Clocks [not Coldplay]

[Apologies in advance for the long-winded post.]

I am a relatively recent convert to the dCS fold. My top-end DAC in my headphone rack is the MSB Select II DAC. I also own a Lumin A1 and a PS Audio DirectStream, and some less noteworthy boxes. The DirectStream was the DAC in my speaker system, until I went to audition a Bartok and Rossini at Music Lovers Audio in Bezerkeley. The DirectStream is a very nice DAC, that I think punches well above its price class. I had been very happy with it (even compared to the MSB upstairs, because I never entertained the notion that my speaker system could/should/would be as resolving as my headphone system, and my headphone rack was all about detail resolution); happy at least until I heard dCS. At my dealer, I auditioned the dCS equipment exclusively using my Hifiman Susvara and RAAL|Requisite SR1a headphones. I was impressed. And I was further impressed by the effect of the Rossini Clock on both Bartok and the Rossini DAC. In candor, I was amazed. The Clock made everything seem to snap more into focus. I could have blissfully listened to either Bartok or Rossini without the Clock, until I heard them with the Clock. Going back was not an acceptable option as far as I was concerned. And trying each without the Clock was the sure-fire way to prove it. From my perspective, the Clock did not improve bass or expand the soundstage or make any one instrument clearer or another less sibilant. Or any of that audiophile checklist stuff. It was more of an impact over the wholeness of the musical presentation, akin to going from Ektachrome 400 to Kodachrome 25 (or, in the digital world, going from a hi-res full frame sensor to a hi-res medium format one like the Phase One or even the Hasselblad). It just seemed more real . [And recall that this was on the SE1a ribbon earfield monitors; the best is yet to come.]

I will confess that the cynic in me thought: “Wait, they couldn’t build this better clock in? I have to buy a separate box?” My MSB has the Femto 33 clock module. Of course it costs extra, but it’s built in. I don’t mind dCS making a buck, but I sure wish the DAC could be configured with the super-clock built in to cut down on the number of boxes. Ah well, maybe in the Chopin or Mahler line, whenever it comes out. :wink:

Anyway, after hearing the Rossini+Clock, Bartok went out the window (though it is still on the list as a separate headphone station in the bedroom). After talking with my dealer about the Vivaldi and Rossini product life cycles, we concluded—to his delight—that Vivaldi would get me more of what I wanted right now while still protecting my investment with fair trade-in/up policies. So, I ordered the DAC and Upsampler, since I needed network functionality (extra box grrr), and figured I would wait to get the Clock. And off I went to Tanzania for a few weeks of safari, and then unanticipated quarantine on return. My Vivaldi DAC and Upsampler arrived just before I came out of quarantine and right after the Bay Area got its first shelter-in-place order. So my dealer shipped them to me. And I made the decision to go ahead and order the Clock. The dCS factory had just shut down temporarily due to the coronavirus, but as it turned out, there was a silver Clock in stock at dCS North America.

Prior to Vivaldi, I was using the DirectStream DAC (with Network Bridge II) to feed the PS Audio BHK preamp and BHK 300 monoblocks into the Legacy Audio Aeris speakers. Not a bad sound at all, thoroughly enjoyable. But not be all, end all ; that’s what the headphone rack was for. Vivaldi was all about putting my speaker system on the same level as my headphone rack. And did it ever. Right out of the box, with no burn/brain-in, Vivaldi was a revelation compared to the DirectStream. Something about listening to Vivaldi prompted me to swap the BHK monoblocks out for the Merrill Audio Veritas monoblocks that preceded them, and were boxed up waiting to be sold or traded in. Wow. Merrill Audio’s “signature” is speed. His amps were the ones that stripped my Class D bias away, and all for the better. And the Vivaldi just sang through them. So much so that I decided to remove the BHK preamp. After some work to get the levels matched with the Aeris Wavelet processor, the Vivaldi really came into its own at 6V. So, the full PS Audio kit is about to be put on the market, and I now have Merrill’s latest Element 116 monoblocks on order, along with a Townshend Allegri Reference passive pre.

In the meantime, Vivaldi Clock showed up about a week after I began seriously listening to the stack. Setup was reasonably simple. I connected the Clock using Geistnote cables (I have Van Damme cables en route right now, and will audition Shunyata eventually), and much like the demo of Bartok and Rossini, the difference was immediately apparent. As I posted elsewhere here, my wife noticed it right away. The sense of realism is almost palpable, especially at low levels, which has become something of a touchstone for me. I highly recommend demoing any dCS master clock; but when you do, put away your audiophile dictionary/checklist and just listen. I was so struck by the improvement, that I decided to re-calibrate the Aeris (which I had also done after Vivaldi arrived), and they showed an additional improvement.

While I was listening to Vivaldi and looking forward to Clock’s arrival, I had been reading clock reviews, from Mutec to CH Precision to Cybershaft to Stanford Research to Brandywine. I was convinced that further clock precision, especially short-term precision, might improve my sound further. I contacted four of the five (CHP did not seem the best path), and based on the online reviews and answers to several questions, I decided to pursue Mutec and Cybershaft. Mutec has a new special edition out, difficult to obtain here in the US, but it wasn’t my first choice anyway. Cybershaft was my first choice (and appeared to be so for other Vivaldi owners on line), and despite being referred to by one Mutec reviewer as “unobtanium,” I found Cybershaft’s proprietor Kenji Hasegawa very knowledgeable, patient, and easy to work with. Eleven days after I reached out to him, my OP21A and power supply were headed to California.

The Cybershaft clock arrived well and safely packaged, with a performance certification printout for the clock and excellent user manuals for both the clock and the power supply. Connection was simple. Vivaldi Clock locked on to the Cybershaft immediately. I left everything running for 48 hours before listening with any sort of critical ear. Kenji-san advised that the clock would reach 95+% capability within 2-3 days. And did it ever. The change in presentation was not as dramatic as adding Vivaldi Clock, but it was no less discernible. In this case, it was like going from Kodachrome 25 to 10.

The combination of all these pieces together is intoxicating. They are not necessary to enjoying the music; I can tap my toes and dance around to AirPods or boom boxes. After all, this is all about music, not equipment. But if one wants the best possible sound reproduction at home, and your front end is digital, then it seems to me the best thing you can do is invest in timing accuracy. This combination of Vivaldi stack plus Cybershaft clock, is an exceptionally pleasurable way to do that. Highly, highly recommended.

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Thanks Greg for the resumé and the brief review of the Cybershaft clock. I am jealous as I have absolutely no room for yet another box :frowning_face:

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Yeah, I’m running out of room as well. The Allegri Reference will have to go on the top of the cabinet, next to the screen. I think that will look okay.

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@PaleRider Do try the Cybershaft connected to your etherREGEN too if you have a spare cable around.
PS I like the thread title :wink:

I might do that, just to say I did. My ER is sitting in its original box, having demonstrated nothing of sonic significance to me. I am more of the viewpoint articulated by @Anupc and @Andrew in this thread. I believe cables, electrical noise, and many things can affect audio, and that in particular, there are many interactions in network audio we’re still figuring out. FMC converters and the GigaFoil 4 (which I use) can help reduce noise, but clocking a switch will neither affect the timing of the Upsampler/DAC, nor the noise on the line (though the ER can help with that, too). It’s asynchronous data. ER might help with other things, but not with timing issues that affect SQ.

Thanks for mentioning that thread, and I wouldn’t want to carry on the same vibe that got it locked. It’s an intriguing experiment to try, as all the components are in your home (I myself will never have the fortune to obtain a dCS clock…).

Yeah. I don’t want to get us locked down either. :wink: But I don’t mind trying the ER experiment.

But don’t say “never,” because you never know. I didn’t think I ever would either.

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Great rigg you have put together there Greg!


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Nice piece of information for people like me, wondering which path to go for an upgrade.
But I have a question, what’s the more expensive for you, a safari in Africa or a safari to your hifi dealer ? :smile:

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:rofl: Easily the latter!

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I notice you mention clock cables. Back in the early days of my Puccini (8 or 9 years ago) I bought an MIT cable for the clock. The cable had one of their “articulation” control boxes on it. I discovered it functions as a variable boomy-ness control for the bass. Not much good, and out it went. dCS later told me that some of their cables wouldn’t even allow the equipment to sync to the clock. Next I tried a Transparent Reference vs Chord (a UK brand). With my system as it was at the time, and using headphones, I couldn’t tell the difference and so bought the Chord which was somewhat cheaper. This year, looking at this forum, I saw that people were getting good results with the Geistnote, etc. So I decided to get that (I have, but haven’t fitted it yet) and the best 75 Ohm cables from Canare and Belden. From what I’ve read, they put development effort into these cables in order to carry increasingly high resolution video signals, and to do so over long runs. One of the engineers at Belden did an interesting blog post about it. I have both of these and they sound good. I haven’t yet been back to the Chord. It is so pleasant to be able to buy something for a hi-end audio setup that costs in the low two digits rather than four and up. I see in the picture of your listening room, lurking at the back, a pair of Stax Omega of some kind. I’ve been a headphone listener since my teens, and am embarrassed to say that I’ve only recently achieved a sound with speakers that I enjoy as much.

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Hey Simon, ah yes, cables. So far, I have had excellent results with the Geistnote cables. I assume it’s because Kevin is using quality cable and materials, and as an engineer, seems to know what he is doing. And I also have a love for Belden, because they know what they are doing. One of their engineers of whom you may know, is Galen Gareis. He is also an audiophile and the developer of the Iconoclast cables. I am a big and early (though not quite bleeding edge) fan. I bought my first sets of Iconoclast ICs and speaker cables direct from Galen, and I was very pleased when he formed his relationship with Blue Jeans Cable in Seattle. That’s another firm of engineering types who consistently deliver quality cables for incredibly reasonable prices. And I love that each cable arrives tested and certified.

I don’t like using cables as tone controls, and that’s one reason I am highly suspicious of most, including the MIT Oracle series. When fellow ‘philes start taking about the laundry list of improved characteristics—from phenomenal bass to crystal highs to a soundstage the size of the Hollywood Bowl—well my cynic’s radar starts beeping. I know that cables can make a difference, and that it’s entirely possible the reviewer has gone from bad to good, or from neutral to something he or she likes better. But the reports of “night & day” improvements from cables, some of which cost more than many components, well, that sounds a lot like confirmation bias to me. And I agree that to some extent, cables are components, but their material cost, design, and labor, shouldn’t merit them costing more than quality components.

When I installed Iconcolcast cables in my systems, my systems sounded notably better than before. My wife, again not an audiophile, noticed the difference without being told what was producing it. That’s because I upgraded from cheap, stock cables to cables engineered to pass audio signals as efficiently as possible. If you read the Galen Gareis white papers, and there are several, you’ll perceive the deep amount of engineering and detail that went into designing a cable that performs better than most on the measurements that we know contribute to audio fidelity. They’re not cheap, but they’re less expensive than many, and the reasons they sound good make sense .

Drew Baird of Moon Audio is another guy who proved that quality cables can make a difference, and that they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. His Blue, Black, and Silver Dragon cables are excellent, and in my experience with them on headphones, worth every penny.

As part of my order of the Allegri Reference Pre, I am receiving discounted F1 Fractal ICs. As you may know, the folks at Townshend have received lots of praise for their cables and their engineering. The promotional discount I received put them in the price range of the Iconoclasts, so I thought I’d give them a whirl and see how they perform. When you look at the Fractal specs, though built very differently, they are quite close to the Iconoclast. Coming from engineers who happen to be audiophiles, I am not surprised. [Come to think of it, maybe it’s no surprise I should love dCS performance; audio equipment built by scientists and engineers.]

And when quarantine is over, I do plan to demo the Shunyata clock cables. Apparently, they are to die for. :wink: I remain to be convinced. My Van Dammes should arrive from UK today. I had them done in blue sheath with red boots (pic below), because you know, the synergies of those colors help align skin signal with core signal so they remain in sync. Adding the “CLOCK” monogram to the sheath helps the electrons understand their purpose. Okay, it’s time for some proper Burgundy.

That headphone in the picture is a Stax 007 Mk1. It’s powered by a Mjolnir Carbon amp that has a pass through for the signal. So the output of the Vivaldi DAC goes to the Mjolnir, and then on the speaker amps from there. I still listen to headphones mostly at the headphone rack, but this lets me listen to the Vivaldi stack more intimately in the speaker room if I want. I love Stax; I also have the 007 Mk2, the 009, and the 009S, along with a custom T2 amp which really is pretty amazing. Right now they are being given a run for their money by the RAAL|Requisite SR1a/HSA-1a combo. If you get the chance, try to hear them.

Fun reading that you do not believe in expensive cables as you state in the beginning of your post, but then you and your wife can here the benefits of using midrange cables vs cheap cables😄
So what do you think will happen when you are using for instance a high end MIT or Transparent cable that is calibrated to give the same impedance through the whole frequency spectra vs a midrange Belden cable that is more than a ordinary shielded copper cable designed to carry a high frequency 4k signal in a studio without loss, it has nothing to do with how it sounds in the end.
I have an big box with Belden 4k bnc , Geistnote Apogee WidEye canare , Canare 4k BNC and they sounds numb and fat in the sound used as signal carriers but the could work as a squared wave clock cable, because it does not carry any signal or sound, just a square wave form.

Then using a Mit Oracle Ma-X BNC 75 Ohm cable as a clock cable is not to recommend , because it is NOT designed to pass square wave signal through it articulation circuit, thats why it can reproduce oddities in the sound as mentioned in this thread.

It should be used between the Upsampler and the DAC for the best performance. dCS have used this cables in their reference rig for several years, but is using Transparent and Nordost today as their colab sponsors ( Mit and Transparent is originally the same founder of both brands)

Then the color sheme of your Van Damme clock cable should reduce skin effect i find hilarious snake oil )

“Not a believer in cables” I think you convinced yourself by posting this post :+1:

Have an great Saturday Greg :+1:

Just in case any one is confused by this, the claim is not that of Van Damme which is currently the market leader in cable supply to professional recording and broadcast studios in Europe. Not a market that appreciates snake oil. This was Greg being ironically funny and, I agree with Beolab, hilarious.

As for MIT and Transparent cables having the same founder this is incorrect. The cables are conceptually similar but MIT was founded by Bruce Brisson. Transparent was founded later by Karen and Jack Summer with Carl Smith. Prior to this Karen Summer had been head of marketing at MIT.

Fredrick, as Pete notes, I think you missed the joke. I was being silly and making fun of all this. And I never said anything of this sort: “Fun reading that you do not believe in expensive cables as you state in the beginning of your post.” Where do you find this “at the beginning” of my post? Quite literally, I never wrote any such thing, nor do I believe that way. Later on, I said “I remain to be convinced” of the efficacy of $2k Shunyata clock cables, but that’s because I haven’t heard them yet. And that is why I am going to listen, and why my dealer will let me demo them in my home if it seems worthwhile. Not because I don’t believe, but because I remain, and am willing, to be convinced.

I think you’ve misunderstood my (view)point, which is probably my fault for being so long-winded and roundabout. Regrets. But if you want to understand my view, you may need to read-read my post. :upside_down_face:

Yes, I think cables matter and their changes can be heard. I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere that I think cables make a difference, especially in the analog domain. Not sure how you misunderstood me on that broad point. iconoclast cables made a difference we could hear. Those differences were in the nature of clarity, transparency, coherence, focus, etc—all the characteristics that seem to my mind to relate to getting the signal right. I wouldn’t say there was more bass, but better articulated, tighter bass. Etc. [Funny that you call cables that still cost thousands of dollars “midrange.”] I hardly said that MIT or other stratospherically-priced cables didn’t matter. What I meant to convey was that cables that change tonality or let one fine-rune the sound—and more than one person has so described the MITs—are not my cup of tea.

I want the best-engineered, well-built cable I can get for the reasonable dollar investment. Well-built so it lasts, and well-engineered to pass signals properly. IMHO, the difference between cheaply made cables and well-made cables probably explains the vast bulk of what we hear in cables, and isn’t that as it should be? After that, it’s probably system synergy. Beyond that, I have a feeling it is actual changes to the signal (a la MIT), or wallet confirmation bias. Every person’s definition of “reasonable”—just like our hearing—will be different. Mine is somewhere in the Iconcoclast-Fractal range. Still not cheap, and ridiculous for some. And let’s say I go listen to the Shunyata cables—remember, we’re talking about clock cables in this case, and in one part of my system, BNC cables between two clocks—and I can’t hear the difference? Doesn’t mean you or someone else can’t hear it. Just means I will save myself a little coin. Finally. :wink:

A good weekend to you as well!

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Excuse me for my last post :pensive:
I was 50/50 if it was a joke or not, sorry i miss read It.

I think you will end up with the best cables money can buy after a while;) It is a fun journey like tube rollin to try out different types of cables and fine tune the system to your own taste, thats for sure.
With a system in the pinnacle end of the line you have built and put togeather, it scales with the surrounding bits as you know.
And yes statements you have read that Mit change the tonal balance is correct when it comes to analog cables like speaker cables and analog signal cables, but what i am writing about is in the digital domain, and you can not change the tonal balance with a passive circuit In the digital domain.
What the passive articulation does is making the impedance more linear through the whole frequency spectra, and it gives a much much greater separation where complex path in the music ease up and you will here “higher resolution” because of the better separation.

So my intention was only a guidance, and see this cable more like a system component than a simple straight HiFi cable if you ever come buy one on the used market, or can borrow one, would be great to hear what you would think👍

Have an great evening :+1:

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Thanks Fredrik i understand your perspective. And you are correct—this is indeed a fun journey. I am looking forward to getting the Allegri Reference into the system as an analog volume control. That, plus the improved power, should be the end of the component search for a while. My dealer will do his best to entice me with the Shunyata or MIT clock/digital cables. We’ll see. The flesh can be weak. :wink:

:rofl: :joy:

I’m sorry, when I see Manufacturer’s pseudo-science Marketing terms being used in place of actual science to explain how things work, it just makes me ROTFL.


Until now, on this forum, people have shown great respect to each other…it was too good to last forever…one day, someone would start with criticism without reasons…Congratulations you are the first one…

I’m sorry you see it that way. I apologise if my tone wasn’t respectful. :v:t3:

That said, here’s my point of view though; practically every Audio related Forum on the 'Net these days is flooded with manufacture’s marketing-speak disguised as real science, it’s beyond funny. One can only hope this forum doesn’t follow a similar path.

IMHO, the discourse here should be held to a much higher standard. :slightly_smiling_face: