Advantage of PS Audio Bridge II over USB cable from PC?


I play digital content in my system, which includes a PS Audio Perfect Wave II DAC, into an Audio Research SP16-L tube pre, Bryston 4B-ST amp, and Aerial 10T MKIIs. Most of the time, I stream Tidal or Spotify via USB cable from a PC. I have high-speed internet (120 Mpbs down, 20 Mpbs up), piped through a Netgear Nighthawk X4S router wirelessly to the PC. It’s my first high-end audio system, which I built after finding the Aerials at an estate sale for a bargain price, along with some fat Kimber cables.

My question: What benefit if I upgrade the Perfect Wave DAC II with the Bridge II circuit card? Near as I can judge from PS Audio’s website, it would allow me to connect the DAC wirelessly to my home network, and control it from a smartphone or tablet. Aside from those conveniences, what difference in SQ should I expect for the $899 upgrade?   Thanks for any insights.

rwroberts
I'm still delighted with my PWDII after all these years.  

Getting the Bridge II was an instant game-changer for sound quality over the Squeezebox Touch via coax I had been using to feed the PWDII.

You get the capability to use Roon (game changer II) and MQA decoding taboot.  

I never looked back and could hardly imagine life without the BII.  

It's hard to say what the improvement will be with this particular implementation, but I can tell you with my own products I did an apples-to-apples comparison of galvanically isolated XMOS USB to Ethernet and here are the results:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=155232.msg1660913#msg1660913

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Unfortunately the Bridge II doesn't connect wireless, you have to have a server setup and route/stream using an Ethernet cable. What it does is double the re-clocking of the signal using their digital lens. If you have the PWD MK2, it has a digital lens which re-clocks the incoming signal (NativeX mode), as does the Bridge 2, so essentially the incoming signal is re-clocked twice and most people agree it improves the audio. I was never able to get the bridge working so I couldn't test it. But the PWD MK2 on NativeX mode sounds extremely impressive...essentially no oversampling/upsampling of the original audio source and asynchronous re-clocking to eliminate jitter.

If you do use Ethernet, which I recommend, make sure you ground the LPS that powers your router.  Connect earth ground to DC common of the router DC power cable.  I recommend using good CAT7 cables and the EMO EN-70e isolator.

BTW, jitter is only reduced, never eliminated.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


My findings duplicate @cymbop's. Such an improvement with the bridge ii that I never went back to usb. (Although I agree there was more trouble shooting involved).

Also, you should be able to get a bridge for much less than list. Just call any psa dealer and ask what kind of a deal they can give you. I think I paid between 4-5 hundred.
@audioengr Steve, I'm sorry for being dense... Can you tell me how to "Connect earth ground to DC common of the router DC power cable"?  Am I supposed to open the lps and attach a grounding wire that then I route out to a grounding screw in a nearby outlet? 

Thanks for all the input.

cal - yes, with most power supplies, you will need to connect a ground wire from the earth ground in the power cord to the minus on the output cable, or run a separate wire to the outlet with a banana plug in the outlet or screw to the grounding screw to get earth ground from the outlet and then connect this to the minus on the DC cable somehow.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Great, thanks Steve.
Thank you for chiming in. I understand that Bridge2 is best fed by Ethernet. It can be wirelessly controlled with the right software (Roon, Jriver among others).

The Bridge 2 manual says “Connect an Ethernet cable from a network switch, router, or hub to the Ethernet port on the Bridge card back panel.” (http://www.psaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Bridge-II-Owners-Manual-Rev-A-V1.pdf).

My router sits in another room, so I'd use a hub to bring Ethernet to the DAC. Does a hub compromise anything? I have fast 120 Mbps down from my wireless router, in case that factors in. The excerpt from the manual includes "hub" as a viable streaming source.

Also wondering if the DAC (PS Audio PerfectWave MKII) decodes MQA files without the Bridge 2 card. When I stream Tidal (USB to the DAC), some files stream as “Master's” which I think is their code for MQA, while most stream HiFi. Any insights appreciated.

I have a novice understanding of the difference between Roon and Jriver. Roon seems like the Apple equivalent (ease of use, design). Assuming I don't mind tinkering with Jriver on initial setup, does it also work well?

Finally, I'm adding a dedicated AC circuit for my system. Is it worth having independent breakers and lines to each end of the socket, or would that be overkill? Thanks again for sharing your insights. Grateful for this forum.
Technically, you don’t have to run Ethernet.  You can buy an access point, connect it to your existing wifi network and plug your bridge into the access point.  I may be confusing the use of “hub” in your connection or maybe we’re referring to one in the same thing.  

I ran the above setup with the bridge on my Directstream Junior, played flawlessly, sounded great with Tidal MQA.  

JRiver and Roon, do the same thing, with minor differences.  Both will allow you to manage your music library, local to the source device or add external target media.  JRiver seemed to be more verbose in the configuration capabilities, but also “buggy” and crashed periodically.  

The interface skins couldn’t be more different, as you stated regarding Roon being more “Apple like”, which is quite true.  Roon discovered all of my music album art.  JRiver, it was a manual labor of love to repopulate the albums with the appropriate image art.  It’s been about 1.5 years since I’ve used JRiver, but I believe you have to buy their app, to remotely control your music library.  Roon, I don’t believe you do.  I recall the JRiver media app crashing periodically, as well.  

The PSAudio integration, with Roon, was flawless.  I didn’t run Tidal through JRiver, as comparing the two skins and interface is Apples to Oranges.  And from recollection, at that point I was done monkeying around with JRiver’s media center.  Via Roon, Tidal worked well.

JRiver is what happens when developers write a piece of software to address sound quality on a laptop.  Roon is what happens when audiophiles hire developers to bring their creation into existence.  My point, if you like tinkering and having a multitude of library/music configuration options, JRiver is a suitable partner.  If you want to plug and play, Roon will be a more appropriate route, but you don’t need both.

I’m open to being wrong, but I do believe you need the bridge II network card for MQA support.  I believe this is where the software/logic resides for uncompressing MQA on the PS Audio products.  Though, if you’re seeing “MQA” appear on readout from the DAC, maybe it doesn’t?

I won’t comment on the AC circuit question, as that’s above my pay grade.  Though, I was always under the impression you use the same circuit for your gear.  As doing otherwise can create audible AC hum and various other electrical audible disparities.
Thanks todd. When I said hub, I should've said access point. Sounds like you're experience is that an internet access point to get ethernet to the Bridge 2 card presented no SQ issues.

I'm not getting an MQA readout on the DAC when playing Tidal Master's files. But the Tidal app screen shows "Masters" with those files and "HiFi" with all other files. I suspect I need a Bridge 2 card to decode MQA files. For whatever reason, Masters files sound better than HiFi files, even without the Bridge 2 card.

Your take on Roon and JRiver appears to be the majority position. Roon is obviously doing it right, but cost is not insignificant. 

Interesting point that using the same circuit for the audio system reduces the chance of hum.