New Toy – UpTone Audio’s EtherREGEN, by Albert Dall
Starting last Fall, I began a revamp of my system and room. I envisioned a less cluttered, simpler and cleaner layout of the source rack. To that end, I changed DACs so I could remove my dedicated audio computer from the listening room. To get source material from my NAS and allow streaming via Roon and Qobuz via ethernet, I bought the latest PS Audio Direct Stream DAC with Bridge II with the most current issue of software installed. It works great! But, as we do, we want the best we can have by adding little mods and tweaks to our systems. I ran across such a device with perfect application to my new source setup. This is the UpTone Audio EtherREGEN ethernet switch. (https://uptoneaudio.com/products/etherregen) I was able to contact Alex Crespi at UpTone Audio even though the lockdown was in place. Happily, he had a unit he could send me. Being close by here in NorCal it arrived in just a few days.
I remember when a few members put the UpTone Audio USB REGEN in line with their audio computer to their DAC, everyone reported a noticeable improvement in the sound quality from their systems. Somehow, I missed getting on the bandwagon for this upgrade. Well, now it was time for me to get one of these little magic boxes in my house!
The EtherREGEN switch is designed and built to decrease impedance leakage and clock phase noise. The UpTone Audio web site provides a link to the white paper regarding the technical mechanisms at play with digital signals in our music playback systems. Here it is, as written by John Swenson the designer of the EtherREGEN
There is an input “A” side, and an output “B”side to the switch. The “A” ports take internet, computer audio, and NAS ethernet sources. The “B” port is where you connect your DAC. The switch can be connected remotely, close to your router and devices, or locally, near your DAC and source rack. I wanted to compare the sound differences of these two methods.
To begin, I kept the REGEN plugged in and warm. Actually, they run HOT. Air and space around the unit seems like a good idea to me. I put all my ethernet audio devices connected to what has been my original setup from 2014, an ethernet TRENDnet Gigabit switch. I picked two albums to listen to via Roon Labs Music Player and Qobuz streamed sources.
First album, The Band – Music From Big Pink – Flac 24/192.
Qobuz Stream: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0060253761908
I’ve listened to this album hundreds of times over the last 30 years, and songs from it were always playing on AM radio when I was a kid. This version streaming on Qobuz sounds better than any previous version, and even better than the ripped SACD DSD 64 files in my library. As the “Tears Of Rage” track began, I noticed organ harmonics floating in space. Interesting ambiance and effect. Next, on “To Kingdom Come”, I let the song play out, while I was getting a sense of the instruments on stage. Then I plugged the REGEN in near the router and Synology NAS storage drives and restarted the album. Immediately I took note of: “more presence”, “more detail in symbol and tambourine percussion.” There was more space and depth in the stage, but with the organ sounding more precise and real. I was excited! Things sounded as reported and advertised.
The next step was to evaluate while listening with local placement of the REGEN near the DAC.
In this layout, all audio ethernet is plugged to the gigabit switch near my Comcast cable modem, and Orbi router. One long run Cat 7 ethernet cable runs from the garage, under the house, then up into the living room and over to my source rack. I put this in place when I remodeled the kitchen and expanded the dining area in summer 2016. This is the input to the ‘A” port on the REGEN, then a Cable Matters Cat8 3ft cable from “B” port to the DAC.
Wow! Even more of the goodness was heard compared to the remote location of the REGEN switch. As “Caledonian Mission” played, I wrote down how, again, I heard more detail in the drum symbols, but that detail was in all of the instruments! They were suspended in space with a tactile tap of the symbols and a crack of the snare drum. This is definitely “the way” to setup the REGEN. Keep it close to your DAC! Knowing this is where the unit was going to live from now on, I could just sit back and enjoy the music. On the song “We Can Talk”, I noticed each voice and instrument discerned through left and right channels. The Hammond organ centered with Robbie Robertson’s Fender Telecaster singing left stage. I just closed my eyes and got lost in the music. On the song, “I Shall Be Released”, the piano, bass, drums, and fine guitar strumming are easily heard independent of each other, while also letting through the ambient reflections in the recording room. Of particular note is Richard Emanuel’s haunting falsetto voice. This song has as always been a favorite of mine, but last week’s listening was extraordinary as the system now sounds phenomenal.
The second album I listened to was The Beatles – Abbey Road – 2019 Remix 96/24 Qobuz Stream. https://open.qobuz.com/album/trrcz9pvaaz6b
I’ve been streaming this version since last fall using Qobuz through my Bluetooth JBL speaker. I really like the outtakes and different versions of songs after the main album has finished. But for this listening session, I was excited with the anticipation of hearing this iconic album anew. Starting with, “Come Together”, I noted there was tight, defined, powerful, and accurate bass tone. That is what this song is! Thank you, John Lennon and Paul McCartney! As the songs played through to, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “I Want You So Bad”, I made notes of how after moving the REGEN to local placement near the DAC, “Better were: John Lennon’s voice; Paul’s Bass, symbols more clearly defined in the upper left stage, while the organ and bass were presented throughout the stage with more definition and space.” On, “Polythene Pam”, Ringo’s thundering play of kick and tom-tom drums is quintessential rock and roll! This carries on through the finale of the second side of the album. I could delineate Paul’s finger play on bass and real drum skin hits on, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”. As the album finishes with the song, “The End”, the drums were in the room, and as George goes solo on guitar with voices singing, ”Love You!”, you can hear three different guitar tones being used. Historically, with the crescendo finale, tears come to your eyes as symphony strings finish and the feeling of the lyrics sink in. “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” This listening, as much as ever, tears were wetting my eyes. I think this alone is a testimonial to how nice the EtherREGEN lets the music play through your system. I am a fan now and look forward to Alex’s talk in July. I hope to see you there.