by Kevin O'Brien, Brad Easton, and Mike O'Brien on February 2012


UPDATED 03/11/2012!!!


So, in our last review of the computer vs CD transport, we let readers in on our opinions of both sources. We said the computer was essentially more user-friendly and had a slight advantage in the sound department. We recently decided to compare computer transports since we have not covered that yet. Fortunately for us, we stumbled on to what we here at YFS believe to be one of the BEST music sources, period.

We have heard vinyl playback systems costing well over $120,000 (just the vinyl source equipment) as well as CD playback systems in the same league and I can tell you this is it. Unfortunately, we cannot give you all the details of our computer source because we are still currently in the design phase of our product. We feel it can go head to head with ANY other computer source and BEAT IT, hands down!

I know that's a bold statement but once you've heard what we have, we are convinced you'll feel the same way. Let us describe how we came up with our findings and we'll give you some more details on our listening tests and finally the sound.

We figured we'd keep everything the same from the previous 'computer vs CD transport' shootout so we are using the original Musical Fidelity V-DAC with USB input and the Acer 5735z laptop. As we mentioned in that review, we were not able to get bit-perfect output via USB based on the V-DAC's design. Apparently, many folks have reported the same issues so we ended up using the "direct sound" mode within Foobar 2K for the Acer. We ripped our CD's to WAV files using EAC CD ripping software. We then set up our custom YFS music server prototype (still in it's design stage) to see what we could find out about this whole computer audio craze. We're glad we did!

We played an album on the Acer after letting our system warm up for a bit and then we switched sources. Our YFS prototype was outfitted with Windows 7 and Foobar 2K in "direct sound" mode with all the exact same settings to make the comparison fair. We used the USB 2.0 output as well to try and even out the playing field. We immediately noticed everything sounded better! We're talking a night and day difference here. In fact, we didn't need to switch back to the Acer it was that good. We then realized we were hearing things we haven't heard in our favorite recordings EVER.

You are probably asking, "What about your vinyl set-up?" This was definitely on par with our vinyl set-up and even surpassing it after listening for a couple hours. We are very familiar with our vinyl rig's sound and we were immediately impressed with this server!

Here's where it gets interesting. We decided we should try JRiver Media Center and see what effect that had on the overall sound in our YFS prototype. Let's just say this was an eye-opener as well. (Unfortunately, the trial version lasts for 30 days and then you must pay the $50 to unlock it) Using the WASAPI playback setting within JRiver, we were able to get a bit-perfect digital signal out of the YFS prototype via our USB 3.0 output and we were literally floored!  WOW!  I know we wanted to keep things fair at first but now that we knew it wasn't even close, we decided to go all in. Most folks have not had luck getting the MF V-DAC to play nicely with any bit-perfect playback scenario. After hours of tinkering, I guess we just got lucky. We then cued up the Talking Heads' Speaking In Tongues 24/96 digital files and we almost blew the roof off the joint! INCREDIBLE! Talk about P.R.A.T.! I haven't heard a source with more slam, attack, detail, and good high's, lows, and mids like this ever before.

If the end-user was to use one of the many Asynchronous USB DAC's on the market right now, none of this would be an issue. The user would download their DAC's proprietary drivers, install them, and then select that driver under the "Options" menu under "Audio". Then the user would select either ASIO or WASAPI from the same menu and he or she would be on their way to bit-perfect digital music via USB!

We then switched back to "direct sound" mode which actually sounded really good but with more emphasis on the high end of the frequency response. It reminded me of switching between a tubed CD player and a solid state CD player. VERY COOL. So, we've decided that JRiver is definitely worth your time experimenting with. The user can actually fine-tune the sound he or she is looking for with the various output options available WITHIN the JRiver suite. No need to download and install plug-ins. Again, VERY COOL. 

Stay tuned for more details about our YFS music server prototype. If we're this excited about something, we figure you will be too. It's just a matter of time!

 

UPDATE:

We have been very busy testing our HD-Ref-1 computer music server. We feel it's almost ready to release to the general public. We have a few more odds and ends to clean up and we'll be all set. Contact us for pricing and availability of our very first few units!!! Click here for more information on the YFS HD-Ref-1.

 

Associated Equipment for this Review:

  • YFS/ SCH Custom Speakers
  • YFS Custom Room Treatment
  • VPI Scoutmaster with VPI Zephyr Cartridge
  • YFS Custom Phono Preamplifier
  • Musical Fidelity V-DAC
  • YFS Custom Direct Preamp and Custom 6L6 Tube Power Amp
  • YFS Custom Interconnects and Cables

 

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