Cleo: End to End 24bit 192khz USB DAC with tube output
Cleo: USB DAC (meaning usb input only): ASYNCHRONOUS USB DAC up to 192KHz with Tube Output.
In between it's like this:
Computer Music player>>>
>>>USB by ASIO (or other direct stream to USB), bypassing Windows playback>>>
>>>USB input of Cleo where asynchronous signal is reclocked>>>
>>>on board DAC>>>
>>>UTS (tube output stage)>>>
Of course the secret's in the sauce
From clockwise, upper left:
MuMetal wrapped power transformer
Ultimate Clock power supply
On board Linear power supply (LPS) (nothing powered from the computer)
Ultimate Clock module with 0.5ppm TCXO
UTS (tube output stage)
The mods on the Musiland PCB include Sanyo Os-Cons and Elna Silmic Capacitors in specific positions to get the best sound, disabling all the switched mode local supplies and re-using the chokes from the SMPS's to add LC filtering to the DAC power-supply (pre DAC regulator).
Only the digital core of the Musiland is retained (including the 192KHz/24 Bit advanced segment DAC by Burr Brown), with heavily upgraded power supplies (including a low noise "current source" pre-regulator supply by using the filament supply) and related circuitry.
As implemented the EZ-Clock that replaces the on-board clock from the Musiland PCB uses the XTAL emulation which also removes the ground reference for the clock, meaning the effects of the on-chip ground bounce (due to the lead frame and the bond wire resistance and inductance) are bypassed, as the clock not only has a separate, isolated supply, it also has no ground connection to the audio circuit whatsoever.
And last but not least...
The original Op-Amp analog stage of the Musiland is completely removed. The DAC's output pins directly connect via silver solid core
wire in teflon sleeving to the Tube Stage PCB, the outputs from the tube stage also use silver solid core wire in teflon sleeving. The
Tube stage is fitted with the Obbligato Tinfoil Capacitors.
Been running in a few days. At first was a little aggressive and lacking space. That's all gone now and things have kicked in and we're getting some VERY good sounds. Later we will do some more detailed listening with our resident ears.
Some have already asked if it is better than the Satch. I would say this (at this point):
If you play ripped Redbook CD only, get the Satch.
If you play a mix of Redbook CD and HD, get the Cleo. Especially when playing HD the Cleo just kicks it up a couple gears -- noticeably so-- whereas any 16/44 DAC will truncate down to 16bits.
HD really does benefit with tubes. Are we the only one?
Any posibilities of a combinded RCA and BNC digital outs plus RCA Analog??? some sort of a Morello-Cleo
Computer Music Playback - For Old Time Audiophiles; Computer Nerds Will Find This too
I know there are many of us out there, silent, wondering. We didn't want digital music because vinyl sounded better; eventually there was no choice. We succumbed. Now 30 years later we're sitting on a mountain of CDs.
Some have written to ask what Computer Music Playback is all about. Some have dropped by our shop to see and listen to the setup.
Computer Music Playback is where the computer replaces the CD transport, BUT does so much more.
A customer asked:
>Can you help me get into Computer Music Playback?
Answer: Yes, the best way to get into it is to
1. get your computer set up for music playback and
2a. get a device such as the Morello to connect between computer and existing DAC
OR if not having a DAC
2b. get a device such as the Cleo which combines DAC with USB interface.
I can tell you this is the easiest thing to demo-sell that we've ever had. Everyone that sees/hears this setup wants one. These systems are are set up in our shop and provide basis for comparison:
1. CD transport to Satch DAC (TDA1541a NOS DAC)
2. Computer Music transport to Morello to Satch DAC (same CD ripped to computer)
3. Computer Music transport to Cleo USB DAC
'Everyone' is afraid that computer music playback means MP3 mass market sound. But when they UNDERSTAND what it is about and then LISTEN to the sound and then SEE that 1000 cds can be stored on a 1TB hard drive and accessed by computer -- well, what's not to like?
UNDERSTAND: digital media can be ripped losslessly and played back bit perfect but it must be done outside the Windows music playback system because the Windows standard was designed for convenience with compression and truncation the cost. So we use an ASIO data stream setup through one of the music player software packages such as Media Monkey, AlbumPlayer etc. There is also free software:
J-River Media Jukebox
CMP2 (Cics Memory Player)
KRISTAL Audio Engine
Bit perfect music data streams out through the usb port asynchronously (meaning we provide the clock externally to avoid jitter). The ASIO interface is a standard set by the pro-audio industry and it guarantees that the signal played back is passed on without re-sampling or other manipulation, a condition commonly called "bit perfect".
Now we have potentially better music signal than the best CD transports
LISTEN: Everyone starts out a skeptic, including me. But we've done A/B to cd and now (with all the hardware tweeks), we are right there with sound quality - with 16bit 44khz redbook cd. We have compared to some pretty over the top hot rodded transports: Tentlabs modded Pioneer, Sony Prototype and modded Marantz CD8-80. The Computer Music Player we have is at least equal or better than those AND we have our have our graphics bells and whistles.
But we come to a new trick that is beyond the venerable cd transport: High Definition music playback. This is any music recorded beyond 16bit/44khz, such as 24bit/88khz up to 24 bit/192khz. This covers all current available sampling formats for music release, including downloads from HDTracks, Linn and the Reference Recordings HRx format, in addition to CD format rips.
These files are 3 to 10x larger than 16bit/44khz and provide much finer musical textures and wider dynamic range. The difference is clearly audible.
SEE: 1000 cds on a single 1TB hard drive (average 300mb to 500mb per cd in FLAC, a lossless file format). Accessible on the computer screen (touch or remote control) with familiar album cover art in plain view (the CD ripping programs retrieve cover art automatically). See the attached picture. We will soon provide an article on recommended setup. The music is our biggest single investment but our cds are subject to wear and tear. Some are out of print. Now we have an easy way to archive as well as access them. All in a small space. Also we can purchase music online 'listen before you buy' usually and then download. SACD and DVD is a flop. The main source for higher than CD-resolution music is through downloads; it is the only game in town.
>I have 2 questions:
> 1. 24bit/192khz What does this mean. Is it output, input?
Answer: It means capable of.
So if you put a 24/192 signal in, you will get that out the Morello to the SPDIF connection which then connects to your DAC. But if your DAC can only handle 16/44khz (such as the Satch), then the DAC will reduce the bitstream to within its limits.
The Morello is a device which allows you to connect to the computer usb and retrieve up to 24bit/192khz encoded music. It will output same to the SPDIF output but you still need a DAC to convert the signal to analogue to connect to your linestage.
A crucial feature for the Morello is the fact that it operates in "Asynchronous USB Mode". This means the Audio Clock is generated in the Morello and the computer is essentially slaved to the clock in the Morello, so the normal jitter problems with USB audio are avoided.
The Cleo does that as well but includes a 24bit/192khz capable DAC so you only need to connect to your linestage inputs and are ready to go.
>Is USB capable of 24bit/192khz ? Sorry if they are totally amateur questions.
Answer: Yes asynchronous USB is capable. And glad you ask the questions everyone is thinking.
> 2. What is the best Morello choice at the moment, 3 or Max ?
Answer: Max of course, as it has tubes (maybe the only one in the world with digital output tube stage?). But if tubes have no meaning for you, the L3 will do very well. All levels of the Morello offer excellent performance.
If the DAC used with the Morello has a secondary PLL or other very high grade digital input circuitry (eg. the Audio Synthesis DAX as well as the Sonic Frontiers models featuring Ultra Analogue Receivers etc.) then any level will provide good results.
If the DAC is however equipped with usual choice of Cirrus Logic (Crystal) input receivers or similar products from AKM and Burr Brown the Morello Max provides undeniably the best quality signal to drive the DAC. Ideally the cable from the Morello to the DAC should use BNC connections as well and be as short as possible.
> One more question, could you somehow explain why you went USB route and not Firewire.
Answer: USB is universal, Firewire is not available on most computers in most places and USB has more than enough data transfer speed for HD music. Although USB is capable of very high data throughput, USB Audio as implemented in PC's and MAC's generally is limited to 96KHz. In order to produce reliable operation at 192KHz sample rate a custom driver is needed and supplied with both the Cleo and the Morello.
Firewire and USB are fundamentally identical systems of serial data-transfer. Only specific protocols, connectors and signal levels are different. As such there is no real difference between firewire400 and USB2.0 (USB2 is in theory slightly faster) and either system has plenty bandwidth too .
Firewire was until recently the only choice for high speed digital audio systems as there was little support for USB from the chip making industry. Since then support for high quality audio via USB has become available and as USB is always present and has by far fewer issues with compatibility it is the better choice now, in the year 2010.
There is a lot to come up to speed with computer music playback for me as well so I described the journey as I went along, from an old-timer audiophile perspective:
Music Server Computer transport - Hop On! | Diy HiFi Supply
Music Server Computer transport - Round 1! | Diy HiFi Supply
Music Server Computer transport - Hardware Attack! | Diy HiFi Supply
Music Server Computer transport - Is It Worth the Effort? | Diy HiFi Supply
Music Server Computer transport - More! | Diy HiFi Supply
More Hands-On With the Musiland | Diy HiFi Supply
24 bit/ 192 khz Digital | Diy HiFi Supply
Cleo: End to End 24bit 192khz USB DAC with tube output | Diy HiFi Supply
drivers for Cleo Max missing and needed
I just got Cleo Max from you but the drivers are missing. Any way I can get them fast?
RapidShare: 1-CLICK Web hosting - Easy Filehosting
Thank you Thorsten! Will try that.
Setting up ASIO to work with Cleo
Hi,Cleo has two audio interfaces on the PC side.
Standard windows audio (WDM) and audio streaming input output (ASIO).
On Vista and Windows 7 the windows audio system includes WASPI which is a viable alternative to ASIO but is currently not widely supported by playback software.
As far as Cleo is concerned you only install the driver, that is it.
Each software has different settings, the Cleo Manual shows the ASIO setup for the free J-River Music Juke box software.
This is very much a "Computer Software" type player, for use with mouse etc.. It is free to download.
We also recommend Album player which has very similar and simple settings for ASIO.
Album player is very at home with touchscreens and as remote controlled stand alone media device.
One of the best thing for a CD-Player like playback of a music library is to use Album Player and the MCE Remote.
This allows very easy use of the whole system. It is supported by Album Player.
Both programs need no add-ins or the like to work with ASIO.
When I last used Foobar (quite a few years ago) it needed a suitable plug-in to work with other audio systems than windows audio. The same applied also to Winamp the last time I looked and neither software was easy to set up or to use. To be honest I feel that Winamp and Foobar are now depreciated and would not recommend them any longer for use, they are so Y2K.
Compared to a few years ago we now have Computer Music Players with the highest quality quality very easy. The issues of software induced jitter that several prominent audio player softwares where designed at least in part to minimise have been resolved. There is no longer any need to jump through major hoops to optimise the hardware and software.
Using an asynchronous USB or Firewire DAC like the Cleo reduces differences between playback software that operates bitperfect (that is no oversampling, upsampling or other digital signal manipulation) to very small at the very least.
It is worth noting that XXHE and CMP^2 are routinely used with upsampling, different upsampling processes of course sound still different.
Even though things are much easier now I would still recommend using a dedicated PC/Laptop and starting with a completely clean windows installation.
I would recommend strongly against using a wireless Network connection, most Wifi Card Drivers seem very badly written and can cause "stutter" even with async USB DAC's and large buffers for ASIO. Remove as much of the unneccesary software as possible (including Windows Messenger, Office Enablers, Adobe Reader Quick Start and all those tchotskies. You can find a fair few guides how to do this on the net. Then install your Music Player and consider to run the machine without internet access and without antivirus.
An easy tool to check if the PC can play music well is called "DPC Latency Checker". There is no need to chase super low latency, just make sure the machine stays in the "Green". I found several machines that where "red" (cannot stream audio well) turned green once the WIFI connection was disabled. Some supposed Anti-Virus software (which I found is worse at killing your PC than any of the viruses it failed to stop anyway) also caused huge latency.
My own dedicated Music PC was set up to not have any Internet Browser installed at all (so no-one can get on-line) and the windows firewall is set up to paranoid mode, letting only the Media Software talk to the Internet, to get coverart, CDDB to get proper track info for CD's being ripped etc., but no antivirus at all.
I use Devolo power line networking to interconnect all the stationary PC's in my place, including my Media PC.
BTW, these days I use dBPoweramp reference for ripping. Mainly because it decodes HDCD's into a 20Bit FLAC file, which is an excellent reason to get a Cleo, as HDCD's offer one of the largest libraries of High Resolution material that people actually want to listen to and often already have ton's off on their shelfs...
If the machine must do occasional duty as work (or just occasional internet browsing) machine, set it up with a clean copy of Windows XP (if using ASIO) or Windows 7 (if using WASPI) for dual booting. Again, ton's of how-to's can be found on-line. That way you can run the clean copy of windows without all the usual resource hogs like Skype or Windows Messenger and so on. In this case you can drop back in to "productivity" mode within a few minutes.
I hope this helps a little.
Sometimes I'd like to be the water
sometimes shallow, sometimes wild.
Born high in the mountains,
even the seas would be mine.
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