Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R; Metrum Adagio [on review]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO with DHT module, COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; ; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE UP NC500MB; LinnenberG Audio Adagio
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver; Titan Audio Eros power cord
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: $990 standard, $1'200 with master-clock BNC, $550 for optional linear power supply

Though the spelling is odd, the meaning is not. That's because it's not 'satcom on the move'. It's soul of the music. From South Korea like LG, Samsung and Hyundai/Kia, this hifi house does full-size components and compacts. Today is about a latter and another odd spelling: tx-USBultra. That's not a USB bridge aka D/D converter which would output on a format other than USB like Audiobyte or Audiophilleo do with S/PDIF or AES/EBU. This is a quasi USB hub. One USB goes in, two USB come out. Nothing gets converted. But unlike generic powered hubs which are just USB outlet multipliers or convenience appliances, the Ultra is first and foremost a performance item. It reclocks the PC/Mac/server signal and strips it of noise. That it can distribute two feeds at once makes it different from otherwise similar boxes like Intona, Ideon, iFi, Regen & Bros. Like standard hubs however, it's driverless even for Windows. Hence it won't show up in any 'sound devices' window. Instead your PC or Mac will show whatever DAC connects to the SOtM. So the computer looks right through it; just like a standard USB hub in fact.

Hubbie. From the firm's cheat sheet we get the expected USB 2.0-compliant hub controller as the interface chip which supports up to 480Mbps transfers, hence no USB 3.0 with its theoretical 5Gbps lightning. The internal reference 'super' clock is SOtM's sCLK-EX12 also available as a computer board [right]. The 10MHz external master-clock input on 50Ω BNC shown above is optional and €210 extra. To bypass computer power, the Ultra uses an external 2A-max power input. That takes 6.5-9Vdc, optionally 12Vdc. Users can thus upgrade the included SMPS with a linear variant of their choice. Internally, whatever juice arrives gets filtered, stroked and smoothed with a low-noise circuit of five regulators plus an active noise cancellation circuit. What finally comes out on the USB sockets' power line is a standard but clean 5V; for two subsequent devices simultaneously. Whilst some USB transceivers in DACs don't need any USB power, others need the 5V line. If yours is compadre without, you can turn it off with the red switch after the initial handshake.

Where the Ultra goes ultra is price. Competing devices with a single output sell for half or less. How many users will exploit the tx-USBultra's ability to distribute source signal to two devices? And why ever package devices whose purpose is to minimize noise with switch-mode wall warts which inject their own HF noise into the power line, hence into partnering gear? Why can't premium kit arrive with a linear supply already built in? And how about this: "If you use two USB output ports at the same time, the sound might degrade so we recommend using one port." So why really have two in the first place? There's more: "If you don't use the product, turn off power by unplugging the power supply." For $990, that's how one turns things off? No comment.
Well before my loaner arrived, the tx-USBultra had already received its first award from AudioStream's Steve Plaskin. However, "even though this device comes with a switch mode power supply for those that elect the standard 6.5-9 volt option, I do not recommend that it be used. One power supply that I do recommend... is the UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1." At $395, that raises the ticket to $1'385. But there was more: "The tx-USBultra... [was]... placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base powered by a Sonore Signature power supply plugged into a Shunyata Triton v2/Typhon and the UpTone Audio UltraCap™ LPS-1 plugged into a Shunyata DPC-6 v2." This shows just how ... uh, elaborate things can get around a harmless li'l USB decrapifier. Announced a week prior to the Munich show were the sMS-200ultra mini server and sPS-500 power supply, making for a set of identical triplets. Voilà, a $550 stablemate linear PSU for today's contender.