Digital Upgrade Recommendations

Looking to leverage the knowledge of the Audiogon experts for advice on how best to upgrade the performance of my digital front end to sound more like my vinyl rig.  Currently, I have a Roon Nucleus acting solely as a streamer feeding a Denafrips Pontus II via an Audioquest Diamond USB cable.  I’m looking to spend roughly $600 and the options as best as I can tell from scanning the forum are:

  1. Upgrade the stock SMPS on the Nucleus to a good LPS power supply
  2. Add an Etherregen and place it before or after the Nucleus
  3. Purchase the Iris DDC from Denafrips and go I2S to the Pontus II
  4. Other?

All suggestions and recommendations welcome!  


Linear power supply  … a quality upgrade 

I have them inside my BRYSTON DAC and inside my BRYSTON digital player …. Big step up in performance and overall system design. 

Do yourself a favour and put a Network Acoustics ENO between your router and Streamer and listen free of digital hash. It will really shock you.

I've been learning about steaming/music servers recently. I believe that the recommendation from jjss49 is a wise and fruitful one.


Thanks jjss49 but if A+B makes C redundant, why not just go with C, the DDC?  Won’t the DDC clean up the digital signal as much as much as the Etherregen but feed I2S directly to the dac?

I would first research what is the best digital input on the Pontus II. Some DAC's perform better with I2S, others with USB. This will determine the ideal device feeding the DAC. The last link in the chain before the DAC is the most vital; components further upstream can be isolated by streaming over a network–lessening their significance.

Owning a Roon Nucleus I assume you are using Roon? If the Nucleus is running Roon Core, it is not only playing the role of streamer but also the role of server. In this case I would suggest offloading the streamer/Roon endpoint duties to something like a Sonore ultraRendu or microRendu. Connect either of these devices to your router/switch/modem over ethernet, and as long as they are on the same network as the Nucleus you can use them as Roon endpoints. Then go USB into the DAC.

You can supplant ethernet with fiber optic for even better isolation, but cost and complexity increases.


i apologize, i was wrong, i misread your op, misunderstood your setup and assumed it is like mine

in your case, i do think that of the 3 choices you gave, you should get the ddc gaia and use i2s into the pontus - i had that set up, it worked well, improved the bass and imaging of the pontus somewhat, my pontus was fed by a bluesound node streamer as roon endpoint at that point

that said, @sonic79’s suggestion below is superior - don’t use the core machine as an end point at all, just have it do the processing/computing, data/file management, traffic flow - and then have an outboard streamer endpoint that is fully isolated via optical (sonore opticalrendu w lps, or equivalent - this provides the most effective isolation, better than the gaia’s electrical isolation) -- and then take the music stream from the opticalrendu into the pontus via its super clean usb output (this method is noticeably the superior to having the gaia take a very noisy feed from the core machine, then only partially cleaning it into the pontus - i tried it, sold the gaia, i determined the optical isolation was most effective, produced the most easeful sound)

in the way of explanation for my error, in my current case, i use a weiss dac501 -- this works as an endpoint with dac, it takes the ethernet feed from my dedicated core -- in this case, i chose use the uptone etheregen to clean/isolate the ethernet feed into the weiss, and the weiss does the rest

hope this explanation is clear, sorry for the confusion

As a first step buy an Intona Isolator and cable for your USB connection. After that improve the power supply to the Nucleus or buy a better server such as Auralic, Aurender, InnuOs or Lumin

Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions so far.  The Nucleus is running solely as the streamer as I have the Roon core on a separate computer in the office serving all of the Roon endpoints in my house.  So that one I've done already.

JJSS49 - thanks for clarifying your setup.  Good to know you had an improvement going I2S in the Pontus.  Did you have the Etherregen in at that time or did you add it later?

Sonic79 - I think your comment that "The last link in the chain before the DAC is the most vital" is very important.  That's why I think the DDC would be the best place to start for upgrades.  There have been many reviews of that combination online all stating strong improvements in performance.  Besides, doesn't the DDC effectively have the same benefit on the signal as the Etherregen?

@tom2441 Thanks for further describing your system. Having a dedicated server and streamer is a big factor, and you've already addressed that. In your case the Iris DDC could be beneficial, as currently you are running USB straight off the motherboard in the Nucleus.

The EtherREGEN is a switch so it serves a different purpose. It would be placed upstream of the Nucleus, while a DDC would be downstream. In your system the biggest bottleneck that can addressed for $600 is doing away with USB out of the Nucleus.

yes i did have the etherregen at the time

i agree again w @sonic79 - not a great idea to take the usb feed off the core machine motherboard... that is a noisy noisy spot and the noise is generated in that machine, so putting an etheregen upstream of that machine doesn’t address that noise

what we are trying to do here is fully galvanically isolate/eliminate digital noise at the point where the music bitstream is being sent to the dac... 

…or better doing away with the Nucleus (and possibly Roon as well) In my setup InnuOS Zenith Mk3) Sense 2.08 sounds decidedly superior to Roon and the Nucleus isn’t the quitest server to start with… Hence my Intona Isolator recommendation

…and by the way: I started with the Etherregen on its own, then added an Antelope 10m clock via Shunyata Sigma clock cable, then added a Zerozone 2020 Benchmark LPS on a Nordost Brahma PC, then switched to a sterling silver DC cord. Each step is easily demonstrably audible. The additional equipment is a multiple of the original Etherregen purchase, yet I wouldn’t want to miss it.

Going optical post server is optimum way to go. Read John Swenson's papers, thoughts on streaming in general. @yyzsantabarbara  pointed to one thread. Here's another about everything under the sun.


Swenson likely the preeminent expert on audio streaming.

one thing is definitely true, you start down this path, you do end up with lots of little boxes, cables, extra power supplies...  that aspect bugs me, but hey, at least at present, this is the drill to get the sound to be really really good... 

Thanks guys for all the inputs.  It is a slippery slope you can go down but I’m primarily a vinyl guy and really just wanted to get advice on which of the three well-regarded upgrades would give the best sound improvement for my digital setup at that price point.  Sounds like the DDC is the way to go.  At least for now!