USB sucks

USB really isn‘t the right connection between DAC and Server: depending on cables used, you get very different sound quality if the server manages to recognise the DAC at all. Some time ago I replaced my highly tuned Mac Mini (by now-defunct Mach2mini, running Puremusic via USB) with an Innuos Zenith Mk3. For starters I couldn‘t get the DAC (Antelope Zodiac Gold) and server to recognise each other, transmission from the server under USB2.0 wasn‘t possible because the server is Linux based (mind, both alledgedly support the USB2.0 standard) and when I finally got them to talk to each other (by using Artisansilvercables (pure silver) the sound quality was ho-hum. While I understand the conceptual attraction to have the master clock near the converter under asynchronous USB, the connection‘s vagaries (need for exact 90 Ohms impedance, proneness to IFR interference, need to properly shield the 5v power line, short cable runs) makes one wonder, why one wouldn‘t do better to update I2S or S/PDIF or at the higher end use AES/EBU. After more than 20 years of digital playback, the wide variety of outcomes from minor changes seems unacceptable.

Since then and after a lot of playing around I have replaced the silver cables by Uptone USPCB rigid connectors, inserted an Intona Isolator 2.0 and Schiit EITR converting USB to S/PDIF. Connection to the DAC is via Acoustic Revive DSIX powered by a Kingrex LPS.

The amount of back and forth to make all this work is mindboggling, depending on choice of USB cables (with and without separate 5V connection, short, thick and God-knows what else) is hard to believe for something called a standard interface and the differences in sound quality make any review of USB products arbitrary verging on meaningless.

Obviously S/PDIF gives you no native PCM or DSD but, hey, most recordings still are redbook, anyway.
Conversely it is plug and play although quality of the cable still matters but finally it got me the sound quality I was looking for. It may not be the future but nor should USB, given all the shortcomings. Why is the industry promoting a standard that clearly isn‘t fit for purpose?

Finally, I invite the Bits-are-bits naysayers to go on a similar journey, it just might prove to be educational.
USB / Linux support is tricky.  Sadly Linux is not as easy to add DAC drivers to compared to Windows or OS X, but since so many streamers are Linux under the covers this is often a high priority target.  As I remember, Linux requires the DAC drivers to be compiled with the kernel, so it was never as easy as dropping a file or changing a config setting. 

It took Ubuntu from version 16 to 18 to have my Mytek USB chips baked in.

However, I would never do anything else.  High speed USB can provide all speeds available of DSD and PCM.
Mine journey was very educational. I connect a raspberry pi4 running Ropiee as a Roon bridge  to an Anthem STR integrated with a basic USB cable and it works like a charm and was easy to set up. The trick is knowing what works with what and bypassing all the idiotic useless isolators, reclockers , expensive  cables and other such stuff. Knowing which DACs have excellent USB implementation also works wonders in the digital world. 
I like the Zen Mk III, its one of the few servers that I have heard sound consistently good at CAF. In my NUC server solution the USPCB  and Eitr have been retired, I use a Lush 2 with an Audiophonics USB-B Adapter Cable for DC Power Supply and an LPS 1.2 for USB 5v to USB DAC.  Overall I find that the downstream USB receiver in the DAC is impacted by even minuscule voltage noise from the upstream device and the DAC's power supply quality.
@djones51The Antelope Dacs are not known to be slouches in the USB department. The superiority of the S/PDiF solution I now use is though substantial. Care to highlight DACs that you consider to have superior USB implementation?

@antigrunge2 Your listing of a 5-box-dongle-device-doodad-decrappifier chain made me chuckle as we’ve all been there.

Every single audio component that there has been is subject to the most mindwracking-OCD-FUD optimizations (cable lifters, anyone?), but none can rival USB for the sheer number of them!

How has it become not even viewed as a red flag when the cost of baseline connectivity can easily exceed that of the audio emitting component itself! I’m talking the DCS Network Bridge, Berkeley Alpha USB, Innuos Phoenix, Aqua LinQ (just found out about that one), SotM horde of unpronouncables, the entire Uptone and Pink Faun product catalogs, the majority of iFI’s digital accessories, and bizarro cottage industry of power supplies. Rather, why are the problems these products claim to solve not addressed in the audio components themselves!

Do all those Macminis straight into the first asynchronous DACs sound like crap now? Or did they then?

And then there’s the cables.
It's  the title of the thread USB doesn't suck. USB might suck trying to connect incompatible components but that's not a fault of USB.

Care to highlight DACs that you consider to have superior USB implementation?

Well, any that work? I imagine the Antelope works great looks like nice DAC. It could be a little finicky in what’s connected to it.
I find the latest usb to be very good with Mac,Linux,Windows 10
Schiit Audio dedicated New usb unison card is as good or better then spdif,or bnc,if your cable is of high quality
My experience is that the USB cable matters. I upgraded from a WyWires Silver to Platinum with good effect. 
Was it Ken Kessler that said, the High end audio industry has one of the worst reputations among luxury products.
I can see why.
To much nonsense and very little value in today's products.
The exception - Schiit audio.

I connected my server (dedicated audio machine) to USB input on SACD player so I could use SACD’s DAC. I used Belkin (NOT Belden) cable picked based on length. Never a hiccup. Works like charm.

I thought it always goes like that. If my experience with cables is anything to go by, make sure it is less than $20 with no fancy wording in description.

This is it...
The only issue that I have with my setup may not even be the fault of the USB connection or my Shunyata Venom USB cables. Sometimes my InnuOS Zenith Mk3 doesn’t make the connection with either my Lumin U1 mini on one system or my Chord M Scaler on the other system. A reboot of my Innuos fixes it though. With that Roon plays properly from Tidal and Qobuz, the SQ is great and supports a high level of PCM and DSD. 
If there were a definitive answer, all would adopt it and quit debating.

But because there isn't, the process is the product, the medium is the message, and the reading is the resonance. Closer to fine, every bit.
I have a 2010 MacMini with dual SSDs one for the OS and one for music files.  I run USB to my Schiit Yggdrasil w/Unison USB.  I started with a  generic data cable as I did not yet understand the issue with music transmission through USB.  I upgraded to an AudioQuest Cinnamon and was quite amazed in the sound change.  I then upgraded to the AudioQuest Coffee and was again pleased with the improvement.  I am currently very pleased with the sound from my setup.  
SQ from usb sucks too! Get the best network attached dac you can afford then you get the best of both worlds: be need for a dedicated server in the audio room and no usb along with its many tweaks
This thread 😆😆😆

Idk, it sounds like this company was way too ambitious with their drivers and software after reading a review. The DAC I mean. 

All the nonsense about USB being unreliable is exactly that, nonsense. Plugging something in, installing drivers and configuring software is not a journey for most people. If you don’t like all that then stick to optical media and vinyl. 

+1 dougeyjones

I have heard PS Audio DirectStream, Denefrips Terminator, Chord Hugo, Geisler DACS and quite a few I can't recall the name of, all using USB. Including Grandinote, pity I wasn't there for the MSB session.

I used to make Curious Cables, they are expensive, I do use a JCat Femto USB card in my computer server also not cheap.

I have read many reports that ethernet is superior to USB for streaming, however I can't say USB sucks, I mean, at all.
Opinions vary, glad you found something that works for you.

I’ve had great success with USB, I use an Allo USBridge signature connected via a Shunyata Venom cable into my Lyngdorf 3400. Easy. Never had a problem, terrific sound. You must pay attention to the Ethernet feed though to the streamer. I use an ENO Network optimiser for that, the silver version.

I have an anthem STR integrated as well. I have a USB going from my NUC running Roon rock (Standard USB cable that came with Anthem. I also have a Balanced analogue signal going to the STR thru my PS Audio DS DAC with Bridge 2. I have tried many a times but it is very difficult for me to hear differences if any between the two inputs. Don't see the point of keeping the DS DAC since I feel the Anthem DAC with the USB is doing a super job. Btw, I keep the analogue signal in the 'analogue direct' mode to keep the STR for messing with the signal. But yes, don't hear much difference at all between the two sources. 
Both sources are fed thru Roon playing files from Tidal. 
Speakers are Focal Sopra 3. 
That’s similar to my experience. I’ve tried an Aurender, Benchmark DAC and a few others, I’ve noticed very little if any difference from a simple NUC running ROCK in my office and a little raspberry pi4 as a bridge connected USB to the Anthem. I’ve never found this problem some seem to have with USB. I think it’s more a case that USB used to be prone to jitter and sync issues but in asynchronous mode and isolation that most good DACs employ it’s not really a problem anymore. It's a case where people have been told for years USB isn't a good protocol for audio and years ago it had some merit,not now.
It would be helpful if all those protesting would actually post comparisons of USB  with other formats that there DACs/servers provide. 
My Audience USB cable works great from my LUMIN U1 Mini to T+A DAC 8.  I doubt companies would be making or investing in audiophile USB cables if they suck lol. 
“It would be helpful if all those protesting would actually post comparisons of USB with other formats that there DACs/servers provide.”

Using Aurender N10 with following DAC’s, I have never experienced any issues with SPDIF, AES/EBU and USB outputs,

Modwright Elyse, Audio Research DAC9, Rockna Signature Balanced, EMM Labs DA2.
I've used spdif, optical, usb. They have all been plug and play. Using Benchmark, Topping, Micromega, Anthem, NUCs, raspberry pi4, MiniDSP SHD, Aurender and a few others. I already gave the comparison I notice very little is any difference other than USB does higher rates. I don't know about Antelope products but on their website for the Platinum Model it says
Hi Speed USB (480 Mbits). Zodiac Platinum uses USB connector Type B and operates up to 384 kHz sample rate with Mac and PC ASIO drivers.
The zenith is Linux based and I agree it should work but I have read where some have had problems. The first response to your thread a problem was mentioned with a Mytek product and Linux. Of those I mentioned MiniDSP, Aurender, the NUC and raspberry pi are all Linux based and I never had any problems.  SPDIF is an old protocol and it works on basically everything, if you don't need or want higher resolution then no problem. But you're claiming USB sucks based on one incompatibility and you never mentioned if you contacted the manufacturers of either product to trouble shoot.  You're entitled to your opinion that USB sucks. To me it's the only interface I use for superior audio transmission. 
People in here claiming that USB sucks should really read some DAC reviews over on the much maligned AudioScienceReview, who fastidiously measure all outputs when conducting DAC/Streamer reviews. Coax and Toslink are routinely trounced by USB in terms of absolute noise floor.

All the talk about 5v USB line noise on these forums seems to exist mostly free of evidence/proof.

as you are so assertive on your view: why is there a significant market for USB clean up and reclocking devices by Uptone, Intona,IFi, Schiit, Berkeley Alpha, InnuOs, Aqua, DCS et al?Are they all selling snake oil? Or are they maybe onto something after all?
Listen and enjoy
Of the various inputs supported by DACs on the market today (SPDIF, AES3, Optical, I2S, USB, Ethernet), only USB and Ethernet provide an asynchronous input.

Using an interface that requires the clock signal to be generated by an eternal device (server, streamer, reclocker, etc.) and then pass that over a cable with connectors (which even in the best case will have impedance irregularities causing reflections) makes no sense with today's technology. The DAC needs to be responsible for the clock in order to minimize jitter. 

Ethernet might ultimately be a better electrical interface than USB, but until the industry standardizes on a single, simple protocol over Ethernet, USB is our best option. 

I'm sure there are otherwise good DACs that don't do a very good job with USB, but that is changing. With the rapid increase in popularity of streaming, most DAC vendors are recognizing the importance of USB as an interface, and I think it won't be long before this is the preferred interface for most users.

I’m assertive in my opinion because it’s borne out by evidence derived from testing. The reclocking and cleaning products you refer to have been shown to do more harm than good on numerous occasions if you’re referring to USB.


The conclusion really says it all.
The market for USB clean up devices is there because people still believe USB is a problem interface from when adaptive or isynchronous transfer was used. Most all modern competent engineered DACs don’t use the clock sent any longer so what difference does it make how many times you reclock the signal before the DAC? Line noise isn’t a problem as the USB buffer in the DAC isolates it and it’s the firmware or software that translates the signal that interfaces with the DAC chip not the incoming line signal. Actually SPDIF will have more jitter than USB since it uses the clock from the source sent over the wire. As with anything that's product specific some DACs do better jobs. 
Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio, especially now that Charley Hansen is gone, is widely acknowledged to be among the world's foremost experts on digital conversion. The Doctor Anthony Fauci of digital. Gordon says that USB is the only way to go. His DAC's are both expensive and rather simple looking and I don't recall every seeing any explanation as to the converter chips he uses or his circuit topology. But I digress. I don't pretend to understand.the ins and outs of any particular type of connection, but I will stick with USB.

If that were true, why is InnuOs lauching a Phoenix reclocker costing $4000+.
Even Mike Moffat of Schiit Audio now prefers USB. He’s an accomplished designer and originally was very anti-USB. With the right implementation of the new asynchronous architecture, USB is superior. In my and many other’s opinion. 
Innuos will make a $4000 reclocker because people will buy it. Whether they need it or not. 


You seem to be having an issue with business fundamentals.. If there’s a market, then it makes business sense for someone to create a product that addresses the market demand.

It matters not one bit that there wasn’t a demonstrable problem in the first place. This community is living proof of these principles. 
If you build it.....they will come.

Maybe their stuff needs reclocking they didn’t build it right in the first place. Your DAC wouldn’t negotiate with a Zenith right? Buy one of these reclock things that will fix you up.
I have had two Schiit dac’s hooked up to my pre amp with my music source being a MacBook Pro. Simple usb out to usb in on dac and both show up on my MacBook with the Schiit names for to dac to select as the output source. I have looked at the iFi usb cleaner but have not purchased yet as I think the sound I am getting sounds really good with dead silence between tracks none of the noise people complain about from usb.
The idea of a USB "reclocker" is kind of hilarious. The only thing the USB clock is used for is to transfer the data. A $5 usb peripheral can reliably read USB data. USB can tolerate a LOT of jitter and still reliably transfer the data. The USB clock has nothing to do with the timing of the DAC. 

I can see how a DAC with poor EMI/RFI filtering on the USB input could possibly benefit from some external filtering, but even if this was accomplished by reclocking the USB signal (like any USB hub does), this does not have to be expensive. 




I learned by accident that USB doesn't suck in the audiophile arena IF you have friends that have done your homework for you.  I was using JRiver on a Lenovo laptop to pull from my NAS and then ran Ethernet to the bridge on my PS Audio DAC .  Not a fan of the bridge I ran a generic USB to the DAC input which was so-so, but then I moved up to a Oyaide NEO d+ USB Class S Purple  USB suggested by a DJ friend and the improvement was substantial . 
THEN another friend lent me his Berkeley alpha which converts the USB to digital XLR into the DAC and SQ was off the charts.  I tracked down and found a new Berkeley alpha for myself. 
When I moved past the laptop to an Aurender X100L which only had a USB out,  I upgraded the USB to an Analysis Plus Purple to the alpha and used a Kimber Kable AGDL XLR to the DAC and it's a close to perfect as I have ever heard whether pulling from the NAS, the Aurender drives, or Quobuz streaming.  

Happy listening ! 


Seems someone heard a difference
I'm glad they liked it. What I was trying to get across is using blanket statements like USB sucks because of 1 incompatibility without getting the manufacturer to help troubleshoot doesn't convey useful info. 
such enormous differences with different USB cables.  Maybe that's the only bit that sucks that once again it becomes a cable issue and the cost involved.  I tried
1. Generic
2.  Curious Evolved
3.  FTA Callisto
4.  Shunyata Alpha
5.  Shunyata Sigma

Very happy with where it all ended up.  Which USB cable makes a very big difference.
@antigrunge2 you don't seem to understand how USB works (like a charm by the way) and digital transport in general...
The cables DO NOTHING (unless completely broken!), it's just low speed digital transport with checksumming.  The DAC must run in async mode (most of them do now) and use an input buffer.  Nothing very special here, an easy technology mastered since a long time...

So you may have a badly USB implemented DAC... or you are a reseller that wants to rip people....
I have a Rega USB DAC and it works like a charm.  My friend has an Ayre QB-9, works very well too.  Mine is hooked to a raspberry pi (Raspbian + Volumio), and i sometimes use my Lenovo laptop too (Ubuntu 20.04 + mpd): It works with both flawlessly and it is recognized right out of the box.  My friend's QB9 is hooked to an old Intel Atom Mini-ITX board who runs Debian (mpd), again works flawlessly.  I could go on and on like that for every friends i have that use USB DAC...

I have a really goog laugh when i see people throwing money to trash by buying expensive USB cables!  Better put your money elsewhere...
@sgreg1  "none of the noise people complain about from usb"
HA HA HA! Noise from a digital transport, that's the most stupid thing i read since a long time!!!  You can transfer terabytes of data with USB WITHOUT ANY ERRORS using a simple cheap USB cable...  That tells it all!

And when you send no data, you simply hear silence!  Noise has nothing to do with that!!!  I'll repeat again, and repeat after me:  USB is a simple serial digital transport with checksumming and buffering!
@djones51  An USB DAC uses async digital transport with buffering.  Then, it uses its own accurate internal clock generator to convert the digital data to analog.

So USB clock is not related to quality of sound whatsoever, nor cabling or connectors, etc!  Forget about "jitter", reclocking or any other plain stupidity...  So forget about stupid "audio grade" USB, put your money elsewhere...