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Toslink sounds rubbery

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone, this is my introductory post, so why not make it a banal one and ask about something that's been discussed ad nauseam.

 

Basically, I'm using an Audioengine D1 with my mid-2011 iMac and am experiencing an unusual phenomenon when using different inputs. Whenever I use the usb input from the iMac, the audio sounds fine. It's "warm," detailed, and clear. I get a sense of depth and three-dimensionality with audio tracks, movies, etc.

 

However, when I switch to the optical input via toslink cable, the audio sounds rubbery, rounded off at the corners. Not just a digital plainness, but also a sort of suppression of dynamic range. Everything sounds more compressed and less sparkly.

 

Given that both inputs are digital, and should be virtually identical, am I experiencing something like jitter with the toslink input?

 

If it helps any, I'm using a Monoprice toslink cable for the optical input. Is this jitter, a low-quality cable, or something like that? I appreciate any help. Thanks!

post #2 of 18

I believe the problem is not in the optical cables, transparent to EMI, but in the Toslink connectors,  where the eletrical signals are turnned to optical.   They would be able to interact with the EMI, always, more or less, present inside computers, and the effect would be materialised on the opposite connector, when the signal is turnned back to electricity, as jitter.   

post #3 of 18

Yes, USB and SPDIF can both carry digital audio, but they are very different. USB is an interface; your motherboard will detect the device, the device talks back, and you can give the device control of your audio. SPDIF on the other hand, is a dumb output. Kind of like an analog RCA output in a sense. Your onboard soundcard(?) processes the audio and shoots it out through SPDIF, with no communication with the other side. The DAC will have an SPDIF receiver and process the data for the actual conversion through the DAC chip.

 

Your problem might exist on the computer side. Your onboard soundcard might have some sort of equalizer or level problem. Try turning the volume all the way up on the digital side and using the analog volume control.

post #4 of 18

Ha!, and some say SPDIF sounds better. 


wink.gif

post #5 of 18

It depends on the receiver chip as USB and S/Pdif would use different receivers in the device.

It may be the Optical Tx/Rx chips..etc it is hard to say exactly what it is.

I would try S/Pdif with a different source to help isolate if the issue is in your system or the device.

 

@Proton, S/Pdif CAN sound better but it depends on many factors, just using S/Pdif is no guarantee you will have higher end sound over other connection types.


Edited by ROBSCIX - 7/4/12 at 8:45am
post #6 of 18

the problem is obvious, the Monoprice toslink cable is junk!  Trust me I have one and would not use it for any serious listening.  Others have also mentioned quality control variations with a number of monoprice cables.  Some work and others do not, perhaps you got a toslink cable with a poorly fitted end.

 

But from your description of the sound I believe it is just the nature of a cheap plastic toslink cable.  Even a $20 glass one off e bay will be an improvement.

 

All that being said, USB can sound pretty bad as well, but in well implemented cases USB kills even the best Toslink implementations.

post #7 of 18

The cable might be faulty, but I wouldn't go as far to say that all Monoprice optical cables are junk. I use the "premium" Monoprice optical cable for my PC rig and it works perfectly fine. The only "premium" cables that I would recommend in fact, are Monoprice premium, because they don't sell for a premium price. Glass optical cables are silly for TOSLINK connections. Do some more troubleshooting before you go out and buy any audiophile products, the problem is likely simper than you think.

post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by OJNeg View Post

The cable might be faulty, but I wouldn't go as far to say that all Monoprice optical cables are junk. I use the "premium" Monoprice optical cable for my PC rig and it works perfectly fine. The only "premium" cables that I would recommend in fact, are Monoprice premium, because they don't sell for a premium price. Glass optical cables are silly for TOSLINK connections. Do some more troubleshooting before you go out and buy any audiophile products, the problem is likely simper than you think.

For high quality audio, the lower end Toslink cable from Monoprice is not acceptable, hence junk in my opinion.  I have listened to many Toslink cables and there are audible differences even on modest systems.  If you have tried a bunch of toslink cables including a good glass cables and formed an opinion, then great, if not perhaps you should go to a meet or find a friend with a good Toslink cable and then offer up an opinion. Spending $20 on an ebay glass one is hardly high falutin' audiophile territory when it comes to the best Toslink cables, especially when using several hundreds of $ worth of Dac, amp, and headphones.  And no you don't have to buy a hundred dollar cable either to get one of the best.  

 

One thing the thread starter may want to try which has been beneficial in two of my collegues systems is to use a q-tip and polish the end with some cd polish like Optrix or the like.  They claim a benefit.

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by whereas View Post

Hey everyone, this is my introductory post, so why not make it a banal one and ask about something that's been discussed ad nauseam.

Basically, I'm using an Audioengine D1 with my mid-2011 iMac and am experiencing an unusual phenomenon when using different inputs. Whenever I use the USB input from the iMac, the audio sounds fine. It's "warm," detailed, and clear. I get a sense of depth and three-dimensionality with audio tracks, movies, etc.

However, when I switch to the optical input via Toslink cable, the audio sounds rubbery, rounded off at the corners. Not just a digital plainness, but also a sort of suppression of dynamic range. Everything sounds more compressed and less sparkly.

Given that both inputs are digital, and should be virtually identical, am I experiencing something like jitter with the Toslink input?

If it helps any, I'm using a Monoprice Toslink cable for the optical input. Is this jitter, a low-quality cable, or something like that? I appreciate any help. Thanks!

I have a great fix, stop using the Toslink, stick to USB, problem fixed for zero cost.

 

I'm not a Mac guy, so I'm just guessing, double check all audio settings in your Mac, it's a long shot.

Find a Mac forum, post your question(s) there.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by bixby View Post

For high quality audio, the lower end Toslink cable from Monoprice is not acceptable, hence junk in my opinion.  I have listened to many Toslink cables and there are audible differences even on modest systems.  If you have tried a bunch of toslink cables including a good glass cables and formed an opinion, then great, if not perhaps you should go to a meet or find a friend with a good Toslink cable and then offer up an opinion. Spending $20 on an ebay glass one is hardly high falutin' audiophile territory when it comes to the best Toslink cables, especially when using several hundreds of $ worth of Dac, amp, and headphones.  And no you don't have to buy a hundred dollar cable either to get one of the best.  

 

One thing the thread starter may want to try which has been beneficial in two of my collegues systems is to use a q-tip and polish the end with some cd polish like Optrix or the like.  They claim a benefit.


I would like the OP to know that there is nothing wrong with Monoprice's optical cables. They are completely up to spec and perform exactly as they were intended to. Buying a more expensive cable is not going to solve your problem if there is a problem with either the DAC's SPDIF receiver or the soundcard's SPDIF trasmitter or with your computer's settings.

 

I'm sure there are some interesting psychological effects to using special glass TOSLINK cables. However, I would not recommend such a product to a newcomer who is likely on a budget. People like to make a lot of claims, but I would advice OP to read up on what SPDIF is and the true nature of jitter.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spdif

post #11 of 18
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to post a quick reply to everyone in this to say 'thanks' for offering me your advice. I didn't expect to get so many sincere replies and suggestions, but this must be a really unique type of forum (most forums would just ignore a post like this). So thanks very much.

 

Oddly enough, I just left the optical input alone and let the DAC run with it. The sound seems to have opened up and I now prefer it to the usb input, which I did not expect at all. Everything sounds smoother, but not in a muffled or suffocated way as it did when initially using the toslink cable. 

 

Perhaps the SPDIF input on the Audioengine needs to be burned in just as well as the usb input? I would have assumed the inputs wouldn't need burn-in, only the actual D/A converter... but something has definitely changed.

 

Anyway, thanks again for the help.

 

P.S. - Is it eventually worth it to upgrade from this DAC to an even better one? My headphones are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50s, which I guess would become the bottleneck at some point (or maybe not?) Any advice on this? Thanks!

post #12 of 18

Glad to hear your problem is solved. I'd suggest you stick with the DAC for a while. To be frank, the differences between DACs is very, very minute. Your next upgrade should certainly be your headphones; there's a lot more to be had with different headphones than any other audio component. Until then, enjoy your tunes.
 

post #13 of 18

My use of optical S/PDIF is required since that's the only way to my home theatre preamp's DAC. I use an external sound card, Sound Blaster X-FI HD, as an interface to convert USB to S/PDIF . This digital signal is then sent to DVD input on Sony TA-E9000ES which can convert a 24/96 signal. Even iTunes 256k downloads sound really good from my HT speakers. I do not perceive S/PDIF optical or EIC 958 to be inferior to USB.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by OJNeg View Post

Glad to hear your problem is solved. I'd suggest you stick with the DAC for a while. To be frank, the differences between DACs is very, very minute. Your next upgrade should certainly be your headphones; there's a lot more to be had with different headphones than any other audio component. Until then, enjoy your tunes.
 

Not so sure about this lol.  What DACs have you tried?  As the source of your transmission line it represents the greatest change in overall sound signature, aside from maybe your amplifier.  Sure going from a $200 DAC to a $300 DAC would not incur much change but the greater disparity in price generally reflects a greater change in sound quality - good or bad.  Speakers are only there to reflect what your equipment sends it, thus changing your equipment will induce a sonic change in your speakers. 

 

As for the OP, that is a very interesting problem to have.  Could have been the cable, could be that you've gotten used to the different sound now (sonic memory is very weak), or could be "burnt in" now though I find that highly doubtful.  That is such a small section of the DAC to burn in (just the Optical input section) it would seem to have an insignificant effect on the sound quality.  I think bixby's suggestions should definitely be heeded.  Just grab a blue jeans optical and call it a day, then you have a solid cable and can discount that factor.  You might also just like the sound of USB better than the optical or coax, neither output is "wrong" sounding, just personal preference.

post #15 of 18

Well cables do have a burning time no? 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by OJNeg View Post

Glad to hear your problem is solved. I'd suggest you stick with the DAC for a while. To be frank, the differences between DACs is very, very minute. Your next upgrade should certainly be your headphones; there's a lot more to be had with different headphones than any other audio component. Until then, enjoy your tunes.
 

I totally agree, there`s too much talk of DAC here, but the DAC are all good, even those in cheap cd players, but they do matter more than cables though..bigsmile_face.gif

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