Cloud vs. local files. It's an unpopular opinion. Yet my ears say that the sound quality of local files still trumps my basic setup's attempts to make the cloud rain as sweetly. Basic means no 'audio-police-approved' network switch. Think industrial CAT8 cable from our broadband provider's router to my PC's network card. Then it's USB out direct to DAC since my USB bridge died. It's not a big gap. But on finesse and tonal sophistication, thinking global then acting local still wins. SOtM's May Park had shared their path to streaming download salvation. It slaves three of their network switches in series all reclocked by their 10MHz masterclock still gussied up with their separate linear power supply. Then it strings the lot together with their specially tuned network cables with inline RF filters. I just can't bother to mollycoddle the cloud to that extent. I also couldn't bother upgrading my 'lowly' Schiit Jotunheim Raal ribbon amp upstairs to our illustrious class A Pass Labs XA-30.8 via the impedance adapter box. I tried it. Compared to effort of size, weight, heat and extra preamp involved, the gains just weren't significant enough. In the same vein, my current desktop setup massages all my pressure points so well that milking a few extra points from disproportionate front-end fuss just isn't attractive. When you're that far ahead, it's time to enjoy.

So I did by progressing to elegant guitar duo. Colorful vocals compliments of the new Dulce Pontes album Perfil in 24/192 were next. Again space sorting improved as did contrast ratio and tonal sophistication. An oft-overlooked benefit of true higher resolution is higher listener satisfaction at lower SPL. Dialing up gain to make up for not 'coming on song' earlier is outed as a cheap trick that's no longer needed. It means longer sessions, less fatigue and less noise pollution. Let's be very clear. Music we like is nothing but unwelcome noise to someone not equally fond or presently in the mood. It's another attraction of high-end desktop listening. It's far more intimate and contained. One or two rooms over it might as well not exist. That's ideal when living with others. We get to enjoy our own bubble but needn't wear headphones.

To wrap up, each year of late seems to center on a specific personal hifi discovery. Last year was about subwoofers and Ripol's special dispersion benefits. 2022 seems to be about my desktop. The first very big find were the DMAX Super Cubes inspired by reader Russell Dawkins' email. Moving in iFi's Pro iDSD Signature was next. Then came getting the cubes off the desk. This was followed by experimenting with where to upsample. Today was about a USB cable of unsuspected potency. At ~£250 delivered and for how audible its contributions are, I'll have to call it an excellent value.

If you suspect that your desktop rig has room to stretch, grow and fill out, iFi's Mercury3.0 deserves a listen. Just insure that your speakers are truly capable and not confused in the time domain. They must pass on the refined extra calories they're now fed. If DirectSound, Wasapi and Wasapi Exclusive Mode still sound the same to you, you'll probably have transducer issues to sort out first. It's all about managed expectations and what things to do first and second so that smaller things beneath them can begin to matter. Then the 'M' matter isn't for murder but Mercury3.0. Sue Grafton shudders, the rest of us enjoy.