Advice from members

I have just started putting my first system together and have been enjoying it for about 6 months or so and am starting to research what I should upgrade in the current system next. I am looking to improve both clarity and soundstage. This is what I am currently running, the biggest and most noticable difference to date has come with the introduction of room correction via the Dspeaker Dual Core. Here is the current setup. I am debating on simplifying by going to a all in one solution like a Anthem STR integrated OR introducing a higher quality DAC into the current system:
  • Source: Innuos Music Server (MINI MK2) running Roon server and being used as a player
  • DAC/Preamp/Room Correction - Antimode Dual Core. - To leverage the best input on the dual core I am using a Musical Fidelity VLINK USB to SPDIF (24/96) converter
  • AMP - Using a Jolida 1501P Hybrid AMP
  • Speakers - ELAC Unifi UF5 Floor Standing with a ORB Audio 200 watt Sub that is corrected via the Dual Core.
I am wondering what the weakest link the chain is and the one I should look at upgrading next.
Many thanks in advance, looking forward to everyones feedback.

Probably the USB converter. This is mostly about lowering jitter, but USB has its problems as well. If you want to make an immediate improvement and want to stay with USB, replace the converter with a Berkeley USB converter.  Maybe you can get one used on Audiogon.

Another option is to add a $599 Synchro-Mesh reclocker to the S/PDIF output of your MF USB converter. This will be the least expensive option.  You will need a second high-quality S/PDIF cable like the Empirical Standard BNC cable with RCA adapters.  This will lower jitter, but will not fix any issues related to USB. It should improve clarity significantly.  If your Music Server has S/PDIF output, you can also use it here and eliminate the USB converter.

If you want to get the ultimate improvement in clarity, depth, width and detail as well as dynamics, change to an Ethernet converter.

You can go direct Ethernet by buying a DAC with Ethernet input or get an outboard Ethernet converter that will give you a really low jitter S/PDIF coax output, like the Interchange from Empirical Audio.  Less than 18psec of jitter.  This is not the inexpensive way to go, but you will have a world-class digital feed for any DAC. Interchange costs $2999.00 plus shipping.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

We are masters of low jitter systems.

IMO the Jolida is the weak link here.Have you changed the tube from the factory tube?A good tube could open up the soundstage as well as clarity.Also a better power cord(nothing crazy)might lower the noise floor,again helping with clarity...Good luck..
I don’t understand why you decided to cover the usb output from the streamer to optical, when the Dual Core has a usb input. I would get rid of it, and just connect via usb. USB is a very good digital connection, and measurably better than optical (and don't waste money on the scam of fancy digital interconnects). Did you ask DSpeaker in Finland? You can just give them a call and you get to talk to one of the engineers.
Personally I am not a fan of tube amplifiers, but the biggest sound quality improvement usually comes from better speakers. In your case, that is where I would go first, apart from selling that usb to optical converter.
Sorry I cannot correct the typo anymore: 'convert' rather than 'cover'.
Willemj - Thanks for the response.  The reason I am using the SPDIF (optical) over the usb is because the USB on the dspeaker is limited 24/48 where as the SPDIF goes upto 24/96.  The US distributor has also suggested that the best sounding and performing input is indeed the SPDIF, something I was able to confirm after a series of A/B tests.  
you are also getting galvanic isolation with the converter

where are you on room treatments?

same question re source material and the best recordings/masterings?

it won't be easy to make significant improvements, as you have already skimmed most of the cream...
Welcome! palakapatel
congratulations on your 1st system. We all were there once upon a time.
I, too, am considering an integrated amp, possibly, the new Anthem.
Keep us posted as you obtain your bearing and audition more gear.
Have fun.
Happy Listening!
USB is not that great of an interface but it usually has better specs that spdif and especially toslink. If you do use usb, get the best cable you can afford, huge differences between cables, don’t let people tell you different. 
I would swap out your music server and external dac and get an updated dac with a bridge that supports 24/192, dsd, and especially MQA. If you get a bridge, you can use a better connection than usb. 
Thanks everyone for the insight and advice.  Awesome to have a forum like this to bounce around ideas and learn from people’s experience.

@randy-11, other thank a large rug and a bunch of bean bags I haven’t gotten too far with treatments.  For source material I have a decent collection of redbook material as well as a goo number of 24/96 recordings and can play MQA via tidal, which gets downsamed to 24/96, or lower depending on recording.

@rbstehno - the innuos I just added has an Ethernet output that is dedicated for a streamer, so adding a dedicated streamer could be an option.  I was trying to keep things simple with the server and player all being one unit.  Another option I was considering, along the lines of your suggestion, was to ditch the dual core for DAC/preamp, and use something like a mytek Brooklyn (has dsd and MQA) and only use the dual core after the new DAC converts to analog.  

Does anyone have any experience with linear power supplies (would use with dual core) and/or the wyred4sound remedy clock?

Thanks again all!!
My prior setup used an Auralic Aries with a w4s dac 2 dsd dac using the w4s reclocker with audioquest diamond usb cable. This was much better setup than using a Mac mini running audirvana 2+. I have since sold all of that I bought the ps audio directstream with bridge II and couldn’t be happier and the SQ is off the charts. Simple setup using roon for the GUI. My Mac mini has 23TB of disk storage which handles all my ripped music and this allows me to put the Mac with the hard disks in a different area of the house instead of having a hard disk spinning in your audio room
@rbstehno - What are you using for speakers/amp?
@Jafant - I will keep you posted on the anthem.  There is a dealer in my area that might let me bring home to audition.  The one thing I see that is missing on the STR is a lack of MQA support.
Hegel h300 with Usher mini dancer 2’s with DMD. Use 2 subs with 2-10” woofers in each enclosure and each sub has 500 watts. Dedicated room 27’ x 16’ with 12’ ceiling, bass traps in each corner, 1st reflection point room tunes and 1 chair. 6 dedicated 20amp circuits. 
@rbstehno - So the DAC in the H300 goes unused in your setup?
The reason I mentioned you should get a dsd and MQA compatible system because these formats equal and sometimes surpass my vinyl rig with is a hanss t-60 tt with vpi 3D tonearm and soundsmith cartridge. I wouldn’t by any dac today that doesn’t have dsd or MQA support, no matter how good the dac is. The nice thing with the ps audio dacs, every 6 months or so you get a new dac. When ted and Paul release a free software upgrade, you get a better dac. Most all other dacs cant be upgraded like this, you will have to keep buying new plugin boards, sending it back to the vendor for a costly upgrade, or worse, sell the dac and buy a new 1.
Yes, it’s not that good of a dac compared to what I have now. Even the newer h360 doesn’t have a really good dac
+1 audioengr statement regarding the USB converter. I own a Berkeley Alpha USB Converter and it made a big difference for my system. Oh, and don't forget to trust your ears more than all of us who have never been in your room and don't get to hear in real time what you are hearing. This community is helpful and opinionated and diverse in beliefs about what works and what doesn't. You have to live with what you buy; we don't. You know what you like better than anyone else and chances are you will know it when you hear it. Welcome to the journey.
Room treatment??

Did you try an independent power supply into the USB cord?
I'm going to 3rd room treatment. Check out GIK acoustics; sound improvement per dollar is here rather than any gear. This is pretty much always true.
Your room is the weakest link. You need room treatment. I'm using Primacoustic in my dedicated room. It has made more of a difference than any gear change ever could. The room and your ears are the most important parts of any system regardless of cost. Until you address the room seriously you will never be happy with the sound.

Thanks again everyone.  Given that I have tackled the room with the dual core and the room correction upto 500hz, does room correction still play a large role?  The introduction of room correction made a HUGE difference in improving soundstage and cleaning up (tightening) bass response
Room equalization is great for frequencies below the Schroeder frequency. Above that, it will be pretty ineffective, and you will need damping materials (carpets, bookcases etc). In your case, the Dual Core is connected to the subwoofer (I assume), and will not, of course, equalize the main speakers that will stil be generating room modes between, say, 50-150 Hz. If you want to adres those as wel you wqil nee dhe new DSpeaker X4 DAC/preamp/room eq. Unfortunately it is rather more expensive.
@willemj - with the current dual core I have I was able to run a advanced correction all the way upto 500hz...
So you use the main speakers and the sub as one in your correction? I am not sure correcting all the way up to 500 Hz wil help much. Correction becomes increasingly localized to an ever smaller listening position, the higher the frequency.
Whatever, I agree that the DSpeaker room eq units are great (I love my 8033). But as I wrote earlier, I think if you really want significantly better sound, you will have to consider better speakers (and possibly more damping of higher frequencies, depending on current home decor). What do you not like about the current sound quality?
Yes I use the mains and sub in one correction.  What I am after is greater clarity without the sound sounding too harsh, which is the case when I increase the highs(treble), and looking for the mids to sound less muddy.
Very nice! palakapatel-

I can only vouch for the Anthem 225 Integrated amp, it is a power house at its spec'd rating.  The new STR integrated is a sure enough power beast according to its specs.  I will stay tuned.

Happy Listening!
I think folks are saying that room treatment isn’t finished with the DSPeaker. Acoustic treatments always work to improve....everything.

That said, you’re calling out harsh treble and muddy mids at higher volumes - this could be reflections, or just bad speakers, tbh. Try toeing the tweeters out a few degrees at a time, see it that helps with the treble. Muddy mids points to your amp not fitting great with your speakers. Have you auditioned anything else? I know Elac are FOTM with many reviewers...I must admit there's little that appeals to me in their range of aluminium drivers with cheap crossovers.
It is not so easy to decide if you really have a problem. Go to a live concert of classical music and you will discover that music is not always so clear, and can even sound harsh. Did you measure the frequency response at higher frequencies (your Dual Core can do that)?
Without further information my provisional diagnosis is that the biggest improvement can be had from buying some really nice speakers in a rather different price bracket. Harbeth speakers, for example, excell with their clarity and non fatiguing sound.