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USB DACs and driver obsolence

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I'm looking for a SACD player and DAC in the $4000+ range, and been contemplating models from Yamaha and Marantz.


I also recently had a first experience with USB audio, as I bought a M2Tech Hiface Two to connect my PC to a vintage Electrocompaniet ECD-1 DAC. I turned out that the drivers that M2Tech currently offers are not compatible with Windows 8.1. I hope there will be an update soon (the generic driver they are basing their driver on has already been updated). Apparently they haven't tested Windows 8.1 yet and weren't aware of a problem.


This makes me wonder about hifi manufacturers like Marantz, which are technology wise further away from computer audio than M2Tech. For their SA11-S3 and SA-14S1 players, there has been an initial driver release, and there has been no update AFAIK. The SA11-S3 USB driver is from August 2012. The player manual mentions compatibility with up to Windows 7. It has not been updated either.


While the driver architecture of Windows 7 and 8 seems to be very similar, my problem with the Hiface Two and Windows 8.1 has taught me that, when you upgrade to a newer Windows version or buy a new PC with a current Windows version, it could happen that the combination PC/DAC no longer works as it should, if the DAC manufacturer doesn't provide a driver update.


As I intend to use a $4000 DAC for several years, and preferably not with a dedicated audio PC running a vintage OS, how risky is that investment?


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I have an AMR777 DAC and they are updating their drivers. I am running the latest off their web site using Windows Server 2012. I had an Audio Research CD8 before and they were updating their drivers as well. The only issue I had was when I used my Berkeley Alpha USB converted I had to run the driver in compatibility mode under Server 2012 because the driver did not support Server 2012 and there was no updated driver. So I am not sure this is an easy question to answer.

AMR 777 DAC, Purist Ultimate USB, PC server 4gig SOTM USB, server 2012, Audiophil Optimizer,Joule Preamp LAP150 Platinum Vcaps Bybee, Spectron Monoblocks Bybee Vcaps, Eggleston Savoy speakers, 2 REL Stentor III subwoofers, Pranawire Cosmos speaker wire, Purist Dominus Praesto cabling, Purist Anniversary (Canorus)power cables and Elrod Statement Gold power cable, VPI Aries I SDS w/Grado The Statement LP, 11kVA power isolation, 16 sound panels and bass traps TAD,RPG,GIK and Realtraps

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As I intend to use a $4000 DAC for several years, and preferably not with a dedicated audio PC running a vintage OS, how risky is that investment?


I would hope and expect that Windows 8/8.1 will be around for a long time. I left Windows XP behind only a few months ago and I plan to stick with the current OS for many years.


I absolutely love my Luxman DA-06 DAC which came with a Windows 8/8.1 compatible ASIO driver. I can see living with it for the foreseeable future. I sold my SACD player and bought a Sony PS3 with early firmware to allow me to rip my SACD collection. I don't see obsolescence being a concern with my system.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron


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Hopefully win 9 will be USB audio 2.0 compatible, which will solve all the problems.


Or just use Mac OS X or Linux which have had USB audio 2.0 drivers for several years. I have no idea why it has taken Microsoft so long to fail to produce a similar driver. It isn't as though their operating systems are cheap, or selling in small quantities.

System (i): Stack Audio Link > 2Qute+MCRU psu; Gyrodec/SME V/Hana SL/EAT E-Glo Petit/Magnum Dynalab FT101A) > PrimaLuna Evo 100 amp > Klipsch RP-600M/REL T5x subs

System (ii): Allo USB Signature > Bel Canto uLink+AQVOX psu > Chord Hugo > APPJ EL34 > Tandy LX5/REL Tzero v3 subs

System (iii) KEF LS50W/KEF R400b subs


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This is the reason I bought a DAC which can be configured to switch between USB Class 1 audio and USB Class 2 audio.


Class 1 devices are "driverless" and work on basically anything - PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android etc. In this mode, it supports up to 24-bit 96kHz audio.


Class 2 requires custom drivers on Windows, but are driverless on Mac and Linux. I don't think iOS or Android support Class 2 audio at all.


Hopefully the next big update for Windows will include native Class 2 audio drivers so that the device will be "driverless" there too. I'm not sure why Microsoft are dragging their feet in this regard.


And worst case scenario, USB ports no longer exist 10-20 years from now, there are still S/PDIF connections to fall back on. It's extremely unlikely to happen, but at least I'm covered for that eventuality.

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