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USB vs Optical

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SteveR750's picture
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I'm wondering how many reviews and user experiences have been optimally set up. IME using async USB with a bespoke driver is the best way to connect a PC streaming source, but it must use the proprietry ASIO (or similar) driver. The dacmagic+ is miles better via ASIO USB than optical, the Qute best via its own driver, and for me as was the NAD. Most of the DACs I have tried will work without their own driver but sound inferior. Interestingly, the most disappointing was the M-DAC, which had none (though rather amateurishly suggested downloading asio4all: I didn't, and thought that was a bit cheap in a £600 piece of kit).

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Pennypot's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

What's the difference between ASIO and Straight USB ? 

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RE: USB vs Optical RE: USB vs Optical

Pennypot wrote:

What's the difference between ASIO and Straight USB ? 

Maybe this can be of help...

From the official Foobar FAQ: (http://www.foobar2000.org/FAQ)

Foobar FAQ wrote:
I am using ASIO/WASAPI/etc output and I am experiencing issues...

Do not use alternate output modes unless you must. There is NO benefit in terms of audio quality to using these, as far as music playback is concerned ( read more on the subject ).

Additionally, on most systems, WASAPI (if available) is known to be more stable than ASIO

Also : (http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_out_asio)

Foobar2000.org wrote:
Please note that this component is meant for systems where ASIO is the only available output method. It is highly recommended to use the default output modes instead of ASIO. Contrary to popular "audiophile" claims, there are NO benefits from using ASIO as far as music playback quality is concerned, while bugs in ASIO drivers may severely degrade the performance.

As I  understand it, ASIO was primarily intended to reduce latency when recording and listening to playback at the same time although with Windows XP it  had the advantage of enabling bit perfect output by by-passing XP's resampling. Apparently Windows 7 can give you bit perfect output without needing to use any plug-ins.

I'm sure someone else can explain this better than me. There's more information on the Hydrogen Audio website if you want to follow it up.

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RE: USB vs Optical

SteveR750 wrote:

I'm wondering how many reviews and user experiences have been optimally set up. IME using async USB with a bespoke driver is the best way to connect a PC streaming source, but it must use the proprietry ASIO (or similar) driver. The dacmagic+ is miles better via ASIO USB than optical, the Qute best via its own driver, and for me as was the NAD. Most of the DACs I have tried will work without their own driver but sound inferior. Interestingly, the most disappointing was the M-DAC, which had none (though rather amateurishly suggested downloading asio4all: I didn't, and thought that was a bit cheap in a £600 piece of kit).

 

Steve,

 

I am actively pondering this very question in anticipation of my NAD M51's arrival this coming week. It will be replacing my Chord DAC, which currently receives most of my Lossless files via AE/ATV using an optical connection. 

 

I'm aware of the various choices of connection available with the NAD, and was intending to assign each as follows:

PS3 for Blu-rays, SACDs ---> HDMI

Lossless files from Mac into ATV and/or ATV ----> optical

CDP ---> coaxial 

 

My computer is too far away for a wired connection, so the optical is AirPlay-enabled. 

I've never had the USB option with a DAC before, but now I could, in theory. There's a work-round I've gleaned from Stereophile's review of the new NAD DAC, which utilises the Apple's £25 camera connection kit and brings my iPad into play as a source and controller for files into the USB connection on the NAD. 

 

Any suggestions appreciated. 

Thanks 

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SteveR750's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

Charlie, The NAD reviews by Andrew E suggested it was best by coax, then optical, then USB. I tried USB and optical, and cound't tell them apart, but this with the 390DD not the M51.

The damagic+ is noticeably better by USB than optical, it's a livelier more open sound. Via optical, it sounds a little flat, like the M-DAC did. The key is to install the manufacturers drivers for USB connection - though Chord recommend using kernel streaming, not ASIO. It's not thet ASIO is better or worse than WASAPI as such, I suspect it's down to how the manufacturer designed the DAC and it's preferred transfer method, but I'm guessing here, and not quoting known fact

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dragon76's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

There is lots of confusion in the original question of this post and lack of clarity as to what the poster wanted to convey. USB dacs have their own drivers only and when they support sample rates over 24/96 and only for Windows. If its 24/96 and below one doesn't need a specific manufacturer's driver as these sample rates are being supported by windows and mac natively.

Funny that M-DAC mentioned as 'amateurish' since its as any other 24/96 USB limited DAC natively supports WASAPI and this is a preferred option for Win 7 and Vista. Yes, for Win XP you need Asio, therefore M-DAC recommends Aisoforall, which is no different then any other ASIO drivers available out there.

The Dacmagic + is a 24/192 USB dac, therefore its own ASIO driver exists and has to be used.

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SteveR750's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

Sorry, but no, it was clear I think: do DACs sound better via Optical or USB? I wasn't confused when I wrote the title....

 

 

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Rimse's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

Depends on several things:source, cd player optical out and what is behind it,the same applies to computers optical out.Optical cable quality, glass or plastic.In my case optical sounds better when connected between cd player and dac.Usb sounds better when connected between computer and dac. Wink

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SteveR750's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

Rimse wrote:

Depends on several things:source, cd player optical out and what is behind it,the same applies to computers optical out.Optical cable quality, glass or plastic.In my case optical sounds better when connected between cd player and dac.Usb sounds better when connected between computer and dac. Wink

But surely you can't connect your CDP to the DAC via USB?

Ergo, it's not really a comparison.

 

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Rimse's picture
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RE: USB vs Optical

No ,only optical that's why I bought optical cable. But it  sounds better than all outs from computer: usb,toslink spdif  to dac

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RE:

1. The USB Class2 Asynchronous interface using ASIO/WSAPI driver is the best interface as compared to Coaxial and Optical.

 

2. The Optical supports the least Bandwidth (96 KHz) and it was originally designed as a test interface. The Coaxial is better than than optical. Both optical and coaxial interfaces suffer from jitter which even the best of DACs cannot correct. Unfortunately most consumer grade products support only optical as it is the cheapest to implement.

 

3. USB Class 2 interface overcomes the problem of jitter by having a suitable DAC that supports this interface. It supports easily 24 bit/192 KHz files. I feel in few years USB Audio will become mainstream in high-end Audio systems.

 

4. There are many products (DACs) in the market that already support USB, but make sure that it is USB Class 2 Asynchronous, as otherwise normal USB does not overcome jitter issues.