Audiobyte’s philosophy is based on radical thinking, aiming to original product offerings. This they make possible by implementing top technological solutions from their own R&D department. Their technology department doesn’t just release a “me-too” product, only original hand crafted high quality original products at competitive prices aimed to fit either in a high-end audiophile system or in a computer audio setup.
BLACK DRAGON – DSD Digital preamplifier
Which d/a converter? Which preamp? Which headphone amplifier? These are questions that pop up many times in our “audio” life. “Integration” is what spells Audiobyte’s friendly dragon as a response. One box instead of three?
The unique digital processing architecture makes the Black Dragon unique at it’s 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, with 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 a jitter reduction as low as 300 fS right before entering DACS.
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.
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 analogue 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. 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.
Low Noise 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 two 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 is easily firmware updateable via USB.
Inputs: USB, S/PDIF, AES/EBU, Toslink, I2S DSD over HDMI (LVDS)
Outputs: Phono, Balanced XLR, Headphones
Sample Rates: 44.1-384KHz on USB, I2S (PCM), DSD64, 128 on USB, 44.1-192KHz on S/PDIF, AES/EBU, 44.1-96KHz on toslink
HYDRA Z – USB audio playback bridge & clock generator
Audiobyte continues to raise the bar with it’s latest USB audio playback bridge.
Over it’s predecessor, the Hydra Z has a completely redesigned digital board that changes the way the it’s powered, a new output configuration, new chassis and many other refinements.
It can be powered directly from USB, from an external fixed 5volt power supply or from the dedicated Hydra ZPM power module.
It’s features include:
Extended number/type of outputsAdjustable 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).
The new Hydra has a full aluminium chassis, with a 10mm thick front panel. All connectors are conveniently placed on the back panel.
A 5Kv isolation barrier is used to prevent any leakage of the noise from PC to your sensitive audio system. USB isolation for audio devices is nothing but tricky. If you choose to use USB isolators, then the 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.
USB Arm Processing audio transactions are made through a powerful ARM3 processor. Therefore, the Hydra Z supports any sample rate available (384k PCM, DSD128) while being future-proof for any extension.
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.
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. 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.
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.
HYDRA ZPM – Ultra linear audio power supply
If one wants to fully squeeze the last drop of sound from the Hydra Z USB bridge, the Hydra ZPM (Z Power Module) is the natural upgrade as external power supply.
Ultracapacitor Power Bank The Hydra ZPM uses an ultracapacitor bank consisting of 2 x 310 Farads (1 Farad equals 1.000.000 uF) which will provide lower internal resistance and longer life and reliability, compared to a battery solution.
Processor Conrolled This charging of this huge capacitance is no trivial task, therefore is being done by specialized circuitry. Once capacitor bank is fully charged (it may take up to 4h first time!), the output voltage will remain constant assuming that Hydra ZPM is left powered on.
Low Noise Linear The ZPM is designed entirely with a linear design – meaning there is no switch-mode technology inside. This way, all types of noise associated usually with the widespread non-linear power supplies is eliminated.
Upgradeable Aside the “digital” 5v output readily available, the Hydra ZPM can be equipped with a discrete ultra-low noise analogue regulators to provide symmetrical +/-12v.. +/-24 in order to supply analogue devices.