When Benchmark unveiled UltraLock™, it caused quite a stir. Benchmark claimed that this proprietary clock-syncing system made their converters immune to jitter. UltraLock™ keeps jitter-induced distortion at or below -135 dB FS (well below audibility). Of course, the audio community was skeptical; they set out to prove (or disprove) Benchmark’s claims. Since then, several journalists, end-users, and manufacturers of audio test-equipment have verified Benchmark’s claim of jitter-immunity.
However, there was still room for improvement. There is an asynchronous sample rate conversion (ASRC) process in UltraLock™ that adds about 1 millisecond of latency. This latency is usually only of concern when musicians are monitoring themselves real-time, post-converter. Even in this case, 1 millisecond of latency is hardly noticeable; it is roughly equivalent to having the instrument 1 foot further away. Nevertheless, it can contribute to a system-wide latency problem.
When designing the ADC16, Benchmark decided to revisit its clock-management solution, to reduce latency. The technology that Benchmark developed during this quest is called UltraLockDDS™.
Benchmark’s new UltraLockDDS™ clock system utilizes the latest low-jitter clock technology developed for high-frequency RF communications systems. The master oscillator is a low phase-noise, temperature-compensated, fixed-frequency crystal oscillator with a +/- 2 PPM frequency accuracy. This oscillator drives a 500 MHz Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS) system that generates a 3072 x WC system clock. This high-frequency clock is divided and distributed directly to the A/D converters using a high-speed PECL clock distribution chip. Each of the 8 converters is driven directly through a dedicated, matched-impedance transmission line.
Jitter attenuation is achieved with digital filters in a custom FPGA that controls the DDS system. All jitter-induced distortion artifacts are well below audibility under all operating conditions. Jitter-induced distortion is always at least 135 dB below the level of the music. The jitter-performance of UltraLockDDS™ meets or exceeds the performance of Benchmark’s UltraLock™ system, but does not use an ASRC DSP process. The elimination of the ASRC processing significantly reduces system lateancy and provides the most direct path from the A/D to the digital interface.
At the 2023 AXPONA show in Chicago, I had the opportunity to see and hear the Hill Plasmatronics tweeter. I also had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Alan Hill, the physicist who invented this unique device.
The plasma driver has no moving parts and no diaphragm. Sound is emitted directly from the thermal expansion and contraction of an electrically sustained plasma. The plasma is generated within a stream of helium gas. In the demonstration, there was a large helium tank on the floor with a sufficient supply for several hours of listening.
While a tank of helium, tubing, high voltage power supplies, and the smell of smoke may not be appropriate for every living room, this was absolutely the best thing I experienced at the show!
If an audio system is composed of multiple components, we may have detailed specifications for each component, but we will not know the performance of the combined system without doing some calculations. You may have questions such as these:
Will my audio system produce audible noise?
Will my audio system produce audible distortion?
How will my audio components work together as a system?
How loud will my audio system play?
Use Benchmark's online audio calculators to find answers!
For example, if we know the output power of an amplifier, as well as the sensitivity and impedance of our loudspeakers, we can calculate the maximum sound pressure level that our system can produce.
This application note provides interactive examples that help to answer the questions listed above.