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Audio Blast: SONORE SystemOptique with Signature Rendu SE

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For Dagogo readers still spinning discs or streaming audio through a Mac Mini or similar, this article is for you. It is also for those who have tried various power conditioning devices and found them lacking. If you find it hard to believe that an Ethernet cable can confer a particular sound to an audio system, this article is also for you.

The state of digital audio is developing at an incredible pace. It is breathtaking how much the standard of quality has risen over the past five years in terms of both file playback and streaming audio. DACs that I thought were really good back then now sound unimpressive. Cabling methods I used then are now considered not good enough. This article will enthuse —and I do mean enthuse — about the Sonore SystemOptique (Designated “SOPT” on the website) version of the Signature Rendu SE, which I previously discussed in a review of the standard Rendu SE along with the Small Green Computer sonicTransporter AP I7 4TB.

The three components that comprise SOPT are a cigarette pack sized opticalModule, the opticalRendu SE (you can see that SONORE has a thing for shifting the capitalization of product names), and an OMI Multimode (62.5/125), duplex, LC to LC cable. The website offers various hookup options for systems integrating the systemOptique, and typically the server (Small Green Computer) is located in a different location from the listening area.

In my case, I have the Small Green Computer (SMG) in my listening room, and though it utilizes a spinning hard drive I have never been bothered by it, even when it sits fairly close to the listening chair. More on that in a moment. My hookup was via an approximately 12–foot Ethernet cable carrying my streaming audio service to the sonicTransporter, another 1M Ethernet cable run between the sonicTransporter’s output and the opticalModule, then finally the dual optic fiber cable running from the output of the opticalModule to the input of the optical Rendu SE. It seems more complex than it is; just imagine the streaming source picking up the stored files in the server, then changing over to an optical signal on its way to the Rendu SE.

I used to spin discs until about three years ago. I am so happy I stopped! I still occasionally try a silver disc to compare its sound with streaming and file audio. The truth is that with the right power cord, interconnect and transport, a disc could sound better. However, that has come to an end abruptly with the entrance of the systemOptique for the Signature Rendu SE. File and streaming playback with this source have leapfrogged CDs, and not by a small margin. The key has been the optical connection, which has transformed the system’s digital performance quite literally as the signal has been converted from Ethernet to optical.

Readers who don’t like Ethernet cables, it’s a great day for you. The optical connection literally fixes the shortcomings of that connection. Without getting terribly involved in the technical aspects, Adrian Lebena from SONORE explained the advantage of adding another component and cable with an expectation of improved sound. Prior to this experience I struggle to remember ever hearing a source cleaned up and given elevated performance holistically by adding a component and cable. It never happens, because you are making a system more complex, with more inherent noise.

But, therein lies the magic of the systemOptique as the fiber optical connection specializes in diminishing noise to a vanishingly low level. Adrian Lebena of SONORE explained that it is impossible to eliminate all noise in the same way that it is impossible to eliminate all toxic substances from drinking water. However, the presence of the substance can be reduced to the point that it is harmless. In the same way, the noise can be reduced by the fiber optic cable to the point that it has no practical effect on the signal.

Now, let the power conditioner enthusiasts pay attention! I tried a lot of power conditioners and all of them exacted a price from the sound quality in order to banish noise. I don’t use any power conditioning today because they all were deleterious to the sound quality. To my ear, the systemOptique is accomplishing what all those conditioners and power regenerators are trying to, and is doing so far more affordably, and flawlessly, without any downside to the sound quality! Adrian explained that the reason adding a component and cable can be more pure is because the optical system filters out the EMI (Electromagnetic Interference; also called RFI, or Radio Frequency Interference). The noise is carried on Ethernet cables, but the conversion to optical input for the Rendu SE completely banishes them! Yes, power conditioners also often are power protection devices, and I would never tell someone to not put one in their system. But, the noise banishment that everyone is seeking is right here with the systemOptique!

Now, will systemOptique eliminate noises for amplifiers? No, it won’t. However, whole system power filtering is used in the hope that all components will benefit. I have zero interest in doing so now that I have heard what systemOptique does for a digital source and DAC.

The optical cable that SONORE recommends is offered on their website in a 1–meter length. I went to the website of Stonewall Cable, the OEM which also makes serious optical cables for military and industrial applications, and bought my own cables in the 10–meter and 3–meter lengths. It took a few weeks to receive them, as it seems Stonewall gets a lot of specialty orders. The systemOptique uses a discrete (duplex) L/R pair of optical cables for each channel. The cable is thin and quite flexible, but you had better watch that you don’t crimp it or pierce it if running it through a tangle of wires and gear.

Adrian indicated that the length of the optical cable influences the intensity of the sound. He said it has an affect similar to attenuation, and as such the 3m cable might be too intense. I apologize that with my hectic schedule I did not yet compare the different lengths of optical cables, but I have no reason to doubt Adrian’s guidance, as he has been spot on with all other descriptions of SONORE and SMG products’ performance.

A word about purchasing from and relating to SONORE and Small Green Computer. Adrian, and Andrew Gillis, the head of Small Green Computer, work full time in the tech field, and have parlayed their expertise to create this sensational combination of gear. They are busy, and communicate typically in sound bite phrases via email. They are cordial, but not wordy. The website is technical and highly functional, but has little explanation. They will offer advice and guidance quickly, and they know systems. The level of time to chat is very small, but the level of expertise is very high —and that is reflected in the sound quality. I have never had a more erudite source in my room, and it runs with the uber-user-friendly Roon! It is a world apart in quality from when I began with a humble Mac Mini. I remember how proud I was to do my first upgrade, software that adjusted bit depth and frequency to enhance the Redbook signal. Oh, goodness, that was so average in comparison — and I thought it was great!

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