Home Theater Review


Sonicweld Diverter USB to SPDIF Converter Reviewed

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4 Stars
4 Stars
4 Stars

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High Points
• The Sonicweld Diverter enabled the best USB audio experience I have been able to create in my home.
• The power supply did not require any external power other than that of the USB bus.
• While not vital for audio quality, the industrial design and build quality garnered as much interest (most of it positive) from my guest listeners as any other piece of recent gear.

Low Points
• The 24 bit / 96 kHz limit may inhibit future use. Right now my music catalog has very, very few files that cannot be handled by the Sonicweld Diverter but as more high resolution files become available, this may become a problem. If you do not need this capability now, this may not be a big issue, as the folks at Sonicweld assure me that the Diverter chassis will be capable of being upgraded to 24/192 in the future.
• The Sonicweld Diverter is sensitive to USB cables. There was a notable improvement with the Kimber USB cables over the stock, computer variety cables. Although one of the reasons to use and outboard a USB to SPDIF converter is to minimize upstream jitter and other USB problems, the converters have not yet reached a point where they can be completely eliminated. This issue is common to all USB devices I have used, not just the Diverter.

While I do not know the technical details of how the Sonicweld Diverter extracts more performance out of USB audio signals over any other USB music device I have used - suffice to say it works. The best that I can ascertain is that it is a combination of hardware and software that separates the audio data from everything else on the USB line and then addresses that audio data to minimize any errors in the signal that seem to be so rampant in the USB world.

I used the Diverter in my system with several different DACs, including the Cambridge Audio Dacmagic; Logitech Transporter, and the DAC sections of the McIntosh MCD-500 and Cary Audio CD 303T SACD Pro through their digital inputs. Only the Cary and Cambridge had their own USB inputs to allow for direct comparison. The Cambridge is limited to 44.1 or 448 kHz via USB and the Cary could take it all the way up to 23/192. To keep the playing field even I used Redbook CD files. With the Dacmagic, using the Diverter to do the conversion from USB to SPDIF rather than run USB directly into the DAC made a dramatic difference. The sound through the Diverter was much more natural. Not only was the soundstage better formed, the individual components were better formed. Using the Cary as a DAC the differences between USB direct and using the Diverter were less pronounced which I surmise is due to the Cary's USB implementation being of higher quality than the Dacmagic. Nonetheless, I found that the sound quality improved when the Diverter was in the signal chain. Placing the Diverter in the signal path brought the level of the USB input up to SPDIF. It was as though you were looking through a camera lens and getting the fine focus from very good to excellent.

If you are using, or are planning to use a computer as your main music source in a high end audio system, it will be necessary for you to convert your digital music signal from USB to SPDIF. Whether this is done in a DAC or in a standalone device, this process is vital to sound quality. The CryoParts Sonicweld Diverter accomplishes this process extremely well, allowing you to combine a computer-based music server with your favorite DAC without taking a hit on absolute sound quality.

Additional Resources• Read more digital audio and DAC reviews from this resource page at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Learn more about digital audio, CD transports and Digital to Analog converters from AudiophileReview.com.

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