Sound quality tweaks!

What change/addition/subtraction did you make to improve your sound quality? Can be anything (related to volumio in some way) - software, hardware, firmware, plugins, cables, CRAAP hacks, etc.

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I judge sound quality by how engaging I find the music. If I want to turn it up, if my feet keep tapping, if I want to keep playing more music, the sound quality is good. If I want to turn it down, if my mind wanders, if I lose interest in what’s playing, the sound quality is poor. I do not pay attention to other factors (eg soundstage, detail). Sometimes a change brings an immediate and obvious benefit, sometimes I have to listen for a few days and sometimes the change is a subtle degredation and I change my mind after a few weeks.

I started with hardware specified in this forum: HAKAI -

I have experimented with other x86 and Tinker Board hardware, but I have heard none as fun to listen to as the precise configuration specified for the Hakai.

I have experimented with different power supplies. For my Tinker Board the Allo Nirvana was an impressive improvement over the stock Raspberry Pi PS. For my x86 I use an RGeek 12v 120W SMPS. The PC is contained in an RGeek mini ITX case.

I have added a small amount of RFI shielding to the RAM in my PC. More shielding seems to degrade the sound. I have also added copper shielding (tape and gauze) to the SMPS, DC power, ethernet and USB cables.

Placing the streamer and amplifier on good quality stands and tuning speaker position bring substantial improvements. I have the PC, DAC and power supply on 3 separate shelves.

Adding a cheap mains distribution block (no lights or switches) instead of plugging directly into the mains outlet, and optimising the order of connection brings suprising benefits.

Organising cables so that power cables and signal cables are physically routed away from each other.

In Volumio I turn off everything I don’t need (such as UPNP, DLNA, HDMI etc). I only install the plugins I need.

I control volume via my integrated amplifier, so Volumio mixer is set to ‘none’.

I use an ethernet connection, turn off wifi, and assign a static IP address, instead of using an automatic IP.

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This is good info sir.

Thinking of getting the all nirvana… like you could immediately tell the difference?

Now, I understand putting speakers and turntables on good stands, but amp/streamer - they don’t have moving parts or vibrations, what’s the logic there?

Also, what’s this cheap mains distribution block you speak of? And what’s “optimizing the order of connection”?

“In Volumio I turn off everything I don’t need (such as UPNP, DLNA, HDMI etc)” - ha, same. I even turned off the USB ports (using a hat with i2s) - someone said the USB infrastructure is the nosiest part electrically. Not sure though if it’s still noise if not being used.

Thanks! Happy new year

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I guess this comes down to your speaker/amp setup and ears, some people just don’t hear the difference.

For me in my car setup the biggest difference was the interconnect cables, after DSP unit.

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Which ones? The interconnects

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Something like this https://www.argos.co.uk/product/8476942?clickPR=plp:1:29

This is relatively new to me, and not something I’ve seen any explanation for.

The order in which you plug the power into the extension block for streamer, amplifier and other parts of the HiFi system make a difference to the sound.

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Yes, I found the difference very noticeable.

The impact of good support for turntable and speakers in my system does seem to be greater than for other parts of the system, but the streamer and amp still benefit. As an example, I switched from a glass shelf for my amp to an MDF shelf and heard an improvement.

I have read a number of different explanations, but I’m not really familiar with the detail. My understanding, at a high level, is that minimising vibrations of electronics will minimise degradation of audio quality.

Not trying to be funny, but I subtracted subjective judgement of sound (because it is unreliable) and added a calibrated measurement microphone.
I no longer have to evaluate claims about whose ear has the most authority and sensitivity, who claims to be able to hear what changes, since I know that any sound that drops below about 110bB according to my microphone a) is inaudible to everyone. and b) can’t be a justification for buying fancy equipment that does nothing for sound even if it does what it claims in the marketing.

So I’m not going to get into the old argument about the virtues of a scientific approach to audio, I’m just saying it’s the basis for every improvement I have made. Snake oil salesmen, in my experience, can only be reliably detected using a measurement mic.

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Well i don’t know if the 110db threshold is the only metric… We talk about the holographic sound stage and microdetail, which you can’t measure with a microphone, at least not directly…

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You talk about these things,
I ask only for evidence that they exist and a way to measure them.

If you dislike 110dB, we can make it 115dB. If, say, holographic micro-wobbles exist, they must manifest in the physical world above 115dB if humans are to hear them, or be measurable in blind A/B trials as psychoacoustic features. Right?

I should say minus (-)115dB by the way. Not very scientific of me. Sorry.

I don’t think that this is necessarily easy. For most people, the most sophisticated measuring device they have available at home is their own head and ears. That’s certainly true for me. I’m not especially good at this - and often I find it difficult to get consistent results.

One of the characteristics that seems to affect how people enjoy audio playback is distortion in timing. Is this something that can be measured in the home for real music?

That’s interesting. Which microphone do you use and what analysis device or software do you use it with? I’ve tried using my phone, but have not found it helpful

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Room EQ wizard is good free tool. Umik-1 and 2 works well with it.

As @Joni_Salminen rightly says above, though I use different analysis methods than REW’s (open source DRC and wrapper, see edit: sourceforge), I still use REW to take measurements and look at graphs with a UMIK 1 USB microphone and a laptop.

So the cost is on the order 0f USD 100-200 unless you choose to get fancy. The amount of reading and understanding and rethinking involved is not trivial, it’s definitely a serious hobbyist not a consumer thing unless you want to pay big money for automation software designed for your equipment. But a microphone and some open source software and a forum to ask questions works fine with a little effort.

As we agree, ears and brains are unreliable when it comes to matters of sound quality, and also display variable quality from person to person and even in one person as their ears age. Then there’s the placebo effect where we tend to believe what some people say, or what we tell ourselves, whether or not it is true.

So having an objective standard is a way to evaluate audio equipment with as much certainty as we can reasonably muster. For some people it’s worth the effort. I mentioned it partly because it affects how I see my audio system (more objectively, without affecting enjoyment) and also because the new Volumio has a way to implement parametric EQ and FIR filters. That makes the process of objectively assessing and correcting a number of audio defects rather easier.

Just a suggestion, though. The main thing is to enjoy yourself, in some cases it might be a total waste of money.

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Great perspective.

Can you tell me a little more, maybe give an example of what type of issue you can identify using your measurement equipment that you can then solve with EQ and FIR?

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has details. the general subject is DRC, digital room correction. Others will explain it in detail better than I can. Youtube has some introductory tutorial vids.

Big subject. The main use is to establish, for any given system, its performance compared with an ‘ideally’ transparent audio reproduction system. We can compare any audio equipment with what we expect to hear through an accurate microphone, and then alter it so that it’s closer to that ideal by filtering the sound at some appropriate point in the signal chain, similar to an EQ, but far more capable since matters of signal timing, as well as frequency and amplitude (pitch and loudness at a particular frequency) are controlled.

To stand any chance of using it you need to go exploring for yourself. It’s not plug and play, sadly, without spending what I consider stupid money.

I ought to add that the main reason I use it is because I tend to build my own audio bits (eg amp, DSP preamp/crossover) out of modules wired together, so DRC acts as a corrective to my tendency to mess up without being able to judge the results objectively. I tend to think if I’ve built something it sounds fantastic, I’m like the Donald Trump of DIY audio.

If you have a good system already it may (should) not be worth the effort, but Volumio 3 will potentially make it easier and cheaper to implement with its integrated filters. I haven’t proved that to myself yet, my DSP preamp does the filtering work at the moment.

Can’t resist this one. Doe this mean you grab your Amp by it’s knobs… :rofl:

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Fake News!!