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Best USB to SPDIF under 250$

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

So from what i've read, i take it the Audio GD Digital interface is pretty much the uncontested leader in sub 250$ USB>SPDIF? 


To get a worthwhile upgrade over that i'd need to spend a minimum of 450$ for a Stello U3, or 579$ for a Audiophilleo 2? 


Opinions and Advice! 


Also, is it worth spending 250$ on a interface when you can buy something like Peachtree's DAC-IT (450$ dac) which should be fairly immune/resistant to jitter and uses sabre tech? 


I guess the above question is specific, i really like my NOS dac and i know it can perform alot better with a lower jitter signal.. but it will probably never compete with the likes of Sabre, hmmm.. 


edit: im looking at the "A" version of AGD DI. i'd like to use it's coax input from my soundcards spdif, that's something none of the other solutions offer either (COAX Reclocking) 

Edited by MikeW - 1/9/12 at 10:10am
post #2 of 37
Thread Starter 

Any word on V-Link MK II? 

post #3 of 37

Hi Mike,


I'll talk in general about my experience.

I have used the Wyred4Sound DAC1 using the ESS Sabre. Despite all the marketing spin, it is still susceptabe to incoming jitter. Even if its jitter reduction is better than some, feeding it, or any DAC with a the lowest jitter source you can, will be beneficial.


I use a teralink X (the original one using the CM108 USB receiver). Many knowledgeable people have said that this is a high jitter chip. I agree with that, but what I have found is that its sound quality, and presumeably its jitter rejection is based upon the power feeding the CM108 itself and the 12Mhz crystal that feeds the clock to the CM108. So I have modded it in the following ways, I have put OSCON SEPC capacitors all through my Teralink, I have replaced the balanced line driver chips the feeds the SPDIF output with the faster 4ns latency chip (original chip is a 20ns latency chip), run some small film foil capacitors from either side the inductor feeding the crystal to ground, desoldered the toslink connector from the board, as I dont use toslink, and it consumes power and creates pulses on the power rail. I also feed the teralink with a JLH ripple eater low noise power supply.


After doing all this, it really sounds nothing like the original. Before these mods it did have flabby bass, and an overly warm sound, but now the bass is tight and the highs are crystal clear, depth of sound, and detail level is excellent.


Another thing I do is use CMP +cPlay as a source, but not only that, I remove unused drivers and remove unnessecary stuff from the registry, doing all this makes CMP even less jittery. The improvements to the sound are amazing.

Information on this can be found on the CMP forum at audioasylum.


I'm also considering getting the AudioGD unit, but the sound i'm getting at the moment is so darn good that I wonder how much better it can get. I notice that not many people mod the cheaper USB>SPDIF converters, and most reviews are based on stock standard units. I think my modified Teralink X would stand up quite well against even the Teralink X2? only problem is my X1 does not do anything above 16bit/48khz.




post #4 of 37

Mike, just on another issue, I think the ESS SABRE is a great chip, but it can be configured in so many ways that its sound totally comes down to the implementation. Just becuse a manufacturer bungs a SABRE into their box does not mean it will be great. And for what its worth, If you like your  NOS DAC, I cant see you really liking the SABRE all that much. Have you heard one? You may be better off with a PCM58 or PCM1704 DAC in NOS configuration? I don't know what you are using at the moment, but my gut feeling is that the Burr brown chips in NOS, are miles ahead of TDA1543 for detail.

post #5 of 37

Still haven't heard better than a 1704 when used properly. The nice things about the newer DACs is how much pre and post options and in some cases processing available so often better for simple and cheap but you can get more from a 1704 with good outboard stuff and not need noise shaping.


What I think is great device for USB to SPdif is the Halide Bridge. It's a bit more at $395 but you don't need to buy a cable so the added cost is somewhat offset.

post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 

i've actually been considering the Halide Bridge, and even the Stello U3. I really don't want to spend that much on a converter but im considering it, i'd hate to buy a 200$ converter to only upgrade it later.. poor man pays twice... 


The dac im using is a pretty unique design, it's 16 TDA1543's stacked, separate power supply, passive i/v output stage(using botique caps/resistors$$$), WM8804 reciever. It also has built in ASRC but i've disabled/bypassed that feature. It's got USB input using Tenor chip but i don't like that way that sounds. Use it with X-Fi Coax out right now.. a custom made Blue jeans 1/8 to RCA digital cable. 


Only thing about Halide Bridge that gives me pause is it's getting kind of "old" and im not sure how it stacks up to Audiophileo/U3 or newer released stuff, plus it's so tiny! 

Edited by MikeW - 1/10/12 at 3:59pm
post #7 of 37

Interesting, so what dont you like about the Tenor chip in your DAC? I thought they were supposed to be  the best option for USB> SPDIF?


The Audio GD is using the Tenor chip, so I guess we can conclude a few things.

1) The tenor chip is good but the power supply feeding it in your DAC is not good?

2) The crystal feeding the Tenor in your DAC is not good?

3) the Tenor chip is not as good as people suggest, and so even the Audio GD Digital interface would be plagued with the same sound that you dont like?

4) We must admit that the PC as a source is fickle, and only certain playback software will give any satisfaction?


These are mostly just some questions without answers.

Though point 4 I am certain about. PC audio is hard to get right, and very hard to get it sounding above average and better than an excellent CD transport. I am certain that foobar will never achieve it. I am even sceptical that any of that expensive audiophile commercial software that runs  on top of a fully working internet connected PC could possibly reach the level of CMP + cPlay which has been fully mucked around with. What I am trying to say is that if you can still read your email and surf the net whilst listeing to your music, then this is a guarantee that your are not using the best source. All these other activities add to jitter.


Another thing, if using a USB SPDIF converter, the free ASIO drivers are better than stock, but there is a massive improvement even over ASIO4ALL, by using the Ploytek ASIO drivers.



Edited by erin - 1/10/12 at 4:12pm
post #8 of 37
Thread Starter 

The tenor chip is not good, most (ala Audio GD) only use it as a way to get a signal out of the PC then they apply their own magic to the signal (re-clocking, or up-sampling, or both in case of DI) that is were the magic happens. Some even use the 2707 to get a signal then apply re-clocking.. really it's the re-clocking that is special and the way it's implemented, not so much the chip. Async chips have it alot easier, as the signal they pull from the PC is inherently better and so less "magic" has to happen after the fact, that's one of the reasons the DI is so complicated.. getting the signal is easy, all the electronics to support it's DSP (for re-clocking) are not. Between X-Fi Coax out and the Tenor chip, which should be equivalent to something like a Teradak X1 is no comparison , the X-fi's coax is way better.


I think of the DI as an "off the shelf" USB audio solution with a good "reclocker" built in.. reclockers are not new, they have been around many years, this just combines a mediocore USB interface with a Decent Reclocker. As do many of the current USB/SPDIF solutions.


The same thing could be accomplished by a traditional SPDIF Reclocker and cheap soundcard. Kinda like this fellow... http://www.head-fi.org/t/431727/genesis-digital-lens-and-airport-express-good


One thing that the DI really has me interested in is just using it as a reclocker for my Sound cards COAX, as i get all the benefits of a real PC Sound card and Reclocking. I can use it for gaming and don't have to worry about weird drivers, or "drop outs" that stuff does not happen with a decent sound card, i also don't have to worry about strange USB implementations as we are getting a true SPDIF signal, the limitation becomes how good the X-fi's SPDIF is and how much it can be improved by an external reclocker. I can also use this as a total sound solution for my PC, not having to worry about switching between soundcard and interface when gaming or doing other task that might use DirectSound.


Im not real sure I buy into not being able to use a PC for anything else, alot of the problem is people using ****ty OEM PC's with crap powersupplies, loaded down with crap software. I run a PC that i built myself, it's very high-end and very clean (software wise) I also use a very high end PSU (Seasonic X-650). Also, ****ty laptops with crap power. Some of these common problems are avoided and/or eliminated when using a good PC with good parts.

Edited by MikeW - 1/10/12 at 7:24pm
post #9 of 37

Even with a quality PC custom build and XFi card, I noted a huge difference in SPDIF input via a Halide Bridge. I consider it to be the real leader in the less expensive USB adapters if 24/96 is enough for you. There is a big pool to consider for a little bit more $, but offer higher resolutions, and perhaps less jitter. The price also has to include the USB and Digital cable needed with most of the other adapters. (the audiophillio also being a bit different that way.

post #10 of 37
Thread Starter 

Im now considering the following


DI (190$, A Version, without PSU, or Clock upgrade) 

Art Legato (500$, comes with Cables, No USB Power, Streamlenth Tech, cherry picked high quality clocks, 44.1 only) 

Stello U3  (450$, Xmos, Async, 44.1-192, newest tech availible, cons: usb power) 

Audiophileo 2 579$ (don't know much about this one, but it's the most expensive!) 


Cheap out : 99$ V-Link since they are clearing em out for the v-link II. 


The legato looks really good on paper, overbuilt by some audio fools in texas, woot! im from texas :) Not much in the way of impressions/reviews for it though.. 


I was advised to avoid the Halide because of poor Jitter measurments by Stereophile (700ps) 


The U3 seems "Futreproof" in a neat "tidy" package that will be easy to resell later. I like this and it's the + over legato. 

Edited by MikeW - 1/11/12 at 11:05am
post #11 of 37

I had the B version DI with PSU and moved to the AP2. The difference was far from dramatic. The AP2 was an improvement that would not be noticed much if I didn't have the DI for so long- it seemed to provide more clarity and better bass but marginally. Also, I liked the clock upgrade on it. I was never sure if I heard a difference with the PSU or not so I consider that not worth the extra money IMO.

post #12 of 37
Thread Starter 

thanks Tim3320070 that's really useful information. wish there was more direct comparisons like that, there is a really huge price difference here... 140$ vs 580$.. might be smarter to buy the 140$ device now and a 200$ device 3 years from now when they are cheap as chips and sold at the corner store.. it's only a matter of time before an Async device is commercialized (it's already happening, V-link) and improved upon enough to be cheap.. soon as one of the major players(national, cirrus, tenor, etc) releases an all in one solution async usb will become ubiquitous. 

Edited by MikeW - 1/11/12 at 5:19pm
post #13 of 37
Originally Posted by MikeW View Post

thanks Tim3320070 that's really useful information. wish there was more direct comparisons like that, there is a really huge price difference here... 140$ vs 580$.. might be smarter to buy the 140$ device now and a 200$ device 3 years from now when they are cheap as chips and sold at the corner store.. it's only a matter of time before an Async device is commercialized (it's already happening, V-link) and improved upon enough to be cheap.. soon as one of the major players(national, cirrus, tenor, etc) releases an all in one solution async usb will become ubiquitous. 

Well, more like $230 with shipping and fees for the A version. I got the AP2 as a B stock and saved some (have to call Phillip and ask).

post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 

Im gonna go for the Audio GD then, try to be patient and get one used, even better value!

post #15 of 37

If you're so concerned about USB to SPDIF conversion, just get the Teralink/VALAB one for $60 on Ebay.  It's not going to be any worse than these others.  I doubt you'll hear any difference anyway, maybe it will put your mind that is suffering from audiophile marketing syndrome at rest.  Teralink should be asynchronous, with a TCXO reclocker and using I2S.  What more do you need?  Or does it need an extra $400 added to the pricetag and maybe a BS review from 6Moons?  Or maybe it needs Currawong's approval?  How about Stereophonic?  

Edited by mbd2884 - 1/14/12 at 12:34pm
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