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  1. #1
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    Philadelphia
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    Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    Was never interested in USB for digital audio; seeing the plethora of add-ons, de-crapifiers, and virtual hoops that audiophiles were jumping through was a turn off. Also I donít have any DSD files, so didnít need that extra capability.

    Using the SPDIF BNC connection between my Schiit Yggdrasil and Bryston BDP-2 seemed the best choice, especially since Bryston had their unique Audio Device output card which is SPDIF only. Mike Moffat, designer at Schiit even said, ďfriends donít let friends use USBĒ.

    Sent the Yggdrasil in for the analog upgrade a couple years ago, and had them install the Gen 5 USB at the same time, because, why not since itís there, but continued to use SPDIF.

    Unison USB upgrade was announced earlier this year; around the same time, I got curious and tried a cheap printer cable (didnít own an audio one) with the Gen 5 and was surprised it sounded as good as it did. On Schiitís site, they stated that Moffat now preferred Unison to SPDIF, which piqued my interest even more, so I ordered the upgrade board.

    Luckily there are detailed DIY instructions online pertaining to installing G5 and I followed these for the Unison swap. It wasnít too difficult... mostly a lot of screws to remove.

    Here is the Unison card before and after installation, and the Gen 5 for comparison.







    Also found a better cable. German-made Intona Premium, which is their entry level.



    After putting a lot of hours on both the new card and cable, I compared it to SPDIF connection. I ended up feeling that there was a little more info and a better soundstage with USB (Iím not good at describing things I hear). At the very least, USB was doing no worse than SPDIF, which is kind of remarkable since USB isnít the BDP-2ís forte.

    The only downside - which I didnít notice with G5 - is that when skipping tracks rapidly, thereís occasionally a ďbzzrtĒ sound between every third / fourth one, or so. Itís not real loud and not a real issue for me.

    So Iíve sold my $$$ Tombo Tron reference BNC cable. It makes me wonder what kind of difference there might be with a music server thatís actually optimized for USB output. Or whether something like the Innuous Phoenix would be a good addition... but thatís just adding another USB device which I originally didnít want to do.

    Anyway, it ended up being a bit of a surprise. Anyone considering the Unison upgrade, Iíd say go for it.
    Bryston BDP-2ÖSchiit Yggdrasil...Coda 07xÖCherry Maraschino...BMC PureVox
    Intona Premium USBÖCerious Graphene Extreme XLR...Double Helix Cables Chaperone XLR...ELF Super Helix
    Torus RM15...Shunyata Alpha HCÖMad Scientist First...HF Reveal


  2. #2

    Re: Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrppv View Post
    Was never interested in USB for digital audio; seeing the plethora of add-ons, de-crapifiers, and virtual hoops that audiophiles were jumping through was a turn off. Also I donít have any DSD files, so didnít need that extra capability.

    Using the SPDIF BNC connection between my Schiit Yggdrasil and Bryston BDP-2 seemed the best choice, especially since Bryston had their unique Audio Device output card which is SPDIF only. Mike Moffat, designer at Schiit even said, ďfriends donít let friends use USBĒ.

    Sent the Yggdrasil in for the analog upgrade a couple years ago, and had them install the Gen 5 USB at the same time, because, why not since itís there, but continued to use SPDIF.

    Unison USB upgrade was announced earlier this year; around the same time, I got curious and tried a cheap printer cable (didnít own an audio one) with the Gen 5 and was surprised it sounded as good as it did. On Schiitís site, they stated that Moffat now preferred Unison to SPDIF, which piqued my interest even more, so I ordered the upgrade board.

    Luckily there are detailed DIY instructions online pertaining to installing G5 and I followed these for the Unison swap. It wasnít too difficult... mostly a lot of screws to remove.

    Here is the Unison card before and after installation, and the Gen 5 for comparison.







    Also found a better cable. German-made Intona Premium, which is their entry level.



    After putting a lot of hours on both the new card and cable, I compared it to SPDIF connection. I ended up feeling that there was a little more info and a better soundstage with USB (Iím not good at describing things I hear). At the very least, USB was doing no worse than SPDIF, which is kind of remarkable since USB isnít the BDP-2ís forte.

    The only downside - which I didnít notice with G5 - is that when skipping tracks rapidly, thereís occasionally a ďbzzrtĒ sound between every third / fourth one, or so. Itís not real loud and not a real issue for me.

    So Iíve sold my $$$ Tombo Tron reference BNC cable. It makes me wonder what kind of difference there might be with a music server thatís actually optimized for USB output. Or whether something like the Innuous Phoenix would be a good addition... but thatís just adding another USB device which I originally didnít want to do.

    Anyway, it ended up being a bit of a surprise. Anyone considering the Unison upgrade, Iíd say go for it.
    Great post and thanks for the photos...

    Now that you're using USB, consider renting in or getting a demo of the Shunyata Alpha USB cable. Installing mine was a component-level upgrade.

    I should consider getting my Gungnir upgraded to Unison at some point.

    Cheers.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Philadelphia
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    148

    Re: Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Puma Cat View Post
    Great post and thanks for the photos...

    Now that you're using USB, consider renting in or getting a demo of the Shunyata Alpha USB cable. Installing mine was a component-level upgrade.

    I should consider getting my Gungnir upgraded to Unison at some point.

    Cheers.
    Thanks - will check out the Alpha at some point. Have a couple of Shunyata PCs.
    Bryston BDP-2ÖSchiit Yggdrasil...Coda 07xÖCherry Maraschino...BMC PureVox
    Intona Premium USBÖCerious Graphene Extreme XLR...Double Helix Cables Chaperone XLR...ELF Super Helix
    Torus RM15...Shunyata Alpha HCÖMad Scientist First...HF Reveal


  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Poland
    Posts
    1,530

    Re: Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    The modularity of the Shiit DACs and the fact they actually DO offer upgrades is pretty remarkable in my book.

    There has beed a tremendous progress in USB input boards quality in the past 5 years and many reference DACs that are only 3 or 5 years old are now obsolate, only 'cos their designers never went this route.
    Adam

    Speakers: Magico M3
    Amp: Vitus SM-103 / MSB M202
    Digital: Lampi Pacific + Lampi DSD Komputer
    Cables: AQ WEL Signature IC / Shunyata Anaconda Z-Tron SC / AQ Hurricane PCs

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Location
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    Posts
    1,667

    Re: Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    My ACS10 is only USB out, I've learned they go through a lot to make sure it's a high quality USB output signal. The ACS is a Linux based product.

    I also learned my USB input chip in my 526 was programmed to work with Windows/IOS. You may have read a post where I was having hand shake issues. Levinson was surprised to learn that the two pieces even worked together.

    So is Linux that unusual to use or do most DAC's work with any input? Sorry to piggy back but it sounded like you guys might know.
    Aurender ACS10 w/AQ Diamond,
    Mark Levinson #526 & 532h, JBL 4367's
    Clearaudio Performance DC w/Maestro cart
    All Clarus Crimson cabling, AC to binding post. Surgex
    HT: Marantz AV8003, Linn 5125, JBL SAM3ha, Revel s30,
    SVS PC13 Ultra
    Transparent, Analysis Plus & Tributaries. PS Audio filtering
    Sony XBR-75X940D & BDP

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Philadelphia
    Posts
    148

    Re: Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

    Think Bryston uses a Linux OS, and my previous Auraliti PK100 file player did too. The Yggdrasil DAC requires a driver download (which I didn't need) to work with Windows. I've had no experience with Windows based products; don't know which is more prevalent overall.
    Bryston BDP-2ÖSchiit Yggdrasil...Coda 07xÖCherry Maraschino...BMC PureVox
    Intona Premium USBÖCerious Graphene Extreme XLR...Double Helix Cables Chaperone XLR...ELF Super Helix
    Torus RM15...Shunyata Alpha HCÖMad Scientist First...HF Reveal


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Adventures in USB - Schiit Unison Upgrade

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