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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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16 minutes ago, davide256 said:

what I've experienced is that timing degradation in the source causes background instruments to lose definition

 

This is what i always test for.  The track by Chet Baker "ALONE" is the "PERFECT" test track.

Depending on different solutions I have tried, there is a very light instrument in the right speaker, that is either clear, extremely faint, or non-existent.  I finally hear it vividly now using unison out my every day windows PC that has been absent in past, that i could always hear when streaming or via a usb thumbdrive.

 

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4 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

but that a well designed dac should be able to compensate for this noise

This is a popular thing to say, mainly by objectivists, with respect to digital audio. However, I've never seen anyone put specifics to the "well designed" DAC. What is considered well designed to the level that it's immune to external issues and the cure to these issues isn't worse than the issue(s) itself?

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3 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

 

This is what i always test for.  The track by Chet Baker "ALONE" is the "PERFECT" test track.

Depending on different solutions I have tried, there is a very light instrument in the right speaker, that is either clear, extremely faint, or non-existent.  I finally hear it vividly now using unison out my every day windows PC that has been absent in past, that i could always hear when streaming or via a usb thumbdrive.

 

 

So you're happy with what you've got... end of story

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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1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

This is a popular thing to say, mainly by objectivists, with respect to digital audio. However, I've never seen anyone put specifics to the "well designed" DAC. What is considered well designed to the level that it's immune to external issues and the cure to these issues isn't worse than the issue(s) itself?

 

I am not a dac engineer, but Schiit thinks he has something with his unison, and it is the first thing I have heard that compares to my experience streaming dsd via dlna.

 

What he markets is complete electro mechanical galvanic isolation, removing and using his own 5v ref, and reclocking.

 

I reported this on another thread at another site, and someone made the remark that all good dacs should do that and they believe that schiit is just catching up to other more highend dacs....I don't know if that is true or not, but it is the first time i have experienced what I am experiencing now...again, i have never tried any usb "toys", instead suggesting that i would wait until DAC engineers got their act together, and stick with dsd via dlna until then.

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1 minute ago, beerandmusic said:

 

I am not a dac engineer, but Schiit thinks he has something with his unison, and it is the first thing I have heard that compares to my experience streaming dsd via dlna.

 

What he markets is complete electro mechanical galvanic isolation, removing and using his own 5v ref, and reclocking.

 

I reported this on another thread at another site, and someone made the remark that all good dacs should do that and they believe that schiit is just catching up to other more highend dacs....I don't know if that is true or not, but it is the first time i have experienced what I am experiencing now...again, i have never tried any usb "toys", instead suggesting that i would wait until DAC engineers got their act together, and stick with dsd via dlna until then.

Which Sony device are you using as DLNA endpoint that receives your DSD?

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1 minute ago, 6aardvark9 said:

 

So you're happy with what you've got... end of story

 

I don't know if it is equal to other solutions or not..i just know my test track that i have used....it's a lot better, but whether it is the end-all or not, i cannot say.

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Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

Which Sony device are you using as DLNA endpoint that receives your DSD?

I don't have it anymore...I got rid of it when i found the marantz sr6013 is equal in dsd dlna.  I will search the threads from 5 years ago or so and see if i can find it.  It was a BDP something and was llike $100 used....but my marantz sr6013 streams dsd just fine now so i use it instead....i also like using a marantz as a preamp for purpose of audyssee and just have used different amps to drive my fronts...i will find the model and let you know....

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1 minute ago, beerandmusic said:

I don't have it anymore...I got rid of it when i found the marantz sr6013 is equal in dsd dlna.  I will search the threads from 5 years ago or so and see if i can find it.  It was a BDP something and was llike $100 used....but my marantz sr6013 streams dsd just fine now so i use it instead....i also like using a marantz as a preamp for purpose of audyssee and just have used different amps to drive my fronts...i will find the model and let you know....

Ah, no worries. I thought you were still using it. I'll look at that Marantz. I like Marantz stuff and have had good success with it over the years. 

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Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

Ah, no worries. I thought you were still using it. I'll look at that Marantz. I like Marantz stuff and have had good success with it over the years. 

BDP S-790

 

Another thing that is nice about using the marantz sr6013 as a preamp is that it supports alexa/heos (smile)

 

I don't think there is anything more convenient...sure, i like my critical listening moments, but my wife likes that she can just say alexa, play chet baker on den, and it will turn on the amp, and start streaming from amazon prime.  Or you can tell it to play from your own playlists and use your own music.  but the one we fight over most is alexa turn up or turn down volume on den.  And it's so nice to just say "next song" or turn off den.

 

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25 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Ah, no worries. I thought you were still using it. I'll look at that Marantz. I like Marantz stuff and have had good success with it over the years. 

I really wouldn't expect someone that can afford wilsons to use marantz stuff, but it can be a great preamp for audyssee eq and alexa compatibility....i don't know if it would degrade a levinson amp or whatever you use for your amps (probably), but it sounds great driving a mcintosh amp for fronts (smile)...it also works great for multi-channel home video (smile)....

 

btw, the sony s790 if i recall correctly could also be used as a "quiet" usb thumb drive player to play native dsd files....sounded great....a bargain and that was about 8 years ago....can be found today for $60 or so.

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14 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

I really wouldn't expect someone that can afford wilsons to use marantz stuff, but it can be a great preamp for audyssee eq and alexa compatibility....i don't know if it would degrade a levinson amp or whatever you use for your amps (probably), but it sounds great driving a mcintosh amp for fronts (smile)...it also works great for multi-channel home video (smile)....

 

btw, the sony s790 if i recall correctly could also be used as a "quiet" usb thumb drive player to play native dsd files....sounded great....a bargain for $60 today.

Marantz makes great stuff! Another brand that makes stuff with incredible value is Parasound. 

 

I currently use Constellation Audio for amps and preamp (when needed). Given my income (I'm not wealthy by any means), If I had to pay full price for audio gear, Parasound would be my first stop. 

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9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Marantz makes great stuff! Another brand that makes stuff with incredible value is Parasound. 

 

I currently use Constellation Audio for amps and preamp (when needed). Given my income (I'm not wealthy by any means), If I had to pay full price for audio gear, Parasound would be my first stop. 

 

I don't think parasound makes a multi-channel av with multi-eq that supports streaming dsd and alexa (smile)...but i do own a parasound 2250...best bang for the buck for what it does (used can be found for a dance).

 

I don't think there is a better all-around product than the marantz sr6013 or current top model in same line, and you can always use it as a front end to your amp of choice....

 

as for amps, used pass labs thresholds are probably closest to mcintosh for my enjoyment that can be found at reasonable cost.

 

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30 minutes ago, beerandmusic said:

 

This is what i always test for.  The track by Chet Baker "ALONE" is the "PERFECT" test track.

Depending on different solutions I have tried, there is a very light instrument in the right speaker, that is either clear, extremely faint, or non-existent.  I finally hear it vividly now using unison out my every day windows PC that has been absent in past, that i could always hear when streaming or via a usb thumbdrive.

 

mm, I'd use that that as a warmup exercise but not challenging enough to be a test for me. I do like Chet though.

 

Its not a high quality recording but I  like the Jurassic Park II sound track for interesting background details... the tympani  parts are very telling on whether you are reproducing

tympani authentically.

 

 

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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27 minutes ago, davide256 said:

mm, I'd use that that as a warmup exercise but not challenging enough to be a test for me. I do like Chet though.

 

Its not a high quality recording but I  like the Jurassic Park II sound track for interesting background details... the tympani  parts are very telling on whether you are reproducing

tympani authentically.

 

I use it because i have it in various formats including DSD (it even has a 44.1K on youtube), and it is EXTREMELY easy to pick out..   I like comparing both 44.1K from youtube, playing a wav file from accurate rip, and DSD, and comparing across any solution.  It makes it very easy where i have had difficulty in past doing a/b comparisons....plus the fact i love the song, makes it easy too (grin).  If you listen to the right channel there is a very light instrument that can be heard at different degrees of vividness or even non-existent depending on how you are playing it and what hardware you are using.

 

My main desire was to be able to find a usb solution that i could be content with (without use of usb toys), as playing DSD via DLNA just has it's quirks including ability to fast forward, and sometimes just has other hiccups of different sorts, that you don't get when playing usb...plus i just wanted a solution that i could listen to from my everyday windows pc that i could be content with.  I "think" i am content with unison.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, audiobomber said:

The main timing degradation for me is poor PRaT. I had a CD transport and DAC with separate clock link. Disconnecting the clock link caused no difference in tonality, but the music became boring. Instead of being riveted to the music, my attention wandered. No boogie factor, or in Linn terms, no foot-tapping.

 

this digitally restored 1911 film probably falls along the same lines... the closer something is to what your senses normally experience, the more real it is to you

 

 

 

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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15 minutes ago, davide256 said:

 

this digitally restored 1911 film probably falls along the same lines... the closer something is to what your senses normally experience, the more real it is to you

 

 

 

I just looked at your system details and it says gungnir mb unison...i thought you said you used a mojo, or am i mixing you up with someone else?

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36 minutes ago, davide256 said:

mm, I'd use that that as a warmup exercise but not challenging enough to be a test for me. I do like Chet though.

 

Its not a high quality recording but I  like the Jurassic Park II sound track for interesting background details... the tympani  parts are very telling on whether you are reproducing

tympani authentically.

 

out of curiosity, how do you play this jurrassic park ii soundtrack? from youtube like the ny scene you shared?

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1 hour ago, beerandmusic said:

I just looked at your system details and it says gungnir mb unison...i thought you said you used a mojo, or am i mixing you up with someone else?

in transition. selling Gungnir, mojo is interim solution enroute to Qutest.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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1 hour ago, beerandmusic said:

 

out of curiosity, how do you play this jurrassic park ii soundtrack? from youtube like the ny scene you shared?

Qobuz. looses some cymbal and low base definition compared to when I compare same recordings on NAS but still very good. An iPhone and Qobuz makes

DAP's seem cost ineffective.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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1 hour ago, davide256 said:

in transition. selling Gungnir, mojo is interim solution enroute to Qutest.

seems odd...most reviews i have seen about the mojo considered even the lower end bifrost mb superior to the mojo...in all the reviews i have seen about the mojo in comparison to the schiit suggested it is more "rounded" and i read 3 different reviews that said the same.  I have been considering both the chord and schiit for awhile and was leaning more toward the chords for the dsd support, but after reading and "believing" i better understand the purpose and advantage of upsampling, i am now leaning more toward schiit.  I would have thought you or anyone would have been fairly impressed with gungnir multibit with unison....how much are you going to want for it...i might be a buyer for [email protected]

Is it a newer one with the new analog board or did  you just have an older one upgraded?

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1 hour ago, davide256 said:

Qobuz. looses some cymbal and low base definition compared to when I compare same recordings on NAS but still very good. An iPhone and Qobuz makes

DAP's seem cost ineffective.

I don't do apple, but I was thinking the same but haven't yet tried android as a DAP connected to a dac, although even connecting an android directly to an amp sounds relatively impressive.

 

I am curious, do you or anyone know if the newer android phones with type c connector (i have a moto g7), allow you to connect to a usb dac?

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Back to the original question, i believe the guy that connects a noisy laptop directly to a 25K meitner does not lose anything compared to those that stream...I even think that any decent dac that uses their own clean 5v reference voltage, is galvanically isolated, and reclocks the signal should compensate for noise.

 

I believe those that stream compensate for noisy usb in different ways and that both methods are effective if done right.

 

I also believe that the majority of those that stream are into upsampling where noise can be a bigger issue, but you really can't better SQ than upsampling to say 192K pcm.

 

44.1K fully covers our entire hearing capability, and upsampling is just to push distortion above the audio spectrum during analog conversion, and pcm 192k will introduce less jitter than dsd rates and be easier to manage and anything over that is overkill, and just creating more issues to resolve for....keep it simple.

 

There will never be more audible music in high rate dsd compared to a clean 192K pcm signal, which is much easier to keep clean.

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On 5/29/2020 at 11:08 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. [...]

Am I missing something??

 

This is what you are missing: These vendors cannot claim otherwise, otherwise their products would not sell.

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9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Can you explain this one?

 

which part....

a) no audible music above 192k

b) 192K easier to keep clean

 

i am guessing part b since most people acknowledge that 44.1K encompasses the audible spectrum.

inre b, i am not saying that higher upsampling rates can't be done with neglible audible differences, but it does take extra work that is unnecessary.

 

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