystem, because the Pulse‘s performance was an indication that all is not as low noise as it could be.
This assessment with regard to noise affecting the sound quality of the Pulse is very rational. But why was the SD9 unit in-affected (Or less affected) in the same setting/audio system?

Your description of the Innuos components sonic characteristics is what a large number of listeners have affirmed. As we all realize, these are pure subjective impressions. It stirs the curiosity as to why lordcloud’s encounter seems an outlier by contrast.

You would think that the Innuos dealer would have the noise issue accounted for with a reasonably (At least) good streaming network set up. Interesting outcome.
Charles
 

Gjo

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Aug 22, 2021
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I would suggest that you look for other significant sources of noise within your hi-fi’s ecosystem, because the Pulse‘s performance was an indication that all is not as low noise as it could be.
If I have correctly read @lordcloud's comments, I understand that he has listened to three streamers in his system over the past several months: Innuos Pulse, Rockna WavedreamNET and SMSL SD9. All were connected in the same manner to reduce variables.

@lordcloud preferred the SD9 and Rockna WavedreamNET. He heard clear differences among all three.

If there is noise in the system causing his "outlying" listening perception of the Innuos Pulse, then why do the other two streamers (server in the case of the WavedreamNET) sound better to him under the same conditions? Are they immune to noise affecting the Pulse? Are their circuits better filtered?

Or, is it simply possible that the Pulse sounds inherently different and he prefers the other two?

Unless one has heard the other streamers in their system, one cannot know if the differences @lordcloud hears are due to the streamers' design/build/software or something else. Consider that if were one to hear the SD9 and Rockna WavedreamNET in their system, and have the opportunity to compare against a Pulse, one might also hear differences...and prefer the SD9 and Rockna WavedreamNET.

It's not uncommon for people to attribute a contrasting viewpoint to problems within that user's system. While problems (e.g. power delivery noise) are a possibility, I prefer to digest the comments thru the lens of listener preference, particularly in @lordcloud's case where he compared several similar components in his system under matching conditions.

My takeaway thus far is that he just prefers the SD9 and WavedreamNET, and whatever system related problems might exist (if any) apply to all three streamers; therefore his perceptions of those streamers are due to either to inherent component characteristics, system synergy, or listener preference.
 
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lordcloud

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Hi lordcloud,
First, I completely take on board that what you heard was accurately reported. But what makes this ‘interesting’ is that the characteristics of the Pulse are anything but veiled and spatially compressed. That ‘distortion’ you and your dealer were hearing is almost certainly caused by noise, which robs the system of clarity and resolution, making it very challenging for your brain to build an involving and believable, well populated spatial picture of musicians in a venue.
The thing is, these transparency and spatial characteristics are sonic features of all Innuos products, so while you may hear more of everything with the more expensive models, it is unlikely that the rest of the products will sound compromised. In my experience the Zenith MkII SE was anything but compromised even when compared to a Statement. Similarly the Pulse I listened to recently didn’t sound compromised vs. the Statement Next Gen I usually listen to.
Your report is essentially that the Pulse sounded compromised, far more so than the SD9. So the question is, where was all that noise coming from? One source, that I know can have a significantly detrimental affect on Innuos streamer performance are certain switched mode power supplies. The SD9 has just such a power supply, but you say that it was not switched on during the comparison. That being the case, I would suggest that you look for other significant sources of noise within your hi-fi’s ecosystem, because the Pulse‘s performance was an indication that all is not as low noise as it could be.
This is unlikely.

What is more likely is that, heard by itself...a compliment can sound very good. Heard in direct comparison to another component, it can sound less than good.

By itself.... especially when you purchase it, it can sound great.

My system is pretty resolving and dimensionality is something it does very well. If it were an issue with my system, it would show up with the other streamers. It didn't. And again...I'm not saying it was horrible sounding on its own. I'm saying that in comparison, it didn't sound as good, and was missing some things that I value.

It would be interesting if anyone else listened to the and two components, and what their experience was. I still have the SD9 and I would be happy to send it to anyone that has the Pulse and wants to hear the two. Who knows what the difference might be in another system.

But I very much reject the idea that for some reason...this one streamer is great, but just sounded bad in my system because my system has a noise issue (that only affected the Pulse).
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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This is unlikely.

What is more likely is that, heard by itself...a compliment can sound very good. Heard in direct comparison to another component, it can sound less than good.

By itself.... especially when you purchase it, it can sound great.

My system is pretty resolving and dimensionality is something it does very well. If it were an issue with my system, it would show up with the other streamers. It didn't. And again...I'm not saying it was horrible sounding on its own. I'm saying that in comparison, it didn't sound as good, and was missing some things that I value.

It would be interesting if anyone else listened to the and two components, and what their experience was. I still have the SD9 and I would be happy to send it to anyone that has the Pulse and wants to hear the two. Who knows what the difference might be in another system.

But I very much reject the idea that for some reason...this one streamer is great, but just sounded bad in my system because my system has a noise issue (that only affected the Pulse).
hi lordcloud,
prior to this conversation I’d never even heard of an SD9, so obviously I’ve no idea how it sounds.It may well be a very superior sounding piece of kit. I simply don’t know. But what i found intriguing about your initial comments was that the characteristics you found lacking in the Innuos are exactly its strengths, meaning that it is quite an outstanding performer in those areas. I understand your dealer was at a loss to explain the loss in sound quality vs his own experience so clearly something was amiss. My only intent was to relate a similar incident I had with a very well reviewed USB reclocker that sounded very off song, where a power supply was eventually found to be the cause. You gave the impression in your initial post that you compared the SD9 to the Innuos and immediately heard a difference which left me thinking you were running both units side by side (or at least had them both plugged in and warm), which was why i related my experience with the SMPS.
 

lordcloud

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hi lordcloud,
prior to this conversation I’d never even heard of an SD9, so obviously I’ve no idea how it sounds.It may well be a very superior sounding piece of kit. I simply don’t know. But what i found intriguing about your initial comments was that the characteristics you found lacking in the Innuos are exactly its strengths, meaning that it is quite an outstanding performer in those areas. I understand your dealer was at a loss to explain the loss in sound quality vs his own experience so clearly something was amiss. My only intent was to relate a similar incident I had with a very well reviewed USB reclocker that sounded very off song, where a power supply was eventually found to be the cause. You gave the impression in your initial post that you compared the SD9 to the Innuos and immediately heard a difference which left me thinking you were running both units side by side (or at least had them both plugged in and warm), which was why i related my experience with the SMPS.
I feel as though something gets lost in what I've said.....

I didn't say it lacked in those areas. I said it was lacking in those areas in direct comparison. Literally everything is relative. It can be an outstanding performance in some areas. It doesn't at all mean that other components are not better in those areas.

The Wavedream Net is, in my opinion, MUUUUUCH better than the Pulse in those, and every other area. I imagine the better streamers in the Innuous line are as well. This doesn't mean that the Pulse is bad in those areas. It means other things, compared directly, are better.

I did immediately hear a difference. Because the difference was easily perceptible and quite large. My system does soundstage very well. So when that soundstage shrinks, it's easy to hear. I also listen in the nearfield. Differences are very easy to hear. Both units had the chance to warm up. The difference in sound was just large.

I don't understand why this is so difficult to fathom. I read all of the time about large differences in the quality of components. I don't see how it's difficult to believe a lower tiered component from a company that caters towards what they believe audiophiles want to hear, is lacking in some areas in comparison.
 

Gjo

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Aug 22, 2021
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I believe I auditioned the same Innuos Pulse unit that @lordcloud auditioned. Same dealer.

In my system, soundstage shrunk as well.

Much of what @lordcloud has mentioned, I also heard.

Perhaps it's a faulty unit. Or, maybe it’s consistent with other Innuos models. Impossible for me to know since this Pulse is the only Innuos component I’ve had in my system.

I'd certainly be open to listening to a new-in-the-box Pulse to re-evaluate its merits.
 
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Blackmorec

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Hi Gio,
If you want to hear what the Pulse can actually do, you either need a brand new unit to play for a few days or one that is fully run in. You’ll find that partially run-in Mundorf capacitors do lack some of the magic. I found both Innuos systems I’ve owned extremely engaging, with strong points being their pace, rhythm, timing, imaging and levels of 3D immersion they consistently achieve.
 

lordcloud

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Hi Gio,
If you want to hear what the Pulse can actually do, you either need a brand new unit to play for a few days or one that is fully run in. You’ll find that partially run-in Mundorf capacitors do lack some of the magic. I found both Innuos systems I’ve owned extremely engaging, with strong points being their pace, rhythm, timing, imaging and levels of 3D immersion they consistently achieve.
The Pulse was broken in. I don't think break in was the issue. I don't think there was an issue at all. The SD9 simply out performed the Pulse, on that day in my system.

I believe that your experience with the Pulse is exactly as you say it is.

I imagine if I had just listened to the Pulse, without comparing it directly, then I would have likely come to a different conclusion about its sound.
 
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Blackmorec

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The Pulse was broken in. I don't think break in was the issue. I don't think there was an issue at all. The SD9 simply out performed the Pulse, on that day in my system.

I believe that your experience with the Pulse is exactly as you say it is.

I imagine if I had just listened to the Pulse, without comparing it directly, then I would have likely come to a different conclusion about its sound.
Hi lordcloud,
That seems like a great place to leave things. I’m not here to argue with you, just to enjoy some lively discussion about hi-fi so I wish you much listening pleasure.
 
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NickMimi

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4 separate systems on hand, Pulse was just added to the secondary rig to take advantage of the Sense software. Main rig and secondary will be pulled off ROON And fed via Innuos Sense streaming software, Quboz and Tidal. The Innuos Sense software in my listening experiences and obviously subjective taste is simply better suited to my sound quality preference. Other streamers are fine, the Sense software is what sells me hardest on Innuos, it’s simply better and designed to take advantage of the hardware. My money was spent with this in mind and 3 years of experience w/ the Zenith mk3 previous.
I also use SOtM units, enjoy them, but moved them over to my HP rig. I’ve had the pleasure of getting some extensive listening time on Antipodes, Auralic, and Sonor units. All lovely pieces but again, the Innuos Sense software was what finally won me over. The current version of ROON is excellent but starting to push the software requirements harder with more and more features and in the end I don’t want more computing than absolutely necessary to play the music. I understand and agree w/ the Innuos philosophy and am sticking with them for the foreseeable future.

The Pulse unit is breaking in very nicely, it was easy to get operational, it integrated smoothly with the Zenith and is not showing any negative SQ characteristics as captured in some of the previous posts. I am feeding the unit direct fiber via a Sonore network switch, associated converters all w/ quality LPS’s, and cables. I won’t recommend equipment to folks, it’s a very personal experience, personally I am very pleased with the Innuos products. More power to those of you who can double and triple your spending budgets, go for it, i enjoy reading about your experience. This has been mine thus far and if it changes one way or another I’ll be happy to post an update.
 

skids929

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The Pulse was broken in. I don't think break in was the issue. I don't think there was an issue at all. The SD9 simply out performed the Pulse, on that day in my system.

I believe that your experience with the Pulse is exactly as you say it is.

I imagine if I had just listened to the Pulse, without comparing it directly, then I would have likely come to a different conclusion about its sound.
There is no way on any day of the week that SPL unit sounded better than the Pulse. There I said what everyone else wanted to say but couldn't.
 
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lordcloud

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There is no way on any day of the week that SPL unit sounded better than the Pulse. There I said what everyone else wanted to say but couldn't.
What did the two sound like when you had them in your system? And did everyone that listened, including the dealer who brought the Pulse, agree? Or are you, like everyone else, just talking about a comparison they didn't hear?

Regardless of what everyone else, who haven't heard the SD9, says .. .the Pulse, in my system, wasn't particularly good in comparison. The SD9 was much better, and the Wavedream Net was that much better.

It's crazy to me that so many people in here have very strong opinions about things they haven't heard.
 

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