When it comes to…

October 8, 2015
 by Paul McGowan

I wrote yesterday I enjoyed the improvements wrought by the Jitterbug when playing music over USB. And I promised today I would tell you of another experience I had, this time with the Uptone Regen. But that will have to wait.

I have received inordinate amounts of mail on yesterday’s post: accusations of favoritism, using this forum improperly, fears DirectStream isn’t living up to ts promise of low jitter performance. And all because I mentioned I liked what the Jitterbug did. Funny, but when I spoke about my favorite USB cable, JCAT, not one peep was heard. But when I claim an accessory does something–howls of indignancy permeate. Interesting.

I thought it instructive, then, to first cover a little technical ground on why some of these USB devices make a difference. They are not jitter reducers, per se. Instead, they reduce other types of problems that, themselves, can cause jitter. For answers I turn to our resident guru, Ted Smith, designer of DirectStream.

“USB has the additional complication that it runs the power and ground signals very close to the data signals over a long length and hence dirties up the power and ground noticeably.  High frequency noise from the high frequency signal on a USB cable is very hard to filter out.  Even without a connection of the 5V line in the DS we’d still have a radio signal coming from the USB connector that needs to be carefully dealt with in the power supplies and analog circuitry.

The DS takes great care to filter the jitter better than most DACs out there, but even a perfect DAC that introduces no errors of it’s own, is not affected by any errors (including jitter) on any of its inputs and radiates nothing outside of it’s case will add multiple ground loops to the rest of the system with the digital, analog and power connections and further those connections (especially the digital ones) will add radiation that affects the rest of the system.  This is especially a problem with USB since there’s almost always a computer on the other end which has an almost infinite number of rude noise sources and (with good reason) is almost always plugged into different outlets than the audio system.”

In a nutshell, a product like Jitterbug is a line conditioner for the Vbus (5 volts) and a filter for electrical noises on the datastream. Not all that complicated, it does work – and it works not as a reclocker, lowering jitter, but as a filter removing noise. And, as Ted suggests, higher noise levels, both radiated and transmitted, result in compromised performance in any DAC.

Tomorrow I will report on the Uptone Regen USB fixer upper.

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56 comments on “When it comes to…”

  1. Hello Paul,
    I like to suggest another product to extremely raise the perfomance of your system.
    It’s the Shunyata Research DF-SS.
    And they are so cheap – only about $300 for three pieces.
    OK I stop the satire at this point.
    But as I see the discussion going on regarding “jitterbugging”.
    My simple question is:
    Why the hell, has none of the premium DAC manufacturers, including PS Audio, such devices built in?
    Are they all boneheads? I doubt. I think that they are much more familiar with digital audio than AQ.
    If these devices really make your system sound better, i am amazed why not a single company has built it into their stuff.
    As you told in yesterdays post AQ really does not need promotion from your company.
    They earn arm and a leg by selling their stuff to their “knowledgeable” audiophile customers.
    Greeting

      1. Hi Paul,
        could you please explain?
        If you have the circuit bord of one of these “bugs” completely shielded in the DAC’s case, where is the difference?
        Greetings

  2. That’s not a fair reply to Paul.
    First off these devices are external and add on devices. Hue about about a music server or still points.
    Now back to jitter bug and uptone.
    These devices are very new and why would a company put something inside they do not own.
    I won a 45 k msb stack it to is better with it and a server.
    The fact is any dac made more likely improves or changes with these devices.
    I have emailed Paul in the past of servers and devices. Consider his view he does not have time to try every device made. I wow not have tried many such devices that do little or nothing. How or why should ps audio try them. It’s for us to tinker
    As we do. I think of no other company that has a forum like this and makes is honest in his views.

  3. Great explanation. So, if I have a choice to channel digital files to the DSD using Ethernet or Optical instead of USB, which is best? When I use my Oppo as a DAC I could use either USB or Optical from my MacMini. It sounds like Optical avoids the problems you are discussing.

    1. Thanks. USB is perhaps the worst of any of the formats – optical the best, if only it was glass and not TOSLINK – and Ethernet is probably the least intrusive, if you have a Bridge or something worthy to decode the Ethernet signals.

  4. The trouble with other than usb ink it’s is getting a good source.
    Ps audio was way ahead by using hdmi i2s when there was no body or maybe one other.
    It allowed me to use an off ramp more than two years ago to improve my pwd Mkii.
    It had an array of outputs.
    Back then there were very little to pick from. I also had a ap/SE and pp
    But it was only coax. The ds now is better than both of them if used now
    So it is a very good device. These new items are improving things that’s not really just noise anymore
    I also think the fact ps audio audio is Willing to share there thoughts is a beyond a kind gester and shows complete dedication to better audio for all of us period what company does that !!!

  5. It is written in the PWD-manual that, apart from I2S, USB is the best.
    Better even than XLR. So now I’m a little confused.
    And given the fact that 99.99% of optical is plastic, not glass, it’s the worst (so I heard). Or not ?
    Phew. I thought audio is a hobby, but with all those problems and choices to make…..
    But, all kidding aside, I hope to see an answer.

    1. That should perhaps be revised. And here’s why. USB is the best only because it has the greatest opportunity for high resolution audio sources. Most XLR/RCA sources aren’t high resolution capable.

      On a pure sound basis and without regard for available sources that can do more than stream CD quality, Glass is the best, followed by HDMI, XLR and RCA. USB falls lowest on the list just from this single standpoint because of noise issues.

      1. Exactly! USB becomes more and more popular, because more high resolution opportunities and most of the consumer computers have only USB as the digital output. Of course optical has its limitations, but for short runs sound better than USB I think and it’s easier to properly implement.

    2. The best way to view Toslink is to understand that, when developed, its mandate was to provide the cheapest conceivable optical link technology capable of meeting some rather limited specifications. And by cheapest conceivable, I mean cheapest.conceivable.

  6. A portible dac I own is the HUGO it does dsd and pcm over optical
    It’s designer like Paul says optical is best. Purely because of noise and galvanic isolation. For me usb is best but only after many precautions taken. For portable use optical rules
    Coax SPDIF is degrading in comparison but this is using a dap not a server.
    I wish I could write at half of what TED s or Paul do as I have such trouble making clear points

  7. Music Direct sells the Jitterbug for $48.75 It appears you are telling us that Ted’s product, selling for a lot of money, needs this inexpensive device? What about all of those reviews about this product and what about all of those stellar upgrades that I have heard about? As an owner of the PW MKII, I would be better off buying the Off-Ramp 5 and living happily ever after. Here we go again, introducing something in the signal path.

    1. The notion that what one puts in front of the DS DAC can augment or degrade the sound should not come as a surprise. Yes, it was claimed to be “jitter agnostic” (the way that we have conventionally understood jitter) but there are other factors loose in the world that need to be mitigated. Computer audio, good computer audio, is in it’s infancy. Discovering gremlins as we go will be frequent for the near future. The PWD is a fine device and if you are happy with it, great, but it will never approach the sound of the DS DAC regardless of what feeds it.

      1. OK I finally understand now. First I spend $5.999 for a DirectStream, make sure I have all the vaunted exotically named upgrades and then purchase a Jitterbug for $48.75 because it is the latest and greatest technology. For those of us streaming audio from two NAS drives, and playing this through a lowly Kimber USB cable into a PW MK II, life on the other side of the tracks ain’t too bad.

        Have you noticed the discussion is no longer about high res files? It has quickly shifted from that to the quality of your hardware. CDs or 192/24—it’s all good if you got the big time gear.

        1. Well, yeah, the gap between CD and high res got a lot less impressive with the DS and none of us saw that coming. I did not mean to offend and it’s not all about moneybags here, either. My favorite USB cable is the Belkin Gold (JC Penney, $9.95). The DS sounds great through my home built amp and my home built speakers, both of which are butt ugly to look at, much like the designer.

          1. No offense. Just my personal frustration about always reading that what I own is just not good enough. For me it is about the synergy of all my components.

    2. First off the off ramp 5 tricked out and the ap /pp do not help the ds in fact they degrade it. I own them.
      It is the same way for the HUGO I own no help and it hurts them.
      As for a 49 device that helps yes try one
      As for computer audio I agree it’s relatively new.
      As for reviews did ever occur to you they had one or a regen or even a high end server. They may not say it but do.
      Also many shows I attend have all sorts of devices behind there equipment like some use Pauls REGENs.
      Things that no one will ever tell you at shows.
      I build and have helped audio PHIL of AO software he has many who use his stuff at shows and will not say it’s even being used. Why so you can feel it will sound that good at your house.
      Paul is a extremly honest soul and actually says what he hears regardless of its impact. No one In an open forums does this. I have been banned from threads saying the truth to other makers of devices. Why I’ll hurt there sales. And then we have Paul who at times takes it on the chin to be honest.
      I think we all
      Learn as we go here. And if not learning enjoy the reading and absorbtion of the game here.
      I fly Rc stuff there is real honesty there from venders rare is that in audio. Enjoy Paul’s stuff and enjoy even more his honest cander.
      And to some feel better I have emailed and posted here about the devices I have motioned here to Paul. His Honest answer is never enough time
      So true Paul.

    3. I appreciate the frustration, as attempts to keep things simple keep getting more complicated. Your specific complaint, however…Well, do you use OEM or better quality cables and cords? The DS can’t solve everything. And, who knows, maybe – no, probably – these little add-ons will spur further development in electronics such as dacs.

      1. Sorry not sure what you mean by OEM? I use a Kimber USB cable with a number for a name which I cannot remember. From my PW to the Athena I use Cardas cables. I use a PerfectWave P5 power plant. I have thought about upgrading the PW to the DS but when I now learn I need another cheap-ass device I am totally turned off. At some point you have to say, “Stop, enough is enough!”

        1. OEM, original equipment manufacturer, is in this case those black power cords or red and yellow (or white) RCA’s that come with gear, including the DS, but that you put aside in favor of Kimber and Cardas. “Enough” is our problem, not PS Audio’s.

  8. I enjoy the informative openness of this blog and have learned so much in the past year. I think it’s unfair to expect any company to do it all. Besides, todays solutions may pale in comparison to next years tweaks for usb inputs. Technology is moving at a rapid pace. If we expect a usb solution from a dac manufacturer where does it stop. Are we going to demand expensive feet to come with every component. Some of these things should be the consumers responsiblity. It’s part of the fun in this great hobby. 🙂

  9. Well, I think there are several dilemmas these DAC improvers or for other equipements and find it best: If you connect these enhancers in an expensive or cheap DAC. They sound the same or similar to each other? It will be worth buying a DAC Expensive? (Excluding those who already have one). What is the progress of audio technology to keep improving in terms of sound quality? and primarily: How to classify these improvements in quality, having a benchmark in quality, something like Stereophile classes performed? If within class A Stereophile you have two equipements, one worth $ 100 and another $ 100,000; why buy the most expensive if they have the same “sound quality”?

    1. No they do not sound the same
      As
      Long as the stystem can be reveiling enough. I have cheap portable stuff to high end as they all improve from great sources none approach each other. Each device has its own sound and quality of tone
      The ds is true high end for a cheap price
      I spent about 19k on my first server for my msb stack alone. It was a wake up call to build my own servers and start down the rabbit hole.
      When I got my regen I swore to myself it would not improve my 6k server and That’s my cost in parts.
      That server is on par with the msb until plus setup. The point is it improved things. I would if bet 100 it would not do any thing.
      What I do think is Paul and company are now looking deeper into why and make the next dac be as his amp ultra top shelf in sound and details
      But when fed the high octatain the ds is very very good

  10. There is too much over reaction to posts on social media and blogs.

    You didn’t say that anyone should run out and purchase a Jitterbug. But that it improved the sound.

    How many people that participate on this blog have accessories that “improve” the sound?

    As far as I was concerned it was just comment about a products efficacy not an endorsement to purchase.

    1. Yes, you are correct. But for me it is the incongruity of adding a cheap device to an expensive piece of equipment that has already received rave reviews on numerous occasions. In addition I question a cable maker suddenly going to the head of the pack on digital audio. All we have to do is fork over a little more money and we will reach audio nirvana.

      I am surprised this isn’t advertised on TV for $19.95. And wait if you order now…

      1. And that makes sense Terry, though it doesn’t diminish its effectiveness. Nor does it diminish what the expensive piece of gear accomplished – as I have said many times in the past we can always improve upon what is – and the idea of nirvana is a myth – there is no such place – and one has to simply choose at what level they are happiest.

      2. Terry, your PWD is a fine product which initially came to market @ 2008 for $3,000. It’s commendable that PS Audio, an engineering driven company, chose not to rest on it’s laurels and invented a better method of digital processing which led to the creation and launch of the DirectStream DAC @ 2013 for $5999.

        And, perhaps more importantly, providing you, a previous owner of their 2008 technology a cost effective upgrade path via the DirectStream Kit for $2,999 minimizing obsolescence of your initial investment. As technology continues to evolve every day, PS has demonstrated their commitment to value by offering complimentary software upgrades to their customers due to the advantages of their new DirectStream FPGA technology.

        https://www.psaudio.com/products/directstream-kit/

        Recall the first Pioneer 50″ Plasma television that sold for $20,000 in the year 2000? Seven short years later you could purchase a ‘greatly’ improved Pioneer Elite 50″ model for $3,000. How would you feel as an early adopter of that technology? Is that revolutionary or evolutionary? We see this happen all the time in every aspect of commodity driven consumer electronics, obsolescence!

        If you read Paul’s Post again a little more carefully, you’ll see that the ‘Jitterbug’ category of products is designed as a filter for noise generated by the source, which has little to do with the DAC. A parallel could be drawn in the same way that your Power Plant eliminates the AC line noise in the chain before power delivery to your system electronics. And, (for $49) a cost effective tweak, in the same way that isolation feet, better cables, room treatment products or a passive emi filter can improve the musicality of your system.

        Enjoy the Music!

        1. Hello, this just in: I am a believer in evolution. I have been an owner of PS Audio products since I purchased the DL-III DAC several years ago. I am aware of the history of the PerfectWave–>DirectStream product development. I first wanted a PW when I read a review by Anthony Cordesman in TAS. Now please understand I have no problem with Paul and the crew developing a better product. I think both TAS and Stereophile both agree on its merits. I just have problems with a cheap device from a cable manufacturer providing the DS with the ability to achieve Wrap Drive.

          I have thought about buying the upgrade and installing it myself. I have watched the PS Audio videos and think I have a good working knowledge of the process. After dropping the buck$ for the upgrade and installing the latest software, I would like to think it is ready to Rock ‘n Roll. But oh wait—ya need this little device between you and your computer. Suddenly that became a bridge too far.
          Thank you

          1. “But oh wait—ya need this little device between you and your computer.”

            C’mon Terry, nobody ‘needs’ that accessory, and i’ll even go so far as to share that some of the “so-called” high-end industry experts refute the claims that these USB conditioners are even necessary and can’t possibly offer any audible sonic improvements. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on the internet.

            I just hope a previous Audioquest experience isn’t influencing your feelings towards an opportunity to get closer to the music, bridging the gap between your streams and cd collection, opening up those Vandy’s furthering their disappearing act increasing that proverbial ‘they are here’ experience. : -)

            In closing, analog cable sales are declining in the digital era of 2015, the cable manufacturers are scratching their heads to bring to market new products that serve a niche in the modern marketplace.

            This just in; the cable king, Mr. Noel Lee of Monster fame has announced his revised marketing strategy for 2016 and beyond, an interesting read indeed!

            http://www.dealerscope.com/article/monster-unveils-youth-oriented-products-initiatives-ce-week-press-conference/

            1. “I just hope a previous Audioquest experience isn’t influencing your feelings towards an opportunity to get closer to the music.”

              Oh but sir it definitely is. Let me be clear about that. I won’t even to pretend to be shocked at that statement. It is right on. It is accurate. What does surprise me is that you want me to hand over more money to that company. Don’t ya think that is a bridge too far? (second time today I have said that.)

              It might be funny to you but it ain’t to me.

              1. Ok good, we’ve arrived at the core issue and will look forward to Paul’s experience with the Uptone Regen in tomorrow’s post.

                In the meantime are you a KC Royals fan? Royals on the heals of another great season battled the SF Giants hard in last years World Series, fortunately in Game 7 Madison Bumgarner pitched five shutout innings in relief on two days’ rest to clinch the championship.

                Royals on the heals of another great season are in the AL playoffs again against the Houston Astros, (go figure). Not exactly an Astro’s fan, but what an incredible job Jim Crane has done turning that franchise around in two short years.

                1. OK you are one fer two tonight. Good try on attempting to get to me through baseball. I have been a Giants’ fan since 1954; had my Orlando Cepeda jersey on earlier today. So what is up with you anyway? It is getting late here and you are still hard at it. Have you got your axe good and sharp?

                  Madison Bumgarner Rocks!

                  1. Orlando Cepeda, nice! Born in 1957, some of my earliest memories are the Sandy Koufax / Juan Marichal games at Chavez Ravine and Candlestick Park between 1962 – 1965.

                    1. Cepeda probably started playing major league baseball in 1957, He was born in Cuba much earlier than that. His father was also a baseball player. I saw him play in KC when he was at the end of his time in baseball. He was playing for the Red Sox and hit five doubles in the game as a DH. It tied a major leage record. The worst moment in baseball for me was when the Giants traded him to St. Louis.

  11. How about the regen have you heard what it can do with your own ears or brain. Also my room is close now floor is next. Your mono amps are up first and I have heard many speak of how good they are and not review people either. The Amps are just what you need to complete a is audio setup. Glad you have been hitting the high note with the ds and now Amps. All the best

  12. Maybe resolve this issue by including a Jitterbug or something PSA designs/builds with each DAC you sell. There will always be those who see this entire issue as PSA admitting their product falls short.

  13. Here are the benefits of Jitterbug;

    •Reduces the noise and ringing that plague both the data and power lines of USB ports
    •Measurably reduces jitter and packet errors
    •Improves dynamic contrast, warmth and resolution

    Here are the problems it solves;

    All computing devices—laptops, smartphones, Network Attached Storage devices (NAS drives), media servers, etc.—inherently generate a significant amount of noise and parasitic resonances. Additionally, computers contribute a considerable amount of RFI and EMI pollution onto the signal paths—all of which can easily find its way onto your USB cables and into your audio system. This noise and interference has many negative effects. Noise-compromised digital circuitry increases jitter and packet errors, resulting in distortion that causes a comparatively flat and irritating sound. Noise-compromised analog circuitry also damages the sound’s depth, warmth and resolution.

    http://www.audioquest.com/jitterbug/jitterbug

    So that’s where that flat irritating sound you always hear comes from. And I thought all along it was the musicians’ fault for playing or singing that way. Now we know the truth about why. Anyone chopped one open yet? My hunch, there are two small shunt capacitors inside, one for filtering power and one for signal. Not bad, 10 cents worth of parts retailing for $50. I’m in the wrong business. 🙂 Why is this my guess? Because if you look at the diagrams you’ll see you can put two in parallel to increase the effect and the signal doesn’t even have to go through the second one.

  14. This is heresy. I’m SHOCKED! SHOCKED! First the preamp, then the Jitterbug, and then the Regen. What next? What ever happened to “less is more?” It seems it has fallen by the wayside. Yesterday’s news. Gone and forgotten. That’s the trouble with dogmas. Every time you think you understand the world the priests pull the rug right out from under you and show you why you’re wrong. Where does it end? 🙂

      1. Well that’s right. Why is my sound system the best in the world? Because it sounds exactly the way I want it to. When you get to that point, there is nowhere else to go. All that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy my recordings. Evidently most others, I mean audiophiles are not there and never seem to get there. All those accolades, those superlatives yet they still keep shopping and swapping, that is when they’re not picking their jaws up off the floor 🙂 And they claim there will never be perfection but that doesn’t stop them looking for it and trying to buy it.

        One thing that’s so great about this site is that if you read the magazines you have to wait a whole month for the next super duper whiz bang thingamajig that will elevate you to new heights of aural ecstasy. Here you get a new one practically every day. 🙂

        1. Soundminded –
          I go once a year to the high-end trade fair in Munich, and I rarely visit the audio shops. But since decades I am very well connected to the audio business here in Germany and often the manufacturers as wel as the distributors offer me things in order to listen to it.
          I am, as I’ve written weeks ago here, very satisfied with the systems I’ve at my home.
          Nevertheless I give those stuff a chance that’s left up to me.
          Regarding “jitterbugging” I’ve tried the UpTone Audio USB REGEN, AudioQuest JitterBug and Schiit Wyrd.
          None of these devices improved the sound of the two systems I’ve at home.
          That is why I doubt about the need of those devices and I doubt, that companies who have done developement and research in digital audio since decades and have built the finest products in this range would have left out these inexpensive circuits if they really worked the way described in offensive ads.
          Still waiting for a reply from Paul, why PS Audio is not building a “jitterbug” into their DACs.
          Greetings

          1. I am guessing there are plenty of reasons I hear what I do and on your system you do not experience the same thing. Different system, different resolving power, different personal acuities and preferences, different circumstances.

            It’s no surprise to me that there are differences – but that I do and you don’t concludes nothing other than what is stated. Because you don’t hear something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

            It would be next to impossible to build something into a chassis that reduced radiated noises – but it could be done to some extent I suppose – shielded cages, fiber optics separating things – but it would be less effective built in that external. And we don’t for several reasons: first among them is that once a product is released, we rarely change its hardware for some time – usually a new model. Secondly, there is no way for any company to make a product that cannot be improved upon. For example – we know that using a Power Plant AC regenerator makes a hell of a difference to connected equipment. So logically, we should build AC regenerators in every product we make – and there are many other examples. Yet the reality is we have to choose a scope of design that is practical and within the realm of reasonableness to build. A five foot wide chassis, suspending the internals away from the metal of that chassis would surely sound better, but wouldn’t sell.

            We release products as best we know how to make them within the scope of reasonableness we determine at the time of their manufacture – and then people do all sorts of things to better our efforts. It’s the natural evolution of things.

          2. bernd, as I have said in the past, 41 years ago I saw a way to understand sound that no one had ever seen before. It is a powerful mathematical tool. As a result I built the strange machine based on it that manipulates sound in ways that nothing else I can think of could. I’ve been happily experimenting with it all this time. It flies in the face of almost everything audiophiles and those who manufacture for them believe. No one was more surprised than me that I could make this idea work. I’ve been thinking about why it works and what it means ever since.

            Two years ago Paul got a brief glimpse into this parallel universe of mine where all the rules are different. If nothing else he had an experience he wasn’t expecting or prepared for. What he may not fully understand is that I can manipulate any recording to sound any way I want it to and my preferences are not always necessarily his. This has been one terrific toy. Sadly it has no commercial possibilities so the current prototype is a one of a kind. This is not an easy machine to use, in fact I must be something of a masochist to have spent so much time tweaking and retweaking it for each recording.

            I’ve been keeping an eye on the competition to see what they are up to. This does not mean the mainstream audio industry including those small esoteric companies. Instead it comprises people who are experimenting with equally radical but different ideas such as Ralph Glasgal, inventor and proponent of Ambiophonics. I’ve also been following people experimenting with Wave Field Synthesis, people like Sandra Blix at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and Trevor Cox in Britain. I’ve also been following experiments with Ambiosonic sound. They are all interesting but I’m sticking to my own guns. This mathematical tool allows me to understand and critique what others have done and the degree to which my own efforts fall short.

            Lately I’ve been listening to a magnificent recording of Martha Argerich performing the Schumann piano concerto on the Archive label. I highly recommend it. I’m perfectly happy to listen to portable music on my Android phone and a pair of Sony MDR V6 headphones that cost only $67 23 years ago. In fact I liked them so much I bought 2 pairs. I particularly like Pandora. So much wonderful music for free. Is it audiophile Hi Rez? I don’t think so but I don’t care. I’m far more interested in the music and many of the recordings are excellent. Others like those on Naxos (sorry Lawrence) only so so performances but the sound quality is usually sufficiently pleasing to me not to care.

  15. I know what AQ says the Jitterbug does and I appreciate Paul’s and Ted’s explanations but my experience is that a Jitterbug can affect the USB signal in a way that it can cause the source device to not sync/handshake with the DAC. I have an Ayre Codex where this has happened and there are other reports on the Internet of it also impacting other brands of DACs, like the Auralic Vega. If the Jitterbug is affecting the signal that much that a DAC can no longer sync with the source, it isn’t something I want in my audio path.

    1. If my hunch is right and there’s nothing inside but a couple of capacitors, choosing the right value for all circumstances is a problem. If the value is too large for a given network, the filter could slow the rise time of each pulse to the point where the circuits may not synch. If it’s too small it won’t be effective. When you are engineering a filter for a network, you need to know what the network consists of and how to match the filter to the impedances of the source, the wire, and the load to get the desired effect. This is the first time I’m hearing this so it may be the exception rather than the rule. The one size fits all idea audiophiles cling to is not real world electrical engineering.

  16. I completely agree with Paul! Found that USB could sound quite, again quite good, but mostly it needs to be rather high priced DAC where the interface has been done with care and by purpose. Other DAC, mainstream, forget about USB in my humble opinion. Second USB can sound dependant on the operating system are you use as well – tried on different OSX and it sounded different.

    As for optical, I think that for budget DACs optical is the best. Jitter is no issue I think, since with good cable and well done SPIDIF receiver and short runs (1m) it will be so small that inaudible and independent of the operating system used. Optical has its limitations of course, but if you care only for PCM and 24/96 it is the best I think.

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