Innuos Phoenix USB Reclocker - Sounds Worse?


I picked up a Phoenix USB Reclocker, mint condition store demo.  I think this must be the first of many, many reports where the Phoenix does NOT seem to improve the sound.  So many posts and review after review indicate positive results with this device added to systems.  I’ve not seen one single account where the results weren’t clearly superior.  Yet that seems to be the case for me, sadly!  
 

My system:

  • Gryphon Diablo 300 with DAC module
  • Innuos Zenith Mk 3 with Roon/Tidal HiFi
  • Innuos Phoenix Reclocker
  • AudioQuest Hurricane Source power cords connected to a Niagara 1200 conditioner 
  • AudioQuest Dragon High Current power cord connected between my amp and the wall
  • Two AudioQuest Diamond USB cables
  • Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cables
  • B&W 803 D2 speakers

Adding the reclocker makes the sound more constrained, tighter, with less separation, and is generally less engaging.  This seems to be almost the opposite of 100% of everyone else’s experiences.  I thought maybe the new USB cord needed to be broken in (it’s been 40 hours now) but I don’t think it could be this much worse prior to completing the breakin.  And the Reclocker was a demo so in theory it should be broken in.

Some may theorize that my Gryphon DAC may be better and that the Reclocker is dragging my DAC down instead of elevating it.  But that logic I don’t think makes sense, because the Phoenix reclocker tech is included in Innuos’ top Uber expensive Statement.  I can’t imagine that the Statement in my system would sound worse than my Zenith Mk III which is less than half the cost!

Not sure what’s up…  I will give it another few days and then contact Innuos to see if they have any thoughts.

 

nyev
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The Phoenix should’t be switched off. It takes up to 48h for the Ocxo clock to settle. Have you tried to replace the fuse with something decent? Also: use a very short USB cable between Phoenix and dac, ideally 1ft. Finally, try lifting ground on the Phoenix, you may have a ground loop.

I had very similar experience when adding audiophile switch to my streaming setup. Overly precise outline of images, cookie cutter like. I also experienced similar constraint, less engaging sound quality, much less natural, excessively analytical. The only upside was a bit more detail, downsides far outweighed this small gain.

 

I've theorized there may be situations in which there may be excessive clocking and/or mismatched clocks in streaming chain. I recall reading John Swenson white paper over at audiophilelifestyle in regard to mismatched clock issues.

I haven’t used the Phoenix reclocker, so this is just opinion...but I have used many other reclocking devices over the years.

I read the specs for the Diablo 300 DAC module, and its pretty slick.

If you use the module’s USB input, I think you’re already reclocking once.

There’s probably no need to add the Phoenix.

 

Dave

 

Thanks all.  @dpetr, maybe you are right.  I’ve seen this question come up about the Phoenix before, where the question is raised as to whether the Phoenix is redundant with some DACs.  But many people have said the Phoenix seems to improve sound across any DAC at all.  I’ve seen a few discussions speculating as to why that is.  And again, considering this reclocker tech is also in the expensive Statement, I can’t see how it should actually degrade my sound…

I’ll try the few things mentioned here, wait a few days to see if things settle, and then contact Innuos if it still doesn’t sound great to see if they have any ideas.

Last resort I will have a Phoenix reclocker, Hurricane source power cord, and Diamond USB cable for sale to help find my speaker upgrade….  

Maybe you should sell it. My experience has been that modern USB chipsets don’t benefit from a reclocker. Why should they? The receiving end controls the clock, anyway.

Nonetheless, I used a reclocker (Mutec MC-3+USB) before my Classe CP-800, and it helped. When I switched to a newer, better (yet cheaper) Anthem STR Preamp, the reclocker harmed the sound in about the way you have described.

In your case, a reclocker may be an unnecessary audiophile gadget. Consider being glad your DAC doesn’t need it. Simplicity is nice!

@mike_in_nc, totally agree with the “simplicity is nice principle”. I know that on paper it seems it maybe unnecessary with my DAC, but if you look up the reviews and forum posts, there is an overwhelming number of folks who say this device improves sound, including many who have tested it with DACs that are far better than mine! Not one single person has had my experience with this product.  I know dealers are biased, but also @audiotroy said that they’ve tested this product with many top DACs with positive results.  Maybe @audiotroy can chime in with any ideas?

I did find that the one scenario where the Reclocker degrades things is if you connect it to Innuos’ top of the line Statement streamer/server. This is because it already has the same reclocker internally so it truly does become redundant, and the added cabling degrades the sound. But that’s it!

 

 

@nyev - It is not just dealers who are biased. We audiophiles tend to be prey to expectation bias, in spades. That’s what keeps the used audio market churning.

As to trusting what some guys you don't know say on the Internet, good luck with that.  (Me, too.) Yes, there can be real information content; just let your own ears be the final arbiter. You don't know anyone's motivations, hearing ability, or really, even what gear they have or if they are catfishing.

I’ll just say that again, trust your own ears. If you want, invite friends over and do a single-blind test. You may find (as I did with some $$$ cables) that something theoretically not needed really is not needed!

I wish you good luck with it.

@mike_in_nc , totally agree with what you are saying, but I do have one exception. To get around “consumer bias”, let’s call it, I generally trust the internet ONLY if 1) Sources are reporting all the same things with no disagreement, and 2) There are many, many such reports.

This approach so far hasn’t led me astray, including in this instance, because…. There’s been a breakthrough!

I’ve been running everything constantly for a few days, and I decided to check in on how things were sounding. To my surprise everything sounded open, dynamic, and with more impact. I thought maybe it’s just me having overly low expectations, so I removed the Reclocker to compare. Sure enough, with the Reclocker is undeniably better.

Chalk it up to another case of underestimating the degree of impact burnin makes. Or, another audiophile being falsely tricked into thinking what they are hearing is great!

Going to do more tests later to try to validate what I’m hearing, but right now, the Phoenix reclocker is here to stay….  Really, really loving the sound.  Amazing how different it is today.

I tied a lot of these tweaks/gimmicks trying to get usb to sound good years ago and each tweak/gimmick was like putting lipstick on a pig. Got rid of the usb dac and went with a better dac with i2s and Ethernet inputs

@nyev  I have an AQ Niagara 1200. But it is not the main power conditioner in my system. But your system seems to be reasonably high end. So are you planning to move up to the Niagara 5000 or so? I perceive the Niagara 1200 to not be the same caliber as the rest of your system. No? Yes?

@rbstehno , I totally get that you can go way overboard on the gimmick boxes. Even my dealer who sold me the Phoenix reclocker rolled his eyes when I asked him about it! He said “another box, and if I hear one more customer going on and on and on about how much better the sound is with the Phoenix…. I wish they’d just shut up sometimes…I can’t stand all these extra boxes…” Then he followed up with “But whatever, everyone who buys one is just over the moon so I guess it must be good.” Not a very motivated salesman I guess. I have a suspicion he smokes weed at work… He’s a funny guy.

Anyways count me in that camp now of amazed totally happy customers. This gimmick box certainly doesn’t have gimmick results. Between my recent Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker cable, my AudioQuest Dragon power cord, and this “gimmicky” Innuos Phoenix which is actually incredibly good, it’s just stunning how it’s lifted my system. Before all this I always thought my system really sounded good and I enjoyed it a great deal, but I never really felt the sound was high end. That’s changed now. Difference is in the level of transparency and soundstage depth and imaging precision, with more texture and dynamics. And as counterintuitive as it might seem, it makes all material easier to listen to. When I’m trying to focus on critical listening I just end up getting caught up in the music… Pretty cool.

 

 

 

 

@kingbarbuda , yes I’m considering upgrading to the Niagara 5000.  I would guess that my 1200 is below the rest of my system, but I think it at least helps with my source components a bit.  I’ve no idea what to expect with the 5000, conditioners are bit of a mystery from consumer perspectives.

I’m going to try to get a demo to try.  At least with cords, AudioQuest is very generous handing out demos.  The trouble is I’ve heard that they are quite back-ordered on the conditioner front now.

Been happy with my phoenix now for over a year...it definitely elevated my system and like you my source is Zenith Mk3.

Have since upgraded my DAC to a Weiss and never thought to check - maybe my system will sound better without the phoenix. I will give that a try and let you know if there is improvement.

An alternative way of getting Phoenix-like benefits is to use an Intona Isolator on the USB connection and an external 10m clock on the dac. That way has the additional benefit of allowing reclocking of the Etherregen or other ethernet switches providing that capability. N.B. the server typically doesn’t need reclocking when connected via USB since it is slaved to the dac’s clock.

As @antigrunge2 mentioned, it might be warm-up vs burn-in.  The clock itself is calibrated at its normal operating temperature.

Try turning the reclocker off one night and see if the SQ degrades again.  You could then experiment to see how long the device needs to stabilize

@petaluman that would be a good experiment, but I might wait a few days to enjoy the improvement before I go there!

As I mentioned at the top I also had a new AQ Diamond USB cable, so that was breaking in as well. But can’t imagine it could make that much difference. Still not broken in fully, I think it probably has 120 hrs or so at this point; same for the Phoenix.  Sound has been stable since the change, with all the improvements.  

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Clocks like the Phoenix are very susceptible to improve,ents in the power supply/cord as well as isolation support. I highly recommend Black Ravioli Big Pads

@antigrunge2, makes sense but I’ve also read a pro review that did extensive testing of different cabling with the Phoenix. Their comment was that the power cord didn’t matter as much and that event the stock cord is fine to use. They did note improvements with premium cables but they said the difference was small. They also said that if one of your USB cables is better than the other, the better one should go between the streamer and the Phoenix, and not as good cable from the Phoenix to the DAC. They noted that the quality of the cable from the Phoenix to the DAC didn’t seem to matter as much.

I couldn’t find the link if interested but don’t have offhand. Not sure if it’s valid or not.

i can see isolation feet helping.

I am sure you got the cable order reversed. The best cable needs to be between reclocker and dac.

@antigrunge2 , just checked and no, they seem to think the USB cable going to the DAC doesn’t matter as much:

Which USB cable has a greater impact?

From my listening tests, the stereo takes the character of the cable between the server and Phoenix much more. You could still hear the differences in cables from the Phoenix to the DAC but it’s more subtle.

 

 

 

@nyev

in my system it works the other way around, admittedly I am reclocking the DAC rather than just the USB connection. Obviously whichever sounds better…

@nyev

Did some back and forth today and the reclocker definitely helps my system. It’s a tonal thing. Strings instruments seem more real. I am using curious USB cables. Interesting to me that I tried their evolved cable a while back and could not tell a difference over the regular curious cable. I just assumed that whatever advantage the evolved has is fairly minimal when a great reclocker is in chain so I sold it.  
Not sure what gives for yours but I am keeping mine :)

also I would definitely get I touch with Innuos. They have been awesome for me and really knowledgeable. Maybe you have a defective unit?

@chcook, if you see higher in the thread my Phoenix sounds awesome now.  Just took a few days for whatever reason.  For me everything is more open, more transparent, and all tones have less bloom and more focus and definition.

@antigrunge2, I have two AudioQuest Diamond USB cables, and one is .7m and the other is 1.25m or so. I’ve had the long one going from the Phoenix to my DAC so far. Just to see the effect, I swapped the longer and shorter USB cables, with the shorter one going to the DAC instead. Sounded terrible! All closed up and compressed like how the Phoenix first sounded. I then tried going straight from my Zenith to my DAC alternating between long and short USB cables to see if I could hear any difference. I could not.

This hobby is black magic; nothing makes sense. It’s all trial and error I guess…

My next experiment was to try replacing the short AQ Diamond from the Phoenix to the Zenith streamer with the crappy USB cable that came with the Phoenix, and I’m sure it sounds better! All the detail and a little more relaxed in the high frequencies. The crappy cable is a bit longer than my short Diamond cable. Maybe the Phoenix doesn’t like my .7m Diamond as much…. Not proven yet, but while the DAC and Zenith didn’t seem to care about the long vs short USB cable, the Phoenix appears to not like shorter cables with on input OR output, at least in my system.

USB connections are very susceptible to cable impedance. Could be that the shorter cable is therefore less transparent. In my messing with cables I found the Intona Reference to be the best link between server and dac. I use a 1ft version