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Review MUTEC MC-3+ Smart Clock USB and 10 MHz Ref 10 Masterclock VS Innous Phoenix USB


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Thanks to Hugo @Indie Hi-Fi for supplying the reviewed components and cables. Hugo is the distributor for Mutec in AUS - https://indiehifi.com.au/collections/mutec

 

This is a sparse, independant, subjective review from a headfier using two audio systems and comparing the Mutec combo with the Innuos Phoenix USB interface:

 

Audio System 1 - Roon/Sonore/USB regeneration-reclocking/Holo May KTE/Pass Labs XP22 - X250.8/Raal Sr1a

Audio System 2 - Roon/Aries G2.1/USB regeneration-reclocking/Mola Tambaqui/PS Audio BHK - M1200/Raal SR1a

 

The purpose of this exercise was to compare and contrast two USB regeneration/reclocking manufacturers. One, the Mutec combo of MC-3+ Smart Clock USB and Ref 10 Masterclock and two, the Innous Phoenix USB all in one. In both audio systems, we used the same test tracks from Roon, the same cables and headphones but the DACs and amplification are different. This was intentional and you'll see why. 

 

I'm not going to explain, justify or persuade you of the merits of USB regeneration/reclocking. There's plenty of discussion available. We were interested to see the differences and merits of the two manufacturers.

 

Test 1 - system 1. With Mutec combo. Mutec is easy to connect but somewhat difficult to decipher in the settings and took some figuring out as to what all the lights meant but we got there. There are a number of key features, shown below that make this a very ProAudio piece of kit. Basically, we used as much reclocking as possible! On this system, the Mutec added punch and dynamics to all of our test tracks. Noticeable increase in transients, better instrument separation and attack, sustain and decay all improved. This is pretty impressive considering the Raal HPs are ribbons. We did notice a slight decrease in vocal presence and put this down to the increase in the other factors. Didn't affect enjoyment though.

Test 2 - system 1. Using the Phoenix, we got some of the effect of the Mutec but less of it. I preferred this not having as much perceptible effect on the vocals but did miss some of the dynamics of the Mutec.

Test 3 - system 1. Daisy chaining the Phoenix and the Mutec together! Some reviewers like doing this and we thought we'd give it a go. Initially, I liked it, Hugo not so sure. After a few tracks, we decided that the two components almost felt like they were "fighting" each other and something was getting lost.

 

Test 4  - system 2. Adding the Mutec to the Aries/Mola combo did bring more dynamics as described above. However, this was very much in line with what the Phoenix was doing previously (was already in my system). Using the Mutec instead may have brought some perceived increase in dynamics over the Phoenix but with a loss in warmth or presence of the vocals. I preferred the Phoenix which I didn't expect. Daisy chaining with the Mutec was a bit of a hot mess!

 

So, with System 1) Sonore/Holo DAC, we preferred the Mutec. With System 2) Aries G2.1/Mola DAC, the preference was Phoenix - just. Both were "better" with either of the USB regen/reclocking products though. 

 

What does this tell us? System synergy and component strengths/weaknesses/flavour all add up and have an effect. Sometimes the effect is different with different kit and combos. Fact of audio life! We both preferred the sound from adding these regen/reclockers though. And both systems are not slouches! 

 

I'll leave this here - I'm sure there are lots of "opinions" about the 1s and 0s......

 

The MC-3+ Smart Clock USB is setting a new benchmark for clocking technology and the reproduction of digital audio by uniquely combining an audiophile USB interface with an audio re-clocker in perfection! Particularly designed for the demands of high-end consumer audio, the device expands a new sonic universe with increased musicality, clarity, and precision. As such, the MC‑3+USB will prove its worth in many audiophile listening rooms around the world.

    Unique, bit-transparent Re-Clocking without conventional sample rate conversion for purest sound quality
    Audiophile, asynchronous two-channel USB interface with ultra-low noise audio clock oscillators and total galvanic isolation of up to 2500 VRMS, respectively 4242 VPK, for suppression of high-frequency interferences
    Converts DSD/DoP streams (64-256) to PCM audio with selectable output clock rate
    Locks to MUTEC's REF10, as well as so-called atomic clocks and GPS clock references
    Improved, next-generation REVIVE re-clocking and 1G-Clock technology by MUTEC
    Tested and approved to provide a consistently stellar user experience with Roon
Additional Features:

Serves as a flexible digital input switching matrix, audio format converter and master clock
Compatible to Apple Macintosh and Windows PCs
Intuitive user interface and easy installation
Update-capability via USB
Available with black- or clear aluminum front panel
Galvanic isolation up to 2500 VRMS in accordance with UL1577, respectively 4242 VPK in accordance with DIN EN 60747-5-2 (VDE 0884 part 2)
Converts DSD/DoP streams (64-256) to PCM audio with selectable output clock rate
Transfers USB audio streams into AES3 and S/P-DIF and outputs those to five digital audio formats simultaneously
Converts between USB PCM audio, USB DSD/DoP audio, AES3 and S/P-DIF, as well as between AES11 and Word Clock
Highly compatible USB audio class 2.0 driver for Windows supporting ASIO, MME, DirectSound, WASAPI, Kernel Streaming, PCM 16Bit, 24Bit, 32Bit and Float-32Bit at all clock rates between 44.1kHzand 192.0kHz
Ultra-low jitter Word Clock generation with clock rates up to 1,536.0 kHz
Scalable to FS1x512 clock rates, 22,5792 MHz & 24,576 MHz, for e.g. high-end audio interfaces
Locks to Rubidium- (10 MHz), Cesium- (5 MHz) and GPS clock references
Generates Word Clocks, Super Clocks, AES3 + S/P-DIF blanks simultaneously
Uninterruptable, fail-safe clock generation in all operation modes
Eliminates so-called digital "clicks and pops"
Individual lock indicators for the clock or audio reference and the re-clock reference
USB, AES/EBU, AES/EBUid and S/P-DIF interfaces in one box
S/P-DIF interconnections via BNC, RCA and optical interfaces available as in- and outputs
Front panel lock-out for preventing of misuse
Rack-space-saving 9.5" housing
Built-in, universal power supply

 

The MUTEC REF10 is an audiophile reference master clock generating 10 MHz signals with industry-leading low phase noise (i.e. jitter) to significantly improve digital playback systems. As the conductor of your digital audio orchestra at home, the REF10 will inspire you with unheard-of clarity, graceful dynamics, and pure music. It is the most flexible, most compatible 10 MHz clock on the market allowing you to spend less time worrying about integration and leaving you with more hours to enjoy blissful playback.

Unlock a more dynamic, more transparent sound stage with exceptional spatiality and level of detail, free from any digital blur. For all music enthusiasts reaching for the pinnacle of signal purity, audio quality, and clock precision, the REF10 is the must-have expansion to conduct your digital playback chain.

Features:

Audiophile 10 MHz reference generator with industry’s lowest phase noise
Improves and enhances compatible DACs, audio re-clockers, music servers, and master clocks
Engineered around a handcrafted, ultra-low phase noise OCXO made in Germany
Generates a very high slew-rate square wave signal for superior lock precision compared to the sine wave signals used by competing brands
Provides simultaneous reference outputs with 50 and 75 Ω impedance for maximum compatibility with clocks and DACs by other manufacturers
Eight galvanically isolated, individually switchable BNC clock outputs
Revolutionary, sub-Hz optimized, lowest noise power supply for every circuit section
Integrated, highest-quality international linear power supply
Highly efficient power line filtering

 

PhoenixUSB
The PhoenixUSB offers in one unit the equivalent of 3 separate components: A USB regenerator, a linear power supply and an external master clock with its own linear power supply.

The USB chip regenerating the signal contains no switching regulators. All 3 independent voltages to the chip originate from an independent linear power supply with further regulation provided by 3 sets of LT3045 regulators.

The use of a 3ppb OCXO clock running directly at 24MHz and connected via a board track just a couple of inches away from the USB chip. Therefore, no precision is lost within cables and connectors, as is the case when using an external master 10MHz clock with an additional 24MHz clock generator.

Two independent Statement-level linear power supplies, one dedicated to the OCXO clock and the other used for powering the USB chip/5V USB line.

IMG_2001.jpeg

IMG_2003.jpeg

MC-3_plus_USB_FB001.jpeg

REF_10_FB0001.jpeg

PhoenixUSB_intro.png

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41 minutes ago, BlueOceanBoy said:

Audio System 1 - Roon/Sonore/USB regeneration-reclocking/Holo May KTE/Pass Labs XP22 - X250.8/Raal Sr1a

Audio System 2 - Roon/Aries G2.1/USB regeneration-reclocking/Mola Tambaqui/PS Audio BHK - M1200/Raal SR1a

Is this a ranking? 😅

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Thanks for sharing your findings.

 

Did you happen to listen to the mutec without the external clock at all?

 

I'm curious to know how the impact of the mutec differs if you are relying on the internal clock.

 

Thankyou

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5 minutes ago, barbz127 said:

Thanks for sharing your findings.

 

Did you happen to listen to the mutec without the external clock at all?

 

I'm curious to know how the impact of the mutec differs if you are relying on the internal clock.

 

Thankyou

I knew someone smart would ask that! No we didn't and we should have. However, Hugo has all the gear, so if you ask him nicely, he may be able to provide some insight. These master clocks are all quite expensive, so if the internal clock on the MC-3+ can do 90% of the lifting, that makes it a bargain. I'm keen to try an A-B back with the Antipodes S20 (+/- S60) to see how that rates too. There's an Ref 120 coming out too!

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Yep got an SE120 version of the REF10 coming for demo use. Also got an S20 coming for demo use - and this also has a master clock input so can be upgraded with the REF10 just like Mutec's MC-3. Really exciting as even small focus on reclocking can lift most systems. So if you've got a sound dialled in reclocking usually just emphasises that sound. 

 

And thanks @BlueOceanBoy for the write up and Phoenix showcase. I've always found Innuos gear very well made and this is no exception. 

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Hi Neil,

 

Great write up, I have in my demo stock the Antipodes S20 reclocker and the S60 LPSU and the difference they make in improvements to SQ with the S30 is to say the least impressive. 

 

I know you have had them previously but I still reckon it would be interesting to compare one day.

 

As you know I am a real fan of the Phoenix and it is hard to beat at any price point, I often use my demo one with other streamers other than the Zenith. I have previously tried the S30/20/60 combo combined with the Tambaqui and the entry level Antipodes S stack in my opinion delivers way beyond its price point as swell. 

 

Talk soon.

 

cheers,

Terry

 

* I originally started this post just minutes after your last post but got side tracked by a call so didn't see Hugo's post saying he has ordered an S20 as well until after I had put up this post. Anyway all good, talk soon. 

Edited by GC HiFi
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I have loved having my Mutec in my system for years.    I couldn't justify the Mutec Ref 10 Clock so I went with the AfterDark version, the Double Crown with the LPS.

 

https://www.adark.co/collections/project-giesemann-ocxo/products/afterdark-project-clayx-giesemann-ocxo-10mhz-reference-master-clock-audiophilestyle-edition?variant=32208685531254

 

Certainly worth the money.

 

Recently I went down the AfterDark upgrade path, again with the Mutec USB 3+.  

 

https://www.adark.co/products/mutec-mc-3-smart-clock-usb-black

 

The addition of the Farad S3 power supply really ups the anti.

 

Well worth a look if you are planning on running a mutec in your system long term.

 

It would be interesting to pit my Mutec with the AfterDark OCXO/LPS plus the Mutec Mod with the Farad S3 power supply vs the Stock Mutec and Ref 10.

 

Regards Cazzesman

Edited by cazzesman
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4 hours ago, ICUToo said:

How did you get Roon into System 1, blueoceanboy?

On system 1 that was using Sonore Signature Rendu SE and Roon iPad controller. On system 2, Roon NUC, iPad and Aries G2.1

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Thanks, sorry I didn't realise that the Sonore Signature Rendu SE was a streamer.

Great data and interesting comparisons- thanks.

I/m still looking for a streamer to replace my Mac Mini- I'm after something that wows me :)

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1 hour ago, ICUToo said:

Thanks, sorry I didn't realise that the Sonore Signature Rendu SE was a streamer.

Great data and interesting comparisons- thanks.

I/m still looking for a streamer to replace my Mac Mini- I'm after something that wows me :)

Happy to give you my 2c - I've had plenty!

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Yes, I used a Farad Super3 powered MC3+USB with a Farad Super3 powered AfterDark Emperor Double Crown OCXO clock with fantastic results until I sold my previous Abbas DAC. The MC3+USB is really unparalleled if you need to change the sampling rate for your DAC. Sonically far better than doing so with a PC. The LPS mod improved it by another 30% or so too.

 

 Since moving to my current Musician Aquarius I no longer needed the resampling functionality and really only use USB so I’ve moved to a Gustard U18 with the same clock for the I2S output. I put it on par with the MC3+USB though with my previous DAC the Mutec is clearly the better option.
 

 

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HI Guys,

 

Interesting read, just interested to know if anyone has stopped using the bridge on their DirectStream Snr or Jnr in favour of using I2S input via a DCC like the Gustard U18?

 

I've heard/read that the bridge whilst convenient isn't the last word in sonic purity as we all thought & that advances in USB together with the introduction of more advanced DCC's, especially outputting I2S should be an improvement....has anyone actually done this?

 

I find it interesting that you now have to search for the Bridge II on the PS Audio website & the DirectStream Jnr, which has the board incorporated, has now been removed from their website? Their isn't any detail about it either...looks like they're trying to distance themselves from the Bridge as when you open the product page for their DirectStream Snr DAC, there isn't a link to the bridge??

 

Anyway, I just wanted to know if anyone has introduced a DCC like the Gustard U18 to their DS DAC with great results?

 

Cheers

Matt

 

 

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6 hours ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

HI Guys,

 

Interesting read, just interested to know if anyone has stopped using the bridge on their DirectStream Snr or Jnr in favour of using I2S input via a DCC like the Gustard U18?

 

I've heard/read that the bridge whilst convenient isn't the last word in sonic purity as we all thought & that advances in USB together with the introduction of more advanced DCC's, especially outputting I2S should be an improvement....has anyone actually done this?

 

I find it interesting that you now have to search for the Bridge II on the PS Audio website & the DirectStream Jnr, which has the board incorporated, has now been removed from their website? Their isn't any detail about it either...looks like they're trying to distance themselves from the Bridge as when you open the product page for their DirectStream Snr DAC, there isn't a link to the bridge??

 

Anyway, I just wanted to know if anyone has introduced a DCC like the Gustard U18 to their DS DAC with great results?

 

Cheers

Matt

 

 

Hi Matt,

 

I can't answer this from experience but follow along with this poster on another forum who is comparing the bridge with an etherregen vs a matrix is convertor.

 

In the end the etherregen + bridge sound like they win out 

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/57586-etherregen-installation-usage-difficulty-questions-thread/?do=findComment&comment=1176935

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I heard the Directstream +/- the Innuous Phoenix USB via an Innuos ZENith Mk3. The Phoenix noticeably increased the SQ of the PS Audio. I do believe that synergy in systems is a very real thing and that requires home demos in general. At these price points, generally retailers are reluctant to home demo, so it relies on a lot of homework and a bit of luck. I like that the Phoenix is an AIO plug and play solution that works for me in my system. However, the tweakers (you know who you are!) are going to want to have flexibility and output options other than USB. I'm keen to learn about people's experiences with different gear at different price points to get some idea of the tiers of SQ improvements that can be made. Exciting stuff!

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13 hours ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

HI Guys,

 

Interesting read, just interested to know if anyone has stopped using the bridge on their DirectStream Snr or Jnr in favour of using I2S input via a DCC like the Gustard U18?

 

I'm using the Matrix x-spdif 2 into the DS Snr via i2s, but I can confirm that a good streamer even via usb beats the bridge for SQ. This is true for DSJ too (which I have owned previously). 

 

Adding the x-spdif 2 gave a small incremental gain via i2s, but not via coax/AES3/optical.

 

There is a an enormous thread (not 13k though!) on the PS forums about this. A few people have suggested that the new Denafrips DDCs beat it out though.

 

Happy to lend it to you if you want to have a go

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Lol, 13k posts over 5+ years amongst 6 of us which equates to roughly a post per day per person!!

 

I’ve read some of that thread on the PS Audio forums, I’ve added some questions but I’ve not got much back.

 

I’d love to trial the X-SPDIF to see how much better the DS Jnr sounds via I2S. I may end up pulling the trigger on an Gustard U18 but I need to do more reading to ensure it’s a good match.

 

Cheers

Matt

 

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11 minutes ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

Lol, 13k posts over 5+ years amongst 6 of us which equates to roughly a post per day per person!!

 

I’ve read some of that thread on the PS Audio forums, I’ve added some questions but I’ve not got much back.

 

I’d love to trial the X-SPDIF to see how much better the DS Jnr sounds via I2S. I may end up pulling the trigger on an Gustard U18 but I need to do more reading to ensure it’s a good match.

 

Cheers

Matt

 

Ask Hugo @Indie Hi-Fi, pretty sure he has a demo.

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48 minutes ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

Are you talking about the Matrix or Gustard @BlueOceanBoy?

Yep got a matrix x-spdif 2 demo i can send out to you. https://indiehifi.com.au/pages/in-home-trial

 

And full list of demo items here. https://indiehifi.com.au/collections/demo-items

 

X-Spdif 2 is such a great unit for the money. A little metal brick with great electronics to match. 

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Hi Hugo,

 

I'll do some more reading about the use of the x-spdif 2 with my Innous Zen Mini > DirectStream Jnr DAC.

 

It's great that it has I2S out as this means I can avoid the Bridge II in the DS Jnr which the more I read about, the more it seems that it's not the best way to connect this DAC. Interestingly the PS Audio website almost hides the module & if you're looking at the DS Snr page, there isn't any link the bridge.....I think that in itself is telling me something!

 

I'll be in touch...I just need to resist asking for you to send me a demo Holo Spring 😬

 

Cheers

Matt

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30 minutes ago, mattjtaylor2809 said:

Interestingly the PS Audio website almost hides the module & if you're looking at the DS Snr page, there isn't any link the bridge.....I think that in itself is telling me something!

 

Indeed, the Bridge 2 was not developed in-house and the firmware is maintained (neglected) by a S Korean team, I believe. The hardware is used in a few other non-PSA applications too.

 

The initial firmware was very poor, especially with DSD - where it would click randomly every few seconds. They did finally manage to fix this issue after I submitted a file via Magenta which would reliably click dozens of times - but it was a known issue for over a year.

 

DS Snr owners have even gone so far as to suggest that the non-bridge inputs sound better if you remove the Bridge.

 

But I'm seriously off-topic now....

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12 hours ago, barbz127 said:

Hi Matt,

 

I can't answer this from experience but follow along with this poster on another forum who is comparing the bridge with an etherregen vs a matrix is convertor.

 

In the end the etherregen + bridge sound like they win out 

 

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/57586-etherregen-installation-usage-difficulty-questions-thread/?do=findComment&comment=1176935

Phil is on SNA too @PhilGan

 

but I see you've already posted on AS, @mattjtaylor2809

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