Asking for advice to upgrade from Squeezebox Touch

After ROCK came out, I installed it on an i3 NUC and connected its fanless case to a Musical Fidelity V90 DAC via USB. ROCK didn’t much improve the same problems with the sound quality (lack of image specificity, congested soundstage, very litte depth to soundstage, very little bloom) I was having with Windows 10, so I recently retrieved the SBT from the garage, moved the ROCK NUC downstairs to serve Roon via ethernet, and connected the SBT via SPDIF to the Musical Fidelity. Sound was much improved, but, hearing the improvements, now I have appetite for more!

Eventually, I want to land on what I consider a long-term DAC. At this point, there are several candidates (Berkeley Audio Alpha, HoloAudio Spring, etc.), but that list is inevitably going to change the longer I wait. Until then, I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort and expense to upgrade to something in between.

Part of my problem making this decision is that I’d like to stay away from USB, but that cuts down my options in a way that limits the information available for non-auditioning research. The number of DACs that accept an ethernet signal (network audio adapter included, I guess) is small compared to USB DACs. My three reasons to stay away from USB: 1) noisy format requiring band-aids; 2) the V90 DAC is limited to 24/96 from its USB input, and I’d like to use its hi-rez playback while I wait for the next DAC; and 3) I hope that, in the next few years, the high end will move towards ethernet and away from USB, as a matter of sound quality.

The obvious choice is a Raspberry Pi HAT of some sort (HifiBerry, etc.). However, I wonder if there is a sufficient improvement in sound quality over the SBT to justify the expense. After a linear power supply, it seems like the Raspberry Pi option will cost from $150 to $450? If the improvement is not going to be much noticeable, I’d rather just keep the money in my “stereo savings” account and keep waiting for the magical day when I sneak home a new, heavy-hittin’, network DAC.

I’m assuming that a linear power supply added to the SBT won’t improve things much (according to the chatter on the interwebs). Also, I don’t care about MQA or DSD.

Anybody out there that has made this journey that might point me in the right direction? The rest of the system should be able to show most changes in equipment pretty well. It reveals changes in cables readily, so I’m not worried about that potential issue.

Thank you for any guidance you might offer.

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An Allo USBridge or Digione are the obvious low cost options. Many on here, including myself, are very happy with them. The USBridge is far far better than usb out of a PC. You may also want to consider a dac upgrade sooner rather than later.

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Thanks, Tony. Have you had a chance to compare the USBridge/Digione with the Squeezebox Touch in the same system? I’m curious about the sound differences.

I would love to take the plunge into a DAC upgrade, but it seems like the wrong time. If I buy now, my budget is about $2k. I can’t think of a single DAC that has been positively reviewed or is near me enough for me to take a listen that is in that price range. The Mytek Brooklyn fits that bill, but not really, after I have to spend, like, $800 to get a clean USB or SPDIF signal to it. So, if ethernet input is not available at that price range, then my DAC budget drops to around $1200 to account for the USB bandaids.

If I wait, I think I can get away with a $4k budget, at which point the options broaden. When i was living in Virginia, I got a chance to hear the Berkeley Audio DACs (both the Reference and the Alpha) in systems somewhat similar to mine. I don’t think I would ever need a DAC upgrade, if I could get my hands on an Alpha. At the $4k budget, that means used and it means also buying their USB to SPDIF converter bandaid.

I wish USB would just go away…:roll_eyes:

No, I have packed the Touch up and put it in a cupboard. As I recall it was never stellar, just adequate. For $150 ($180 with metal case) the USBridge isn’t a lot of money and you may be surprised how good it is. The Digione seems excellent too but I haven’t tried them both in the same system at the same time. You don’t have to spend $800 on a clean digital output.

I am also trying an expensive (to me) USB cable. I have always been sceptical about digital cables but decided to give it a try. First impressions are good but I don’t like quickly swapping between one and the other. I prefer to leave it for a few weeks and then see if I notice a difference taking it away.

I have to say I don’t notice the characteristics you mentioned in your first post running Rock into a USBridge into a Modwright KWI200 with onboard dac board.

Thanks again, Tony. Your USB experiences are encouraging. It sounds like the Digione is the right product for me (want to use SPDIF to avoid 96kHz limit of DAC’s USB input).

I also prefer to leave a component in for a long time before I switch. I discovered I had a bunch of MP3s in my library that way: I kept skipping songs that I knew I loved, because they sounded irritating. Eventually, I looked at the files and realized I had kept MP3s I had downloaded with the download codes you get with vinyl these days.

I could never tell with confidence the difference between cables until I changed speakers. Went from Aerial Acoustics 7b to Devore Fidelity O/93. My dealer let me take home a few different speaker cables when I bought the speakers, and I was flabbergasted. The difference between the Wireworld Eclipse 7 copper vs. Eclipse 7 copper with silver coating was much bigger than I though cable differences could be. In that system, the silver-over-copper Eclipse 7 was too bright, harsh even (the O/93 had such tendencies to begin with). Smooth and warm with the copper-only Eclipse 7, with some loss of detail that I did not like losing. Crazy.

I’ve never tested USB cables. I would be interested to hear of your observations.