User Test Report (Firdaus)

With his permission, I am copying the contents of fb group post (Hifi Talk Malaysia, private group, only members can view) by Mohd Firdaus bin Ishak into this blog.

Firdaus is already using a powerful Intel NUC as semi-DIY music streamer with Windows 10 and JPLAY FEMTO, so I thought this is a good avenue for comparison. Firdaus also took the time sharing his experience, including capturing and uploading videos to YouTube (links available here).

First post – The AA Music Streamer

(created Feb 6 2022, content copied Feb 21 2022) Original fb post

this was supposed to be quick and simple write up of my thought but after finish i found it quite ( very ) long.. so for those only interested of my finding can straight go to line 106.. like if you feel diligent enough to actually count..
there is nothing new about this soon to be release local made streamer by Dr Anwar Ali Mohamed . there are 2 reviewer had review this streamer as far as i know.
im not here to put another review.. don’t have such skill with fancy word to put up.. plus my hifi system is just so-so.. i just want to share my personal thought and experience with this streamer..
thanks to Dr Anwar loaning this unit to me for a field test..
[ my setup before this PC streamer ]
before i put my thought on this streamer, maybe let me brief a bit of my previous experience on digital music player that i had on the past.. this will help you to judge my judgment 😅
i start my journey of digital music player with my first reference player, an android box ( nvidia shield ) connect to my DAC via USB.. why android box? because since i already owned it and not willing to spend for anything more.. i use Hiby music app.. it capable to play hires local flac and the sound is good enough for me..
then i discover there is music app called USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP). its not so expensive.. about RM50 including MQA addon.. maybe less.. This player stand apart from other player because it use custom developed USB audio driver for USB DACs bypassing all audio limits of default Android driver that most other music app used.. with UAPP i got better cleaner music experience..
then i was introduced to raspberry pi by Mr Ken Steel.. he poisoned me by loaning his Pi4.. its a small single-board computer.. there is many OS for audio that i try.. volumio.. roopiexl.. moode.. out of the 3 my favorite was volumio.. it has best sound and interface out of all.. this was my 3rd reference player replacing UAPP on Android..
after that i moved Volumio from pi to PC after i found upgrading my intel NUC skull canyon stock power supply to Linear Power Supply gave me much cleaner and quieter background.. i stuck with volumio for a while because at the moment i believed linux base OS like volumio best for audio player because it was a trim down version of full linux distribution made specifically for audio.. so nothing fancy running busy at background that may lead to noisy output sound..
NUC running volumio has been my 4th reference player replacing pi4 for quite a while.. until i came across Dr Anwar blog about Hysolid.. i do have a doubt if it can be any good since it run on windows 10 OS.. this in my understanding will have many unwanted process running and can caused interruption on audio output.. but since the fact that Hysolid is a background service thing that run only on background and no windows login required then this made me wanna give a shot.. i get some other m.2 ssd to install win10 just to try with Hysolid.. the result is really jaw dropping.. NUC runnning Hysolid was officially 5th reference player that time replacing volumio..
Hysolid is very good sounding Free music player. however the developer is no longer supporting the program.. so any issue will left abandoned.. even the app is kind of buggy.. music collection cant be too large else app will crash.. user interface need a lot of improvement and bug fix.. latest android cant run Hysolid at all.. need older android version.. This make me look for something else.. as suggested by Dr Anwar from his journey, i went for JPlay Femto..
I did not try JPlay Femto first before Hysolid because I dont like the retail price.. for me its too much for music player.. its 149.. not MYR.. but Euro.. about RM700… gila ah.. just for a program.. not hardware.. tapi roon lagi mahal.. USD12.99 per month.. lifetime for USD699.99..
But since it does come with 21 days trial so i just give a shot.. to be honest.. the sound quality isn’t that much better than Hysolid.. slightly better only.. but since by far Jplay Femto is the best sonic sound that i heard personally and Hysolid is buggy and no longer supported, after 21days plus 14 days extended trial, i made my mind.. i made craziest decision ever by paying for JPlay Femto.. i feel that its not really worth it.. but whenever i try something else for fun like Audirvana or Roon or Jriver along the way i always found Jplay Femto has better sound of my taste.. then i feel relieved😛.. at that moment.. NUC run JPlay Femto become my 6th reference Music Streamer replacing NUC+Hysolid.. and this remain my reference streamer for the time being..
in between there is also some streamer that i try like JF MX-Pro.. even though it have good sound with great interface and convenience i still prefer best sounding from JPlay.. or maybe sebab dah bayar mahal.. bagi sedap hati😛
i never experienced Music Streamer from manufacturer like Innuous or Lumin or Auralic etc.. i love to try but too much investment just to try for fun.. gut saying it maybe better but not by far.. this is how i calm myself down avoiding reckless purchase.. it works so far..
[ The Streamer Configuration and the Sound ]
ok now you know where i came from.. so my judgment might not be on par with some other higher level setup and experience..
with the NUC+Jplay Femto setup.. i have been sticking around without upgrading or changing gear for quite awhile now.. i feel like what i have now already good enough.. maybe a DAC with DSD support would be nice.. but i listen on 44.1 the most.. so im good with SoulNote SD710 DAC.. for now.. other than that i feel like my so-so system produce the best sounding ever.. any minor issue like a little boomy sound for some track i blame my small room and the bad acoustic treatment.. i always assume that.. i even ordered proper room treatment stuff to see if will help.. but things got delayed maybe after CNY.. sometimes i just blame the digital copy of the flac.. poor ripping approach la.. bla bla bla..
[ configuration ]
now with the AA Streamer..
the moment i plug in to my system.. configuration is flawless.. i just need to hook up 3 things.. power cable.. USB cable for the DAC/DDC and LAN cable.. thats all..
next step is just installing driver for my DAC/DDC and copy my music to the SSD.. all this was done on my laptop connected on same network using remote desktop app build-in on WIN10.. or it also can be done using RD Client app from android or IOS device.. no hassle of monitor or keyboard or mouse on the streamer.. pure headless..
however.. there is a minor speedbump.. i did not manage to get JPlay detected on either of my bubbleupnp apps on android or mconnect on ios.. it took a while figuring out that my home network router need public access enabled for JPlay in firewall setting.. maybe because i setup 2 sub domain.. 1 special isolate for my hifi using mesh router and the other for the rest of user in the house using unifi router.. after enabling that in firewall setting my JPlay is up and running.. woohooo..
[ The Sound ]
before i manage to figure out JPlay firewall issue.. i just able to enjoy the sound of the streamer from the windows.. so i login to the streamer on my phone using RD Client.. open chrome.. play some youtube song.. i search ‘audiophile’ on YT.. play the first video on the result list called ‘Audiophile Music Collection 2021 – Deep Bass and Vocals album – Audiophile NbR Music’
the NBR intro music is nice.. but yeah.. my NUC sound as nice either.. not surprise..
then the first track start.. the ‘St. James Infirmary’ i think.. huh.. the guitar pluck.. the vocal.. fills the room.. sound superb betol.. clarity very transparent.. half way i stop.. maybe never heard this track on my NUC that’s why i got overexcited.. or maybe its just a ‘new gear’ effect.. everything sound good at the beginning.. tak puas hati punya pasal.. right away.. i turn off the streamer and put on my NUC back.. login on win10 and play same YT track.. the intro.. lebih kurang.. as expected.. then that first track kick in.. sound as good.. but not as good as i heard moment before.. now i become picky already.. suddenly i feel like the NUC sound like having dust all around while the AA Streamer have cleaner sound.. hmmm.. its only a YT comparison.. dah tewas.. i was like “LEMAH..”
then i put on AA Streamer back.. after i manage to get JPlay Femto up.. i put some track on JPLAY Femto.. one from FourPlay.. i simply pick any.. that time ‘October Morning’ was chosen.. yep.. it does sound clean and very much pleasing.. again.. after the track finish.. i shut down and put back my NUC.. remember the boomy thingy i mention before? it present a little bit here on this track on my NUC.. noticeably improved on the AA streamer.. i was like.. ‘WHAT’.. it supposed to be fixed after i got my acoustic treatment arrived.. did i assume wrong? huhu..
then moved back to AA Streamer.. dah malas nak switch back and forth dah.. i have to accept the fact that my NUC have some weakness.. terima hakikat.. itu bukan lawan dia..
i kept on listening to few more track.. there is 6th or 7th album (cant recall which) from Focal JMlabs album has few electronic music.. i remember last time i hear the track it was not so enjoyable.. whenever the track play i always skip it.. maybe too much bass and feel drown.. but now i can enjoy each of them.. the electro bass punch sounds clean tight and under control.. so goood..
Listening to live album like Antonio Forcione and Nils Lofgren giving a big box room effect..
Decay and reverb effect make me feel like im listening in very quiet dark room.. like i was there kind of feeling..
worth to mention that my NUC connected to my DAC/DDC through JCAT USB Femto.. while the AA Streamer is using Dr Anwar’s own USB filter.. with the sonic sound that i get from AA Streamer im kind of having zero interest to take out the JCAT USB Femto card to try on AA Streamer.. like why i even need it.. it is actually against my natural behavior that always want to test every possible state 😅
[ things i like about the streamer ]
-the LPSU-
The most valuable thing about this streamer is the power supply.. there is many LPSU available on the market including ATX LPSU.. but most of them either exotically expensive or lower quality component used can get from aliexpress or tabao.. judgement done just by looking at the low price assuming lower quality part used..
as for AA Streamer reading from the blog i can see pretty good quality part has been chosen.. some even custom made like the audio-grade toroidal transformer custom-made in Europe.. the LPSU also gone through few iteration mix and match component to get best desired sounding like TI and LT regulator to be used at output stage..
the 5v DC also has been improved from earlier design.. originally it already came with dedicated regulator output for each single rail before and not share but now to improve further each of the 5v line design with own dedicated rail.. meaning those rectifier, smoothing caps, regulators separate for each rail to have better noise reduction..
there is few other good stuff in there that im not really know well to comment like the vishay and kemet capacitor.. can check out the blog for more details..
-the fanless case-
Streacom FC10 alpha was chosen to present the look of AA Streamer.. for me it was kind of overkill.. because the case isn’t cheap..
according to Dr Anwar the case is the most expensive part of the build.. also the case was specially design for PC heat dissipation.. but motherboard used in this streamer came with embedded CPU and CPU heatsink.. so it does not actually cooled by the FC10..
so what about the case that i like? the case was used to purely handle heat from LPSU and its done very good job.. temperature from the case is just light warm.. will took forever if you plan to heat coffee on that..
other than that the case is very solid and sturdy.. proudly present the Streamer..
-USB Filter-
for me.. personally.. for now.. i think the streamer does very good job without expensive USB Card like JCAT USB Femto.. i will try if i feel to do so later.. yet if the streamer is still with me..
but for now even without it.. with it own USB filter, it does an excellent job lifting the sound quality of the streamer to higher level.. even the internal cabling for USB filter is pretty good.. pure silver core cable if not mistaken and dedicated separate power line..
-headless setup-
with Win10 and JPLAY Femto, i like the fact that the Streamer is headless.. no monitor require to connect to the streamer.. no keyboard.. no mouse.. less potential noise ( acah2 purist ).. to use the streamer you just need to press the switch in front once and to turn off just press the same switch twice.. that’s it.. to login in the windows system for any reason like install driver or transfer music or debug anything just login from other PC or laptop using remote desktop program available in win10 or login using RD Client using Android or IOS device..
[ wrap up ]
im honored to be able to try the unit on my system and overall, i like the Streamer very much.. it looks premium and the performance is outstanding.. big leap for some one like me with so-so system..
[ my system used ]
Vienna Acoustic Mozart Grand Floor Stand Speaker
AVI S21 M1 Labs Series Integrated Amplifier
SoulNote SD710 DAC
Singxer SU1 DDC
Curious USB cable
Mike Lenehan Ribbontek Speaker Cable
Pair of Palic Diamond Silver Coax cable used as RCA cable
AFA Coax cable
Monster Powerline300 and Powerline400 power cable

Second post – [AA Audio USB Filter vs JCAT USB Femto] little story of Zinger Burger 😆

(created Feb 12 2022, content copied Feb 21 2022) Original fb post

As promised.. eventhough i have very low interest to try JCAT USB Femto on AA Streamer but since not every day one like me get a chance to play with high end streamer, so yeah lets do it..
To recap why i dont feel like trying the JCAT is because the sound of AA Streamer with its own design USB filter is superb out of the box.. like a complete package.. adding stuff to the chain i feel it gonna be like adding hot sauce in kfc zinger burger.. chef presented the way it is.. if the chef want hot souce in it it will come in the package.. betul tak? Like the P. Ramlee Burger.
anyway since i already own JCAT USB Femto so i thought why dont i just give a shot.. no harm trying anyway..
[ installing the card ]
So.. the Streacom FC10 alpha had the pci bracket placed horizontally for it form factor. Thus, it need pcie riser for this purpose.. will this degrade the sound quality? Nahhh.. purist will say everything affected sound but its a low speed so i have minimal to zero concern..
And since AA Streamer does have extra 5v DC rails so the JCAT can be powered internally through molex input on the JCAT.. No additional linear power supply required for this purpose.. however you can use external LPSU if you want.. just configure correct jumper and connect the 5v to 2.5mm DC input on the JCAT..
worth mentioning AA Streamer require long pci bracket for pcie card installation..
It does not require any driver installation on win10 as it use default microsoft renesas driver..
Siap.. ready to use..
[ the sound ]
So lets cut to the chase.. how does it sound? Can it be any better? Short answer is… surprisingly yes.. well it can be personal taste but since im sharing my experience so it gonna be based on my taste..
JCAT produce more sharp edge sounding.. can be a little bit analytical but within enjoyable range.. the USB filter however give more polite sounding.. some might prefer this.. softer edge with a trade of slight loose of saperation..
[ wrap up ]
So yeah.. thats my perspective of the 2 USB card.. JCAT win my heart.. but the USB filter is also excellent.. it is not something like ‘better than nothing’ stuff.. its a good good stuff.. if I don’t compare with the JCAT I already love the sound from USB filter out of the box.. the feel that i dont need anything else for the streamer.. a complete recipe streamer..
but probably this time its more like Heinz or Hellmanns rather than regular life’s hot sauces for the zinger.. an upgrade rather than alterations perhaps 😅
Maybe Dr Anwar Ali Mohamed can consider releasing this USB filter alone..

Please leave your comments here.

Categorized as Hi-Fi

By Anwar

Dr. Anwar Ali is a consultant in the area of Operations Research / Decision Science. During his free time and as a side business, he builds high-performance and moderate-cost music streamer.