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.
“What do you think is the best at the moment? What are you using?”


In my system, both AES/SPDIF and USB outputs sounds superb. I have decided long ago that I won’t rely on external ‘band-aid’ solutions to fix the inherent issues with devices like laptop or Mac-mini to stream music. My streamer and DAC has SOTA internal clocks 😊
I have FEMTO clocks on both ends, and I mostly use USB, and did use a carbon coaxial cable from my Cambridge Audio 4K Bluray player.
I found my fanless PC with linear power supply sounded better in my system.

Imagine if it were possible to have a totally solder free set of cables, or crossovers, amplifier etc. Cold welded USB, XLR cables and speaker cables.

- Hot welded: Allnic Audio cables.
- Ultrasonic welded: Blue Jeans cables.

I am disappointed that digital hasn’t yet universally beaten the older methods of analogue recording and retrieval. With constant advancement, and new data transfer protocols, newer technologies in processing the digital format to analogue - I hope one day it will.

Most Hollywood movies now have digital VFX composited with live action. On a 40 ft theater screen, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference. Seamless.

The same sophisticated digital technology for audio is already here. (Behringer DEQ is using some form of it.) The full monty probably hasn’t trickled down to home audio because there’s no consumer demand. Most consumers are happy with MP3 on their ear buds. (But, there is a huge demand for superhero action movies = huge box office profits.)

DaVinci Resolve combines professional 8K editing, color correction, visual effects and audio post production all in one software.

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"hey grandpa.. check the date on your flip phone, it is 2020"

Hey kid, check the battery on your newphone, it is at 6%.

By the way, when do you find time or enthusiasm to listen to a million songs?