Who is using I2S cables?

I've been reading / watching info and trying to learn about I2S. Several manufacturers offer I2S connections (Topping, Pro-Ject, Jay's, Denafrips, Singxer, Raspberry Pi?...). I2S has been used internally for years (mainly internal CD to DAC connections) but some components have I2S connections. So, I'm confused and curious. 

1. Are you using I2S cables? What has been your experience? 
2. What components are you using I2S to connect?
3. Are you using an HDMI cable or so-called bonafide I2S?
4. Where did you purchase your I2S cable(s)?

Well, sadly there is no ‘standard’ established for i2S resulting in manufacturers using both RJ45 and HDMI connectors. This has also lead to some compatibility issues (handshake) between components from different manufacturers. As far as I know there is no designated or specialized cable for i2S yet, you can use any good quality HDMI or Ethernet (RJ45) cable for i2S connectivity.

I waited long enough for this conflict to settle down and recently pulled a trigger on a DAC/streamer that connects directly to my Ethernet network via standard RJ45 LAN connector, thus eliminating the need for any external cabling (i2S, USB, SPDIF, AES/EBU) between the DAC and streamer or server.
The i2s connection used between boxes is a buffered version of the internal i2s signals. As @lalitk mentioned, there is no standard for the pinout, so you need to make sure the two devices you are connecting use the same conventions.

Some DAC manufacturers, such as the Denafrips DAC I am using, have a programmable interface that allows the interface to be configured to work with different conventions. 

The advantage of i2s over other synchronous digital interfaces (SPDIF, AES, toslink) is that the clocks are separated from the data.

I am using i2s between my Denafrips Gaia DDC and Denafrips Terminator Plus DAC. I found this interface to be a very noticeable upgrade from using AES, even when using a very inexpensive HDMI cable. 

There are audio cable vendors that are designing cables specifically for i2s. Whether they are better than a good HDMI video or Ethernet cable, I can't say as I haven't done a lot of comparisons. 

I am using a Tubulus Argentus cable based on recommendations from other users. I found that this cable provided a subtle improvement over the $12 HDMI cable I bought from Amazon, but no where near as big an improvement than switching from AES to i2s in the first place. 
Currently running an I2S between PS Audio cd and dac. To these ears it sounds superior to the xlr or coaxial connections. The I2S cable in service was the one provided with the unit from ps audio.
I have a Jay’s Audio CD transport and DAC and use an AQ cable for the i2s and it works well.
Thank you @jaytor . And yes, I understand a little bit re. the different configurations @lalitk mentioned. Which is why I was asking for smarter folks recommendations :-) 

If I read correctly, you noticed a significant improvement from AES to a $480.00 I2S cable https://www.highendcableshop.com/product-category/i2s-cables/ ?

So, two follow up questions: 

1. any chance you had an "A-B" experience with a high quality USB A to B connection and is the upgrade expense that big an improvement? 

2. re. a properly configured high end HDMI vs. the Tubulus Argentus I2S, you could tell a significant -- i.e., it was worth it -- improvement? 

Thanks much! 
I noticed a significant difference in my system switching from using an AES connection (DH Labs D110) to an I2s connection, initially using a basic $12 HDMI cable from Amazon. Switching from this cable to the Tubulus Argentus cable was an improvement, but more subtle. If I was on a tighter budget, I might have returned it, but I do like the sound. I have not tried other higher end HDMI cables. 

I currently have my Roon Server connected to the Gaia DDC using AQ Diamond USB. Inserting the Gaia instead of connecting the Roon Server directly to the DAC was a worthwhile improvement. I have not tried connecting the Gaia to the DAC with USB also. 
I prefer l2s over USB including anything else my Holo Audio dacs l2s inputs pin outs are configurable to match just about any popular brand. Currently I’m using a generic brand of HDMI cable it’s surprisingly good .

Late to the party here. I have the I squared 2 connections on my DAC and transport. I don't do hi-res at this point, only redbook CD and use a very high quality Voodoo coax cable. Woud an HDMI cable make any difference in this case? Thanks!

@donruydesilva It’s highly dependent on how your DAC inputs have been designed (which input sounds best) and if the i2S pin configuration on your DAC and transport can communicate with each other as there currently is no standard for this connection. I will say this — when I added a DDC and was able to take advantage of my DAC’s i2S input the improvement over USB was not small, and that was using just this cheap $6.50 6” HDMI cable from Monoprice (for i2S you want the shortest cable possible)…


Given the potential performance improvement it’s well worth looking into IME. The first step would be to get the i2S pin out configuration from your transport and see if your DAC can use it. If it does I’d say it’s definitely worth a try. Or for $6.50 for the above cable you can just roll the dice and see if it just happens to work. Either way it’s worth some effort. Hope this helps somewhat.

@donruydesilva - I had the same experience as @soix using my Denafrips Gaia and Terminator Plus DAC. Even a low cost HDMI cable was a nice improvement over AES and USB. 

Unfortunately, Denafrips's latest FPGA update for the Terminator Plus makes the i2s no longer compatible with the Gaia. I have a very early Gaia which does not have programmable i2s outputs, and for some reason, Denafrips chose to change the i2s format to be incompatible with the Gaia. I'm a bit peeved about this, but I do like the FPGA firmware update which they provided for free. 

I am currently rethinking my digital chain, so haven't invested in upgrading the Gaia yet. But I would second @soix's recommendation to get a cheap HDMI cable and give it a try.

@jaytor I have a TPlus currently connected to my streamer via usb.  I’m thinking about adding a DDC as well.  My understanding when using the Terminator II or Plus the Iris may be all you want since you will use the clock in the Terminator rather than the clock in the DDC.  Alvin made a YouTube video about it as well.  Have you looked into this?

@marco1 - yes, I agree. I am currently using the Gaia with AES3 which works well, but I think an Iris connected over i2s could still be an improvement. 

I am playing around with a DSP active crossover (dspNexus by Danville Signal) which would replace my T+, so I'm not going to invest in another DDC until I decide which direction I'm going to go. 

@jaytor. Interesting I remember hearing about this product a year or two ago.  Is it available now?  Do you have one?

@marco1 - It is available, but it is not in full production yet. They are still working on the software and an upgraded DSP module. 

I do have one and have been playing around with it for the past few weeks. I haven't had a lot of time to spend on it yet so I haven't gotten very far. In addition to my work, I have a couple other DIY audio projects that are taking up some of my time. 

I'm planning to attend the Capital Audio Fest in a few weeks. Al Clark (the head guy at Danville and HW designer) and Richard Hollis (who has done a few active crossover implementations with this unit) will be there and I'm looking forward to discussing the dspNexus with them. 

Very interesting.  I'll be at CAF too and will plan to check in with them.

Hollis Audio Labs is doing some very impressive stuff, they are using my amps in their setup at CAF2023, and I am looking forward to meeting Rich.




I endorse WireWorld (WW) Silver Starlight HDMI cables.


Happy Listening!

Hi Everyone,

I will be at CAF and look forward to discussing the dspNexus. We are shipping the dspNexus to early adopters.

There will be an updated DSP module but this really should not be a reason to wait. We are upgrading existing customers for free when the new module is available. To my knowledge, the existing DSP is still the most powerful one in a DSP crossover box.

Al Clark
Danville Signal