SPDIF connection between PC and DAC...
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beaver316

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Hi everyone,
 
I consider myself a noob still in the audiophile world despite gathering a ton of knowledge on this forum. However, one topic i havent quite researched much on is what the title states: connecting a DAC to a pc using SPDIF, either optical or coax.
 
I plan on buying the Schiit Gungnir DAC to pair with my an Audeze LCD2 which i will own in the future. Like i said im still a noob with this particular subject so please bare with me.
 
Let's start from the beginning. The Schiit has the following input as stated on it's website:
 
Coaxial RCA SPDIF
Oprical SPDIF
USB (optional)
 
Im after the absolute best sound i can get from this setup, so USB is out of the picture (plus i save 100 bucks too without it). So it's one of the other two that i'll use. *flips coin*...optical it is! Moving on.. I have a Sony Vaio FW laptop which has no form of SPDIF output on it. Bad start. But then i remembered something my brother bought a while back, a Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro 2 which is a usb soundcard with spdif optical out. When i plug it in, the jack has a red light coming through so that's good. Here's an image of it.
 
http://i2.expansys.com/img/b/199905/turtle-beach-micro-ii-sound-card.jpg
 
However my question is, does the quality of the sound card in the Micro 2 matter? The Micro 2 sounds pretty bad to my ears when i set it up as Laptop > Micro 2 via USB > headphone via jack. Here it uses the DAC from the Micro 2. It was a very inexpensive device so that's understandable. Or does the SPDIF out not depend on the dac within the device? Because when i connect the Schiit to my PC like this: Laptop > Micro 2 via USB > Optical cord > Schiit DAC > Amp > Headphone, it wont be using the Micro 2 as a Dac, but the Schiit right?
 
And lastly, the whole point im choosing SPDIF is to not use USB, but with this implementation, the signal is still passing through USB followed by optical. As the saying goes, your only as strong as your weakest link. Will the fact that my SPDIF jack is connected with USB degrade from the quality at all?
 
edit: something i forgot to ask.. is it possible for toslink cables differ in sound quality? For example would a $3 cable sound much different from a $50 cable?
 
Thanks for reading, hopefully this is the right section for this.
 
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m2man

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The Gungnir uses a memory buffer for the incoming bits, and then reads (and reclocks) the bits coming out of that buffer. It's a non-dumb approach :) So coax, optical, usb, NAS, ethernet, etc will all sound the same, assuming the source isn't horrible and can't keep up with sending the right amount of bits. The reclocking also means your $3 cable is just fine. If your source can't keep the buffer full, then the Gungnir turns on a LED to let you know (and you'll probably hear pop's or pauses).

You are ignoring the laptop DAC in your configuration, so you are all good.
 
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beaver316

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Quote:
The Gungnir uses a memory buffer for the incoming bits, and then reads (and reclocks) the bits coming out of that buffer. It's a non-dumb approach :) So coax, optical, usb, NAS, ethernet, etc will all sound the same, assuming the source isn't horrible and can't keep up with sending the right amount of bits. The reclocking also means your $3 cable is just fine. If your source can't keep the buffer full, then the Gungnir turns on a LED to let you know (and you'll probably hear pop's or pauses).
You are ignoring the laptop DAC in your configuration, so you are all good.
 
Thanks for the info! If USB sounds the same as the other options then perhaps it's just better to go that route and be done with it!
 
As for the part in bold, i know that my laptop's dac is being bypassed. It's the dac in the Turtle Beach Micro that im asking about. I came across this text while doing some research earlier taken from here http://www.head-fi.org/t/355693/sound-quality-difference-usb-vs-s-pdif-optical-digital-output
 
"Generally it is a better idea to use USB to connect to a DAC1. With S/PDIF you are somewhat at the mercy of the audio chip/board that is outputting the S/PDIF signal (and there are some pretty awful audio chips/boards out there, which do bad things like resample all outgoing audio to 48K). With USB this shouldn't be a problem (basically the audio data will be sent directly to the audio device for it to deal with as it sees fit)."
 
It states that with SPDIF you're at the mercy of the audio chip that's outputting the SPDIF signal. Doesnt this apply to my case? Because the audio chip in the Micro 2 is pretty terrible, doesnt it have an effect on the SPDIF out signal?
 
Im seriously considering USB now.
 
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m2man

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USB -> SPDIF is almost always a straight transformation, there's certainly no technical limitations. I've seen a few DAC/DAPs resample to 48k, but that requires actual work for the engineers. It's really rare.

I don't think either will make an audible difference. USB is surely cleaner looking.
 
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PurpleAngel

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Quote:
 
Thanks for the info! If USB sounds the same as the other options then perhaps it's just better to go that route and be done with it!
 
As for the part in bold, i know that my laptop's dac is being bypassed. It's the DAC in the Turtle Beach Micro that I'm asking about. I came across this text while doing some research earlier taken from here http://www.head-fi.org/t/355693/sound-quality-difference-usb-vs-s-pdif-optical-digital-output
 
"Generally it is a better idea to use USB to connect to a DAC1. With S/PDIF you are somewhat at the mercy of the audio chip/board that is outputting the S/PDIF signal (and there are some pretty awful audio chips/boards out there, which do bad things like resample all outgoing audio to 48K). With USB this shouldn't be a problem (basically the audio data will be sent directly to the audio device for it to deal with as it sees fit)."
 
It states that with SPDIF you're at the mercy of the audio chip that's outputting the SPDIF signal. Doesnt this apply to my case? Because the audio chip in the Micro 2 is pretty terrible, doesnt it have an effect on the SPDIF out signal?
 
Im seriously considering USB now.
If your willing to spend $750 for a DAC, I do not see a big deal with spending $850 for a DAC.
 
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beaver316

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Quote:
If your willing to spend $750 for a DAC, I do not see a big deal with spending $850 for a DAC.
 
I have no problem spending the extra $100 dollar for USB, im just trying to understand if my implementation of SPDIF is the better choice for sound. 
 
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PurpleAngel

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Quote:
 
I have no problem spending the extra $100 dollar for USB, I'm just trying to understand if my implementation of SPDIF is the better choice for sound. 
Personally I would not use a $25 device (TBS AAM2) to convert USB to optical,
Quality USB/optical converters usually cost hundreds of dollars.
Try email Schiit, see what they have to said.
 
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beaver316

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Quote:
Personally I would not use a $25 device (TBS AAM2) to convert USB to optical,
Quality USB/optical converters usually cost hundreds of dollars.
Try email Schiit, see what they have to said.
 
This is what i always had in the back of my mind. The fact that the Micro 2 in general is balls. Anyway i emailed Schiit a few days ago, and Jason was regrettably unhelpful. He says it's impossible to tell how the SPDIF will perform in my setup.
 
Well anyways, i think im settled on USB. The Gungnir has a very good implementation of USB with asyn capabilities.
 
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