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Thread: Review of SW1X Universal Music Server UMS1 Signature and Universal Power Supply

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  1. #1
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Bishops Stortford

    Posts: 350
    I'm Chris.

    Default Review of SW1X Universal Music Server UMS1 Signature and Universal Power Supply

    Over the last 50 years I have owned some pretty exotic and expensive audio gear spanning £7000 amplifiers and 6ft tall horn speakers. After each upgrade it was easy to persuade myself that things were better, but in hindsight things were just different.

    Some ten years ago I moved across to computer based music, dispensing with my Linn Sondek, Ittok etc and Counterpoint CD12 player once I had a computer based system that competed sonically. My computer software, from a limited choice back then was XXHighend by Phasure. Over the years that followed, the software showed glimpses of excellence but was upgraded with corresponding bugs and glitches probably 10 times every year. I felt like a (poor) computer programmer and lost my appetite for Hi Fi.

    Enter SW1X and Slawa.

    I visited with scepticism after others had looked at pictures of his gear and branded it as Chinese import – a slur that really upset Slawa. How wrong we all were. From that moment my Hi Fi life was rejuvenated. Even his starter system had all the attributes I had been seeking, sounding analogue like and in particular giving the resolution and transparency to hear a change of mains cable or a single capacitor in a DAC. In the past I had nodded along to salesmen that substituted interconnects, hearing just minute differences and believing this was all you got for your money at such a high level.

    Cutting a long story short. I treated myself to much of Slawa's level 1 Signature stuff and moved over to vintage open baffle speakers. At the same time I had to resolve the computing side of it and bought a Raspberry Pi with Moode software and a pair of 45 Valve monoblocks to feed a lovely 2 watts to the new speakers. Having made so many changes I had no real reference sound to judge against but was well pleased that I now had a system encouraging me to listen late into the night, though I still felt Slawa's system had the edge.

    It was becoming obvious that the Moode software people were making no significant strides to improve audio quality with their updates, preferring to concentrate on the user interface and multiple streaming applications which was not where I wanted to go. Sound quality was paramount. Also I had my reservations about the switching power supply on the RPI, which was soon replaced by a Longdog Audio linear power supply. For a relatively modest outlay it brought the improvements promised.

    Here I stayed happily for many months visiting the Windsor Hi Fi show in the meantime to hear the 'competition' that in the majority were still battling to push nasty digital sounding systems. Slawa announced he was about to build a Universal Music Server and separate Power Supply Unit and I offered to bring over my PRI with power supply to benchmark how good his was. Well it was like a non league football team challenging Chelsea to a duel.

    So I bought the UMS1 fitted with 1Tb of SSHD and UPS1 signature models.

    If you want the technical stuff its here on Slawa's Web Site.

    http://sw1xad.co.uk/products/

    Its almost impossible to convey the sound of a component, but lets just say it ticks all the boxes with superlatives.

    Enhanced bass
    Full midrange
    Sweet top end
    Excellent imaging
    Everything sounds so lifelike
    Not a hint of digital nastiness
    Good as it was, this combination leaves the PRI dead in the water
    Wonderful boogey factor reminding me somewhat of early Naim gear in that area.
    Timbre is spot on.
    Its perfectly quiet - no fan noises and no spinning hard drives.

    Some would argue that at the price it should leave the RPI for dead, but this lays waste to those that claim computers all sound the similar.

    Now my system sounds just like Slawa's and for that I can pay no higher compliment.
    Last edited by bumpy; 16-04-2017 at 18:14.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 91
    I'm Slawa.

    Default Thank you

    Thank you for the reflective review and your compliment.

    Well designed linear power supplies with high quality audio materials are crucial everywhere but switched mode power supply with cheap low quality parts in your computer are not important at all?

    It may sound weird to some people however I cannot stress enough that the quality of the power supply is detrimental to the sound. Especially, the quality of the power supply of a music server (speak computer) is even more crucial than most people can imagine. That is because it is located right at the very beginning of the signal chain of an audio system. Why many people think that a computer and its power supply in particular are of negligible importance despite acknowledging its importance anywhere else remains a phenomenon.

    However, if one thinks in line with following principle: If something is removed from the beginning - it can never be restored back at the later stage similar to the principle "Garbage in- garbage out", then it becomes evident that for example if the power supply of the computer does not have enough thickness or not enough bass in the mid bass area nothing (cables, DAC, amps and speakers) will be able to bring it back at the later stage. That is why a computer power supply is the most crucial and yet the most neglected aspect of a modern audio system. That is also one of the reasons as why many computer transport based systems sound so thin, synthetic and noisy relative to the older CD player transports (from late 80s and early 90s) now days. I mentioned it before here: http://sw1xad.co.uk/digital-transports/

    The good news is that we addressed those issues by designing the SW1X PSU I power supply (http://sw1xad.co.uk/product/sw1x-psu-1/) with the finest materials and tuning it by using vintage Marantz and Philips CD players based on the CDM1 mechanism as our reference. We achieved a sound signature that is almost indistinguishable from those classic CD player master pieces plus having more analogue liquidity in the sound. Those people who are fortunate to own a piece of those finest machines know very well what I am talking about. Those who do not should at least give a good listen to those players and to compare them to a computer (music server) based system to understand where we are coming from.


    Slawa
    Last edited by SW1X; 17-04-2017 at 14:51.
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  3. #3
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 91
    I'm Slawa.

    Default Not all power supplies are created equally

    Not all power supplies are created equally- if one decided to upgrade a power supply of a computer with a third party power supply one most likely will hear some sort of difference but may also experience a disappointment. That is not going to be very surprising as we have not seen many manufacturers out there to take the aspects of sound quality that we promote seriously. Most of the after market power supplies I have seen on Ebay for example have one flaw or another in their design or implementation. Many people will be surprised to hear this but every part in all those power supplies contributes to the sound. If something was left to chance in those power supplies, the sound will manifest itself accordingly as a result.

    S
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 69,371
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default

    This is very interesting stuff, guys, as I've only myself recently introduced the use of an ultra-low noise linear PSU for the Seagate NAS hard-drives, which supply music to my Raspberry Pi - and the sonic improvements gained, over their stock switching PSUs, was quite astonishing!

    Just to clarify, Chris or Slawa, is the UMS1 PSU, mentioned here, used for a similar purpose then, as in it's designed to provide power to something like computers or NAS storage drives? Just want to check we're on the same page

    This is what a friend built for me, and you can read about the superb results that were achieved: http://theartofsound.net/forum/showt...r-Power-Supply

    And yet, the sceptics say that linear PSUs for such items cannot possibly make a difference..... So how wrong are they, in that respect?

    Marco.
    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do". - Milan Kundera.

    "Your validity or worth are not defined or determined by the views of others with their own superimposed agendas". - Pharos (on AoS)

    My system:

    Modified Technics SL-1210MK5G/Mike New high-precision bearing & baseplate/Mike New ETP platter/Bruil record weight/Nagaoka GL602 crystal T/T mat. Paul Hynes SR7EHD PSU (plus regulator modules)/DCSXL pure-silver DC lead. Ortofon RS-212D tonearm/'Speedy Steve' custom-made Ebony armboard. Yannis Tome 423.5 Phono Silver-Litz tonearm cable, with Furutech CF-DIN(R) and Eichmann silver Bullet Plugs. Cartridges: Denon DL-S1 in AT MG-10 headshell with AT-6106 Quattro Hybrid lead-wire. Denon DL-103C1 in '103U' headshell with AT-609 silver lead-wire. Vintage Denon DL-103AU in AT-Ti15ANV Titanium Headshell. Shure M55E in Denon PCL-300 headshell with 6N silver lead-wire. Shure original USA SC35C. Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 transport/DAC. Raspberry Pi-3 Model B and IQaudio Pi-DAC+/Paul Hynes SR3DR-05 linear PSU/Williams Audio NAS linear PSU. Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X preamp. Stereo Coffee LDR. Head-amp: Paul Hynes design/SR5 PSU. Also modified Lentek. Tube Distinctions 50W Class A P/P Copper amp with cryo-treated Tung Sol KT150s. Speakers: 'Lockwood Majors', using 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds, modified with bespoke crossovers. Also Celestion Ditton 15XRs. Stands: Mana Acoustics (non-magnetic stainless steel 'clones’). Hi-Fi Racks Podium T/T wall shelf. Sony ST-5055L tuner. Cables: Furukawa EE/F-S 2mm & 2.6mm solid-core mains leads, fitted with Furutech FI-50 IECs and FI-1363Rs. Stereo interconnects: Sommer Carbokab 225 (with silver-plated MS Audio non-metallic POM RCAs). Speaker cable: VDH 'The Wind' Hybrid II. Digital coaxial cable: 1m Trompeter Electronics Triax TRC-75-2, with MS Audio ‘Starline' silver-plated RCAs. Mains block: Mark Grant 6-way, modded with Furutech FP-1363R sockets and Furukawa cable. Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW 16.5 record cleaner.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 91
    I'm Slawa.

    Default Sw1x psu i

    Greetings Marco,

    Yes, it is similar to the power supply you have. The SW1X PSU I (http://sw1xad.co.uk/product/sw1x-psu-1/) is a universal DC power supply (i.e. adjustable voltage 3V-20V via a pot), which can handle load up to 15A easily. It is an integral part of the music server SW1X UMS I. It can power pretty much any low to medium powered computers, external HDDs or class D power amplifiers. It is different to yours in the way it was engineered, build and last but not least how it sounds.

    The design objective was to build a non compromise power supply using the finest audio components and most elegantly simple circuit design- more about to follow.
    The heart of the PSU I is EI cored 200VA mains transformer, which is at least 2 x over-specified for most applications. Larger cored transformers tend also to sound fuller and bigger relative to smaller cores. Everything (including mains inlet) is wired inside using solid silver wires of different gauges. Every passive and active part inside the PSU I has been voiced in amplifiers before even considering it to be part of the PSU setup- so I pretty much know how each capacitor, conductor or diode sounds before I even try them in a power supply. Every passive and active component has a specific sound signature. That sound signature manifests itself to a different extent and is quite audible wherever I would place them in audio system be it a power supply of a hard drive or an amplifier. I have been fine tuning the sound of PSU I for the last half year in order to preserve maximum amount of dynamics and bass fullness as found in older CD player with CDM1 pick up mechanisms. The best results are achieved when the PSU I power supply is fully equipped with Black Gate capacitors. Unfortunately, that is not viable option for a series product as relatively large capacitance reservoir is required (at least of 20,000 uF) and those caps are neither freely available nor are affordable to many. Fortunately I found a combination of capacitors that reminds me of the Black Gate capacitor sound (Elna Silmics/Cerafines, AN Kaisei and Nichicon KG series were discarded because of their flaws in sound).

    The circuit design is pretty elegant minimalist consisting of only 2 diodes and 3 transistors. It is voltage regulated based on series NPN Toshiba (made in Japan) transistor, which is normally used in high end audio, high power transistor amplifiers. Everything is over- specified- the whole chassis acts as a heat sink. The output impedance is low as it could be for series regulator standards.

    Some people will laugh about the pedantism and the attention to details but I take the sound very seriously. Nothing was left to chance as every material and everything counts in audio power supplies. I can assure anybody that the R&D effort proved to be worth every penny as the sound is now pretty much as analogue (I would say more analogue and thicker sounding than the stock versions) of those vintage Philips and Marantz CD players from the late 80s.

    Do not take my word for it- feel free to try
    Last edited by SW1X; 21-04-2017 at 22:12.
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 69,371
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default

    Hi Slawa,

    Quote Originally Posted by SW1X View Post
    Greetings Marco,

    Yes, it is similar to the power supply you have. The SW1X PSU I (http://sw1xad.co.uk/product/sw1x-psu-1/) is a universal DC power supply (i.e. adjustable voltage 3V-20V via a pot), which can handle load up to 15A easily. It is an integral part of the music server SW1X UMS I. It can power pretty much any low to medium powered computers, external HDDs or class D power amplifiers.
    Excellent. That's what I needed to know, as I just wanted to check the application it was intended for. It certainly looks like an impressive beast, with the kind of attention to detail I admire!

    Every passive and active component has a specific sound signature. That sound signature manifests itself to a different extent and is quite audible wherever I would place them in audio system be it a power supply of a hard drive or an amplifier.
    I completely agree, as that's precisely what I've found when having some of my own equipment modified. *Every* electronic component imparts its own 'sonic footprint' on proceedings. There is no such thing as a 'truly transparent' anything!

    That's why the goal with the best designs is to 'keep it simple' (as is possible), and use only as many components in the circuit as is necessary, and what is used is of the highest quality [read as imparts the faintest footprint/least sonic signature] on the music signal. That's what I aim for in my own system whenever anything is built or modified.

    I have been fine tuning the sound of PSU I for the last half year in order to preserve maximum amount of dynamics and bass fullness as found in older CD player with CDM1 pick up mechanisms.
    That's really interesting you should say that, as I've long considered CD players fitted with those classic Philips mechs to be amongst the best sounding ever produced, although of course there's a lot more to producing a good CDP than simply the transport mechanism used!

    However, I agree that players featuring the use of those mechs had a certain 'analogue rightness' about them, which made the sound they produced very musically appealing.

    The best results are achieved when the PSU I power supply is fully equipped with Black Gate capacitors. Unfortunately, that is not viable option for a series product as relatively large capacitance reservoir is required (at least of 20,000 uF) and those caps are neither freely available nor are affordable to many.
    Again, that's most interesting, as my vintage Sony DAC (DAS-R1) is full of Black Gates, after having been modified by Audiocom International, and used throughout the PSU section. The difference that made was incredible! I also agree that BGs have a unique and highly desirable sound signature.

    The circuit design is pretty elegant minimalist consisting of only 2 diodes and 3 transistors. It is voltage regulated based on series NPN Toshiba (made in Japan) transistor, which is normally used in high end audio, high power transistor amplifiers. Everything is over- specified- the whole chassis acts as a heat sink. The output impedance is low as it could be for series regulator standards.
    Ha - a man after my own heart... Experience tells me that over-specifying in that way is always beneficial and liable to pay significant sonic dividends!

    Some people will laugh about the pedantism and the attention to details but I take the sound very seriously. Nothing was left to chance as every material and everything counts in audio power supplies. I can assure anybody that the R&D effort proved to be worth every penny as the sound is now pretty much as analogue (I would say more analogue and thicker sounding than the stock versions) of those vintage Philips and Marantz CD players from late 80s.
    It's interesting that's your sonic focus. I know where you're coming from, as the sound they produced is the complete antithesis of the thin, monochromatic din produced by much of what's made now.

    Do not take my word for it- feel free to try
    Thanks. I might take you up on that sometime, but not right now. I'm just enjoying what I have at the moment

    Marco.
    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do". - Milan Kundera.

    "Your validity or worth are not defined or determined by the views of others with their own superimposed agendas". - Pharos (on AoS)

    My system:

    Modified Technics SL-1210MK5G/Mike New high-precision bearing & baseplate/Mike New ETP platter/Bruil record weight/Nagaoka GL602 crystal T/T mat. Paul Hynes SR7EHD PSU (plus regulator modules)/DCSXL pure-silver DC lead. Ortofon RS-212D tonearm/'Speedy Steve' custom-made Ebony armboard. Yannis Tome 423.5 Phono Silver-Litz tonearm cable, with Furutech CF-DIN(R) and Eichmann silver Bullet Plugs. Cartridges: Denon DL-S1 in AT MG-10 headshell with AT-6106 Quattro Hybrid lead-wire. Denon DL-103C1 in '103U' headshell with AT-609 silver lead-wire. Vintage Denon DL-103AU in AT-Ti15ANV Titanium Headshell. Shure M55E in Denon PCL-300 headshell with 6N silver lead-wire. Shure original USA SC35C. Audiocom-modified Sony X-777ES/DAS-R1 transport/DAC. Raspberry Pi-3 Model B and IQaudio Pi-DAC+/Paul Hynes SR3DR-05 linear PSU/Williams Audio NAS linear PSU. Heavily-modified Croft Charisma-X preamp. Stereo Coffee LDR. Head-amp: Paul Hynes design/SR5 PSU. Also modified Lentek. Tube Distinctions 50W Class A P/P Copper amp with cryo-treated Tung Sol KT150s. Speakers: 'Lockwood Majors', using 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds, modified with bespoke crossovers. Also Celestion Ditton 15XRs. Stands: Mana Acoustics (non-magnetic stainless steel 'clones’). Hi-Fi Racks Podium T/T wall shelf. Sony ST-5055L tuner. Cables: Furukawa EE/F-S 2mm & 2.6mm solid-core mains leads, fitted with Furutech FI-50 IECs and FI-1363Rs. Stereo interconnects: Sommer Carbokab 225 (with silver-plated MS Audio non-metallic POM RCAs). Speaker cable: VDH 'The Wind' Hybrid II. Digital coaxial cable: 1m Trompeter Electronics Triax TRC-75-2, with MS Audio ‘Starline' silver-plated RCAs. Mains block: Mark Grant 6-way, modded with Furutech FP-1363R sockets and Furukawa cable. Tube Distinctions digital noise filter. VPI HW 16.5 record cleaner.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: West Yorkshire

    Posts: 164
    I'm Bruce.

    Default

    Very interesting. Sounds like you may have "sound quality" covered. I'm having difficulty finding substantial details and reviews on Daphile in terms of usability, interface, metadata support for browsing & searching, integration with Tidal, Qobuz, & Spotify, etc. If the interface, usability of Daphile compares well with JRiver and Roon, that would be worth knowing since you use Daphile. Any links or info you know of? The Daphile website is a bit sparse with this sort of info, and if they are SW1X's OS/interface, that is either a selling point or an alternate philosophy to be explained.
    Bruce

    Theories are not so much answers as questions, to be supported or undermined by experience & testing.

    Source: Calyx 24/192 DAC, Laptop w/JRMC. Amplification: Classe Audio 30/70 balanced. Loudspeakers: Proac Response 1sc. Cables/stands: spkr MIT MH-750 / HT Truthlink XLR, Vampire AI2, RFC Pluto, heavy sand-filled Target stands for speakers and Hi-Fi. Bass traps in corners, acoustic panels at first reflection points. Isolation: Roller bearings & cups, inner tubes. Mains: Balanced power transformer feeding hydra mains block.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Essex

    Posts: 91
    I'm Slawa.

    Default The sound quality is the most important objective- everything else is secondary

    Dear Bruce,

    SW1X UMS I is an universal music server - i.e. one could run any OS (Linux, OSX, Win, Android etc.) on it including Roon with any integration one desires. However, there are some reasons as why we opted out for Daphile:

    1. Sound - it has a sound signature that reminds me of Black Gate capacitors. It has a pitch dark background and a thick body in the mid bass area relative to Windows and OSX, which all sound thin and noisy in direct comparison.
    2. Straight forward, elegant minimalism of its OS architecture (a la Linux), similar to Rune
    3. Compatibility to Squeezelite clients
    4. Relatively intuitive and user friendly without unnecessary rubbish like equilizers, upsampling etc.

    As regarding external remote steaming services functionalities- I could care less about them (even local ones, which are possible) because 1. all of my music is stored locally and 2. more importantly the sound quality of local playback is indefinitely much better (musical) sounding that of remotely streamed content.

    The sound quality (musicality) is the most important objective- everything else is secondary.
    SW1X Audio DesignTM ... Finest Audio Components ... Designed and Handcrafted in England
    www.SW1XAD.co.uk

  9. #9
    Join Date: Apr 2016

    Location: Bishops Stortford

    Posts: 350
    I'm Chris.

    Default

    I would add just a couple of things to this.

    I think I am right in saying that when Slawa compares sound to the early CDM1 players he is referring only to the CD mechanism from which the digital signal is taken to his own DAC.

    The PSU in my set up runs just mildly warm and the UMS runs cold.

    I would testify to Slawa's knowledge of the sound of components. He has voiced a couple of amplifiers for me (not his own brand). He will make comments such as "sounds a bit thin" or "lacking in bass" then emerge from his stores with components that sort out the problem. Its great to watch.

    I took a simple (cheap) valve amp to him that I bought on E Bay as a stand in. I was quite proud of my modest purchase but one short listen by Slawa and he pronounce "it sounds like a transistor radio!". After he switched a few components the amp was giving out a little magic. I congratulated Slawa and he relied "it now sounds OK". Now that's a compliment in his world of high audio standards.
    Last edited by bumpy; 23-04-2017 at 15:24.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: West Yorkshire

    Posts: 164
    I'm Bruce.

    Default

    Thanks for those comments!
    Bruce

    Theories are not so much answers as questions, to be supported or undermined by experience & testing.

    Source: Calyx 24/192 DAC, Laptop w/JRMC. Amplification: Classe Audio 30/70 balanced. Loudspeakers: Proac Response 1sc. Cables/stands: spkr MIT MH-750 / HT Truthlink XLR, Vampire AI2, RFC Pluto, heavy sand-filled Target stands for speakers and Hi-Fi. Bass traps in corners, acoustic panels at first reflection points. Isolation: Roller bearings & cups, inner tubes. Mains: Balanced power transformer feeding hydra mains block.

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