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Audio Blast: Updates to Small Green Computer SonicTransporter Ap i7 4T and SONORE Signature Rendu SE with systemOptique

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It came out of the blue like a virus, but, unlike a virus, it was beneficial. In fact, it was the opposite of a virus—it was an upgrade. Actually, a pair of upgrades. The wide envelope that usually signals an investment seminar or charitable organization update turned out to be an unexpected revision to the software of the SONORE Signature Rendu SE. The letter inside followed form for the team behind the equipment: simple, with a skeleton outline of how to insert the included micro SD card and execute its files, thus performing the upgrade. What a pleasant surprise among the plethora of rude surprises this past month!

I have been enjoying the ease, performance, and reliability of these two products since I reviewed them in 2018 (see review here). Last year I wrote about the efficacious systemOptique upgrade, wherein the required hard link Ethernet cable is replaced with a small converter module and premium 2-channel fiber optic cable. It was one of the most profoundly beneficial upgrades to a source I have experienced in all my years of reviewing, and I continue to urge its adoption. The systemOptique can be used by owners of other file playback and streaming systems using Ethernet, and I encourage owners of such systems to adopt this affordable, powerful signal transmission advantage.

Do not neglect to upgrade the 5V power supply for the systemOptique converter, sold by Small Green Computer, which may seem to be overkill, but is not. I do not miss an opportunity to upgrade an external power supply, as this has proven in my systems more efficacious than entire power regeneration and conditioning systems I have tried.

Thesecompanies cross reference eachothers’ products on their websites, and have a joint management webpage. Included with the upgrade notice and SD card was a flier promoting Belden’s Iconoclast series of cables, endorsed by SONORE, and the company is a distributor for several products, including Bricasti, Cardas, Synergistic, Aesthetix, Vivid Audio, Focal, Benchmark, Wyred4Sound, and Audeze. The upgrade to the software for the SonicTransporter was not discussed in the letter from SONORE, but in phone discussion with Adrian Lebena, the owner, I was reminded to check for an upgrade.

It turned out that upgrade from Version 2.5 to 2.7 was available for the sonicTransporter, accessible from the webpage that hosts my system (the unique webpage for your system is established during the initial setup; it works splendidly!). To conduct the upgrade, select “FAQ” at the top menu bar, then under the bold question, “How do I upgrade sonicTransporter from 2.5 to the current software version,” click on the link highlighted in blue “here,” which gives detailed instructions. I suggest you print off the instructions, or save them to a document for reference during the upgrade.

The principals at these two companies are steeped in technology, so they tend to give directions briefly, with less recognition that many users have much less capacity to intuitively execute such directions. I find that I tend to miss a detail, or not see it explicitly discussed, in directions from SONORE. I would like a step 1 through 10 procedure laid out for me, but often find perhaps 7 clear steps with the presumed ones not mentioned. Upon occasion, the information is found in another pocket of FAQ or discussion elsewhere. Not to worry, I have learned, because the Signature Rendu is robust and I can’t hurt anything by botching the install, which I did.

I must not have had enough patience, as I tried cycling the unit immediately, as opposed to giving the unit 20 minutes or so, which I discovered later. I was adept enough in cycling the unit’s power, inserting and removing the SD card, and playing with settings in the management software page that eventually the unit sat with a “red light of death.” I contacted Adrian, who responded via email, “WOA! Slow down…” and then gave me the ten steps. I prevailed! That is, with bit more guidance I was able to perfectly install the upgrade and receive the miracle of improved software.

It is a miracle, has to be. How can the software make such a huge difference? Huge is not a huge exaggeration, but maybe a small one. I liken the difference in performance due to this upgrade to be similar to the performance differential between the lower end Eastern Electric Minimax Tube DAC Supreme and the Exogal Comet DAC with PLUS Power Supply. The Tri-Art Audio Series B system featuring the 5 Open Speakers in use took on an increased amount of the refinement of the Kingsound King III electrostatic speakers. Lyrics were more perfectly formed, and passages with a lot of musical traffic were better delineated. I have been enjoying immensely the series of six compilations entitled Voices Only Forte, and the grab bag of performances by stunning acapella groups from high school students to professionals were thoroughly enriched by the upgrade. I won’t give it all away, but in most of these recordings bass singers provide the throbbing foundation for the group. Moving from the previous to the current version uncluttered their notes with their resonance from the previous amorphous bass lines. Lyrics were also beautifully nuanced and easier to understand without effort.

The upgrade to the SGC sonicTransporter was less striking, but still beneficial. There was perhaps another 5% of improvement to be had in that upgrade. The upgrade to the Signature Rendu SE was compelling, but the upgrade to the sonicTransporter not so. Is that a problem for the sonicTransporter? Not in the least; it’s a great server/streamer! It works fantastic with the Signature Rendu SE. Even if there were no advantage to the upgrade sonically, I wouldn’t complain in the least. Honestly, I would not have been surprised had there been no change.

I have spent enough time on this Audio Blast for you to reap the benefit of my experience. Owners of these products will rejoice that the companies do actual upgrades, not just hypothetical ones at the time of sale. Small Green Computer and SONORE are not just keeping owners in the game, they are keeping owners at the forefront of changes to ensure they are getting superb digital sound.


Copy editor: Dan Rubin


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