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.


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.



I wouldn't worry much about the digital source clock too much.  Usually the embedded clock in the sourrce would get extracted and stabilised, either with a PLL or some other secret sauce methods.


I don't think the results would be bad using a common analog XLR cable for digital AES input, but OP needs to try it to see if he/she accepts the output quality.

Thanks for the input, everybody--very helpful. I have ordered what I think (hope) is a pretty good AES/EBU cable for direct comparison so I’ll see if I can tell the difference. Guess it wouldn’t hurt to try the USB connection too, though from what I have read/heard AES/EBU and particularly I2S beat it hands down, at least with these components. So my next step, probably, will be to order the I2S module. THEN we’ll see how things line up. I'll keep you posted when I've had a chance to try all this out.