The UpTone Audio USB REGEN just might be the next big leap for computer audio.
[The reviews from many of the over 3,000 people worldwide now using a REGEN are filled with excitement over how musically effective the device is. Drop in on some thoughtful ones here at ComputerAudiophile.com: USB REGEN Listening Impressions.]
The USB REGEN takes the digital audio stream from your computer or other music streaming device, and generates a completely new USB data signal to feed to your DAC. It accomplishes this by combining a carefully chosen USB hub chip with an ultra low-noise regulator and low-jitter clock. Importantly, it does so with ideal impedance matching—right at the input of your DAC.
If you are familiar with the variations in sound quality that come from different computer configurations, USB cables, and power supplies (no, "bits are bits" really does not apply when pursuing the audio summit), then you will immediately recognize the often dramatic effect that the REGEN can have on the the connection you feel with the music.
Although the REGEN does not eliminate all sound quality differences between USB cables in a high-end system, it significantly reduces those differences. John Swenson has written about how the PHY chips and processors at the input of every USB DAC (even those with galvanic isolation) are sensitive to "packet noise modulation" and ground-plane noise—caused by poor signal integrity and impedance mis-matching. Every USB audio source (computer or streamer) and cable causes this, every DAC is affected by this—and the REGEN is the cure.
The USB REGEN's secondary function is that it disconnects the computer's noisy 5 volt bus power coming down the USB cable, and provides clean 5VBUS on its output--for DACs that need it—via a second ultra low-noise regulator.
From all the time we have spent listening to the REGEN in our systems we can say that it is exceeding our expectations. Often it sounds like you are listening to a different DAC! Of course the benefit will vary with each computer/DAC system, but we hear positive differences even with very modest systems. The improvement is different than with a power supply or computer optimizations—but perhaps larger.
Regardless of whether you are feeding your USB DAC from a from a stock computer, a fully-optimized music server, or a streamer/renderer (Auralic Aries, Bryston, Moon Audio, SOtM sMS-100, etc.), the REGEN has the potential to carry your music system to a new level.
Here is a quote from one new USB REGEN owner (very typical of the comments seen all over):
Hi Alex,I installed the Regen yesterday, and I wasn't expecting anything spectacular from a $175 add-on. I was prepared to do somelengthy careful listening to notice any differences in the sound. But as soon as I played my first track, I immediately mumbled "Holy sh-t?!", could the Regen really cause such a dramatic effect? I started playing one track after another, and was grinning the entire time. Everything I played sounded meatier, fleshier, richer. The digital artifacts that to me are the cause of listening fatigue and discomfort were almost non-existent. You have made for one happy camper!Thanks much,,Jerry — Wisconsin, USA
The USB REGEN kit includes:
a) the REGEN itself in an all black with silver-printed aluminum case (57 x 46 x 18mm); Input is USB 'B' jack, Output is USB 'A' jack, DC jack is 5.5mm x 2.1mm.
b) the best spec'ed and sounding 22 watt/7.5V/2.93A (overkill) tabletop (93 x 54 x 36mm) world-voltage-compatible SMPS we could find (use a nice linear if you want—in the range of 6-9V/1.5A is fine; or even 12V if you are certain that your DAC is not deriving much power from USB bus); Our groundbreaking--and leakage-path-breaking UltraCap LPS-1 is ideal. Or if you own an UpTone JS-2 LPS, then you can consider using one of its outputs—set to 7V—to power the REGEN very nicely!
c) an 18-inch long Volex 18awg power cord to go from the SMPS to the wall (get fancy if you like, or if you are overseas use a power cord with locally appropriate plug);
d) a male/male USB A/B solid adapter plug (for hanging the REGEN right from the back of your DAC; maybe stick a block of something under it if you feel it needs support);
e) a 6-inch male/male USB A>B cable if things are too tight around your DAC's USB input or you just don't want to use the solid adapter.