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Mac OS audio output, USB or Optical?


nestvl

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Hi Guys!

I use MacBook Pro with internal optical output and, sure, USB with DAC Teac UD-H01 (with optical and USB input).

For example, if I use Audirvana Plus with optical output there cannot be "direct mode", but if I use BitPerfect (plugin for iTunes) it works in direct mode with optical output. And both of them work in "direct mode" with USB.

The above just my observation, just FYI.

Question is, what's the better way for audio output, USB or Optical? and what player is better to use?

Thanks in advance for your replies and comments!

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Hi

 

Question is, what's the better way for audio output, USB or Optical?

 

The one you prefer, regardless of what anyone else says.

 

and what player is better to use?

 

The one you prefer, regardless of what anyone else says.

 

 

You're the person using and listening to your system, so you're in the best position to judge the alternative setups.

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Agree with goldsdad. Can you tell us if and how each sounds different to you from the other?

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Au contraire, mon ami. Don't you think he (or she) should instead try the alternatives and then choose amongst them? There are veils to be lifted, you know, sound stages to be opened up, and musical passages that must be transformed to liquid.

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OK, I will try to be less sarcastic.

 

The advantage of USB for this DAC is that it can handle sampling frequencies up to 192 kHz, and it is quite likely that you can control the volume of the DAC via the OS X interface, and therefore with the standard Apple remote control. (It may also sound better, but that you really do have to determine for yourself).

 

Optical on most Macs goes up to 96kHz. The primary advantage is electrical isolation. If you have a ground loop problem, it might be a simple solution. In general, optical connections are said to be higher in jitter, and the general perception is that they tend to be sonically inferior to a good USB or Coax implementation, however you really do have to test this assertion yourself. The quality of the optical cable, in my experience, really does make a difference, with a good glass cable often being worth the expense. In addition to being limited to 96kHz, there is no way to control the volume of your DAC via the computer audio interface. The toslink connection doesn't actually "see" the DAC (or its feature set) directly.

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OK, I will try to be less sarcastic.

 

The advantage of USB for this DAC is that it can handle sampling frequencies up to 192 kHz, and it is quite likely that you can control the volume of the DAC via the OS X interface, and therefore with the standard Apple remote control. (It may also sound better, but that you really do have to determine for yourself).

 

Optical on most Macs goes up to 96kHz. The primary advantage is electrical isolation. If you have a ground loop problem, it might be a simple solution. In general, optical connections are said to be higher in jitter, and the general perception is that they tend to be sonically inferior to a good USB or Coax implementation, however you really do have to test this assertion yourself. The quality of the optical cable, in my experience, really does make a difference, with a good glass cable often being worth the expense. In addition to being limited to 96kHz, there is no way to control the volume of your DAC via the computer audio interface. The toslink connection doesn't actually "see" the DAC (or its feature set) directly.

 

Just to expand on this, Apple has just begun enabling 192k over Toslink in the past several months. The late 2013 MacBook Pros and the new "trashcan" Mac Pros both support 192k out. Wish I could retrofit my late 2001 MacBook Pro for this - would love to try it!

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90 > Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed / Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server / AppleTV > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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  • 5 months later...

What started as a question is now a solution that may be of value to others.

 

I am using an USB to S/PDIF converter (Peachtree X1) that has both coax and optical outputs to drive two different devices simultaneously. One is limited to 24/96 input, the other supports 24/192. The converter does no sample rate conversion. It just passes through the sample rate the computer provides, which by default is 24/192, at least in my setup. I'm assuming this is because the computer senses that it supports USB Audio Class 2.0 which has a maximum sample rate of 192kHz. So one device works, one doesn't. The converter cannot be configured by the user.

 

The Solution: The sample rate of a connected USB Audio device can be configured in Audio MIDI setup in /Applications/Utilities. In my case, I was able to set it to 96kHz, allowing both digital devices in my system to work.

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