Audiobyte's mission is to finally close the gap between computer and high-end audio. Audiobyte will always be the promoter of new and exciting technologies.

 

Black Dragon DSD Digital Preamplifier

Which d/a converter? Which preamp? Which headphone amplifier? These are questions that popped up many times in our "audio" life. "Integration" is what spells our friendly dragon as a response. One box instead of three? Let's see why.

The unique digital processing architecture makes the Black Dragon pretty unique at this price level. Instead of using off-the shelf chips for internal circuitry, dedicated hardware units are built inside a FPGA-chip to form together a powerful and custom front-end to the dac chips. This include digital receivers sampling input signals at 500 MHz , the clock system able to reduce timing errors to sub-picosecond level, the powerful digital filter made with 15 DSPs, the user interface.

Femtovox clock system allows jitter reduction as low as 300 fS right before entering dacs. For a detailed explanation about this technology please consult the Black Dragon white paper.

The custom hybrid-phase digital filter is a high-performance upsampling block for conditioning the incoming signals. It is especially effective on standard resolution digital signals, like 44.1/48 KHz. With a large number of taps and a carefully adjusted response, the extension and atmosphere of the recordings are virtually enhanced prior to conversion. The filter can be enabled or disabled from the menu interface. For filter detailed performance consult the technology paper.

True dual balanced conversion (2 x AK4396) is a perfect complement to the digital input stage. Each dac chip is processing one channel in fully balanced mode which leads to better analog performance and noise rejection.

Driverless USB input for Mac and Linux is natively capable of resolutions of 24bit/384 KHz sample rate and DSD64 /128. For Windows, ASIO and WASAPI/KS drivers are available under the download section. Asynchronous operation means that the dac dictates the USB audio transfers after its master clock and not the PC, resulting in minimal jitter.

Fully discrete , true balanced, zero-feedback class A output stage / headphone amplifier section will drive without problems from low to high impedance headphones.

The low noise LNS (linear power supply) - all power supplies inside are linear type. There are a total of 11 linear stabiliser IC's, 8 of them are low noise. The total filtering capacity exceeds 50.000 uF. The power supply is serviced by 2 separate toroidal transformers.

User convenience – there are 5 digital inputs available: USB, spdif, aes/ebu, i2s and optical toslink. Balanced, single ended and headphone outputs are present. The large display is easily readable from the listening point.

Easy firmware upgrade – the Black Dragon can be updated in the field by easily playing a special update track via the USB input.

 

Price $2,695 inc GST                                    

 

 

 

Hydra Z - USB audio playback bridge and clock generator

The previous model of Hydra, the X+, has built its reputation based on excellent sound quality. From our perspective, it is time to move on, and offer a new interface, that we named usb audio playback bridge.

While raising the bar even more in sound quality and keeping the existing set of features presently available, the new Hydra Z comes with a list of improvements that we’re happy to share. Among the changes are a complete redesign of the digital board, changes in the way the Hydra is powered, new output configuration, new chassis and many other refinements – please see below.

MORE FLEXIBLE

The Hydra Z can be powered in 3 (three) ways :

MORE FEATURES

  • Extended number/type of outputs
  • Adjustable I2S output clock polarity, to match all HDMI/I2S/LVDS dacs available
  • Adjustable masterclock output on I2S (512xfs or 1024xfs)
  • Firmware upgrade over usb
  • DSD native / DoP / hi-quality PCM converted (selectable)
  • DXD native (I2S out) / 192k or 176.4k (spdif, aes, bnc out)

TECHNICAL IMPROVEMENTS

Hydra Z benefits from all the qualities of the X+, and even more. New clocking scheme allows shutting down one of the two main oscillators when not in use. By reducing the mutual interference between clocks, better phase noise performance can be obtained. The power supply section was moved to a different chassis for best results.

WORDCLOCK and MASTERCLOCK OUTPUT

The Hydra Z can be additionally used as a wordclock or masterclock generator through its dedicated BNC output. In total there are available 6 (six) outputs, including the low-jitter wordclock/masterclock output for direct synchronizing external d/a converters. The output wordclock is the sample clock (44.1KHz - 384 KHz) or 512xfs (22.5792 MHz or 24.576 MHz). The other 5(five) are : SPDIF Coaxial, SPDIF BNC, AES/EBU, I2S, TOSLINK.

IMPROVED CHASSIS

The new Hydra has a full aluminium chassis, with a 10 mm thick front panel. All connectors are conveniently placed on the back panel.

ISOLATION

A 5KV isolation barrier is used to prevent any leakage of the noise from PC to your sensitive audio system. The USB isolation for audio devices is nothing but tricky. If you choose to use USB isolators, then sample rate will become limited, which is not an option. If you choose to isolate the output, you are adding significant amounts of jitter to the signal. By using a clever circuit topology, the Hydra design avoids these two bottlenecks. The isolation is placed between the ARM processor and the FPGA audio core, therefore not limiting the bandwidth. Being before the clocks, its jitter contribution becomes irrelevant.

ARM PROCESSING

All USB audio transactions are made through a powerful ARM3 processor. Therefore Hydra Z supports any sample rate available (384k PCM, DSD128) while being future-proof for any extension.

FPGA TECHNOLOGY

As all AUDIOBYTE digital products, the Hydra Z uses cutting edge, custom digital processing developed into a Xilinx Spartan6 field-programmable gate array. The fpga is the “heart” of the Hydra. This advanced programmable circuit is offering a bit-transparent processing and signal conditioning to all outputs. It also gives the ability of the Hydra to output raw dsd audio streams.

AUDIO GRADE CLOCKS

Unlike other products which only specify "low jitter clocks", here is exactly what you will find inside : 2xCCHD-950/957 type from Crystek. These are real audio grade clocks. You can check real graphs for them here. These clocks are system masters. In order to remove any jitter induced by the FPGA circuit itself, special retiming is applied just before the Hydra Z outputs.

COMPONENTS AND LAYOUT

Careful PCB layout is often neglected in the rush of getting a product quickly into the market. The Hydra Z design time took lots of work until everything came into the right place, until the shortest routing paths, the best decoupling places, the less interference and crosstalk placement for the components are found. Selected quality components (active and passive) are used for guaranteed long-time performance.

EXTERNAL POWER SUPPLY

For best results you can use the Hydra Z with the dedicated Hydra ZPM power supply.

Price $1,095 inc GST     (silver)

Price $1,095 inc GST     (black)

                              

 

 

 

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

GENERAL

 

  • Power consumption : 0,7W
  • Dimensions : 240 x 170 x 45MM
  • Weight : 1,2kg

CONNECTIVITY

Inputs

  • USB receptacle, type B

Outputs

  • S/PDIF, 75 ohm coaxial
  • AES/EBU, 110 ohm XLR
  • BNC 75 ohms
  • I2S over HDMI (LVDS)
  • Toslink
  • Wordclock BNC

 

SUPPORTED SAMPLE RATES

PCM

  • 44.1 KHz
  • 48 KHz
  • 88.2 KHz
  • 96 KHz
  • 176.4 KHz
  • 192 KHz
  • 352.8 KHz
  • 384 KHz

DSD

  • 2.8 MHz (DSD64) - DoP, native
  • 5.6 MHz (DSD128) - DoP, native
  • 11.2 MHz (DSD256) - native (via ASIO)
  • 22.5 MHz (DSD512) - native (via ASIO)

 

BIT DEPTH

  • 32 bit over I2S output
  • 24 bit over S/PDIF, AES/EBU, Toslink

 

COMPATIBILITY

  • Native MacOS 10.6 and later
  • Native Linux with UAC2 compliant kernel
  • ASIO, WASAPI, KS, DS drivers for Win XP to W8 32/64 bit
  • Recommended players : Foobar2000, Audirvana Plus, Jriver etc.
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