Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › SPDIF output: Is there anything better (soundcard or USB-to-SPDIF) than the E-MU 1212M?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

SPDIF output: Is there anything better (soundcard or USB-to-SPDIF) than the E-MU 1212M?

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi all,

I have been using the digital out (Coaxial) of the E-MU 1212M to feed my Electrocompaniet DAC. I can't remember the cable I'm using, other than it's a well-recommended Belden cable that BJC sold back in 2004-2005 (not sure if they are still selling it now). Soundcard internal clock is locked at 44.1KHz and I'm playing music via Foobar2K & ASIO Output.

This setup sounds good to me though frankly I have nothing else to compare against. Is the 1212M a good digital transport or are there improvements that can be had in this area (cable, transport, etc)?

Thanks.
post #2 of 6

Typically comparing digital outs be it transport or other media is all about jitter.  It was shown some time ago that jitter is the sole cause of the primary auditory differences between transports / digital media.  In fact, a good low jitter USB DAC can sound just as good as a very expensive and presumably high quality transport.  The trick with transports and often other digital media is telling which clock to be the slave and which the master.

 

So in the end it is more about having low jitter than having the best gear ( i.e. expensive ).  I did a pile of tests with transports against my USB DAC ( Grace Design m903 ) and honestly heard little to no difference in the test tracks going between sources.  I was pretty surprised when I fed my ultra cheap Sony Discman into the DAC via digital out and heard again little to no improvement.

 

I would say if you hear little to no noise in your system at high volume and no music playing then your DAC is at least low noise.  Without actually measuring it or comparing it against other systems I have no way of telling for sure, but if you are satisfied with the DAC performance perhaps look elsewhere in your system for improvements.

 

See:

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

 

http://www.stereophile.com/reference/1290jitter/

 

Headroom tells us:

"As mentioned above, the source is generally (keep reading!) the most important aspect of an audio system. We build a variety of digital to analog converters (DACs) to further improve your audio source. HeadRoom amps with internal DACs, and our stand-alone DACs, both contain high quality DAC chips in our designs; and, these contemporary high-end digital recievers and DACs are extremely good at reducing or virtually eliminating jitter from the digital bit-stream. Now, here's the exception to our rule about sources being so critical: when constructing a front-end for your stereo system, it is much less important where the digital signal is coming from when a very high-quality DAC is used. We've even found, in fact, that sometimes very expensive CD transports sound only slightly better than the digital output of inexpensive CD players or USB audio outputs from computers when using a good DAC. So, keep that in mind when putting together your rig!"

 

--http://www.headphone.com/selection-guide/top-picks/top-headroom-amps-and-dacs.php

post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Hi NA Blur,

Thanks for your response.

I'm personally happy with my setup though it could be the case of either it being indeed jitter-free or me used to the sound. I have no comparison to make (not even a spare digital cable to play around with).

I don't believe there is much noise coming from the DAC (certainly not above the inherent background hiss of my amps). Correct me of I'm wrong but I had thought that a jitter-riddled DAC translates into a not-so-stellar sound, rather than a very obvious fault such as noise?

I guess I'm just curious if the 1212M is a good enough digital transport or if there is a much better suited soundcard (or USB-to-SPDIF unit) for this purpose. It's something I potentially will have to consider when I upgrade my PC (and the lack of PCI slot and/or Windows 8 driver will force a replacement).

Cheers!
post #4 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zorander View Post

I'm personally happy with my setup though it could be the case of either it being indeed jitter-free or me used to the sound. I have no comparison to make (not even a spare digital cable to play around with).
I don't believe there is much noise coming from the DAC (certainly not above the inherent background hiss of my amps). Correct me of I'm wrong but I had thought that a jitter-riddled DAC translates into a not-so-stellar sound, rather than a very obvious fault such as noise?
I guess I'm just curious if the 1212M is a good enough digital transport or if there is a much better suited sound card (or USB-to-SPDIF unit) for this purpose. It's something I potentially will have to consider when I upgrade my PC (and the lack of PCI slot and/or Windows 8 driver will force a replacement).

When you upgrade your motherboard, just get one with a built in S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) output.

If you feel your getting a lot of jitter from the new motherboard's S/PDIF, then just add an internal sound card.

Or just use the USB to USB connection.

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PurpleAngel View Post

When you upgrade your motherboard, just get one with a built in S/PDIF (optical & coaxial) output.
If you feel your getting a lot of jitter from the new motherboard's S/PDIF, then just add an internal sound card.
Or just use the USB to USB connection.
Hi,

I thought on-board audio is still not quite the ideal digital transport (poor noise isolation, 48KHz resampling -if this still exists today-, and possibly sub-standard SPDIF output stage), hence the need for a 'proper' SPDIF-capable soundcard or adapter?

My ECD1 DAC lacks USB input, but I'm in no hurry to replace it with a USB-equipped one since people seem to report better sound using a dedicated SPDIF soundcard/USB adapter over their DAC's USB input.

Regarding SPDIF- (Coaxial) equipped soundcard, what are some of the current recommended ones? Something that does not use a breakout cable too.

Thanks.
post #6 of 6
Noise is only a problem with analog I/O. 48kHz resampling is done by Windows and can be avoided by use of ASIO or Linux.

As for jitter, it's something what can be easily measured, but despite this, most "jitter stories" are rather anecdotal and it's hard to find some well-conducted study indicating that replacement of measurably jittery source with some other, measurably less jittery source lead to audible improvement.


I would like to see such study, and then measurements indicating that my current source has at least as much jitter as used in this study, before shelving money for exotic S/PDIF transports.
Edited by mich41 - 2/14/13 at 12:55pm
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › SPDIF output: Is there anything better (soundcard or USB-to-SPDIF) than the E-MU 1212M?