Jump to content
IGNORED

Best route from a laptop to external DAC?


gdcdr

Recommended Posts

I'm new to the forum so apologies if this question has been posted in the wrong forum or has been answered many times before. I looked but I didnt find anything specific.

 

I have a Windows 7 laptop with a collection of lossless and lossy audio files that I play with Windows Media Player, Microsoft Zune and sometimes Fubar. I also have a stack of Audiolab HiFi that includes the '8000DAX' dedicated DAC with Coaxial and Optical inputs. I am looking for a simple good quality route to get digital audio from the laptop (which only has headphone jack) into the DAC.

 

I recently purchased the Terratec Aureon Dual USB which boasts an optical output plus a standard 2M Toslink Cable from Amazon and plugged into the optical input of the DAC. The sound quality shows great potential but … at frequent intervals playback starts suffering from dropouts every 5-10 seconds or so - momentary split-second cuts in the music. The only clue to what might be going on is that the red ‘x-tal’ light on the DAC comes on whilst this is happening. After a minute or two, the light goes off as playback continues uninterrupted for a short time before the light comes back on and the dropouts start again.

 

I don’t know what the ‘x-tal‘ light means and I am sure that it is usually on when I am using the separate CD transport. All it says in the Audiolab handbook is “Red = low noise master clock active”. I tried the Terratec stick with a second laptop and got the same result. So I am wondering what this tells me:

• Is there some special audio or USB setting that I need to check within Windows on the PC?

• Is the cheap Terratec solution just too cheap, does this type of system require sophisticated electronics like, say, the Firestone Bravo USB to SPDIF or Hagerman's HagUSB?

• Do I need to invest in an expensive fancy Toslink cable instead? I tried using all three optical inputs on the Audiolab but there was no change.

• Is there some incompatibility at the Audiolab DAC end that means it will never accept steady input from a PC?

 

I don’t know what to do. Is there a way that I can get this Terratec set up to work? If not, how do I know that a more expensive solution will not exhibit the same problems? And how much do I really need to spend to get out of the woods?

 

Any advice will be gratefully received.

 

 

Thanks very much! Richard

 

Link to comment

If your DAC can take in BNC, why not try the Halide Design Bridge?

 

It is one of the better ones around. Could do away with the Terratec altogether.

 

The X-tal light probably means that the incoming signal has too much jitter and your DAC is having a tough time coping with all the error correction.

 

My rig is not an oil rig. I sometimes wish it was.

Link to comment

Thanks for the suggestion. I guess I am looking for something 'cheap and cheerful' as my first experimental step towards what I am sure will become a future dedicated music server which would then be worthy of the $450 Halide Design Bridge. There are various domestic logistal challenges that need to be resolved first, hence my plan to experiment with the laptop for now.

 

The prospect of an optical output from the laptop for $20 was too good to pass up (the Terratec Aureon Dual USB) but it seems that, as always, you get what you pay for.

 

It sounds like this is never going to work? So is there an alternative budget solution that would help get me started?

 

Thanks!

 

Link to comment

Optical as a means of digital interconnects from a PC (EMI heaven) to your hi-fi (extremely sensitive to very minute changes, especially EMI) is just a flawed idea, plain and simple (low-resolution, high jitter, wrong ohmic interfaces, etc.). If I'm to draw an analogy, it would be pretty much akin to starting a fire with wet kindlewood (it can still happen, just that it needs a lot more effort).

 

Most people in your shoes would have been pretty much discouraged by the lack of results if you restrict yourself only to this option.

 

If you must terminate only in SPDIF, (for cheap/budget level) try something like the M2Tech Hiface (asynch USB to coaxial SPDIF) or the Musiland Monitor 01 USD (USB to BNC/coaxial/optical).

 

But don't get too engrossed with these. As it is in audio, you get what you pay for. If you know your system has the potential, just go all out already (if you can afford).

 

My rig is not an oil rig. I sometimes wish it was.

Link to comment

Timing issue?

 

Assuming there is no software issue (likely) then it appears your DAC and the USB sound card are not compatible. You'll have to change one or the other until you find something that works. It could be a buffer issue in the USB soundcard or timing issues between the two. Unless you get an asynchronous DAC then the DAC must follow the clock in the soundcard - sometimes this doesn't work.

 

Benchmark DAC2, Active speakers: ATC 150's, 100's, 20's, C6CA, C6 Subwoofer.

 

Headphones: Only for playing drums. I don't like sounds in my head. The best headphones suck. Nothing can replace good speakers played loudly. And nothing absolutely nothing is a substitute for live music!

Link to comment

Optical as a means of digital interconnects from a PC (EMI heaven) to your hi-fi (extremely sensitive to very minute changes, especially EMI) is just a flawed idea, plain and simple (low-resolution, high jitter, wrong ohmic interfaces, etc.). If I'm to draw an analogy, it would be pretty much akin to starting a fire with wet kindlewood (it can still happen, just that it needs a lot more effort).

 

Not True! Optical may have higher jitter than coax but EMI, wrong impedance, low resolution are just plain wrong. In fact 6 moons, Naim and others have pointed out that toslink can be a fine interconnect method and one in many cases that is indistinguishable from coax and in some cases quieter. The big issue with many systems is low level electrical noise that simply is not transmitted with optical. This galvanic isolation is important to keeping low level noise out of the signal path.

 

Try this, M-Audio Transit as a low cost usb to optical. Then try a Silflex plastic optical or glass if the budget can handle it. We are assuming you have a pc with no optical out. Total cost of the above about $130.

 

This should get you started and then you can move on to the better interfaces. You can also play around with players and get better sound depending on what you have today.

 

good luck and let us know what you end up with.

 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...