I have a first generation ULink I can sell you for $150 (without the sound smith cable) if you wish to give it a try. Its is great, I ended up getting the Sonicweld Diverter as my end-all-be-all.
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There's the new iFi iUSB + Gemini cable + iLink combo. Should come in well under $1k.
The iUSB provides isolation and provides cleans power, the Gemini cable separates power and data feeding the iLink converter itself.
I've got an iLink on order, will evaluate that. If it works well, then I'll consider adding the iUSB and Gemini cable later on.
Thanks for the lead. I believe you are referring to the JKenny Ciunas, right? It was not on my radar screen, so great tip. It's probably too new, which explains why I can't find references - let alone matching to an Octave.
But I recall that on Elberoth's converter shootout, where he used an Octave as one of the DACs to try, the JKenny EVO stack was on par with the Audiophilleo without PurePower. So if Ciunas is conceivably better that EVO, then the Ciunas vs AP with PP should be interesting.
I guess I will need to let a bit of time go by so early adopters start telling about Ciunas performance.
Thanks for the tip on iFi products. Been doing a fair amount of reading since receiving your tip, and the iUSB is well reviewed by many users. The iLink seems to be too new and can't find much more than speculation about its performance. Please let us know how it performs for you. How much did you pay for it? My understanding is the iUSB is $300, the Gemini about $200, but have not seen price references for the iLink.
For the Ciunas, I don't know how the converter has changed from the JKDAC model, but I suspect he made some changes that parallel those in the Dac. As for the later, three days in I'm finding it's really good. For some pre-production reviews, check the thread at the link below. One thing to note is the prices are in Euros, so if you're in the States deduct about 20%. John answers emails promptly and is very helpful.
Lewinskih01, In the FWIW category I just purchased the EVO Clock to go with my Evo converter and the improvement is really noticable. I'm also running the converter off of battery and the clock off of an after market linear PS with great results. Per this thread this is all used with the Metrum Octave and my system has never sounded better.
Lewinskih01, I would highly recommend the Off Ramp. I've bought my OR4 since April and it took my dac to a whole new level of performance. There is an OR4 that just popped up here on audiogon. I know it is more than your budget, but I'm sure you could negotiate a lower price than the one listed. If you can't get a good price on it, then save a little more and get a new stock OR5 for $1300. You simply can't go wrong with these.
Hey. I got my iLink from Stereodesk for $299. It works real good! It comes with its own USB cable, SPDIF cable (with BNC-RCA adaptors) and a Toslink cable. Sound has improved quite distinctly with my Squeezebox Touch. More details and a larger soundstage. Was impressed enough to also order the Gemini cable and iUSB on top. I recommend Fred at Stereodesk 100%.
Great tips. Thanks to all!
I thought I should come back and share my thoughts as of now. First off, too bad I'm not in Europe or the US so can't audition any of these options.
The iFi iUSB looks great and there has been quite a bit of enthusiasm from users. Great! The Gemini cable has received a lot of online time, but not so mane rave reviews. The iLink...is missing in action as far as user reports go, yet there was significant anticipation before launch...I'm guessing it's good, but not great.
I also considered switching the Metrum Octave Mk I For a Mk II since the latter has the same USB input board the Hex has, which is so well reviewed. That would be the lowest cost option. Turns out in the case of the Mk II the USB board is powered from the computer power through the USB cable, unlike the Hex. So this option would need an extra box, like the iFi iUSB. Still a valid option.
The JKenny Ciunas converter looks promising. Again, little talk yet. One user on head-fi finally reported back yesterday about this converter + Octave and liked it a lot. Most talk is about the Ciunas DAC, though. One guy who is in the audio industry (with no afiliation to neither, as far as I know), tried Ciunas DAC vs Ciunas converter + Octave and preferred the former, but he is driving his amps directly from the DAC and I suspect the unusual output section of the Octave could have something to do with the result, and I won't use it in that fashion.
BTW, the Offramp that was mentioned I decided not to pursue, even used, as the design seems to change all the time, is still very expensive, and having treated power or batteries for it would make it even more expensive. No doubt is a great performer, though.
Bottom line, I'm down to Audiophilleo 2 with PurePower vs Ciunas converter. I wish I could listen to both, but can't. The AP has been said to sound more in your face vs other top performers, like the Offramp. While my tube pre and amp should take care of that, my B&W speakers can be in your face too, so I can only wonder if I will end up with fantastic clarity, or too much in your face sound. I know, impossible to describe or decide by typing or reading. Oh well!
Thanks all again!
I did buy an Audiophilleo 2 + PurePower and I´m super-happy. Best sound I ever had! A very audible improvement.
There was no way for me to try them side by side, though. I ended up opting for the AP as there were so many good reviews of it, and some very good also when paired with the Octave. For example, member Elberoth had a shootout (posted over at computeraudiophile) and compared this combo and talked about it quite favorably, especially in light of his super DCS setup.
Bottom line, I can't state it's better than the Ciunas, but I can say it's mighty good. Plus it was a pleasure to deal with the owner.
You also have an Octave? Running PC or Mac?