With the company's track record for good-sounding kit, quite a bit of it reviewed in these pages, I naturally anticipated plenty of favourable comments to follow. Some grumbling simply had to get expelled first. With the external companion PSU capable of outputting up to 19V, users need to make certain to only set it to either 7V or 9V when powering the tx-USBultra. Otherwise higher power will send distressed smoke signals. As to whether 7V or 9V, let your ears decide. The sPS-500's green light strip doubles as power button. Unlike with the included SMPS, the Ultra can now be powered off without unplugging a thing.

And obviously, the whole concept of an additional box with USB i/o means doubling up on your USB cables. Whether a generic leash on the first leg would be sonically indistinguishable from anything posher, I hoped to learn in the affirmative. Wouldn't it be lovely not to splurge on another designer USB cable?

To kick off, the SOtM with its optional linear power supply as the best-case scenario would A/B against USB going direct into Aqua Hifi's premium discrete R2R DAC. That fed Wyred4Sound's STP SE Stage II, LinnenberG's Allegro monos and our white Audio Physic Codex. In the past, Aqua's optocoupled Formula had proven mostly immune to USB fixes. Should that be the case once again, I was primed to swap converters for something more jittery. After all, upward of a certain level, one should expect that converters incorporate equally effective USB optimization of their own.

Double-header KingRex uArt entering the SOtM, Curious Cable exiting it to enter the DAC.

It's why Intona have become OEM to a number of hifi brands that wanted to build the German hi-speed isolator tech into their own kit. It avoids the above kludge of multiple external boxes with their additional cabling. Not today though. Today is all about more boxes making merrier. That's two extra components and one each extra USB cable, power umbilical and power cord. That's a whole lotta stuff to improve a DAC maker's own USB implementation. Again, the SOtM doesn't bypass or replace it. It simply gets switched in series with it. The concept? One filter is good, a pre then post filter are better. Whatever noisy flotsam makes it past the first sieve will get sifted out by the second. Or so theory would have it.

Let's then press play. Hurray?