Auralic Vega and USB Reclockers (W4S Recovery and iFi Micro USB 3.0)
Last year, I got bittened by the upgrade bug. Therefore I sold my Hegel integrated H80 Off (thank goodness because both their Norway headquarter and my local importer ignored my subsequent emails) then purchased Pass Labs Int-30A and Auralic Vega. Cables were upgraded to OCC silver/copper. My speakers were PMC FB1i monitors. Music was fed from my MicroSoft Surface Pro 3 through USB.
After this hefty investment, the sound I got was bright, edgy, and somewhat fake/unnatural By fake/unnatural sounding I meant music sounded more like they were generated from a synthesizer keyboard rather than recorded from an orchestra. Many audiophiles would call it "digital". Granted this new sound was much better than the musical soup of H80 where all instruments were mixed in and much better than the very digital sounding Bel Canto gears I heard a decade ago but not for the money I have spend. I was very upset with the results and was ready to sell the Vega after a month.
Thanks to the dramatic drop in Vega's resale value, I decided to figure a way out with the Vega. I am here to share with my results.
My Oppo 103 played directly into the Pass Int-30A wasn't as harsh, edgy, and digital. Oppo fed to Vega through SPDIF also wasn't so bad either. My suspicion was the Vega's USB input. It could also be my cables, computer, or my speakers.
Not wanting to invest in a network player, I tried changing my cables (USB, power, and xLR interconnect) to pure OCC copper. Half of the sound stage and resolution disappeared, but I did get the "analog" type sound everyone talks about. That was not a trade off I wanted to make so I came back to OCC silver/copper cables.
I then added W4S Recovery to the Vega's USB input. Improvements were significant and immediate. Thickness, color, resolution, soundstaging, and dynamic were added to the music. The music was also more dramatic and had more punch. There was more bass and tighter. The Recovery didn't bring the naturalness per se, but it smoothed out most of the edges and harshness.
Two months went by, still displeased with the "unnatural" music, I added an iFi micro USB 3.0 with Wireworld Starlight USB cable in front of the Recovery. This reclocker brought additional drama/dynamic, color, resolution, and deeper soundstage. Together with the smoothness from the Recovery, the music is now much more natural and palatable!!! What a relief!
Auralic Vega and Pass Int-30A combination was hailed and kept by many reviewers, I couldn't believe this combo was dissatisfying to me. Many reviewers mentioned results with Aurender network players improved the sound. For those of computer audiophiles like me who refuse to go that route, try the reclockers.
I will admit, I still expect more out of these electronics but I am ok with what I have so far. Several hundreds on these reclockers and additional cables was worth it.
Since I just got a Berkeley Audio USB to SPDIF Converter, I will report in a few days to see if using this the converter improved the sound more.