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USB Flow - does it?


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Over at Audio Asylum poster 91derlust switched from A+/USB/Wyred DAC to an inexpensive Blu-Ray Player, and it's TOSLINK to the Wyred DAC. His impression was the musical flow and timing was somewhat amiss with USB.

 

The thread expands on this theme for a while, until Soundchekk posts this prose, and he's not far off the mark.

 

"As a matter of fact -- computer based audio (still) sucks.You hit the nail on the head.

Only a few nerds with a solid masochistic background are enjoying it.

Don't follow the marketing messages or reviews or magazines.

They just want to hook you up. As usual.

The industry hasn't managed over the last 10 years, that's roughly

the time frame I can talk about, to build audio interfaces that

just play bit after bit properly. We, the users, expect to experience the same soundquality no matter which source you feed your audiointerface from.

That's usually not the case.

Pretty much all devices out there suffer from picking up environmental distortions (noise/RFI/EMI/jitter) from a computer source. And it doesn't matter if you run a 100$ DAC or a 2000$ DAC.

It gets worse for less skilled people if computers start changing your data (e.g. resampling with low quality resamplers) by default (e.g. Windows/Ubuntu). These less skilled people just wouldn't notice. And No.

There's no dealer who is going to support you.

I've seen a guy, a normal user, who was ripping CDs to MP3 fileformat on a MAC/iTunes without being aware of it.

He was running a $50k audio system. No -- he didn't notice. He was pretty surprised afterwards what difference changing a single setting can make.

It still requires tremendous efforts from us --the users-- to get things somewhat right and to keep it under control all the time.

We need to tweak SW/SW settings/HW/powersupplies/cabling/mains asf. to get better results.

As a normal users/customer you never really know if you're done.

Usually you're not. Every change - even a simple software update - can put you down again.

I don't know of any inmate over here, who wouldn't continuously try to tweak his upstream environment. That's the main purpose of this forum.

To be honest. My audio related hobby shifted from mainly listening to music, to mainly hacking computers and environments from the day I started with this.

In the beginning I thought - very much fun. And very convenient stuff once settled. It's not been settled after 10 years.

Nobody is telling you how much effort and knowledge is behind managing your HW and SW and data. Current streaming/networking hype makes things even more complex.

Nope. We're IMO not there yet. At least if you expect reliable and continuous highest quality audio from a computer source or DAC.

Enjoy your blu-ray player."

 

Computer audio is hard to consistently achieve good results, especially with USB. I tried either A+ on MacMini, or Jriver on Windows from the HP Z800, and the sound is veiled, no matter which DAC I use. Cabling...no, it's the same for the last 12 months, it's the players, or the OS or something else. In frustration, lets' find something else that works, and like 91derlust, I found CD/SACD to be very satisfying, even converting 96/24 to redbook and playing them as a CD or DSF files as SACD. The magic is back, or rather, it never went away.

 

If I play 96/192 files, the drums sound like paper bags, cymbals are like tyres letting go under pressure when played from a computer. Sending me nuts, but in a better direction. What's with USB, is the noise that bad that John Swenson identified, or is it a marketing/engineering push to shove S/PDIF aside in favour of something easier to connect, but inherently prone to other issues.

 

No doubt the source material can be blamed, it's not the angel it should be, but anything from Cookie Morenco is just awesome, the latest Valence Project, Heart Drum is a great 'pop' recording. AND it plays drums that are like drums!

 

Anyone else frustrated with USB? Got any cures? Please avoid the USB cable debate, been there done that, besides they only mask the problem.

 

I thought to add this post to avoid the I believe/don't believe/DBT/Sarcasm threads. zzzzzzzz

 

 

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Computer audio is hard to consistently achieve good results, especially with USB. I tried either A+ on MacMini, or Jriver on Windows from the HP Z800, and the sound is veiled, no matter which DAC I use. Cabling...no, it's the same for the last 12 months, it's the players, or the OS or something else. In frustration, lets' find something else that works, and like 91derlust, I found CD/SACD to be very satisfying, even converting 96/24 to redbook and playing them as a CD or DSF files as SACD. The magic is back, or rather, it never went away.

 

If I play 96/192 files, the drums sound like paper bags, cymbals are like tyres letting go under pressure when played from a computer. Sending me nuts, but in a better direction. What's with USB, is the noise that bad that John Swenson identified, or is it a marketing/engineering push to shove S/PDIF aside in favour of something easier to connect, but inherently prone to other issues.

 

No doubt the source material can be blamed, it's not the angel it should be, but anything from Cookie Morenco is just awesome, the latest Valence Project, Heart Drum is a great 'pop' recording. AND it plays drums that are like drums!

 

Anyone else frustrated with USB? Got any cures? Please avoid the USB cable debate, been there done that, besides they only mask the problem.

 

I thought to add this post to avoid the I believe/don't believe/DBT/Sarcasm threads. zzzzzzzz

 

Strange, indeed. I switched from what was considered to be an excellent SACD player (ModWright/Sony 5400) to computer audio (CAPS v3 Carbon) with USB connection to my DAC, and my ripped DSF files sound better than they did with the SACD player. Have you tried something like the iFi USB to "cleanse" the power going to your DAC via the USB cable? Please forgive me for asking this basic question, but you wouldn't possibly have your music stored on a USB HDD drive connected to the same computer feeding your DAC?

 

FWIW, I agree that getting everything up and running to one's satisfaction in a computer audio system is far more difficult for the technically challenged than it ought to be. It scares a lot of people off and causes others to give up. And Paul R, if you're listening, please don't chime in about getting a Mac Mini system going in ten minutes. :)

"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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Strange, indeed. I switched from what was considered to be an excellent SACD player (ModWright/Sony 5400) to computer audio (CAPS v3 Carbon) with USB connection to my DAC, and my ripped DSF files sound better than they did with the SACD player. Have you tried something like the iFi USB to "cleanse" the power going to your DAC via the USB cable? Please forgive me for asking this basic question, but you wouldn't possibly have your music stored on a USB HDD drive connected to the same computer feeding your DAC?

 

FWIW, I agree that getting everything up and running to one's satisfaction in a computer audio system is far more difficult for the technically challenged than it ought to be. It scares a lot of people off and causes others to give up. And Paul R, if you're listening, please don't chime in about getting a Mac Mini system going in ten minutes. :)

 

Tried the ifi USB and it reacted with the DAC rather adversely rather than assisting to clean up the noise. The drives in one case are on the HP Z800 internally, so the MacMini pulls from this shared drive via Ethernet. The pipe is very fast, unlike a NAS.

 

So I try to keep the USB equation as a single channel where I can, in some cases even tried FW drives to keep USB on its own. I can see the merit in removing the internal power supplies, but that is beyond engagement, since there are countless other PSU in a computer that can cause equal havoc.

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Well, all true in my opinion. But a bit tough to "explain" it all. Well, except that I seem to have managed with it but I gather that's not important because there's just too much to it.

 

All I could add for I'm not sure what, is that I know this Soundchekk personally and he is fairly much similar to me. Maybe not at the real technical level, but for the means of tweaking yes plus he can do a few things with Linux.

Actually we both "founded" some explicit exploration (could be quite the first on earth) of computer audio, which was to be for the explicit better. I started XXHighEnd and he traveled the Linux path. So at some stage we worked on improving the nasty sax of Jan Garbarek. That sort of thing. So you can bet that when he talks "drums like paper bags" I know what he means plus that he will be correct on it. It is only that I got rid of it and for him it apparently turned out differently. Didn't talk to him for 5 years or so.

 

But just read what he says. It is like that, unless you pay very very good attention to your environment which may change without you knowing.

 

Nothing much fruitful to add. I just feel acquainted.

Peter

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Welp...I'm not sure about anyone else but for myself, when small changes like this are made to the audio system, it takes usually several weeks or even months before I feel I can pinpoint how it differs from before with any real accuracy. Many times unfortunately those differences aren't always as good as the first knee jerk reaction leads us to believe.

 

So I wonder, how long these changes were evaluated before a conclusion was made that the USB connection is worse then the Jitter prone connection such as Toslink?

 

BUT, if it turns out that the end user does indeed like the Toslink connection better after giving both connection methods a fair shake then IMO this would point a glaring finger towards electrical noise/grunge as the culprit which is finding its way thru the USB link to the DAC. In this case I suspect the reason why Toslink is preferred is because it is immune to noise propagation which, again in this case, is the greater evil compared to additional Jitter.

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USB cables matter... for under $150 this is my standard

 

Pangea Audio 24 Gauge Pure Silver - good dynamics, tone color, air. Does exhibit "steeliness" on massed violins

 

Anything that improves clock accuracy seems to have pass through benefits for computer audio. Conversely what I've observed

is that the cheaper the DAC the worse it sounds due to clock degradation. Initially I thought the DAC in my Oppo 103 was crud, then as I improved

my source solution the DAC differences between the Oppo 103 and the Metrum Octave started to narrow.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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I've found that glass optical or a USB/coax converter (Halide Bridge in my case) are very good and very consistent. I give a slight edge to the Bridge, but only for the reason that my DAC occasionally fails to lock on to the optical 96kHz signal. When both work, both sound great.

 

(My nova's dac only does USB 16bit, 44.1 and 48kHz, so I have never bothered with it.)

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USB cables matter... for under $150 this is my standard

 

Pangea Audio 24 Gauge Pure Silver - good dynamics, tone color, air. Does exhibit "steeliness" on massed violins

 

Anything that improves clock accuracy seems to have pass through benefits for computer audio. Conversely what I've observed

is that the cheaper the DAC the worse it sounds due to clock degradation. Initially I thought the DAC in my Oppo 103 was crud, then as I improved

my source solution the DAC differences between the Oppo 103 and the Metrum Octave started to narrow.

 

This is my point on cables and why it the discussion can never end about them. A (USB) cable is always a combination of RLC (Resistance, Inductance and Capacitance) and as such forms a circuit between components, just as much as internal paths of audio devices are concerned. Since a cable has such variable properties, the chances of hitting on the right combination (whatever that is) is a matter of studying probability theory, best practiced by betting on horses.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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I mean USB is the best current option for computer audio, at least the async option, which allows to control digital audio data flow from the DAC side of connection. But most of current implementations degrade the result by transferring computer noise to DAC.

 

I also mean USB audio is far from a perfect solution. IMO no really good standard exists for digital audio transport today. USB audio as well as S/PDIF is not able to solve error detection and correction. Together with cable reflections caused by poorly implemented cable connectors and device endpoints the current solutions cannot guarantee no influence to transferred digital audio data. That leads to all the user reports about differently sounding digital transports and cables ... But it is really no problem to transfer digital data without any data loss if you use well known computer network technology for that.

 

I mean DACs should contain something like small buffering computer and LAN connection has to be used to connect DAC to home computer. That should solve galvanic isolation as well as error correction and high data transfers speeds.

 

I mean the future will be something like Miska's NAA integrated into DACs, maybe in a form of IC. Integration with DAC is important to avoid any USB or S/PDIF type of transport between that small buffering NAA computer and DAC. Such NAA should be connected to DAC by a very short internal connection (I2S). What is missing is a standard for such a LAN transport.

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This is my point on cables and why it the discussion can never end about them. A (USB) cable is always a combination of RLC (Resistance, Inductance and Capacitance) and as such forms a circuit between components, just as much as internal paths of audio devices are concerned. Since a cable has such variable properties, the chances of hitting on the right combination (whatever that is) is a matter of studying probability theory, best practiced by betting on horses.

 

FWIW, among those who hear differences in USB cables, you would be surprised at the limited number of consensus recommendations within any particular price range. Sensitivity to EMI/RFI can be an important factor, depending on your environment.

"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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