Best way to A/B two different streamers

I just purchased a new dedicated streamer after streaming tidal from my computer. I'm using USB to stream from both. Has anyone ever tried using a USB A/B box to switch between streamers to evaluate the differences? I know it would possibly degrade the signal but I'm only looking to hear the differences. My other problem is I only have one high quality USB cable but could use 2 cheaper cables just to hear differences. My DAC and streamer are both in a rack where the cable is hard to reach.


The dac only has one usb input?

Does it have an optical in?

You could do one usb, one optical, play nothing higher than 24/192 (depending on the optical out lf the streamer and in of the dac… maybe have to limit to 24/96)


then just switch between usb and optical on the dac?

Different inputs sound different even with the same sample rate.

SPDIF and Toslink and to some extent AES are similar but USB is a different animal.

The way I have done it is set the equipment on a table and run two identical USB cables. You need to put the DAC on standby and swap the cables and then listen again. If you do it quickly you can remember how each sound well enough.


The streamers are feeding the DAC on USB. Switchboxes come in configurations with 2 inputs (from each streaming source) and one output to the DAC. The switchbox changes the input between the two USB sources. Am I misunderstanding something? I'm guessing there could be some delays for the USB handshake to happen between devices when its switched. I'm just not sure how well this would work.

If the switch is configured the way you describe then you are not missing anything. Are you trying to compare the streamers based on their performance with a specific dac or on their own merit? If the streamers are built with their own internal dacs you can compare by running each to a separate input on your preamp- or through auxiliary inputs on an integrated amp if it supports multiple inputs. As @calieng mentions above- it’s better to keep the signal path apples to apples for your comparison. If USB is your thing be consistent with both during your comparison.

play one streamer swap usb play the same track level match both and you can ab both