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Frank1938

Toslink or USB?

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I've read a lot of suggestions to use Toslink instead of USB out of the computer to a DAC. It is my understanding that USB should be used because Toslink passes through the computer sound card before going to the DAC, whereas USB bypasses the computer sound card.

Am I wrong in my understanding?

Thanks.

Don, glad you got the problem solved.

Frank

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Personally I prefer coaxial connection when I can.

Copied from another forum:

My thought would be the physical characteristics, not the logical characteristics.

They both are untouched digital signals, but a dirty port, a fingerprint on the copper or optical, some dust in either end of the optical ports, the fact that light is not manipulated as easily from outside sources (magnetic fields and other waves), a really really nice SP/DIF cable and a used, bent, old USB cable, etc. etc.

Rarely in life can anything be measured exactly with even properties. The fact is both mediums carry the exact same digital signal, so this question is more about what kind of medium you have and how good it sounds to you.

I could probably make a case for either one being better in a given situation due to the fact that either medium could in that particular case be better than the other.

Edited by USNRET
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Personally I prefer coaxial connection when I can.

Copied from another forum:

My thought would be the physical characteristics, not the logical characteristics.

They both are untouched digital signals, but a dirty port, a fingerprint on the copper or optical, some dust in either end of the optical ports, the fact that light is not manipulated as easily from outside sources (magnetic fields and other waves), a really really nice SP/DIF cable and a used, bent, old USB cable, etc. etc.

Rarely in life can anything be measured exactly with even properties. The fact is both mediums carry the exact same digital signal, so this question is more about what kind of medium you have and how good it sounds to you.

I could probably make a case for either one being better in a given situation due to the fact that either medium could in that particular case be better than the other.

Agree +1

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My experience is that a firewire device is better than either the Toslink or USB. A few years ago, forum member Philip Barrett posted a thread on why firewire is a superior connection. The added benefit is that there are pro audio firewire audio interface devices that are very reasonably priced. Based on his information I built up a Mac mini server and compared my Benchmark USB DAC to a $99.00 Behringer FCA202 pro audio firewire interface , and I have to say that I preferred the $99.00 option. Obviously the Benchmark build quality and reliability is far superior. But I could buy 10 of the Behringers for the cost of the Benchmark.

If I recall I did need some software to activate the firewire as the audio out but it was all very easy and performed remarkably.

Might be something to consider.

Josh

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so OP should buy a new DAC just to use a FW connection...

:huh:

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Personally I prefer coaxial connection when I can.

I agree coaxial digital is what I have found I prefer, basically a better constructed connection but I also feel coaxial usually offers slightly more detail while optical often seems more laid back with a ever so lack of detail. I do often compare the two with new equipment to see which I want to use and pretty much always prefer coaxial.

I'd prefer both coaxial and Toslink to USB.

I use digital coax to my MHDT Labs Havana DAC and I have to say I love this DAC, so musical and yet very detailed it reminds me very much of vinyl but with all the benefits of digital.

Edited by Rich_Guy

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so OP should buy a new DAC just to use a FW connection...

:huh:

I didn't see in the original post that a specific dac was mentioned. I believe he said "a dac" . At any rate the Behringer I referenced goes for $79.00. A viable and affordable option that uses firewire that he may want to consider whether he has a dac or not.

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If its a toslink or usb choice and that simple i would use what i have and not make a purchase. Then possibly compare quality in the use you have between them both. I do prefer toslink(optical cable) over near everything including hdmi through truly a hundred or more comparisons(in use with audio applications). Rca/composite is an objectable number 2 choice in my opinion as quality in sound for my preferred uses.

usb to toslink comparisons in my opinion toslink takes the lead in quality by a very large margin.

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Personally I prefer coaxial connection when I can.

Copied from another forum:

My thought would be the physical characteristics, not the logical characteristics.

They both are untouched digital signals, but a dirty port, a fingerprint on the copper or optical, some dust in either end of the optical ports, the fact that light is not manipulated as easily from outside sources (magnetic fields and other waves), a really really nice SP/DIF cable and a used, bent, old USB cable, etc. etc.

Rarely in life can anything be measured exactly with even properties. The fact is both mediums carry the exact same digital signal, so this question is more about what kind of medium you have and how good it sounds to you.

I could probably make a case for either one being better in a given situation due to the fact that either medium could in that particular case be better than the other.

This is a very true statement. Although i have found quality optical cable to be far greater and more consistant in my comparisons

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My sorta humble opinions...

For USB: From a mechanical perspective, fiber can break when bent and the toslink ends seem to fall out easily. Also, SP/DIF is real time and relies on the bus speed, so it is more susceptible to skipping and jittering which is sent in packets with slight delays. The latest USB standard 3.1 can achieve consistent throughput of 7.2Gbps, and I think SP/DIF modes can handle something like 125Mbps.

For SP/DIF: It is fast enough to handle in real time all of the music on your computer. It can be run far greater distances. USB required an electrical connection which is subject to looseness, corrosion, and I hate USB plugs. You never know which way is up. Who designed those things anyway?

The verdict: If you are running lengths then SP/DIF. If it is a short run, and you have USB 3.x or above, it's USB. Frankly, if you have a newer faster computer that has USB 3.x, you should probably be using it. It can transfer as much as HDMI, and all you are asking it to do is transfer music.

Edited by mustang guy

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Are there any USB 3.0 devices DACS?

I know there is never a real answer because it is a matter of:

1. Convenience

2. Computer, DAC, and connectors

3. Length of run

4 Quality of Computer drivers to send data to the DAC.

There are preferences but usually those preferences are born from you system or prejudice.

All the testing on the net doesn't show any better than the other though USB is starting to fall of it's pedestal. S/PDIF can transfer noise so if that is an issue, don't use it. Toslink won't work if you use it with peanut butter hands or have to fold the line. USB 2.x is good if you are not scared of installing the drivers for the device on your system.

I personally use Toslink since it does sound as good as the others, doesn't transfer noise (though I don't think I have any anyway) and I don't have a USB 2.x+ DAC. Next DAC I buy may be different so use what sounds the best, even if it could be in your mind. :D

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It all depends on the DAC. Modern async USB DACs overcome most any problems the interface has. USB has really become the standard which is unfortunate because Firewire really was a much better way of doing it. Toslink almost always will have high levels of jitter and is usually the second worst way to connect after HDMI which has very high levels.

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Just a note

I never tried it and don't understand it but USB is only good up to 15' ?

Unless you get what they call "active USB" whatever that is ? It's not expensive @ $9.00for 33'.

Active USB can go much further, I seen this on the Monoprice site. "without any signal loss or potential performance problems."

http://www.monoprice.com/Search?pg_no=2&keyword=usb cable

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it's all about your design goals. My macbook pro won't output higher than 24/96 over toslink. USB isn't restricted. I use software to downsample 24/192 and can't hear a difference - so that's no longer a real restriction.

As I built my little system I've decided I want as few power plugs and cables as possible since I'm not using a preamp. USB allows me to power the DAC without a separate power cable. I've settled on this 24/96 DAC because it fits in my amp enclosure, is self powered, can be hardwired to my amp board, and is incrementally better than the macbook pro's DAC (which doesn't sound bad to me).

http://www.jdslabs.com/products/39/odac-objectivedac/

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My macbook pro won't output higher than 24/96 over toslink. USB isn't restricted

That's odd usually USB is the one which is restricted and won't output as high as spdif.

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Guys, thanks a lot for your input. I appreciate all the comments. I am using an iMac (USB 3) with a Maverick TubeMagic D2 connected to my pre/pro. I tried Toslink first, then contacted Maverick and he suggested using USB. Both methods sound good to me and I wanted to get other opinions.

Thanks again,

Frank

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Guys, thanks a lot for your input. I appreciate all the comments. I am using an iMac (USB 3) with a Maverick TubeMagic D2 connected to my pre/pro. I tried Toslink first, then contacted Maverick and he suggested using USB. Both methods sound good to me and I wanted to get other opinions.

Thanks again,

Frank

Frank, you are using USB 3 or just hooked the DAC up to the USB 3.x port? I don't see any reference to USB 3 on the DAC.

And again as mentioned earlier, design goals and hardware make a difference. I am glad you decided to listen to both. There is a bunch of information on the internet to read on all this stuff but what it really comes down to is the hardware, configuration, and sound. Which ever is easiest and yields the proper results wins in my book. I hear about jitter with Toslink and S/PDIF but that is a clocking and susceptibility issue. I have come across a number of articles complaining about USB including clocking issues with Async so I guess we just need to plug everything in and listen.

One thing I have learned in the past 45yrs or so in audio is that you can convince yourself of anything (good or bad), especially if you read too much.

Just listen!!

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