Why You're Wrong about This Upgrade

Power Matters, Absolutely

Digital or analog. Bits or bobs. Electricity is paramount

Audiophile PSU Upgrade

"I don't use the onboard DAC of my streamer, so I don't need this PSU upgrade." 


Kevin recently posted a video about the new Sbooster AIB, a power supply board upgrade that allows you to use an Sbooster BOTW linear power supply to greatly improve the sound of the Bluesound NODE.

This overspecified board has clearly been a hit—with many of you either bundling the AIB with your new NODE, or getting it separately for an existing unit. The installation is simple and reversible: It doesn't require wire cutting, and certainly doesn't call for a soldering iron. Note that you will, of course, need to purchase the Sbooster 5-6 V LPSU separately.

It was interesting to note that some of the comments on Kevin's video went along the lines of: I don't use the NODE's DAC, I use it just as a streamer, so I don't need this product.

Anyone who has tried to improve the power supply to a streamer will know this simply isn't true. Cleaning up a digital-only source brings big improvements in detail, bass reproduction, air, and also an overall sense of naturalness to the music.

This raises the big question with digital sources: Do you get a streaming DAC, or should you get a standalone streamer and a separate DAC?

As with the more familiar "separates or integrated" amp question, the answer is, it depends.

The Streaming DAC

The benefits of a streaming DAC are clear. You need shelf space for just one box, and you save on a power cable and interconnect. In a one-box unit, the streaming circuit is close to the DAC's input stage, giving jitter less chance to creep in.

While budget streaming DACs share a power supply, high-end ones have separate digital and analog power supplies, and often shield each section from the other, greatly reducing the problems with everything being in one chassis.

The Streamer Plus Standalone DAC

Before even getting into the sonic benefits of separates, the flexibility and upgrade path of this combination works for a lot of people. You can set up a cheap Raspberry Pi or laptop-based streamer and splurge on a great standalone DAC. Later, you can add the streamer of choice depending on the app you like, for example, whether you want to run Roon, or use the manufacturer's interface.

Similarly, listeners who have a high-quality streamer that comes with an app they love, can take their time demoing different topologies and DAC designs to see what works for them.

All things being equal, separates are going to sound better. Having completely separate power supplies (with the option of dedicated high-end power cables) and separate housings brings huge benefits to both the analog and digital parts of this equation. While the digital stream has further to travel, you have the option of using high-quality cable to preserve the signal, and, much to your surprise, tune the sound. (Even the best components have noise that can eventually couple with the analog signal. Different digital cables affect this noise differently.)

Which Is Better?

Luckily, you never need to worry about the impossible, contradictory, always confusing answer to that question. You never even have to ask the question. All you have to do is call one of our digital experts at 909-931-9686 and just tell them, "I want better sound." Let them do the hard work and figure out just where you need to go. And if you want to do some homework, hit the button and check out our dedicated streamers from AURALiC, Aurender, Cambridge Audio, HiFi Rose, Lumin, Pro-Ject, and more.

Take Me To Your Streamers

Upscale's Latest Magic Combination

If you're a dedicated follower of food fashion, you'd know that Sichuan chili crisp is having its spicy moment.

This condiment from southern China is everywhere. Costco now stocks the Instagram brand Fly By Jing. Celebrity chef David Chang's brand Momofuku offers a black truffle version. Bon Appétit is doing top 10 chili crisp round-ups, and everyone is talking about how this spicy, numbing number goes well on everything from noodles to fried eggs, and—if you're really in the know—vanilla ice cream.

People who are already familiar with the contrary joy of a good extra-virgin olive oil poured over a scoop of real vanilla ice cream, are nodding their heads right now. Like salted caramel before it, the contrasts completely disappear into this perfect marriage.

We were thinking of Sichuan chili crisp and vanilla ice cream when we first encountered the combination of the PrimaLuna EVO 100 integrated amplifier and the Fyne Audio 501 SP floorstanding loudspeakers.

PrimaLuna EVO 100 Integrated Amp
Primaluna EVO 100 Integrated Amplifier

This isn't to say that the combination of a tube amp with sensitive point-source speakers is surprising. Nor are we going to attempt to liken, say, the PrimaLuna to the ice cream, and the Fyne to the chili crisp, or vice versa. 

Instead, at the risk of making the metaphor too rich, this amp-speaker combo has crunch and bite coexisting with smoothness and sweetness, as well as inner warmth enveloped in cool creaminess. We are excited.

Even Ken Davis, our busy sales manager, says, "It was one of the combinations that really surprised me. I have heard amplifier and speaker combinations that cost 40%, 70%, and even double, that would struggle to compete with the bass impact, sound stage, and vocal presence this combination has."

With its half-chassis footprint, the EVO 100 has always had a special place in our hearts, and we are so happy to see that it's found such a great match. Says Ken, "You would never expect a tube amp with 40 watts of power from EL34 tubes to have punch, dynamics, and authority the way this combination does."

Fyne Audio F501SP

Fyne Audio F501SP Floorstanding Loudspeaker


Parasound Chief Designer Darren Myers and Kevin go inside the BITCHIN' JC 3+

"This is the real deal," says Kevin Deal about the Parasound JC 3+ phonostage. Peering inside, Kevin sees things he has never seen before in any phonostage, not even crazy expensive ones.

Kevin is joined by Darren Myers, Engineering VP at Parasound, and together they lead us through every high-quality part of this John Curl design that is, as Kevin says, "Un. Bel. Ieve. Able."

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