Hardware Review: The USB Disruptor
A Short Review of The USB Disruptor and DaBigGenius USB cable from Truth In Systems, LLC (www.USBDisruptor.com)
Here’s the “Bottom Line,” but right at the top: Why? Because you don’t really need to read this review… with the ridiculously low cost of this upgrade, every USB DAC owner should just order a Disruptor and find out for themselves. In addition, the company offers a 30-day trial, so there’s truly very little risk.
However, if you insist on having more info before you spend a refundable $150 (probably minus the shipping), read on.
As a stalwart Analogue guy, it takes a lot to get me excited about digital… the last time I was floored by a computer audio product was at the Newport SHOW two years ago when I heard the unbelievably clear and musical sound of the portable DAC/Headphone amp named HUGO, by Chord Electronics in the UK. Although too big to be considered “portable” the HUGO was the best USB DAC I’d ever heard. I’m now running the MOJO DAC, HUGO’s little brother, which, with over 90% of HUGO’s technology trickled down, its sound has taken my digital music experience to a higher realm. And now, enter the USB Disruptor… sounds ominous, but it’s really quite the opposite.
Aside from my Big Analogue System in the listening room, I have three personal listening systems (one analogue and two digital), including my office desktop set-up. Headphones are AKG K702 and Audeze LCD3, both of which I use interchangeably in my analogue and digital systems.
System 1: All Analogue. The only relevance this analogue system has in this review is that I use this system as a sound reference due to it’s balanced and natural presentation of music. I compare all the digital set-ups to this system. If you’re interested, I’ll describe it. Starting with my Vintage Alphason Sonata turntable with the legendary all-titanium HR100 tone arm and VDH pure mono -crystal silver wires, an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze cartridge feeding a new iPhono 2 MC Phono Stage, which outputs to a Ray Samuels Audio Raptor Tube Headphone amp.
System 2: Desktop Digital set-up consists of a Mac Pro steaming Tidal at Redbook-quality, and a Micromega DAC feeding AudioEngine 2 powered speakers.
System 3: Portable Digital listening set-up: iPhone or iPad running Tidal into the MOJO DAC/Headphone Amp from Chord Electronics and Etymotic HF2 In-Ear Monitors if I’m on the go, or my LCD3s if I just want to veg on my deck.
What This Thing is and What it Does:
The USB Disruptor and DaBigGenius USB cable from Rob Priore and his company Truth In Systems, completely eliminates the 5V USB power that comes from your computer through your cable and into your DAC (which brings with it all kinds of computer grunge that smears the sound) and then replaces it with new, clean 5V power coming from a robust, high-quality power supply that is masquerading as a regular wall wart.
Testing and Impressions:
Note: I did not go to Rob’s website nor read any other reviews before writing this report. All opinions stated here are from my own experience with this product
I performed an A/B test using an iPad (on battery power) running Tidal Streaming (CD quality), using my Audeze LCD3s, and listening to a track I know really well… Beck’s Paper Tiger. First, I played it with the MOJO DAC connected directly to the iPad — then, without taking off the headphones or changing anything else, especially volume, I put the Disruptor in the signal path. The change took 15 seconds and I played the track from the beginning. I did this a few times.
This was my first attempt with a portable device on battery power and I thought, “how much electrical grunge could an iPad possibly produce on battery power?” Well, it was no contest. The difference was dramatic. Without the Disruptor, the sound quality was very good, mostly attributable to the stellar performance of the MOJO DAC. But with the Disruptor and DaBigGenius USB cable connected, the sound was outstanding, coming closer to the fidelity I get hearing the same track on vinyl! Beck’s voice was so much richer and full, the soundstage blew open, the bassist came out from hiding and the string instruments soared! The USB Disruptor further enhanced the MOJO’s already wonderful sound. The absence of electronic grunge allows for a more 3D experience with plenty of Air around the instruments. Musicians populating the soundstage were rock solid and occupied their positions believably. Especially when listening to well-recorded HD files, the lowered noise floor revealed micro details without any of that etched stridency that often accompanies fine details in the digital realm.
The USB Disruptor is one of those products that once its effect is heard, it’s hard to imagine not having in the system. Its effect was very positive, and for a measly $150, a no-brainer, since (to me) it’s easily worth five times the price!