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Listen and enjoy:
Picking up the INT 202 remote control is a pleasure. It’s solid, just hefty enough, custom-made and definitely not a repurposed one-size-doesn’t-really-fit wonder. The Weiss remote is refined, elegant in a minimalist way and has good ergonomics (equally well-suited for the thumbs of right or left-handed persons).

The first thing one notices is that the volume moves up and down immediately in response to each up or down-arrow button click, without any faint ticking between steps. This artifact sometimes occurs with digitally controlled analogue resistor-network controls. The first -20dB of attenuation can be adjusted in rather tiny 0.5dB steps with 1dB steps beyond that all the way to -60dB. Keeping either arrow button depressed continuously causes the attenuation to slew at roughly 3dB per second up to -20dB, a rate that seemed just right to me.

If you’ve tried some of the popular USB to S/PDIF converters or DACs with USB inputs, you already know that audio quality is variable ranging from mediocre to rather good at least for 44.1kHz material. In general, some portion of the difference in sound quality relates to the jitter characteristics of each device. Those with high jitter are often edgy, growly and torque one’s ears in various not too subtle ways. Too much bite to strings and glassy transients on pianos are easily perceived jitter-related symptoms. The reverberation in large halls seems to fade in two or three steps rather than continuously and is greatly diminished in smaller settings. As one moves from high jitter to moderate to low-jitter devices, everything starts smoothing out.

USB interfaces such as the hiFace from M2Tech provide good overall performance but in comparison to more elaborate and expensive products, always seem a little tighter, drier and lacking detail and ambiance. They’re not quite as realistic at conveying the human nature of vocalists and the eccentricities of those machines we know as musical instruments. The INT202 is much smoother, richer, more accurate, lively and natural across the board. At higher sampling rates, the INT202 moves into another dimension with respect to delivering the anticipatory tension, presence, continuousness, air and emotional connection of just about any kind of music. Many other interfaces simply don’t have this level of refinement (nor do they have their own power supply, attenuation, phase control, bit-transparency checking, muting and multiple outlets).

For some perspective, the hiFace sells for $150/$180 in RCA/BNC versions. The Weiss sells for 10 times that, hardly insignificant. M2Tech's new hiFace Evo would likely be a more meaningful comparator.
- Ed
While electronic devices are never going to be completely free of jitter, the Weiss INT 202 interface has apparently reduced it to an extremely low level courtesy of the advanced JET PLL subsystem and careful circuit board layout. With JET at the core of the design, it’s possible to tune critical clock regeneration parameters, essentially reducing jitter in a variety of ways that best suit a particular application. This approach really seems to have paid off here. Listening for example to Albert Fuller play Rameau’s harpsichord composition on a 44.1kHz Reference Recordings title illustrates the superiority of a very low-jitter product. Harpsichords are often difficult to record well but here one can enjoy the almost luminous overtones and reflections that emanate from the strings and case.

Surrounding the solo instrument and performer there’s a deep and wide soundstage along with a palpable sense of the acoustic space. The sonic elements often trashed by excessive jitter on lesser gear come through in their full glory. The overall presentation is complete and convincing right down to the reverberation from the studio walls.

Although much less expensive and thus very much to its credit, the hiFace at least sketches out the same qualities. However, it serves everything up in considerably smaller portions. On the Reference Recordings Jazz Sampler, Eileen Farrell sounds somewhat flattened and a bit too rounded at the edges. Layers of sound from the other performers are collapsed, room reverberation is reduced and overall the sound is less dynamic.

There’s timorousness to the voice of some singers, male and female alike, that frequently gets lost in translation. Compared to the hiFace, the Weiss interface gives Eileen’s voice much better definition, richness of timbre and subtle details but definitely not in an analytic or hard fashion. She’s more delicate, fleshy and biologically three-dimensional. When Eileen holds a long note, one can hear all kinds of subtle sonic and emotional nuances as she gradually tapers it off. You’re right there with her anticipating every moment. It’s an intimate and personal experience as it should be.

While impressive and noticeable, all the details you’ll hear are not in my opinion excessively hifi or otherwise hyper realistic. What the Weiss does enable is a more accurate, detailed but entirely non-fatiguing presentation across a wide range of musical genres. It delivers that elusive combination of dynamic slam and ethereal luminance. Moving on to higher-sampling-rate tracks, the Minnesota Orchestra’s 88.2kHz/24-bit arrangement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Little Red Riding Hood piano études (also from Reference Recordings) comes across with the hiFace as reduced in dynamics and a bit congealed. There’s rounding of transients, less width and depth to the soundstage and an overall flattening of imaging.

With the Weiss interface, reverse everything - more of everything desirable, less of anything that isn’t. Way up at 176.4kHz, the same orchestra through the INT 202 delivers all the bombastic, intriguing, lascivious and somewhat ridiculous revelry of the Samson and Delilah Bacchanale composed by the sober and responsible Camille Saint-Saëns. This piece is set in ancient Gaza complete with high priests, large numbers of Philistines and possibly the prior incarnations of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the leads. Franz Liszt organized the first performance of the opera in the Weimar. As the greatest musical superstar of his age, he should have made an appropriate impresario for such material. The entire apparently rather well populated Minnesota Orchestra was spread out within a soundstage of realistic height and width with all manner of percussion instruments across the back, including one very large drum. In front there are phalanges of violins and violas with woodwinds in the middle. You can hear them all with layers of depth front to back, spaciousness and a convincing acoustical space. The orchestra shrieks when it needs to and purrs in-between. Nuances of rhythm, expression and timbre are audible individually and collectively.

This over-the-top exotic dance movement—used a bit too frequently as a mood-setting transitional bridge in movies—reminds me of a famous New Yorker cartoon from the 60s depicting a Roman orgy going full tilt. Scantily clad couples swing from the chandeliers and splash into the pool; giant salvers groan with food; nubile youths chase each other around the hall; maidens feed reclining diners grapes; the whole bit. Pandemonium reigns of a rather agreeable sort. The master of the household turns to the steward. "You may start serving the cheap wine now." The party has apparently just begun.

In case an incoming phone call temporarily snaps one back to reality, pressing the mute button reveals another little pleasant surprise. Instead of simply snapping the sound off perhaps with an irritating tick, the volume smoothly ramps down to an inaudible level over the course of perhaps half a second. Phone call over, press mute again and the volume ramps back up. Nice.

Depressing mute for a few seconds activates absolute phase control mode. The up and down arrows now represent normal and inverted polarity. Once again selection is free from ticks or clicks. The outputs are momentarily muted during the transition. Generally speaking, one polarity will be superior to the other. Being able to evaluate it so readily (swapping speaker cables is not a viable option) is an important contribution to making one’s system sound right regardless of recorded polarity inversions or the wiring of local electronics.

Conclusion: The Weiss interface combines leading-edge technology that works day in day out along with the right combination of mundane creature features for real people to use and enjoy. The low levels of jitter achieved by the INT 202 helps remove one of the major bugaboos that often hinder digital audio from achieving its promise of state-of-the-art audio performance and operational convenience. There is nothing quirky about the 202. It’s easy to install, easy to use and very easy to like. Daniel Weiss clearly understands the differences between the needs of recording engineers and the expectations of consumer audio enthusiasts. His INT 202 delivers the next generation of sonic goods and does so with a package of features that are guaranteed to keep the listeners smiling.

Completeness of delivery:
Detailed user’s manual; software and bit-perfect test files provided on DVD-R; power supply module. No cables.
User interface: Very easy to use yet complete both for electronics and software.
Pricing: You get what you pay for, namely bit-perfect data transfer, advanced jitter-reduction technology, a well-done remote and plenty of sockets.
Final comments: An essential component if you want PC audio to sound its best.

Weiss website