I have the SGC sonictransporter and microRendu, and wondered if I should have upgraded to the optical. I'll read up on it... sounds good!
156 responses Add your response
Very nice to see that SMC and SONORE (which has the systemOptique technology) is getting some good feedback.
I reviewed the SMG sonicTransporter and SONORE Signature Rendu SE for Dagogo.com, and did a follow up article on the systemOptique ethernet to optical converter. It was a remarkable change holistically, and I have been most pleased with continued use of it.
FYI, this was the only time I recall in 30+ years of being a hobbyist, then reviewing, where the addition of a device and set of cables (optical) resulted in the perception of the system becoming significantly better in terms of lower noise and higher resolution. To me, that is a remarkable result and validated the conversion from ethernet to optical link. :)
Hi Doug. It was your review and our conversations that convinced me to go with the Sonore Signature Rendu SE and an i7 server from Small Green Computer, which was a HUGE step up from my MacBook Pro. The optical upgrade yielded another definite improvement. Eventually, after a massive planned upgrade of my system, We'll have a shootout with the Taiko Extreme.
Doug, thanks for your comment. I looked up your reviews and they confirm my own thinking about this technology. I don’t think people in this hobby fully understand the significance of it yet. There are people who can go down very expensive and time-consuming rabbit holes trying to improve the sound quality of the source/signal. Tens of thousands of dollars for high-end turntables, styluses, real-to-reel tape decks, servers, audiophile ethernet cables, switches, etc., etc. I for one was considering starving myself for a year to save up $30k to buy the Taiko Extreme music server, before I stumbled on this whole optical thing. There’s no way I would ever put more than a couple of grand into a server now, because the optical technology makes the server so much less important. I’d really like to spread the word to spare people like me all of those costly rabbit holes.
I too have been interested in implementing fiber into my system. Asynchronous, complete galvanic isolation, and resistance to EMI & RFI is the holy trinity. Ethernet over RJ45 UTP offers isolation as well because of transformer coupling, but can introduce noise from EMI. WiFi also has complete galvanic isolation, but RFI can become an issue if not implemented well.
My prediction for the future is fiber optic will become more common. Streaming DAC's with RJ45 ports have emerged in the last five years. SFP ports should be fairly easy to implement. A pure fiber connection from ethernet switch/media converter to DAC would be fantastic.
My only complaint with products like opticalRendu and sonicTransporter i9 Optical is lack of digital volume control.
I found the SOtM to be in another league than the rendu setup. I do use a small green computer and run optical from my router to the SOtM sNH-10G switch. SOtM trifecta and master clock run to an m-scaler and DAVE DAC. The optical made a big difference but for me the there was no competition between Rendu and SOtM.
Julie, if you have a decent audio system that can take advantage of the greater resolution and reduced noise-level of optical, I’m confident it would significantly improve the sound quality. But I’m not tech savvy enough to know how it would fit into your system. The owner of Small Green Computer (Andrew) can answer any questions you have. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org I had a 10 minute phone call with him and a long email chain, and he was very helpful and got right to the point.
Larry, I felt the same way about streaming Qobuz with my Roon Nucleus, but the optical thing is just crazy good. I would recommend Doug’s review of it in the following article (in which he says that the sound quality of optical is vastly superior to that of his high-end CD rig): https://www.dagogo.com/audio-blast-sonore-systemoptique-signature-rendu-se/?fbclid=IwAR3jp6Gth94SMBi...
"A pure fiber connection from ethernet switch/media converter to DAC would be fantastic." I’m sure someone somewhere is working on that right now.
Get your self the topping bc3 bluetooth module, and a samsung Galaxy (2018 model year) Tab-A 10.5 inch tablet with 5 bluetooth codecs built in (including aptx hd and sony ldac....). It can bluetooth cd quality 16/44 and higher. The Tablet can still be had at HSN for $299, $20 less with a first time user coupon. The topping bc3 can be had from Apos for $69 bucks! Watch the cheap audio man on YouTube, he explains it all. Personally, for not a crap load of money, I think it’s a great option for the casual streamer. The topping bc3 connects to a dac of your choice via toslink mini to full toslink. It Also has it's own built in dac and can drive headphones. Pretty freakin' cool device for a lousy 69 bucks....
No, your internet service doesn't need to be delivered via optical cable. There's probably a way to make it work with an integrated system, but you'd have to ask Andrew at Small Green Computer to find out how. Just send him an email: email@example.com You might be able to figure it out by looking at the following two pages on their website: 1) https://www.smallgreencomputer.com/pages/systemoptique
I have used fibre extensively in my system, it does clean up the sound and fibre cables/SFP modules are cheap compared to hi end copper.
Having said this, the biggest uptick for me was thru reclocking - someone mentioned this earlier in this chain.....absolutely right. Using the uptone Regen switch is a cheap and very effective way do do this, with a lot of added benefits. Adding another switch in series gives nearly as big an improvement. I use the top of the line SOTM in series with a Regen.
Totally agree that you can get big upgrades in SQ without equipment upgrades. Critical Mass Systems footers and some Synergistic Research products have to be the biggest single example of this line of thinking. Some of the items are expensive, but mostly cheaper that hi end components for same improvement in SQ.
The opticalRendu is functionally just a USB to fiber adapter. Similar results can be accomplished with a media converter on one end and an adapter on the other for a lot less money. However, there is one large distinction that sets the Rendu apart--it is Roon ready and can act as an endpoint when streaming over RAAT. A normal cheapie USB to fiber adapter can not do this.
Converting RJ45 ethernet to fiber only to convert back to RJ45 right before the streamer or DAC eliminates some of the benefit. It's no longer a pure fiber connection from media converter to streamer. Is it still better than just running CAT6 UTP from the router or switch? Perhaps, but the appeal of fiber in an audio application is galvanic isolation and immunity to EMI and RFI. A continuous run of fiber offers both.
We don't even need our entire homes' to be wired for fiber. In this application we're not utilizing it for the speed and bandwidth advantages, only the zero noise aspect. We're trying to get zero noise transmission between point A (media converter) and point B (streamer). Anything before point A really doesn't matter.
I'm not saying that any of these devices don't work, but what I don't understand is, don't streamers cache a certain amount of the data internally? If you are listening to music and you pull the ethernet cable out of your streamer, it will continue to play for a brief period of time.
So I'm just not sure how "cleaner" ethernet packets going into a devices memory chips (cache) would improve the sound.
Could anyone elaborate on this?
If you want to understand a TON of information about digital streaming that few people understand, check out The Hans Beekhuyzen channel on YouTube.
Here's a link to the MicroRendu review. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XRi9utNBl4
Hans is extremely objective and explains in plain English why you may or may not get any improvement from a new piece of digital gear.
Whether you'll benefit from optical depends mainly on how well your other components - server, streamer, dac - clean up the incoming signal. The best ones do it for you.
If you want to understand a TON of information about digital streaming that few people understand, check out The Hans Beekhuyzen channel on YouTube.
Yes, the 70's era scope in the background must mean he knows what he is talking about. That is why he is hyping superlatives on a product that ASR showed, with the stock power supply, was an absolute disaster.
I guess some of my wording sounds sales pitchy. But I’m not in anyway associated with SGC. I’m just extremely happy with the sound I’m getting from my purchase. I’m sure there are other companies that offer similar products. SGC is just the first one I’ve happened to stumble across offering these optical devices. My feelings won’t be hurt if you find another company offering similar products.
Obliquely related, but the discussion does lead to a question: is a laptop to a high quality DAC surpassed by a decent streamer? Basically, streaming Amazon HD I run my MacBook Air into a Qutest and then into a Simaudio Moon 340iX (sans internal DAC, hence the external Qutest). Would I be better off with a dedicated streamer, eg Bluesound Node 2i?
@dougthebiker ... Haan Beekhuyzen has another video where he talks about the differences between the microRendu, ultraRendu and opticalRendu ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0A0l6keKTg
He feels that the opticalRendu is a step above the ultraRendu, which in turn is a step above the microRendu.
@hiphiphan ... couldn't agree with you more. I bought the opticalRendu several months ago, and was pleasantly surprised at the level of improvement. It lowered the noise floor considerably resulting in a darker background, and is highly recommended at its given price point. It beats the Node 2i, Apple TV, and Chromecast hands down, these are all the streamers that I still own. I felt that it was at least equal to the Innuous Zen MK3 in terms of sound quality, but to be fair I did not hear the Innuous in my own system, so I might be wrong.
Also, don't worry about the so called 'frequency graph warriors', you don't owe them an explanation. Most of them are armed only with theoretical knowledge, where actually listening to the equipment is not only considered unnecessary but undesirable. It's understandable that they would take potshots at someone as accomplished and knowledgable as Haans Beekhuyzen, who actually reviews the equipment in his own setup (the horror!!!) before passing judgment. Remember, there is no compression algorithm for actual listening.
richtruss: That sounds like an interesting approach. I might give it a try at some point, especially since you offer a return window.
treynolds: Sorry, I’m not tech savvy. I can’t explain it. Maybe richtruss or sonic79 can offer an explanation? All I know for sure is that the sound quality improved and it’s not subtle.
philgo01: I think SGC servers work with just about any streaming service EXCEPT Amazon. But that’s just servers. I have to think that the optical technology could be used with Amazon somehow. That’s my next venture. If I can get optical working with Amazon HD, I think I’ll be done as far as my end-game music source is concerned. Regarding ROON: no, it won’t work with Amazon, because Amazon is preventing it -- won’t allow it.
djones51: "The devices do work, the thing is it doesn’t matter unless your DAC is junk." My DAC is hardly junk. It’s the Chord Qutest -- considered by many to be the best DAC at or near its price point ($1,700). One of your other comments seems to suggest that you agree that the Quest is a quality DAC: "The Qutest is very good at noise rejection."
arafiq: Thanks. It’s good to know that others can confirm the improvement in sound quality. One of the posters above (douglas_schroeder) wrote an excellent article about his experience with optical, which agrees with our experiences: https://www.dagogo.com/audio-blast-sonore-systemoptique-signature-rendu-se/?fbclid=IwAR3jp6Gth94SMBi...
I posted this on another thread. It is how to get the OpticalRendu and fibre for maybe lower cost and simpler design. I have not read this whole thread.
@feliks you can try to add a filter between the computer and the dac instead. It might be better than the Node 2i. In general computers are "noicy" and generates a lot of overlay on the electrical signals. All streamers are computers but they are normally done in a way to reduce these problems. For something as cheap as the Node 2 they probably could not do much, you might get he same quality with a simple Raspberry Pi or almost any computer. For the more expensive streamers they spend a lot of time and money to make the problems go away.
Here is one filter, you can also find cheaper ones like the AudioQuest Jitterbug and many in prices between these.
nano iGalvanic3.0 by iFi audio | Galvanic Isolation for USB 3.0 (ifi-audio.com)
i agree with others on the steaming posts that the best way to stream music from tidal or Qobuz is to use a fiber internet network if you want dead quiet transmission. If you have to use any other cable, then you have to apply bandaids to get rid of the noise.
If you use a computer/music server that sits on your rack and connects to your dac thru usb (these music server are just dedicated computers), then you have to apply bandaids to usb to improve sq. If you want to stream music from the internet or from ripped music on your hard drive, then all you need is a dedicated computer located in another room running Roon or other apps like Audirvana/jriver/pure music and use Ethernet to connect to your dac. This setup will sound better than most music servers that are attached to your dac using usb.
Thanks Andrew. Seems like a lot of moving parts. I have to think the whole optical thing is going to be simplified in the near future. Not to cut into your business model, but I think a lot of people are probably going to wonder, if they just want to "clean" the signal with fiber optic wire, why do they need this other contraption (the opticalRendu) after the conversion to optical has already occurred in the little media conversion box? It seems to me that the main reason for it is just that most DACs don’t have the proper port for the fiber optic wire. Or is there more to it than that? And while you’re here :) ... do you have time to offer a brief answer to someone’s question above: "I’m not saying that any of these devices don’t work, but what I don’t understand is, don’t streamers cache a certain amount of the data internally? If you are listening to music and you pull the ethernet cable out of your streamer, it will continue to play for a brief period of time. So I’m just not sure how "cleaner" ethernet packets going into a devices memory chips (cache) would improve the sound. Could anyone elaborate on this?"
A couple of years ago I read an article by Michael Lavorgna at AudioStream that presented a method of optical isolation involving two TP Link Ethernet/Optical converters and a short optical cable. Total parts are less than $100. I run the Ethernet from my router into a Bonn switch and then into the above optical isolation set-up and then a very short Ethernet cable from the second optical converter into my server. I believe this provides a subtly smoother presentation.