The USB Disruptor is a very effective USB-tweak accessory that was conceived by software expert Rob Priore in Waltham, Mass. Rob is a long-time audio and computer aficionado who, to his surprise, found that different types of USB cables could affect audio quality just as analog interconnects and speaker cables do. But Priore decided to attack the problematic USB interface more as a digital computer issue than an analog audio issue.
Priore knew from his experience with computers that there are all kinds of switching and noise-related issues taking place in our computers every second. He also knew that the 5-volt power USB power source was particularly dirty and compromised and this highly contaminated power is what is feeding our audiophile USB DACs, most of which do little if anything to rectify this issue. Enter the USB Disruptor.
Priore’s idea was to literally disconnect the computer’s internal 5V power supply from the USB cable and then insert his own clean 5V supply into a very short USB pigtail adapter thus circumventing all the noise and interference that would normally be taking the superhighway into your DAC’s sensitive circuitry. The USB Disruptor was born.
I have to say that I have used more than a few high-quality USB DACs in pursuing my own computer-audio adventures and my latest reference DAC’s are the Benchmark DAC2 HGC and the highly lauded PS Audio DirectStream DAC. Listening to my systems with these over-achieving DACs is a highly pleasurable and engaging experience, and to be honest, I couldn’t imagine how the sound quality could get much better. But one day, while perusing Audiogon.com, I spied an advert for the USB Disruptor that caught my attention and made sense. Mr. Priore was nice enough to ship me the USB Disruptor for evaluation and review, though I wasn’t sure how much improvement his Disruptor would be able to make to my already excellent quality DACs. Wow, was I in for a shock!
Many audiophiles who use USB DACs normally hook their laptops or tablets directly to their DAC via USB cables costing anywhere from about $6 for the most basic cable to the current crop of high-end USB cables that can cost over $1,000. Yikes!
I personally never bought into the mega-buck USB cable school of thought and was satisfied with my $50 DH-Labs USB cable and left it at that, thinking it wasn’t going to get much better. Well it got better alright, but not because I installed some glorified audiophile USB cable, but because I installed Rob Priore’s USB Disruptor.
So throw out what theories you used to believe, this is where it gets real. I know many of you are thinking that the USB Disruptor cannot be that good because it doesn’t come with the usual hyper-inflated “audiophile” price tag. But Priore is charging a fair price based on his costs for parts and assembly and is selling the product direct to the consumer. If you’d like him to charge you more so that your friends will be impressed you may be able to talk him into doing so but it isn’t required. But more to the point, I think Priore has hit the nail on the head in designing the USB Disruptor and knowing what to fix and how to fix it.
My setup for this experiment couldn’t have been simpler. All I needed to do to install the Disruptor was to plug the Disruptor’s USB adapter into my DAC, plug the small power supply into an AC outlet, and then reconnect my USB cable taking care to plug in the computer end last. Easy-peasy!
I used my Lenovo G500 laptop feeding the PS Audio DirectStream DAC, which feeds either my modified Dignity Audio 300B amps and Wavetouch Grand Teton SE speakers or my Melody Onix Sp3 Mk-II amp with the Silverline Prelude Plus loudspeakers.
Both my PS Audio DirectStream DAC and the USB Disruptor were plugged into my Monarchy Audio P100 AC regenerator to assure clean power delivery to my digital source components.
In all honesty I was not prepared for the level of improvement the unassuming USB Disruptor would provide. Listening to the 300B/Grand Teton SE setup first, I was amazed at how large and how quiet the soundstage had become. I first put on a live 24-bit/192kHz recording of the Alan Segal Quintet playing “Billie’s Bounce” (no kids, you can’t buy this recording—my friend Izzy from the NJ Audio Society recorded it live with no compression or other processing allowed!).
“Billie’s Bounce” began with a bunch of the musicians talking to each other and some were moving to-and-fro on the stage while they did so. From the hall echo and the depth of the soundstage I could get a good sense of the width and depth of the venue, and I swear I could hear every word and utterance of the different players as they quipped and generally harassed each other. When they actually got around to playing the selection I was amazed at the natural shimmer and “air” of the cymbals and the sharp crack of the drum heads being struck—then the sax chimed in and I was hooked. It was truly an immersive, live-sounding event taking place before my face.
And I had a similar experience when I played a recording of Prince performing live in a small club back many years ago and that recording was only CD quality, yet on the DirectStream DAC it didn’t seem to matter much. The band began jamming to a tune called “People Without” and I was amazed at the reproduction of the instruments’ fast impactful transients. With that funky synthesizer, drums, bass and Prince’s in-yer-face vocal I was back in the 80’s again. I could hear the decay of the synth’s ambiance coming off the walls. I was literally in that club and I was mesmerized and lost in the cool beats and sounds going on around me. The band was whistling together and I could hear the cymbals crashing and the drumsticks clicking on the drum rims. It was just freakin’ awesome!
AQ Jitterbug vs USB Disruptor
Before the USB Disruptor arrived I had purchased an AudioQuest Jitterbug, and when I plugged it into my computer by itself I believed that it did in fact offer audible improvements in clarity, and it seemed to provide slightly cleaner and more distinct bass as well. But when I removed the Jitterbug and installed the USB Disruptor I was truly amazed by the magnitude of the improvements the Disruptor allowed—such as less noise, even greater clarity, and a huge soundstage that allows the listener to hear deeper into the acoustic space of the particular recording venues.
Later when I reinstalled the Jitterbug along with the Disruptor I felt that the sound did not improve; instead it became a bit brighter and less dimensional. So I removed the Jitterbug and never went back to it. My conclusion is that the AQ Jitterbug is like a Band Aid, while the USB Disruptor is more of a comprehensive solution—one that provides much larger gains in system performance. And the USB Disruptor will only set you back a mere $79 (at the time of this article).
As if the system was not already sounding spectacular, Rob Priore sent me one of his DaBigGenius™ USB cables (photo right). I must say I had my doubts that the sound could actually get any better. But now I had switched to the Silverline Prelude Plus speakers with the Onix 5881 tube amp. I had just installed new Siemens E88CC gold-pin driver tubes and I confess that the sound became ultra-detailed and focused but perhaps a bit less musical. And when I say I could clearly hear every minute micro-detail on my recordings I am not joking. Things like singer’s lips parting and breath being drawn, and hearing the exact moment when the closing notes grow fainter and then fade out at the ends of tracks were mere child’s play for this system.
Installing DaBigGenius™ USB resulted in the sound becoming more musical. The instrumental timbres were enhanced and the soundstage appeared to have even more depth and body. The system was sounding so good I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. In fact, I had received the new HiFiMAN Edition X ($1799) headphones and I was suitably impressed with them being the most musically convincing headphones in my experience—and yet, my Silverline speakers reproduced every minute detail with the same kind of clarity and authority.
To be clear, the Edition X headphones are the best headphone I have yet heard (full review coming soon) and they are being powered by the headphone amp in Benchmark’s DAC2-HGC DAC, the most detailed and musical headphone amp I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing and owning. And while the Edition X phones produce the most dimensional and believable soundstage I’ve witnessed with headphones, with the USB Disruptor in the system, the Silverline speakers disappeared into a soundscape so vast that it virtually enveloped the room with me in it. And at the same time the ultra-clarity and minutiae of the presentation were uncannily preserved.
My point is that it is often said that very good headphones will provide greater musical nuance and fine detail than any speaker system and I would normally agree with that. But with the USB Disruptor and DaBigGenius™ USB cable in my system the fine detailing performance of my speakers equaled that of one of the very best headphones currently available and surpassed the headphones in terms of a providing a more expansive, natural, and dimensional soundstage.
After my euphoric experience with Rob Priore’s USB Disruptor and his DaBigGenius™ USB cable I stand amazed and humbled in the knowledge that he has developed a couple of simple, unassuming (and unabashedly inexpensive) USB products that may take your computer-based audio systems to new heights, as it did mine.
Audiophiles may think I am overstating the efficacy of this smart USB solution or they may assume that I must be on some kind of wonderful drug. I can assure you that neither of those suppositions is true. This is just a simple case of being thoroughly impressed by superior mind-blowing musical bliss. Ultra-Highly Recommended!
Truth in Systems, LLC
11 Indian Road
Waltham, MA 02451
Truth in Systems, LLC
USB Disruptor Type B, Micro Type B, or Mini Type B
Price: $79 USD
DaBigGenius™ USB cable
Price: $25 to $55 USD: Depends on length and type—5V or No 5V
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