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Spdif, USB or coax?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by chef8489, Jun 17, 2017.
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  1. chef8489
    Planning on picking up a Schiit stack for my pc and headphones and wondering which digital signal would be best and why. MOst of my music is standard FLAC, but I do have some hires stuff. I have always been a portable guy and this will really be my first real experience with non portable setup.
  2. daddyo1973
    If your source is computer based USB audio I'll throw in my $0.02 for a USB to SPDIF digital to digital converter. I fully admit its not an essential piece, but, if you want to eek out as much as possible from a computer based USB signal these devices can be quite nice.
  3. chef8489
    I have spdif, coax, or usb available from my motherboard. Its an older high end x58 system.

    Edit. Sorry only have spdif and usb.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017
  4. turkayguner
    USB should be your last option.
  5. pinnahertz
    This article is interesting, and deals with SPDIF vs USB.

    Basic conclusions he presents:
    "Sound quality
    There are high quality implementations of SPDIF.
    Small wonder from the 80's on audio industry had the time to optimize the product.
    However a PC might have a SPDIF header but probably not one of the highest possible quality.

    The advantage of asynchronous USB is that due to this protocol the DAC is independent of the source as far as the timing is concerned. This allows for using a high quality fixed clock inside the DAC. Often asynchronous USB is combined with other measures like galvanic isolation to shield the DAC as much as possible from the electrical noise of the PC.

    Technically both SPDIF and USB are capable of bit perfect transmission with low jitter.
    As usual the result will be dependent on the implementation."
    headpfizer likes this.
  6. Digitalis
    If ground loops are likely to be an issue optical is the best way to go, however jitter can be problematic.
  7. DamageInc77
    I'm running USB -> Wyrd -> Jitterbug -> Modi Multibit, despite having the option of running optical. Most built in optical outs on motherboards are not super reliable, and I really don't see any practical reason to convert a USB signal to an optical signal. You are just adding 2 conversions to the path.

    USB is my recommendation, as long as you don't have driver issues.
  8. MindsMirror
    Cables are cheap. Try them both, see which works best. If your USB has ground loop issues, use Toslink. If you want 192KHz and your Toslink doesn't support it, or has other issues, use USB. If one of them sounds better to your ears, use that one.
  9. pinnahertz
    "Auditioning" data interconnect cables is impossible to do without bias. Don't bother. Just use good quality (does NOT mean "expensive"!) cables. Toslink/optical is a good way to break a ground loop, and decent cables do not impact jitter performance in any audible way.
    saddleup likes this.
  10. soundfanz
    Why? You shouldn't throw grenades without a reason.
    KindaStealthy and jdev like this.
  11. UntilThen
    I agree with your bewilderment. So much thrashing of USB like it's poison. Granted there might be better connections but in a good and new PC with reliable components, USB is not thrash. I certainly don't hear any noise or grunge or whatever you call it. Those who experience this must have a pretty crappy old computer.

    In my setup, using a Yggy and the USB Gen 3 connection, it does not make me throw up in disgust and make me rush like lightning to the nearest audio shop to get the latest gizmo to do away with USB. I'm awaiting Schiit to produce something that will put an end to the plethora of 3rd party products that is flooding the market faster than you can say 'Hey Joe'.
  12. turkayguner
    S/PDIF is invented purely to transmit pure quality digital audio. But USB was engineered for convenience like PnP'ing devices to carry both data and power within a single cable. So with USB, it is more likely you will get unreliable audio quality.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  13. UntilThen
    S/PDIF is Sony Philips Digital Interface introduced at the advent of CD. USB may be general purpose but for most layman, that is sufficient unless you have golden ears. Ask anyone with a stable USB throughput and they will tell you that they don't hear unreliable audio quality. Those that do, then they obviously have a problem with their USB and will need to do something about it.

    Jason did talk about USB 3 as one of the possible solution. One of... they are looking at all possible solutions.

    Don't forget that a PC is not a dedicated audiophile component. If you're using that then you're already willing to compromise.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  14. turkayguner
    I am not sure if I have some fancy golden ears or not but I can tell you that I can hear the difference of the sharpness in the imaging department in a piece of music I listen to with USB connection changing hour by hour or day by day. Sometimes the instruments are so clear with all the ADSR dynamics and imaging and sometimes they are not. Never had that kind of unreliability with S/PDIF.

    Am I thrashing USB? Nope, I do not. I also find it very convenient and cheap. But that doesn't mean it is the best connection type. S/PDIF has its limitations as well, like short cables or so but quality-wise (especially reliability) it is better than USB, for sure.
  15. UntilThen
    Then you should just get a quality CD player and use the S/PDIF connection to your DAC.... if you're hearing variations and degradation in tone from USB. If you're so fussy about absolute sound quality, you should move away from PC. Get a quality transport or streamer and use the best connection type into your DAC... in my case the AES into Yggy.
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