AES/EBU vs XLR cables for digital connection

I did look to see if this issue was addressed in earlier discussions but couldn't find any specific information, so here's the story: I've ordered a Sonnet Hermes streamer to complement my Sonnet Morpheus DAC, and since the DAC doesn't have the I2S port (it's USB instead, though I understand I can change this if I want to), the best available connection will be via AES/EBU. I already have a pretty good XLR cable (Clarus Aqua) which I previously used for analog connection but I'm wondering if there's any advantage to using a true 110-ohm AES/EBU cable or if the standard XLR (the impedance of which I don't actually know) will work just as well. Have any of you done an A/B comparison between these two types of cable? Opinions are welcome. Thanks.


Analog might work OK  I don't see ANY comparisons inquired about in the responses. Just try it 

You have received good answers but I suggest also trying the USB connection.

I have owned Cees Ruijtenberg designed Metrum products and would not necessarily say AES/EBU sounded better than USB.  I2S sounded good out of the Metrum Amber into the Pavane and Adagio DACs and it is easy to swap out the USB board for the I2s board.  You can order the I2S board directly from Sonnet for 80 euros.

The impedance matching is more for technical aspect of designing. The common analog XLR will still work, but may not sound as good.


The importance of impedance matching is to reduce signal reflections from both ends and would generate distortions & cause power loss to the signals. The DAC itself would internally reclock the data, and might not affect the sound after all.


Go try it. No worries, your equipment is not going to explode due to impedance mismatched of the XLR cables. HAHAHAHA~

May I suggest you try the USB connection? Properly implemented asynchronous USB has the advantage of using the Dac’s clock on the streamer, I.e. the dac times the arrival of data rather than having to buffer and decode the embedded clock signal. I suggest you try USB with a good cable and Isolator.

@xboom Just for clarification, not that many DACs will reclock an AES signal. With the AES interface, the clock from the digital source is preferred and the internal DAC clock is generally not utilized. Of course, with USB, the DAC reclocks with its own internal clock. Why some people prefer one cable interface over another is not always because of how the cable sounds, but because of the clock that is employed in the chain.