Simplification everywhere

I have argued for simplicity in the computer domain, but the concern applies equally to the audio layer. If we are going to matter in the world, we have to simplify the entire stack. I think most of us have friends and relatives who sometimes ask for advice, and today we can’t make a reasonable recommendation.

Just look at the ridiculously complex, Rube Goldberg contraption involved when I listen to headphones. It began with a simple topology: the server sends the signals to the DAC/amp.

But then it accumulates crud, like barnacles, and most of it with the goal of reducing noise. Network connection is better than USB because it allows the server to be in another room, and it carries less noise, but the DAC is USB, so we need an intermediary, and wired networking is better than WiFi, and we need a switch, but the iPad needs WiFi, and each of these devices needs a quality power supply, and clean mains power, and the DAC’s headphone amp is not good enough with planar cans so we need another one.

Many of us in this forum would look at each decision and nod, yes, those are reasonable choices — if anything, there are many opportunities for cleansing I haven’t gotten to yet (just ask John Swenson). And I haven’t even talked about cables. And we see 15 gadgets! Ridiculous.

But this is the pattern of many bad designs I have come across in my career: a long series of reasonable decisions, but the end result is a hodgepodge, because it wasn’t architected together.

This all came up because I wanted to improve the headphone rig, bring it up to modern level, there are some “vintage” components in there, a few years old. Considerations for my short list: A thoughtful DAC design. Good amp, not just the digital section. Able to drive my favored Audeze cans. After a lot of listening comparisons, I decided not to make MQA rendering a requirement (I have full MQA in the main system, but unfolding in Roon was enough). Quality gear but no Bentley prices.

I ended up choosing the Hugo 2. It is highly regarded, and recommended in this forum and by friends for its sound. But it lead to a complete rethinking of my system because of one key attribute: it is battery powered.

First, this makes it mobile. Not running or biking or gym mobile, I have the Audeze iSine 20 with its Cipher cable/DAC for that. Just mobile around the house, I can go to various rooms, or out on the deck or in the yard (it’s summer where I live). With the previous rig, I had to go to the “headphone room”, just like the “speaker room”.

Second, I need to connect it to something, and for the mobile thing to work, that has to be mobile too. The Hugo 2 does Bluetooth, but as I said, this is my main listening system, no compromises. But since Roon now supports iPad as a full-capability endpoint, and I need the iPad for the user interface anyway, this is all taken care of.

And third, this eliminates the entire encrustations of noise reduction and power supply cleansing: the entire player, iPad+Hugo2, is battery powered. No wires for power or signal.

This is a remarkable simplification. This is what we need to strive for. And note, I did not compromise sound quality for mobility.

I think it is a good goal to build a fundamentally clean architecture, so we don’t have to encrust it with tweaks.

(And once the complex headphone stack disappeared, I can remove stuff from the speaker system as well. But that’s a different story.)


Great post Anders.

But when are you going to upgrade Hugo2 to Dave? You know you want to… :grin:

Hey, the Hugo 2 just arrived today!
I’ll get there.

Anyway, we obviously agree on battery feed.

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Not quite in the same league, but I went Mojo+Beyerdynamic T1’s. Great sound, and also battery powered :slight_smile: - does have the advantage of being somewhat hiking and gym friendly, with a good pair of IEM’s :slight_smile:
Your post made me smile, indeed it’s become really convoluted nowadays. But is it (really) any worse than the bad old days of our Hifi stack of separates? Different, sure, and different horses for different course, for sure.

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You have to learn when to get off the upgrade train and just play music. The upgrade train never stops… think about that, so when chasing the train you will NEVER be happy for long, unless you STOP!
The initial pain will be the same where ever you are along the track, it’s like stoping smoking or drinking etc perhaps?
I don’t know what it will take for each of you to stop, we all have a level, but stop you must eventually. Finance or death will see to this loll… Then what?
So, take control, stop now and just enjoy music.

For me, involvement with hosting live music was enough, no Hi Fi can compete so what’s the point.

I was listening to MQA on my Bluesound Pulse 2 last night and thinking that this is as good as any home music listening that I have ever experienced. I was happy as I retired way too late…



Lol respectfully of course, this is quite a silly thing to say and silly thing to assume that people trying new/different gear are somehow not enjoying the music? In fact when I read Anders opening post, to me it reads like he’s enjoying the music better than ever :wink:

Agreed, take control and stop the random assumptions and random rants and enjoy the music :grin:

All said in good fun and good spirits of course.

It’s great that you are content, really. But to me this is good enough for dinner background music, barely.

Each to his own, and i do agree with the thoughts that one has to settle at some point or at least be content and just enjoy the music.

Forgive me for making assumptions that may not be true, but the fascination with gadgets, dodat’s, fixes and tweaks is more of an american thing than in the old countries, i think. Im not saying all of these USB’fixes and LPS and all unimaginable acronyms won’t contribute to enhancing audio, but they sure as hell don’t keep the signal path clean either.

In the end, K.I.S.S Always wins out imo. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

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Well… I have had some sublime musical moments listening live, on decent systems, on headphone setups, all the way down to listening to bluetooth (albeit APTX) piped music on my lowly Riva Turbo X.

I genuinely think it doesn’t matter what we listen via, as long as we keep listening.

There is definitely a price/sound tradeoff for me however, it’s always around the bargain audiophile territory, where you can pickup an excellent sounding setup for a couple of thousand dollars. I’d rather a couple of those + some great portable gear dotted around the place for accessible good listening wherever I am than something pricier and less ubiquitous.

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I’m not sure how many of us would think that… :grin:

I’m not sure how you can enjoy music or even sleep at night now - just think of all that jitter in the iPad, the quality of the iPad cable, and all that noise the battery chemicals make. Shocking. It must sound awful.

And I’m really confused where you connect a £20,000 master clock in your streamlined config?



All in good humour, just stimulating the debate… but really, in the history of mankind… we have never had it so good…

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I’m not assuming people are not enjoying music, (I may well be silly) of course they are and that’s great. I’m not saying people should not seek out and buy great gear, we all do but there comes a time when we could do well to just stop. Find a level to be happy and stop for a while… unless of course you don’t want to, but then the train will never stop.
The link to the first post is simplicity, it’s never been so easy to get a simple great music playback system going, kick back and think of something else…

The numbers agree:

The media does us all a great disservice.

There are just many more routes than before to enjoy good music, either multiroom, personal, hifi shrine, portable, in car; you can invest heavily in any direction. Even in pseudo-DIY rigs. I cobbled together a great little portable system using an old child’s toy stove which we were throwing out. Got a 27ah battery with 220v output stored in the cupboard section along with cables and power packs and such, and whacked in a pair of Audioengine 2’s, one in each shelf, painted it black, and hey presto, it’s a quite loud party and outdoor hifi box. Autonomy is also good, around 10hrs. Don’t need to spend many thousands to have fun with music :slight_smile:


All good Chris. I don’t think you’re silly. I was only hinting it may be a silly thing for someone (not you) to make assumptions.

Heck I can still “enjoy the music” from my iPhone and it’s stock ear buds…

If we’re going to make any assumption, I prefer to assume that EVERYONE is already enjoying the music, unless they say different… Glass half full and all that :wink:

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May I ask - how do you connect headphones to iPad? Is that where the only cable is? Can you write down the complete chain as I cannot interpret your disgrams, thanks! :slight_smile:

If you mean the OP, his headphones are connected to a chord hugo, which is in turn connected to an iPad.

You could of course connect many headphones directly to the iPads headphone socket, or get Bluetooth headphones and connect that way.

Hi DelPrado, you need this, to use an iOS device as a Roon Endpoint (over WiFi) connected to a USB DAC:

The male lightning connector plugs into your iOS device. And there is a female type-A port on the other end - you use a USB cable to connect to your DAC.

The female lightning port allows your iOS device to be charged at the same time if you wanted.

Hope that helps.

But doesn’t that mean you have two annoying wires - one for headphones and one for dac coming out of the thing you are holding (the iPad)

Correct. The headphone wires will be there regardless (unless you get wireless bluetooth headphones with built in DACs), so let’s ignore that.

So the only ‘extra bits’ are the lightning adapter and the USB cable which connects it to the USB DAC.

You could also argue that with a USB DAC you will need a USB cable in any setup, in which case the only ‘extra bit’ is the lightning adapter, with the iOS device being your USB source.

When I use an iOS endpoint, I use my iPod Touch which does nothing but be a Roon Endpoint.

I use my iPad to control Roon - no cables.

So you can have 2 iOS devices - one acting as only an endpoint and one for controller, if you didn’t want any cables around when controlling Roon.

Or one iOS device as your Roon endpoint and whatever handheld controller you want (Android, Windows Tablet, iPad etc etc)

Hope that makes a bit more sense.