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Probably a stupid SPDIF question

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by ericx85, Jun 16, 2018.
  1. ericx85
    So I just got my DAC/AMP setup going. I have 2 older sound cards i ditched for this setup but was wondering if I should use either of them for SPDIF? Or just go straight usb? One is a sound blaster with optical and the other is an essence stx with coaxial. The dac takes any of those 3 connections
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I'm more of an Asus fan, so would take an Essence STX, over a Sound Blaster.
    And I believe coaxial, is considered (slightly) better then optical.
    But i doubt you could hear a difference, between Sound blaster with optical, vs Essence STX with coaxial.

    Me, I usually just use USB.
  3. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    If you don't need the DSP features on either soundcard then just use USB.
    Endless_Chris likes this.
  4. drtechno
    out of the three, it would be a trial or error thing when trying them but spdif optical is guaranteed to isolate the audio equipment from the computer. Some usb interfaces have good isolation, but most don't. It should be that noticeable on the consumer end because the music is at full digital scaling instead of being -16dbfs to -12dbfs which is the norm for professional recording levels and gain staging through professional signal processing in the digital domain. But since this setting is consumer equipment, the best results will occur when the analog ground is isolated from the computer when using unbalanced (rca audio) connections. The coaxial spdif was a cheap implementation of digital and was added as an inexpensive way to get the digital signal out compared to the toslink connection, but since its unbalanced transmission, its only good to about 3 feet or so. USB isn't bad by itself, but if the computer's power supply has noise on the ground, it will appear on the output if the interface is not internally isolated. Cost isn't a factor because I've seen the $1000+ interfaces have noise where the humble $60 doesn't. It boise down to where they want to spend $12 /unit to isolate the usb. Optical and with some compter/system setups, usb seems to be quick chioces. But I also wondered if you guys ever considered Dante audio format as ethernet is a ground isolated connection from the beginning.
  5. ericx85
    So I've been using my DAC for a while, absolutely slaughters the sound card in terms of quality. Went with USB since I like the idea of async USB having lower jitter and a very low noise floor (dont even hear any noise cranking the amp all the way up).

    I did miss having my DSP virtualization from my sound card for games though, so I'm currently experimenting with the Sound Blaster's what you hear feature and sending its mix through the USB to the DAC as a listen device. My optical cable is pretty cheap so I figure this might be a good option. The essence card has a coax output but Dolby Headphone is so bad it makes me wonder how anyone ever thought it sounded good.
  6. drtechno
    DSP virtualization? oh there must be a dsp effect you must admire then, like room reverb....
  7. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I would suggest not using the What You Hear feature, you will just get poorer quality sound.
    If your using USB connection, no reason to trying to use any of the sound card features.
    With USB, really no reason for even leaving the Creative or Asus cards in the computer.
  8. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Usually the only DSP feature used by people on this site, if they use any, are EQs (which don't need to be on soundcards' software) and virtual surround, which is like Crossfeed for surround so you don't get a depth-less hard pan left-strong center-hard pan right sound on games and movies, so you get more of a sense of directionality of sound sources like gun shots or footsteps.

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