Innuos Phoenix USB Reclocker: Making Music Rise From Digital Ashes – Rafe Arnott.
I would use a soft dust-brush to wipe down the record, then give it a zap with an antistatic gun before I dropped the just-cleaned stylus… this he thought was humorous because of my preoccupation with keeping the album as quiet as possible for playback.
It’s no joking matter for those binary obsessed individuals out there though. This analog ritual is one played out constantly on the digital side of the hobby with various intermediaries performing signal optimization to ensure whatever DAC is receiving this sampled sound wave is getting exactly what was gleaned from that waveform.
Most pass on their ones and zeros through a laptop or PC – perfectly acceptable, but less than ideal from a sonic standpoint because personal computers are not designed and built from the ground up to perform the task of sending along those precious bits with the singleminded intensity of sound quality first.
But there are machines out there whose sole purpose is making sure that the delicate electronic signal is passed along to a DAC as utterly unmolested by electromagnetic interference, electronic noise, shared power supplies, unstable timing from audio-data clocks, thermal inconsistencies or improperly optimized software for dealing with audio specifically.
One such machine is the new Innuos PhoenixUSB Reclocker. While both USB and Network connections suffer from certain sonic performance issues, USB is is fussed over the most, mostly due to timing issues involved with the chipset’s audio-data clock.
According to Innuos the PhoenixUSB is designed to make sure the integrity of a USB signal being outputted to a connected downstream DAC is as pristine as possible. Featuring a 24MHz OCXO clock, the USB chipset output does not have any switching regulators and possesses no less than three independent linear-power voltage supplies.
Why? Apple and Dell don’t optimise their computers’ sound quality by lowering the USB sockets’ electrical noise emissions. Noise that messes with the connected DAC’s audio data clock and analogue output stage. Innuos, on the other hand, seeks to lower the electrical noise spilling from their machines’ USB outputs by specifying linear power supplies and a bespoke software layer (among other things).
Innuos’ latest digital audio product isn’t a server/streamer but a box that promises to elevate the sound quality of any USB source. USB in, USB out with signal clean-up in-between. The Phoenix USB comprises three key ingredients:
- A USB output chip with no switching regulators
- A 3ppb 24MHz OCXO clock located in close proximity to the USB output chip to ensure the direct-connected DAC receives a constant and consistent stream of data. This puts less of an error-checking burden on the DAC’s USB receiver chip that, in turn, generates less electrical noise. Back to the press release: “No precision is lost within cables and connectors, as is the case when using an external master 10MHz clock with an additional 24MHz clock generator.”
- Both clock and USB chip are powered by separate, dedicated linear supplies. The press release again: “All 3 independent voltages to the [USB] chip originate from an independent linear power supply with further regulation provided by 3 sets of LT3045 regulators.”