Two SPDIF reclockers – Comparison of Audio Gd DI a
I’m one of those listeners who are still using CDs for most listening while wanting to cut down on jitter in digital reproduction using SPDIF. I have had an Audio Gd DI (v3) for about a year and recently purchased an Empirical Audio Synchro Mesh (“SM”). Comparisons of these two units are hard to find so I wanted to provide some comments. My opinion is that both are easily worth the money and that they are priced appropriately given their comparative performance.
My set-up: Pioneer DV47-I coax out to reclocker (Audio gd or SM) coax out to Metrum Octave DAC to passive preamp (Lightspeed Attenuator) to Wyred4Sound ST500 to Magnepan modded/framed MMGs. I have no affiliation with any of the manufacturers of my equipment.
I compared the Pioneer transport straight into the DAC with the Audio Gd and then the SM keeping all other components and cables identical. The Pioneer is a well-reviewed transport with an MSRP of $1200 when it was first introduced (the price was later cut) so it isn’t a piece of junk. I found the Audio Gd DI added detail, texture and lowered the Pioneer’s pretty low level of digital glare and in turn the SM added even more detail and texture and made the sound even more pleasing. The Audio Gd costs right around $300 with added power supply while the Synchro Mesh costs about $600. I think this pricing reflects the relative merits of both units but will add that if you are a CD listener with anything less than a superpricy transport, both are well worth investigating.
I concentrated on the beautiful opening of Charles Mackerras recording of Leos Janacek’s (best) opera “Kat’a Kabanova”. With the Pioneer, the hushed strings sound good if a little sibiliant. Introduce the Audio Dg DI into the chain and I now heard the oscillating French horns in the background, very faintly. With the Synchro Mesh placed in the chain, the French horns now became clearly audible, while still in the background. The strings became lusher and more beautiful with the Audio Gd and then took another step up with the Synchro Mesh. I then put on “So What” from “Kind of Blue” to try another type of repertory despite the iffy sonics. The texture of the sounds was improved by going from the Pioneer to the Audio Gd and then was improved even further with the Synchro Mesh. The soundstage also went from compressed to more three dimensional.
What was interesting about my response to the Synchro Mesh was that the intensity of my emotional response and attention increased. I’ve sometimes read the opinion of certain experienced audiophiles who gauge their responses to equipment by their emotional response. This comparison brought home the truth of that position – one of the larger things I learned from making this test. “Kata Kabanova” sounded good with just the Pioneer in the chain and became more sensous with the Audio Gd but each time I switched to the Synchro Mesh, it became an absorbing and intense experience.
A few other notes: I used only coax SPDIF output and did not try to compare with the USB in/optical out the Audio Gd or the optical in/out for the SM. Comparisons were done in the same session to minimize changes due to my mood or power quality. My Audio Gd has the upgraded TCXO clock. The SM, which Steve Nugent is upgrading as his research progresses, has a recent impedance adjustment that he developed which reduces jitter but does not have his “breakthrough” mod (see his Audio Circle thread on this topic for more) and used the wall-wart, not a linear power supply.
Summary: Both the Audio Gd and Synchro Mesh are quality improvements to your CD chain. The pairing of the Audio Gd with a cheap $100 DVD player is almost certainly better than almost any $400 cd player. About the SM, if you have a $10-20k system where you listen to a lot of CDs without any sort of re-clocker, this equipment is almost a must buy given its price and your existing investment.