Element III Firmware Updates & Menu Options

Thank you to all first adopters of Element III! We’re glad so many of you are enjoying Element III as much as we are. While EL3 is temporarily sold out, we’ve been listening to all feedback to improve firmware features and overall quality (more coming in a separate post).

Most notably, Firmware v2.2.0 or newer allows customizing the Knob Button, and eliminates the need for a UAC1 Fallback cable when connecting to consoles.

Please see How to Install an XMOS Firmware Update. Element IIIs shipping after March 25th will arrive with the latest firmware preinstalled! This includes all EL3s shipping to retailers.


Firmware Changelog

Version, Date Notes
v2.2.3
11-04-2022
  • Feature: Added “Mute Inactive USB” to options menu
  • Added 15ms settling time after OLED init to increase I2C integrity
v2.2.0
03-25-2022
  • Added “Knob Button” to the options menu, configurable as:
    • Toggle Input
    • Toggle Output*
    • Mute (USB only)
    • Mute (SPDIF only)
  • Added “USB Audio Class” to the options menu for UAC2/UAC1 selection
  • Improved UAC1 descriptors to support Nintendo Switch
  • Fix: Allow output mode changes while in the options menu.
  • Improvement: Changed DAC synchronization rate from 100ms to 5ms to improve recovery time in case of ESD disruptions
v2.1.0
02-17-2022
  • Added “Auto Gain Speed” menu option with “Default” and “Aggressive”
  • Moved Screen Timeout “Never” to end of selections
  • Resolved issue that doesn’t clear rate during stream standby.
  • Renamed options: “Encoder Steps” –> “Volume Steps” and “Encoder Resolution” –> “Knob Speed”
  • Corrected S/PDIF De-emphasis behavior: Only apply de-emphasis if the S/PDIF stream indicates to do so and the current input mode is S/PDIF.
v2.0.9
01-31-2022
           Initial Release

*Please Note: The Knob Button ‘Toggle Output’ option requires the latest bootloader, dated 14-Mar-2022. If you own an Element III from the first batch and wish to try this feature, please reach out and we’ll be glad to enable this capability for you. You may still install v2.2.0 on an Element III built prior to March 14th and the Toggle Output option will be hidden.


Options Menu

Last updated 11-Nov-2022

Pressing down on the Volume Knob for 3+ seconds enters the Options Menu. Turn the knob to navigate up/down the options menu. Push the center of the knob to make a selection.

Available settings are described below, with default values in bold.

SCREEN TIMEOUT
Default: 5 seconds, with a range of 0 (never) to 120 seconds.

SCREEN CONTRAST

  • HIGH
  • MED
  • LOW

LED MODE

  • ON: LEDs will remain on while Element III is on.
  • WITH SCREEN: LEDs will power off while the screen is off.
  • 5 MIN STANDBY: LEDs operate as follows:

In S/PDIF mode, the LEDs will always remain on, as audio stream detection is available only in USB mode.
In USB mode, the LEDs will turn off after 5 minutes of audio inactivity. The LEDs will turn on:
(a) as soon as the USB stream becomes active again, or
(b) anytime the screen turns on with user interaction (which is true in any mode). When the screen turns off, the LEDs will turn off as well only if the USB stream has remained inactive for 5 minutes.
Consistent with 5 minute USB stream inactivity, the USB “rate” on the display will also be cleared once this standby limit is surpassed.
Note that the screen on/off is unrelated to the 5 minute standby setting. The screen power-off is related exclusively to the “Screen Timeout” option/setting.

The USB audio stream may be activated by any audio from your operating system. This feature has been tested under Win 10 and macOS. Behavior may vary with other operating systems. You can verify USB stream status in the “STATUS” menu.

KNOB SPEED

  • FULL
  • HALF

VOLUME STEPS

  • 0.5 dB
  • 1.0 dB

AUTO GAIN SPEED

  • DEFAULT:  A progress bar is shown as you reach the 0dB threshold, providing a few degrees of hysteresis.
  • AGGRESSIVE: No progress bar is shown. Transition between gain states is 4x faster at the 0dB threshold.

KNOB BUTTON
This option allows you to reconfigure the knob button to:

  • Toggle Input
  • Toggle Output [Requires 14-March-2022 bootloader]
  • Mute (USB only)
  • Mute (SPDIF only)

USB AUDIO CLASS
UAC2 is recommended for modern operating systems (Win 10/11, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS), providing ASIO support, DSD128 and PCM 32/384kHz playback, and ability to perform firmware updates.

Choose UAC1 to connect to legacy operating systems such as Win XP/7/8, Nintendo Switch, or PS 4/5. You may toggle between UAC2/UAC1 at any time. Element III will restart upon change, or prompt to restart. Alternatively, you may use a UAC1 Fallback cable in UAC2 mode.

MUTE INACTIVE USB

  • Disabled: Preferred for Windows or macOS.
  • Enabled: Preferred for Linux or Android to eliminate “alien sounds” while audio should be absent or otherwise muted.

2ND HARMONIC COMP
Default: 0, with a range of -75 to 75. Large values in either direction will increase second harmonics.

3RD HARMONIC COMP
Default: -20, with a range of -75 to 75. Large values in either direction will increase third harmonics.

DPLL BANDWIDTH
Default: 7, with a range of [0:15].
This setting directly impacts jitter rejection, with the optimal value dependent on timing stability of your PC or audio source. Most audio sources produce stable audio when DPLL is set to 5. We have conservatively increased the default DPLL value to 7 in order to support a wider range of sources, especially modern 4k TVs. If you encounter stuttering, try increasing DPLL Bandwidth.

SPDIF DE-EMPHASIS
Default: OFF. Setting de-emphasis to AUTO automatically enables de-emphasis when an incoming S/PDIF stream contains such a flag, and otherwise disables de-emphasis.

DAC FILTER

  • FAST ROLLOFF
  • SLOW ROLLOFF
  • MIN PHASE

STATUS
Displays the current firmware version, USB Stream status (Active, Inactive), and internally recovered I2C Errors. This information is intended for factory Q/C checking. Please note: I2C Errors can occur from strong ESD or other interference. Element III monitors for and
automatically recovers from I2C errors. Over 17M transmissions occur every 24 hours, so it is normal to see an accumulation of I2C recoveries over time.

FACTORY RESET
As the name suggests, Factory Reset clears all above settings to their default states. Upon Reset, your Element 3 will default to -45 dB volume in Headphone Output mode via USB Input, and RCA Output will default to 0 dB.

2 thoughts to “Element III Firmware Updates & Menu Options”

  1. Thanks for adding all these extra knobs. It would be helpful if you could provide a guidance as to what we can expect by tuning each one of these options, or what some of them mean.

    > 2ND HARMONIC COMP
    > 3ND HARMONIC COMP

    What are these? How should making a change tune the sound?

    > DPLL Bandwidth

    What is DPLL? What are the downsides of increasing it? Is it just increasing the buffer? What unit is the number in?

    > SPDIF DE-EMPHASIS
    What is this, except for the fact it can be turned on / off?

    A wishlist of mine is adding a simple EQ to the device, but it’s likely out of scope.

    1. 2nd and 3rd harmonic compensation alters how prominent each harmonic appears in the frequency domain. These values have been tuned for optimal performance via audio analyzer (i.e., minimal harmonics). Changing the values will increase harmonics, meaning more distortion. This could be described as more tube-like, admittedly, the amount of change is small compared to the amount of distortion generated by a tube amp. You most likely will not hear a difference even with the values at +/- 75.

      DPLL Bandwidth = Digital Phase-Locked Loop Bandwidth. No, this is not a buffer value. A smaller values may improve jitter, but setting too low will result in clicks or pops (especially at the beginning of an audio stream), as lower bandwidth equates to being more picky about the signal lock. Higher bandwidth is more forgiving, meaning fewer opportunities for glitches, but increased jitter. The ESS datasheet does not explain the underlying equation or unit…

      SPDIF De-Emphasis applies a time constant when the host S/PDIF transmitter sets the de-emphasis flag, effectively altering frequency response. More info at:
      https://www.dsprelated.com/showthread/comp.dsp/182627-1.php

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