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Usb vs Optical - Page 3

post #31 of 46

So what qualifies as well implemented USB?  I've been considering a number of lower priced asynchronous USB DACs from the like of Meridian, Arcam, Schiit and others.


Are you guys suggesting that I'd be better off using an optical signal from my Mac Mini or Airport Express into an optical port on a DAC?  If so, which ones?

post #32 of 46
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by goodvibes View Post

You really haven't told us enough about your setup. What OS, player, asio, Wasapi, Kernal? Are you using this driver for the BiFrost? http://schiit.com/downloads/U6631_U6631A-1.01.zip Lots to get right before you can get a solid result and that noise you're hearing is not jitter. It's noise that you need to solve. besides the driver and USB cable, I'd also check for a ground loop since the Bifrost is AC powered.

OS: Windows 8 64bit, player is Foobar2000 with Wasapi push, im using the most up to date driver from Schiit.  I realize the noise is something i have to get rid of. 

post #33 of 46
Originally Posted by Rem1x View Post

OS: Windows 8 64bit, player is Foobar2000 with Wasapi push, im using the most up to date driver from Schiit.  I realize the noise is something i have to get rid of. 

If you have the option, try using Wasapi Event rather than Push.  It fixes a known issue with Microsoft's implementation of Wasapi/USB.


The default buffering value for WASAPI - Event Style is 50ms. With some hardware, and especially USB DAC's, a larger value is necessary. If you hear hiccups, select a larger value for buffering in Options > Audio > Output mode settings

Edited by bfreedma - 2/21/13 at 3:44pm
post #34 of 46

I recently purchased a Macbook Pro to use as my music player/computer. I own a Meridian203DAC from the early 90's. I've always listened to Cd's but I'm now going to be using my Mac also. I am totally new to this type of digital audio, so please understand this!

I was going to use the optical out from my Mac connected to my Meridian203DAC then connected to my Adcom preamp and listen to my Grado 325is's through the headphone out on the Adcom. I have done research on the different types of connections between the Mac and the DAC, but my DAC only has an optical input, so this the way I must connect.

My question is can anyone tell me if I will need to have another piece of audio equipment (between my Mac and DAC?)


BTW I have not tried anything yet because I need to order the mini adapter for the optical cable to connect to the Mac. So before I place my order will I need anything else? Sorry if this is a question that has a simple or has been asked somewhere else...but if I don't know, I don't know!

 I greatly appreciate any replies, Thank you.

Edited by joseph69 - 2/27/13 at 9:30am
post #35 of 46

You're going to need a miniplug/toslink cable.  From Monoprice they are here:




Not having read this entire thread I may be incorrect but from what you've described this is it.

post #36 of 46

Thank you for your reply, I have order and already received the digital mini toslink cable and was able to mini into my mac then into my dac and then into my preamp. 

Thank you for your response.

post #37 of 46
Originally Posted by Rem1x View Post

Ok guys, thanks for all the input.  After a long delay I finally tested my Bifrost/Asgard combo with my new optical cable.  Now I will put a short little review on the comparison and my thoughts, but let me explain a few things first..


My setup has been PC -> AudioQuest USB -> Bifrost -> Asgard


Ok so what I did was listen to about 3 different songs, let my ears rest for a second then plugged in the test setup..


Test setup:  PC -> Optical Cable -> Bifrost -> Asgard


I used only one pair of headphones for both of these and the pair i chose to use were the Sennheiser HD 650's.


Now, its really hard for me to tell a difference between sound unless I can listen to something, then listen to something else playing the same song IMMEDIATELY after. (and in this case it is impossible for such a test, because I only have one Asgard, and one Bifrost.)


Let me assure everyone that I am the type of person that does not make things up, I don't pretend to hear differences when I do not hear any difference.  I am completely real on my opinions and needless to say, sometimes I don't get along with other audio enthusiasts with their head in the clouds.  I'm very down to earth and only believe things when I hear them or see them.  I don't make things up and that is one of my pet peeves about this "hobby".  False claims make me very mad, and I also sometimes hate the fact that everyone's hearing is different, because that just adds on another layer of challenge when reading and understanding someone's thought process when it comes to audio.


With that out of the way let me explain a few facts about the 2 different setups.


My usb setup has served me well, the Bifrost makes a great soundcard for my computer.  The one major complaint I have with my usb setup is that at higher volumes (once you start surpassing 50% volume) their would be jitter and it would sound like interference.. it wouldn't be extremely loud or anything, and for the most part you could only tell if nothing was playing, but it was there, and knowing its there with no music, is unsettling, because it probably is in the background WITH music, its just hard to notice.  Something that would really make it louder and with even more distortion is when I would move the mouse, or click the mouse.  I have tried incorporating a powered hub and the problem is still there.

When i swapped to optical, as you could guess (being highly resistant to electric interference and distortion) the optical cable completely removed this issue.


Now those are the facts, the following are things that aren't necessarily something I would call fact, because I feel it could be my head playing games with me.  Like I said, i am not comfortable completely, unless I have 2 exact setups and can switch between them to tell the difference immediately.  Anyway here are things that are possible..


Now, switching to optical and turning on a song I had been playing through usb made me think ok, this sounds a little clear, like there was a little smoke on the songs with USB, and it was always in the back of my head that there could possible be electric interference going on, and even sometimes I would hear a crack or pop in a song, but I would always pass it off as just part of the song so I never really kept tabs on which songs those were so it was impossible for me to test that, but let me say that with optical - there was no popping or glitching in any song that I played.  The next impression I got was that drums sounded better, this happened on 2 of the 3 songs I listened to.  The drums just seemed to sound better with optical, especially the snare.  Now this is probably all in my head, and I hate the fact that I do not know for sure, but that is why i put a disclaimer. 


Either way the facts remain, if anyone has any suggestions on how to clear up interference via usb, I would love to hear it, because the thought of using my onboard soundcard in anyway is really annoying to me, I dont know why, but it is.  In the meantime I'm still going to be using usb just because of that fact, but if i can't find a fix for the interference at higher volumes, I will permanently switch to optical. 


To sum everything up, I honestly feel that if i just found a way to clear up any emi, or popping, in the usb.. then the sounds between the two cables would basically be the exact same.  And thats my real opinion.


(Also don't let me fool you into thinking the emi from the usb is completely noticeable all the time or anything, its just something that happens sometimes and ALL the time at really really high volume.  Otherwise usb is pretty great, all things considered.)


Thanks for reading, please comment!

I've made a recent thread about my experience switching between the 2 usb 3.0 ports and the 2.0 ports, as well as optical all with my bifrost. Interesting thing is I totally have come to the same exact conclusion as you have in terms of the difference in sound between usb and optical. I'm also just like you when it comes to testing, when I hear a difference I know it's there, and I do everything I can to keep the variables as low as possible. usb is pretty much "smokey" or "murky", just slightly, its subtle, and without direct comparison not very noticeable, but after testing all my output options, it is definitely there. Optical also did exactly what you said it did, thinner, clearer, drums are better, etc. It just was a bit too thin sounding, made the music slightly too bland, to the same slight degree usb made the music sound too murky or smokey. you could get used to one or the other, but it's a case of once you've heard the difference, you can't unhear it lol.

One thing I've found recently is these usb purifiers, one is from ifi and another is from schiit. the ifi one seems better for us who have powered dacs because it just plugs into the dac itself and then your cable into it, whilst the schiit one cleans the data as well as provides it's own power, so you would need a second usb cable for it, and another spare outlet, but its better if your dac is usb powered. both devices seem to do the same general thing in terms of affect on the sound, which is to clean up the signal from noise in the computer/any other types of interference.

I don't really know what is the better option, either drop 99 bucks on the ifi purifier, or 99 bucks on a sweet toslink to mini cable? I would prefer to stick with usb because of future proofed universal connectibility (hence it's name-sake lol), but if the something like that ifi purifier doesn't clean up that smokey/murky aspect in the usb sound, then optical is the way to go. I just would like to hear from someone whose possibly tried either the schiit or ifi purifier product, and then compared usb using them to optical with a similar priced cable (for equal comparisons sake).

post #38 of 46
saxelrod92 and rdm1x,

Are your Bifrost running Gen 2 USB cards?
post #39 of 46

any thoughts on which is the better input for a McIntosh D100?  I am currently using USB and I think the USB interface is actually rated to higher sample rates and bit dpeths but not sure which would sound better.  It sounds pretty good as is.

post #40 of 46
Originally Posted by ericr View Post

saxelrod92 and rdm1x,

Are your Bifrost running Gen 2 USB cards?

I am, I dont know about rdm1x though. It's not the bifrost, at least I'm pretty sure it isn't because it uses the same c-media chip that pretty much most current usb dacs/dacs with usb input have. I'm sure theres a few other chips, but thats the reason bifrost got upgraded to gen 2, so it could use this really good chip. So unless other dacs using this chip have a similar sound through usb, then I'd say it's the usb ports/general use of that output from your computer. I've tried using all 3 of my ports, 2 of them are 3.0 ports, and those two sound different than the 2.0 port, like a change in imaging, it hard for me to describe, its like you can feel the sound is coming from a different part of the headphone earcup, like more behind your ears (far left and right), compared to the standard 30 degree left to right view in front of your face. Which when checking device manager would have to imply that it is the renesas usb 3.0 drivers on those ports compared to the standard drivers on the usb 2.0 port that make that change. usb 2 is closest to straight out the headphone jack (in terms of proper imaging and cohesiveness) and optical, usb 3 isn't good enough yet, at least with renesas drivers.


but as I stated before usb 2 has that sense of veil or smoke or murk or mud, just slightly, but it makes your brain constantly search for that solid edge to listen to. I relate to where the sound feels in my head, highs being forehead or above, lows being base of the neck. with usb 2 it jut feels like sound got congested between above my forehead and down to the mouth/middle of my head, whilst my brain wants it to fill in that lower spectrum to get the full proper range of sound ( the way it is in real life), I dont mean to say bass/low end isnt there, I mean to say like it feels like those sounds are positioned higher in my head than it is supposed to be. I hope that makes sense, I'm not very good at translating what I hear into words, as I'm a very visual person. Optical kinda fixes this in making the sound more solid, and clear, so you can hear more details, but it gets too thin, and cold, almost even a little brittle in some songs. (but im not using a high end cable).

So it still comes back to does a higher end optical cable add fullness and warmth, or does the ifi/schiit purifiers add edge and clarity and detail to usb?  All subtle changes btw. I'm never speaking about massive changes in sound when I describe this phenomena.

post #41 of 46

how would the quality of optical cable change the sound?  it is a digital signal of light right?  i can see a better usb cable offering less data to power crosstalk and better reference ground but light?

post #42 of 46
Originally Posted by groovyd View Post

how would the quality of optical cable change the sound?  it is a digital signal of light right?  i can see a better usb cable offering less data to power crosstalk and better reference ground but light?


It doesn't cover USB, but this is a good read-up on S/PDIF IMO, including optical (look for the Toslink scope picture) with some funny comments about different vintage CD transports at the end:



Edited by Currawong - 7/5/14 at 6:58pm
post #43 of 46

but this is digital right? it either decodes or not.

post #44 of 46

A few years overdue, but I finally tested the Grace m903 going back and forth between TOSLINK and USB. I used the same PC for both tests and the latest Realtek HD Audio drivers for Win 10. The first thing I noticed was there were a few clicks and pops when navigating web pages during USB playback while the TOSLINK showed no signs of the clicks. Subjectively the two sound very similar.


They sound so close that I am sure objectively I would hear no difference sans the clicks and pops during USB listening.

Edited by NA Blur - 12/13/15 at 3:24pm
post #45 of 46

uh.... edit? what is the post haha

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