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S/PDIF (optical) from laptop to DAC, is it better than asynchronous USB?


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I have a Dell XPS L702X on which I used JRiver Media Center to convert my entire CD library to FLAC. I also have many wma and mp3 files downloaded. I've been reading about the advantages of asynchronous USB DAC's and thought that was the way to go. But price is a constraint and I've been looking at the Bryston BDA-1 DAC which is reported to have better musical production from its S/PDIF input. I'm confused. I have an optical cable I used to run my computer into my old DAC. I never really tested the optical vs USB sound and I've sold the DAC so I can't do any comparisons now. I know one of the advantages of asynchronous USB was to (I hope I get this right) let the DAC's clock control the digital signals and thereby reduce or eliminate jitter, rendering more detailed music. What, if any, are the advantages of an S/PDIF (optical) connection? What, if anything, does an optical connection do about jitter? If anyone has information about their computer hook-up to their DAC being optical vs USB, I'd like to hear about it. And if anyone has info on the Bryston BDA-1 or optical hook-up to any DAC, I'm very interested. Only catch, the DAC (no matter the brand) has to have XLR balanced outputs. I just bought the Sennheiser HDVA 600 and prefer balanced XLR connection between the two. Thanks in advance.

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Optical has the advantage of complete electrical isolation, which is always good-- with some DAC and computer combinations, this can be a huge benefit. I believe it's always limited to 96K, so if you like to upsample before sending to your DAC, this would be a limiting feature. Until I had a usb input board for my DAC, I used toslink and thought it sounded fine. I do prefer my usb connection, but it took me a while to get everything optimized. (This is a diy DAC...)

 

its hard to make generalizations though, as DACs vary quite a bit in the way they isolate circuits and deal with ground noise issues, etc. Typically USB input DACs that have an internal power supply for the USB circuits are better than those that rely on USB power from the computer. You can always add a power supply and splitter cable later though.

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I have a Dell XPS L702X on which I used JRiver Media Center to convert my entire CD library to FLAC. I also have many wma and mp3 files downloaded. I've been reading about the advantages of asynchronous USB DAC's and thought that was the way to go. But price is a constraint and I've been looking at the Bryston BDA-1 DAC which is reported to have better musical production from its S/PDIF input. I'm confused. I have an optical cable I used to run my computer into my old DAC. I never really tested the optical vs USB sound and I've sold the DAC so I can't do any comparisons now. I know one of the advantages of asynchronous USB was to (I hope I get this right) let the DAC's clock control the digital signals and thereby reduce or eliminate jitter, rendering more detailed music. What, if any, are the advantages of an S/PDIF (optical) connection? What, if anything, does an optical connection do about jitter? If anyone has information about their computer hook-up to their DAC being optical vs USB, I'd like to hear about it. And if anyone has info on the Bryston BDA-1 or optical hook-up to any DAC, I'm very interested. Only catch, the DAC (no matter the brand) has to have XLR balanced outputs. I just bought the Sennheiser HDVA 600 and prefer balanced XLR connection between the two. Thanks in advance.

 

S/PDIF optical been on the pro audio market for quite long time before USB came to the its role and AFAIK is done in hardware. I used to connect my DAC via optical and it was sounding very good (short, 1m run), but it depends on the implementation - on some DACs optical is done better than USB, on some vice versa. You need to try and judge by your ears. USB gives you some benefits (potentially) like INT mode in A+, less jitter on (quite disputable), but not true galvanic isolation like optical. Also USB is more present in the current PC market than optical (only MAC?). In my case I switched to USB from optical and haven't noticed anything spectacular what could make me thinking if one is better than another.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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My computer has Dell Audio by Realtek with Waves MaxxAudio. It gives the option of formatting to CD or DVD quality of 16 bits, 44,100 Hz up to 24 bits, 192,000 Hz. Doesn't that mean I can run optical and USB up to 24/192 if the DAC can handle it? What is it that makes you prefer USB sound to optical sound? Can you name some DAC's (besides the Bryston BDA-1) that does optical better than USB? Thanks.

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Any DAC's that do optical well with XLR output? Everybody is talking about jitter, how does optical handle (reduce or eliminate) it?

 

It is more than USB may reduce jitter than optical, the latter one on long run is said to have the worst jitter prevention.

--

Krzysztof Maj

http://mkrzych.wordpress.com/

"Music is the highest form of art. It is also the most noble. It is human emotion, captured, crystallised, encased… and then passed on to others." - By Ken Ishiwata

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Well then in the opposite direction has any heard of the Calyx DAC 24/192? Even though it has a coaxial input, it's main focus is the asynchronous USB DAC input (no Headphone amp or preamp). I think I'd like one. Anyone know of any other "Asynchronous USB DAC ONLY" dacs with XLR output?

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I have a Dell XPS L702X on which I used JRiver Media Center to convert my entire CD library to FLAC. I also have many wma and mp3 files downloaded. I've been reading about the advantages of asynchronous USB DAC's and thought that was the way to go. But price is a constraint and I've been looking at the Bryston BDA-1 DAC which is reported to have better musical production from its S/PDIF input. I'm confused. I have an optical cable I used to run my computer into my old DAC. I never really tested the optical vs USB sound and I've sold the DAC so I can't do any comparisons now. I know one of the advantages of asynchronous USB was to (I hope I get this right) let the DAC's clock control the digital signals and thereby reduce or eliminate jitter, rendering more detailed music. What, if any, are the advantages of an S/PDIF (optical) connection? What, if anything, does an optical connection do about jitter? If anyone has information about their computer hook-up to their DAC being optical vs USB, I'd like to hear about it. And if anyone has info on the Bryston BDA-1 or optical hook-up to any DAC, I'm very interested. Only catch, the DAC (no matter the brand) has to have XLR balanced outputs. I just bought the Sennheiser HDVA 600 and prefer balanced XLR connection between the two. Thanks in advance.

 

If DAC with internal clock, and turn "sync source" switcher on it, jitter of SPDIF or USB circuits is not impact to digital stream (that after internal DAC's synchronized buffer) directly converted to analog.

 

Possible optical connection give some lesser noise level due electrical isolation.

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+1

 

Also I don't understand the OP's budget worry; Bryston gear isn't cheap (although worth every penny)! There are very many excellent, affordable DACs with async USB inputs now. Check out the balanced Oppo HA-1, it's $600 cheaper than the Bryston...

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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I did more research and decided to go with the Calyx 24/192 DAC. There are a LOT of reviews that tick all the boxes on what I was looking for; holographic, black background, superb low level details, deep tight bass, full bodied midrange, liquid highs, dynamic, fully balanced XLR, you get the picture. It should be here sometime next week and I plan to give it a run for the money I paid for it (half of retail price). Thanks for all the input. I know the DAC world is changing every year, but for now asynchronous USB seems to be the way to go so that's the way I've decided.

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Well then in the opposite direction has any heard of the Calyx DAC 24/192? Even though it has a coaxial input, it's main focus is the asynchronous USB DAC input (no Headphone amp or preamp). I think I'd like one. Anyone know of any other "Asynchronous USB DAC ONLY" dacs with XLR output?

 

Ayre QB-9

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Received and set up my Calyx 24/192 DAC yesterday. All I can say is the Calyx has well been worth the wait. I sold off an Asus Xonar Essence One (my first venture into the world of DAC's). It was a rocky start with a lot of distortion through the USB connection and I eventually set it up with an optical cable. The sound was miles ahead of my computer sound card and I kept it for 2 years. Feeling the need to upgrade, I bought a Musical Fidelity M1SDAC which I kept for a little over 2 months (with some reluctance because I kept hearing a bit of graininess and was less than impressed with the headphone jack (which I mistakenly took for a headphone amp). As time passed I became more dissatisfied and decided to purchase the Sennheiser HDVA 600 headphone amp which I'm loving every minute of. I also purchased the Sennheiser HD 800's after repeatedly reading that these headphones give the closest experience of listening to speakers and not hearing the music just in your head. I'm loving them too. They're set up balanced. The Calyx with the Sennheiser HP amp and 800 cans are all set up balanced and it's the best musical experience I've ever had. There's excellent instrument and voice separation (I listen to a lot of choirs, some classical music, and lots of music with background singers). I must say I can now understand every word the back ground singers and choirs or groups sing. The sound stage is wide and deep (the word holographic comes to mind). There's no graininess and the bass is tight, deep and accurate. It played Massive Attack's, "Angel" without a hiccup. Even my husband was impressed. The mids are lusciously full and there's no harshness to the highs. I wasn't looking for a lot of features (like the Musical Fidelity M1SDAC had) I just wanted a DAC that played the music on my computer with excellence. The Calyx has met and surpassed my requirements. My next venture will be to purchase an integrated amp that compliments this system but that will probably have to wait until 2016. In the mean time, I am ecstatic.

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