Review: Sonore Signature Rendu SE systemOptique

Sonore has not rested on their laurels given the announcement of their latest products based around the new systemOptique. Sonore has described systemOptique as “a fiber optic Ethernet interconnection scheme that utilizes a new series of Sonore products with optical transceiver capabilities.” John Swensen has come up with a new design that goes far beyond his previous efforts found in the microRendu and ultraRendu; the opticalRendu and the new Signature Rendu SE optical Ethernet to USB output.

Just what do you do with an opticalRendu or Signature Rendu SE? Basically, the opticalRendu adds a network streaming capability to your USB DAC utilizing an extremely low noise and high-performance USB output. The latest Signature Rendu SE combines an opticalRendu with a dedicated linear power supply in an attractive package that exudes high end with its polished black aluminum faceplate and silver Sorbothane insert feet.

The Signature Rendu SE has an SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable) cage or port that accepts a small transceiver. This transceiver or SFP module accepts an optical input. To make all of this work you are going to need an FMC (Fiber Media Converter) with its own SFP. This will allow you to connect your LAN Ethernet cable for conversion of its output to optical. Optical cable connects the FMC’s SFP to the SFP module in the Signature Rendu SE. All of this sounds complicated, but Sonore has made it simple for users by recommending FMC’s, SFP’s, and optical cables that will work with the new systemOptique products. I purchased my optical cable and FMC from Amazon using Sonore’s recommendations. An SFP transceiver for the FMC can be purchased directly from Sonore for $20. Sonore is also planning on selling their own FMC called the opticalModule.

The opticalRendu board in the Signature Rendu SE has 11 high-quality ultra-low noise linear regulators with two fixed frequency high-quality ultra-low jitter FEMTO oscillators. The proprietary circuit that John Swensen has designed results in a clean output to the CPU that surpasses what was previously achieved by the ultraRendu. The Signature Rendu SE allows close coupling of the power supply and opticalRendu processing board for optimum low impedance and low noise power delivery.

The mini-network computer in the Signature Rendu SE has a multicore processor with DDR3 RAM and runs the Sonicorbiter closed source and open source operating system placed on a micro SD card.

The Signature Rendu SE supports PCM sample rates up to 768kHz and DSD sample rates up to DSD512 if your DAC is capable of these rates.

A variety of streaming output modes are available including:

Shairport (AirPlay emulator)
HQ Player NAA Output
Roon Read
Spotify Connect

Support for Tidal and Qobuz lossless streaming in Squeezelite output mode and DLNA output mode are also offered. There is also a BubbleUPnP Server app that allows any renderer to take advantage of the OhMedia – OpenHome protocol. Suffice to say, the Signature Rendu SE has a versatile software package that can be easily updated.

Sonore offers the Signature Rendu SE with several options:

Tier 1: Adds a Synergistic Research Blue Fuse and RFI to Heat Shield.
Tier 2: Adds the Tier 1 options with an upgraded Turbo Power Supply.

I asked Barrows Worm, Sonore Product Development Consultant, to briefly discuss the upgrades for the Signature Rendu SE:

Tier 1: The addition of the RF damping material to the chassis to reduce RF levels inside the chassis, and the fuse is now Synergistic Blue standard.

Tier 2. Includes all the Tier 1. upgrades plus the Turbo Power Supply, which features the following upgrades over the (very good) standard supply: A 37% increase in total filter capacitance and an upgrade to Mundorf MLytic AG Audio Grade Capacitors, the new “X” type discrete regulator, which features lower output impedance than the previous circuit, and the change of the output capacitor to a very carefully chosen polymer type cap.

The Tier 2 version exists because we could do it, and perhaps offer a little more value to those audiophiles who prefer the best parts and attention to every little detail of parts-performance.  From a technical perspective, Tier 2 offers lower noise (better filtering) before the regulator (which, technically, allows the regulator to perform better) and even lower noise levels from the power supply.

General comments from Barrows concerning the Signature Rendu SE:

One of the reasons of going to the optical input was to eliminate the influence of upstream Network tweaking, as the optical interface transmits only the data (and not the electrical noise) from upstream components.  While I will not go so far as to say that “nothing matters” with the optical interface as far as upstream components go, we can say that the optical interface reduces the sonic degradation caused by upstream components to a much lower level.

The Signature Rendu SE I used in this review had the Tier 2 options and was an upgraded unit. Sonore offers an upgrade path for the owners of the previous Signature Rendu SE. I have been advised that there will be slight cosmetic differences in the appearance of the new Signature Rendu SE compared to the previous model.

I used my Roon Nucleus + server to stream to the Signature Rendu SE with its Roon Ready output. An UpTone Audio JS-2 power supply was utilized to supply power to a TRENDnet FMC. I encountered no difficulties using the new Signature Rendu SE with the Roon Nucleus+ server.

The setup of all of this was really quite simple. I connected my Ethernet cable to the FMC/SFP and the optical output to the SFP in the Signature Rendu SE with a 1 meter run of optical cable. A USB cable from the Signature Rendu SE went to the USB input of my Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC. I used my iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) to make the appropriate selections in the Signature Rendu’s Sonic Orbiter software. Using Roon, the Signature Rendu SE appeared as an output device and I was ready to listen to music.

After listening to the optical setup with the new Signature Rendu SE with Tier 2 upgrades, I can honestly say that the sonic performance bar has been significantly raised when playing music with my Playback Designs MPD-8 DAC. Having lived with the previous Signature Rendu SE (ultraRendu), the sonic improvement that I heard with the optical Signature Rendu SE was easily identified. But I found that the magnitude of sonic improvement was dependent on how well your system deals with noise issues. Plugging the Signature Rendu SE into a Shunyata Triton v3 / Typhon QR power conditioners with a Shunyata Alpha NR power cord did allow more of what I am going describe to emerge from the optical system. An AudioQuest Diamond USB cable was used with the Signature Rendu SE that seemed to make a very nice sonic combination.

Generally speaking, the overall sound with the optical Signature Rendu SE is more relaxed and natural sounding. Micro dynamic details are more easily heard with enhancement of resolution of low-level information. There is a greater sense of purity and liquidity to the sound.

The new Reference Recordings release Kurt Sander’s The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom-PaTRAM Institute Singers, Peter Jermihov conductor, allowed me to get a real sense of what the new Signature Rendu SE was capable of. This DSD256 recording allowed me to hear a spacious soundstage with excellent reproduction of the acoustic space of the recording. Complex vocal passages were unraveled to a degree I had not experienced before. It seemed that every inflection and nuance of this performance were captured with the Signature Rendu SE. As an interesting side note, a friend brought over his 192/24 version to compare with the DSD256 version I had purchased. We were both surprised at how compressed the 192/24 flac version sounded compared to the DSD256 version. The Signature Rendu SE made the sonic differences in these formats stand out and truly be appreciated.

Another sonic attribute of the new Signature Rendu SE is overall clarity and presence to the sound. The previous Signature Rendu SE (ultraRendu) was softer sounding and less focused. Separating out the sound of the two Signature Rendu SE’s was not difficult as I listened to the album Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration (24/48). This live recording of multiple artists including James Taylor, Seal, and Diana Krall, displayed superior focus to the vocalists and the ability to sense the acoustic properties of the venue with the audience. The former Signature Rendu SE seemed slightly blurred and less precise in its ability to reproduce this recording.

This overall clarity had a major effect on the bass and general rhythmic presence that I was able to hear from my system. Steve Perry’s new album Traces (24/48) delivered a wonderful dynamic sonic impact with a gripping rhythmic drive. Dynamic life and detail emerged with no image smearing of Steve’s vocals.

I decided to include another evaluation tool to inaugurate my first review for Twittering Machines: The Headamp Blue Hawaii SE amp driving Stax SR-009S headphones. Incidentally, the 4 output tubes were matched NOS Siemens EL34s made in East Germany.

The Signature Rendu SE allowed me to appreciate inner detail and gorgeous musical color and texture from the Playback Designs MPD-8 playing through the Blue Hawaii amp / Stax SR-009S. The Signature Rendu SE was extraordinarily expressive and involving allowing music to flow effortlessly.

The binaural version of choral group Musica Temprana’s Muy Hermosa es Maria (DSD256) sounded outrageously revealing thanks to the Signature Rendu SE. The optical version simply allowed more inner detail and realism to arise from an ultra-quiet background than the former ultraRendu Signature. All of this was enjoyed with no perception of hardness or brightness to the overall sound. The optical Signature Rendu SE seemed to remove a subtle, but noticeable sonic veil when compared to the ultraRendu version.

With the Signature Rendu SE, I closed my eyes and fully enjoyed The Secret Sisters’ You Don’t Own Me Anymore (24/44.1). This wonderful recording of folk-country rock sounded simply terrific when the Signature Rendu SE was allowed to stream to my MPD-8. The vanishingly low noise and coloration of the Signature Rendu SE just took me to another wonderful place when listening through the Blue Hawaii / Stax SR-009S combination.

Sonore has managed to take the original Signature Rendu SE to a higher performance level with the new Signature Rendu SE – optical Ethernet to USB output. The folks at Sonore have made it simple to assemble the optical setup with their systemOptique certified list of approved gear that will eliminate a good deal of component trial and error. Sonore has combined their new opticalRendu and upgraded Signature Linear Power Supply to create a superb component that improves upon their previous work and delivers the finest streaming USB source I have yet experienced.

Sonore Signature Rendu SE – optical Ethernet to USB output

Price: $3495.00
Tier 1 Upgrade: $3745.00
Tier 2 Upgrade: $4490.00

Company Information

Sonore by Simple Design, LLC