AfterDark Project by Mike Girardi
AfterDark Project ClayX Giesmann Reference Master Clock, Black Modernize Linear Power Supply and Project ClayX Black River BNC Digital Cable
While scanning the Audiophilestyle.com forums, I came across a topic named “Master Clock your EtherRegen.” I’ve always been interested in seeing if I could push my network-based digital front-end boundaries. I started by replacing the spinning hard drive on my NAS with a solid-state drive, adding a linear power supply to my NAS, and upgrading the Ethernet cable. Later, I tallied the Up Tone Audio EtherRegen reclocker/switch (Stereotimes Component of the Decade), a linear power supply to my router and EtherRegen, and upgraded all DC cables to Revelation Audio Labs. While all of these upgrades have improved my digital front end significantly; it has all come together recently since I bypassed the internal clock in the EtherRegen with the AfterDark Project ClayX Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz Emperor Double Crown Master Clock (as supplied by Frank Smith of Ctronic Music, US, and North America marketing for AfterDark).
The AfterDark Project ClayX Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz Reference Master Clock was specifically engineered to be the perfect partner for the Uptone Audio EtherREGEN. The function of the Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz master clock is to set the time domain of the network signal preceding your server or DAC. In my case, the signal path is as follows: the Google Fiber router is connected to the “A” side of the Uptone Audio EtherRegen. The QNAP TS-251+ plugged into the “A” side of the Uptone Audio EtherRegen, and the “B” side of the Uptone Audio EtherRegen is plugged into the Ayon Audio S-5 Network Player/DAC/Preamp (with all Ethernet cables being Wireworld Platinum Starlight 8 Twinax). I’ve elected to power the “Emperor Double Crown” with an AfterDark Black Modernize Linear Power Supply in my system. For connection between the “Emperor Double Crown” and the EtherRegen, I’m using an upgraded BNC cable supplied by AfterDark known as the Project ClayX Black River BNC Digital Cable. The “Emperor Double Crown” master clock is said to fall within the sweet spot of the Project ClayX Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz Reference Master Clock line, which consists of 10 models with varying phase noise as measured at 10 and 1 Hz. All AfterDark master clocks are said to improve over a 35 day period which I can vouch for, with major changes for the better occurring after 3 hours, four days, seven days, and 35 days. I could present the perceived benefits of dedicated clocking systems, but I won’t get into that here.
Highlights of the AfterDark ClayX Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz Reference Master Clock (selected grade OCXO):
• OCXO that employs qualitative measure equipment.
• OCXO is enclosed and covered with Dynamat Extreme Corporation to stabilize and minimize heat separation. Also, EMI material from KEM ET EMI Shielding is placed on top of OCXO, the outer layer covered with genuine leather to isolate the heat for maximizing OCXO
• Black Alu material+ Carbon Fiber material front and backplate, solid anti-vibration. In addition, due to the thickness used, 3mm / 6mm Carbon Fiber material l with the plate can provide solid EMI/ magnetic coverage.
• Advanced instrument Symmetricom 5125A calibrated with plotted characteristics. The phase noise and Allen Derivation define different grades of the OCXO.
• Audio Note Silver Solder.
• Duelund AC0.4 Silver Premium Audio Cable (Silver in Cotton/ Oil impregnated) (Handmade in Denmark).
Highlights of the AfterDark Black Modernize Linear Power Supply:
• Carbon Fiber 6mm/ 1mm Front & Back Plate
• AC Incoming: Schurter IEC, Japan Made EDK Switch
• Schurter Gold Fuse for Audio Optimization
• AC Noise Filter: UK RIFA RFI Suppression Caps&. Noise Filter
• AC Transformer: Nuvotem Talema Encapsulated 25VA w/ Fast Acting Fuse Protection
• High-Speed Rectifier with RIFA 0.luf Bypass Caps
• Phillips BC 2200uf/2Sv x 4 Reservoir Caps, total of 8800uf
• Phillips 1% Precision Resistors
• Panasonic FC 120uf, 390uf Decoupling Caps
• Mexico Made Inductors
• Analog Device OPl 77 for Voltage Error Feedback Compensation
• Toshiba Pass Power Transistor
• Two Simultaneously Driven Voltage Output Jacks
• Mexico Made Multi-turns Variable Resistor for Fine Voltage Output Adjustment
• Voltage Rating: SVDC/3.SA, 9VDC/2.SA, 12VDC/2A, 19VDC/1.SA, 24VDC/1A, Custom
• Integrated Aluminium Heat-sink chassis, with 5mm thick (very) well designed front panel
Bits Are Bits, Not
My reviewing system includes the Uptone JS-2 Linear Power Supply for a Qnap TS-251+ NAS drive and EtherRegen, Ayon Audio S-5 Network Player/Preamplifier/DAC, Ayon Audio Odin Ill Build four amplifier fitted Siemens signal tubes, First Watt SIT-1 monoblocks, Cube Audio Nenuphar loudspeakers, Wireworld Platinum Starlight 8 Twinax Ethernet cables, UpTone Audio EtherREGEN, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF speaker cables, Galileo SX interconnects, and Galileo SX AC power cables, SR PowerCell SX power conditioner, SR UEF Black and Orange outlets, SR HFTs, SR Active Grounding Block SE and UDG cables, SR Black Box, Marigo Audio Labs L3 platforms and E2 Mystery Feet, Stillpoints Aperatures, and
PerfectPath Technologies Eden Gates. My listening area is 14ft and 10″ wide with a 9′ ceiling and has a nearly open back wall to 1500 sq ft of first-floor living area.
I recently discovered some of the many contemporary jazz composers offered by ECM record label. “The Other Side,” composed by Tord Gustavsen, a 24 bit/96khz, is one album that has caught my ear. The Other Side is a warm, whole-cloth adventure of spacious interiors. Gustavsen freely mixes the ancient music of Norway with his love of Bach, the pianist arranging three melodies for the album; amongst them, the Vespestad-led “Schlafes Bruder” integrates a deep groove that Bach may never have imagined.” Gustavsen is a master composer and improviser, and The Other Side is introspective music performed with sublime subtlety, always keeping one eye trained on the avant-garde. The opening title, The Tunnel, shows Gustavsen and his partners plunging into tranquil, limpid waters that reflect their ability to create beautiful, intimate moods with an ample musical spaciousness. The graceful pianism stresses the poignant primacy of the melody while the autonomous pulse emphasizes it even more. The piece that follows, “Kirken, Den Er Et Gammelt Hus,” was penned by the 19th-century Norwegian composer Ludvig Mathias Lindeman and comes to life through a radiant bass intro. It maintains a haunting sophistication in sound as the folk intonations increase. The melodies, true poetic declamations, have a remarkably soothing effect, soaring on top of an undeviating pulse that never ceases to underline diligence, unity, and generosity”.
With the AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable swapped into my system and allowed to burn in, I was hearing further into the recording and appreciating a surprisingly significant increase in microdynamic contrasts and bass articulation. The double bass response in this cut was tighter and displayed significantly less overhang. It was easy to hear how the piano, as played by Gustavsen, displayed a greater sense of space and depth within the soundstage and possessed a more natural tone. There was also an added weight to the music while the music took on a greater sense of realism. Given the added sense of space with nothing between you and the music, I had no thoughts of going back to the internal clock installed within the Uptone Audio Clock EtherRegen. My digital front-end’s sonics were transformed in ways not felt with the many past upgrades – some that had much higher price tags.
The second album, the ECM record label chosen to evaluate the effectiveness of the AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable, was from the Colin Vallon Trio, “Danse,” a 24 bit/96khz download. It’s simple: any music fan seeking something quite different from contemporary instrumental music – and specifically from conventional notions of the jazz piano trio – should investigate Switzerland’s Colin Vallon Trio. “Danse,” Vallon’s third date for ECM, might be the recording that establishes the band’s reputation outside Europe and hopefully with an audience outside the confines of jazz. “Danse” hasn’t much to do with pop, but Vallon, who wrote nine of these 11 tunes, obviously admires its more adventurous expressions. Those familiar with the trio’s two previous albums know this music is as expansive as it is articulate and focused. The improvisation is plentiful and based on the trio’s interaction in (mostly) songlike pieces that are usually inseparably dependent on circular rhythm. Vallon, double bassist Patrice Moret, and drummer Julian Sartorius do solo, but almost always within structural harmonic themes and defined rhythmic pulses. They communicate a piece’s inner dynamic that is welcoming, even when dissonant, to listeners”.
In the opener Sisyphe, Sartorius sets a 4/4 rhythm with his brushes. When Vallon enters, he establishes a hymn-like melody, almost a processional. Moret initially reflects only the changes, but within a couple of choruses, he delivers an elegant solo that illuminates both harmony and time signature. In Tsunami, Vallon introduces a mysterious, classically tinged waltz. In his solo, he uncovers layer after layer of hidden melody. Sartorius uses his bass drum to keep time, all the while gently accenting and altering the actual motif with his snare and cymbals, until the tune reflects an unveiled muscularity and has been transformed into a rather dramatic exercise in tension and release. Once again, it was clearly demonstrated how important the accuracy of the time domain has on our home Ethernet network in music reproduction. With the significant reduction in digital artifacts, transients were reconstructed with superior stability and rhythmic integrity, presenting individual instrumental attacks with remarkable clarity. The music’s overall pace and timing became more natural with AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable installed. I also heard a greater weight of the piano notes played by Vallon throughout the first cut, enhanced pitch definition at the start of the first cut, and more complex textures from the double bass in the middle of this cut. The improvement in my system was profound in ways not achieved by tweaks, isolation, cables, etc.; the impact of a dedicated clocking system was shown to be at the heart of digital reproduction.
Sticking with jazz recordings from ECM, given their lack of compression, the album “Ravensburg” by Mathias Eick was used for evaluation. Ravensburg is the fourth studio album by Norwegian jazz musician Mathias Eick. His primary asset is still his trumpet sound, one of the purest, most radiant in jazz. His lyricism is still mysteriously provisional. Eick’s compositions have overall darkness about them though their sophistication and accents, the punctuation of bass and percussion, makes for a highly listenable blend of emotions, without jolting fluctuations. As with Midwest, the music on Ravensburg is deeply atmospheric. When the violin is present, it adds beautiful touches; the drummers (which of the two is sometimes difficult to discern) add a complexity that is in sharp contrast to the central mood but always additive. Ravensburg is rich, welcoming, and should be heard in full to be appreciated. If you want to listen to an exciting combination of piano, trumpet, bass, and percussion, this album will impress you. It’s melodic, but at the same time, not familiar sounding. The more you listen to it, the more you will get out of it. It’s just easy on the ears but complex at the same time. The stand-out for me on this album was the clarity and lack of grain in vocals and midrange response of the trumpet when the AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable were installed. The spatial representation was phenomenal in comparison to my baseline digital front-end set-up. Every recording I have listened to has benefited and sounds new.
After hearing the AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable in my system, I’ve been converted to the value of dedicated clocking systems. Having an optimized strategy for music reproduction, i.e., a fully treated room, AC noise and RF noise in check, and complete mechanical isolation of components, allowed me to fully appreciate what these excellent products bring to the table entirely. The value for the dollar of this upgrade is in the upper echelon of upgrades (considering the Mutec Master clock is nearly four times the cost). I loved the AfterDark Double Emperor Clock, Linear Power Supply, and Black River BNC digital cable products so much for what it does in my system. I immediately purchased the review samples—my highest recommendation.
AfterDark Project ClayX Giesmann OCXO 10m Hz Reference Master Clock, $1390.68
Black Modernize Linear Power Supply, $245.00
Project ClayX Black River BNC Digital Cable, 0.5M, $422.36
Manufacturer’s Website: www.adark.co
US Distributor website: www.ctronicmusic.com
Mike’s Associated Equipment
Digital Front End
Ayon Audio S-5 Network Player/Preamplifier
Qnap TS-251+8GB NAS drive
Uptone Audio JS-2 Power Supply
Uptone Audio EtherRegen
Ayon Audio Odin SET stereo amplifier III Build 4
First Watt SIT-1 monoblock amplifiers
Cube Audio Nenuphar loudspeakers
Synergistic Research Galileo UEF speaker cables with Blue Fuse treatment
Synergistic Research Galileo SX interconnect
Synergistic Research Galileo SX ac power cords, digital and analog
Synergistic Research Atmosphere High Definition Grounding cables x 14
Wireworld Platinum Starlight 8 Twinax Ethernet x 3
Synergistic Research PowerCell SX
Synergistic Research HFTs on loudspeakers, Wide Angle HFTs on wall
Synergistic Research FEQ
Synergistic Research Active Grounding Block SE
Synergistic Research Black Box
Perfect Path Technologies Eden Gates
LessLoss Blackbody ambient field conditioner x 2
Custom-built maple wood rack with stainless steel support rod, sleeves, and cones.
Marigo Audio Labs Window Tuning Dots
Marigo Audio Labs L3 Platforms x 4
Marigo Audio Labs E2 Mystery Feet x 4 sets
Herbie’s Audio Lab Preamp Ultrasonic tube dampers
Synergistic Research UEF Black duplexes
Synergistic Research Blue fuses
Furutech NCF Booster x 4
Furutech NCF Booster-Signal x 10
Oyaide WPC-Z aluminum mounting frame and carbon fiber faceplates
Two dedicated 20 amp AC lines using cryo treated Romex
Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
Site Management Clement Perry
Ad Designer: Martin Perry