|'); } // End -->|
So far, I received radically different viewpoints. One, Gordon Rankin, favors USB, and the second Alex Peychev, who favors SP/DIF. Not surprisingly, each one sells equipmnet using their favorite interface.
I am determined to migrate my systen to hard-drive based transport, but I'm stuck at the DAC point. If I go Rankin's USB, I'll get a MAC laptop as my intface/server, as he recommends.
Depends on whether you get a ground loop or not.
Some USB DAC's don't have galvanic isolation between the USB cable and the DAC, which in some cases causes some serious ground loop issues in the digital domain.
In this case, an optical S/PDIF connection will outperform it by far.
IMO, it is easier and takes less hardware to make USB sound better, namely going USB to I2S. Once it is S/PDIF encoded it takes a lot more hardware IMO to reduce the jitter that results. One advantage of S/PDIF is that it is easy to isolate the grounds of the two systems, eliminating ground-loops. I2S is more difficult in this respect, but still possible. With the right reclocker, they all end-up sounding identical. Reclockers like this dont come cheap though.
The more important question is: how close are the master and bit-clocks to the D/A chip in the DAC? The more hardware and cabling in that gets in the way, the more the jitter will be.
I actually sell both SPDIF and USB and here is the big point where SPDIF fails and it has nothing to do with the interface.
A transport or cd player CANNOT go back and re-read a track if it had an error reading it. A computer has already ripped the track error free and therefore has no problem sending down the data the same way all the time.
This is CRUCIAL for bad recording as I have found that like early Steely Dan recordings sound dead and flat on Transports but sound great on the computer.
Of course then there is the way the interface is created and that can mean big differences in the results. Many of the USB interfaces are just converting USB to SPDIF then into the same old SPDIF interface.
But really with the convience of the computer the amount of things that can be done is amazing like Home Theater (stereo is fine), streaming radio, you name it. Along with see all your titles shuffling and such it's a dream.
...is how does the dac decode the 1's and 0's.
At the end of the day you will still have an over sampling dac or a nonos dac or whatever. I think that is far more important than how the info gets from your computer to the dac.
That being said my dac converts USB internally to spdif. A lot of people would say that's not the best way, but it's by far the best digital I've ever had.
To add a slightly different perspective...
In a funny way, moving to a hard drive based transport and archive is a lifestyle choice. What do I mean... Well first of all you will free up a tremendous amount of wall and storage space when you no longer have to put your CDs where you can regularly access them physically. (Let's table the what you do with them for another thread)
The power and the magic goes beyond simple sonics. It is the ability to access a single archive in order to enjoy music wherever you want without physically shuffling discs like some localized NetFlix service. And without being limited to one kind of device (not just CD players - but iPods, remote access, etc)
Then you have the whole business of random access - every thread you will read here talks about how much more music - how many more nooks and crannies of a collection - are regularly enjoyed.
Seen in this context the choice of SPDIF vs USB vs Ethernet is tightly integrated with choices about how and where you will access and control the archive. SPDIF cables are historically very short and very expensive - meaning that your Mac will be in very close proximity to your rig. USB, especially with Opticis can run quite a distance. And Ethernet can run furthest of all and be configured in a network offering remote access from each node.
My recommendation is that you think about your choice as a music network as well as a high fidelity source. The truth is that for most of us, the answer will come down to mix and match of devices - with a primary "A" system in a designated "listening" room, as well as secondary systems where access to music simply enhances the experience. So maybe a couple of bedrooms - or a family room - or as an additional source for your home theater room... or your garage where you can stream internet radio into your old Dynaco...
BTW I wouldn't do this with anything but a Mac. And I am very happy with my Brick
> > In a funny way, moving to a hard drive based transport and archive is a lifestyle choice.
While that's true in many respects, that alone wouldn't be nearly
enough for me. I really only got interested when I heard the
difference a PC based set-up made in the translation of bits and pits in
a familiar system. And then, I had to make sure I would be able to
make that happen in my system before I'd commit. The Cosecant/
Apple combo sold me, in a big way.
This setup allows for a clearer view into the musical proceedings, and
does so without adding any of the nasties that usually come along for
the ride. It also delivers better-defined and more extended bass.
livelier but not edgier highs, along with more varied (as in more
accurate and better balanced) tonal representations. Instrumental and
vocal shadings that make the illusion more believable are more here,
too. Textural and transient subtleties, and the grouping of fundamentals
and harmonics make for the kind of higher resolution that enables
the details to unfold ... like music, not just sound.
Most of my listening, at this point,is in my media room. Everything that everybody has said has made a lot of sense. It's refreshing to have this kind of discourse without the vitriol and religiosity that so commonly affects this site.
I have to do a lot more research, particularly as to the archival software.
Hi David -
The archival aoftware is the easy part. On a Mac, run iTunes. It offers the enormous advantage of integrating all the aspects of the process: ripping, tagging, organizing and sharing. Besides which, I am not sure there is another choice...
As for back-up software (the other interpretation of archiving), something like Chronosync, or even the Mac back-up software which comes free with a membership in .Mac is all you need to create a back-up hard drive and update it periodically.
I recommend that you buy two identical hard drives between 300-500Gb in size and use them exclusively for your iTunes Library and the back up of same. Depending on the Mac you get, you can get SATA drives (preferable) or your choice of USB or FireWire. Any of the formats is fast enough for the data transfer rates you need for playback, but the SATA will yield much faster back-ups.
They each have their own idiosyncrasies and disadvantages. But a good design deals with such. IMHO you can make both approaches work really well.
Depends what you want to do. Use a PC as transport? Then go USB. Use a CD player as transport? Then go SPDIF.
It is nice to have a DAC that accommodates both.
My whole objective is to use a PC (MAC?) as an archive and a transport. I'm trying to figure out which way to go so as to keep it sounding good, and migrate to hard-drive based media. BTW, I'm funding this by selling my analog setup, which was very good.
Then you have Empirical Audio Off Ramp and Scott Nixon, they go from USB to I2S directly. I2S is the native language of the dac so one less step in the conversion. I have the Scott Nixon into a Mac and I couldn't be happier.
There is no one absolutely best method. Don't forget Steve Nugent's new Spoiler USB DAC.
As you know, I joined the Gordon Rankin camp with his Crimson. I would love to get together with other audiophiles that have a Spoiler, or Alex Peychev's Dac.
But for me, Gordon's approach with his directly heated triode tubes is simply heaven.
The way Gordon does his USB, it'll sound better than his spdif input. The way Alex does his USB and his few special tricks with spdif connection, spdif will likely sound better in his machines.
Just like everything in audio, it's ALL in the implementation. The REAL question you are really asking is, which sounds better, Gordon's machine with USB vs. Alex's machine with spdif when fed by computer. That, unfortunately, would be your homework :)
This post is made possible by the generous support of people like you and our sponsors: