jtaylor99: There's something called an optical isolator which converts electrical signal to light, then light back to electrical. It serves to isolate one part of a circuit from another to eliminate electrical interference.
>Because it is analog energy it *can* be corrupted by analog interference, just being digital doesn't magically make electricity or light immune to interference. Have you ever used a digital antennae and seen the weird blocks that can show up if the signal isn't right?
True, you can lose data. That should be obvious. When transmitting a live stream of information where for the most part only one direction of communication is possible (like satellite TV), there's not much you can do about data loss. Data loss is inevitable across large distances, but that's one of the amazing things about digital technology - it can self-identify errors and correct for them (redundancy, detection and request re-transfer, etc.).
In two-way communication - like the internet for example - there are many tiny communications in both directions every moment, constantly error correcting as necessary, etc. to make 100% sure you get the information without any error loss. And it works. Your entire computer would simply fail to work if there were not ways of sending information from one point to another with ZERO error (to astronomical certainty).
What's also interesting to note is related to your "weird blocks" observation. When such a case of digital data-loss occurs, you'll notice that what does get through is complete garbage. It's not "blurry" or "static-y", it's just gone or scrambled completely. If you understand the underlying digital structure / algorithms, it makes sense exactly what these "blocky things" are you see, and similarly it also makes sense what happens when you have data loss with audio. As you might expect, audio data loss does not sound nice. It does not just sound "blurry" or "static-y" or "less bass" or anything like that. Corrupted audio is a horrible screeching sound (or just silence/skipping, depending on the type of corruption).
So if you're hearing terrible screeching sounds, or random skipping from your DAC, I'd say you should give a USB cable replacement a try. Otherwise, I really don't know how else I can describe how absurd it is to think that switching cables will make any difference.
I'm in no way arguing for replacing a USB cable to improve the sound in some esoteric way, lol. I personally just unplugged the cooler, it was too loud anyway...
You're right that data loss is inevitable, but the result of data loss depends on the application, if the application requires real-time data transmission then packet loss will degrade quality. (99% of DAC's work in real-time) The nature of the errors has nothing to do with digital or not but how that particular system works. It's completely feasible that some sort of high frequency interference could cause something similar to noise in a digital signal.