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Is USB straight from a Mac computer to a DAC really that bad?


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Is USB straight from a computer to a DAC really a bad or should everyone always strive to isolate the computer's USB output from the audio stream???  I connect my Chord Quest directly to my Mac Mini; which is dedicated to only running ROON Core; with an AudioQuest Diamond USB and I think it sounds great.  But I according to manufactures of network streamers, eliminating the computer (or using an expensive audio optimized PC like an Innuos) will always sound significantly better.  I've also read that this is not necessarily the case and it really depends on how usb is implemented in the source and the DAC?  Specifically, I heard from Rob Watts of Chord explain that Chord DAC's are optimized for USB direct input.  So, I'm trying to decide if I need to try something like a SOTM SMS-200 Ultra or a Sonore UltraRendu but I'm hesitant to go to the expense and hassle of more boxes.   I recently read this update on this $150K system: https://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/opinion/1392-after-25-years-is-this-the-worlds-best-audio-system  Specifically:

"Some Facebook readers criticized me for not using an audiophile-grade music server or USB link. I responded that if anyone can show me a music server or USB link that actually sounds better that what I have in terms of resolution, tonality, soundstaging, imaging, whatever -- I’m all ears. But so far, I’ve heard nothing that has proven itself better-sounding or more versatile -- my computer plays any digital music format and file type from streaming services and my local music drive, and my USB link, with its lengthy length, transfers the bits just fine.

The reason I can get away with using a laptop has to do with the next component in the signal chain: the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC ($25,000). Designed by Ed Meitner, who’s been creating digital-audio products since the 1970s, the DA2 Reference seems immune to swaps of USB links, as well as differences in source components."

 

Am I missing something??

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3 hours ago, audiophile911 said:

I connect my Chord Quest directly to my Mac Mini; which is dedicated to only running ROON Core; with an AudioQuest Diamond USB and I think it sounds great. 

 Numerous members have found that the standard Mac Mini benefits greatly from replacement of it's SMPS with a Linear PSU such as from Uptone Audio. Even then, further worthwhile improvements are often obtained using an Iso Regen etc.

 Why not ask these questions in the Uptone area of the forum as well ?

 

 

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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On 5/29/2020 at 5:08 PM, audiophile911 said:

Is USB straight from a computer to a DAC really a bad or should everyone always strive to isolate the computer's USB output from the audio stream???  I connect my Chord Quest directly to my Mac Mini; which is dedicated to only running ROON Core; with an AudioQuest Diamond USB and I think it sounds great.  But I according to manufactures of network streamers, eliminating the computer (or using an expensive audio optimized PC like an Innuos) will always sound significantly better.  I've also read that this is not necessarily the case and it really depends on how usb is implemented in the source and the DAC?  Specifically, I heard from Rob Watts of Chord explain that Chord DAC's are optimized for USB direct input.  So, I'm trying to decide if I need to try something like a SOTM SMS-200 Ultra or a Sonore UltraRendu but I'm hesitant to go to the expense and hassle of more boxes.   I recently read this update on this $150K system: https://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/opinion/1392-after-25-years-is-this-the-worlds-best-audio-system  Specifically:

"Some Facebook readers criticized me for not using an audiophile-grade music server or USB link. I responded that if anyone can show me a music server or USB link that actually sounds better that what I have in terms of resolution, tonality, soundstaging, imaging, whatever -- I’m all ears. But so far, I’ve heard nothing that has proven itself better-sounding or more versatile -- my computer plays any digital music format and file type from streaming services and my local music drive, and my USB link, with its lengthy length, transfers the bits just fine.

The reason I can get away with using a laptop has to do with the next component in the signal chain: the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC ($25,000). Designed by Ed Meitner, who’s been creating digital-audio products since the 1970s, the DA2 Reference seems immune to swaps of USB links, as well as differences in source components."

 

Am I missing something?? I would say so , I’m curious you don’t mention anything about the rest of your system you only mention your dac also are you using a Chord dac or the EMM Labs ?

You could easily listen for yourself comparing a dedicated server like you mentioned IE Innuos or go down the road of adding a spedgetti of add on boxes and cables that will reduce the noise and up tight constrained sounding music from your lap top or simply try a dedicated server .

Do yourself a favour and borrow a quality dedicated server and listen to the difference , there will be a huge difference.

 

 

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There's no way to ignore coupled noise from the computer's USB port to a DAC, it exists, and is difficult to remove. There's no threshold when it gets bad. Doug Schnieder has elected from very nice components, which explains how they sound terrific on their own fed with a lousy signal source with computer audio. Perhaps he needs to grind his beans a little better.

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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I had a problem with the USB connection straight from the mac mini to the DAC. I found that any other devices, such as external drives connected to other USB ports, degrade the sound quality. I mean, best-case scenario required that only one port be used and the rest not at all, all external units disconnected. Including also the monitor via HDMI. Everything besides only USB connection to DAC from mini was easy to "hear". Eventually, I started using an external NAA connected to the mac mini via the ethernet.

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I use a Macbook straight into my Yggy and get phenomenal results, especially with the new Unison USB. Before the pandemic, I had some audio group members in the room and they were floored that I was just going straight from the laptop. When I still had the Gen 5 card installed, I still had a jitterbug in line, that is gone since I installed Unison,  as the jitterbug was chocking the sound off a bit. So, yes, you can get great results, with  a DAC with good USB implementation.

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2 hours ago, One and a half said:

There's no way to ignore coupled noise from the computer's USB port to a DAC, it exists, and is difficult to remove. There's no threshold when it gets bad. Doug Schnieder has elected from very nice components, which explains how they sound terrific on their own fed with a lousy signal source with computer audio. Perhaps he needs to grind his beans a little better.

👍

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On 5/29/2020 at 5:08 PM, audiophile911 said:

Is USB straight from a computer to a DAC really a bad or should everyone always strive to isolate the computer's USB output from the audio stream???  I connect my Chord Quest directly to my Mac Mini; which is dedicated to only running ROON Core; with an AudioQuest Diamond USB and I think it sounds great.  But I according to manufactures of network streamers, eliminating the computer (or using an expensive audio optimized PC like an Innuos) will always sound significantly better.  I've also read that this is not necessarily the case and it really depends on how usb is implemented in the source and the DAC?  Specifically, I heard from Rob Watts of Chord explain that Chord DAC's are optimized for USB direct input.  So, I'm trying to decide if I need to try something like a SOTM SMS-200 Ultra or a Sonore UltraRendu but I'm hesitant to go to the expense and hassle of more boxes.   I recently read this update on this $150K system: https://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/opinion/1392-after-25-years-is-this-the-worlds-best-audio-system  Specifically:

"Some Facebook readers criticized me for not using an audiophile-grade music server or USB link. I responded that if anyone can show me a music server or USB link that actually sounds better that what I have in terms of resolution, tonality, soundstaging, imaging, whatever -- I’m all ears. But so far, I’ve heard nothing that has proven itself better-sounding or more versatile -- my computer plays any digital music format and file type from streaming services and my local music drive, and my USB link, with its lengthy length, transfers the bits just fine.

The reason I can get away with using a laptop has to do with the next component in the signal chain: the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC ($25,000). Designed by Ed Meitner, who’s been creating digital-audio products since the 1970s, the DA2 Reference seems immune to swaps of USB links, as well as differences in source components."

 

Am I missing something??

I'd say that based on my experience the author of your quote is about 4 years behind the times in computer audio source experimentation... no DAC can fix what the source has damaged at USB output

 

An apple laptop can come close to the original 1.3 microRendu for USB out. But there are far better options now using 3 variables

1) NAS streaming

2) upgraded power supply

3) OS & apps running in memory or off memory like disk, no SSD/HD in the endpoint

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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On 6/1/2020 at 10:02 AM, davide256 said:

 no DAC can fix what the source has damaged at USB output

 

 

 

I have heard this before, but I am not sure I believe it.  Most everyone agrees that the dac gets the digital bits perfectly, it's just that there is noise.  So if the DAC implementation is well, and it can get the bits accurately, why can't it regenerate the bits "that it gets perfectly", and then provide it's own 5v.  In theory, this should be a good implementation, and also what the unsion usb markets?  I would think that every "good" dac should do this by this generation of dacs?

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42 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

I have heard this before, but I am not sure I believe it.  Most everyone agrees that the dac gets the digital bits perfectly, it's just that there is noise. 

 That is definitely not my experience, although noise can play a part, the Data is normally received without error.

 The PSU itself also determines how the Audio will sound. Use too many Low ESR filter capacitors in the PSU for example, especially the PSU area powering the OS SSD and Music storage SSD, and the sound can become too bright/HF detailed.

 The same even applies to the external PSU powering a USB Regen, which in itself increases HF detail slightly due to the necessarily small value filter capacitors it uses with it's internal voltage regulators. This is even when powered directly by a 12V Li Ion battery and saving to USB memory . Many members also obtain added HF detail when using the ultra low noise LT3045 voltage regulators to power various items, and for the same reason, which is to increase HF detail and soundstage.

 Some even use a couple of these regulators in tandem for this reason.:o

(Check other areas of the forum such as Music Servers )

 

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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49 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

 

I have heard this before, but I am not sure I believe it.  Most everyone agrees that the dac gets the digital bits perfectly, it's just that there is noise.  So if the DAC implementation is well, and it can get the bits accurately, why can't it regenerate the bits "that it gets perfectly", and then provide it's own 5v.  In theory, this should be a good implementation, and also what the unsion usb markets?  I would think that every "good" dac should do this by this generation of dacs?

time flows backwards for no one. While DAC's matter they can't make a bad source good.... if its error-ed in hand off to USB out, its too late.

Cheaper digital sources remind me very much of cheaper vinyl TT's, compressed dynamics and blurry for background details.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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1 hour ago, davide256 said:

time flows backwards for no one. While DAC's matter they can't make a bad source good.... if its error-ed in hand off to USB out, its too late.

Cheaper digital sources remind me very much of cheaper vinyl TT's, compressed dynamics and blurry for background details.

 

You may not be able to make a bad source good but let's think about what we are saying.

A bad source can be a bad recording, but that is not what i am speaking about.

 

Let's start with the bits on the media are perfect as proven by checksum.

 

Exiting the source, you have the perfect bits and call it noise.

Assuming music = perfect bits + noise and nothing else.

 

We know the dac gets the perfect bits.

 

The dac conversion of course will be different based on the dac engineering, but right now, all we are trying to deal with is the input.

We already know they get the bits perfectly.

 

Are we together so far?

 

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2 hours ago, sandyk said:

 That is definitely not my experience, although noise can play a part, the Data is normally received without error.

 The PSU itself also determines how the Audio will sound. Use too many Low ESR filter capacitors in the PSU for example, especially the PSU area powering the OS SSD and Music storage SSD, and the sound can become too bright/HF detailed.

 The same even applies to the external PSU powering a USB Regen, which in itself increases HF detail slightly due to the necessarily small value filter capacitors it uses with it's internal voltage regulators. This is even when powered directly by a 12V Li Ion battery and saving to USB memory . Many members also obtain added HF detail when using the ultra low noise LT3045 voltage regulators to power various items, and for the same reason, which is to increase HF detail and soundstage.

 Some even use a couple of these regulators in tandem for this reason.:o

(Check other areas of the forum such as Music Servers )

 

The power is just another aspect of noise.

For purpose of this conversation, lets just deal with 2 parameters,  data and noise, and the data is received without error...so all we are trying to resolve for is "noise".

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2 hours ago, sandyk said:

 That is definitely not my experience, although noise can play a part, the Data is normally received without error.

 The PSU itself also determines how the Audio will sound. Use too many Low ESR filter capacitors in the PSU for example, especially the PSU area powering the OS SSD and Music storage SSD, and the sound can become too bright/HF detailed.

 The same even applies to the external PSU powering a USB Regen, which in itself increases HF detail slightly due to the necessarily small value filter capacitors it uses with it's internal voltage regulators. This is even when powered directly by a 12V Li Ion battery and saving to USB memory . Many members also obtain added HF detail when using the ultra low noise LT3045 voltage regulators to power various items, and for the same reason, which is to increase HF detail and soundstage.

 Some even use a couple of these regulators in tandem for this reason.:o

(Check other areas of the forum such as Music Servers )

 

Also the more usb toys, the more chance of introducing noise and needing additional "perfect" power supplies.

 

The objective is to get the bits perfectly to the dac (which people agree happens), and then to isolate noise. 

A well designed DAC should be able to do that.

It has the perfect bits, so it is just a matter of introducing the perfect bits for processing and isolating the noise.

 

Edit --- i thought we were in the thread i created about usb isolation...not realizing this is the thread about macs....disregard.

 

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3 hours ago, sandyk said:

 That is definitely not my experience, although noise can play a part, the Data is normally received without error.

 The PSU itself also determines how the Audio will sound. Use too many Low ESR filter capacitors in the PSU for example, especially the PSU area powering the OS SSD and Music storage SSD, and the sound can become too bright/HF detailed.

 The same even applies to the external PSU powering a USB Regen, which in itself increases HF detail slightly due to the necessarily small value filter capacitors it uses with it's internal voltage regulators. This is even when powered directly by a 12V Li Ion battery and saving to USB memory . Many members also obtain added HF detail when using the ultra low noise LT3045 voltage regulators to power various items, and for the same reason, which is to increase HF detail and soundstage.

 Some even use a couple of these regulators in tandem for this reason.:o

(Check other areas of the forum such as Music Servers )

 

so you disagree, so there is no reason to discuss this topic further with you...

we need to have an initial agreement before we can discuss or look further....

 

The music is stored as a "flat" file on a storage device, can we start there?  If not then there is no purpose in going on further... (I am not trying to compare one file to another...that is not my purpose).

 

My purpose is to discuss the logical reason why engineering cannot seem to get one flat music file to the input of the d->a conversion without compromise without the need to daisy chain gadgets and additional power supplies.  This should NOT be rocket science.

 

The unison usb seems to market "at least the theory".

I tried to go here about 5 years ago but fell on deaf ears....that a well designed dac should be able to do these things without relying on "usb toys".

 

 

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On 5/29/2020 at 2:08 PM, audiophile911 said:

Is USB straight from a computer to a DAC really a bad or should everyone always strive to isolate the computer's USB output from the audio stream???  I connect my Chord Quest directly to my Mac Mini; which is dedicated to only running ROON Core; with an AudioQuest Diamond USB and I think it sounds great.  But I according to manufactures of network streamers, eliminating the computer (or using an expensive audio optimized PC like an Innuos) will always sound significantly better.  I've also read that this is not necessarily the case and it really depends on how usb is implemented in the source and the DAC?  Specifically, I heard from Rob Watts of Chord explain that Chord DAC's are optimized for USB direct input.  So, I'm trying to decide if I need to try something like a SOTM SMS-200 Ultra or a Sonore UltraRendu but I'm hesitant to go to the expense and hassle of more boxes.   I recently read this update on this $150K system: https://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/opinion/1392-after-25-years-is-this-the-worlds-best-audio-system  Specifically:

"Some Facebook readers criticized me for not using an audiophile-grade music server or USB link. I responded that if anyone can show me a music server or USB link that actually sounds better that what I have in terms of resolution, tonality, soundstaging, imaging, whatever -- I’m all ears. But so far, I’ve heard nothing that has proven itself better-sounding or more versatile -- my computer plays any digital music format and file type from streaming services and my local music drive, and my USB link, with its lengthy length, transfers the bits just fine.

The reason I can get away with using a laptop has to do with the next component in the signal chain: the EMM Labs DA2 Reference DAC ($25,000). Designed by Ed Meitner, who’s been creating digital-audio products since the 1970s, the DA2 Reference seems immune to swaps of USB links, as well as differences in source components."

 

Am I missing something??

 

In my thinking it should be possible with a well designed dac that supports DSD, but even if we take out high resolution and dsd and just consider 192K PCM, a well designed dac should could care less about the input, noise, etc...it should be able to compensate for all of those things, especially since the end product includes the analog conversion and "wave shaping".   The "color" may be different based on the dac, but the input should not carry any weight if the dac is designed properly.

 

Whether we are at that stage and generation of DACS now is yet to be decided, but i do believe that a 25K dac definetely should be able to compensate, especially if a $199 schiit with unison usb truly does what it markets to do.

 

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1 hour ago, beerandmusic said:

so you disagree, so there is no reason to discuss this topic further with you...

we need to have an initial agreement before we can discuss or look further....

 

You don't need to, as it isn't your thread .¬¬

 

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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18 minutes ago, 6aardvark9 said:

Perhaps all DACs are essentially limited in varying degrees as to what they can do (i.e. reclocking, jitter removal) with incoming digital signals, and therefore any 'pre-work' that can be performed by upstream 'USB gadgets' to improve the signal will lessen to work required by the DAC and thereby may improve the analogue output... 

 

Remember the only thing going to the dac is digital data which is recieved correctly, the reference voltage and "noise".

The purpose of these "gadgets" is to isolate the noise, provide a "cleaner reference voltage" and the digital data.

The dac already receives the data accurately, so the only thing remaining is the reference voltage and the noise.

A well designed dac "should" be able to resolve for those 2 nuissances without the need do daisy chain additional power supplies and noise isolation. 

 

Dac designs continue to improve with this knowlege, and with current generation dacs by reputable designers should compensate.  I believe this is what schiits unison and perhaps some of the higher end dacs do already.   Galvanic isolation for dacs wasn't even a big thing a short couple years ago.

 

I think we are finally getting there....jmo...just taking awhile...

 

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I think we're a long way off... considering some users indicating very noticeable improvements by adding, for example, the Innuos Phoenix in between the Innuos Statement streamer and the Chord Dave/MScaler DAC combination (neither of which being shoddy in any shape or form)

2015 MacBook Pro > SOtM tX-USBultra > Mutec MC3+USB > Chord Blu Mk2 > Chord Dave > ATC SIA2-150/P1/P2 > ATC SCM50 PSLT

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8 hours ago, beerandmusic said:

 

You may not be able to make a bad source good but let's think about what we are saying.

A bad source can be a bad recording, but that is not what i am speaking about.

 

Let's start with the bits on the media are perfect as proven by checksum.

 

Exiting the source, you have the perfect bits and call it noise.

Assuming music = perfect bits + noise and nothing else.

 

We know the dac gets the perfect bits.

 

The dac conversion of course will be different based on the dac engineering, but right now, all we are trying to deal with is the input.

We already know they get the bits perfectly.

 

Are we together so far?

 

 DAC's reproduce/flow control what the USB chip sends them. They have no influence over what happens before the USB chip. USB just happens to

be the 2nd best problem prone/ closest to internal computer protocols transport solution compared tto coax and toslink. Ethernet is the least problem prone

digital data transport for audio if you have the rare DAC  and software driver to support it. The reason I say its best is because USB is a hybrid digital/analog

signaling method for very short distances, Ethernet is pure digital domain until the Ethernet enabled DAC begins processing data and can be used regardless

of distance between source and DAC

 

What you miss is that endpoint computer hardware and software integration are key. Computer audio is easily degraded between disk read and

hand off to the DAC output by software and hardware. Apple doesn't have any better a USB port than anyone else... but they control

completely the software and hardware integration which as a byproduct means that most Apple computers do audio acceptably well vs the crap shoot

with an off the shelf windows PC. Likewise NUC's as an Intel controlled product do well. But more is always possible, Apple and Intel both have to make machines

that are general purpose vs solely designed/optimized for audio.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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 I have always used USB  from my late 2012 mac mini into any DAC I have had (all Schiit products) now have Yggdrasil GS and also Meridian explorer 2 but is from the mac into a Ragnarok amp. Can't descern any 'noise' music is always pristine from iTunes Library A+3.5 ROON Qobuz and TIDAL

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1 hour ago, davide256 said:

 DAC's reproduce/flow control what the USB chip sends them. They have no influence over what happens before the USB chip. USB just happens to

be the 2nd best problem prone/ closest to internal computer protocols transport solution compared tto coax and toslink. Ethernet is the least problem prone

digital data transport for audio if you have the rare DAC  and software driver to support it. The reason I say its best is because USB is a hybrid digital/analog

signaling method for very short distances, Ethernet is pure digital domain until the Ethernet enabled DAC begins processing data and can be used regardless

of distance between source and DAC

 

What you miss is that endpoint computer hardware and software integration are key. Computer audio is easily degraded between disk read and

hand off to the DAC output by software and hardware. Apple doesn't have any better a USB port than anyone else... but they control

completely the software and hardware integration which as a byproduct means that most Apple computers do audio acceptably well vs the crap shoot

with an off the shelf windows PC. Likewise NUC's as an Intel controlled product do well. But more is always possible, Apple and Intel both have to make machines

that are general purpose vs solely designed/optimized for audio.

 

Do you agree that the only thing that is sent from the usb to the dac is:

a) digital music (most everyone agrees that this digital data is received accurately)

b) reference voltage

c) noise

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45 minutes ago, AudioDoctor said:

Interestingly, my new DAC has a Roon Bridge built in, however I find the sound to be better coming from the USB output of a Sonore Signature Rendu SE via Roon and HQPlayer than using the Roon Bridge directly.

 

Also keep in mind liking the sound better does not always equate to accuracy and there may be some emotion and perception involved as well. 

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