Esoteric K-01 vs Media server with Audioquest Jitterbug


In the past week, I have been reveling in a stunning new discovery.

I have previously tried ripping CD's to WAV files with a third party ripping software and found this to be time-consuming and hungry for data space. Besides, the SQ is lower compared to CD's spinning in my Esoteric K-01 VRDS Neo transport. So, I simply put that experiment on the back-burner.

Over the weekend, I thought I would try again but with JRiver software ripping redbook CD's to FLAC files. This saves a lot of time and data space. Once done, I stored these in a thumbdrive and coupling this with the Audioquest Jitterbug, I ported the combo to the Marantz NA8005 media player used solely as a USB thumbdrive transport with coax out to the DAC section of the Esoteric K-01.

What came forth from the speakers was a SQ that was way better than CD's spinning in the Esoteric in EVERY sonic parameter. This is indeed a most stunning discovery and can only be explained by the quality of ripping by JRiver and the effect of the Jitterbug. Now, I am rediscovering my entire CD collection without having to change discs one after another. Convenience and sound quality to boot - audio nirvana at a whole new level!

The takeaway from this is that the venerable VRDS Neo Transport of the K-01 player is now superseded by a low cost USB thumbdrive transport with jitter well minimised, if not eliminated, by the Audioquest Jitterbug. I am flabbergasted to discover that the full potential of the Esoteric K-01's DAC section is not realised until now. The days of expensive CD spinners may just be over.

To those still looking for high end spinners, my most humble opinion is don't. Simply rip your CD's with about $50 worth of JRiver software and play from a $1k media server/USB thumbdrive transport with the $50 Jitterbug. I have not heard the Uptone Regen but going by the praises so far, that should work well too. 

Happy listening!

J. :)
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128jon2020
Jitterbug was a mixed bag for me... It took away texture and made everything sound a bit dark for my tastes. No question these USB Doodads are system/taste dependent.

However, using them in spare usb ports, not in series, made a very slight positive improvement.

Glad you found synergy with your system! Enjoy the music.
Paul79,
Thanks for you comment. As described, I am using it in series with the thumbdrive and the difference is indeed night and day, at least for my system. I certainly agree that system synergy is paramount here.
jon2020,

I agree, music played with a usb stick can be excellent. In my case, it was just as enjoyable as playing cd's and sacd's through my "Class A" spinner. This was a revelation to me. I use a Yamamoto YDA-02 dac, which is not nearly as nice as your K-01, and I run the usb stick through a Mac Mini, which also is not nearly as nice as using your K-01. Still, the sound is quite good.. I can only imagine how great the music must sound in your system. I have used JRiver to rip cd's too, but I now use dbPoweramp. They both are very good for ripping. 
..

Thaluza,
Thanks for your kind words. 
Yes, it's a whole new level fot my syatem at very little additional cost which I have never ever thought possible.  
J. :)
You just have discovered the Esoteric is overpriced junk. LOL!

That does not surprise me.

There are only a very few "stand out" CD players IMO.
The Esoteric was good for its time but with the advent of media servers and USB dejittering devices today, the transport can now be considered overpriced although not shabby  if judged by its own merits. But the DAC section now appears to be the unsung hero that it should have been in the past.  
J. :)
I heard the K-01 in my system last year and I found it to be excellent in every way. Nevertheless, digital progress is so rapid that I continue to wait to purchase my "last" cd/sacd spinner. I will now not worry so much about getting what I think is universally regarded as the best transport (the Esoteric VRDS Nero) and concentrate more on the DAC while looking for a good and reliable transport (like Marantz, Oppo). But, of course, if MQA is all it is hyped to be, I'll wait for my dac of choice to support that.
Yes, the next dac needs to be MQA ready. However MQA turns out to be, at least the dac is enabled thus for further exploration with future firmware updates along the way. Really looking forward to this.  
1). No matter what soft you are using, i.e. J.R or even Exact copy etc., you always end-up with moderate to lightly less musical micro nuances, compared to the source CD. If you listen to it carefully using headphones and ON THE SAME comp or whatever equipment you are ripped it on, you’ll hear it. 2). As many times i compared coax SPDIF with USB out through M2Tech, coax always was nicer sounding (I don’t have USB DAC though). 3). As paul79 correctly noticed any "jitter remover" will also remove texture. You’ll l love that sound at first, but then you’ll hate it. 4). The fact that you ended up with said results, tells me that either something wrong with your setup (including but not limited to room acoustic) or you are not using exactly the same equipment while comparing. 5). The fact that Esoteric or any other so-called hi-end equipment insanely overpriced could not be even seriously argued, thats obvious.
Just to clarify :-

a. I have compared usb input from a computer into the Esoteric K-01 vs usb to coax input of the K-01 via a converter and I agee that spdif coax is superior
b. I use my current media server solely as a transport for a usb thumbdrive
c. The signal from the media server thumbdrive transport then goes out via coax spdif to the input of the Esoteric K-01

The SQ in descending order for my set-up is as follows :-
1. Thumbdrive + Jitterbug to spdif coax out from media server to coax input of K-01
2. CD spinning in K-01’s VRDS Neo transport
3. Thumbdrive without Jitterbug to spdif coax out as 1. above
4. PC/laptop to usb-spdif converter to K-01’s coax input
5. PC/laptop direct to K-01’s usb input

Others have reported that ripping Cd’s to files via a computer’s CD-rom drive which "reads until right" is superior to a transport laser reading straight off from a spinning disc with regard to jitter and/or timing errors. I tend to agree with this observation.
As always, system synergy is paramount and YMMV.

J. :)


Without surprise system synergy/differences lead me to a slightly different outcome. Having the K-03, I experimented with the Jitterbug and Regen. Already using a modified Mac Mini (replaced the hard drive with an Agility SSD). Cabling includes:

Mac Mini > Audioquest Carbon USB > Bel Canto Ref Link > Transparent Ref Digital lInk (75Ohm) > K-03
Mac Mini > Audioquest Carbon USB > K-03 USB input

I tried placing the Regen in front of USB-SPDIF Convertor; Placed the Regen @ K-03 USB Input straight from the Mac Mini.

The best File playback I get is with the Bel Canto Ref Link > Coax out to K-03. Sent the Regen back for refund. That said, the gold standard in my system is playing CD's via the VRDS Neo transport. Comparable CD's bring out the best of my Indra's.




I guess the next experiment could possibly be comparing the Mac mini set-up with a standalone media server instead.

J. :)
I have searched on this and other fora and so far there has been no report on the use of the Jitterbug with a usb thumbdrive ported to a media server in this manner. I look forward to hearing from anyone else out there who has tried this.
Thanks in advance.

J.
Sounds like there is a problem in your experiment if those are your findings.  Right off the bat, wav is superior to flac in sound.  Hard drive space is cheap now so storage is not an issue.  Perhaps the 3rd party softwear you were using was at fault?  JRiver should not rip that muh faster and, wute frankly, I think JRiver is a poor program to rip music (I prefer dbPower).  Perhaps you were compressing the file?  I would not trust aything going throgh a jitterbug and call it hifi.
Your last post does not come at a more opportune moment. Another weekend, another experiment.  
Referencing remarks by gocubs  about having the best SQ via a USB-spdif converter from the computer, I actually have not tried this set-up with the Jitterbug.
My previous SQ list did not  include this option as Ionce it was determined previously that the computer route was inferior to a standalone media server, I thought how much difference can the Jitterbug make from the computer? 

So, to be fair to gocubs,  I tried this out this weekend. I connected my laptop -> Jitterbug
-> Oyaide usb cable -> iFi USB-spdif converter
 -> coax input of K-01 and pressed play...

Well, the result is indeed  incredible! Way better than anything that the VRDS Neo transport or media sender/thumbdrive could ever deliver in the past.  It isn't that it sounds better because it sounds different but it sounds different simply because it is way, way BETTER! One simply needs to listen to believe. ...

Thanks, gocubs, for pointing me in the right direction, which is to revisit this option but with the Jitterbug now in the chain.   

J. :) :) :)






With regard to the point raised that wav sounds better than flac, I agree. Theoretically. it should but to my ears and in my system. I find it difficult to tell them apart. I find downloaded hi-res files in flac format to sound very good and some websites only provide flac files. Other than that wav files take up too much data space, they also don't do metadata as well as flac.

I am having way too much fun in this hobby and reaping all the benefits simply by keeping an open mind about anything and everything. We can run new experiments, either our own or as suggested by others here, then listen and trust our ears. After a couple of decades in this hobby and having been attuned to our personal systems for some time, one would know whether things sound just different or truly better.

J. :)
jon2020,
Since this is your thread I thought I could go off topic here:
Have you tried the Esoteric HR Audio Player?
It does not support AIFF, but, supports FLAC, ALAC,WAV & Native DSD.
We would have to upgrade to the "X" for proper USB Interface to get DSD playback.
I use Amarra and Audirvana now and when comparing the HR Player to these two it sounds very good with hirez FLAC recordings. Its free for Esoteric K Owners. Link below.
http://www.esoteric.jp/products/esoteric/hr_audio/indexe.html

Experiment goes on....
Gocubs999,

Yes, I have tried the Esoteric HRA player some time back without the Jitterbug.  It is a no-frills bare bones player that does the job extremely well.  It just edges past JRiver in SQ which was not quite night and day for most good recordings.  Of course it lacks all the functionality of JRiver.
However the coax route via the Ifi USB-spdif converter was still better than going usb direct, both options with the HRA in play. But I decided to sacrifice this improvement for JRiver's features. 

Indeed, with the Jitterbug now, more experiments are forthcoming.  Will explore the following options and report back :-
A. Usb + Jitterbug direct to the K-01's usb input with JRiver 
B. Usb + Jitterbug direct to the K-01's usb input with the HRA.

Looks like another fun weekend ahead.  

Jon. :)
Gocubs999,
More revelations over the weekend....

First off, I have to thank you many times over for your HRA player suggestion. For me, the HRA player is more of a revisit but I get ahead of myself.

Experiment 1 
The first experiment this weekend before even touching the HRA player was to compare the K-01's coax input via the usb-spdif converter to its usb input, both options with the Jitterbug in the chain and using JRiver. I have not been using the K-01's usb input for a while and I thought I should revisit this with the Jitterbug in place. The result is once again spectacular and the usb input + Jitterbug beats the coax input with usb-spdif converter + Jitterbug. The difference is night and day for all sonic parameters.

Experiment 2
Next up, would be to compare JRiver with the HRA player. The result is again most rervealing with the HRA beating out JRiver hands down. The difference is indeed night and day.

Conclusion
It appears that the Jitterbug considerably improves on the performance of the K-01's usb input. That the coax input loses out in experiment 1 above may be due to the limitations of the IFi usb-spdif converter. The result would very likely be different with your mo' better Bel Canto Ref Link.
That the HRA player via the usb direct + Jitterbug pulls ahead of JRiver by leaps and bounds stands to reason in that JRiver is the more bloated software vs. the barebones HRA. Having heard the HRA, I just can't go back to JRiver despite the convenience of the app/remote control. 

So, with a $49 addition to my system, I set out to explore how much the overall SQ can be improved and coming to this forum to encounter gocubs999's HRA suggestion, this short but exciting journey has elevated my system to the best that it has ever been to date.

I have a niggling suspicion that the HRA player residing in the PC may just outperform many standalone media servers out there today. But that comparison/experiment would be a long while away. For now, I just can't stop being amazed while listening.....

J. :) :) :) :) :) :) :):)


Glad to hear you are finding improvements without having to invest additional $$. Agree that the HR Audio Player is a bare bones playback application. Esoteric claims they designed it that way to provide primary focus on the SQ. How many hours of break in have you had on the SPDIF input on the K-01? I found the SQ continued to improve after about 300-400 hours of use after using the USB input for most of the first year of service. Most Bel Canto dealers will provide a 15 day trial of the Convertors to properly evaluate. The Berkley USB Convertor is also highly touted.

Good Listening!


I have logged at least 1000 hours for the coax input as I have been using it for quite some time now with my media server as a thumbdrive transport with coax out to the K-01.
The usb input of the K-01 definitely needs more break-in as I have only just revisited this route.  Will let you know if I can get the Reflink as a loaner from the local dealer.