Why didn't you just buy a Transporter?
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At RMAF07 I heard the SB in Dan Wright's room (ModWright is his company's name). The SB was modified to have a tube o/p stage (that's for the analog o/ps). I'm sure that Dan knows how to mod the SB digital o/ps to get lower jitter.
A 2nd person who might do similar mods is Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio.
Contact these 2 fellows & visit their websites for possibly more info.
Bolder Cable does a digital mod to the SB3 that has been well reviewed. Also, the other mod that seems to be popular with the SB3 is to upgrade the power supply. Again, Bolder does this and CI Audio sells a nifty looking separate power supply for the SB3. I have an unmodded SB3, but if I were going to seek improvements this is where I would start. I suggest going to the Bolder Cable and CI Audio forums over at Audio Cirlces for more info.
It is much to my surprise that the SB is 85% of the Apollo in terms of SQ. I was considering getting the Apollo as well, thinking it would be a big improvement over the SB. But now guess I shouldn't get my expectations too high... Also to my surprise is the Transporter is inferior than the Apollo in your case, considering it is double the price of the Apollo. But I will see when I get mine.
I do think the peripherals for your SB have something to do with its SQ. In fact, this is exactly the reason why I posted this thread - to add the right peripherals to the SB in order to maximize the SQ of a SB as much as possible.
I just looked at Bolder Cable's website, and their mods do not really attack the jitter issues, as they do nothing with clocking/reclocking. But I think the digital mod still looks worthwhile. I looked at Empirical Audio's website as well, while they don't currently have any mods for SB, they do have the Pace-Car to reclock signals out of SB, not exactly cheap though. How about Bold Cable's Digital Mod + E.A. Pace-Car? would be a big step up from the stock SB digital output. What do you guys think? or is anyone already doing this?
The Pace-Car is certainly interesting, but seems like it could be overkill given the price point. You may want to try a Monarchy DIP 48/96 upsampler as a lower cost alternative. See http://www.monarchyaudio.com/. Your post reminded me that I have one of these in storage. I'll pull it out and see if I can notice any improvement.
"How about Bolder Cable's Digital Mod + E.A. Pace-Car?"
Modding the SB3 would be a waste of good money if it's feeding a Pace-Car. The jitter coming into the Pace-Car is not really important. The clock is replaced with a local free-running clock inside the Pace-Car. If the Pace-Car is fed with SB3, Apple TV, AirPort Express or Sonos, they all sound identical, modded or unmodded.
I have a Monarchy upsampler on my PC Rig (going into a Musical Fidelity XDAC V3 (w/XPSU V3 power supply); I tried the Monarchy on the Squeezebox and no improvement-infact, I think it narrowed my soundstage just a tad but could be just perception (add a cable, etc). SB goes into a benchmark DAC1 and I have read that the Benchmark's technology omits need of an upsampler. I should go back and try it with a better digital cable, power cord but I'm maxed out of cables right now (I used a signal power cable and a monster 75ohm digital cable).
I compared the Transporter with a stock PS Audio DL3 using stored files (PC) - the DL3 was run through the digital out on the Transporter. This was at the dealer on a system unfamiliar to me, but it was very clear that on every recording the DL3 outperformed the Transporter - the DL3 sounded more open and clearer throughout the frequency range. The Transporter retails for $2,000 the DL3 at $1,000. If you can wait, PS Audio is in the process of developing a new Ultra DAC, which will be considerably more expensive (probably due this fall). Personally, I chose not to wait, so Im buying a Cullen-modded DL3.
The digital out to the benchmark sounds wonderful. Quiet, nice soundstage (wide and deep but not as wide and deep as my Esoteric X03-SE), nice detail and transparency; very musical and absolutely non-fatiguing; no digititis. You can hear the individual instruments and there is a bit of air around them. Bass and treble are very well extended and the low level detail is very, very good-none of the graininess I have read about. The upgraded CI power supply has a bit to do with it as well, I'm sure, but have not tried it without. The onboard dac sounded very thin, tiny soundstage and practiclly no depth. Almost no low lever detail and no where as much resolution as with the benchmark. Overall, just plain non-involving. It was better with the power supply (blackened the background and made it more musical, not as thin sounding, and added a bit low level detail). It is an incredibly good sounding source for me with the benchmark. I listen for hours. Without the benchmark, it sounded alot like my Bose Soundwave radio in the livingroom. With the benchmark, it sounds much better than the Meridian 588 I traded in a few years ago. I would strongly recommend anyone with a SB giving it a try.
Adding the CI gave it a blacker background, improved soundstage and detail but what really did it was the benchmark (after the power supply upgrade). I use a shunyata diamond back with the power supply and also upgraded the umbilical, which all added to the power supply's increased performance. The tinny sound went away, but it was still thin, though not as thin as the wall wart. The Benchmark really makes it a satisfying source. I didn't want to add the benchmark w/o first doing the power supply upgrade. My thoughts were to get the SB as close to a transporter as I could, so I thought the power supply and dac would do it. I haven't heard the transporter but as I am now tremendously happy with the SB/PS/Dac combo. I am thinking of getting a 100ft ethernet cable to connect direct to computer (router) rather than wireless, as I have heard that will upgrade sound as well. Has anyone tried this with the Squeeze Box?
currently running sb3 coax out via 1.5 meter 75 ohm canare digital cable into bel canto dac3...excellent results. Sometime ago I splurged and bought a wellborne labs high performance linear supply (did not want the stock switcher wall wart spewing more noise both of emmitted and conducted type)to go with it. I had an SA11S1 for quite some time...also I had a Benchmark DAC1 w/same SB3 setup...I like this current setup better sonically.
Flexibility wise is a whole 'nutha ball of wax b/t any music server and the solo sliver spinner.
Via S/PDIF the SB3 has a jitter spec of <50 pS; the transporter <35 pS. Into a competent modern dac like the Lavry, Benchmark DAC1, new musical fidelity, or Bel Canto Dac3 that offer high degree of jitter rejection I think you will be aok. I also use a dvd player as transport, and even though I have a more expensive virtual dynamics digital cable I can't hear 1 bit of meaningful difference.
I am all in on the music server way of life and can't see any turning back at this point. Sort of related, I find it annoying that some high end cd player manufacturers are not on board with digital inputs. For instance the new ARC CD5...same story...yawn... new analog circuitry, possibly better power supply and maybe "better" transport...how much better can that be over the cd3mkII... for real now? Why did they not toss in a simple s/pdif receiver when the design was on the open table to make use of the excellent conversion/analog stage? Cary seems to get the picture. Picking on ARC, I do realize they probably don't want to shoot themselves in the foot by offering a new DAC line with a new cd player line (that also could be an excellent DAC)...but come on now this is a bit ridiculous. These types of situations don't do any favors for people thinking about getting into the high end.
Sorry for taking this off the OP subject a tad
It's more like (new dac1=1k, new bcdac3=2.5k, for 1.5k delta and used dac1=850,used bcdac3=1850, avg used for 1k delta ), and yes the diff is def worth it. In my system the dac1 was a bit on the analytical and dry side (If perhaps it's b/c the dac1 is more accurate then I must not like accurate). The bcdac3 is quite amazing. Very likely to be my last digital source for quite some time.
I had been running the digital output from my Squeezebox through my Audio Aero Capitole digital input with great results.
I also have a Transporter in my system and I am now running both through my Anthem D2. Really good results.
The Squeezebox DAC is not a good as the Transporter and the Transporter DAC is a bit too analytic...not all that warm-sounding...so using either the Capitole's DAC or (even better) using the D2 DAC delivers what I want.
Having said that, I am really impressed with either Slim Device product and I highly reccommend either, budget permitting.
I also just sold my Apollo for a SB Duet. Running 50' hard line ethernet, stock Duet, digital out into a DAC with tube output stage I custom built. IMO the real limiter on the Apollo (and most CDPs) is implementation of the analog output stage, which is why I built my own DAC.
The SB Duet is an excellent digital source. Using its internal DAC, I would generally agree with Cerrot's comments above - good, but there is better. But at the price - its a steal.
I've been listening to my Squeezebox for the past week running through the Monarchy DIP upsampler into the DAC of my Opus 21 and I'm convinced the Monarchy is an improvement using the 24/48khz output setting. I tried 24/96 and didn't care for that setting - the music became thin and edgy. At 24/48 - compared to no DIP - the backgrounds seem quieter and music just seems fuller and "cleaner". I've swapped the DIP in and out of the chain several times for comparison and I comfortable the DIP is an improvement in my system. My listening is entirely with internet radio and Pandora. YMMV, of course.
I listen to both CD (wife's mandate)and a NAS based flac files. I placed EA Pace Car between both my traditional transport and SB3. Pace car connects to my Northstar 192 DAC via I2S connection. Pacecar definitely cleans up a CD or or music files from a server. I definitely notice more resolution as I can start to locate individual instruments in a large band or orchestra. I wouldn't say the sound stage got wider -- I would say I hear more depth as I can recognize more layers from front to back. I guess some people would call this holographic. Anyway, EA Pacecar does that for you. My SB3 is only modded to "communicate" to my Pacecar and is stock otherwise. I even have the stock wallwart. I just doesn't matter what comes out of the "transport" as long as all the bits are there. Pace car will reclock and feed your DAC with synchronized file.
I've just swapped out my SB2 for an SB+ from At-Tunes. I did have the SB2 running through the Cyrus dacX which did make a big improvement, however Patrick assured me the Dac in the SB+ was as good so I sold the Cyrus before I could do a head to head comparison. I personally enjoy the extra detail a good dac can bring so am looking to add a Bel Canto Dac3 or possibly a Dodson to my SB+ when funds allow.