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Interesting SPDIF vs. USB interface FIndings


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Hi All

 

I've been interested in Computer Audio for some time now and over the years have spend a fair bit of time and money to give me what I believed was a superb Computer based audio system.

 

A Macbook Pro, SSD, 8 Gb ram computer -> Curious Cable link into Intona Industrial -> Sbooster VBus Isolator -> LightSpeed Harmonic USB -> Regen powered by Sbooster BOTW linear power supply -> Curious cable link into MSB Analogue DAC.

I use Audirvana 2.5.2 for playback.

 

Downstream of the DAC I'm using Allnic tube Preamp and 300b tube monoblocks. The music storage disk is connected to the Macbook using a Thunderbolt interface.

 

So all in all a respectable system, resolving system.

 

A friend of mine is not into USB based systems but has a wonderful SPDIF based CD system and by that I mean a top notch CD transport into a top notch modern DAC using a well made locally produced SPDIF cable.

 

Last weekend I borrowed the newest SPDIF cable from my friend and compared my USB based system with the CD I used to rip the file into my library. I was using an Oppo 105 as a transport only, the SPDIF signal went through the new cable to my MSB analogue DAC which also has an SPDIF input.

 

The findings surprised me. On every track I played, the Oppo -> SPDIF cable -> MSB analogue DAC was far superior to the above mentioned USB signal path.

 

So I decided to try to investigate further. I copied a number of CD ripped and HDTrack purchased Hi Rez ALAC files from my Audirvana music library to a thumb drive which I inserted into a spare USB slot in the Oppo.

 

I could now compare HiRez files from the Oppo to my MSB DAC through SPDIF with the same HiRez files from my Audirvana library.

 

Again, the SPDIF signal path was superior in every way. Not subtle, but at the same time, if I had never heard the improvement I would have been very satisfied with the USB signal path. The difference was greater with 24/192 than with 16/44 files.

 

The Oppo, which I primarily keep in my system to play SACD disks, and isn't considered all that special as a streamer (from what I gather in some of the other forums) is amazing through SPDIF.

 

I'm currently copying all my music files to a FAT32 2.0 TB USB hard drive to investigate whether the same improvement is obtained using a spinning disk connected to the Oppo or thru my wireless network.

 

If this the case. I hope it is, I will likely audition Audiophile quality streamers/renderers which have SPDIF interfaces.

 

I have very few (1 or 2) DSD files so losing the ability to play the back through SPDIF is not a showstopper for me, I'll likely keep the USB system in place regardless.

 

Not meaning to cause a stir, but I am surprised. I was going to look into streamers/renderers anyway, but was going to use USB output. Now I can't see myself looking at a device which does not have SPDIF output.

 

Regards

Barry

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Does not surprise me one bit. I have always hated USB audio. You have the MSB DAC; try the Renderer module. Spanks the USB module, even the Quad. Not sure which USB input you are using, but the old one was unlistenable to me.

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Hi Barry - Thanks for the post. I always like reading about peoples' experiences. I think readers should be careful not to generalize your specific findings into other areas and other components. I find that using a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB to convert USB to AES or S/PDIF (BNC) is almost always better than using a DAC's built-in USB receiver.

Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Off topic...always loved the Allnic gear! Those monoblocks are awesome!!!

12TB NAS >> i7-6700 Server/Control PC >> i3-5015u NAA >> Singxer SU-1 DDC (modded) >> Holo Spring L3 DAC >> Accustic Arts Power 1 int amp >> Sonus Faber Guaneri Evolution speakers + REL T/5i sub (x2)

 

Other components:

UpTone Audio LPS1.2/IsoRegen, Fiber Switch and FMC, Windows Server 2016 OS, Audiophile Optimizer 3.0, Fidelizer Pro 6, HQ Player, Roonserver, PS Audio P3 AC regenerator, HDPlex 400W ATX & 200W Linear PSU, Light Harmonic Lightspeed Split USB cable, Synergistic Research Tungsten AC power cords, Tara Labs The One speaker cables, Tara Labs The Two Extended with HFX Station IC, Oyaide R1 outlets, Stillpoints Ultra Mini footers, Hi-Fi Tuning fuses, Vicoustic/RealTraps/GIK room treatments

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Hi Barry - Thanks for the post. I always like reading about peoples' experiences. I think readers should be careful not to generalize your specific findings into other areas and other components. I find that using a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB to convert USB to AES or S/PDIF (BNC) is almost always better than using a DAC's built-in USB receiver.

 

Good point. Forgot to mention that I used to use the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB with the AES input to the MSB, which made USB somewhat bearable. Prefered that to MSB's USB modules. A regen amber also improves upon their USB module.

 

However, for that money you could get the Renderer module...no contest.

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Good point. Forgot to mention that I used to use the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB with the AES input to the MSB, which made USB somewhat bearable. Prefered that to MSB's USB modules. A regen amber also improves upon their USB module.

 

However, for that money you could get the Renderer module...no contest.

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Hi Barry - Thanks for the post. I always like reading about peoples' experiences. I think readers should be careful not to generalize your specific findings into other areas and other components. I find that using a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB to convert USB to AES or S/PDIF (BNC) is almost always better than using a DAC's built-in USB receiver.

 

Hi Chris

 

Of course you are correct, it all has to do with implementation. But as I have the original USB module with my Analogue DAC, I can't help but wonder what a comparison using the newer Quad speed module would reveal. Hmm...

 

Regards

Barry

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Hi Chris

 

Of course you are correct, it all has to do with implementation. But as I have the original USB module with my Analogue DAC, I can't help but wonder what a comparison using the newer Quad speed module would reveal. Hmm...

 

Regards

Barry

 

HI Barry

 

thanks for sharing your test results. I recently upgraded to the same DAC but it came with the quad USB interface and my findings are thus far opposite to yours when using my trusted Jkenny MK3. Its only been a few weeks of testing for me so the testing is not yet over but I have read more than once the original USB module was a bit short of where it needed to be which may be a factor for your results. My source is a mac air and my USB cable is a 5 dollar printer cable. When using my Jkenny I use a black cat SPDIF with the same cable.

 

If you do manage to get the renderer module please do share the results.

 

thansk

 

Sj

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HI Barry

 

thanks for sharing your test results. I recently upgraded to the same DAC but it came with the quad USB interface and my findings are thus far opposite to yours when using my trusted Jkenny MK3. Its only been a few weeks of testing for me so the testing is not yet over but I have read more than once the original USB module was a bit short of where it needed to be which may be a factor for your results. My source is a mac air and my USB cable is a 5 dollar printer cable. When using my Jkenny I use a black cat SPDIF with the same cable.

 

If you do manage to get the renderer module please do share the results.

 

thansk

 

Sj

 

Hi SJ

 

Not really interested in the Renderer module. but I had a moment of weakness earlier today and called Vince at MSB to purchase a new quad USB module. I'm an engineer by trade (graduated in 1978 with a Masters of Engineering) and a combination of curious and anal (not a bad combination for an engineer), so I had to know if the newer module with Regen, intona etc could equal the SPDIF interface on my MSB DAC.

 

Regardless I think a Bryston BDP2 or Aurender server (with SPDIF) might be purchased in my next moment of weakness.

 

Again I did not notice significant SPDIF superiority until I upgraded my SPDIF cable. I never thought the original module (with regen, Intona, etc) was that bad - just not as good as SPDIF using a very nice cable.

 

Regards

Barry

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Hi SJ

 

Not really interested in the Renderer module. but I had a moment of weakness earlier today and called Vince at MSB to purchase a new quad USB module. I'm an engineer by trade (graduated in 1978 with a Masters of Engineering) and a combination of curious and anal (not a bad combination for an engineer), so I had to know if the newer module with Regen, intona etc could equal the SPDIF interface on my MSB DAC.

 

Regardless I think a Bryston BDP2 or Aurender server (with SPDIF) might be purchased in my next moment of weakness.

 

Again I did not notice significant SPDIF superiority until I upgraded my SPDIF cable. I never thought the original module (with regen, Intona, etc) was that bad - just not as good as SPDIF using a very nice cable.

 

Regards

Barry

 

You are in for a real treat when you install the new quad module, dont forget to upgrade to the latest firmware first or it wont recognise it.

 

SJ.

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So I decided to try to investigate further. I copied a number of CD ripped and HDTrack purchased Hi Rez ALAC files from my Audirvana music library to a thumb drive which I inserted into a spare USB slot in the Oppo.

Barry

Try ripping the files directly to the thumb drive, with and without the USB Regen in line, then plug the thumb drive into the USB port of the Oppo, but this time with the Regen in line.

I use an Oppo 103 as a transport, and also get great results via Coax SPDIF Out to a high quality DIY DAC.

The USB input of the 105 should sound better than the USB input of the 103, but quite a few members find that the Regen or Intona Isolator both benefit DACs with Async USB inputs too.

Regards

Alex

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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I have similar observations with my Devialet D250 DAC/amp. USB out independent of file format sounds worse, the best sound I get from my laptop is using Devialet's AIR3+Audirvana plus software via an ethernet cable direct in the D250. But I get better sound with my CD transport (Pro-ject CD-box RS) via SPDIF and even better via AES/EBU. But is not that spinning disks give the best sound because my SD-trans 384 (which has only SPDIF out) surpasses CDs. If I use just a simple Neutrik SPDIF to XLR adapter the SD-trans improves further. I assume that simply the AES input on the D250 is better than the SPDIF inputs.

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Hi Barry,

 

I tried them all on the Analog. The original USB was unlistenable to me and AES easily beats it. Quad USB is miles better than your current one. You will still need an USB cleaner like the Regen amber on the Quad though. Yep, tested that too.

 

But....the renderer input beats the Quad USB easily even with Regen.

 

MicroRendu is something new that I have not used but many are raving about as an USB cleaner. Worth checking.

 

One other option to look at is using their transport and MSB network connection.

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"I'm currently copying all my music files to a FAT32 2.0 TB USB hard drive to investigate whether the same improvement is obtained using a spinning disk connected to the Oppo or thru my wireless network."

 

Use exFAT instead.

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Have had many such experiences with similar results/outcomes. I don't use USB anymore.

 

Recently when auditioning DACs with a friend, all of us saw (and heard) S/PDIF sounded the best.

 

The outcome was the guy actually buying the DAC, but more importantly getting the Auralic Aries for S/PDIF output to the DAC.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world - Martin Luther

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Hi Barry,

 

I tried them all on the Analog. The original USB was unlistenable to me and AES easily beats it. Quad USB is miles better than your current one. You will still need an USB cleaner like the Regen amber on the Quad though. Yep, tested that too.

 

But....the renderer input beats the Quad USB easily even with Regen.

 

MicroRendu is something new that I have not used but many are raving about as an USB cleaner. Worth checking.

 

One other option to look at is using their transport and MSB network connection.

 

Hi Tranz

 

i really appreciate your input. I'm going to first upgrade the USB module, From your posts, I guess it has been a weak point in my system, and then consider purchasing a MSB renderer module or a standalone device connected through SPDIF.

 

I know the Bryston BDP2 doesn't appear to get much love here, but I'll audition this device in the next few months. I did compare it via USB input to my DAC about a year ago and it was impressive, but I found that using Audirvana I could come close to it via USB.

 

SPDIF output will likely make it a must have.

 

I have no no way to audition the MSB renderer or an Aurender server, you guys in the US don't have to deal with Canadian Border Services (customs) when returning borrowed gear, it makes it a pain.

 

Did you compare the MSB renderer with other renderers? Again, I appreciate your experience.

 

Regards

Barry

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"I'm currently copying all my music files to a FAT32 2.0 TB USB hard drive to investigate whether the same improvement is obtained using a spinning disk connected to the Oppo or thru my wireless network."

 

Use exFAT instead.

 

Done!! Thanks, Oppo sees the files just fine.

 

Going to to hold off on comparison for a few days, Calgary is in the midst of a heatwave. We normally don't need air conditioning, so we have none and my Tube mono blocks make the listening room too hot. Should cool off to a high of 78 F by Friday. Today it's going to approach 87 F, too hot for Calgary in June!!

 

regards

Barry

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Hi Tranz

 

i really appreciate your input. I'm going to first upgrade the USB module, From your posts, I guess it has been a weak point in my system, and then consider purchasing a MSB renderer module or a standalone device connected through SPDIF.

...

Did you compare the MSB renderer with other renderers? Again, I appreciate your experience.

 

Regards

Barry

 

Enjoy!

 

Regens are available 2nd hand now too, quite reasonable.

 

I tried a few Naim, Linn, McIntosh, Auralic, Aurender. The bit that really stands out though is the DAC and the integration on the MSB. Separate power, femto clock master, no USB or SPDIF conversions. Hard to beat.

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Done!! Thanks, Oppo sees the files just fine.

 

Going to to hold off on comparison for a few days, Calgary is in the midst of a heatwave. We normally don't need air conditioning, so we have none and my Tube mono blocks make the listening room too hot. Should cool off to a high of 78 F by Friday. Today it's going to approach 87 F, too hot for Calgary in June!!

 

regards

Barry

 

I never compared the 2 for sound quality. exFAT is more compatable. It works with Windows, Linux, Mac and Android, so you can plug a disk drive into just about anything and it will work.

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Hi

 

I repeated my experiment using a music library stored on a portable bus powered 2TB USB hard drive hanging off of my Oppo 105. I found the MSB SPDIF Interface was again better than my USB interface using the MSB DAC's original USB module.

 

I know the difference will be reduced when I receive the newer quad USB module, but It really makes me wonder what kind of SQ I would experience if the "jack of trades" Oppo was replaced with a dedicated SPDIF streamer.

 

My next post will occur in a week or two, when the MSB quad USB module arrives.

 

regards

Barry

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I have got a MSB Anlalog DAC/Power Base with Quad USB and SPDIF input and I think that one needs to take a lot of things into consideration when comparing both inputs. Otherwise a comparison is useless. I use a Macbook Pro (older model) with the newest OSX (stripped down), HQ Player and a Wireworld Platinum USB 7 cable into my MSB Analog DAC for streaming and a PS Audio Perfect Wave transport with a Naim Audio DC 1 SPDIF cable for spinning my CDs and both ways the sound quality is very good. However I slightly prefer the streaming route soundwise.

 

I tried Audirvana, Pure Music and HQ Player and I prefer HQ Player in its purest form (no digital filter, no dither/no noise shaper, no sample rate conversion and of course no PCM to DSD conversion) since this way it sounds the best to my ears. Trying out all this different software players I came to the conclusion that all of them sound different although all of them passed the bit perfect test and were compared using them in the most neutral form regarding settings and in the form with the settings I liked the most. It makes even a big difference whether Wifi/WLAN is on or off with the MAC. Taking all this into account my personal oppinion is that one should not generalize things like saying USB is better than SPDIF or the other way around.

 

The very same goes for SPDIF. Every SPDIF cable has got its own sonic signature, every CD transport has a different sound and even the power cable for the CD transport ends up changing the sound of the very same transport.

 

Now one might say that the PS AUDIO Perfect Wave transport is not a normal transport since it rips the disc, stores it into a large buffer (64 MB as far as I know) before it outputs the data, but the same above mentioned findings are valid for my heavilly modded Naim Audio CD transport with a swing arm CD transport, too. This transport has got two SPDIF outputs only differing in signal level. One is 2 Volts peak to peak and the other is 4 Volts (well above the standard) and guess what? The stronger one sounds so much better with a variety of DACs that make me wonder why most SPDIF outputs are only 2 Volts.

 

As you can see I tried a lot of things and my conclusion is that one can easily compare apples to oranges although one thinks that he compares apples to apples. My advice is that one should optimze the USB route starting at the PC/Mac and to optimze the SPDIF route and than decide which one to prefer. But in my oppinion this is only valid for this particular set up and that these findings can never ever be generalized.

In the middle of old school hifi and computer based hifi...

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This transport has got two SPDIF outputs only differing in signal level. One is 2 Volts peak to peak and the other is 4 Volts (well above the standard) and guess what? The stronger one sounds so much better with a variety of DACs that make me wonder why most SPDIF outputs are only 2 Volts.

 

John Kenny found the opposite , and published measurements with and without, a selected value attenuator. Many reported that the attenuator resulted in an improvement in SQ.

Each digital audio sample is (16-24 bits) is packaged along with status, control and error checking information into a 32 bit word.

This is then modulated or encoded into a serial bitstream using the Biphase Mark Code (BMC)

.....The BMC encoded serial bitstream is then transmitted as a 400mV peak to peak signal along a single 75 ohm coaxial cable.

Source = Silicon Chip Magazine (Australia)

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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