It isn't always easy to know what is true and what is just plain wrong. My three-year old grand-daughter announced recently that she can no longer eat apricots because they contain gluten and she is allergic to gluten. Never mind that apricots don't contain gluten. Never mind that she loves bread. Never mind that the entire town of Boulder seems to think they need to be gluten free. I didn't have the heart to tell her about bread but I did let her know apricots were ok. She's unconvinced. Apricots are off still off the menu.
Isn't it always the case that we get pulled into believing this or that? It's not that what we get swept up in isn't true for some people and in some situations. No, the fact that it is true in some cases just lends credibility to our beliefs that it probably applies to us as well. Take the battle over digital interconnects.
We've long known that digital interconnects make a difference and there's plenty of evidence showing why: certainly chief among them jitter when we're dealing with S/PDIF. My friend Bill Low of Audioquest has a great demo using a simple boom box for the "reference" system that's quite eye opening. But what of computer audio? Personally I detest the term, but that not withstanding, there's plenty of folks hearing differences in CAT 5 vs. CAT 6.
The thing is, unlike S/PDIF and good old fashioned digital audio, computer audio is quite different. For most applications the data are sent asynchronous. This means there's no clock to rely on and therefore jitter isn't an issue. Think about network audio for a moment. Network audio is agnostic as to the wires and distance it has to travel. This is why you can download an HD Tracks or Blue Coast digital copy, store it on your computer and play it back later through your home network without a problem.
When you download this music, say from Cookie Marenco's Blue Coast server in northern California to your home in Oshkosh Wisconsin, there's no direct pipe and CAT 5 or CAT 6 don't play in at all. Heck, those packets of music may have gone in a circuitous route from Cookie's server, to New York, then down to Michigan and finally to Wisconsin. In fact, it's quite likely that the music was never sent as a complete stream at all: part of the data going one way, the balance going the other.
Yet when all the little packets are finally assembled together, they are queuedup in your computer and placed onto your hard drive in perfect order. It's why your download of the latest Blue Coast product sounds the same as my download despite the fact mine went to Colorado through Syracuse and yours went to Wisconsin through Gnome Alaska.
There may be issues on a local home network such as grounding and noise being injected into your DAC, via the network cable, that contribute to different sound quality depending on that cable, but jitter and bit accuracy of the data shouldn't among our concerns when it comes to computer audio sent over the network.