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Uptone Audio USB Regen

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Nikhil

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Uptone Audio USB Regen
Website: USB REGEN - UpTone Audio
Price: $175

Introduction

Thanks to time spent on computeraudiophile.com I was introduced to this new USB device which has now become the hot item of season. I decided to take the plunge and was immediately bumped into the second batch of orders thanks to a huge demand from the community on CA. Presently orders are now shipping in September as per latest update.

So what is this USB Regen? I will recommend this article from Audiostream as a primer on what goes on in "digital" down at the wire. To summarize, every digital system just by nature of it's operating creates timing fluctuations or "jitter". In the words of John Swenson, from the above article, "the operation of any digital system will create its own jitter just by virtue of it operating".

Specifically in the case of USB DACs there is a "noise" created right at the PHY layer of the USB interface again by virtue of it's operation. People sensitive to this noise have (rightly) stated USB's negative traits for use in audio. The noise created right at the USB interface has been labelled "packet noise" and affects the signal integrity of the signal travelling onward to the DAC chip. This is a very new concept and DAC manufacturers were really not aware of this phenomenon until recently. And the effects of this are not trivial until one listens to the same gear with a device capable of improving the signal integrity by dealing with this packet noise.

Hence, presenting the Uptone Audio Regen.



Ordering Process

Ordering of the USB Regen is a very straight forward process from the Uptone Audio website. The ordering interface is very clean and within minutes you are done with the whole process. Email confirmation takes a little while to arrive as the company itself is a very small operation. At the moment they are operating out of the garage (California startup style) of Alex Crespi, the other leg of this operation.

Take note however that small as they may be this is not Alex's first rodeo. Alex was the partner in the now defunct Hovland Audio company which made some very innovative audio gear. Google is your friend for that story.

Shipping confirmation is also intimated by email. Shipping is handled by US Postal Service International Priority Mail and is included in the purchase price. My Regen was shipped on 9th June and reached me without fuss or customs hassles on 19th June. The package is a small carton which does not attract much attention and easily survived domestic and international postal service abuse.





Package Contents and Connections

Please refer to the Uptone Audio website for details of the package contents. Below are my additional comments on the connecting the Regen.

The USB Regen ships with a solid USB adapter that is the recommended connection choice i.e. the Regen is to be connected right on the DAC. Due to the non availability of direct male B type coupling - the Regen comes with the necessary male A type to male B type converter. This also means that the Regen connects upside down at the back of your DAC.

The Regen comes supplied with a Meanwell SMPS wall wort (22 watt/7.5V/2.93A) that works well as is but for those interested additional improvements have been confirmed with use of a LPS to power the Regen. In affect the Regen ignores all power coming down the USB cable from your PC and supplies fresh power via the included power supply.

Once connected the USB hangs a little precariously over the back panel of your DAC. Some DACs may not have room for the included converter - in which case a short 6 inch USB cable is provided. However reports are that the sound is not the best and a suitable 90 degree adapter from Amazon or Ebay will be recommended.

(to be continued ...)
 

Nikhil

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The Regen + Adapter has a bit of an overhang along with the weight of the cables. I have placed two coasters under to support the Regen. Although not very heavy it just feels better to have it supported than just hanging with risk of damage to the USB port and adapter of the Regen. Powering up the Regen with the supplied Meanwell SMPS was straight forward and thankfully my Audio PC just treated it like a USB hub. So no additional driver installation for my AP DAC was needed.

So these little quirky peculiarities aside I have been using the Regen in my setup for a little over a month. I first let the Regen sit in my system for a couple of days before really doing any critical listening but I knew something has changed in the sound as soon as I installed it. The change was subtle - more on the side of smooth and easy.

Listening Impressions

I am a little wary of tweaks that make my setup "pop" straight of the bat. I liked that the Regen was a subtle change to the sound but not so pronounced that it aroused any suspicions. What it did do straight away was remove a buzz on the left channel that had been bugging my setup. This I suspected was from my audio pc which was at the time was a Dell Laptop connected via the Flextronics brick power supply. With the Regen in the chain the computer was now isolated from the DAC. Result - buzz gone. This alone was worth the price.

After letting it settle for a few weeks I started noticing the change in sound in the manner of sudden realizations while playing music that was familiar. I will save everyone the usual audio cliches but roughly the improvements can be described as follows:

Smoother vocals and mid range
Clearer transients like drums, tablas, hi hats etc
Improved deeper bass
Tangible improvement in decay, reverb tails and the like (cymbals, etc)

In short the sound is changed and not in a trivial manner. The improvement is more like a refinement of the existing sound - cleaner, softer and easy on the ears. I did remove the Regen from the chain just to check and the changes were more apparent. I could not believe it was my DAC (no slouch by any means) that I heard without the Regen. In fact that does say it best - you hear the differences best when you take it out of the chain. I placed it back in straight away.

There have been a few on CA and JPlay forums who have reported not having noticed any difference in their setups. Having placed the Regen in my setup and hearing what it does I really can't say I have the same experience.

Similar Products: Audioquest Jitterbug ($50) and Schiit Wyrd ($99)
Not exactly similar price wise but perhaps more reachable in price for some. Some CA members have compared the Schiit Wyred to the Regen and found the Regen to be the better sounding. No comparo between the Jitterbug and Regen that I am aware of.

Conclusion
Going by the sound improvement in my system and the generally positive comments on CA I have no reservations in recommending the USB Regen to all who have USB DACs. It has been a very interesting experience so far and the closest to a home run product as can be possible in audio. Getting this kind of improvement in sound usually costs a whole lot more money.

Packet noise is very real and it's effects on sound degradation once heard cannot be easily ignored. The USB Regen is an excellent solution.

Note: Some people have used the Regen on USB converters before the DAC and have reported improvement as well. My understanding is that wherever there is a USB interface there is going to be ground plane noise that is addressed by the Regen. The redundancy of the power isolation etc may not bring the same improvement as in a straight PC to USB DAC system.
 

reignofchaos

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Thanks for the review Nikhil. That seals it for me. Ordering one today - also great to know that the international shipping reached you safely. I was rather worried that it won't reach.
 

prepress

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I am using Audiotrak Prodigy Cube, which has multiple inputs but I am using it with USB which is a powered source as well.

I am interested in this but not sure REGEN will send DC power to Audiotrak USB DAC or not.
 

reignofchaos

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I am using Audiotrak Prodigy Cube, which has multiple inputs but I am using it with USB which is a powered source as well.

I am interested in this but not sure REGEN will send DC power to Audiotrak USB DAC or not.


Not worth it for a such a low end device to be honest. Why spend 200$ on a device that costs 100-150$. You'd probably not notice a difference. A better bet would be to upgrade to a nicer DAC.
 

prepress

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Not worth it for a such a low end device to be honest. Why spend 200$ on a device that costs 100-150$. You'd probably not notice a difference. A better bet would be to upgrade to a nicer DAC.

Agree, Audiotrak DAC is VFM product and it's got lot of positive reviews. I like it too but if I upgrade the DAC I am not sure how much $(money) I have to spend to see/hear the difference between this Audiotrak DAC or the new one.

I can upgrade the DAC and can spend around $400-$500, I like sound of Wolfson chips, however I have tried Cirrus Logic, Burr Brown and few CD Players.
 

Nikhil

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Thanks for the review Nikhil. That seals it for me. Ordering one today - also great to know that the international shipping reached you safely. I was rather worried that it won't reach.

Go for it! From when I last checked next batch will be shipped in Sep.
But go ahead and book one as response is really strong.
 

Nikhil

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I am using Audiotrak Prodigy Cube, which has multiple inputs but I am using it with USB which is a powered source as well.

I am interested in this but not sure REGEN will send DC power to Audiotrak USB DAC or not.

The Regen acts as a USB hub and will power your DAC - in fact it supplies very clean power. No worries there. However you will have a problem as there is no room if you want to connect both Regen and your RCA cables. You might need to get a right angle adapter or use a cable extension which unfortunately does not sound the best according to reports from other users.
 

reignofchaos

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The Regen acts as a USB hub and will power your DAC - in fact it supplies very clean power. No worries there. However you will have a problem as there is no room if you want to connect both Regen and your RCA cables. You might need to get a right angle adapter or use a cable extension which unfortunately does not sound the best according to reports from other users.

Did you select the 25$ shipping option or the 55$?

Edit: Placed an order with the 25$ shipping option.
 
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Nikhil

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Did you select the 25$ shipping option or the 55$?

Edit: Placed an order with the 25$ shipping option.


Oops! I forgot that I had paid $23.50 for shipping!
I have wrongly mentioned that the $175 included shipping but that is not correct.

Thanks for catching that. It's probably $25 now but no problems with shipping.
 
M

mpw

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very nicely written Nikhil ! It looks very professional and nicely done.

though i am not much of a computer wallah... i am amazed at the number of devices available for tweaks... literally hundreds of them besides a million dacs .. !!

But hey.... as they say... whatever rocks the boat !

and thanks for the time in hyd..... i got the chance to listen to the GMA's which i had been wanting to for some time.

regards
 

Nikhil

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Too little time but time well spent. Glad you could make it!

It's all in the details IMO. I would have been very happy with my setup as is until I heard the Regen "in my setup".
All of a sudden you realize something has changed for the better and you can't go back.

:cool::cool:
 

Nikhil

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Nikhil are you using the meanwell psu or something else?

Using the Meanwell for now but I plan to use an HDPlex.

My HDPlex is taking the "slow boat from China".
It's been in transit for over 2 weeks now and I am waiting for an update.

Note: Does your HDPlex have independent voltage rails? Use the 9V to power the Regen.
This has been the experience from those who have used it and say it sounds better with 9V supply.
 
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Nikhil

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My HDPlex LPS finally made it to Hyderabad over the weekend.
It still took the Post Office two days to send me a notification.

Picked it up this morning and it's finally in my setup powering the Regen. Sound Quality has gone up several notches over the sound with the Mean Well SMPS brick. This was expected but hearing is believing. It's unbelievable how sound improves in an already satisfying setup to another level.

Highly recommend using an LPS to power the Regen.

Note: Using the 9V rail of the HDPlex to power the Regen.
I'm told the newer HDPlex's will have a variable voltage (5v - 9v) specifically for this purpose.
 
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reignofchaos

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My HDPlex LPS finally made it to Hyderabad over the weekend.
It still took the Post Office two days to send me a notification.

Picked it up this morning and it's finally in my setup powering the Regen. Sound Quality has gone up several notches over the sound with the Mean Well SMPS brick. This was expected but hearing is believing. It's unbelievable how sound improves in an already satisfying setup to another level.

Highly recommend using an LPS to power the Regen.

Note: Using the 9V rail of the HDPlex to power the Regen.
I'm told the newer HDPlex's will have a variable voltage (5v - 9v) specifically for this purpose.

Good to know! I knew from the start that you'd notice a massive difference in quality with a linear psu. Unfortunately my HDPlex only has 19V and 12V. Need to get a separate 6-9V linear PSU. Any suggestions?

My regen is supposed to arrive first week of september according to latest updates. The waiting is killing me!
 

Nikhil

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Good to know! I knew from the start that you'd notice a massive difference in quality with a linear psu. Unfortunately my HDPlex only has 19V and 12V. Need to get a separate 6-9V linear PSU. Any suggestions?

My regen is supposed to arrive first week of september according to latest updates. The waiting is killing me!

The Teradak LPS is pretty good. There is also another Chinese supplier who makes a nice LPS (Ebay link given below).
Both are based on R Core transformers which is the way to go.

30W DC9V HiFi Linear Power Supply Regulated PSU for DAC Amp Digital Display | eBay

The TeraDak's go for about $150 approx. Kenneth Lau is well regarded on CA.
 

Nikhil

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Hi,
How much it costs you including everything ?

The Regen comes to $175 + $25 shipping.
It comes with a stock Mean Well SMPS which is pretty good.

Linear Power Supply upgrade is recommended for the best sound.
But the cost ranges from $130 to $1,000 depending on the supplier.
The HDPlex costs $385 but comes with 4 independent voltage rails (19V / 12V / 9V / 5V DC) incl a selection of cables with connectors etc.

Note: Customs duty applies to the LPS. I didn't pay much (Rs 771/-) but others were not so lucky.
 
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Naturelover

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Note: Customs duty applies to the LPS. I didn't pay much (Rs 771/-) but others were not so lucky.

Lucky you :)
Wasn't too bad for me too. I paid Rs 1300.
Haw much was the declared price? It was $75 in my case.
 
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