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Squeezebox Transporter AES to Sonic Studio 304 vs. iTunes to Sonic Studio 304

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I have a system where I use both iTunes on a Mac and Squeezebox connected to a Sonic Studio Model 304. I compared the sound from the Squeezebox Transporter -> AES > Model 304 against iTunes -> Macbook Pro -> Firewire -> Model 304 and there was a clear difference.



In fact I find it hard to believe how much extra detail I get from the Macbook Pro in comparison to the Transporter into the same DAC.


I don't know if at least in my mind this "seals the deal" with regard to FW vs. AES but for me it does.




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You're hearing the difference between these particular implementation of the two formats, not inherent differences between the formats.


However I'm inclined to think you're right in the sense that any interface that is built to control its own flow of data, i.e. some level of asynchronous data transfer, is likely better through that connection as opposed to a constant stream like with AES/EBU since in the latter case the clocking is based off of the data signal.


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I have the Model 304 feeding a word clock to the Transporter. But the actual amount of difference I heard was a bit shocking. It was quite clearly discernible, in fact so much so that I wonder if I set up something wrong. It still sounds good, and without direct A-B comparison I would have never known. But switching to the Macbook/FW I could hear instruments so much more clearly.


Given my impression that differences in interface would be small and hard to hear, this really changes my view of digital interfaces. It's quite a big difference IMHO.


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I will call Sonic Studio when I get a chance. However I'm still a little in shock. I remember listening to a Stereophile Test CD that had a track which demonstrates the audibility of jitter, but what I heard is quite a bit more than that. I'm talking about instruments in the mix that are clear and fully detailed using FW which become nearly inaudible when using AES/EBU. The differences are so easily discernible that I could demonstrate to any non-audiophile friend (of course I'd have to point it out since I think most people don't even know how to listen to music IMHO). I think once I point it out by saying "listen to that violin" they'd easily hear the difference.


This changes my whole view on digital audio as well. I always knew analog was one finicky deal with tracking force, azimuth alignment, vibration control etc. But now I know digital is just as finicky while promising "perfect sound forever". I feel its very misleading given what I heard. I always thought bits are bits, and if the timing is half way decent you should be okay and even if there are differences that they would require a very resolving system and "golden ears". But the differences as I heard them could probably be resolved by an average system and anyone who is told what to listen for.


It actually saddens me to think digital is no less "tweaky" than analog. It's just more convenient.


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