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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Aurai Audio Lieutenant w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D1300Ref SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; DAC: Denafrips Terminator+; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signatur;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note I-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m

Review component retail: €699

CD is dead. Vinyl is dead. MQA is dead. Who is your dad?

It depends. Who do you ask? Whilst it's true that USB-C has widely replaced USB-A/B, those audio pundits who proclaim USB killed off by RJ45 or its wireless alternatives might have their obituaries in error. Like those other undead, USB still twitches. My recent foray into a €20K+ elite music server showed why. Like that pinked-out faun, a software player like Audirvana caches playlists on a PC/Mac to RAM. That spins down any drives. Extreme mode disables computing threads unrelated to music. A disc utility app confirms its squashed traffic. Transferring the output USB signal not to a DAC but first a so-called bridge—USB in, S/PDIF or I²S out—reclocks, jitter/noise strips and otherwise buffers the data just like an elite server does inside its hidden computing innards. Like today's €699 SU-6 whose wall wart charges the super capacitors which run its circuit and Crystek CCHD-957 clocks, such a bridge needn't cost the farm. A resultant server of PC/Mac + Audirvana-type software + external bridge will cost disproportionately less than a fancy headless audiophile music server. Yet it includes a big hi-res screen, mouse and keyboard plus direct browser access to music subscription clients and YouTube videos. If you listen to local files, you're offline beyond Big Bro's surveillance and data mining. Meanwhile network players rely on the WorldWildWest to function. It's in their name; caught in the net including WiFi tablet control. What's more, some USB bridges even offer word-clock i/o for your DAC. So USB being dead needn't be accurate or even desirable.

Again, it depends on who you ask. Even if you didn't ask, here I'm answering anyway. On my desktop I run Singxer's smaller SU-2 shaking paws with an iFi iPurifier on the upstream side, an iFi iDSD Pro Signature DAC downstream. The latter's 10MHz output syncs the SU-2's 10MHz input. Now both run off the same clock. For the big system whose Sonnet Pasithea DAC bothers not with external clock provisions, I just added an SU-6. Its three I³S outputs can feed multiple digital machines as long as their pin configurations match. Having had excellent results with a super-cap driven Soundaware D300Ref, the SU-6's equivalent virtual battery looked attractive. Having not really used the Ref's SD card reader in too long, that machine hoofed it upstairs into our PC-free zone where SD cards are our preferred and only music carriers.

Not Sing Sing but Singxer. Is your mind still incarcerated by the big names? Then Singxer could be unfamiliar. Like Aune, Audio-gd, FiiO, Matrix Audio, Musician, Quloos, SMSL or Topping, it's a Sino brand whose distribution beyond AliExpress-type portals could require digging. As such coverage in Western glossies may run from marginal to non-existent. Our household's ChiFi bliss thus far focused on brands like Denafrips, Jay's/LHY, Kinki Studio and Soundaware. Yet it's already clocked satisfied ownership with SMSL and Singxer particularly in niche categories like SD-card transports and USB bridges. Today continues down those paths less trodden for another episode of USB Lives; in the already 20th season when 6moons just passed that anniversary. Yet here I am two decades smarter still stuck on PCfi over USB bridges. That might tell you something? Don't fix what ain't broke just to wear a shiny fashionista badge. And why dig yourself a very deep account hole for faux sheen? Not everything that glitters is gold.

Singxer SU-2 on desktop.

Here's the very short manual for the dip-switch adjustments. Here are Golden Sound's measurements. For Nordic Noir, there's the joint Swedish/Danish TV series The Bridge. It begins with a deceased found dead center on the Øresund bridge so equidistant between Malmö and Copenhagen. That falls into the jurisdictions of both countries to set off a joint investigation by detectives from either side of the border. In similar fashion we might imagine the jurisdictions of computer and DAC meeting right in the middle of a USB bridge. The commercial PC isn't optimized for music playback. It's simply a massively paralleled processor doing hundreds of things simultaneously all of the time. The external audiophile DAC only does music and naught else. It's also susceptible to incoming noise over the USB pipeline. Combating it works its processes harder to compromise their efficacy. It's better not to have noise in the first place than fight it. Lower jitter is easier sorted than the high jitters. A bridge thus buffers incoming data, inserts galvanic isolation, applies FPGA optimizations and high-performance oscillators on purpose-designed power from precision regulators. What presents at the DAC's digital input is signal already dry-cleaned, starched and pressed. The DAC works less hard on purer data. So its sonics improve. That's the theory. Where I play, I haven't yet met a USB DAC which didn't act accordingly. That's to say, it always sounded better behind a bridge than PC-direct without one. Sometimes the most direct way isn't best.