Interesting findings TomKure...I use HUD-mx2 (straight from USB, usually with two headphones) mainly for movies, not so much for concentrated listening but still i didn't notice any problems...but I will try it via optical...
Audinst-HUD-MX2 DAC/Amp - Page 21
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Hi TomKure, have you ever measured (or just compared by ear) those special motherboard USB ports with regular ones?
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Yes, I have measured and listened to Modi+Magni stack through 4 kinds of different USB ports. The strange thing about Modi was that when playing pure sines with frequency between 20 and 200 Hz, I could hear a strange noise in the sound.
The noise was the loudest when I still had my old motherboad, a Gigabyte EP45-UD3 and used the regular USB2.0 ports in the back. Also, the Modi measured the worst from those. The best measurements and least audible noise in the sine test signal, I achieved when connecting the Modi to my laptop or to the designated DAC USB ports on my current motherboard. I also tested my current motherboard's USB3.0 ports, which were somewhere in-between, but closer to the old mobo's USB2.0 ports (the old mobo had only one kind of USB ports - plain USB2.0).
I also measured my EMU0404 USB from the following USB ports: old mobo USB2.0, new mobo USB3.0, new mobo USB2.0 DAC ports. Differences were next to none, yet there were some, confirming the DAC ports were the best.
To summarize, I would sort the ports as follows, based on both listening and measurements, from worst to best: GA-EP45-UD3 USB 2.0 < GA-Z97X-Gaming GT USB plain USB 3.0 < Laptop (Acer Aspire 5738G) USB 2.0 = GA-Z97X-Gaming GT DAC USB 2.0.
When listening to music however, I doubt I could tell them apart, maybe only with the noise-sensitive Modi, and only by hearing/not hearing very quiet noise during silent parts of tracks, which happened with my old mobo. Not with the new one using the DAC ports.
Thank you. This is little bit OT, but I was curious because I'm looking for a way to improve USB signal to DAC...SOtM makes “ultra uber high end” PCI express USB card but it way expensive (about 350 USD) than quality motherboard like yours with dedicated USB for DACs...it could be interesting to compare performance of those two :).
I'm currently fiddle with Raspberry Pi 2 because it is completely silent, relatively powerful and quiet cheap, but USB implementation sucks (at least with my current skill it looks like it... I was unable to get any sound from HUD-mx2 so far, I need to dig deeper into Linux).