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Old 24th August 2012, 08:20 AM   #1
clm811 is offline clm811  United States
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Default Best digital connection for Media Center PC?

Hello.

I'd like some guidance as to which connection is best overall for my PC to DAC.

I Have a Windows Media Center PC with Realtek ALC880D on-board audio processor, using a 1 Terabyte network-attached storage drive for my music library(which consists mainly of CD's ripped to WAV or FLAC files and also a few 24/48 and 24/96 FLAC files).

I just picked up a Cambridge Audio Azur DacMagic DAC, with inputs for both USB(up to 16bit/48kHz) and SPDIF Coax(up to 24bit/96kHz). There is also Toslink, but I've been advised to avoid Toslink. This DAC upsamples everything to 24bit/192kHz, and has three types of digital filter: Linear Phase, Minimum Phase, and "Steep" (Linear Phase).

I read in a review of some DAC's:
Quote:
Don’t try to play high-sampling-rate audio down a USB cable. S/PDIF is the only way to go for high-res
.

Would the on-board SPDIF coax output be up to the task, or stick with USB?

TIA,

-Chas
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Old 24th August 2012, 12:42 PM   #2
tmavr is offline tmavr  Barbados
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Just try it :-)
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Old 24th August 2012, 01:04 PM   #3
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Regarding jitter, a PCI solution can be the best way to take out SPDIF signals. But it's also very much up to the DAC, and how immune it is to jitter.
But like everything in the audioworld there is good and bad implementation both from PCI and USB.
Obviously the USB input of you Cambridge is not designed for audio, it's just USB out of the box. But USB can beat SPDIF - just don't try to convert it to SPDIF. Look at how wavelength is using USB.
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Old 25th August 2012, 03:13 AM   #4
clm811 is offline clm811  United States
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Quote:
Regarding jitter, a PCI solution can be the best way to take out SPDIF signals.
Forgive my unfamiliarity(I thought PCI is for PC expansion cards), but what exactly is a "PCI solution" for SPDIF??

THX,

-Chas
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Old 25th August 2012, 05:05 AM   #5
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PCI solution = soundcard with spdif
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Old 26th August 2012, 02:31 AM   #6
clm811 is offline clm811  United States
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Quote:
PCI solution = soundcard with spdif
My Media Center PC has a Realtek ALC880D soundcard with coax and Toslink outputs(up to 24/96). Could either of these sound better than USB with the DACMagic on 16bit/44kHz CD quality music files (WAV, FLAC)?

-Chas
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Old 4th September 2012, 04:15 PM   #7
clm811 is offline clm811  United States
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Default Computer disables onboard soundcard with USB DAC?

After connecting my DacMagic via USB(computer recognized device and configured to work), I find that neither my SPDIF optical nor coax outputs seem to output to the DacMagic...

Any comments?

-Chas
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Old 5th September 2012, 12:46 AM   #8
wwenze is offline wwenze  Singapore
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Quote:
Computer disables onboard soundcard with USB DAC?
Short answer yes.

Long answer: USB DACs/receivers/converters/etcblah are considered sound cards by Windows. And Windows can only use one sound card at any time.

Presuming you're using Windows XP MCE, go to Control Panel -> Sound and Audio -> Sound and Audio -> Audio tab -> Change Sound playback default device.
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Old 5th September 2012, 02:25 AM   #9
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Windows can use two sound cards at the same time as far as I know, it's just that it can only use one per program, it also depends on how the program works too with regards to it's options on how it selects which sound card it uses.

In other words I could have a USB DAC connected and set to the default device and then play a simple computer game that will output automatically through the USB device. I could then load foobar and have it output music through the asus sound card and both would work at the same time, it's just that foobar has very flexible options so I can pick exactly what output to use. Spotify for example, cannot do this, so I'd be stuck with the default.
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Old 5th September 2012, 02:49 AM   #10
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I believe a single program can actually use more than one soundcard, but these things are a bit flaky.

Q. Can I use three different soundcards at the same time?

I have seen it stated elsewhere that one program can use a card for output while another uses it for input, but I haven't tried it.

There probably isn't much difference between any of the 3 ways of talking to your DAC. Toslink is widely regarded to be inferior to S/PDIF but it has the advantage of having no electrical connection. USB is probably least trouble.
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