USB Audio ---- moving target

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AmpDesigner333

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USB Audio ---- moving target
« on: 13 Oct 2015, 03:14 pm »
With all the issues surrounding USB audio, we decided to make our first digital to analog converter with a Coax S/PDIF input only. No big issue since there are plenty of USB to S/PDIF converters, right?

Well, there are a few, but the one we tried first has given us huge headaches!   Check out this thread:
http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=137910.msg1467955#msg1467955

So, who has tried any of the other USB to SPDIF boxes?

We are putting a sweet "minimalist high performance" system together for demos.  It's basically like this:
    Dell Latitude 10 tablet -> (USB to SPDIF adapter) -> DAC DAC -> Maraschino Cherry amps -> speakers


audioengr

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #1 on: 13 Oct 2015, 03:39 pm »
Most firmware and software for these converters is created and supported by third-party companies.  I get mine for my Off-Ramp 5 product from m2tech.  It took a while for them to offer the driver for Mavericks on Mac, but it eventually came.  The latest generation of converters is mostly XMOS based and I have one of these too (Off-Ramp 6), so no drivers needed for  Linux or Mac.  Driver needed for PC though.

Sound quality with these converters depends primarily on the design of the converter, but also the computer playback software, USB output quality, cables and the power quality.  I offer a really low noise fast reacting linear supply for my converters, as well as USB filters and a killer inexpensive S/PDIF cable to insure good results.  These really improve things a lot.

This is why so many have bad experiences with USB.  It is best to go with a full-service company rather than buying an inexpensive Chinese box.  Its a system solution, not just a component, so we provide the advice and ancillary products needed to get there.

BTW, Dell makes one of the worst USB outputs for audio playback, at least in the past.  They have too many layers of I/O bridges to get out the USB port because their machines are designed too cheaply.  I highly recommend going with MAc.   Mac playback software is usually better and the USB ports on the Mini are excellent.  Even with the Mini you need to select the RIGHT port, not just any port.  I have found the Oct 2009 mini to be the best sounding and can be externally powered from an improved supply without needing modding.  It. can be purchased cheaply used on ebay.  This is only one example of optimizations that can be done to improve SQ with USB.  If you must have a laptop, then macbook pro is a good choice.

Here are some more tips:
http://www.empiricalaudio.com/computer-audio/
http://www.empiricalaudio.com/computer-audio/recommended-systems


Steve N.
Empirical Audio

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #2 on: 15 Oct 2015, 06:41 pm »
Most firmware and software for these converters is created and supported by third-party companies.  I get mine for my Off-Ramp 5 product from m2tech.  It took a while for them to offer the driver for Mavericks on Mac, but it eventually came.  The latest generation of converters is mostly XMOS based and I have one of these too (Off-Ramp 6), so no drivers needed for  Linux or Mac.  Driver needed for PC though.

Sound quality with these converters depends primarily on the design of the converter, but also the computer playback software, USB output quality, cables and the power quality.  I offer a really low noise fast reacting linear supply for my converters, as well as USB filters and a killer inexpensive S/PDIF cable to insure good results.  These really improve things a lot.

This is why so many have bad experiences with USB.  It is best to go with a full-service company rather than buying an inexpensive Chinese box.  Its a system solution, not just a component, so we provide the advice and ancillary products needed to get there.

BTW, Dell makes one of the worst USB outputs for audio playback, at least in the past.  They have too many layers of I/O bridges to get out the USB port because their machines are designed too cheaply.  I highly recommend going with MAc.   Mac playback software is usually better and the USB ports on the Mini are excellent.  Even with the Mini you need to select the RIGHT port, not just any port.  I have found the Oct 2009 mini to be the best sounding and can be externally powered from an improved supply without needing modding.  It. can be purchased cheaply used on ebay.  This is only one example of optimizations that can be done to improve SQ with USB.  If you must have a laptop, then macbook pro is a good choice.

Here are some more tips:
http://www.empiricalaudio.com/computer-audio/
http://www.empiricalaudio.com/computer-audio/recommended-systems


Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Thanks for your post, Steve.  We're considering the Peachtree X1.  We don't wish to be involved with the USB part.

Fortunately I haven't had any quality issues with the Dell tablet I'm using for a "minimalist" demo system, that is ---- when it works, it works.  It's getting it to work that's painful.  Once it does, the data gets there.  The S/PDIF receiver is very jitter tolerant, and re-clocks the data.  Playing a test signal (WAV file played on WMP) out of the USB into the NuForce box, then through the DAC DAC, into the audio analyzer, I get the same THD+N performance as with the S/PDIF from the analyzer itself.  Maybe Dell improved their hardware, but this Latitude 10 is something like 2 years old.  Yes, I'd rather a Mac, but this system was to demonstrate low $.  I need to start a thread about it.  Great learning experience.

On the flip side, I have a Squeezebox Touch (yeah, can't get them anymore) with coax S/PDIF-out in another demo system.  Wonderful performance, and no USB woes!

I checked out your products, by the way.  Very NICE.  We should talk about possible collaboration!  I'll send a PM.  Thanks again.

-Tommy O
« Last Edit: 15 Oct 2015, 09:06 pm by AmpDesigner333 »

smk

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #3 on: 15 Oct 2015, 10:20 pm »
Are you saying you can't find a DAC with a USB input? How many USB inputs on your Dell computer? Does it have TOSLINK? How long is the S/PDIF cable? What is the USB converter used for?

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #4 on: 15 Oct 2015, 10:47 pm »
Are you saying you can't find a DAC with a USB input? How many USB inputs on your Dell computer? Does it have TOSLINK? How long is the S/PDIF cable? What is the USB converter used for?
We are now making a D/A called "DAC DAC".  The first "DAC" stands for Digital Amp Co.

It's s very straightforward design.  Ultra high sonic performance!  Coax S/PDIF in, balanced out.

I'll start a thread about it soon.

This thread was started out of frustration regarding drivers for U192S, which we originally considered recommending to our customers to provide a low cost USB-to-S/PDIF interface.  Thanks.

SteveMiller

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #5 on: 18 Oct 2015, 10:28 pm »
Tommy.   I managed to score a used Halide Design Bridge.  USB to SPDIF all in the interconnect. So this design saves a USB cable and a 75ohm cable which would otherwise be required.  Has some GordonRankin tech built in. Should have it in a few days.   Will report back how the duo play out.

http://www.halidedesign.com/bridge/




audioengr

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #6 on: 20 Nov 2015, 01:17 am »
Thanks for your post, Steve.  We're considering the Peachtree X1.  We don't wish to be involved with the USB part.

Fortunately I haven't had any quality issues with the Dell tablet I'm using for a "minimalist" demo system, that is ---- when it works, it works.  It's getting it to work that's painful.  Once it does, the data gets there.  The S/PDIF receiver is very jitter tolerant, and re-clocks the data.  Playing a test signal (WAV file played on WMP) out of the USB into the NuForce box, then through the DAC DAC, into the audio analyzer, I get the same THD+N performance as with the S/PDIF from the analyzer itself.  Maybe Dell improved their hardware, but this Latitude 10 is something like 2 years old.  Yes, I'd rather a Mac, but this system was to demonstrate low $.  I need to start a thread about it.  Great learning experience.

On the flip side, I have a Squeezebox Touch (yeah, can't get them anymore) with coax S/PDIF-out in another demo system.  Wonderful performance, and no USB woes!

I checked out your products, by the way.  Very NICE.  We should talk about possible collaboration!  I'll send a PM.  Thanks again.

-Tommy O

Tommy - the problem with even the best audio analyzers is they don't measure jitter very well.  Music Jitter has a frequency and distribution component that is more important than just looking at the effects of jitter with a test signal on the output signal etc...  I use real music data and make a direct digital distribution measurement.  I have found this to correlate better to what actually sounds good.

Collaborations are good.  Contact me and I'll do my best to help.

Thanks,
Steve N.
Empirical Audio

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #7 on: 20 Nov 2015, 04:48 pm »
Tommy - the problem with even the best audio analyzers is they don't measure jitter very well.  Music Jitter has a frequency and distribution component that is more important than just looking at the effects of jitter with a test signal on the output signal etc...  I use real music data and make a direct digital distribution measurement.  I have found this to correlate better to what actually sounds good.

Collaborations are good.  Contact me and I'll do my best to help.

Thanks,
Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Steve,

I'll contact you separately regarding collaboration.

One of my analyzers has all kinds of jitter measurement, including music sourcing.  AP claims amazing accuracy, and I believe the measurements.

We're touching on the subject of feedback, and not the kind used in circuit design, although that's an interesting analogy.  Feedback as in "What was the effect of a given change to the system?".  This is the feedback that allows continually improving results.  I'm a huge fan of combining bench measurements (must be done RIGHT) and listening tests (tones, music, more music).  There's a lot of detail in the explanation, which I'll provide upon request.

Thanks for your kind post.

-Tommy O

SteveMiller

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #8 on: 20 Nov 2015, 06:28 pm »
The only measurement instruments I have at my disposal are stuck to the sides of my head. And the results from my extremely critical and reasonably comparative studies is this: However Tommy is testing measuring and implementing the circuit of the DACDAC and prior that the Marashinos, it's working. Quite well. So good in fact that his products have displaced far more expensive and what I thought were sota components in my system. In fact the whole truth is that I have just recently found I can return to much more real world cabling inventory, as I don't need fancy wires to season the presentation. DAC components sound RIGHT just the way they are.  These observations are being made by many more evenings than ever before listening waaay past my bedtime. I just can't shut my system off.

But seriously.  How can these results lie. I have listened to the same chip, same opamp, same connectors and not liked it at a much higher price point. Now I hear those things assembled in Tommy's circuit and it's sounding like real life does. Alive.  Not digital or analog. But breathing life and excitement back into my music.   Even those old flat sounding Beatles files are more fun now!

mfsoa

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #9 on: 20 Nov 2015, 09:31 pm »
Or is it DAC2?

Seriously though, I committed audiophile sacrilege and sold a well regarded VAC PA100/100 tube amp as soon as I heard a big DAC Cherry amp for the first time. IMO the Maraschinos are quite a step up from the big boys (unless the slightly beefier stump-pulling bass of the big Cherry fits your system and sonic priorities better).

Looking forward to being able the sample the DACDAC soon with reference to my Marantz SA8005.

-Mike

WGH

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #10 on: 21 Nov 2015, 01:58 am »

So, who has tried any of the other USB to SPDIF boxes?


I have always wanted to try the Halide Design Bridge or the Audiophilleo2, both have received very positive reviews but lately money is budgeted for other things so I have been using a KingRex UC192 converter (discontinued). A firmware upgrade transformed the UC192 into a UC384 and the new Windows drivers produced a huge leap in clarity. The change is so significant that I can now highly recommend the KingRex UC384 as a terrific affordable USB-S/PDIF converter at only $295.00. I also added a linear regulated power supply (Acopian) which brings it into the realm of amazing for the money spent.

Wayne

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #11 on: 21 Nov 2015, 01:05 pm »
I have always wanted to try the Halide Design Bridge or the Audiophilleo2, both have received very positive reviews but lately money is budgeted for other things so I have been using a KingRex UC192 converter (discontinued). A firmware upgrade transformed the UC192 into a UC384 and the new Windows drivers produced a huge leap in clarity. The change is so significant that I can now highly recommend the KingRex UC384 as a terrific affordable USB-S/PDIF converter at only $295.00. I also added a linear regulated power supply (Acopian) which brings it into the realm of amazing for the money spent.

Wayne
Thanks, Wayne.  Interesting stuff. I'll check it out.

audioengr

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #12 on: 22 Nov 2015, 05:35 am »
Tommy - a man after my own heart.  This is exactly how I design.  Those that rely on measurements alone will never reach audio nirvana IMO. There are a lot of subtle but audible effects in both digital and analog audio that current measurement techniques don't show, even with AP.  A new set of measurement techniques and stimuli needs inventing IME.  Even the best measurements by JA of Stereophile with AP often don't show the differences he hears in cables, digital systems and even analog.

Best Regards,
Steve N.


Steve,

I'll contact you separately regarding collaboration.

One of my analyzers has all kinds of jitter measurement, including music sourcing.  AP claims amazing accuracy, and I believe the measurements.

We're touching on the subject of feedback, and not the kind used in circuit design, although that's an interesting analogy.  Feedback as in "What was the effect of a given change to the system?".  This is the feedback that allows continually improving results.  I'm a huge fan of combining bench measurements (must be done RIGHT) and listening tests (tones, music, more music).  There's a lot of detail in the explanation, which I'll provide upon request.

Thanks for your kind post.

-Tommy O

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #13 on: 27 Nov 2015, 09:29 pm »
Update on peachtree X1....

I couldn't get the drivers to install on any of three different PCs (Win 8/10).  This was after about a week of trying various configurations, including going through USB 1.0/2.0 powered/passive hubs, disabling driver signature (not a fun process), and other crazy stuff.

It probably works fine on a Mac, but I don't have one currently.  No need to install drivers in the Mac case.

The peachtree customer service rep was very responsive, emailing almost daily and asking me how it was going.  He concluded that the device may be broken, but I was able to get it to work in a limited and unacceptable fashion, through a hub (and not without), on Win 8.1 Pro.  That machine is now running Win 10, and was upgraded during all this.  In the meantime, I purchased several other USB-to-SPDIF converters, and all have worked so far.  More on that later....

WGH

Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #14 on: 28 Nov 2015, 04:16 pm »
In the meantime, I purchased several other USB-to-SPDIF converters, and all have worked so far.  More on that later....

Another USB converter that intrigues me is the WaveIO, it is an XMOS based board with I2S and S/PDIF output. A friend uses one in his DDDac (by Lucian Luckit)

The WaveIO is the red board in the upper right hand corner


And it can be used in a stand alone USB converter using the S/PDIF output. Add an affordable linear regulated power supply (a used Acopian for $35) and you're in Cheap and Cheerful territory because the board is only €99.00 (EUR)
http://luckit.biz/



Wayne

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #15 on: 28 Nov 2015, 04:40 pm »
Another USB converter that intrigues me is the WaveIO, it is an XMOS based board with I2S and S/PDIF output. A friend uses one in his DDDac (by Lucian Luckit)

The WaveIO is the red board in the upper right hand corner
<image>

And it can be used in a stand alone USB converter using the S/PDIF output. Add an affordable linear regulated power supply (a used Acopian for $35) and you're in Cheap and Cheerful territory because the board is only €99.00 (EUR)
http://luckit.biz/

<image>

Wayne
Wayne,
Way cool.  Looking into this.  Actually, skipping over the I2S-to-SPDIF and back would be nice.  Thanks!
-Tommy O

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #16 on: 28 Nov 2015, 04:43 pm »
Wayne,
Way cool.  Looking into this.  Actually, skipping over the I2S-to-SPDIF and back would be nice.  Thanks!
-Tommy O
This caught my eye (from the WaveIO web page, http://luckit.biz/product/waveio/):

Driver Support:
    No drivers needed for MAC OS version 10.6.4 and above
    No driver installation required for Linux with UAC2 compliant kernel
    ASIO / KS / WASAPI / Direct Sound drivers for Windows XP to 10 (32 and 64 bit)
    Fully featured genuine Thesycon driver package with NO periodic beeps
    We do NOT offer XMOS driver packages with limited functionality – as per this document
    Native DSD driver support and other features available only to genuine Thesycon packages!
    Latest Thesycon version of Windows drivers (v3.26) is available for use.

AmpDesigner333

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PHIREE U2S USB to SPDIF Converter
« Reply #17 on: 3 Dec 2015, 11:56 pm »
We have been trying this one out:
http://www.amazon.com/PHIREE-U2S-Converter-upgrade-version/dp/B00OMPAOO6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1449186737&sr=8-1&keywords=phiree+spdif

Called "PHIREE U2S USB to SPDIF Converter", and it's only $40!  Does 96/24 and even 192, although that's only at 16 bits.

No drivers!  Plug-and-play on Win 10.

Sounds excellent with the DAC DAC so far....

AmpDesigner333

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #18 on: 17 Jan 2016, 05:08 pm »
Another USB converter that intrigues me is the WaveIO, it is an XMOS based board with I2S and S/PDIF output. A friend uses one in his DDDac (by Lucian Luckit)

The WaveIO is the red board in the upper right hand corner


And it can be used in a stand alone USB converter using the S/PDIF output. Add an affordable linear regulated power supply (a used Acopian for $35) and you're in Cheap and Cheerful territory because the board is only €99.00 (EUR)
http://luckit.biz/



Wayne
Wayne,

Any chance on getting a pic of the front of that silver box?  We recently purchased something similar, but it's C-Media based as opposed to XMOS.  Thanks.

-Tommy O

Shear Bliss VMPS

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Re: USB Audio ---- moving target
« Reply #19 on: 17 Jan 2016, 06:20 pm »
Steve,

On the Halide USB to SPDIF cable, trying to contact them but keep getting a 404 error ... do you have their phone # to contact them ??

Thanks a lot, DW