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Superdad

ISO REGEN Listening Impressions (kicked off with some measurements)

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A very nice gentleman in Oregon just sent me a review he wrote for another forum (https://www.audioaficionado.org), and he gave me permission to repost it here:

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Test Driving the UpTone Audio ISO REGEN

Short-and-Sweet Summary for the TMI-averse: Bozhe moi!

Background: If you’ve followed the nearly year-long morphing of my laptop-based bedroom audio system from “secondary” to for-all-practical-purposes primary listening venue, you know that I’ve employed what amounts to a nickel-and-dime approach to tweaking it since treating its walls and corners with a bevy of GIK bass-trap and scatter-plate panels that have rendered it a visual Stonehenge. 

It’s an approach appropriate to a fixed-income-retiree’s budget, and each successive baby-step investment (in Wireworld Electra 7 power cords, a Walker-modded Luminous Audio passive line stage, and an Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply for the REGEN USB-stream regenerator affixed to my TEAC digital-to-analog converter) has kicked the system’s perceived-to-these-ears sonic performance up several notches. 

I’d already achieved big performance gains with two enhancements to the entry-level purchased-in-2015 REGEN—the $35 USPCB A>B Adapter (far superior in sonic terms to a six-inch USB cable), followed late last year with Uptone’s LPS-1 linear power supply. The improvement evident with the latter was so huge (comparable to what I’d experienced with the upgraded-connector Electra 7s) that I wondered if the ISO REGEN with its upgraded hub chip and galvanic isolation could achieve a near-comparable performance bump. And you know what happens when an audiophile begins to “wonder”.

Here’s Uptone’s plain-English description of the ISO’s galvanic isolation function: The ISO REGEN creates a “moat” to isolate the power and signal grounds from computer/stream USB sources before your DAC. This “moat” blocks leakage currents and other low level interference from the source. What you should hear, Uptone adds, is more accurate bass, the unmasking of microdynamics, and more air and space around instruments and performers.

Only one way to find out if this was true, so I ordered one. It arrived a couple of days later via Two-Day Priority Mail.

Hookup:
As is suggested by the comparative size of its USB ports, the ISO REGEN is as diminutive as its entry-level sibling. The dip switch in the red area on the input side allows the user to switch galvanic isolation “on” or “off”. The default “down” position is “on”, and that’s how I leave it configured for normal operation. 

picture.php?albumid=528&pictureid=4589A semi-rigid USPCB A>B adapter is included as standard with the ISO REGEN. The “A” connector is inserted into the the regenerator’s output, the “B” into the TEAC DAC’s input (circled in red).

picture.php?albumid=528&pictureid=4590Installing the ISO REGEN leaves its chassis bottom suspended about 1.25” above the shelf top, with its only support the semi-rigid USB adapter inserted in the DAC. Not a good idea, in my view, given the downward force gravity and the ISO’s power supply and USB input cables exert on the device’s rear. So, as I’d done with the original REGEN, I cut a 1.25”-high piece of .75”-thick oak to support the ISO.

Listening: 
Right off the no-settling-time bat, the ISO REGEN demonstrated that it had earned its keep. And, with galvanic isolation enabled, a whole lot more.  

I added the “galvanic isolation enabled” qualifier because I hear a distinctly audible difference between the “on” and “off” modes. Don’t get me wrong. Even with the isolation function disabled, the sonic presentation with the ISO REGEN installed is more open and more transparent than what I hear with the original REGEN. I’d call it an incremental improvement. But enable galvanic isolation, and, with anything resembling a halfway-decent recording…

To begin the audition, I loaded Leonard Bernstein’s reading with the New York Philharmonic of the fourth movement of Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra (Columbia/Sony 16/44 rip, recorded 1959 at Brooklyn’s St. George Hotel) into JRiver and clicked “Play”. And shook my head almost immediately. (I also let fly with a juicy exclamation at that point, but since this is polite company…) 

Yes, the soundstage widened more than a tad to extend itself fully wall-to-wall, it deepened considerably farther behind the front wall boundary, the overall spatial sensation was even “airier”—by a considerable margin--than it had been following the Walker-mod Luminous Audio passive line stage upgrade, bass was tauter, and instrumental tonality struck me as purer—or, if you’d like, more accurate. But that was just for starters.

If you’ve glanced at my last couple of reviews, you know that I’ve alluded to the progressively increased sensation of being able to “reach in and touch someone” in the soundstage. Well, in listening to the Bartok with the ISO in place, that paradigm flipped. The performers—or rather their instruments--were reaching out and touching me. It’s not that their physical locations had moved forward. Their now more fully-fleshed-out images remained firmly rooted in the more expansive space they occupied. But the output of their instruments was, for want of a better word, energizing the listening room space (including, I suspect from the enhanced sense of in-room ambience, the scatter plates fronting my rear-corner GIK traps) in a manner that communicated “live” in spades.  

A couple of months ago, Serge initiated a thread asking if any of us had experienced a sensation tantamount to room pressurization initiated by a recording. If what hit me with the Bartok was not quite measurable in isobars, it was nonetheless way ahead of whatever’s in second place. 

A one-off? I next put on a rip of the Buddha Records CD reissue of Henry Mancini’s score for “Peter Gunn”, with Mancini conducting a not inconsiderable array of jazz talent. Originally released by RCA in 1959, this is a “Living Stereo” recording in the best sense. With the ISO REGEN installed I could feel Dick Nash’s trombone, Pete Candoli’s trumpet, and the key strikes of pianist Johnny Williams to a far greater degree than what I’d heard pre-ISO. More than that, I was darned near sitting in with them.

A round of now-more-dimensionally-layered choral embedded in the Emil Tchakarov-conducted “Polovtsian Dances with Choir” from Borodin’s Prince Igor (Sony 16/44 rip) continued the “good grief, they’re in the room” hot streak. And it’s kept rolling since during more than 100 hours of listening to rips and hi-rez downloads of classical, filmscores, jazz, opera, and vocals. Not that the ISO will render pan-potted-to-death studio recordings, Phase 4s, and the like step-into-them holograms, though in every one of those instances where I’ve listened to such the output is noticeably more resolved top-to-bottom across the frequency spectrum. 

I’d read a review of the ISO REGEN on another website where the reviewer stated that while he heard greater clarity and a more silent background with the unit in the loop, he sensed a diminution of pace, rhythm, and timing. That’s not the case here, as I haven’t detected a single PRaTfall from a recording fed through the ISO. Quite the opposite. The ISO delivers on its promise of unmasking microdynamics, and in my listening that achievement--and the concurrent unmasking of previously under-the-radar inner voicing, a sharper delineation of attack, sustain, and decay, and the fleshing out of instruments and voices energizing the space around them--facilitates a more enhanced perception of PRaT.

Conclusion: The ISO REGEN is enough of a transformative game-changer in the bedroom system that I don’t expect to muck around with any more upgrades there. But I have started to save my pennies for an ISO REGEN to install in the living-dining-room system.
__________________
Jim T., Corvallis, OR

Living-Dining Room: Win 10 AMD A12 laptop/JRiver Media Center 22 audio player, with music fed by 3TB external drive; Wireworld Starlight 7 USB cable; TEAC UD-501 DAC; upgraded SOTA Sapphire III; Origin Live Encounter Mk3c/Ortofon 2M Black, Graham Slee Era Gold V; McIntosh MR77; Oppo BDP-83; conrad johnson Premier 17LS (6922EH); conrad-johnson MF2500; Paradigm SE-3. Wireworld Equinox 6 ICs, Blue Jeans/Belden 5T00UP SC. PS Audio Dectet, Wireworld Electra 5/2 PCs (PR17LS, Dectet), Hubbell HBL5362 duplex outlet. GIK standard 244 and scatter-plate 244 and Monster traps.

Home Office: Win 10 PC/JRiver Media Center 22 audio player, with music fed by 4TB external drive; Uptone Audio REGEN via USPCB A>B Adapter; TEAC UD-501 DAC; Luminous Audio Axiom Mk. II passive line stage; c-j Sonographe SA250; Paradigm SE-1. WW Equinox 6 IC, Blue Jeans/Belden 5T00UP speaker cable, Shunyata Hydra PLC, Wireworld Electra 5^2 power cord from PLC to UD-501. 

Bedroom: Win 10 i7 laptop/JRiver Media Center 22 audio player; Wireworld Silver Starlight 7 USB cable to Uptone Audio ISO REGEN via USPCB A>B Adapter; Uptone Audio LPS-1 power supply; TEAC UD-501; Luminous Audio Axiom Mk. II Walker Mod passive line stage; c-j Sonographe SA250 w/Vampire input jacks and Cardas binding posts; stand-mounted Paradigm Studio 20 v.5. WW Eclipse 7 ICs; Blue Jeans/Belden 5T00UP speaker cable; Blue Circle Thingee FX 0e PLC; upgraded-connector WW Electra 7 power cords (from wall to PLC and from PLC to UD-501); PS Audio Power Port; Stillpoints Ultra Minis under laptop, LPS-1, and SA250; GIK 244, 244 Scatter Plate, 224, and Monster traps, DIY 4"-thick 12"x15" traps.
 

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1 hour ago, sdube said:

Whatever, with Isolation turned sound is super and no glitches for (almost) a week now. Fingers still crossed, but the sound from my new Margules Orpheus (ceramic driver speakers) is brilliant.

 

Nice set-up Saurabh!  B| 

Very glad to know that things are working well for you.

--Alex C. 

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2 hours ago, Superdad said:

 

Nice set-up Saurabh!  B| 

Very glad to know that things are working well for you.

--Alex C. 

Thanks so much, Alex. As I have mentioned, I write with music playing, so that is going well, too. (Touch wood.) I will send a question your way on email about the new LPS.

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Received IR and LPS 1.2 last week, hooked up on Friday and have been listening/burning in since. At first connection, a change was notable (iMac->Silver Dragon USB cable ->IR->USPCB A>B->Chord Dave->Black Dragon Headphone cable->Focal Utopias). Context: I am relatively new to digital audio and was previously a 2-channel listener with an AudioResearch CD-Player, etc. I couldn't abide fully digital listening until I listened to music streaming from my iMac into a Chord Mojo DAC (iMac->Silver Dragon USB cable->Chord Mojo->Black Dragon cable->Focal Elears). A new sense of ease ensued. I could hear music again. I moved forward to the Dave and Focal Utopias and I was able to engage with the music in a way the nearly matched my 2-channel listening experience. With the IR powered by the LPS 1.2, things have shifted to much greater ease in listening. I am hearing each instrument clearly and integrated into a closer approximation to a live experience. Localization cues are better. Ambience (from live recordings) is much better. There are still constraints, but they don't prevent me from relaxing into the music. I had a new experience of thinking something had fallen somewhere in the house when it was in the recording. The IR with the LPS 1.2 has significantly improved my musical enjoyment.

 

I'm curious. At AudioBacon, replacement of the stock Uptone Audio DC cable with a ZenWave silver cable reportedly improved sound. Anyone here willing to comment?

 

Next step, Innuos MkII SE server starting with Silver Dragon USB cable to IR. Next step Chord Blu2. I could stop where I am and be content. But I can tell from TT.vinyl experience that more might be attainable.

 

Lastly, Alex is simply amazing. I don't know how he finds the hours to do what he does at Uptone. His customer service is incredible. I await with great interest in what inventive mischief he and Mr. Swenson are up to. I love the way this company rolls.

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24 minutes ago, InegoMontoya said:

I love the way this company rolls.

 

Wow, thanks for ALL that! Really glad you are enjoying our products in your system.

 

As for how we roll, well, as Inego Montoya's nemesis would say, any other way for us would be inconceivable!  :D

 

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Ditto, Inigo, on Alex's customer service. Where he finds the hours to deliver it mystifies me.

 

I'd add that after a few hundred hours' operation, the output I hear with the ISO REGEN/LPS 1 in place* exhibits the ease and flow I associate with well-recorded analog, while maintaining the dynamic reach and punch of digital. I'm surprised at how liquid and venue-spacious ripped CDs (mostly large-ensemble classical and jazz) I'd considered marginal pre-IR/LPS 1 sound. And well-made high-resolution downloads? I spent part of last night shaking my head at the lifelike "they're in the room, and they've made it huuuuge" presence of the ensemble in the  24/176 iteration of Eiji Oue's reading of Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances" with the Minnesota Orchestra (a Keith Johnson Reference Recordings production). And not just the presence, but the unmasking of previously-buried low-level details of inner voicing that enrich the sense of rhythmic and melodic flow. It's all there.

 

Now I'm saving my pennies for an LPS 1.2 to complete the system.

 

* Yeah, I'm the guy Alex graciously misidentified as a "gentleman" a few posts back (he doesn't know me very well).

 

Jim

 

 

   

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21 minutes ago, Bigbwb said:

will the mean well power supply that comes with the LPS-1 work safely to power the ISO Regen?

 

Most definitely!  

 

But just to be clear about the other direction: The 22W Mean Well SMPS that comes with the REGENs (and with the original UltraCap LPS-1) is not sufficient to power the new generation LPS-1.2., which requires the 36W charger we ship ship with it.

 

Have a great weekend everyone,

 

—Alex C.

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3 minutes ago, Superdad said:

 

Most definitely!  

 

But just to be clear about the other direction: The 22W Mean Well SMPS that comes with the REGENs (and with the original UltraCap LPS-1) is not sufficient to power the new generation LPS-1.2., which requires the 36W charger we ship ship with it.

 

Have a great weekend everyone,

 

—Alex C.

 

Thanks alex for the prompt reply! I recently sold my original Regen and now have a ISO Regen and LPS-1 (used) on the way!  I may end up just keeping the ISO Regen.

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On 3/9/2018 at 12:15 PM, jimtranr said:

I'd add that after a few hundred hours' operation, the output I hear with the ISO REGEN/LPS-1 in place exhibits the ease and flow I associate with well-recorded analog, while maintaining the dynamic reach and punch of digital. I'm surprised at how liquid and venue-spacious ripped CDs (mostly large-ensemble classical and jazz) I'd considered marginal pre-IR/LPS 1 sound.

 

Gentleman Jim (B|), 

Thanks for posting your impressions.  Indeed it seems that there is lots of life and nuance--ease and flow as you put it--still to be found on the humble CD.  We are happy to be a contributor to folks getting more satisfaction from their music collection.

ENJOY!

 

--Alex C.

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Sorry if this question has been asked before.  Can I safely run my ISO Regen off 5V if my dac (Chord DAVE) only needs the 5V to recognise a usb input?

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22 minutes ago, str-1 said:

Sorry if this question has been asked before.  Can I safely run my ISO Regen off 5V if my dac (Chord DAVE) only needs the 5V to recognise a usb input?

 

Sure, that's fine.

 

The 4 ultra-ultra-low-noise LT3042 voltage regulators on the the downstream side of the ISO REGEN--powered by whatever external DC supply you have attached--at all set to 3.3V for the various circuit elements (2 for the USB 3.1 hub chip, 1 for the Crystek 575 clock, 1 for the downstream side of the isolator chip).  So 5V in, 3.3V out gives the regs plenty of drop to regulate in.

 

Now the 1-amp TI TPS7A4700 that we dedicate to producing very clean 5VBUS power does normally need to be feed more than 5V to regulate to 5V.  With just 5V in the VBUS output won't be regulated.  But two factors in your circumstance make this not a big deal:

 

a) You indicate your DAC really only needs VBUS for a handshake, so getting 4.9 volts instead of a full 5V is no big deal--as your DAC is not presenting much(any?) load pulling that unregulated voltage down lower;

 

b) I seem to recall that you are using one of our UltraCap supplies to power the ISO REGEN, and since that is already VERY clean power, it is not a big deal if it essentially is passed through for the VBUS.

 

All that said, please remember that the ISO REGEN itself does need 5VBUS coming into its USB 'B' input jack.  It sips about 15mA of VBUS to power the upstream side of the isolator chip.  (And that is where the 5th LT3042 is used--to make 3.3V for that side of the isolator instead of using the chip's noisy internal 3.3V regulator as others do.)  Even if your DAC does not need VBUS power to operate, the ISO REGEN does. (That's a common question we receive, so I mention it here.)

 

Best,

--Alex C.

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Alex- is there a longer replacement cord for the one between the ISO Regen and the LPS 1 so I can move the LPS 1 further from my devises?  My LPS 1 that powers my IR is now sitting on my small desk along with my Concero HD dac and Schiit Jot. It seems the LPS 1 may be causing some interference making my headphones way brighter than normal. I cannot move the LPS 1 off of my desk with the lack of cord length and where the IR is positioned now. Please advise.  I am powering the Concert HD with a aqvox USB power supply.  I am running the power from the LPS 1 to the IR at 5V now after the aqvox install. I also have the galvanic iso off at the IR. This never has never worked in my system for any longer than 30 minutes before losing signal. 

 

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

 

Paul F.

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34 minutes ago, RamDawg said:

I also have the galvanic iso off at the IR. This never has never worked in my system for any longer than 30 minutes before losing signal. 

 

Paul, I don't know if this will help, but initially I had issues with my DAC randomly losing the input signal via the IR (with galvanic isolation enabled) after several minutes. At the time, the IR was unsupported from below, its chassis bottom suspended a little over an inch above the shelf top. I cut a wood block to fit and put it under the IR. I also moved the LPS-1 powering the IR from its right-next-to-the-DAC location to a different shelf (the stock power cord was long to enable the move). Bottom line: No more dropouts with GI enabled. YMMV.

 

Jim

Edited by jimtranr
Additional info

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4 hours ago, RamDawg said:

Alex- is there a longer replacement cord for the one between the ISO Regen and the LPS 1 so I can move the LPS 1 further from my devises?  My LPS 1 that powers my IR is now sitting on my small desk along with my Concero HD dac and Schiit Jot. It seems the LPS 1 may be causing some interference making my headphones way brighter than normal. I cannot move the LPS 1 off of my desk with the lack of cord length and where the IR is positioned now. Please advise.  I am powering the Concert HD with a aqvox USB power supply.  I am running the power from the LPS 1 to the IR at 5V now after the aqvox install. I also have the galvanic iso off at the IR. This never has never worked in my system for any longer than 30 minutes before losing signal. 

 

Hi Paul:

 

While we offer (not on our web site yet) our Oyaide/Belden 15awg star-quad shielded DC cables, the 1.5m length we stock always has a 5.5mm x 2.5mm plug at at least one end (for JS-2)($75).  The one we stock with 5.5mm x 2.1mm plugs both ends is just 50cm (20-inches, $70)--shorter than the 27-inch stock 16awg coax cord you have.

Ghent Audio in China offers a DC Cable made with lighter gauge Canare star-quad and the lighter Oyaide plugs--and they sell a 1.5m length at a very reasonable price (http://www.ghentaudio.com/part/dc01.html).

 

Another way to go would be to get some of these screw-terminal>barrel CCTV DC plugs (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ER6QWAY) and some 16-18awg per conductor wire pairs and make your own to whatever length you wish.

 

With regards to being able to use the ISO REGEN with galvanic isolation activated, please send me a message--through our web site contact page please--with some details of your system: Computer>USB cable>ISO REGEN>DAC>Preamp.  

I suspect you either need to do some additional grounding, or that your Aqvox USB power injector is somehow making the GI difficult.  Have you tried setting the LPS-1 to 7V and letting the ISO REGEN's 5VBUS output power your DAC?

 

Also, you mention the Schiit Jotunheim.  I am guessing you are not using it with its USB DAC input module (likely the Concero HD is a much better DAC).

 

We'll get this sorted out for you!

 

Best,

--Alex C.

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Thanks Alex for your rapid response!  Yes I'm using the Concero HD with a pair of audioquest Water RCAs to the Jot. Schiity's on board dac.. no bueno..

 

Thanks for the links. I will purchase a 1.5M cord from China. This will allow me to isolate the LPS 1 far enough away from my setup.

 

I've had issues with the IR's galvanic isolation since purchase. To be honest, can't really tell a difference with it off especially now with the Aqvox power supply in place powering the dac. Not an electrical engineer here but isn't this providing GI by default from the IR?

 

Also, I had read in this forum that if the dac is powered separately from the USB connection to the IR (which the Aqvox unit provides), the LPS 1 can be set to 5V to power the IR. With testing even the 3.3V setting is powering the IR. Please advise what's optimal with my setup. I just switched back to 7V for the time being. 

 

Thanks again for your help and guidance!

 

Paul F.

 

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On 2/24/2018 at 4:28 PM, Superdad said:

 

Nice set-up Saurabh!  B| 

Very glad to know that things are working well for you.

--Alex C. 

Golly, the drop-outs came back after I switched the amplifier onto its separate, dedicated circuit (itself occasioned by the Audience Power Conditioner tripping again and again):  first I switched the isolation off of course, but since this morning have it back on again: only two failures in over an hour. Might try the grounding trick again. (And as discussed about to send you a message, too, Alex.)

 

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14 hours ago, RamDawg said:

Also, I had read in this forum that if the dac is powered separately from the USB connection to the IR (which the Aqvox unit provides), the LPS 1 can be set to 5V to power the IR. With testing even the 3.3V setting is powering the IR. Please advise what's optimal with my setup. I just switched back to 7V for the time being. 

 

7 volts is fine.

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37 minutes ago, sdube said:

Golly, the drop-outs came back after I switched the amplifier onto its separate, dedicated circuit (itself occasioned by the Audience Power Conditioner tripping again and again):  first I switched the isolation off of course, but since this morning have it back on again: only two failures in over an hour. Might try the grounding trick again.

 

Saurabh:  Given all the various electrical issues you seem to have had at your location (power conditioner tripping?) over the years, and the sensitivity  of your Berkeley Alpha USB (if I recall), I am not sure that reliably running the ISO REGEN with full galvanic isolation will ever be possible for you.  Very sorry about that, but you can still enjoy its benefits as an über-REGEN. B|

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1 hour ago, sdube said:

the drop-outs came back

Have you ever tried running without your Audience unit plugged in?  Just as an experiment?

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1 hour ago, Superdad said:

 

Saurabh:  Given all the various electrical issues you seem to have had at your location (power conditioner tripping?) over the years, and the sensitivity  of your Berkeley Alpha USB (if I recall), I am not sure that reliably running the ISO REGEN with full galvanic isolation will ever be possible for you.  Very sorry about that, but you can still enjoy its benefits as an über-REGEN. B|

Thanks again, Alex. The power conditioner was not really tripping: just switching off; likely, it was the amp drawing too much current, since after plugging the latter into a separate circuit, there have been no problems there. The GI did function once, with your grinding trick, but then started misbehaving after I put a second hard-adapter from the ISO Regen to the Berkeley Alpha USB. Later, without the grounding, the GI functioned again, till the latest changes. And so, I am going to try the grounding measure again, but need someone with skills to do it: I am clunky and clumsy!

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37 minutes ago, rickca said:

Have you ever tried running without your Audience unit plugged in?  Just as an experiment?

Thanks: I could get the JS-2 that feeds my Mac Mini and the LPS-1 off the Audience. Is that what you meant? Not possible to get the Audience out completely, 'fraid.

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4 minutes ago, sdube said:

Thanks: I could get the JS-2 that feeds my Mac Mini and the LPS-1 off the Audience. Is that what you meant? Not possible to get the Audience out completely, 'fraid.

If the LPS-1 plugged into the Audience is powering your ISO REGEN, it may be worth a try.  But I was suggesting running without the Audience altogether just to see how that might affect your dropouts.  I suspected that would not be possible.  I don't mean to say anything bad about Audience, this is just troubleshooting.

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