I bought very recently the Audio-gd NFB-11 mainly because I wanted to use my laptop as a music server. I also have an Airport Express (AEX) (A1264). I was hoping that using this DAC connected via USB could be a major sound improvement compared to an optical connection (Toslink) from the AEX using iTunes limited to 16bit/44Khz.
As a replacement for iTunes I decided to give JRiver MC20 a try because it seemed very complete and I liked its user interface. I installed the necessary ASIO drivers that came and setup JRiver with ASIO output, "internal volume" and volume at max for bitperfect transfer. When you hover with your mouse over the DSP-button (right upper corner of JRiver), you can see the details of the "audio path" (signal processing ). Mine gave the following information: "No changes are being made" and "direct connection". So the transfer to my DAC should be bitperfect.
Sound seemed at first OK. However, when I was playing some music I know very well (Nick Cave, The Boatman's call) I found that it did not sound right. So I played the same record using iTunes via AEX/optical at max volume (also bitperfect). To my surprise this sounded so much better. Via Toslink the soundstage was wider, the music had more detail, was cleaner and more precise.
I spent hours making the same comparison playing the following records (Nils Forgen, Acoustic Live; Kaki King, Everybody loves you; Mick Harvey, Intoxicated man; ...) some at 16/44 others at 24/96 or 24/192; and I always came to the same conclusion. The toslink input on this DAC sounded way better than the USB input.
This was a huge disappointment for me and I even considered selling my two weeks old "new" NFB-11 because of its seemingly substandard USB input.
Then I thought I will give Foobar a chance not really believing this could make any difference. I was at first instance discouraged by its GUI and its steep "learning curve". I set up Foobar with the appropriate ASIO plug-ins and made sure all the settings were for bitperfect transfer.
To my surprise the USB connection sounded now similar as the Toslink via AEX. I even had the impression that somehow the background had less noise using the USB connection. The time had come to really try some higher resolution tracks (Muddy Waters, Folk Singer). And yes, now the USB connection was clearly superior to the Toslink. For me this was a great relief.
I know my experience goes against mainstream ideas (saying "bits are bits" and that each audio player that is capable of bitperfect restitution sounds the same). I really hesitated a long time before sharing this.
I have no reasonable explanation why in my setup Foobar sounds so much better than JRiver, and I have not the technical knowledge nor the means to research this further in a more objective way.
I just felt the urge to share this and invite others to make their own investigations. I thought the NFB-11 user thread would be an appropriate place to post my experience. I will put a similar post in an older thread “foobar vs. jriver(a different take)”. I am just too curious to know if someone else has had a similar experience.
Thank you for reading this long post!