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iMac Server - USB Direct Or Through Halide Bridge or HiFace?


iWonder

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Hi All,

 

I'm setting up my first computer based playback system and I need your advice. I have an iMac from the current series and my dac is the Wyred4Sound Dac-1. I can place the dac near the computer or I can put it with my other stereo gear at the other end of the room which would mean a cable length of 27ft. My amp is the Wyred4Sound STi-1000 integrated which has XLR inputs so I could run XLR for 27ft between dac and amp and a short cable from the dac to the iMac.

 

Alternatively, I could use a USB to SPDIF converter like the Halide Bridge from the iMac and then a 21ft 75 ohm coax cable to the dac if it was placed with the rest of the system. I am under the impression, and I may be wrong here, but that direct USB output from an iMac is a long way from being audiophile quality and you need something like a Halide Bridge to clean it up. Is this right? I've also been told that placing a converter like the Halide Bridge, by adding another conversion stage between computer and dac, will actually degrade the sound!

 

Direct USB from iMac to dac would be simple and cheap but would it compromise sound quality? If I go with a long coax cable, what is the max length of 75 ohm coax you can get away with? What do you guys and gals recommend the best connection method to be with my system? Also, currently my transport is a Wadia 170i and iPod with Apple Lossless files. Should I just stick with this or will the above setup I've described trounce it?

 

I'll probably also use either Amarra or Pure Music with the iMac setup if I go with that. What do you think?

 

Thanks,

John

 

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Is the question really "will my Wyred 4 Sound DAC1 sound better with USB or with a USB to SPDIF converter?" Not sure. Is the Wyred 4 Sound DAC1 asyncronous? Have you A/B'd the sound using the toslink input versus USB on your DAC? The quality of the USB interface on the DAC should help you answer the question.

 

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You probably have the imac at the other end of the room so you can use it for other things. If that is the case and you want the best sound, buy a mac mini and some external storage and run it from the imac via remote desktop or a ipod touch. I don't think 27 feet of xlr cable between the dac and amp will be that great of a sound. It might.

 

But since you seem to be going down the best sound path, get a dedicated mac for the best possible sound. And yes get pure music and run in hog mode,. And you will do just fine with toslink out of the mac mini until someone comes up with a "better" sounding solution that is not so expensive. (I can see flames already!)

 

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bottlerocket,

 

I'm about to take delivery of the dac so nothing is set up as yet. I don't want to spend up on USB to Spdif converters if I'm gaining nothing over stock USB. The W4S Dac-1 is asynchronous and can handle bit rates up to 24/96. One advantage with Spdif is it can handle up to 24/192 but priority is with the best sound quality for 44.1 because at this point, 99.8% of my music is cd standard. I know that an A/B comparison would answer my question but as I say, I don't want to spend up big only to find I have wasted my money. Also, I'll need a cable length of about 9m/27ft and they don't come cheap and I don't know yet what long cable I'll need - XLR or Coax or half and half of coax and USB or even optical - so many decisions!

 

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I have heard the mac mini with about several good dacs that had toslink and usb. Toslink always sounded better.

 

Now that is not to say your Wyred might sound just fine. And of course several usb only dacs sounded very nice like the Ayre. But for all the dacs that had a choice toslink always won to my ears.

 

Decide for yourself though the wyred certainly has its followers.

 

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iwonder - to me it is suspect that the Wyred 4 Sound website says nothing about asyncronous USB on the Dac1 and also nothing about 24/192 on SPDIF for the DAC1. Hopefully you've checked that with the manufacturer. I understand where you are coming from now that I know you have not taken delivery yet.

 

If it is not asyncronous, the chances increase that the SPDIF and Toslink are better than the USB on this DAC. I have to say, if you think you might need a converter, why not get the *** DAC2 *** instead??? It is definitely asyncronous and most likely does not need a converter. The difference in price would probably be matched by a converter. Talk to the manufacturer about your question.

 

For your cable situation, if you go SPDIF or USB, go with the short cable to the DAC and long balanced cables from DAC to amp. If you go toslink, you can probably go with a long toslink from MAC to the DAC.

 

 

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bottlerocket - Very perceptive of you to point out that the DAC-2 is asynchronous USB but no mention of that for the DAC-1. I completely missed that so now I need to reconsider things. Is asynchronous 24/96 USB a sound advantage over optical or coax 24/96?

 

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Not all dac's USB inputs are equal. The one on mine was rubbish, so a USB-spdif converter was the way to go. But some newer dac's have perfectly good USB inputs.

As someone has already said, try the USB versus toslink (optical from the Mac line out socket) to compare, if it sounds better via the toslink, a converter worth trying, if not, then your USB will probably do.

 

T.

 

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Asynchronous USB on the WFS DAC2 *should be* superior to toslink from a jitter perspective. Unfortunately, a 27 foot run is too long for both toslink and USB. You could get an Opticis USB extender for long runs, but they are expensive. I think the best option would be to do what another poster suggested, which is to put a MAC mini near the stereo and control it with VNC, so you don't need a long run of anything.

 

 

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l think I'll initially place the dac near the iMac and try USB first (I've bought a DAC-1 but with the 24/192 asynchronous upgrade card). I'll use a 27ft pair of XLR cables from the dac to the XLR inputs of my W4S STi-1000 amp as I think long lengths of XLR cables are fine. Anyone see any problems with this? Eventually I'll get a Mac Mini. By the way, the W4S dac and amp combo are divine. I've only played it for 2 hours thus far (Wadia 170i as source) but I'm liking what I hear, especially as these are meant to need 300 hours before sounding their best. Very impressed!

 

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iWonder wrote:

 

I'll use a 27ft pair of XLR cables from the dac to the XLR inputs of my W4S STi-1000 amp as I think long lengths of XLR cables are fine. Anyone see any problems with this?

 

There generally isn't any difference between driving long XLR cables and driving long RCA cables in consumer audio gear, although there should be less noise using the long XLR run if both sides are balanced. The ability to drive a long pair of cables is a function of the output stage of the source component. You might consider writing to the maker of your DAC to ask if they see any issues driving a 27 foot pair of cables. They may even recommend a specific type of cable for a long run. I use 20 foot XLR cables between my preamp and amps and have no issues.

 

Using a long pair of XLR cables between the DAC and the amp is far better than using a long USB run. Some designers think that it is better to use long speaker cables rather than long interconnects; the reason being that there is far more current being pumped through speaker cables than the small voltages between source components, and the greater current can better handle the long runs. There is probably some disagreement on this point though.

 

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You can buy the W4S DAC-1 with 24/192 asynchronous USB for an extra $250 but it must be ordered and built like that because you can't get an existing DAC-1 upgraded. In my case, with the STi-1000 amp, just no need to pay for the extra features in a dac because the amp has what I need. Just out of interest re my earlier comment about how good this W4S dac and amp combo is - they have replaced a Bryston BDA-1 dac and McIntosh MC352 and C41 amp combo. Do I miss the more expensive gear? Not one bit! I think I actually prefer the sound of the W4S gear! With the money from the sale of my dearer gear, I added extra speakers and a blu-ray to go Home Theatre - I feel like I've won the lottery!

 

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